Dogs have long held the title of “man’s best friend,” although cats are actually the world’s most popular pet, outnumbering dogs as many as three to one. Cats are independent, curious and loyal, making them wonderful lifelong companions.
That is why in September cat lovers from around the world celebrate their feline friends during National Happy and Healthy Cat Month!
The domestic cat has been a treasured pet that can be traced back over 4,000 years to ancient Egypt. Because of their ability to hunt vermin, cats helped reduce disease and protect crops, earning them a title of a sacred creature in Egyptian culture.
After the collapse of the Eygptian dynasty, cats became popular elsewhere in the world. In the Far East, cats were originally owned only by the rich, but soon popularity spread to India and Japan, and the breeding of Siamese and Burmese cats started to grow.
It is believed that cats were introduced to Europe by Greek and Roman traders, who used the services of the domesticated cat for pest control for their cargo.
During the 15th and 16th centuries cats were a welcome part of the crew on cargo ships to minimize vermin and disease. It is also believed that this is how the domestic cat first came to America.
There has been some discussion as to whether or not the American Domesticated Shorthair breed we now know and love in the U.S. had originally come from a domestic line of felines or from a wild cat.
It is hard to imagine sailors in the 1600s agreeing to have a wild, fighting, clawing cat on board for a several-month trip. It is also unlikely to think that settlers coaxed wild, native cats to their barns, expecting them to gratefully hunt mice and accept human contact.
Anyone who has driven in a long car ride with an unhappy cat crying and clawing to get out of their pet carrier would agree that the American Domestic Shorthair Cat is most likely a descendant of a domesticated cat brought from overseas, and not a wild cat.
Cat lovers are a particular breed of their own, often referred to as “crazy cat people” by the non-cat loving community.
Surprisingly, there are many famous people in history that were considered part of the “crazy cat people” family such as Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale, Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, and Elizabeth Taylor, just to name a few.
There was even a famous cat person that was not actually human. KoKo the gorilla, who was born and raised in the San Francisco Zoo, was a great cat lover. KoKo was taught by the zoo staff at a young age to speak sign language, and was fairly fluent in sign language throughout her life.
She was able to express her love for a kitten, and had several cats as “pets” throughout her life at the zoo. KoKo was not only able to gently play and care for her cats, but also expressed her love and grief for them when one of them was accidentally killed by a car, proving the devotion for an owner and their cat has no limitations or boundaries.
In honor of National Happy and Healthy Cat Month, the Catalyst Council, a national initiative composed of animal health and welfare organizations, has comprised several recommendations to keep your favorite feline happy and healthy.
Cats are natural hunters and require physical and mental stimulation. Playing with a “new” toy can provide hours of entertainment for your cat. This does not mean you have to go to the store and stock up on a variety of expensive cat toys. A wadded up piece of paper, an empty box, an old shoe string, or a paper shopping bag will easily provide as much, or more, fun as the store bought toys.
Cats are very smart, and despite their reputation of perhaps ignoring people and commands, they are relatively easy to train, especially if your cat is food motivated. Training sessions can provide much needed play time, as well as allow for bonding time for you and your feline companion.
Cats are also natural climbers. Providing your cat with “cat trees” or perches will not only save your furniture from being torn up, it also will provide a secure viewpoint of the rest of your cat's domain. This can reduce any anxiety your cat may be feeling, especially if your home has more than one pet.
Regular wellness visits with your veterinarian can help catch any medical problems early on, as cats often do not show many signs of illness until a problem has progressed.
However, many cat owners find getting an uncooperative cat into a pet carrier is the worst and most traumatic part of a vet visit.
To acclimate your pet to the carrier, try leaving it out with the door open for several weeks, and place it where your cat likes to go in your house. Perhaps on a favorite bed or sofa, or near a sunny window. Put a comfy cloth or blanket inside and leave a toy or two inside the open door. After a few days, curiosity will get the best of them, and they will venture inside. Once they feel the carrier is a safe place to be in, the next vet visit might not be so traumatic.
Between traffic, wild animals, and disease, free run of the outdoors may not be ideal for your cat’s health and safety.
Cats can be trained to walk on a leash, or you can purchase a screened-in “pet playpen.” This will allow your cat to relax out in the fresh air and sunshine while you garden or bar-b-que, but safely limit where they can go.
These options are worth trying especially if you are trying to convert an “outdoor cat” into an “indoor cat.”
Cats by nature are nocturnal, and tend to sleep many hours of the day. They are also relatively clean, and are easily litter boxed trained, making them a good pet choice for a busy family.
If you have always been a secret fan of the feline species, but have not crossed into the world of cat owner yet, September’s Happy and Healthy Cat Month is a great time to explore cat adoption options. There are many local shelters you can visit to help you make an adoption decision.
If you are considering buying from a breeder, make sure to do your research. Ask for references, and if possible visit the breeder to meet the cat parents and see the animal’s living conditions.
Cat adoption can be a wonderful addition to your family, but it is a financial and lifetime (for the pet) commitment, so make sure all family members are on board when making such a decision.
For more information about cat adoption visit www.lowellhumanesociety.org.