Ten ways to improve the life of cats

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04 February 2021
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Kindness makes the world a better place — here we look at how we can help improve the lives of felines.

As we step into the new year, many of us are making resolutions to improve ourselves, from getting fit to getting rid of bad habits. But this is also a time of year for reflecting on how we might help make the world a better place. When we help others, we also help ourselves; we increase our self-worth. 

Unfortunately, there are many things in the world that make life less nice for some, including many cats who are without loving homes and who cannot speak for themselves when suffering. We cannot do away with all suffering, but we can chisel into its cruel rock face and make some lives better. Here are some ways to help out cats…

Given a chance, every cat has love to give.

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1. Adopt an ‘unlovable’ cat

Shelters often have an easy time homing kittens and young cats. But ask any shelter, the long-term residents are the cats that are harder to re-home: older cats, three-legged cats, missing an eye, blind, or deaf, cats who are shy or less friendly, a cat with an illness like FIV — any cats who are less immediately cute but just as loveable. 

All cats need love, and it breaks our hearts to think about the unwanted cats who spend every night without cuddles. Adopting an ‘unlovable’ cat may just teach you that most cats are loveable, if you give them a chance. You might just turn a cat’s life around, when the odds were heavily stacked against them. If they are old or in ill health, you will make the last years or months of their lives worth living — and will receive lots of love in return. 

Feline friendly surgeries will make vet visits more comfortable.

2. Use feline-friendly veterinary surgeries

Going to the vet’s is stressful for cats. We don’t like to think about our feline friends getting sick, but when they do, it pays to choose a veterinary practice that is not going to stress them out. 

In comes the Cat Friendly Clinic, a programme run by the veterinary division of International Cat Care. The scheme accredits surgeries for being cat friendly and grades them from bronze to gold for how much they are tailored to cats’ needs. The requirements for being an accredited cat-friendly practice include how staff are trained, how cats are handled, and how the premises are set-up to reduce stress in felines. You can find your nearest accredited practice and the list is constantly being added to, so if your local vet’s is not on the list, you can recommend the scheme to them. Visit catfriendlyclinic.org to find out more. 

Primavet Animal Clinic in Malaysia is one of the clinics that has this accreditation. Primavet vet Audrey Cheong says: “Ever since we have gotten a silver CFC status, we get an influx of good quality clients who want the best for their cats and who appreciate evidence-based treatment. From an employer point of view, having a CFC is a reminder for the team that we have a standard that we need to uphold which is never to distress the cat.” 

For veterinary surgeries not on the list, there are tips on the website for becoming more cat-friendly. The hope is that an increased demand for these improved services will encourage more veterinary surgeries to raise their standards, reducing the stress cats experience to a minimum. 

Could you take on a challenge for charity?

3. Fundraising for cat charities

When we’re stuck indoors, it’s easy to forget about issues happening outside our walls. But here and abroad, cats are still struggling. There are plenty of campaigns out there fighting to make the world a safer and better place for cats. 

Cat shelters and charities will appreciate your support more than ever. Donate what you can to your local shelter, towards animal-free research, to cat charities who neuter or spay feral cats, or provide veterinary care to those unable to afford it. Every single donation helps. 

If have the desire to do more, you could fundraise towards a target. This can be an opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do, but never found the time or motivation to do before. Want to start running? Download the Couch to 5k and set some goals, and ask your family and friends to sponsor you for this good cause. Have a talent you want to hone and eventually charge for, but don’t yet have the confidence? Whether that’s knitting sweaters, offering tarot card readings, or painting people’s pets, while you have your training wheels on, let clients know that their money will go towards helping cats. If you’re still struggling for inspiration, many cat charities offer fundraising events, these include incredible experiences such as running a marathon or treks in beautiful places. During the pandemic, many charities are running virtual events but there’s hope the events will return this year.

There are so many creative ways of fundraising for a good cause and you might just find your confidence and passion in the process. 

There are strays and ferals who need help.

4. Helping stray or feral cats

I will never forget encountering a scrawny kitten in the Colosseum, Rome, aged 11. “Can we take it home?” I asked my parents. They said we couldn’t and it broke my heart. On that holiday, I noticed Rome was full of strays. I have returned in recent years, and noticed fewer street cats. This may be down to the work of sanctuaries like Colonia Felina Torre Argentina, who have been helping cats since 1994. It offers stray cats a home, and goes out and spays and neuters cats to control the population. Many cities have stray cat problems, also Istanbul and Cartagena. Such sanctuaries desperately need our help. Consider researching to see where help is needed, and whether you can donate money or time.

