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Cat Ladies Forever

Cat ladies forever© John Takai – Fotolia.com

I admit it. I’m a “cat lady” through and through. I love and admire cats for their independence, their resourcefulness and their grace. Nothing makes me feel more at peace than spending a few minutes just sitting quietly with a cat. And while many people would think this is odd, most of my closest friends are cats. I enjoy their company and love the time I spend with them.I realize not everyone feels the way I do, but I was still surprised and sad to read this news. Cat ladies are going to the dogs!

Friends For Life – How To Socialize A Shy Cat

Belle, no longer a shy cat

It’s been three years since Belle came into my life, a tiny, scared kitten from a horrible, high-kill “shelter” in North Carolina. She was supposed to go to my rescue group’s shelter, but I couldn’t imagine such a terrified little one living with 16 other cats. Besides, even at six months, she was a world-class hider, and I was afraid we’d never see her. Oh, and there was another reason she stayed here, too. We fell in love the second we met. But I had to find her first.

For three days, Belle hid on the top shelf of a large walk-through closet between my bedroom and bathroom. I had to stand on a step ladder and feel around in all the bedding stored on the shelf to even touch her. She came down to eat and use her litter box when I wasn’t around, but then she went back to her shelf.

I suppose I could have gotten her down and closed her into the bathroom where she couldn’t hide. But over the years, I’ve discovered that I can’t force a cat to trust me or be my friend. Like all relationships, friendships with cats have to be built on mutual affection and trust and building affection and trust often takes time


Shy Cats Deserve Homes, Too

Belle’s shyness almost cost her her life. At shelters, it’s the friendly cats bursting with personality and rubbing against every hand within reach who go home first. Not many people notice the shy, scared cats like Belle hiding in the backs of their cages. And even if they do, they want an instant buddy, not an introvert.

But if you have the patience and love, turning a very timid cat into a brave, confident friend is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. Over the years, I’ve befriended many shy cats, and this way has always worked for me.

  • When you bring your cat home, set her up in her own room with a comfy bed, litter box, food and toys. Make sure it’s a nice room with sunny windows so she can see outside. Get rid of the clutter in the closet and under the bed! She’ll want a place to hide, but if she’s wedged between storage boxes, you won’t be able to have any contact with her at all.
  • Put up a screen door or stack baby gates at the door. It’s important for her to know there’s a whole world waiting for her to explore when she’s ready. And complete isolation behind a closed door can just build anxiety.
  • Put Rescue Remedy in her water. It will take the edge off her fearfulness.
  • Visit often. Even if she insists on staying under the bed at first, she’ll get used to having you around and will appreciate your company. Don’t try to touch her if she doesn’t want you to. Sit on the floor, so you’re not towering over her, and read or listen to soft music.
  • Give her treats. Put some under the bed for her, so she associates you with something she really likes. As she comes to trust you, make a trail of treats from her hiding place into the room. If you do this a few times, she should eat her way from under the bed to you.
  • Speak her language. Blinking at her tells her you love her and want to be her friend. Looking her straight in the eye sends an aggressive message. She’ll think you want to fight! Reach out to her with your palm down so she can sniff your fingers. But don’t try to touch her. Let her touch you first.
  • Play. Put a long shoelace or wand or fishing pole toy under the bed and drag it out into the room. Cats love to chase things that wiggle and squirm, and when she’s feeling brave enough, she’ll follow it into the room.
  • When you become friends and she trusts you, take down the baby gates or screen door so she can venture out of her room. But don’t force her to leave. She’ll come out when she’s ready. And don’t pick her up and put her down in another part of the house. Cats create signposts for themselves with the scent glands in their front paw pads and cheeks. If she can’t create signposts, she could become very frightened because she won’t know how to get back to her safe room.

Convincing a shy cat to love and trust you could take days or even weeks. But you’ll find that it’s worth every minute because the bond you create with the cat will be one you’ll never forget.

