The Modern Cat

The Modern cat has to integrate into a changing world and that means dealing with more people due to population growth and less time for people to care for their cat companions. This translates into two changes that affect cats; one well established and the other a new idea from the land of new ideas, Japan.

cat cafe Japan
Cat Cafe, Japan - photo by Helen K

The first is the growing trend for full-time indoor cats. With greater urbanization and accompanying increase in hazards for domestic cats it makes sense to keep our cats indoors permanently. This makes the environment much safer and life therefore longer for our cats. But, the big but, is whether this is better for the cat if the cat is not stimulated sufficiently in what could be a dull and unnatural environment. What is better a dull long life or a short exciting one? There is no clean answer. However, there is a way of creating a long and reasonably exciting life and that is to put effort, finance and time into creating an enclosed space (the home) that is as good, or nearly as good, as an outdoor space. There lies the challenge but for the truly dedicated cat keeper it is surely possible.

Things that can be considered to provide stimulation and an environment as good as a natural one might be:

-- Cat refuge -- a place to go where our cat feels safe. This could be to get away from another cat or dog for a while, for example. A cat will naturally find such a place but we can improve on it. Even simple free things such as a box in the right place can turn into a perfect refuge. The classic safe place is a high place. I feed a stray girl cat. She has found a home on top of the microwave in the kitchen (on a towel). I call it the mezzanine floor. My cat can't jump up there so this little visitor feels safe.

-- A cat tree or perch is another way for the cat to get up high and feel safe and comfortable. They will find their favorite place. It might be positioned near a window to allow visual stimulation by looking out.

-- Cat need to scratch to scuff of the outer layer of claw and to reveal a fresh layer underneath. And it also is a way to stretch. Cats will generally scratch near objects that smell of us. There are many products. It should be fixed firmly. As for me my girl has never used a scratching post but I just put up with that. It may be necessary to try a few out as cats seem to be quite choosy. It is certainly important that the material is such that the claws can slide through but with the correct level of friction and tension.

-- Visual stimulation is a useful way to combat boredom. I have mentioned this above.

-- I have always advocated an outdoor enclosure of say 15 by 20 feet that leads off direct from the house through cat flap. This is an ideal but the investment would be worthwhile. Few people it seems take up this option, strangely.

-- Play is important and I am the first to admit that I don't do enough. It requires our input but there are products out there that run automatically. My view is that cats become bored with toys just like children do so we need to provide an endless stream of new ones. I think it is hard to truly mimic a true wild cat state in which the cat is fully stimulated.

We can do lots more than we do but my honest view is that whatever we do for a full-time indoor cat her/his life will not be quite as good as one that can go out but I am not advising that cats should be let out. It depends on a lot of factors.

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Another symptom of today is the lack of time people often have. The modern cat in Japan has found a role in a chain of cat cafes. This concept was noticed by an associate of mine in her blog (see VG's Blog -teh kitteh antidote/ anecdote - Cat Cafes in Japan). Workers in Japan often do not have the time nor the residential space to keep a cat in a responsible manner. But some of these people would like to experience the calming pleasure of keeping a domestic cat. They can now at cat cafes where cats integrate with customers. Nice idea and it seems to be successful.

This begs the question as to who do the cafe cats normally live with - perhaps the cafe owner. But if several cats are needed perhaps this is one small way to reduce the stray cat population and put the cats in shelters to good use. The modern cat likes to earn his keep. Is this the beginning of the idea of sharing cats? Cats often share humans by going from one house to another. The people don't know this is happening.



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