Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Protecting Your Cat From Attacks

This is the least upsetting of the photos of Rogue.

Protecting Your Cat From Attacks

I don't often share photos of injured cats on this blog, but this cat's situation makes an excellent point. It only takes a moment for a loose dog to injure your cat, possibly fatally. Little Rogue, shown above, was attacked by a dog in her building. Her family brought her to a local rescue group because they didn't have a regular veterinarian.

Rogue's owners didn't even seek medical treatment for her until a few days after she was attacked, likely due to cost. There is now a fundraiser to cover Rogue's medical bills going on through the rescue group that is trying to save her. (Follow the link if you'd like to help.) I'll warn you ahead of time: some of the photos of her injuries there are quite upsetting to see. The details of her condition are no less upsetting. Having loved a tortie for many years myself, it's especially distressing to see one in such condition.

Lessons From Rogue's Attack

What are the takeaways from little Rogue's case? How can you prevent the same thing from happening to your cat? Here are several that spring to mind:

  • Take your cat(s) to a veterinarian every so often and build a relationship there. Yes, it costs a little money. But in the event of injury or serious illness, that vet will already have your cat's medical history on file. And the staff there will be familiar with your cat, so the cat will be a little less stressed than he would be around complete strangers.
  • Have your cat microchipped. And keep your phone number and address updated with the microchip company.
  • Keep your cat(s) indoors most of the time. If you let your cat out, make sure it's either on a leash/harness, in an enclosed stroller, or supervised in a screened area or outdoor enclosure. No, scooping a litter box is not the most pleasant of tasks, but it beats all hell out of scooping up your cat's lifeless body after it's been killed...or helplessly watching your kitty get carried off by a hungry coyote.
  • If your cat escapes from the house and becomes lost, set kitty's litterbox outside the house, and keep a close eye on it. Your cat can smell it and will find his way home...where you can sweep him up into your loving arms and vow to keep him out of harm's way in the future! Most cats who get outside are hiding nearby. Check all the neighbors' sheds and garages to make sure your cat hasn't slipped into one and gotten locked in...especially if the weather is extremely hot or cold. Make sure the neighbors, as well as your local shelters and rescues, know you're looking for your cat, and check with them daily to see if anyone's brought him in.
  • If  the worst happens and your cat does get attacked, first concentrate on stopping the attack by any safe means necessary. Once your cat is out of immediate danger, stop any severe bleeding, swaddle him in a towel and get him to a veterinarian. If you can't afford the costs, there are Care Credit accounts, and if you don't qualify for one of those, there's always online fundraising. The main point is not to delay getting treatment for your injured cat. Poor Rogue has much worse injuries after a few days' infection than she would if her owners had sought veterinary care immediately after her attack.
I once knew a girl whose cat was pulled from her arms and killed right in front of her by a loose dog in her neighborhood. It's difficult to imagine, and impossible to overstate the dangers present for cats outdoors. There's a tale of someone's Savannah cat who got out and was roaming the neighborhood. While they were still looking for it, someone shot their cat dead, thinking it was an escaped wild cat from the zoo who was "stalking" the neighborhood children.

Again, my apologies for sharing such awful stories with you. But the fate that befell little Rogue does not have to happen to any other cat. Our cats depend on us for protection and safekeeping. Let them enjoy being cats, but remember to be vigilant! The world is a dangerous place for a kitty.

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20 is National Love Your Pet Day!

February 20 is National Love Your Pet Day!

It's hard to believe that The Golden Boys were once as tiny as they were in the photo above! Gilligan was watching as Captain Roughy climbed "blue jean mountain" back when I was first fostering them. They were under 2 pounds apiece! This is how they look now, fully grown and going on 5 years old:

Notice that the Captain is still up front, while the Gilly-Gilly remains in the background. They've also acquired a little "sis-fur" who we rescued during the hurricane last fall. Matilda "Mattie" Stormkitty wasn't much bigger than they were when they came to me, and now she seems almost as large as the boys are. She has become our Purr Mistress here in the Old Maid Cat Lady household. Here are the three of them enjoying dinner together on a recent evening:

Feeding your kitties high-quality food is one way to show them love on National Love Your Pet Day. Raw is best, if you're up to it, but grain-free canned food is second best. Try to avoid the crunchies altogether, although most of us do feed those for convenience. If you do, look for a grain-free brand. It's not cheap to feed your cats properly, but you'll save money on vet bills in the long run.