Make Her Everyone’s Friend

After you and your cat have become close friends, it’s time to help her develop friendships with everyone else. She’ll be happier and safer if she’s not a one-person cat. After all, she’s going to have to deal with vets, cat sitters and house guests throughout her life.

Leave a television or radio on so she can get used to the sounds of different voices. And invite your friends over to visit your cat. Ask them to follow the same process you used. Tell them talk to her but not touch her until she approaches them and make sure they have lots of treats to offer as an incentive for her to come close.

My Brave Belle

Belle - how I socialized my cat

Belle is nearly four years old now, but she still looks like a kitten. She’s a tiny “torbi” with the cutest squeaky purr. Her favorite things to do are play in the woods with her friend, Boccelli, and go for walks with the other cats and me. She’ll never be a social butterfly and rub against the legs of every person she meets. But it’s good for cats to be cautious.

Her transformation from terrified kitten to confident cat took nearly a year. For the first week she was here, I spent evenings on the floor in my closet reading and tossing treats in her direction. She sat in her bed on the vanity in the bathroom watching me and happily eating the treats. Then, one evening, she ate her way from the vanity to my lap, and we’ve been cuddle buddies ever since.
But there was another hurdle to overcome. Belle was used to small spaces and wouldn’t venture beyond my closet doorway. Gradually, she began to chase a toy out of the closet into my bedroom, then into a hallway and finally into the living room. This took three weeks!

When she was comfortable in the living room, we started going out on the balcony. But if she heard a noise or saw people walking on the path behind our condo, she ran back inside. It took her nearly a month to realize that the people on the path couldn’t possibly come close to her on the balcony.

She loves the balcony now and could sleep out there on her favorite chair for hours, no matter what’s going on beneath her. She’s come a long, long way from that terrified shelter cat. I’m so proud of her, and I imagine she’s very proud of herself!


Today’s Recommendation
Belle loves Liv-A-Littles treats.
Picture

What Were The Most Popular Cat Names In 2015?

Beautiful white cat with blue eyeskasto – Fotolia.com

The results are in, and the most popular cat names in 2015 were… Bella and Charlie! Really? I rarely fit in with the crowd, but my feral cat is Charlie, and I live with a petite little house cat named Belle. Does that count? Maybe not, since we left off the “a” when she and I decided on her name.

If anyone has a good handle on companion animal names, it’s Veterinary Pet Insurance (now Nationwide pet insurance). Every year, staffers dig through the records of the company’s 550,000 insured animals to find the most popular and most unusual names. 

While Bella has been the most popular name for female cats for 10 years, other names are now climbing to the top of the list.
Many people name their cats for favorite characters in books and movies. But millennials, it seems, have different heroes and heroines than the rest of us. 

“Our data shows that the next generation of pet owners is using different methods and references” to name their animal companions says Curtis Steinhoff, director of pet insurance communications for Nationwide.

Darn. I really like the way some of these soon-to-be-passe names sound. Along with Bella, the most popular cat names in 2015 were Max, Oliver, Chloe, Lucy, Lily, Charlie, Sophie, Tiger and Shadow.

Among the most unusual were Leonardo DiCatprio, Sophistikitty, Sir Theodorable Purrsalot, Dudley Dowrong, Fuzzbucket, Ms.Tuftytoes and Rumblemuffin.


What’s In A (Cat) Name

Except for Belle, all of my cats came with their names. I never would have named a cat Soda L’Orange! It’s sort of embarrassing to stand on the sidewalk yelling, “Soda! Come eat!,” but my neighbors are used to the name now and have stopped either giggling or feeling sorry for the cat with the silly name.

I didn’t change Soda’s name when he came here because I’ve never been very good at choosing cat names. But if you’re adopting a cat, or if you’ve just adopted one, it’s okay to change the cat’s name. Many people think a new name represents a fresh start as the cat begins a new and happier life.

So here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re thinking about names for your new cat.

