June is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat-Month, so if you’ve been thinking about adding a cat to your family – and you have the time, money (http://www.aspca.org/adoption/pet-care-costs.html), and patience it takes to care for an animal – visit your local shelter or www.Petfinder.org to find a find a feline friend. (Go to http://www.aspca.org/adoption/adoption-tips/bringing-your-new-cat-home.html to read the ASPCA’s top ten list of things to do before you bring your new cat home.)
If your cat is not already spayed or neutered, it’s important to have him or her sterilized to help combat animal overpopulation and to prevent certain health and behavioral problems. A fertile cat can produce three litters in one year; each litter can consist of four to six kittens. In just seven years, it’s possible for one female cat and her offspring to produce 420,000 cats.
Female cats (and dogs) should be spayed soon after the age of eight weeks. Males should be neutered at eight weeks of age, but both spaying and neutering can be done safely through most of adulthood.
Spaying reduces the stress and discomfort females endure during heat periods, eliminates the risk of uterine cancer and greatly reduces the chance of mammary cancer. Neutering makes males much less likely to roam or fight, and helps prevent testicular cancer.
Here are a few other basic things that you can do to make sure your cat is safe, healthy, and happy:
* Keep Your Cat Content Indoors: Cats may seem independent, but they do depend on us to keep them safe. If your cat is allowed to roam outside alone, he or she could get hit by a car, exposed to a deadly disease like feline AIDS or feline leukemia, attacked by other animals, or stolen by “bunchers,” people who comb the streets looking for animals to sell to research laboratories. Combined with the possible dangers from unfriendly neighbors and poisonous substances and toxic antifreeze spills, the safest place for your animal companion is indoors with you.
Provide plenty of toys, cat grass, and other treats to keep your cat’s mind occupied. Cats love peering out of windows at birdbaths and feeders; it’s like kitty TV. Some cats even enjoy watching special “cat entertainment videos” on television.
Some companies, including KittyWalk Systems (http://www.midnightpass.com/), Cat Fence-In (http://www.catfencein.com) and Purr…fect Fence (http://www.purrfectfence.com/) make outdoor enclosures or cat fences so that cats can safely commune with nature. Cats can also be taught to walk on a leash, especially when they’re young. Just be sure to use a lightweight leash attached to a harness, not a collar. Make sure your animal friend always wears proper identification in case he or she does become lost.
*Don’t Declaw: Declawing is a painful and permanently crippling procedure that involves the amputation of the last joint of each toe, including the bones. After surgery, the nails may grow back inside the paw, causing pain. Declawing reportedly results in a gradual weakening of leg, shoulder, and back muscles, and because of impaired balance caused by the procedure, declawed cats have to relearn to walk, much as a person would after losing his or her toes.
Cats have claws for a reason. Declawing robs them of the ability to scratch, a vital natural behavior, and to defend themselves. It can even make routine behaviors like using the litterbox uncomfortable. The lack of claws, a cat’s first line of defense, makes many cats feel so insecure that they tend to bite more often as a means of self-protection. Because declawing is so inhumane, it is banned or severely restricted in nearly two dozen countries and some areas of the U.S.
Regular trimmings, scratching posts, and nail caps (like Soft Paws) are effective ways to control scratching without causing your cat pain and trauma. Double-sided tape, such as Paws Off, also discourages cats from clawing furniture. Of course, if you’re extremely concerned about your upholstery, than perhaps a cat is not the best companion for you.
* “Flush” Frequently: Dirty, smelly cat litter is not nice for anyone’s nose, and cats don’t want to walk in their waste anymore than we’d want to walk in ours! Change your cat’s litterbox at least twice a day and avoid clumping litters which can pose a serious health danger to cats. You may want to try Swheat Scoop (http://www.swheatscoop.com/), a wheat-based litter that dissolves in water and does not cause intestinal blockages in cats when swallowed.
For more tips on about making your feline’s life more enjoyable, visit www.HelpingAnimals.com or read Ingrid E Newkirk’s book 250 Things You Can Do to Make Your Cat Adore You (https://www.petacatalog.org/prodinfo.asp?number=BK250). For more information about Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat-Month, and ways to help your local shelter, go to http://www.aspca.org/adoption/help-your-local-shelter.html.