Here are some other suggestions:
  • Spend some time playing with your cat(s). They enjoy interacting with their human companions and need to work out their energy through play. It's an essential part of the human-animal bond for cats! Always use a toy to dangle for them, however, not your hands - you don't want to train them to attack hands! If you need a new one, we have a nice selection of dangling cat toys.
  • We recently experienced a flea infestation, I think from a neighborhood cat who likes to hang around and taunt my cats through the pool screen. One of the ways I showed my cats love was to get them some fresh flea treatment and a new can of spray to flea-proof the house.
  • Some cats like to get up high off the floor. This is especially important if you have dogs or small children in the household; sometimes kitties just need a break from all the hubbub below. If you have a cat like this, a new cat tree or a cat shelf or perch may be just the way to show kitty your love!
  • Another basic need cats have is to scratch. Scratching exercises their front legs, from the resistance of the scratching surface pulling against the claws. It's also a way that cats mark their territory in the wild, as they have scent glands in the paws that leave behind their tell-tale aroma for any other cats who may pass by. While it's something that most humans can't detect, the feline nose knows! If your scratchers have seen better days, maybe it's time to show kitty your love by buying a new scratcher.
  • Cats also have a need to hunt. Prey toys give them that thrill without harming any wildlife, and they enjoy catching their prey, carrying it around, and batting it so they can catch it again. Laser pointers can be frustrating to cats because they never get that satisfaction of actually catching what they're chasing. And it seems like they're always losing their mousies, or tearing them up. So maybe your kitty needs some new cat toys to hunt
  • Some cats like to go outdoors. But it can be dangerous there for an untended kitty! If your cat will walk on a harness and leash, take him out for a nice walk. If not, perhaps a stroller is a way to get your cat out in the nice early spring weather (at least it's been nice here in north Florida).
  • We tend not to take our cats to the veterinarian as often as we do their canine cousins, so check the last time your cat had a wellness check. If it's been more than a year, schedule an appointment for one. Your vet will update any outdated vaccinations (or do a titre test to see which need updating), plus do a thorough examination to check kitty's eyes, ears, coat, & teeth, and make sure there aren't any unnoticed growths, tumors, or other nastiness that needs to be handled. What better way to show love for your kitty?
Bottom line: your cats long to interact with you. Even cats who don't enjoy a lot of touching like it when we talk to them. Spend a little time with your cat(s) today to show your love!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January 14 is National Dress Up Your Pet Day!

January 14 is National Dress Up Your Pet Day!

Okay, so most cats won't tolerate quite as much dressing-up as the one pictured above, many will let you put something on them. And you'd be surprised how many will! 

Some cats enjoy wearing clothes; the cat above doesn't look distressed at all over her pretty party dress. Some cats even need to wear clothes: there are lines of clothing designed to add warmth for hairless and short-coated cats such as the Sphynx, Peterbald, and Rex breeds of cats.

The keys to getting your cat to wear clothing are choosing the proper design of clothing, and properly introducing the cat to the item.

Choosing Clothing For Cats

Much of the pet clothing you'll find in pet supply stores is made for dogs. And there's a reason for this: most manufacturers see more profitability in producing clothing for dogs, so that's where they concentrate their efforts. It's not easy to find clothing specifically designed for cats.

Some, but not all, dog clothing will work on cats. Dogs are more barrel-chested than cats and have shorter torsos. Their shoulders also tend to be larger than a cat's shoulders. And catwear needs to fit more tightly, so the cat can't escape from it unless choking. So adjustability is key in adapting dogwear to catwear. Large hook-and-loop (like Velcro®) closures are helpful, as they can be adjusted to fit tightly around the torso and chest. These are the areas where most pet clothing fastens.

Cats won't always take to wearing anything that makes their body too heavy. So steer clear of pet clothing with lots of embellishments. Plain and simple works best for cats. Of course you want to put cute little dresses with tutus on your girl kitties; who wouldn't? For us old maid cat ladies, our cats are our children, and we would likely have been insufferable "helicopter" mothers to human children. But if you want your cats to be happy, stick to the plainer designs for them.

