The CATalyst: Happy Cat Month! 10 Ways to Make Your Cat Happy

Steve Dale, CAT FANCY writer and syndicated newspaper pet columnist, provides a weekly cat news roundup.

By Steve Dale, CABC | Posted: September 5, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

Steve Dale
Author Steve Dale

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Don’t you love check lists? I’m talking about the kind you read in the dentist’s office waiting room. To celebrate, Happy Cat Month, I have one for you from the CATalyst Council. Here are 10 ways cat owners can keep their cats happy. How many can you check off?

1. Visit the veterinarian. Healthy cats are happy cats. While some owners may dread a trip to the veterinarian with their cat, many veterinary practices are cat-friendly or have doctors who specialize in cats and will gladly show leery owners how pleasant a trip to the veterinarian can be. If a cat has not yet been spayed or neutered, this is an important step to keeping a cat healthy; it will help prevent aggression and decrease the risk of cancer.

2. Microchip your cat. In addition to a collar and identification tag, cat owners should ask their veterinarian about microchipping their feline friend. If a cat ever escapes or gets lost, having this type of permanent ID will make a reunion between cat and owner much more likely.

3. Go outside (appropriately). Yes! Cat owners can safely take cats outside to allow them to broaden their horizons. You can walk cats on a leash with a harness or confine them in a special outdoor area like a catio — always under supervision, of course — so they can periodically and safely experience the world outside their windows.

4. Scratch the surface. Give cats places to stretch and care for their claws. Cat scratching is an important aspect of feline behavior. Providing a long and sturdy scratching post in a vertical, horizontal or angled position is a good way to keep your cat happy … and your sofa, too!

5. Provide preventive cat medications. No one likes fleas, ticks, mites or heartworms, especially your cat. Even if an owner’s cat is strictly indoors they can still be attacked by these little creepy creatures. Owners should speak with their veterinarians about the best preventive plan for cat parasites. A parasite-free cat is a happy cat — and will keep your family healthier, too.

6. Train together. Cats are smart and can be trained to do fun tricks just like dogs, and the mental and physical stimulation is great for felines. Teaching your cat to sit, for example, is easy, and training your cat to sit on stools instead of counters will make you and your cat much happier. An added bonus is that training will strengthen the relationship between owner and cat, which will certainly make a cat happy.

7. Work for (cat) food. Feline obesity is a huge problem in this country, and one way to combat it is for owners to make their cats work for their food. Food toys are available to channel a cat’s natural hunting drive and release kibble in small amounts. Another option is to hide a cat’s food in different places so that they have to find it. Working for food makes a cat happy because it’s great physical and mental exercise.

8. Get your cat acclimated to the cat carrier. Many cat owners find that the worst part about taking their cats anywhere is getting cats into their carriers. Owners should work with their cat on making their carrier a safe, secure, and inviting place to be prior to veterinary visits or family vacations. When the time comes, the cat will be happy to get into the carrier and go off on an adventure. Visit the CATalyst Council website here to view "Cats and Carriers: Friends not Foes" for tips on how to get cats to love their carriers.

9. Provide prey toys. One of the easiest ways to make a cat happy is with a new prey toy. Cats are natural hunters and love chasing, pouncing, leaping, swatting and stalking prey, even when it’s not the real thing. There are many types of prey toys available on the market; with a little creativity, owners can even make their own out of common household items.

10. Consider another cat. Cats are social animals, and owners should consider getting another cat to keep their current kitty company. Cats love to play, and a playmate will make them happy — provided they are properly introduced and have the right places to eat, hide, play and go the bathroom. Visit your community animal shelter or animal control facility to check what feline friends they have to offer. Sadly, there are always many seeking homes. Happily, you may be that home. By the way, the best combination is sometimes not necessarily two cats, but a cat and a dog ... or even two cats and a dog. Dogs and cats can be best pals.

Yours Free to Celebrate Happy Cat Month
The CATalyst Council is national initiative and not-for-profit comprised of animal health and welfare organizations devoted to elevating health care for cats, and supporting the adoption of homeless cats from shelters and animal control agencies into forever homes. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the CATalyst Council teamed up to create this YouTube video with Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the CATalyst Council.

