I've made a pretty good start with my New Year Resolutions for 2012 for improving the health and happiness of my own cats, but in the larger scope of things, my cats are just four spoiled furry creatures among all the cats of the world.
I am horrified and saddened every day by reading comments on my blogs about cats dying suddenly outdoors, either hit by vehicles on the street, killed by predators, or the victims of random acts of cruelty by strangers looking for a "thrill kill." Or I'll be saddened by an innocent remark by a new Cats Forum member about her declawed cat suddenly avoiding the litter box. I wouldn't be doing my job as an advocate for cats, if I ignored these cats' needs too. It's too late for the two examples just mentioned, but I need to do as much as I can to help educate others against making the same mistakes.
These resolutions set forth here are not ones I can achieve alone, but require the dedication and drive of cat lovers all over the world.
Because I originally learned everything I knew about cats from my husband, Asa, now deceased, I had never heard about the declawing of cats until I started writing for About.com. It wasn't long after I read the series of articles on the LisaViolet Web Site, that I became an avid champion for the protection of cats' claws. Declawing is one of the most inhumane veterinary practices I know of, and completely unnecessary because there are so many humane alternatives. Still, it is still perfectly legal in the U.S. and Canada, although it is banned by many other countries in the world.
In the U.S., the right to declaw is jealously guarded by the veterinary professional groups, as well as by those uneducated cat owners who place more value on their possessions than on their cats' toes. These people are not knowingly cruel; many of them do not understanding exactly what is done during a declaw surgery. Mine is just one voice in the multitude of professional writers who advocate for the protection of cats' claws, and we need more voices to overcome this practice of robbing cats of their toes along with their claws.
Cats need their claws. Those sharp appendages are their most important means of protection, as well as a critical part of their anatomy which helps them do those long vertical and horizontal stretches which keep their bodies supple and well-toned.
Kittens are wonderful creations, but they develop into cats much too quickly. Before you even realize that your fuzzy kitten is an adolescent, she may suddenly start exhibiting the symptoms of oestrus (her first heat cycle). And if you also have a whole male cat in your household, your little kitten may already be pregnant. If you've let her run loose outdoors, the odds are even better that she will turn up preggers.
That is a double whammy that no one needs. We have enough excess kittens and cats in the world already. If some kind of sudden cosmic disaster occured which sterilized all the cats in the world, it would likely be many years before all cats had homes, feral cats no longer prowled in garbage cans, and the animal shelters could only deal with cats left there for other reasons, such as a human caregiver death leaving a cat homeless.
Since that unusual series of events will likely never occur, it is up to us, responsible cat caregivers who care enough, to help others embrace the habit of spay-neutering their pet cats.
One of the most controversial topics on cat safety is that of keeping cats indoors. In some countries, such as the U.K., Australia, and South Africa, cats are routinely let outside during the day. However, in crowded cities in the U.S., outdoor cats are prey to a number of dangers, including predators, both domestic and wild, and the most dangerous, that of being hit by motor vehicles. There are also other health-related reasons cats should stay indoors.
My husband and I raised our cats in an era where it was the norm to let them run free outside in the small town he grew up in. There was very little traffic at that time, and the cats were generally safe. However, not much later, we lost three cats in two years; one to poison, and two to vehicle-cat encounters. We moved to a town where we lived on a cul-de-sac, thinking our cats would be safer there. Eventually, though, after our senior cat Shannon was diagnosed with FIV (Feline Immunodefeciency Virus), the result of fights with a neighbor cat, we concluded that there really was no such thing as a safe outdoor experience for our cats, unless they were on leashes or otherwise supervised.
When my husband and I were engaged in the Great Kitten Search, we started visiting animal shelters all across Northern California in search of two kittens to serve as my muses, since my previous Guide-Cat, Shannon, had passed. Although many of our previous cats had been foundlings, rescued by one or another of our three children, it had been many years since a new cat had entered our lives, and I knew then and still believe that Animal Shelters and rescue groups are the best source of deserving, needy cats. A shelter cat will be so grateful to be part of your family that you will be the recipient of unconditional love for the rest of that cat's life. A golden reward for a small investment.
Although some say that cats domesticated themselves, the fact is that since the earliest known history of cats, we humans have had an symbiotic relationship with cats. We need them, and they need us. The Chinese have a saying: "When you save a man's life, you become responsible for him." I believe the same adage holds truth for cats. When we save a cat's live, whether it be by adopting him from a shelter, rescuing him from a life on the streets, or saving him from a cruel environment, we take ownership of the responsibility for this cat for the rest of his or her life. It's a big job, not always easy, but someone has to do it.
Anyone who has ever adopted a senior cat, or watched a young cat or kitten mature into her senior years, knows the indescribable rewards of loving and caring for a cat though the Golden Years. Cats freely give us so much devotion - how could we treat them casually or indifferently? Indeed, many of my readers have emailed me, telling how much their senior cats mean to them.
Older cats' needs are more complicated than those of younger cats. The type of food they eat gains importance as a potential factor of weight-related medical conditions, such as Feline Diabetes, or Arthritis. By the same token, geriatric cats' need for veterinary care increases as they age.
I've written many times that there are NO bad cats - just owners who don't understand the workings of the feline mind. The vast majority of my email questions, as well as questions on the About.com Cats Forum, have to do with cats' behavior problems. The questions have to do with a variety of issues, including the most common:
From a kitten's first examination, vaccines, and spay or neuter to an aging cat's treatment for CRF, veterinary care is of prime importance. You may find that your trusted veterinarian is your best friend when it comes to the care of your cat. I've seen a vet's eyes mist over with tears as he pronounced my beloved cat finally at peace, and have seen broad smiles when a cat's test results came back as normal.
Although not all pet health insurance plans cover "routine" exams, I consider them much more important than "routine," and glady pay for them out of pocket. I would no more take on the care of a kitten without a thorough health check than drive a used car off the lot without first checking the oil, fan belt, brakes, and tires. Small expenses in the beginning can help prevent BIG expenses in the future.