  • Choose a name you can say with love and respect. Even if your cat has just moved in from outside and smells to high heaven, resist the urge to call him something like Stinker. Cats pick up on our thoughts, and every time he hears the name Stinker, he’ll get the image of a dirty, smelly cat.
  • Keep it short. Sir Theodorable Purrsalot is cute, but that’s a lot of words and syllables to say when you’re calling someone in to dinner. If you and the cat really want a long name, come up with a short call version that he’ll recognize and that you can say quickly.
  • Pick a name that will last a lifetime. Baby fits a kitten, but when your cat’s a dignified adult, she’s not going to appreciate being called a baby. Again, cats pick up on our thoughts and the mental images we send them.
  • Cats seem to like the sound of “s” and usually respond well to names that end with “eee.”

It’s The Thought That Counts

I’ve always wondered what cats call themselves and each other. I’m pretty sure Soda’s friends don’t call him Soda L’Orange! And maybe it’s not the name that matters as much as the way we way it. So when I stand on the sidewalk and say, “Soda! Come eat,” maybe he hears the love in my voice as much as the name. And “come eat” always gets his attention. He’s a boy who really likes his food!
Today’s Recommendation
This book sounds like fun.
Cat Names book

Finding Help For Sick Cats Online

Cat with red eyes, finding help for sick cats onlineFotolia.com

Some friends had a terrible tragedy a couple of weeks ago. They lost one of their community cats to feline leukemia. He was one of those very special, once-in-a-lifetime cats, a gift from the universe to the people who were lucky enough to be his close friends. He touched their lives in amazing ways, and I know they will always love him and miss him.

During a life that was much too short, my friends’ cat had many health challenges. But the feline leukemia was an unexpected blow, and they were desperate for information.

When they asked me, I didn’t have much information to share because I’ve had very little experience with this dreaded disease. So I suggested my friends do the same thing I advise everyone with a very sick cat to do: “Go online and do a lot of research because the vets don’t always get it right.”


They’re Not Vets, But…

My favorite online resources for health information are the condition-specific email lists and the websites written by laypeople, not veterinarians. By the time I’ve processed the bad news that my cat is very, very sick, I’ve already heard enough vet-speak. I’ve been told the prognosis (always grim) and heard about the treatment options, none of which sound very encouraging because they’ve been explained in a language I don’t really understand. My head is spinning with information, but none of it seems to fit into neat, actionable pieces. So I go online hoping for help as I try to sort it all out only to find more of the same. And that’s where the websites written by laypeople and the email lists come in.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against vets. Well, maybe I do, but that’s not the purpose of this post. And not everyone who writes online will give you reliable, correct information. As the saying goes, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” It’s always a good idea to discuss the information you find online with your vet. I’m very fortunate that mine is open to new ideas and considering things she hadn’t thought of. If yours isn’t, I’d urge you to find someone else.

For many of the chronic health issues that plague our cats, there are laypeople who have done, and continue to do, endless research because they’re passionate about helping cats. Usually, they’re people whose cats had the disease they’re writing about. When their vets’ treatment plans didn’t work, they struck out on their own to find the solutions they needed. The result is huge bodies of knowledge gathered from many sources and sometimes after some trial and error.

Self-Made Experts

Unlike vets, who treat many species and illnesses and can’t possibly know everything there is to know about all of them, the laypeople make themselves experts on one specific condition. If you want to know about the newest treatments, you’ll might find out about them on the websites, before you hear about them in the vet’s office. These are large websites with way too many pages to read in one sitting. But chances are, your cat’s condition is going to last for a long time, so you can digest the information in bits and pieces and use it as you need it.

To put your mind at ease, there’s usually at least one vet in the background to advise and fact check. But unlike the veterinarians’ own websites, these sites are written in language we all understand and provide information in actionable pieces. Some of the sites I like best and rely on most include…

These are my go-to websites written by veterinarians.