Obviously, the back-end needs to be open so as not to interfere with kitty's potty-going. All four of the cat's legs should be able to move freely. And the clothing should fit tightly enough not to get caught on things, so your cat won't get it entangled and choke on it.  The neck shouldn't come up too high, either.

Most pet clothing manufacturers provide a sizing chart for measuring your animal. Carefully measure your cat using their guidelines and keep a record of those measurements. Pay close attention to any diagrams with the size chart, as different makers may have you measure your cat in different places. There are no standardized sizes in pet clothing.

Introducing Your Cat to Wearing Clothing

Now that you've chosen the right article of clothing for your cat, it's time to introduce kitty to it!

Some people have tried to put clothing on their cats, only to find that the cat flops over and plays dead in it. But instead of persevering, they'll take that clothing off their cats and never try again! There is a proper way to introduce your cat to clothing.

Cats like to do things at their own pace, and they're always suspicious of anything new or different in their environment. But, remember, they're also curious! When you first get a piece of clothing for your cat, show it to kitty and let him smell and inspect it thoroughly. Kitty may even want to play with it a little. You want the cat to be familiar with the clothing and not sense it as something foreign.

Next, choose a time when you're having a nice cuddle session with your cat. This is when your cat will be most relaxed and accepting. If the clothing has a hook-and-loop closure, open it before beginning this session and leave it open; sometimes that noise that it makes when you pull it apart can startle a cat.

Gently lay the piece of clothing on your cat during the cuddle session and continue talking and petting while you're doing so. The cat probably won't even notice it. On first introduction, perhaps that's all you do with the clothing.

On the next session, try fastening the clothing around your cat, always continuing to talk and pet as you do so. Make a little fuss over how pretty the cat looks in his new clothes. I know this sounds silly, but animals have a sense of pride in how they look, especially cats. They love being told they look pretty, or handsome, or beautiful. Make sure the cat associates the clothing with this fussing over how beautiful they look. 

Let the cat become accustomed to the feel of the clothing against his body. Sometimes this means they'll flop over in it and play dead. Other cats may try to find a way to get out of it. If your cat is treat-motivated, it couldn't hurt to provide a little treat every time you put the clothing on him.

With each session, let the cat wear the clothing a little longer. Get out your camera and take pictures of your cat in his outfit. Keep telling kitty how beautiful he looks in it, and keep giving those treats when it's on him. Wearing the clothing should always be a positive experience for your cat.

Even with this methodology, not all cats will adapt to clothing -- about half will, and half won't. You won't know which camp your kitty falls into until you try it! But some who initially don't care for it will at least grow to tolerate it, if you've gone through the proper procedure to introduce kitty to wearing clothing.

Express Your Preferences in Cat Clothing

Have you ever tried to find clothing for your cat and become frustrated that all you're seeing is clothing designed for dogs? Would you like to see clothing designed specifically for your cats, with a cat's needs and body shape in mind?

If so, we want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments below what types of clothing you'd like to see for your cats. Old Maid Cat Lady is working on designing our own line of couture catwear -- "cature" if you will -- and we need to assess the demand for it. Each piece will be custom-made to order, so it really will be couture catwear. If you have photos of items you've seen online but haven't been able to find, use this link to send those to us, as well.

Catwear isn't for every cat, and it isn't for every cat guardian. But some of you want clothing for your cats and are having trouble finding it. We want to help you by offering something that you'll really like and use for your cats.

Monday, January 2, 2017

January is Walk Your Pet Month!

January is Walk Your Pet Month!

Do you walk your cat? Many people don't think that a cat will walk on a leash, but that's a misconception. Not all cats will, but with the proper training cats will take to walking on a leash just as well as dogs do.

That said, cats do take some working with in order to get them accustomed to walking on a leash. These tips will make it easier for you to take your cat safely for a walk.

Acclimating Your Cat to a Harness

You can't attach a cat's leash to a collar, it must be hooked onto a harness. Cats are too adept at wriggling out of a collar, and you should never fasten a collar on a cat tightly enough to make escape impossible. This means getting your cat accustomed to wearing a harness.

Most cats will handle wearing a harness, but it must fit them properly first. The best harnesses for cats are like the one shown above: they fit tightly, like a sleeveless jacket. These are more comfortable for the cat, since they don't impede the movement of the front legs. They also make escape from the harness more difficult.

