Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's National Pet Week!

May 6-12 has been dubbed National Pet Week in the U.S., so let's celebrate the joy that our cats bring us! This year's theme is "Healthy Pets Make Happy Homes."

First, a few statistics:

  • The U.S. has the largest cat population of any nation worldwide. China comes in second, followed by Russia, Brazil, and France.
  • While 43 million U.S. households contain dogs, only 37.5 million of them contain cats. But there are far more cats in those households: 86.4 million, with only 78.2 million dogs. Apparently, we prefer our cats in multiples. Interesting, since dogs are actually the pack animals by nature.
  • The states with the highest percentage of cat-owning households are Maine, Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Only three states have official state cats: Maine (Maine Coon), Maryland (Calico), and Massachusetts (Tabby).
  • 21% of owned cats were adopted from an animal shelter. Adopting a cat from a shelter actually saves two lives: that of the cat you adopted, and the cat who can take its now-empty space at the shelter. In volunteering at my local shelter, I've been amazed at the gorgeous and sweet cats they have available for adoption. Many others acquire their cats by adopting strays, and it's true that a cat will find its way to you when you belong together. Just to make sure, check your local shelter to see if that cat is waiting for you there.
  • 88% of owned cats are spayed or neutered. We all know the benefits of this, and healthy kittens can be altered as soon as they reach 2 pounds in weight. Since a female cat can get pregnant as young as 4 months of age, early-age (or "pre-pubertal") spaying and neutering is a good way to keep this from happening. Moreover, it's a safe practice endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Kittens neutered early actually have fewer surgical complications and faster recovery.
  • The proper term for an unneutered male cat is a "tom". Once neutered, he becomes a "gib". A female cat is called a "molly", or if she's a mother, she's a "queen". (But we know that all cats think of themselves as queens!)
  • Women tend to be the primary caregivers of all pets...but then, you knew that, didn't you? However, a 2007 Gallup poll revealed that men were just as likely as women to own a cat. Cats do tend to respond better to a woman's voice, likely due to its higher pitch. (That and a can opener: have you ever noticed that even cats who have never eaten food opened with an electric can opener will come a-runnin' when you start one? What's up with that?!)
  • Cats are far less likely than dogs to see their veterinarians frequently. Do you take your kitties in for an annual checkup? If for no other reason than a rabies vaccine booster, you should. While multi-year rabies vaccines are available, they have a higher association with vaccine-associated sarcomas, so I tend to shy away from them. Don't yet have a vet? You can find one near you by using the AVMA's free service,
  • Cats are highly intelligent. They can be trained, and even enjoy the mental stimulation of it. But most cat owners don't try to do so, in the mistaken belief that cats can't be trained. That's a shame! There are plenty of books on training your cat, so get one and give it a try. Good mental health is a part of your cat's overall well-being and mental stimulation can go a long way toward avoiding "bad" behavior that comes from boredom.
  • Adolf Hitler disliked cats, so there's one good reason for distancing yourself from people who don't like cats! I'm guessing that cats weren't too fond of Hitler, either, since cats tend to read people pretty accurately.

As many of you know, I recently began fostering two little 4-week-old kittens, who I will adopt as soon as they're old enough. They just turned 6 weeks old and had their latest round of shots, weighing in at 1.1 pounds each. That's them, pictured at the top of this post, on the first day I brought them home. I've been calling them Captain Roughy and Gilligan, and they are certainly a handful! Adult cats are really more my speed, but after losing my beloved little Vixen, it was just too difficult to come home to an empty house with no little furry face to greet me. I intended to help out the shelter by fostering some of the many kittens they get at this time of year, and just fell in love with these two.

"My boys" already have great plans in store for them. Having never lived with kittens this young before, I'd never really had the opportunity to start them out right by teaching them to get used to walking on a leash and harness, or having their teeth brushed. Now they can get a good foundation in life and we will learn from each other how best to raise them. Will they excel at cat agility trials, or would they prefer to become therapy cats who visit the sick and elderly? Or will they just become twin fixtures lounging atop the back of my sofa? Only time will tell. Whatever they become, I'm looking forward to shepherding them on their journey there.

Purrs, and happy National Pet Week!

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