  • Cat Info.org. Look here for everything you need to know about feline nutrition. This is important information and well worth the read.
  • 2ndchance.info: I just like the way this doc writes. He manages to avoid vet-speak while providing lots of information, and he usually sounds optimistic about what to do to help the cat.
  • Veterinary Partner.com: This site is written by the experts who contribute to the Veterinary Information Network, a veterinary database and community for vets. The articles don’t bog you down with all the teeny, tiny details, but provide all the information you need about specific conditions and treatments.
  • DVM360: DVM360 is a group of publications for veterinarians. The articles for owners are written by professional journalists and veterinarians who are experts in their specialties. There’s no vet-speak here, just articles that are well done and provide information you need and can use.
  • Little Big Cat: Holistic veterinarian Jean Hofe writes this site. Look here for alternatives to conventional medicine.

The Office Is Always Open

While I love the websites written by laypeople, the disease-specific email lists are my favorites. Like the people who write the websites, there are list members who have studied and researched and made themselves experts on the list’s topic. And over the years, they’ve seen hundreds of cats online, so what may seem unusual to your vet is common to them.

Online, the office is open 24/7, so if you have a question or need reassurance in the middle of the night, someone on the list will be there to help.

These are some of the email lists I read and use. Over the years, some of them have saved my cats’ lives.

Do you have a favorite condition-specific website or email list? Post it in the comments below, and I’ll add it to this list.

Today’s Recommendation
Nature of Animal Healing Book

Cats Can Keep Older Adults Healthy

Older adult holding a cat© Budimir Jevtic – Fotolia.com

I was happy to hear about a new study showing that living with cats and dogs is good for older adults’ health. But then I read excerpts from the study, and it seems to be mostly about dogs!

How disappointing. It confirmed my suspicions, once again, that although more people share their homes with cats than dogs, we are living in a Black Lab World.

Not that I mind sharing my world with black and yellow labs and other canine friends. But I was disappointed that the study didn’t give equal attention to the health benefits of living with cats.

I’m no spring chicken, and I wanted to know why having all these cats rubbing around my feet and sitting on my lap while I’m trying to type is good for me.

So without benefit of scientific research, I’d like to list just a few reasons why I think cats are good for my health.


  • Like people walking dogs, I get exercise walking with my cats. Okay, so walking with cats isn’t exactly power walking. We have to stop every few minutes and wait for someone to climb a tree or chase a bug. But even strolling is exercise, isn’t it? 
  •  Also like people walking dogs, I socialize with neighbors while I’m walking with my cats. Usually the conversation is limited to, “Are those cats walking with you?” “Well, yes they are. We love to walk together.” Bemused look. End of conversation. But still… conversation is conversation. 
  •  I sleep better with cats on my bed. Katie purrs in my ear, and Muffitt licks my hand until one of us falls asleep. But then, everyone knows cats are way better than sleeping pills. 

I did some research and here are some more ways living with cats improves older adults’ health.

  • The companionship of a cat can help older adults overcome loneliness and depression. 
  • Caring for a cat can give an older person who lives alone a sense of purpose. “Because cats need us to care for them by scooping their boxes, feeding them and giving them fresh water, cats get us up and moving whether we want to or not,” the American Humane Association says on its website. 
  • Cat care also requires a daily routine, something that might be missing in an older adult’s life. 
  • Several studies show that living with cats really does lower blood pressure. 
  • This is interesting: Even people who are allergic to cats tend to become less allergic as they get older. 

The excerpts of the study I read suggested some areas that need further research. One was helping older adults find the resources they need to help them keep their cats and dogs when caring for them becomes difficult. That’s something for rescue groups and shelters with teams of volunteers to think about.

Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it might take a village to keep companion animals in their homes and older adults healthy and happy.

Today’s Recommendation
This stand-up scoop makes litter box chores easy.

For Love Of Community Cats

Feral Tabby Cat Face

After what felt like a very long weekend, my beloved feral Charlie cat is back outside sporting an ear tip and, although it’s not visible to anyone, that all-important microchip. His date at the spay/neuter clinic was long overdue, and getting him there took help from many friends. Sometimes it takes a village, or a community of people who care, to help our feral friends.