Pay close attention to the sizing chart for your selected harness. Each brand is manufactured differently. If there's a diagram of where they want you to measure the cat, follow it. Remember, you want the harness to fit snugly to prevent escape, but not so tightly that it prevents the cat from breathing.

Why should preventing escape concern you? Because if your cat gets spooked by something, he's going to try to bolt. The whole idea of walking a cat on a leash is so that you can prevent this and maintain control of your kitty's whereabouts.

Cats also prefer a lightweight harness.  Too many buckles and trim will make the harness heavier and uncomfortable for your kitty. Harnesses made for dogs seem to be heavier on the hardware. So find one made for a cat, or that has been tested on cats.

The first time you put a harness on your cat, he's most likely going to flop over and act like he's dead. Cats can be big on drama, and this is kitty's way of saying, "I'm in prison! I can't move!" Once he figures out that he can move just fine, and that you're not falling for his act, he'll start walking around and acting like he's wearing nothing.

Let your cat inspect the harness thoroughly before trying to put it on. Cats are naturally suspicious of anything new in their environment and will want to look it over, sniff it, taste it, and play with it. If it has a hook-and-loop (Velcro®) closure, let your cat get accustomed to the sound of that; some cats freak out at that noise.

Put the harness on your cat and let him wear it around the house for a little while, up to several days. You may want to do this a few times before hooking the leash to it. Get your cat acquainted with the harness so he knows it's a comfortable, safe thing.

The Best Leash For a Cat

While they're popular for walking dogs, retractable leashes are not a good idea when walking a cat. (They're not really a great idea when walking a dog if you want control over the dog, but that's another post for another dog-oriented blog!)

Why aren't they great for cats? Ever seen a cat scramble up a tree? Want to try to climb that tree to get said cat down, when you have a leash that's likely now tangled in branches and leaves? 'Nuff said.

A traditional leash with a hook on one end and a loop on the other is best for walking cats. The leash is long enough to give the cat a sense of freedom, but not so long that you lose control. You can always bunch it up to shorten the distance between you and your cat for crossing streets, or if you sense danger nearby.

Once your cat is accustomed to the harness, attach the leash to it and walk kitty around inside the house. Let your feline companion get accustomed to having you walk behind or next to him. You may want to use a wand toy at first to get the cat's attention away from the additional weight of the leash hook and make him realize that it's no big deal. Show him that walking is fun!

Before you know it, the time will come to venture out into the neighborhood. Begin with your yard. Let your cat explore at his own pace. You may want to bring along a book to read! My first cat enjoyed getting outdoors on a leash and harness. But he didn't actually walk, he would stand and sniff the grass. Then he'd move a foot or two away and sniff that grass. Walking him was never going to get me any exercise, that's for sure!

Safety First - Yours and Your Cat's

There are many dangers outdoors for cats -- even those being walked on a leash! And it only takes a moment for a cat-astrophe to happen.

Even if your cat is on a leash, a free-roaming dog (or a pack of them) with cat-aggression could finish off your kitty in an instant. It's a good idea to carry something with you to deter them. An ultrasonic deterrent or pepper spray should be in your pocket. While these won't deter a dog indefinitely, they will give you time to grab up your cat and retreat to a safer distance.

You never know what types of lawn chemicals have been sprayed on your neighbors' yards, so be careful of letting your cat sniff too much at grass or plants in them. Ditto for plants in general - there are many types of plants that are toxic to cats. While you've taken great care to keep those out of your own yard where your cats have access, your neighbors may not have been so careful. If your cat likes to eat plants, refrain from letting him snack on anything while out walking unless you know it's safe.

The same goes for water. We know that there can be dangers in rain puddles, including antifreeze or other automotive runoff. But even if it looks like someone has put out water for passing pets, you don't know what could be in that water. Sadly, there are people who intensely dislike cats and would intentionally do things to harm them. And a communal water bowl shared with any passing animal is a great way to share communicable diseases.

This should go without saying, but if your cat is going to be outside, updated vaccinations are essential. When was the last time your cat had a booster or a titer test? If you'll be going on walks, double check to make sure your cat is protected from preventable serious diseases.

