International Cat Day

By Marilu Isabelle

Sit back, close your eyes and allow your feline friend to purr you into a deep state of calm. This is just one of the special privileges cat lovers know very well. So, what is this unique bond we have with cats and how can we commemorate their crazy antics and purr-fect companionship?

International Cat Day on the 8th August was created exactly for this reason, to celebrate and advocate for cats around the world. It was initially set up in 2002 by IFAW, International Fund for Animal Welfare and other animal rights groups; continuing to be a popular annual celebration.

How did the feline and human connection start? Cat domestication first began around 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent and later in ancient Egypt. Cats therefore, are one of our oldest furry friends! From ancient Egyptians mummifying their cats into the afterlife with them, to the hypnotic world of cat videos - we haven’t stopped being mesmerised by these quirky fluff-sters.

The ancient Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, was generally known for being the protector of home, family and protection against diseases. Interestingly, nowadays researchers have found a number of ways in which cats contribute to your positive mental well-being, lowering stress and relieving symptoms linked to anxiety and depression.

Karin Stambach and Dennis Turner of the University of Zurich help explain the attachment theory where cats are not just dependent on us but we are also soothed by their presence. Additionally, there is a scientific scale for this attachment.

One Australian study found that cat owners do have better psychological health than people without pets – finding that they were more confident, happy and better equipped to face life’s challenges.

You may have also heard of cats being used as therapy for individuals with a variety of needs. More frequently, dogs have been used as therapy pets, with organisations like Pets As Therapy working to support individuals in a variety of settings. However, a cat’s superpower of lowering stress in humans, means that they have been used to help individuals in different ways. Examples include supporting children with autism to be more comfortable with the world around them and with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to stimulate memory. In Canada, Therapeutic Paws of Canada have a successful educational programme called Paws To Read, with many school pupils benefitting from the cat’s calming presence.

So, we know how much cats do for us – what can we do for them on International Cat Day?

RSPCA report that at the end of 2019, they took in 29,432 cats to their centres and Cats Protection centres are often full due to cats needing homes. If you’ve carefully considered getting a cat, support your local rescue centre’s adoption and rehoming by finding your fur-midable friend there. Alternatively, if you’re not able to have a kitty just yet, supporting your local cat rescue centre by volunteering is always appreciated.

And, if you’ve been honoured by a feline friend coming to live in your home, here’s some things you can do to show you care on their special day:

1. Keep up with their annual vaccinations and vet check-up, worming and flea ointment when needed. Regularly brushing your cat reduces furballs and makes them content (giving a few treats during the process helps get them used to it).

2. Veterinarians and cat advocacy groups advise to ensure your cat is neutered or spayed; this reduces a female cat’s risk of unwanted pregnancies, various cancers, cat flu and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus). Unneutered males are more likely to get into fights and risk contracting the same diseases as females as well as injury.

3. Provide lots of stimulation and play; changing up toys, providing different levels in your home for jumping, scratching posts, puzzles (create your own!), tunnels and of course cardboard boxes. Aim for at least 10mins of play each day.

4. Give a varied diet and clean drinking water - avoiding myths like ‘cats drink cows’ milk’ – they’re lactose intolerant!

5. If their behaviour suddenly changes in a negative way, try to check for any stresses (moving home/moving furniture) or possible medical issues so they can return to being their happy selves.

6. And, last but certainly not least, if you’re cat enjoys cuddles – spoil them, etching time in your schedule every day. If your cat instead enjoys exchanging ‘love blinks’ with you from afar, keep persisting until they’re ready to cuddle.

Some purr-fect pics to enjoy!