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 Gilly playing with her, how she enlivened him as he's about the age equivalent to a human in his mid-30s. The Captain 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 kitten 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)!

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