Alternatives to Walking Your Cat on a Leash

If your kitty won't take to the harness and leash, that doesn't mean he has to be doomed to a life without enjoying the fresh air! There are many designs of cat strollers available that give you another option. These are specifically designed for pets, with washable beds, tethers to keep your cat from escaping, and fully-enclosed compartments to protect your cat and make him feel secure. Some of the larger models will accommodate more than one cat, so you can take two out for a walk together.

If you don't have a walkable neighborhood, but you have a yard, Kittywalk makes a line of outdoor enclosures you can use to let kitty enjoy the outdoors. While this isn't "walking" your cat, per se, some of the designs have enough room for your cats to enjoy running and playing outdoors.

One word of caution: strollers and soft-sided enclosures will not protect your cat from aggressive predators such as coyotes or malevolent humans. Always supervise your cats when they are outside your home in such enclosures. Just as you'd take precaution when walking a cat on a leash, be vigilant and remain in the yard with them while they play in any soft-sided enclosure.

So, there you have it! Yes, January tends to be chilly, but not always. Get out there and enjoy the outdoors with your cats!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Holiday Home Prep

That look on Vixen's face says it all, doesn't it?

Holiday Home Prep

Decorating for the holidays is always a fair amount of work, but when you have cats it's just a little extra challenging. Not only do you have to keep them from climbing the tree, knocking off the ornaments to bat around, drinking the water out of the tree reservoir, chewing the light cords, and setting their tails on fire with burning candles, but getting them to hold still while you put cute costumes on them and take pictures can actually get you injured!

Here are some tips on getting your home ready for the holidays, along with suggestions on items we offer that can help you.

Holiday Safety for Cats

Many dangers for cats abound during the holidays...even for indoor kitties! Just a few of them:

  • Holiday greenery that could be toxic when nibbled
  • Water in the tree reservoir treated with chemicals to lengthen the life of the tree
  • Human food slipped to them by party guests who are unaware those hors d'oeuvres may contain something like onions that could seriously damage a cat's kidneys
  • Chewing on electrical wires...who remembers the scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?
  • Cuts from broken ornaments knocked off the tree as toys
  • Slipping out a door to escape from strangers in the house for a party or a family visit
  • Escaping in a strange place while traveling for the holidays
Obviously there are more, but those are the main ones that come to mind. How do you protect your cats from such things?

Try using artificial trees; they don't smell as good, but may not be as tempting to climb or eat. And they don't require water to stay green all season!

Make sure your guests know that the cats shouldn't be given a little nibble from their plates. Feed the cats something really smelly and good (for them) shortly before guests arrive so they won't be hungry and will likely turn up their noses at anything offered.

Keep electrical wires out of their reach, and train your cats to leave them alone. Easier said than done with a teething kitten, but provide plenty of alternatives for your cats to chew on: I've even used pacifiers intended for human babies that were a good size, and the cats loved them!

Use non-breakable ornaments, especially down low where the cats will want to bat at them.

When entertaining, put the cats in a quiet room that's off-limits to guests, or put them in a crate while people are visiting. Midwest's Collapsible Cat Play Pen is a little tricky to get assembled, but I keep one up all the time in my downstairs room and use it for segregating my cats when needed. It stays open so they can go in and out of it, and as often as not I'll walk in the room and find one or more of them dozing inside it.

The Collapsible Cat Play Pen can be used with or without wheels.

If you're traveling with your cats, we offer a wide array of travel crates for all modes of transportation. Studies have shown that when traveling in the car, the safest place for your cat's carrier is on the floorboard directly behind the passenger seat. Make sure your cat is fitted with a harness you can tether to the carrier, and keep a leash in the car for exercise walks along the way.  We have several in our Collars, Harnesses and Leads section. Tip: Hook on the leash before untethering the cat from the carrier; that way you won't have a little runaway to chase!

Fun Holiday Home Items for Cat Lovers

It's getting late to enjoy anything holiday-themed this year, but think about these types of items for next year. Custom items can be made at any time, and enjoyed year-round.

Newly available again after a short break is The Gold Cat's jewelry. Their earrings and rings are especially popular, and Valentine's Day will be here before you know it! Since all of them are custom made to order, getting your order in now will beat the rush and make sure it's delivered in time.

The sterling silver Nabi Cat Ring is one of their most popular designs,
and it's also available in 14 kt gold!

Holidays are not happy times for everyone. If you know someone who has recently lost a beloved kitty, a cremation urn or a comforting book may be a thoughtful gift. Just released this year was Purr Prints of the Heart, Deborah Barnes' heart-warming story of her cat Mister Jazz, told from his own point of view.

