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Cats need to be entertained.

Enriching Your Cat’s World

By Jenny Anderson

Special to Today’s News-Herald

                The National Wildlife Federation recently published an article detailing the impact of free-roaming cats on birds and small wildlife.  Cats prey on wild birds and other wildlife when they are simply following their natural instinct. Why should we be concerned?  Recent studies show that domestic cats are causing some big problems with many bird species.  When we consider that Lake Havasu is on a major flyway for migrating birds, this issue becomes even more important.

Keeping cats indoors is not just better for wildlife; it’s also better for our cats. Outdoor cats face threats from predators, cars and disease and, as a result, have much shorter life spans compared to indoor cats. Life indoors is a win-win for both wildlife and cats. However, when they are kept indoors, this hunting instinct needs to be simulated in some way.

                Believe it or not, our felines do need stimulation as much as other pets.  This is especially true when outdoor cats are brought inside.  Although it’s a major challenge, there are so many ways we can enrich the environment for our indoor felines.  “House cats” do not have to be frustrated or bored.  It can be pricey if you purchase toys, so try making some simple homemade toys.  For example, an empty spool, a wadded paper ball, or an unshelled walnut can be as much fun to chase as an expensive toy.

                As is true for dogs, a tired cat is a happy cat.  We must provide the space and opportunity for exercise and play.  There are so many toys available.  Some are even battery-operated to make them more interactive.    I keep a couple play items hanging so my cats can bat at them.  And organic catnip really makes even older toys more interesting.  Last week I put some fresh catnip in a couple “mice” that I can no longer find at the store—my effort was rewarded with renewed interest in these old toys. Catnip contains a natural oil called nepetalactone which has a unique effect on cats. When it is inhaled, the oil is interpreted by the feline olfactory system as a natural cat pheromone. This has a mild and temporary stimulatory effect.  Either dried catnip or a spray works well. 

                Cats also need to exercise their natural hunting instincts, so provide food puzzles or other items which may simulate catching prey.  I have a cat tower placed by a window where birds can be viewed outside.  There are cat window perches available if you do not have wide enough window ledges for your cats.  A birdbath or feeder can be placed nearby, but even natural shrubs and trees will encourage the birds.  The cats really enjoy watching the outdoors, and I know they are safely inside (where coyotes won’t get to them).

                Cat trees, shelves, cat walks (elevated walkways around a room), or catios (enclosed outdoor play areas) are all ways to provide an opportunity to climb, run, and play.  This exercises another instinctual behavior:  climbing into the trees and seeking high places.  Most cat towers also have some kind of scratching surface which is perfect for clawing exercise.

                It is possible to take a leashed walk with cats, but it is a slow learning process.  Cats need to be walked with a harness, some cat treats, and the leash.  Leash training is easiest when a cat is a youngster, although cats any age can learn.  Start indoors and gradually move to short walks outside.

Early altering plays an important role in controlling the hormones that drive a cat’s desire to be outside.  This also eases the stress caused when cats feel the urge to escape and find a mate.  Spaying or neutering has long-range beneficial effects and helps make a better pet. 

                Another way to help a cat enjoy play is with a buddy.  It isn’t that much more work to provide for two cats, and a feline companion may be just what your kitty needs.  There’s never a shortage of cats available either!  And finally, we need to dispel the myth which states cats do not need attention. They do need us just as much as a dog. Domestic cats can be very loving. It’s so important we just plain love our cat(s). How do we best do this? Snuggle our cat(s), pet our cat(s), and play with our cat(s) every single day.  

                There are cats available both in the WAHS cat adoption room and in the PetSmart adoption kennels.  The next adoption events are:

November 10th 12:00 to 3:00
Petsmart Adoption Clinic

November 11th 10:00 to 1:00
Petsmart Adoption Clinic

November 12th 11:00 to 2:00
Petsmart Adoption Clinic

The Western Arizona Humane Society, 1100 Empire Dr., is open Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with kennel hours 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 855-5083 for details. To find lost pets, call 855-4111. View animals found at www.lhcpd.com.

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