Cats have held a special place in our hearts for millennia. As far back as 4,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians depicted the sacred cat in their artwork and interred their cats’ mummified remains in the tombs of the Pharaohs. But did you know that the first documented feline-human hug occurred thousands of years earlier? Well, kind of.
A grave excavated in 2004 on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus provides evidence of our close relationship with cats. The remains of a human and a cat were found carefully buried together with polished stones, seashells, and other valued artifacts in a 9,500-year-old grave. The side-by-side burial indicates a strong spiritual bond between the human and cat in their daily lives and afterlives.
May 30 is a time to celebrate your special relationship with your cat. It’s Hug Your Cat Day. Marisa D’Vari, author, television producer, and wine educator, created the day to honor the life of her deceased cat, encourage cat owners to celebrate the bond with their own cats, and inspire people to help other cats.
There are lots of reasons to hug your cats. If they’re like mine, your cats help reduce your stress levels (unless they’ve peed outside the litter box), help reduce blood pressure (unless they’ve just scratched your new chair), and help reduce the risk of depression (unless they’ve peed outside the litter box and scratched your new chair).
But, seriously, cats are great companions. Take my cats, for example. Toby snuggles and gives me kitty kisses, Jenny purrs when I mention her name, and Luna gives great massages. They’re all great listeners and don’t talk back (usually). They make me laugh and fill my heart with joy.
When my cats are well, I’m happy. When they’re not well, I’m a mess. When I travel, I miss them, and when they travel over the Rainbow Bridge, I grieve deeply for them — even more than I’ve grieved the loss of some people in my life.
I love my cats and know they love me. Toby has arthritis, yet he gets up and walks across the room to greet me when I come home. Jenny could relax on her soft, heated bed, but she chooses to squeeze herself between my outstretched legs. Luna is a timid cat who has taught me patience and understanding and rewarded me with her trust.
In honor of Hug Your Cat Day, I’m going to give Toby a whiff of fresh catnip, delight Jenny with her favorite toy, and toss Luna an extra go-crazy-for treat. I hope you’ll do something special for your cat, too.
In addition to pampering your cat, there are three very important things I hope you do to keep your cats safe and healthy: spay or neuter your cats before they can reproduce at five months of age, create a stimulating indoor world to keep your cats happy and safe, and put a safety collar with visible ID on your cats — even if they live indoors, because they could escape or be displaced during an emergency.
Of course, providing the best possible care for your cat would not be possible without the help of your cat’s veterinarian. In order to celebrate Hug Your Cat Day for many more years, be sure that your cat visits the veterinarian at least once a year for routine wellness exams. Why? Cats’ survival instincts tell them to hide any signs of illness that would make them vulnerable to predators. Therefore, you may not notice gradual changes in your cat’s behavior or health until your cat is really sick. At that point, it may be more difficult and costly to restore your cat’s health.
Speaking of the importance of veterinarians, did you know that there’s an American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP)? The AAFP is teaching veterinary clinics and their staff how to make visits less stressful for cats and their owners. An AAFP-designated “cat-friendly practice” has cat-only waiting rooms, exam rooms that offer extra cat comforts, and staff who are specially trained to handle cats in ways that minimize stress for cats and owners. A cat-friendly practice may make all the difference when it comes to helping you provide the best ongoing health care for your beloved cat.
Unfortunately, many cats rarely go to the veterinarian, because getting them into a carrier is so stressful for them and their owners. Familiarizing your cat with a carrier could save his life by making veterinary visits easier and allowing you to take your cat and leave your home quickly, for example, if you had to evacuate. Here’s a great Catster article to teach you how to help your cat not only tolerate his carrier, but even consider it a safe place.
Whether you have a cat or not, you can celebrate Hug Your Cat Day in many ways: volunteering for a local animal shelter, cat rescue, or trap-neuter-return group; adopting a cat; advocating for laws to protect community (feral and stray) cats; and donating to a cat cause. Really, the possibilities are endless.
I like to celebrate Hug Your Cat Day every day, because my life would not be the same without my precious cats. Have you hugged your cat today? It’s good for your cat and it’s good for you!
How are you celebrating Hug Your Cat Day? Let us know in the comments!
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About the author: Nancy Peterson is a registered veterinary technician and award-winning writer. She joined The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal protection organization, in 1998 and is currently the Cat Programs Manager. She lives in Maryland with her cats Luna, adopted from a feline rescue; Toby, adopted from an animal shelter; and Jenny, a feral kitten she fostered. Check out the HSUS cat information and outdoor cats information.