Is It Okay to Spoil Your Cat?
By Dr. Larry Siegler
One of the questions I always ask of new clients that come to see me is “Where does Fluffy sleep?” I typically ask this among a variety of other more health related questions about diet, supplements, exercise, etc. so the client is caught a bit off guard. I smile to myself when almost all of them sheepishly answer “In my bed with me.” Many new clients are hesitant at first to tell me how pampered their companions truly are, but once they get to know me, they begin to almost boast about it. I encourage the practice of “spoiling” companion animals – “healthy spoiling” that is.
Do you have an entire closet dedicated to cat toys? Do your friends raise their eyebrows when you mention that you have to pick your cat up at the groomer’s? Do you hide the receipts for your companion’s food before your mother comes over? Your Mother may not approve, but your veterinarian will! Play, exercise, proper grooming and top quality food are all good for any animal’s health and well-being. And believe it or not, you are in good company. “Spoiling” our animal companions has risen to new heights in recent years.
So what is healthy and what is …well, going overboard? If it’s good for the cat, and doesn’t bust your budget or cause you stress, it’s probably healthy. If you find yourself annoyed by behaviours that have been encouraged by spoiling – like begging, then it’s probably not healthy.
One client recently confessed she spent over $600 installing a cat enclosure so her cats could go outside safely. Is this overboard? Well, that depends on what you can afford. For many cat lovers, a one time expense of this sort is an easy decision when they know they are improving their cats’ long term mental and physical well being by giving them access to fresh air and playful romps in the yard. Fresh air helps prevent respiratory illness and outdoor time gives cats hours of pleasure in watching the comings and goings of the birds, squirrels, and neighbourhood dogs.
When it comes to treats for our cats we have a thousand different ways to spoil our companions. There are gourmet treats, hypoallergenic treats, designer health treats with herbs or joint support supplements added and, of course, cookbooks for home-made treats. I love feeding my “clients” treats. I keep freeze-dried meats handy for cats. I also recommend healthy leftovers from your own meals as treats or even part of the diet.
Healthy leftovers include lean meats or fish for cats. In addition, many cats love cantaloupe. (Onions, grapes, raisins and chocolate are to be avoided.) Healthy leftovers are different from “table scraps” which usually include the fat trimmed from meat, poultry skin and the potatoes with gravy left on someone’s plate. Give them healthy, nutritious leftovers – not fatty scraps or lots of carbohydrates. Obesity is one of the worst problems our animal companions face. It is our responsibility to help our pets stay fit and healthy. When you give lots of treats or leftovers, cut back on their regular meal to compensate for the added calories. And to avoid the begging behaviour, never feed your cat from your plate or from the table. Wait until the meal is over and the dishes are done, then put the leftovers in your companion’s own dish for them to enjoy.
So go ahead – indulge your friend. A new leash, a fancy bowl, a cushy bed (for when he’s not sharing yours), gourmet treats – whatever fits your budget and makes you both happy! And if your Mom sees the receipt, tell her a veterinarian recommended it!
Welcome Home Furry Baby
So you've picked out your kitten (preferably two), now what? ... Let the training begin!
- Soon after the kitten arrives in your home, take him to the veterinarian for an exam, feeding recommendations, and the necessary vaccinations. Use a cat carrier for transporting him, both for his safety and for his sense of security. The carrier should become "standard operating procedure" during any trips away from home.
- Set up a nursery for the baby (or babies if you have adopted two). This should ideally be a small room with an easily cleaned floor. Provide a bed, a litterbox, food and water (not near the litterbox), items to scratch on, and safe toys.
- Initiate a schedule of feeding, playing, and handling to provide the kitten with the structure of regular activities. Turning on a small nightlight will be his cue that it is "time for bed" and will also help him navigate in the room during the night. Be sensitive to the kitten's need for sleep and watch that children let the baby sleep undisturbed when he is tired out.
- Handle your kitten gently and frequently for short periods of time. During these sessions slowly incorporate touching around the eyes, ears, paws, etc. as if doing a veterinary exam. This will be good practice for the future.
- Work with the kitten in his nursery until he is regularly using his litterbox. Gradually expand his territory by letting him explore adjoining rooms under your watchful eye.
- Be prepared for your kitten's sense of adventure and curiosity. Secure dangerous areas like the dryer and washing machine for his safety. Direct the kitten to acceptable play and scratch items and away from unacceptable ones. When the youngster is under three months of age, supervised play is best in areas where he could get hurt or damage something of value to you.
- The more you involve your kitten in activities and interactions with others, the more likely he will respond without fear or defensiveness as he grows older. Always treat him with kindness and respect for his "cat-ness".
Remember that kittens grow up very fast and that patience during these early months will pay off later. And...have fun...it's what kittens do best!
The Truth About Declawing
- "Declawing is an inhumane, unnecessary procedure that has many alternatives. It is never in the cat's best interest. With declawing, we are interfering with a species' nature because of our own whims, mis-conceptions, misinformation, and sometimes, laziness." Neil Wolff, D.V.M.
- Dr. Nicholas Dodman, author of The cat Who Cried for Help, and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine has the following to say about the procedure: "Declawing fits the dictionary definition of mutilation to a tee. Words such as deform, disfigure, disjoint and dismember all apply to this surgeryÉin veterinary medicine, the clinical procedure serves as a model of severe pain for the testing of analgesic drugs."
- Declawing is actually multiple amputations comparable to the removal of human fingertips at the first knuckle. Sensory and motor nerves are cut, damaged, and destroyed. Recovery from the surgery is a slow and painful process. This procedure can hamper the sensations and enjoyment involved in walking, running, springing, climbing, and stretching.
- While declawing is a popular and lucrative practice in the United States, it is not practiced in European countries. It is, in fact, against the law, in many countries including England, Germany, and Switzerland.
- Cat Owners who elect to have their paws declawed generally do so with the belief that they will never have to deal with fabric damage due to destructive scratching problems. However, paw sensitivity resulting from the declaw operation may result in litterbox avoidance and urine-soaked furnishings or carpeting.
- Without its #1 defense system many declawed cats resort to nipping or biting with very little warning. They often use oral means to express their insecurity and this may also result in destructive chewing problems.
- Cats, like people, react differently to physical handicaps. Some appear to be unaffected and others become nervous and defensive. When a dramatic temperament or behavior change occurs, the cat owner often decides to take the cat to a pound or shelter or have it euthanized by a veterinarian.
Destructive scratching problems are 100% correctable. Providing the cat with suitable scratching targets to satisfy this instinctive behavior and encouraging appropriate behavior is generally all that is required. Contact Cats International if your cat is presenting a challenging scratching problem. We guarantee success!