Who would have thought that I would be a cat person? Me? A cat person??!
Well, turns out I am.
I have always loved cats, but as a child I was deathly allergic to them. As a young adult, after my son was born… with allergies to everything under the sun, I might add... I was magically cured of my cat allergies. Still, I really never had a desire to have a cat. Every time that I went into a dog training session in someone's home where there was also a resident cat, I was interested, really interested in fact... But not interested enough to actually take the plunge and have one join my family.
I consulted at the Calgary Zoo, clicker training logistics in lion training and found felines fascinating, but again, those were lions, not “cats”...
Then I met Elsa. Elsa with her Lionheart, her T-Rex little arms and her huge sense of self. I fell in love.
Elsa is an indoor cat, although I do live on an acreage and I'm often told thought they would be great "mouser's' if I would just let them out... I've never NOT known where each of my critter family is at all time and I wasn't prepared to start...
I now have a second cat, Smudge. Cats usually do better in pairs. Smudge is just as interesting, just as entertaining and just as loved as Elsa.
Elsa and Smudge like each other well enough but they don't really engage in play. They don't sleep together and they are as different as oil and water. I love them both to the moon and back, but I have often wished that they loved each other as much as I love them. I used to sit and wonder if I did the right thing inviting animals, clearly built for hunting, into a home with two parrots, that they would soon befriend…. but with no outlet for their incredible, natural drive to hunt.
I have never and would never consider allowing them to live outdoors or to even go outdoors. Statistics tell us how dangerous it is for cats to live outdoors. While they are designed for hunting, they are ill-equipped to fend for themselves long-term.
This decision however, has caused me quite a bit of anxiety and I am always trying to think of new ways to mentally stimulate them enough to fulfill every need and desire of their lives...
I have every food stuffable, rolling, twisting, flailing, stick, ball, feather, interactive puzzle toy known to man and I have also designed several, myself.
Cats do sleep a lot but I was determined to make sure that their waking hours were filled with fun.
I proceeded to set up a bird feeder right outside my front picture window, on the balcony with a beautiful view of nature. Of course, I made sure that on the indoor side of the window, there were ample perching spots for my cats to view their new “TV”. I did have some concerns about the fact that they would never be successful in their new “hunting ground”, but I reconciled, knowing that I was providing enrichment and that many of the toys that we play with do allow for success in the chase.
My cats were over the moon with this new experience. As for the birds, they came in droves. New species started showing up and the Oasis created, benefited not only the cats and the birds, but it became MY new television as well.
Did the addition of the bird attraction increase any likelihood for my cats to become predators towards my own birds? Not in the least, in fact, they all play together on the kitchen floor as if they were born in the same litter and there was absolutely nothing different about them.
Not only that but something very strange, confusing to this day, occurred one windy day, the first summer that the cat's new bird enrichment game began.
I came home after work to find ashes strewn about in my living room. I couldn't find Elsa anywhere. Elsa was always a cat that greeted me first at the door and it was very strange not to see or hear her as I entered. I started to follow the scattered ashes around my living room, I got down on my knees and peeked under the couch. There, to my surprise and amazement was Elsa and a tiny bird. A beautiful little cedar waxwing. It appears that the little bird somehow found his way into my chimney, down into my fireplace and got out the glass doors.
There wasn't a feather out of place.
I don't know how long that little creature had been in my home but I was gone for about 4 hours that day. We certainly startled each other when I peeked in on him under the coach and when he started to move, Elsa never batted an eyelash.
I'm not sure that experience really has anything to offer as far as training or animal behavior goes but it was certainly interesting, touching and share-worthy...
Cats are amazing, companions. I am so glad that I had an opportunity to meet Elsa and that that opportunity led to a new relationship and a newfound interest in cat husbandry, behavior and welfare.
There are unfortunately, so many cats in need, there is such a disregard for this beautiful animal. They are often discarded and their lives drastically and tragically undervalued.
If you have ever considered sharing your life with a cat and you have the time and desire to give them a life that they deserve, I strongly suggest that you start looking at your local rescues and see if you can't find a feline friend to share your Life and adventures with. You won't be disappointed.
Linda Osland is also a cat person! And volunteers tirelessly with Little Cats Lost rescue! They do fabulous work.