Charlie’s a gentle soul and very smart. He eluded my traps many times. But this weekend, we had lots of help. A friend borrowed a drop trap from one of her friends. And when another friend tried to help me trap him with no luck, she came to Charlie’s patch of woods and pulled the string on the trap to close it while he was inside. Yet another friend drove him to his early morning appointment at the spay/neuter clinic because, night person that I am, I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up on time.

He could have gone to a closer clinic. But a fourth friend runs the one I chose. I trust her and the vet who does her surgeries to take good care of the cats while they’re at the clinic. Besides, although she hadn’t met him until Sunday, she is part of Charlie’s community.

Community Cats ‘Belong’ To All Of Us
Years ago, free-roaming cats were called strays. People thought of them as homeless, and they were pretty much left to their own devices unless they were lucky enough to come across a kind human who was willing to give them daily meals.

But a lot has changed in the last 10 years or so. Now we trap/neuter/return because we know that’s the most effective and humane solution to the feral cat “problem.” And we no longer think of free-roaming cats as homeless. We realize they have homes in the woods behind our own homes, in shopping center parking lots and in the alleys of our cities.

​​Something else that has changed is the way we care for them. While just one person may feed a free-roaming cat or an entire colony, we’ve come to realize that they “belong” to the entire community, and it’s the entire community’s responsibility to keep an eye on them to make sure they’re safe, healthy and not being a nuisance.


Although no one can touch Charlie, my neighbors let me know when he shows up on their patios. When I didn’t see him for days, they helped me look for him. He is truly a community cat. ​People love him and watch for him, although they can’t get near him.

We have other trapped/neutered/returned community cats in this neighborhood, too. Neighbors let them use their patios for their cold weather shelters and feeding stations.​ They see them as a group responsibility.

Advocating For Community Cats
It took a couple of years for our neighbors to accept our free-roaming cats as part of the community. They thought all cats belong inside. They were concerned about our cats in the winter, although they have heavily insulated cold weather shelters. They said the cats annoyed their dogs when they were going for walks. And most of all, they worried that there would be more kittens, or that the cats would attract more cats.

In the end, it was time and the cats themselves that won them over. ​But these are some of the myths and objections we overcame before they came to see the cats as theirs as well as ours.
Myth: Cats belong inside. 
Fact: Not all cats can live successfully indoors. And feral cats belong outside. They’re afraid of humans and live their lives in constant fear indoors in close proximity to people. Would you force a raccoon or squirrel to live indoors? Then why would you want to do that to a wild cat?
Myth: The cats’ food will attract more cats, rodents and other animals.
Fact: ​​​ A stable colony of trapped/neutered/returned cats generally runs off other cats, so newcomers will not be welcome at the cats’ feeding station. The other animals, like raccoons, are there anyway. The cats’ food won’t attract more. And about those rodents. Cats eat rodents!
Myth: If you relocate the cats to homes or barns, everyone will be happy.
Fact: When one group of cats vacates a food source, another group comes. Relocation rarely works and hardly ever creates a cat-free zone forever.
Myth:
 The cats will kill all the birds.
Fact:
Most cats are specialists and like to hunt for either mice or birds. Most prefer mice because they’re better suited to the cat’s stalk/watch/pounce hunting style.​​​​
Objection: They’ll fight all night and keep us awake.
Fact:
Most cats hate to fight and will avoid a physical confrontation at all costs. And neutered cats rarely fight.
Objection: They’ll use our flower beds as litter boxes and sit on our cars.
Fact: True, but scent and electronic deterrents can discourage them from doing both. ​​​​While our community cats and neighbors were getting used to each other, we used many scent and electronic deterrents!

Do you advocate for community cats? Here are more talking points. And here’s some information on what to do if you find a cat outside.

All’s Well That Ends Well
Like most cats, Charlie lives very much in the present, and his long weekend is now but a distant memory. He met me at the beginning of the path leading to his feeding station today, and we walked together into the woods. Then I sat with him while he ate. I love my time with him in the woods. Although I can’t touch him, we’re close friends, and the few minutes we spend together each day are very special for both of us.

