Mews & Views

Mews & Views -- A blog for cat lovers everywhere with a focus on the low-income pet cats of northern and central New Mexico.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter's On Its Way -- Are Your Cat Shelters Ready?

This time of year we get calls from people who started feeding cats in their yard in the spring and summer – who are now scurrying around to find a Cat Rescue to take them -- fearing they’ll die outdoors from the cold. Happily – this is not the case. Prior to 1950, almost all cats lived only outdoors – and cold temperatures pose no more a threat to them than they do for any other wildlife. Outdoor-only cats grow thick winter undercoats and naturally huddle together to share body warmth when it’s frigid outdoors.

But --unlike other wildlife who instinctively build their own winter houses – cats do not. They may need some help securing a dry shelter to shield them from wind, rain and snow. For without it—if they get wet and can’t dry off – they may get frostbite or hyperthermia – and this can be life-threatening.

Suitable dry shelters are often already present in your yard -- the underside of a porch, a barn or shed, or idle doghouses – and may be what attracted the cats to your property in the first place. But it can also be something you build especially for them. Alley Cat Allies offers plans for a six-cat shelter (see photo). Or it can be something you modify such as a plastic box with an access hole in it anchored to the ground.

For shelter insulation, straw or marsh grass work the best – never use hay as it can cause sneezing because of the tiny seeds in it – and stay away from blankets that can get wet and not dry out defeating the purpose of the shelter. And don’t worry if the cats don’t appear to live in their shelters – many use them only when absolutely necessary – in the dark of night when the temperatures dip their lowest.

So if you were feeding cats earlier in the year and enjoy their companionship don't let winter get in your way of keeping and caring for them.  Just be sure your cats have access to dry shelter from the elements – because in the winter months that shelter can be as important to their life quality as the food you give them. For more examples of what people use for outdoor cat shelters visit us on Facebook.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Have You Had Your Cat Fix Today?

In the United States we take pet guardianship for granted. Cats – in particular – are often free for the taking and permitted to live in most housing. If not, they often hang around outdoors at apartments and mobile home parks (attracted by the rodents feeding at community dumpsters) so even those without indoor pets can enjoy seeing and feeding them. This is not the case in Japan where they are commonly banned from apartments depriving many Japanese of the joys cat companionship. But Japanese entrepreneurs have stepped up to the plate and now provide a new twist on cat-human relationships vis a vis the establishment of Cat Cafes.

Just as the name implies, cat cafes are essentially coffee shops that house ten to twenty well-cared-for cats so people can enjoy them while sipping coffee or tea. There’s almost a hundred cafes right now with some specializing in a particular breeds or colors of cats but most providing a variety of cats – tigers, calicos, etc . Customers pay a nominal hourly fee and follow a few simple rules – like washing their hands before petting the cats and agreeing not to pull their tails. Mostly women under 35 frequent the cafes but men and older women go too. It’s not the same as having your own lap cat but close enough when that option is not available.

Our Cat Retirement Farm was a sort of “cat cafĂ©” – we had no end of volunteers that would come out weekly and provide daily care and entertainment for our group of 15-20 orphaned senior cats. Although most of the volunteers had cats of their own at home some did not – they (or other family members) were allergic or lived in places where cats were not allowed. And -- sitting in a group of cats is different from living with one or two – there’s something almost spiritual about a group of contented, well-taken care of felines. They effuse tranquility. By providing visitation events for assisted living facilities, the farm allowed us to help the elderly – if only for a few minutes – remember their earlier companionship of cats – sadly we often take that right away when we move the elderly to assisted living facilities – at a time where they could most benefit from the cat’s attention and presence.

To get more insight on how cats affect a person’s well-being – particularly one in crisis – pick up a copy of Dewey’s Nine Lives – the just-released follow-on book to Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched The World by Vicki Myron. She is the librarian who found a cat in her library’s return-book chute one winter morning and made him their resident library cat. She saw Dewey’s impact on the residents of her small Iowa town and then documented it in her first book. This second one tells two more Dewey stories and seven others – of people who had their own Dewey-like experiences. It’s a very heart-rending book out just in time for Christmas – what a wonderful gift for cat lovers everywhere.