2012 to-do list

Happy belated new year! If you’re still thinking about resolutions and ways to inspire yourself, how about a kitty project? Here are some ideas:

1. Investigate the food you feed your kitkat and how it affects their health and happiness. You can talk to your vet about this, but I’d also recommend you do some research. My favorite book right now is “Your Cat” by Elizabeth Hodgkins, which describes how to read pet food labels to make sure our furry munchkins are eating properly. This article puts forth the same philosophy that Hodgkins does in her book: Read pet food labels!

2. Attempt behavioral change. Most cats will do something we’d rather they didn’t: scratch the furniture, jump up on kitchen counters, get tangled up in computer or tv cables, wake you up at 4am for chow. Most veterinarians will tell you that punishment won’t work. Cats will get used to water spray bottles, rip through those stick-on furniture protectors, or mew loudly at your closed bedroom door at 4am. Many articles (here’s just one) are being written about positive reinforcement, for example, distracting your kitkat with something more enticing than what’s on the kitchen counter. But also check out the Animal Planet program “My Cat From Hell.” Even though animal behaviorist Jackson Galaxy is dealing with extreme cases, he always offers great ideas that you can incorporate. One I’d love to see evolve in several households is giving shy kitties more power, not enabling them to hide under beds but giving them ways to “escape” to high places so they feel in control. This also encourages them to start interacting with humans.

3. Play, play, play. Cats are easily bored. They may like a feather toy for a week, then couldn’t care less about it next week. Several of my clients have drawers or boxes of toys. They seem to apologize for indulging their kitkats, but I think it’s fabulous. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on it. A used toilet paper roll, a milk carton ring, some balled-up wrapping paper, an old hairband tied to some string. Your cat will live longer and be healthier with regular exercise. While you’re sitting at your computer or watching tv, dangle a wand toy around.

4. Think about ways to help less fortunate kitkats. You don’t have to donate money or take every kitkat home from a cat shelter. Many of these facilities need clean towels, cat food (have you tried a brand that your munchkin doesn’t like? Don’t throw it away, give it away), litter — and volunteers! Contact me if you’re looking for a good shelter to help.

I hope you’re all off to a healthy, frisky 2012!

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