Today’s Recommendation
This is my favorite outdoor cat deterrent.

Are Cats Allergic To People?

Long-Haired Calico Cat Face© wildshots4u – Fotolia.com

If you’re sneezing and your eyes are itching, you might be more likely to blame the cat than all that pollen drifting around outside. But when your cat coughs and sneezes, does he blame you? Maybe he should because cats, some veterinarians say, can be allergic to people.

It’s estimated that one in six Americans is allergic to cats, dogs or both. How many cats are allergic to people? No one seems to know for sure. But in allergy testing cats and dogs in his practice, one veterinarian found that about five-10 percent have an allergic reaction to human dander.


Human dander? That would be flakes of skin and hair that land everyplace, including on the cat.

It’s not the dander itself that causes humans to be allergic to cats. The real culprit is fel d 1, a glycoprotein that’s found in cats’ saliva and is also secreted by the sebaceous glands. Those glands are located at the base of the hair follicles and are the oily lubricants that keep the skin supple.

As cats groom themselves, they cover their bodies with the fel d 1 in their saliva, and those tiny but potent glycoprotiens drift all over everywhere, sticking to clothing, curtains, rugs and even walls.

While there have been many studies on why humans are allergic to cats, few scientists have looked at why some cats are allergic to humans. But veterinarian Nicki Reed and other researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Hospital for Small Animals looked at the causes of asthma in cats and came up with a list that includes human dandruff, household dust and cigarette smoke.

Dusty, scented cat litter was another culprit. Reed told National Geographic News the number of cats with asthma is increasing as more and more cats are kept inside and are unable to escape the irritants that cause those coughing spells.

If your cat has asthma, just making some changes in his environment might be all he needs to feel better. In addition to household dust and cigarette smoke, these are some common triggers of asthma in cats.

  • Scented, dusty cat litter 
  • Cleaning products 
  • Perfumed laundry detergents 
  • Perfume and hair spray Dryer sheets 
  • Carpet fresheners 
  • Air fresheners 
  • Scented candles 
  •  Feather pillows 
  • Ragweed, grass and tree pollens 
  • Mold 
  • Fireplace smoke 

Cats between the ages of two and eight are the most likely to develop asthma, and female cats are twice as likely to become asthmatic as male cats are. Siamese and Himalayan breeds seem to get asthma more often than other breeds.

It’s been years since I’ve used commercial cleaning products or air fresheners or burned scented candles because I know they can be toxic to cats. It make sense that they could also cause asthma.

But it never occurred to me that cats could be allergic to human dander until I stumbled across an article online. Not sure what to do about that. Cats shed, and apparently humans do, too.

Today’s Recommendation
My cats love this litter, and it creates no dust.

Cat Quotes And Crazy Cat Ladies

feral cats on beach

I’m working on T-shirts for my Zazzle store, and my brain is awash in cat quotes and slogans. Some of my favorites: “Catitude is everything;” “Dogs have masters, cats have staff,” “The cat has too much spirit to have no heart;” and “Time with cats is never wasted.”

My least favorites: “You can never have too many cats,” “One cat just leads to another,” and anything with the words “crazy cat lady.” I live with nine cats, and I’m not crazy! At least I don’t think I am.

And the truth is that you can have too many cats, and one cat shouldn’t necessarily lead to another. Some cats are happier living alone. 

I know people who can’t take proper care of just one cat and people who provide wonderful lives for 20 or 30. Before your one cat leads to another and another and another, here are some things to think about.

