Community Cats Need Our Help

Misinformation costs millions of community cats (also known as feral cats) their lives every year. When a person sees a cat living outdoors, the urge is to assume that it needs our help, and that help often comes in the form of delivering said cat to the overcrowded local shelters. Sadly, because feral cats are not socialized to humans, this well-meant action is most likely to be a death sentence for a cat who could otherwise have lived a natural life outdoors.

Cats living outdoors is a hard pill to swallow for many animal lovers, especially since we are told over and over that it is so much safer for our pet cats to live indoors. This information is real and good, considering that an outdoor cat is more likely to be hit by a car, contract a disease, or get into a fight – but it doesn’t apply to community cats quite the same way. Why? Because feral cats are closer to wild animals than pet cats. They, like millions upon millions of cats who came before them over many thousands of years, were born and have made their homes outside, in nature – just like squirrels and rabbits. Contrary to popular belief, feral cats can live long and healthy lives in the wild. While we might want to “save” them, most feral cats typically avoid contact with humans, are even frightened of them, and would be unhappy if made to live in a human home.

Alley Cat Allies is an organization that helps educate the public about community cats, and combat the misinformation that leads to the deaths of so many of them. Among many efforts, they work with officials to create T-N-R (Trap, Neuter, Release) programs for community cats that help to combat overpopulation, while allowing cats to continue living where they are happy and thriving. Humanely controlling the feral cat population in this way, as well as working to inform the public as to the nature and needs of community cats, also helps to save the lives of stray or pet cats – overcrowded shelters all too often result in their deaths, as well.

It may be difficult for a concerned cat lover to tell the difference between a stray cat who might need help and a community cat who just needs to be left alone. Alley Cat Allies has an amazing guide to help us figure this out. We urge you to peruse their website, which contains a wealth of information to help the average animal advocate to learn how to help their own community cats, including what to do when we find feral kittens, how to help educate others on the truths about feral cats (are they really bad for wildlife?), and how to get involved in T-N-R.

Like us, we know you want to do what you can to help your neighborhood cats. For Global Cat Day, we hope you use this information and these resources to kick off a community cat education initiative in your own neighborhood.

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Get Outside for National Walk Your Dog Week

47410078_l.jpgThe weather is starting to cool down, and this makes the first week in October the perfect time to celebrate National Walk Your Dog Week.

Obesity is on the rise in the US, both for humans and for their canine friends. In the US, an estimated 56% of dogs are overweight – that amounts to about 50 million dogs! Excess weight in dogs can create health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, pancreatitis and cancer. A sedentary lifestyle, which is a large contributing factor to obesity, can also cause behavior problems in dogs, due to boredom or excess energy that has not been burned off in a positive way. Sadly, these behavior problems can sometimes land dogs in overcrowded shelters. What can we do?

In addition to keeping a close eye on a dog’s diet, avoiding unhealthy foods and making sure not to overfeed, one great way to address a dog’s weight problem is to walk with them every day. A daily 30 minute walk will help both you and your dog meet national standards for heart health, and will get you both on the road to a healthier weight. The exercise also has the added benefit of tiring your dog out – remember, a tired dog is a good dog.

You may be thinking to yourself that you have a large yard, and a pet door for your dogs – isn’t this enough? While it is true that it is very beneficial for a dog to have free access to their yard, and it helps provide an excellent foundation for a healthy dog, there is more to the picture. When a dog is outside in their own yard, there is a lot of (valuable) time spent exploring his territory, sniffing around, lying in the sun – all very important activities for your dog. But this outside time doesn’t quite live up to the sustained exercise a dog needs – similar to how the time we spend outdoors in our garden, while great for us, doesn’t quite provide all of the cardiovascular exercise our own bodies need. Also, when you take your dog out into the world for a walk, there are new sights, sounds and smells that stimulate his brain in a different way than his usual scene, which gives him a mental health boost in addition to a heart health one.

You can even get your whole family involved. If you bring your kids along on your walks, you will be not only modeling an active lifestyle for them, but you will also be teaching them how to take excellent care of their own dogs when they get older.

These are all great points, but what if you don’t have a dog to walk? There is a great solution to that problem waiting for you at your local dog shelter. Remember how we mentioned above that some dogs end up in shelters due to behavior problems that have their root in a sedentary lifestyle and obesity? You can find yourself the perfect walking buddy in a dog who needs you to help him get to be his healthiest and happiest self. It’s a win-win!