Written by Alexandra Young, Humane Pennsylvania Community Outreach Programs Manager
Many refer to me as a “crazy cat lady,” but I don’t mind. I have spent more than 20 years advocating for the rights of and implementing humane management of free-roaming/community/feral cats in Berks County. I took care of 29 inside cats for four years and have volunteered in animal rescue for my entire life.
Today, as an animal welfare professional, I learned that there is an official “Respect Your Cat Day” every March 28th and according to my brief research on the holiday, it may have stemmed from an edict proclaimed by King Richard II on March 28, 1384 – that people shall no longer eat cats! In any case, I don’t need someone to tell me not to eat my pets… To honor, cherish and celebrate every cat that I have “owned,” trapped/sterilized/released, rescued, or humanely euthanized, I sincerely hope this little write-up will remind my fellow humans how fortunate we are to be tolerated by these creatures and the glimpse they give us of the “wild” animal from which they originated, while we enjoy their companionship and silly antics.
There is still speculation on how long “our house cats” have been domesticated, but a 2007 study published in Science research journal obtained more data on the genetic analysis. The authors of that study claim that all domestic cats are descendants of a Middle Eastern wildcat (Felis silvestris) and the domestication process started up to 12,000 years ago. Regardless of how many years have passed, with nearly 32 million U.S. households having at least one cat, it’s clear that they are still in fact considered family members.
Here are ways to respect and honor your kitty through healthy enrichment (check out sites like Etsy and Pinterest for lots of inspiration for the first two ideas):
- Build a Catio: A Catio is an enclosed outdoor space that is “kitty-accessible” through an interior window. There are kits and designs for every budget and if you’re handy, you’ll have a great time designing and building your own. If you have a limited budget or are short on space and skills, consider hiring a contractor to build you a “kitty window”, which is essentially a cage that is the same size as a window air-conditioner unit and installed the same way. I guarantee your cat will enjoy the sights and smells of the outside world, but will remain safely on your property.
- Create a wall gym: choose a dedicated wall or room and build UP with shelves and posts. Not only is this a great boredom buster, but it can alleviate pecking order and other behavioral issues by giving cat(s) a safe and instinctive retreat from dominant cats, dogs, toddlers, or other “annoyances.”
- Use interactive food puzzles and toys: house cats can become lazy, bored, and overweight due to lack of activity, free feeding of too much dry food, and busy schedules. Having the opportunity to forage for food will offer mental stimulation and a calorie-burning activity.
- Foster a shelter or rescue cat: Save a life and see if your kitty becomes more curious, playful, and energized with another feline friend. If you confirm that they don’t enjoy the company, you’re wiser to their needs and you can spend more quality time with your one cat!
- Don’t declaw your cat. It’s the same as amputating every tip of each of your fingers…OUCH! Cats need their claws to scratch. Scratching helps our feline friends build muscle and mark their territory, and it is an important natural behavior. Their retractable claws are truly an engineering marvel that should be left as nature intended. Give your cat a great scratching post or pad and reward them lavishly for using it while redirecting inappropriate scratching to that post. Cats learn by positive reinforcement and do not respond well to aversive methods like spray bottles and shock mats.
- Commit to playing with your kitty for at least 10 minutes per day before their meal: See your cat in its truest form by initiating the “hunt/catch/kill/eat” instincts as described by cat behavior expert Jackson Galaxy, whose website is full of excellent feline behavioral and health information to help you improve your cat’s quality of life with you.
Although your cat still exhibits some wildness about them, rest assured that they are dependent on you to provide healthy food, adequate shelter, proper stimulation, and an annual veterinary exam to keep them in tip-top shape.
Most of my cats have lived to be almost 20 years old (and older!) so don’t delay, contact our Humane Veterinary Hospitals (HVH) today for an appointment. We usually have appointments available within the same week and as the only AAHA-accredited, non-profit veterinary hospital in Berks County, we offer low-cost, high-quality medical care to your pet while you support our charitable cause to help thousands of homeless pets every year.