Closer to home, while strays and ferals are less common, they are still out there. These populations need help to be fed and also neutered so they don’t grow out of control. There are trap, neuter, and return schemes that you can volunteer to help charities with, while it is also beneficial to know what to do if you encounter a cat you think is a stray or feral. There is a feature on just that subject on page 40 in this issue. 

5. Neutering and spaying your own cats

This brings us to another, obvious one, but it’s something we can all do. It’s a joy to witness a mother cat with a litter of kittens. Bringing life into the world comes with a huge responsibility though, and sadly, there are more cats in the world than there are homes. Neutering or spaying your cat means you’re not inadvertently contributing to the burden of shelters, who must care for unwanted and homeless cats, and may never find them a forever home. It can also prevent cats getting into fights. If you are worried about the veterinary fees, there are several charities, including the Blue Cross, who offer low cost neutering. Get in touch with your nearest branch to find out more.

A charity is helping to make the roads safer for cats. 

6. Help make roads a safer place for cats

According to insurance prodiver PetPlan, 230,000 cats are hit by cars annually; this figure may be much higher as many cats are not microchipped so the accident never gets reported back to an owner. So many of us have experienced the loss of a beloved cat to a road, or know someone else whose feline friend has died this way. 

It can make us sad and angry in equal measure, wondering who hit our cat and didn’t think to report it. Cats Matter is a campaign group set up to reduce such unnecessary deaths. They also do a good job at educating people about the perils of roads. Sometimes it can feel like such campaigns are all talk and no action, but Cats Matter has already had success; recently it has worked with DEFRA to help make road accidents involving cats reportable. Visit www.catsmatter.org to find out more. 

Have you got spare time to help at a rescue.

7. Volunteering at your local shelter

Cats Protection is one of several charities in the UK that has cats’ best interests at heart. It operates a network of 230 volunteer-run branches and 36 centres. There are usually a range of roles available; in the current pandemic times, the nature of the work has changed too. Jo, 59, volunteers for the National Cat Adoption Centre in East Sussex. To continue re-homing cats during lockdown, the charity launched ‘hands-free homing’ in April and has rehomed over 1000 cats to date. Jo takes cats to their new adoptive parents: “It’s such an amazing thing to do — people are so overjoyed to see their new cat. I really am delivering joy!” So if you want to help cats in a hands-on way, volunteering could be an amazing experience.

Consider donating cat food to food banks

8. Donate cat food to food banks

This year has seen a rise in unemployment and poverty in the UK, and more people than ever are going to food banks. According to Statista, around 300,000 more people have used food banks this past year, in comparison to the previous year. Many of those people have pets who they may be struggling to feed. Consider donating cat food to food banks where there is a need, to make sure cats eat. As Clapham Park food bank emphasises on their blog, often pet owners put their pets’ needs above their own, so by offering food you will help reduce their burden. So next time you pop through the supermarket till, getting an extra bag of cat food and dropping it in the food bank basket could make the world of difference. 

There are lots of cats who need help.

9. Spread cat knowledge

The other day, I saw someone tweet that Christmas trees can be poisonous for cats (Apparently some produce oils which are mildly toxic). We all know how much cats loved to climb trees, but I didn’t know that! Spreading knowledge about what is good for — and bad for — cats will help make the world a safer place for our feline friends. Perhaps your neighbour doesn’t know how dangerous antifreeze is, or you could recommend good veterinary practices, cat care tips, microchipping, and all other things you’ve learned as a cat owner — and even from the pages of Your Cat Magazine.

Could you foster?

10. Foster a cat

We all love having a cat around the house. Sometimes life impedes us from making such a commitment. Maybe you don’t know where you’ll be in five years, maybe your flat is rented, or your situation is unpredictable. You still may be able to have a cat around the house. 

Shelters are often overburdened and rely on foster cat parents to care for cats and kittens. The length of time you commit to is up to you — this isn’t adoption and the promise of a forever home, though many fosterers do fall in love. It is usually a requirement that the cat stays inside, so if the lack of garden puts you off adopting a cat who likes to roam, fostering is still an option. 

Fostering can be an incredibly rewarding experience, as Nikita Benney, 28, knows; Nikita has suffered from depression and anxiety for years, but has always found comfort in being around animals. She reached out to Cats Protection and fostered a heavily pregnant tabby. In the months looking after her, she has witnessed the birth of a litter of kittens. She said: “Before I started fostering, every day was difficult. My fosters give me that purpose. They make me smile without fail every morning when I go to see them and on my worst days, simply lying in the pen and getting piled on by a horde of purring kittens helps me get by more than they will ever know.”