“They Have My Heart”
It’s February, the month of hearts. They’re everywhere: in advertising, on greeting cards, and all over my IG page. They’re even on Cocomelon’s toy mouse! I often say that my fosters and resident cats “have my heart.” What I mean, of course, is that I love them. But also that they give me purpose and the strength to do the work I love so much.
Besides being Valentine’s Month, February is also National Cat Health Month. Loving our companion animals means taking care of their health, both physical and emotional. They rely on us for everything, so it’s up to us to ensure they get exercise, play, affection, solid nutrition, and proper medical care.
Basically, I recommend annual vet exams for each pet, and three times a year if the cat is a senior. And don’t overlook the importance of dental care, which can affect a cat’s health and behavior in surprising ways. For example, at one point a while ago our 17-year-old resident cat Walter was spraying all over the place. We took him to the vet and discovered that his mouth was causing him tremendous pain. He had to have all of his teeth removed, the poor little guy, and lo and behold, he stopped spraying. His pain had led to stress which led to spraying. It’s just that simple, but we never dreamt that the cause of his spraying was in his mouth!
You know your cat better than anyone so if you see behavior that’s out of the ordinary, don’t ignore it. Instead, take your kitty to the vet! Any changes in appetite, thirst, weight loss or gain, energy levels, whatever it is, get it checked.
Blind and beautiful Bella loves a leisurely stop at the water fountain, and it’s so good for her.
I receive many emails asking for advice about sudden inappropriate urination, (which is not the same as spraying), and I always recommend a vet visit to rule out medical issues. In their follow-up messages, people almost always tell me that there was indeed a medical problem that was causing the behavior.
And don’t overlook the role water plays in your cat’s health. In our home, the motto is “Water, water everywhere, and always fresh to drink!” In fact, Howard and I are obsessed with refreshing water bowls a few times a day. We always say, “We wouldn’t want to drink old water that’s been sitting out for so many hours!” We’ve also placed filtered water fountains throughout the house, and our cats love it when we add ice cubes to
their water bowls and fountains.
So as I see it, the basics for healthy cat care are vet visits, vaccinations, parasite control, good nutrition, awareness of household hazards, and keeping the litterbox clean and inviting.
Grooming is also important to a cat’s health. Howard and I love to brush our cats. It’s good for their hair and skin and also strengthens our bond with them. Although not all cats love to be brushed, I’ve found that even those a bit reluctant usually come around, especially if it’s done on a schedule and in a specific, safe place. Likewise, some cats hate to have their nails trimmed, while others take it in stride. Rewards help, and they don’t have to be food treats. Sometimes extra playtime, praise, and affection work even better.
Then there’s scratching, which all cats do, from lions to house cats, so don’t even think about declawing. It’s inhumane, barbaric, and completely unnecessary, and it’s banned in countries around the world. I wish it were banned here!
Scratching is a normal, instinctive feline behavior. They do it to express emotions, to mark objects with their scent (cats have scent glands in their paws), to get rid of the dead part of their nails, and often, just to get a good stretch.
Helen Rose likes to take a horizontal approach to many things in life,
including keeping her nails in tip-top shape.
You can train your cat to use a scratching post, which satisfies a deep need and saves your furniture and your nerves. And it’s smart to have a couple of scratching pads and posts around the house so using one is an easy option.
Obviously, giving our pets love and attention is good for their health and well-being, but it’s also good for us humans. It lowers our blood pressure and cholesterol levels and eases loneliness and depression. Statistics also indicate that cat people are at lower risk for strokes.
For me, the effects are instantaneous. I quickly calm down when I spend time with the cats, no matter what else is going on. We welcomed them into our family, and they need and desire to be loved and given attention. In fact, cats are very desirous of love, even if they don’t always show it. The more love you give, the more you’ll receive in return.
Even sweet ‘n’ naughty Pebble Stern calms my heart.
You often hear me say, “If you can, please open your heart and home to a homeless pet.” While I know that opening your home isn’t always possible, I believe there are other ways to open your heart and save a life, including through opportunities like North Shore Animal League America’s Pet Sponsor Program.
As the National Spokesperson for NSALA, I’m always happy to promote fantastic programs like this, which enables supporters to “adopt” special-needs cats or dogs via a monthly donation, even after the pets are adopted. Three very sweet cats have recently been enrolled in this program. I am honored to introduce Dempsey, Max, and Snowie.
Dempsey was abandoned at our Adoption Center as a kitten in 2011. He was quickly adopted but readmitted 11 years later, in March 2022, because the owners were moving and Dempsey was having medical issues. While under our care, Dempsey was diagnosed with hyperthyroid disease and asthma and underwent two surgeries for his entropion eyelids, which turn at the edges causing his lashes to rub against the eye surface. He quickly became our favorite large lap cat and was adopted again in October. But two months later his adopter reached out to us because her mother had become extremely ill and home life was full of stressors. We decided it would be in Dempsey’s best interests to come back to the safety of our Adoption Center. Now, as I write, Dempsey is about to undergo treatment for his thyroid condition at the renowned Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that a new adopter is waiting in the wings to take him home as soon as he’s recovered!
Max’s life turned inside out recently when his lifetime owner became too ill to care for his special needs. Time spent with our vets has put Max on a path to wellness and he’s ready to get the golden retirement he deserves. This lovable senior has never lived with other pets and would prefer to be the only pet. While losing his home was difficult, he’s now relishing new friendships with the kind humans who care for him. You may find him rolling around in catnip piles or busily hunting wand toys, but he always stops to give his visitors a friendly rub, welcoming them to his room.A medical crisis found senior
Snowie was originally admitted and adopted in 2015 as a kitten. Then, seven years later, she was readmitted when her owners were moving and couldn’t take her with them. We noticed her making multiple trips to the litter box, and she eventually underwent successful cystotomy surgery. She recovered and was adopted by an older woman. Unfortunately, Snowie returned once again to our Adoption Center because she was afraid of the walker that the adopter occasionally used for mobility. Since then, darling Snowie has been living in the manager’s office at Bianca’s Furry Friends Adoption Center while we look for her new home.
For me, one of the most powerful ways to love your cats is to show them respect and patience. It took my wonderful foster Miss Petunia more than six months to decide to come down from her kitty tree and join the world. Now she is Little Miss Sociability. Love and patience win.
The idea is to meet them where they are… with open arms and a loving, open heart.
Happy Valentine’s Month!
P.S. I’m so happy that my two-sided Spirit Unity line of unique and meaningful jewelry is back in stock after being sold out. 100 percent of my profit is donated to my foundation to support my lifesaving work. Partnering with the creative team at Star Animal Sundays to design the pieces was a fantastic experience, and I’m so pleased that the gold used in the jewelry is repurposed and the gems are ethically sourced. I am obsessed with all three items, but especially the beaded bracelet! They make perfect Valentine’s Month gifts for you or someone you love. Visit www.BethsFurryFriends.com or @staranimalsundays to learn more.