By Mickey Zeldes
I’ve been thinking a lot about the information from a cat behavior course I took last year. I’m finally getting around to rewriting our cat adoption packet to reflect some of the new thoughts and this summer I presented the cat care talk to our summer campers. Not wanting to be insulting, I skipped the part about cats needing food and water and tried to focus on simple things we can and should do as good cat parents to keep our pets safe and happy. It’s really not that difficult if you whittle down all the possible extras that you could do and stick to the core items.
One of the most common reasons for cats to be surrendered to shelters has to do with litterbox issues. Cats are extremely fastidious creatures and also have a highly developed sense of smell. Put those two things together with a dirty litterbox and you can see right away where the problem lies. It’s our job to provide enough litterboxes to give everyone a choice – that means one per cat plus one extra. And to keep them clean (to their standards, not ours) – which means scooping twice daily and washing it out weekly.
Understanding how cats in the wild live can help us understand some of our pet cats needs and instincts. The wild cat does just five basic behaviors all day – hunt, kill, eat, groom and sleep. Repeat. So does that mean we should all let our cats outside to indulge their need to hunt? Well the campers came up with a pretty impressive list of dangers to cats that are outdoors so that is definitely not the answer. As we’ve become more urbanized the risks outweigh the benefits by far. Of course you could compromise by buying or building an outdoor cat enclosure so they can feel sunshine yet be safe – check out one option at www.cdpets.com, or google catios for lots of ideas. But we can also enrich our indoor cats’ lives by giving them the experience of hunting (there are hundreds of interactive toys on the market and you only need two-10-minute play sessions a day to keep your kitty happy), followed by a small meal or treat. Play is a positive release for pent-up energy and can help build the confidence of a timid or shy cat.
Cats are both preys and predators and need both high places and hiding spots to feel safe. So easy to do in the home! Jackson Galaxy, the Cat Daddy, coined the term “catify” to describe making the home more cat friendly. You can buy climbing trees and tunnels or just get creative and put a cat bed up on a bookcase and cut out windows in a cardboard box. Most conflicts between animals are because of perception of limited resources that need to be guarded. Make sure there are plenty of high and low sleeping spots, multiple food and water dishes (instead of one big bowl) in various places, lots of scratching posts and multiple litterboxes in safe locations and you’ve reduced the reasons for conflict.
I love sharing simple ideas that can have such a powerful positive effect on our pets’ lives. If you’ve built a cat enclosure or special climbing post, came up with a fun game or catified your house in some way please post pictures on our Facebook page. It would be great to start sharing these good ideas so we can all make our cats happier. That is our job as their parents after all!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed 1-6:30 p.m.; Thur-Fri-Sat 1-5:30 p.m.; Sun 1-4:30 p.m.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.