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Did you know that there is a day set aside just to honor cats and celebrate the special bond humans have with their feline family members? It’s true!

Mar. 28 is National Respect Your Cat Day, and as a veterinarian, I fully support the holiday; it brings awareness to the proper care of cats and the importance of interpreting and appreciating all cat behaviors.

In general, there is still a lot of mystery and misunderstanding when it comes to cat behavior and cat care. This misunderstanding can lead to abuse, neglect, bad behaviors, unhappy kitties, unhappy humans, and in the worst cases, euthanasia or relinquishment of the cat to a shelter or rescue.

National Respect Your Cat Day encourages cat lovers to take a moment to learn something new about their cats, improve the way they care for their cats, and deepen their bond with their cats.

When I talk to clients, I always share with them my top three ways they can respect and care for their cat. With these tips, you can help to reduce unwanted behaviors, improve the health of your cat, improve their quality of life and—hopefully—reduce excessive veterinary bills.

Respect Your Cat’s Desire to Hunt

Cats are carnivores and amazing hunters. Their sleek, agile bodies evolved to move swiftly and quietly. That way, they can not only stay out of harm’s way, but they can also effectively secure their next meal. 

While their hunting skills have been essential to their survival when outdoors, indoor cats have very few opportunities to actively engage them. And, without proper physical and mental stimulation, our little indoor lions all too often end up bored and fat.

That can become a big problem for cat guardians because a fat and bored cat is a stressed cat. This stress increases the likelihood of your cat developing behavioral and health problems, such as diabetes, urinary problems, aggression or stomach problems.

That is why I tell my clients that one of the best ways they can show their cat some serious respect is to create an indoor environment for them that is physically and mentally stimulating.

Cats love to hunt and climb. To help them find fun ways to incorporate this into their everyday activities, you can provide them with some fun, vertical space with a Frisco cat tree. You can even spice it up with some Yeowww! organic catnip.

To facilitate hunting activities, you can toss cat food kibbles for your cat to pounce on and eat. You can also stuff a KONG active treat ball cat toy with cat treats and let your cat go to town.

Another option is to fashion your own cat puzzle toy by putting a few kibbles in a cardboard egg container or paper towel tube. Then, just let your little lion figure out how to get them out.

Alternatively, you can also just put out a cardboard box. We all know that cats love a good box to explore and camp out in.

Respect Your Cat’s Claws

This is a big one. Many people forget that scratching is a natural cat behavior, and in order for you to respect your cat and provide the best cat care, you need to provide scratching surfaces for them to use.

The Frisco scratching post is a good cat scratcher that will help your cat engage their scratching instincts. Pick a cat scratching post like this one that is tall enough to allow a cat to get a good stretch in while scratching; cats seem to prefer to reach up and out when they scratch. This not only keeps their nails in tip-top form, but also benefits their entire musculoskeletal system and their mental well-being.

The opposite of claw respect is declawing a cat. We now know that when cats have their claws surgically removed, they can experience pain in their toes for the rest of their life. The pain can also lead to cat behavior issues, like increased aggression.

Some of the angriest cats I know have been declawed, and it is understandable. Respect your cat by providing appropriate scratching surfaces and training your cat to use these scratching surfaces instead of your expensive couch.

Respect Your Cat’s Space

If cats are too crowded, they can get stressed and grumpy. Stressed cats can start developing some very problematic cat behaviors, like urinating or defecating in inappropriate places. A stressed cat is also more susceptible to bladder or stomach problems.

A stressed cat can also start lashing out at the other cats in your household. Respect your cats and their spatial needs by making sure that each cat has their own bedding, resting space, food dish, water dish and cat litter box.

In fact, when it comes to cat litter boxes, the general rule of thumb is to have one more litter box than the number of cats in the home. This helps to ensure that the toilet never gets crowded.

Your cat should also have a place to rest where he or she won’t be bothered by children, guests, other pets or the daily hustle and bustle of your household. By respecting your cat’s space and their need for safe spots, you can help to create greater harmony in your home and a better quality of life for everyone.

Respect can take many forms. The golden rule of “treat others the way you want to be treated” is a great place to start when it comes to how you think about cat care. Respect your cat, and the respect will come back to you.

By: Dr. Sarah Wooten

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