The American Humane Association and CATalyst Council created a free 24-page pdf about cat care called CATegorical Care: An Owner’s Guide to America’s #1 Companion (click here for a copy) which the AVMA, Winn Feline Foundation, Society of Animal Welfare Administrators and so many others signed off on. Experienced cat owners will enjoy, and novice cat owners will learn.

Cat Health News: Cats Have Known It All Along
Fish and flaxseed oil (containing Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) are popular dietary supplements for people, and for dogs. It’s been shown to modulate the inflammation associated with canine skin conditions, and is presumed to be generally great at knocking off dangerous free radicals. In people the same is true, and fish and flaxseed oil may also be used as a tool to control cholesterol, and is heart healthy.

But is the same true for cats? According to a study funded by the Winn Feline Foundation (click here for a copy), decreased inflammation (in response to a histamine response test) was seen in cats fed diets supplemented with fish and flaxseed oil. These supplements may soon prove useful in managing inflammatory conditions in cats, such as allergies.

More cat health news from Winn relates to how mast cell tumors (MCT) exhibit a different biologic behavior in cats than in dogs. Mastocytemia, large numbers of mast cells in the blood, appears exclusively associated with MCT in cats. In a study, funded by the Winn Feline Foundation (click here for a copy), it was found that 43% of the cats examined with mast cell disease had mastocytemia. Direct blood film examination and/or buffy coat (BC) preparations from blood are the primary methods used to diagnose mastocytemia. BC examination was considered the best screening method for detection while direct blood film examination was more accurate in detecting the degree of mastocytemia. The authors of the study believe BC examination should be mandatory in all known or suspected cases of MCT, or in cats with splenomegaly (an enlarged spleen) or vomiting of undetermined cause.

Lesson Learned: African Cats Will Come Back, If Given the Chance
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Africa, over 20 years. Even then — depending on where you were in Africa — it was considered a rare site, if you happened to get close enough to snap a photo of a cheetah or leopard. The good news is that they’re still here, though they continue to decline. Smaller cat species are equally or even more imperiled.

More good news is that given half a chance, it seems the big cats can prosper. Anastasia Thrift, CatChannel.com managing editor, forwarded this story, describing how the big cats are returning (with a little help) to South Africa’s Eastern Cape. One private property, called the Albany Hotspot, spent a million dollars on ridding the area on what was there (such as abandoned farms) and restoring its natural state.

To some degree, they proved – if you build it they will come. As some animals voluntarily began to enter the area. This was followed by “importing” lion, African leopard, cheetah, African elephant, black rhinoceros, river hippopotamus, blue crane, crowned eagle, secretary birds, as well as many other rare birds species, and varies antelope including the eland (the largest Africa antelope species) as well as a wide variety of other species.

Of course, the key for maintaining the big cats was bringing in a variety of antelope.

According to the text books, leopard, who hunt alone, would primarily take the mid-sized or smaller antelope at night. Cheetah, it was thought, would chase down the smaller antelope by day. Lion, who hunt cooperatively, could take anything, mostly at dusk or dawn. Hyena also take antelope, and it was assumed would compete with lion more than any other predator. But surprisingly, Cheetah actually took down Eland, an animal weighing up to eight times a 140 lb. Cheetah.

And check out the area’s so-called white lions. Other than a pawful elsewhere in Africa, they are relegated to zoos and special attractions – until now.  A captive white lion was released, and began to hunt and live a normal lion life, which included breeding.    

My hope is that previously indigenous small cat species will also be re-introduced into the area, if that hasn’t already happened. Sadly, good news stories, like this one, are rare.
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Reader Comments

Jenny    Monticello, MN

12/3/2011 10:18:54 AM

Great advice and thank you.

D    Newtown, CT

10/19/2011 12:25:00 PM

Great ideas.

Pat    Omaha, NE

9/9/2011 6:11:01 AM

Good tips

Karen    CBS, NL

9/8/2011 10:09:12 AM

great advise. wonderful article with great tips.

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