  • Does your cat want another cat? This is the most important question of all. If you think the answer is probably no, be happy with your one cat, enjoy her company and help the others who are tugging at your heartstrings find good homes.
  • Do you have room for another cat? You don’t necessarily need a huge house to share your home with many cats. But cats do need a certain amount of personal space. And cats like to arrange themselves vertically. Do you have room for high places, like floor-to-ceiling cat trees, and low places, like boxes and tunnels?
  • What about feeding areas and litter boxes? It’s a good idea to have two boxes for even one cat, but two or more boxes are a necessity if you have more than one. And multiple cats will be happier and less stressed if they have food and litter boxes in several different locations.
  • Can you afford multiple cats? Remember to factor in the cost of annual checkups and medical care if someone gets sick, in addition to food and litter. Living with cats is no fun if you’re constantly worried about how you’re going to pay for their healthcare.
  • Do you have time for several cats? Every cat will want his or her own personal time with you to snuggle or play a favorite game. If you’re busy and can’t give many cats the time they need, it’s best to limit your cat family to just one or two.
  • Can you make arrangements for multiple cats if they outlive you or you can no longer care for them? This is something none of us like to think about, but we should. Finding a new home for one cat is difficult. Finding homes for many is even harder. Sadly, many wonderful cats wind up at shelters because their people didn’t make arrangements for them.
  • Can you keep up with the sanitation needs of multiple cats? Cats shed, litter boxes need to be scooped, and accidents happen. Many cats can add up to many housekeeping chores, and not keeping up is not only unpleasant for the cats, it’s a quick way to be labeled “crazy cat lady.”

My neighbors seem to be bemused by my large cat family. Although they should be used to it by now, they always seem surprised when the cats meet me at my car when I get home and walk with me at night. But while they may think the whole thing’s a bit eccentric, they know I’m not the crazy cat lady, and they also know I don’t think you can never have too many cats. Nine indoor/outdoor cats can live with me and be happy and healthy. For us, 10 would be one too many, and we would, indeed, have too many cats.


Eight Ways To Make Your Cat Happy

Smiling cat face

It’s September, and the CATalyst Council is celebrating national Happy Cat Month. Of course, most of us want every month to be Happy Cat Month. But still, it’s good to set aside a few weeks to call special attention to our cats’ mental and emotional health.

The problem with cats, though, is that they’re very good at turning lemons into lemonade, so it can be hard to know if they’re truly happy or just resigned to their lives the way they are.

The CATalyst Council, whose vision is to change the image of cats as aloof and not needing human contact and to raise their level of care and welfare, suggests good health, environmental enrichment and feeling valued all make for a happy cat. That makes sense to me.


Do You Have A Happy Cat? 
How can you tell if your cat is happy? Here are some signs of a cat who is not happy or is depressed.

  • Sleeping even more than usual,
  • Eating less. 
  • Not interested in playing or interacting with you. 
  • Not grooming.  
  • Hissy and becoming aggressive. 

Signs and symptoms are always helpful, of course. But the best way to know whether your cats are happy is to listen to your heart. They’ll tell you if all is not right in their world. 

Eight Ways To Make Your Cat Happy
Every cat is an individual, and they all find happiness in different ways. But here are eight things that make most cats happy.

