BARKS from the Guild September 2020

Page 12

c o v e r

Cats: In Crisis

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Cats are both hunters and the hunted — this is what motivates their behavior and providing for these needs should be the baseline minimum of care

Dr. Liz Bales explains why the behavioral, social, and environmental needs of our pet cats are often not being met and the simple steps cat guardians can take to alleviate their pets’ stress levels to ensure improved physical, mental and emotional well-being – as well as how dog trainers can help 12


merica loves cats! In fact, we have more cats than dogs living in our homes. We currently live with more than 94 million cats, compared to 90 million dogs (Daily Dog Stuff, n.d.). Nearly half of all millennials have cats: 57% consider their feline friends as important as the humans in their lives and 86% consider their cats to be loyal companions (Purina, 2015). But even the most passionate cat lovers among us are not always aware that our cats are facing something of a crisis in our homes. While debates rage on about what food to feed your cat and whether you should get your cat from a rescue or a breeder, the most important health crisis facing cats has been getting almost no attention: The number one cause of death for cats is being unwanted due to behavior problems (Alley Cat Allies, n.d.; Rodan, 2016; Salman et al., 2000; Zito et al., 2016). Veterinarians and feline behavior scientists have devoted decades to re­ searching this issue and the answer is clear. Cats are very different from hu­ mans. This fact may seem obvious, but it is also the root of this epidemic. Enclosure­free, human­free, outdoor living can be fraught with risks, but it does allow cats to design their lives according to their natural instincts, i.e. where to live, who to live with, how to communicate, what and how to eat, and where and when to eliminate. We humans bring them inside, however, so we can keep them safe and enjoy their companionship and it is here that the problems

BARKS from the Guild/September 2020

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