Tuesday 14 October 2008

Happy cat

What makes a cat a happy cat and can we tell? It honestly can be a bit difficult to tell if our cat is happy. In the same way it can be difficult to tell when your cat is sad or even ill.

The best way to tell is to be close to your cat. That also allows you to keep an eye on your cat's health. The most important factor in ensuring that our cat is a happy cat is to make sure that (s)he is healthy. You can't be happy being unhealthy. That of course applies to all animals including human animals. Health and being allowed to express natural behavior in a safe environment are two key elements in ensuring your cat is happy.

happy cat
Happy cat - Toji - not surprising as he/she has the photographer fofurasfelinas caring about him. fofurasfelinas is a great photographer and cares for cats.

OK, first port of call is to keep our cat healthy. The first method to achieve this is to be sufficiently involved with your cat to see changes in eating and toilet routines. And also if she is sufficiently active. If a cat is eating well, has a decent level of activity (for that cat breed) and is producing quality feces (yes I know) at regular intervals it is probable that she is healthy. The opposite conditions are anorexia, lethargy and diarrhea/constipation/peeing problems, all bad signs and general symptoms of ill health.

Her coat should be in good condition too. It is fun to brush and comb your cat's coat. Nearly all cats love it and if not something is possibly wrong. It pays to brush at the right time, when she is more likely to accept and like it. And it also pays to brush at a sensible level of vigor and pressure; cats don't like it too hard. Grooming includes checking for fleas and fleas can be present in the cleanest of homes. The best way is with an ordinary flea comb around the neck, shoulders and under the chin plus the end of the spine where it joins the tail. Fleas are irritating to cats at the best of times and can cause disease and worms. For example they are part of the tapeworm life cycle and can cause an allergy

See cat flea life cycle | tapeworms in felines | cat and dog parasite pictures | feline allergies

The best way to get rid of fleas as far as I am concerned is combing them out. If the infestation is bad Frontline® is good; a dropper that goes on the skin but always be observant and careful when applying insecticides as they are poisonous.

Combing takes some skill and patience. A cat is normally a happy cat when being flea combed if he has fleas (or even not). Good flea control is important and it is something we can do and should do. Good flea control management means daily checking and combing, there is no doubt about that. In a large establishment or a home with hard flooring and a flea problem food grade diatomaceous earth can be useful. All feral cats have fleas, often lots of them, so they will need treatment on an industrial level (see taming wild feral cats and kittens).

I am harping on about fleas because they are a barrier to a happy cat and it is relatively easy to allow your cat to get fleas. If you are busy etc. things can develop without your knowledge. Being busy and under demands from work and or family commitments can mean your cat getting the short straw.

The approach that produces good flea control is concern and being close to your cat and it is this approach and what it produces in action by you that makes a cat a happy cat. It can be shown in playing with your cat regularly.

For me it is going out into the garden with my cat when she asks me and I comb her in the garden and also flea check there. She likes me to stand around with her, this can be tiresome for me sometimes but it is good for her; another happy cat.

I mentioned eating well. I confess that I am not a great fan of the quality of cat food. It is just average at best and it looks so commercial; you know the jelly and the unappetizing bits in between. There is enough waste left over for me to feed the foxes on a daily basis. Quality cat food is important to keep our cat a happy cat. But unless we pay through the nose for it in supermarkets we can't get it. Also, and I regret to say this some of the big manufacturers of pet food also partake of animal testing. This seems very cynical to me when they project a caring image while hurting cats and other animals for commercial gain. Purina® is one such company (note this though, a company is a business with shareholders if it is a public company so we need to think about that). See more here for a list of pet food manufacturers that don't animal test. Buying this food makes us happy.

The being close approach also means talking to our cats. Cats prefer a melodious human voice. I don't thing that admonishing a cat for doing "wrong" works. Firstly because from the cat's perspective she hasn't done wrong, she has acted normally so admonishment confuses. A typical example would be kneading on our lap or bringing in a mouse she has caught. These actions can be explained as natural to a cat. Secondly they can't understand human language but can understand the sound if it is soft and reassuring or aggressive. Aggression from the owner towards their cat causes stress, produces no gain for either party and our cat is not a happy cat. The best way is to accept your cat's behavior. In other words we adjust because we can. See cat scratching new approach. And mistakes cat owners make. We need to to be aware of cat behavior so we can fit in. A fairly typical problem is people considering their cat aggressive when this is probably not the case. See for example, referred cat aggression.

I also think that a happy cat is one that can go out safely. A lot of people keep their cats in. This is common in the United States, less so in Europe and the UK (90% of Brits let their cats free-roam). Back in the old days (the 1960s and before) cats were put out at night - weird I know. But perhaps we have over reacted to the dangers outside sometimes anyway. There is no doubt in my mind that the best compromise is a decent sized cat enclosure perhaps covering the backyard (back garden) entirely. In the UK, I'd recommend ProtectaPet. They make an excellent fence which is effective and discrete. This results in one happy cat who is safe and one happy owner who is not worried. See building a cat enclosure

Back to health. A regular trip to the veterinarian is recommended (by vets). I think yes and no to this. We as humans don't make yearly trips to the doctor. Yet it is different for a cat because as I said earlier we cannot sometimes tell is our cat is ill or has early signs of an illness. A vet can advise there. If we are observant and close to our cat I don't think a yearly visit is needed. That said cat vaccinations are yearly events (or used to be - this is changing) so we might as well have a check up at the same time. However, today the approach to vaccinations is more cautious - see cat vaccination recommendations - and used less by vets to generate trade. The bottom line for a happy cat is a healthy cat who is loved and allowed to behave naturally. That should guide us.

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