  1. Respect and the freedom to just be cats. Honor your cats for the intelligent, independent, resourceful creatures that they are. Treating them like cats, not small dogs with attitude, children in fur coats or your “babies,” will make them happier than anything else you do for them.
  2. Don’t declaw! Paws comes with claws for a reason. If you’re concerned about your cat scratching your furniture, these suggestions will help. If you’re concerned about the cat scratching you, Soft Claws are inexpensive and easy to apply.
  3. Places to scratch. Cats need to scratch, and providing a variety of scratching surfaces scattered in strategic locations throughout your house will make them very happy. Some suggestions: tall, stable scratching posts; double wide cardboard scratching pads, logs, a doormat or a piece of bare wood.
  4.  Compromise on the rules. Remember, it’s your cats’ house, too. Let them eat where they want to eat, even if it’s not the kitchen. And put their litter boxes in places that are comfortable for them, even if those locations are a bit inconvenient for you. Cats don’t understand why we impose all kinds of rules, and the fewer there are, the happier they’ll be.
  5. No surprises. Cats are creatures of habit and like to do things at the same time in the same place every day. If you must make a change, try to do it very gradually. Sudden changes can make even the happiest cat very unhappy, and that unhappiness can last for a long time.
  6. Enough space. If you have more than one cat, make sure everyone has enough personal space. In multicat families, happy cats have places where they can get away from the others and be alone when they want to be. Cats like to arrange themselves vertically, and floor to ceiling cat trees and tunnels provide additional personal space. Make sure your cat trees have large, stable bases and perches big enough for adult cats. A cat tree that feels like it’s going to topple over isn’t much fun.
  7. Outdoors. Finding a way to get your indoor cats outside will make them healthier and happier. Think about supervised outdoor time or taking them out on a harness and leash. Or, if you’re really nervous about taking them out, consider getting them a kitty stroller.
  8. A stimulating environment. This is especially important for indoor cats, but indoor/outdoor cats also need interesting things to do when they’re inside. Leave some blinds and curtains open so your cats can see outside. Looking at the same four walls every day is boring and doesn’t make for happy cats. Open the windows, too, if only for a few minutes. There’s nothing like a breath of fresh air to boost the spirit and make a cat happy. Here are some more ways to make your cats’ indoor environment more interesting.
  • Give them cat trees to climb and tunnels and boxes to nap in. Nothing makes a cat happier than a brand new box to sleep in and scratch.
  • Make a mound of tissue paper for them to crunch around in. Sprinkling catnip on the tissue paper will make it even more fun. 
  • Hide treats in nooks and crannies around your house and let the cats hunt for food. 
  • Play! Cats love playing with wand toys when there’s a human at the other end. My cats’ favorite is Da Bird, but even a long shoelace will work. 
  • Give them interesting toys that do something. Electronic toys, like Under Cover Mouse, can be great fun for cats. My cats love their Turbo Scratchers, too. To get them interested in tiny mice and other bat and swat toys, toss the toy across the room. They’ll chase it and start to play.

As I’m writing, I’m thinking about the cats who live with me. When I listen to my heart, I think they really are happy. Ginger’s mostly outdoor lifestyle doesn’t make me happy. But she loves it, and it’s her life. She should be able to live it the way she chooses. Having choices and the ability to make some decisions themselves makes cats happy.

Feral Cat Love

Feral Cat in the woodsMr. P

August isn’t even over, and I’m already thinking about how my feral cats will get through what’s supposed to be another bad winter. I’ve made a mental checklist: Replace the Styrofoam, Mylar and straw in their shelters; buy new self-feeders for days we can’t get there because of the snow and find someone to shovel paths through the snow so the feeders and cats can get to the feeding station, which is on top of a hill in the woods.

Last winter, I learned, much to my horror, that the cats will go to the feeding station no matter how much snow is on the ground. It turned out that the self-feeders I put next to their shelters were there to help me cope, not them. They trudged right by them, in snow up to their chests, to get to the feeding station because that’s where they’re “supposed” to eat. Cats really are creatures of habit, no matter what the weather’s like.

I love my feral cats so much they can make my heart ache. When I think about another cold winter, my first thought is to trap them and bring them home. But they would be miserable here, even if they could go outside. And they’d be terrified. When we rescue or take on the responsibility of caring for animals, we need to think about what they want, not what we want for them. My beloved ferals want to stay where they are in their home in the woods, no matter how cold and snowy it gets.

My little colony dispels many of the cruel myths about feral cats. One is that feral cats live short, miserable lives. The cats in my colony are 15 years old, and they’re anything but miserable. Feral cats are diseased, people say. But my cats have never been sick a day in their lives and at 15 are still beautiful and the picture of health. Over the years, the other feeders and I have been willing and able to address the neighbors’ concerns, so the cats have never been a nuisance.

Would you like to know more about feral cats? Here’s lots of information. If you’re a feral cat caretaker, I hope you’ll read it and use it as talking points. Together, through community education, we can save lives. ​


Today’s Recommendation
A Snuggle Safe Disc in your cats’ shelter will keep them warm. ​