FOR THE LOVE OF CATS
Naomi & Karina Paape
Dear Fellow Felines:
I just heard the most amazing thing! There’s a tortoiseshell (you know, a cat who looks just like me) in Key West who can sail through a flaming hoop as hundreds of adults and children cheer her on. Not only that, but she and her fellow performers climb steps, shimmy up ropes, leap from circus stands, walk a ten foot balance beam that is five feet above the ground and clear hurdles. One of them can even catch flying fish (sushi tossed in his direction). I was, of course, especially thrilled to learn that “Georges” – the aforementioned athletic tortie – has been the star of this “cat show for cat people” for the better part of 14 years.
After Hurricane Georges in 1998, she was one of three kittens rescued by Ringmaster Dominique LeFort. “Without Georges there is no show,” he tells the crowd that gathers every evening at Mallory Square where the setting sun colors the backdrop. Her siblings – “Chopin” and “Mandarina” – have lesser roles in the show, but are equally impressive gymnasts. They are both great at climbing a thickly braided rope, but the aging Chopin needs a jump start.
The whole spectacle reminded me of just how important play is to us felines. I ask you, who wants to chase geckos during monsoon season when we can just hunker down indoors, sprawled out on the folks’ chairs, beds, couches, and all those nooks and crannies in the closets. As much as we all love these lazy days of summer, there is a limit to just how lazy one should be.
While our staff (reminder: dogs have owners, cats have staffs) is encouraged by their doctors to get thirty minutes of exercise a day, we need aim for only fifteen minutes. I am not, however, suggesting that you sign up for the next Marco Island Triathlon. I just want you guys and gals to be the best you can be.
You will of course need to educate your staff in the ways of cat play. Just throwing down some catnip isn’t going to cut it. We thrive on interactive play because it so thoroughly challenges our predatory instincts; it also enhances our bonds with our persons. Great toys are “da bird” and the “cat dancer,” available at most pet stores. Both toys encourage stalking and pouncing behavior which is great for our reflexes and waistlines. I have heard tell of some amazing acrobatics while chasing down the feathers: leaping, lunging, backflips, big air and somersaults. You’ll need to make a list for your staff so they can find the right toy and ask the right questions. Some of you might want to add a laser toy to that list, as well as pingpong balls, and some of those cute felt mice. If you have already tapped out the monthly budget, request a paper grocery bag or empty cardboard box. It is, however, crucial that you put the more dangerous toys away when the day’s playtime is over. Otherwise, you’re well being is in jeopardy.
I recently heard tell of a beautiful Siamese girl who swallowed a three-foot long fabric ribbon she was playing with. Fortunately, her owner immediately discovered the disaster; a trip to the pet emergency hospital saved the day. “I feel really bad that a good intention went so wrong,” opined her nameless staff. Our founder Jan Rich gave me a comprehensive list of dangerous toys: “Dental floss, Christmas tinsel, polyester fiberfill from torn plush toys, needles and thread, knitting yarn, plastic bags, foil balls, and even the plastic eyes and bells attached to toys can be swallowed with terrible consequences.” It goes without saying that under my deft supervision, my charges are well schooled in the do’s and dont’s of cat fitness.
On the shelter front I have had my paws full with supervising and discipling this year’s crop of kittens. I’ll start with our young mom “Tara” who was found giving birth on the side of the road by a Naples veterinarian; mom finished having her babies at the Animal Specialty Hospital (ASH). She was pretty nervous when she got here but with my help has become a love sponge.
Next on the list is Samantha, the poor kitten who came to us without eyelids (a genetic defect). After a couple of surgeries she is doing great and loves to tumble with Tara.
See, I told you; that playtime thing is really important to us felines. So you can appreciate that I have a three-ring circus on my hands, but unlike the Key West flying house cat show, my students have no talent whatsoever in balance beams and flaming hoops! Did you guys and gals know that the most difficult and time consuming aspect of training lions and house cats is getting them comfortable around hundreds of people? The rest is pure athleticism.
We also rescued a darling girl, an adult cat I named “Liberty.” “Why she was out there is anyone’s guess,” says Jan. And the poor, very loving kitty is just so darn trusting, but obviously was not given proper care. She wasn’t even spayed or microchipped! But thanks to my savvy as shelter supervisor she is now up to speed on all things medical. And last, but not least is our super mom “Belle” and her seven kittens. My staff of 80 has worked tirelessly on the runt of the litter – “Batgirl” – who came into the world at two ounces, half the normal weight of newborns. After weeks of bottle feeding she is now playing with her siblings. I love happy endings, don’t you?
So you can appreciate that I have a three-ring circus on my hands, but unlike the Key West flying house cat show, my students have no talent whatsoever in balance beams and flaming hoops! Did you guys and gals know that the most difficult and time consuming aspect of training lions and house cats is getting them comfortable around hundreds of people? The rest is pure athleticism.
Your homework for the next four weeks is to tackle your exercise regimens. The real trick will be convincing your humans that said playtime is to both of your benefits. Because as we well know, they can be lazy this time of year.
Love, purrs, and meows!
Naomi is a 4 year old Tortie and a permanent resident at FLC. She is the shelter supervisor and takes her salary in food. She would love for you to learn more about For the Love of Cats at its website, www.floridacatrescue.com