A Vision for a Strong Cat Bond

The late Dr. R.K. Anderson believed that letting cats be cats would end behavior problems and strengthen the human/cat bond.

By Steve Dale, CABC | Posted: November, 6, 2012, 9 a.m. EST

Steve Dale
Author Steve Dale

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Steve Dale shares thoughts on Dr. R.K. Anderson: 
"I had the pleasure of presenting Anderson with the prestigious Animals and Other Nations Award from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants in 2005. Listing all his awards and honors would fill pages."
Pets have lost a best friend in Dr. R.K. Anderson. At age 90, the man called a “Gentle Giant” passed away on Oct. 19.

Now, I am about to reveal a secret about Anderson, a well-known “dog guy.” When the National Enquirer hears this, I suspect it will make headline news. For all his contributions to the dog world, Anderson was really a cat guy, even telling me he preferred cats. Wow. What a revelation!

He felt strongly about how cats should live with us, like how indoor cats are safer. But he also felt owners should let cats live out their true nature.
  • Anderson was concerned that cat owners didn't treat their felines like the hunters they are. Free-feeding or leaving out cat food all the time might be more convenient, but it's one reason why so many cats are obese. Instead, Anderson preferred the idea of measuring out about 80-85% of a cats food and feeding at specific times. Owners should hide the remaining food in treat balls and other food dispensing toys, randomly placed around the house for cats to use all their hunting senses to find.

  • Anderson thought that tension over cats' inappropriate elimination would lead to cats landing at shelters or being booted outdoors. Many owners could cause this problem by not scooping often enough and/or placing litterboxes in poor locations – if cats are trained to use a toilet, Anderson believed, those issues become irrelevant. Anderson personally trained cats to use the toilet over the years. He wanted to invent a product to help train cats and promote the idea. I (and others in cat behavior) expressed apprehension over this, but Anderson was convinced that solving inappropriate elimination problems with cats could save lives.

  • Most of all, Anderson respected and admired cats for what they are. He felt cats know more than some credit them for, and we mere humans lose out by failing to interact with them. Training cats to “sit” or “give a high four” isn't only a matter of having fun, it's healthy for any animal to continue learning throughout a lifetime, and when owners are engaged, he said, the human/animal bond is stronger. After all, Anderson was well aware that more cats are given up to shelters than dogs.
Many of the more than 75 scientific papers Anderson authored or contributed to dealt with the human/animal bond, mostly for dogs. You'd figure in 90 years one person might have enough time to achieve all he wanted to. Not true for R.K. Anderson, who hoped others will pursue his vision for cats – ultimately to save lives.
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Reader Comments

Anon    City, CA

11/11/2012 6:30:04 PM

Great article.

Galadriel    Lothlorien, ME

11/10/2012 11:30:46 PM

Interesting.

Jenny    Monticello, MN

11/7/2012 7:36:46 PM

I have started measuring my cat's food this year but I am having a hard time feed her at the same time everyday because of my schedule. She has not missed a meal.

Dawn    Gainesville, FL

11/7/2012 6:04:10 PM

My cat has been fed measured food as long as I have had him. He is a healthy weight, and fed at the same time each day so he has become my alarm clock. He will allow a short snooze but won't let me oversleep. I think he tells time by the sun because the Spring and Fall time changes are difficult

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