A few weeks ago, our kitty Makita (pictured above) gave us a little scare. She stopped eating and drinking for almost 6 straight days, and was in and out of the animal hospital. It was finally determined she was suffering from a bad sinus infection, so luckily a week of antibiotics has returned her to normal. When she was at her worst, I had started to prepare myself for the possibility of having to put her down, but I also made a promise to myself that if she rallied, I would make a concerted effort to keep her happier – play with her more, take her outside for supervised time in our backyard, and brush her more regularly. I was confidant I could do this, because I had the book Purr, The Science of Making Your Cat Happy by Zazie Todd on my bookshelf, and I was now motivated to finally read it and put its advice into action.
Split into helpful sections that follow the lifespan of cat ownership, Purr is a guide for both existing cat parents, and future cat parents. Topics covered include; how to set up your home for a cat or kitten, how to train a cat, how and why your cat should see a vet regularly, feeding guidelines, enrichment or ‘play’ ideas, introducing your cat to other cats or dogs, and end of life care. The author is a specialist in feline behaviour, but has also owned a few dogs, so she offers a fairly balanced viewpoint of cats and how they compare to other animals. She often cites research findings to back up her advice, but it’s interesting to note that there are significantly more tests done for the benefit of increasing our knowledge of dog behaviour, so sometimes the studies she cites are featuring animals other than cats. Throughout the book are small sections written by other veterinarians and specialists, and their advice is often written as ‘if we could do x differently, a cat’s life will be greatly improved’ which is both easy to understand and implement. The writing is very clearly in layman’s terms, and the end of each chapter include a point form summary of how to ‘apply’ the advice given.
This book is so thoughtfully laid out for the average reader (or non-reader, but cat lover)I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who was interested in learning more about their own cat, or just cats in general. However I will also warn potential readers that some of the advice in this book is a little far-fetched for the average cat owner. Some of its suggestions include feeding a cat 5-10 small meals a day because that’s what they prefer, or allotting separate one-on-one playtime for each cat in your household on a daily basis. While these are all great suggestions, I must admit my eyes bugged out a little when I read them. Perhaps when I’m retired and have more time on my hands I’ll become the ideal cat owner that is described in this book, but for now, while I keep my two children fed and happy and work my full-time job, my goal of trying to brush my cat more than once a month and scoop her little more often is about the best I can do. And Todd acknowledges her suggestions may not always be doable (ya think?) but I have no doubt there are many cat owners who are eager to follow this advice.
Aside from overzealous suggestions that may give one pause, much of the advice is easy to understand and follow, and even though some of it may seem obvious, we all know how fickle cats can be, so these helpful, science-back tips are welcome by most cat owners, no matter how many years we’ve been able to call ourselves that (in my case, most of my life!). There is a whole section on how to properly pet a cat, and while dog owners may scoff at the fact we even need a couple pages dedicated to this, cat owners will realize how valuable this is. So often I recall petting a cat, having them purr in response, everything seemingly fine until out of nowhere, they suddenly bite you, fed up with what was only moments ago, a welcome thing. Todd gently educates, advising that this is merely them communicating their wants (which can very quickly change), and to not take it personally. A good rule of thumb with cats is letting them lead the interactions; they will let you know what is and isn’t wanted.
One section I paid close attention to was the behavioural problems related to toileting outside the litter box. This is a problem we have had with a few different cats, and there are a variety of reasons for it, but her suggestions of scooping it every day is a helpful one. Makita isn’t quite that picky yet, but as she ages Todd has prepared me for what I may expect, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that Makita will be sticking around for another few years yet!