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Three Tips to Being Happily Owned by Your Cat

January 13, 2010 | 9,308 views
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The CATalyst Council, a coalition of the veterinary community, academia, nonprofits, industry and animal welfare organizations, has named the following metro areas the Top 10 Cat Friendly Cities for 2009:

 Tampa Phoenix  
 San Francisco Portland, OR
 Denver Boston
 Seattle San Diego
 Atlanta Minneapolis
 

What makes a city cat friendly according to CATalyst? How its communities measure up in such areas as:

  • Cat ownership per capita
  • Level of feline veterinary care
  • Microchipping of cats
  • Cat friendly local ordinances

The CATalyst Council was formed in 2008 in response to a disturbing national trend showing declining numbers of cat visits to veterinarians, and an increase in the amount of cats turned over to shelters. Cat surrenders to shelters have soared in response to the economic downturn and home foreclosure rate.

Dr. Becker's Comments:

As the CATalyst Council points out on its website, in the U.S. cats outnumber dogs by about 10 million.

The cat population is increasing, yet the number of reported cat visits to veterinarians dropped by over 10 percent from 2001 to 2006. Add to that statistic the escalating number of cats being relinquished to shelters, and it seems we’re in the midst of a kitty crisis.

What’s going on?

Dog Lovers vs. Cat Lovers

Lots of folks seem to categorize themselves as either “dog people” or “cat people.”

Unlike attitudes about dogs (just about everyone likes them, even if they don’t own one), cats seem to polarize people – you’re either crazy about cats or you don’t like them at all. In fact, “hate” doesn’t seem too strong a word for some people when describing their dislike of cats.

Cat owners and animal lovers in general don’t understand the “I hate cats” position.

Cats Aren’t Dogs!

It seems people who actively dislike cats fall into one of three general categories:

  1. They are allergic to cats.
  2. They object to what they perceive as the aloofness and laziness of cats.
  3. They’ve never been owned by a cat!

While it’s true cats are more independent than dogs, it has been my own experience (and the experience of my cat owner clients, as well), that cats who are given proper attention and care are just as connected and affectionate with their owners as dogs are.

Some cats aren’t inclined to be as demonstrative with their love and loyalty as dogs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just as devoted to you as their canine counterparts.

As for cats being lazy – it’s just not the case!

Felines as a species are different from canines -- whether you’re talking lions or housecats, wolves or the family dog. It’s not realistic to expect a cat to act like a dog or vice versa, just because both are furry and have tails!

For example, dogs are pack animals who adjust their behavior depending on what other dogs in the group are doing. Cats, on the other hand, don’t follow the lead of other cats. They are an independent species. They hunt alone.

Cats are magnificent creatures in their own right. It’s not reasonable to view them as small dogs, or as alternatives to dogs.

Every pet species is different, whether you choose to share your life with a goldfish, a parakeet, a rabbit, a dog or a cat.

Throw Away Cats?

Do pet owners perceive cats as having less value than dogs?

Statistics say they do. From some of the reasons owners give for leaving their cats at shelters, to the small number of cats who are reclaimed from shelters, to the lack of veterinary visits, it seems cats don’t receive the same care and attention our canine companions enjoy.

Did you know that only two to five percent of all lost cats turned in to shelters are ever reclaimed by their owners? Lost dogs fare much better. According to the Humane Society of the United States, about 30 percent of dogs who wind up in shelters are reclaimed. Why are so many cats simply abandoned by their owners?

Even more heartbreaking is that over half the cats in shelters never find a new home, and are euthanized.

Another disturbing statistic, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, is that over a third of pet cats didn’t see a vet during 2006. There’s also much less funding available for research into cat health issues as compared to the amount of money earmarked for canine health initiatives.

How to Be Happily Owned by Your Cat

1. Feed your cat a nutritious diet.

Ideally, you should feed your cat a balanced raw food diet.

Species appropriate diets -- foods free of corn, wheat, rice and soy -- formulated in their biologically correct form, meaning raw or minimally processed, with non-denatured proteins, are always your best option.

Cats evolved to consume living foods. Commercially processed food disrupts biochemical pathways throughout your cat’s body. Feeding only cooked, processed foods can have a disastrous impact on your pet’s organs over time.

If you can’t feed raw, or if you need to supplement a raw food diet occasionally, your next best option is to feed your cat a human-grade, USDA approved canned cat food.

Under no circumstances should you feed your beloved cat a dry food-only diet.

Contrary to popular opinion, dry food doesn’t keep your pet’s teeth healthy. Plus, most dry food contains poor quality protein and lack of moisture content. High quality protein and water are absolutely essential for your cat’s good health.

2. Make sure your cat gets adequate exercise and play time.

Cats need mental and physical stimulation and exercise.

Contrary to what many people believe, a walk around your house a few times a day isn’t adequate exercise for your cat – especially if it’s overweight.

Buy your cat toys that encourage natural behaviors, like hunting. Cats are predators, so look for toys your cat can “stalk.

Play along with him for as long as he’s interested. The more you’re able to mimic the movements of your cat’s natural prey (mice, birds, bugs, etc.), the more interested your cat will be in the game.

Not every toy has to be store bought. Most cats will bat around a small piece of wadded paper or tape. Ping pong balls can be great fun, as can your fingers and toes under the covers, if you dare!

Train your indoor cat to walk on a leash. Then you can take her outside for some fresh air and mental stimulation.

Play with your cat as often as you can and/or it wants to, but at least a couple times a day. If you schedule a play time right before bed, your cat will be more apt to rest and not roam when you shut off the lights.

3. Perform regular wellness exams on your cat and visit your veterinarian as required.

Our companion animals can’t tell us how they feel, and cats in particular tend to suffer in silence.

Often a cat can become quite ill before its owner notices a problem. Cats are known to change their behavior when sick or injured, but the changed behavior is apt to be entirely unrelated to the health problem. For example, a cat with a hidden flesh wound that has become infected might suddenly start napping in the litter box.

That’s why regular at-home wellness exams are a great idea, as well as understanding your cat’s habits and keeping a watchful eye out for changes in behavior.

To nip cat transportation problems in the bud, it’s a good idea to get your cat used to its carrier before you need it. There are few things more upsetting, for you or your cat, than having to chase down or corner your frightened pet right before a vet appointment.

Leave the carrier in a room your cat frequents, with the door open. Let him wander in and out of it freely.

Consider taking your cat for short rides, without going to the vet, so she gets used to being in the carrier in the car. When it comes time to place your cat in its carrier, especially if he’s objecting, it’s usually much easier to slide him through the opening tail first.

Start with these three simple steps and your cat will be well on its way to a lifetime of glowing good health and loving companionship.

[+] Sources and References

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Food Democracy Now
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Alliance for Natural Health USA
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Cropped Catis Mexico