Twenty thirteen was a significant year for Thomas and myself. It began with my love letter to him on Valentine’s Day, my declaration that he was my friend in July, communicating with him metaphysically via a Tarot reading in August, and pondering whether it’s weird that he sometimes stays in the bedroom during intimate times in November. Our connection continues to get stronger and more profound, and the mystery of bonding with an animal in this way continues to deepen.
But I’m diligent when it comes to relationships. Complacency is my enemy. The minute I believe things are so good I no longer need to pay close attention, that’s when I need to keep paying close attention. “Good enough” isn’t, and if a man isn’t vigilant about these important connections, there’s a danger of patterns and assumptions and habits beginning to pull them apart.
Thus, here are my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 for being a better cat owner, and a better cat guy all around.
I play with Thomas a lot. Which is to say, I know his favorite toys (Fake Bird on a String beats them all), what action he likes best, and how to get him engaged again when boredom begins to tug him away. That said, more often than not I respond to his signals that tell me “I need to play now!” Everything I’ve read here on Catster reinforces that cats crave routine, and that playing should be the same as, say, feeding times when it comes to doing them every day at the same time. Of course my schedule changes, so I won’t be able to play with Thomas at the same hour 365 days a year, but I can definitely add somewhere in my daily routine “Play with Thomas,” much like I now have “Feed Thomas” two times every day.
This has two prongs: behavioral and metaphysical. (I’m serious.)
In the behavioral realm, Thomas and I and Daphne have come to understand each other a lot better than we did when I arrived in the fall of 2012. We’ve all adjusted to each other. Thomas has become a lot more of a “love cat,” readily hopping onto the couch or bed to get pets, treats, or sleep. The times Thomas meows loud and long it’s usually because he wants something he can’t have (“brunch” consisting of a second can of wet food, for example) or something he can have, such as more petting (he’s more of a talker than any Siamese I’ve known). Still, there are times I’m not sure what he needs, and I sense we could understand each other better. I have a copy of Marilyn Krieger‘s book on cat behavior called Naughty No More. I’ll read this, talk it over with Thomas, and see what comes of it.
The second front is metaphysical. When I gave Thomas the Tarot reading, I was prepared for it to be a comedy of errors, just a kitty batting around toys that happened to be flat and rectangular. But the result astounded me, and I believe he and I communicated in a different way that night. As I mentioned in that post, I also tune into the psychic undercurrent of the universe using Runes, a set of stones marked with letters of an ancient alphabet that are another form of divination similar to Tarot. I could do a Rune-casting for Thomas and see what else he might tell me.
Again, this is a “turn of the screw” kind of situation. None of the cats I’ve lived with have had better litter box behavior than Thomas, and between the two of us, Daphne and I keep his two boxes scooped once a day with only the occasional day missed. That said, she and I could wash his boxes more often than we do — say, every week? every two weeks? — so it’s another thing to work into our other routines.
Thomas gets limited time during certain days in our fenced backyard, almost all of it supervised, and subject to his continued good behavior. I wrote early this year about the large number of things that factor into why Daphne and I let Thomas go outside under this arrangement. Just the same, there are so many unknowns and potential dangers that I want to explore alternatives. One is a system for keeping cats inside fences. Another is building a catio, which we have room to do. Another is training him to walk on a leash. Another is transitioning him to being a full-time indoor cat. Regardless of what happens, I want to consider it thoroughly.
Thomas is a young, healthy, energetic cat. This is the best time to start measures aimed at preventing dental disease. Similar to what I wrote on the concept of play, everything I’ve read on Catster regarding dental disease in pets says it’s prevalent in older dogs and cats, painful and problematic when it’s present, and preventable. JaneA Kelley wrote a recent post explaining why having your cat’s teeth cleaned is worth the cost. In Ask a Vet, Dr. Eric Barchas has advocated that people learn how to brush their cats’ teeth. Thomas has had his teeth cleaned professionally, but neither Daphne nor I have brushed his teeth. Even if it makes him mad and uncomfortable, this year we’ll look into it.
I’ve mentioned how I attended two volunteer orientations at a place called Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation. ARF, as it’s known, is a remarkable organization whose scope includes not only adoption but also community outreach, veterinary services, pet-food assistance for low-income people, educating youngsters, and pet therapy for seniors. Thing is, it’s 30 miles from my house, and the way it structures volunteer shifts I’m not sure I can meet its requirements. If not, I want to volunteer at a shelter or rescue facility to help cats. Last year I looked at shelters closer to where I live but found none that fit the times I’m available. If I can’t make things work with ARF, I’ll look at other places again.
How might you be a better cat owner, cat guy, or cat lady in 2014? Let me know in the comments.
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About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster and Dogster.
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