This new style of wooden frame urn will soon be available,
but you'll find many more in our Cat Memorials & Grief Support section.

Got to run for some holiday prep of my own now, but keep us in mind as you complete your shopping!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Supplier Spotlight: K&H Manufacturing

K&H's Kitty Sill, available heated or unheated

Supplier Spotlight: K&H Manufacturing

Old Maid Cat Lady has been around for more than six years, and in that time we've acquired over sixty suppliers! This fall, we're introducing you to several of them with an in-depth look at those suppliers and their products.

This time we take a look at K&H Manufacturing, who's been one of our suppliers since our first year. While other companies have come and gone, K&H has consistently been a reliable source of high quality heated and non-heated products for cats. Despite selling a great number of products, the company is still family-owned and relatively small.

Based in Colorado, K&H has been around for more than 40 years. They're actually the originator of heated products for pets! K&H's Lectro Kennel has been on the market since the company's founding. It comes in both regular and Deluxe models. Made for cats, dogs, and even birds, each product is designed by the company's founder and president James Koskey. 

K&H's Thermo-Kitty Bed, available in two sizes & colors

K&H: Meeting Cats' Needs

One of K&H's best sellers in winter is the Thermo Kitty Bed. Cats have a natural body temperature that is slightly higher than a human's, so a room that may seem only slightly chilly to us feels much colder to them. This bed warms to 10-15 degrees higher than the ambient air temperature. With a washable cover and orthopedic foam base, it's understandable why it's so popular! It comes in Sage (green) or Mocha (brown), both with a tan interior.

Not all kitties are lucky enough to have indoor homes in winter. One of Old Maid Cat Lady's customers ordered two of the warmers for his outdoor cats that are semi-feral, to put in some wooden shelters he'd built for them. They were so popular he ordered two more the next week! He sent us the photo below of the cats enjoying them on a chilly fall morning.

Outdoor cats enjoying a chilly night on their Lectro-Soft heated beds

K&H's Thermal Bowl was designed to hold water for outdoor animals, but requests from people who feed colonies of feral and community cats led them to develop the Thermo-Kitty Café, shown below. It's great for keeping cats' wet food from freezing in winter. Thanks to K&H, there's no need for your outdoor cats to do without their wet food in cold-weather months!

Thermo-Kitty Cafe keeps both water and wet food from freezing outdoors

K&H: Tested for Cats' Safety

One of K&H's great points of pride is how well its products are tested to be safe for our feline companions. You've likely heard of UL testing for electronic products, but K&H uses the MET Laboratories guidelines. MET was the nation's first Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) for product safety certification. They currently have OSHA approval to test over 180 UL standards categories, plus tests 230+ additional standards.

What does this all mean for you and your cats? Safer, longer-lasting, higher quality products than those from other companies that try to imitate K&H. Almost all of the knock-offs are untested for safety. Always check for that certification: it costs a lot for a company to get it, but K&H feels that you and your cats are worth the extra investment. They go above and beyond the minimum standards for testing.

If you'd like to know more about MET product testing, here's a guideline that more completely spells out the differences between it and UL testing.

Now that the weather's colder all over the US, when you're shopping for your cats this holiday season, why not get kitty something to warm the body as well as the heart? Click here to shop all K&H products available through Old Maid Cat Lady!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 29 is National Cat Day!

October 29 is National Cat Day!

Treat Yo' Kitty!

Above is pictured Miss Matilda Stormkitty, Mattie for short. She was rescued at the height of Hurricane Matthew, crying outside in the wind and rain! My original intent was to find her a home, as I already have my Golden Boys and my allergies really don't need a third cat in the house.

Then I saw The Captain playing with her, how she enlivened him as he's about the age equivalent to a human in his mid-30s. Gilly was less enthusiastic at first, but even he seems to enjoy playing with her now. Can I really take them away from each other? Or from myself? I must confess to finding delight in watching her dash around the house, hop sideways on all four feet, or stand up on her back legs to "attack" the boys, just like they used to do when they were tiny. It's an adjustment to have a cat in the house again, but we're getting along fine and the boys are teaching Mattie how to be a good cat.

