Cat owners, this week’s post is especially for you! There’s info for dog owners at the site I’ll be talking about, too.
Veterinary medicine has made some tremendous gains in treating our patients when they are ill. Nearly all of the specialties available to humans are also available to pets – cardiology, ophthalmology, internal medicine, oncology, and many more. One of the underutilized specialties in vet med is behavior.
Owners have known for a long, long time what needs to be done to have a happy, content dog. General needs for dogs, generally, match our own social and homemaking needs, so they’re easy to understand. Frequent and energetic social contact suits most dogs just fine. They travel well in general and enjoy recreation with their owners.
Cats, on the other hand, have quite a few special needs to ensure their lives are low-stress and fulfilling. They’re a little harder to understand, too, because they include things like a quiet, safe refuge away from people and short, non-confining periods of social interaction. Lots of natural behaviors — instincts — are still very strong in cats. Hunting and scratching are two of the more obvious instincts we recognize. Hiding, observing, perching, and familiarity are some of the less obvious but still very important cat needs.
A website developed by The Ohio State University’s veterinary school has become an absolutely fantastic resource for learning about what makes a cat tick. It’s called The Indoor Pet Initiative. It provides some amazing insights into how to make your home perfect for your cat. It covers everything from litterboxes to scratching posts to what sorts of things can stress a cat out. I highly recommend that all cat owners spend some time reading the site. I learned a few things I can do for my own cat to lower her stress!
There’s a strong debate about whether cats should be indoors or outdoors. I will strongly defend the idea that “outside is dangerous” for cats. Outdoor cats have a life expectancy of around 4 years. Deaths occur because of being hit by cars, killed by other animals (dogs), or contracting a fatal disease like Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or Feline Leukemia. These are horrible, painful deaths! Outdoor cats are also plagued by fleas, ear mites, upper respiratory infections, and intestinal parasites. We can protect cats from some of the diseases and most of the parasites, but there’s not a darned thing we can do about cars and other animals. Cats are simply safer if kept indoors.
With the proper home environment, cats can life a fulfilling and happy life inside your home. There are safe ways to allow your cat to experience the outdoors with direct supervision, as well. The Indoor Pet Initiative gives cat owners all of the information they’ll need to provide a fantastic home environment. Happy indoor cats have a life expectancy of 12 to 18 years.
Indoor cats will live, on average, three times longer than outdoor cats. I can’t think of anyone that would knowingly trade 2/3 of their own life just to engage in dangerous activities. If we can provide a happy, fulfilling indoor home for our cats, why would we subject them to the penalty of 2/3 of their lives?
Take some time to read through the Indoor Pet Initiative. It’s well worth the time for both dog and cat owners!