The Catalyst Council is a nonprofit organization that promotes the vision of a “cat-caring society.” One of its efforts to advocate for cats and their wellbeing involves declaring September Happy Cat Month.
Happy Cat Month is meant to “educate and inform cat owners in regards to what they can do to ensure their pet is happy.” The suggestions always make me smile a little bit because while the end result may be a happy cat, the process of getting there is <i>not</i> necessarily a happy one for most of our feline family members! Trips to the vet, getting your cat acclimated to the carrier – these are practical actions will make for a healthy, happy cat in the long run, but your cat may not enjoy the journey all that much.
Of course you should do all the necessary things to give your cat a happy life, including regular veterinary checkups, giving them their meds and controlling how much they eat. But if you look at it through your cat’s perspective, she’d undoubtedly have a much different idea of what would make her happy this month. If your kitty was in charge of Happy Cat Month, here’s what she would ask for – plus some suggestions on to make it happen safely and sanely:
1. Give me lots of treats!
Actually treats aren’t a bad thing, especially if you avoid over-processed, store-bought treats and opt for something natural, like cooked chicken (without spices or onions) or a couple small pieces of canned sardines. Recently, I bought some raw, organic chicken hearts at Whole Foods – my seniors Boodie and Binga were a little puzzled by them, but my youngster, Summer, dug right in! Freeze-dried meat or raw bites are good, too – and they store well. Life’s too short – treats in moderation should be a part of everyone’s diet, and when they’re wholesome and healthy, so much the better.
2. Bring me real, live prey to hunt!
Cats love to hunt, but letting them catch, kill and eat possibly disease-ridden critters is not a good idea. Mice could have ingested poison from another home, and nobody wants their cats bringing down songbirds. There are lots of interactive toys that mimic live prey and most cats see this as an acceptable alternative. Bird-like toys on fishing-pole style contraptions are a favorite in our house. Make sure to put aside 10-15 minutes daily to play with your cat. She will be less restless, and if you play with her <i>hard</i> before bedtime, she will be more likely to sleep through the night and less likely to disturb you with early morning antics.
3. Let me outside to play!
Some cats are indoor/outdoor, but in the United States, most housecats are indoor only – and often lack adequate stimulation, even though indoors is always the safer option. Give your cat a good view of the outside by putting a cat tree by a window that gets lots of activity and some nice sunbeams for basking. If your cat really wants to experience the outdoors firsthand, the safest way is on a harness and leash. It may take some time and patience to get your cat used to wearing a harness, but the enrichment is worth it.
4. Stop telling me to get off the table and counters!
It may be your home, but it’s your cat’s territory – and she feels she should be able to go wherever she wants. Our cats enjoys the late afternoon sunbeams on the dining room table. Summer loves the bay window over the kitchen sink – and it requires a trip across the counter to get there. We just deal with it, but if you really want your cats off these surfaces, then create a more appealing option for them. How about putting a cat condo in a place that catches those afternoon sunbeams? Maybe you can put a bird feeder by another window away from the kitchen counter – once the birds discover it, your cat may decide she likes that view better.
5. Get me a big, fancy cat tree!
If think if we all had our druthers, we’d have elaborate, expensive cat trees for our cats. But that’s not in everyone’s budget. The truth is that a simple cat tree with a couple of levels and a sleeping cup or platform is adequate for most cat families, and if you hunt around, you can often find one on sale somewhere. If pickings are slim, or if even an on-sale cat tree is outside of your budget, one good alternative is figuring out how to make vertical space in your home. Can you create a path for your cat to go from sofa to windowsill to bookcase? Can you place a table and a comfy cat bed by a sunny window? There are a lot of ways to add vertical space, and that can really open up a room for a cat.
What would make your cat happy?