Finding Homes for Cats

One of the major themes of National Cat Day is to find homes for cats. Colleen Paige, an advocate for animal welfare and an expert on pet and family lifestyles, founded the observance in 2005 to draw public attention to the number of cats who need rescuing each year. The first belief listed on the site is "...that every cat should have a forever home where they are safe, warm, loved, cherished and regarded as FAMILY."

Here come the statistics: according to the ASPCA, approximately 3.4 million cats enter U.S. shelters each year. Of those an approximate 1.4 million cats are killed. That's one million four hundred thousand cats who never make it out of a shelter alive. Every. Year. Some facilities kill more than 90% of the cats arriving there. These are not shelters in any sense of the word, at least not for cats.

I refuse to use the term "euthanized" for cats killed in shelters because euthanasia is supposed to be a humane way of ending suffering for an animal that is severely injured or ill. The vast majority of cats killed in shelters are either completely healthy, or suffering from a "kitty cold" that can be easily cured. These are loving, adoptable animals who deserve a chance. 

Or they are members of outdoor cat colonies that help control populations of disease-spreading rodents in our communities. There is an anti-cat movement seeking to destroy these colonies, many of whom may have been abandoned or lost pets. The people behind this movement commission "studies" that are biased and use flawed information-gathering techniques that skew the results to support their anti-cat arguments. For cats to kill the number of songbirds these studies claim, they'd have to do little else. And we all know how many hours a day cats spend sleeping! My personal experience with cats tells me that an outdoor cat may kill an occasional bird, but it's a rare occurrence.

The truth is that managed outdoor cat colonies are clean, healthy, vaccinated, and an asset to their communities. Some cats do not have the temperament to live closely with people. Others can eventually be tamed and learn to happily live inside. If a cat can be homed, it should be. But for those who can't, colony living provides a humane alternative. Managed colonies are cared for by someone who uses humane traps and has the cats spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and properly vetted. They are fed and watered daily.

Enhancing Cat Care

Another of the beliefs listed on the National Cat Day site is "...that no matter where a cat comes from, being a cat parent is a precious gift and a responsibility one should not take lightly. Please make sure you can properly care for a cat before you commit to opening your heart and home."

This belief speaks to my heart! It's one of the main principles behind Old Maid Cat Lady. A retail site that was born out of my own frustration at never being able to find the things I wanted for my cats has evolved into an information center as well, where people can learn about proper cat care, normal feline behavior, and how to live more harmoniously with their kitties.

Cats are often misunderstood. People either anthropomorphize them, giving them human qualities they don't possess, or they try to treat them like dogs despite their differing needs, or they just view them as wild creatures who are "aloof" and unable to be trained. 

In fact, cats love human interaction, long for attention from their human companions, and can be trained to do almost anything with patience and the proper techniques. Understanding what motivates your cat, which you will discover if you interact frequently, is an important first step to any type of feline training.

Our kitties have unique needs. If those needs are not provided with an appropriate outlet, they will find any convenient outlet for the behavior. That may be somewhere we view as inappropriate. 

The feline need to scratch is but one of these needs. Cats scratch to mark their territory, exercise the muscles of their front legs (from the resistance of the scratching surface pulling against their claws), and slough off the dead portions of their claws. Scratching can also be a reaction to over-stimulation or a cry for attention. It is a natural cat behavior. Some cats prefer vertical surfaces for scratching, while others may prefer a horizontal surface. In the wild, cats scratch on tree bark.

To train your cats not to scratch your furniture, provide an ample assortment of cat scratchers made of differing angles, materials, and heights, around your home. If your cat begins scratching the antique sofa you inherited from Grandma, tell kitty, "No," in a calm voice, then pick up the cat and direct that scratching to the nearest cat tree or scratching post, placing their paws on the surface and praising kitty while doing so. You will have to do this several times. It often helps to treat the scratching surface with a little catnip.

Typical surfaces for cat scratchers are sisal rope, corrugated cardboard stacked with the honeycomb ends together, and carpet. But be forewarned: if you don't want your cats scratching your carpet, don't train them to scratch on a carpeted cat tree, or you'll be training them to scratch carpet!

However you choose to celebrate National Cat Day, whether it's through welcoming a new feline member to your family, volunteering to help other cats find homes, care for a community colony, or just to treat yo' kitty, we hope you enjoy the day with your cat(s)!