San Diegans Celebrate “Leave Your Cat At Home Day” on February 29th, 2008
Once a year, working parents enjoy Bring Your Kids To Work Day, in which they can demonstrate to their children how they earn their bread and butter. Likewise, dog owners get to share their affection for their canine companions with Take Your Dog To Work Day. But what about cat owners? How are they to recognize and appreciate the mercurial, uniquely individual creatures they hold dear? According to Grace Jaeger, owner and operator of Cat Watchers in Bloomington, MN, the answer is simple: Leave Your Cat At Home Day, to be celebrated this year on February 29th.
Upon first reading, an individual might be inclined to think that the proposal is something of a no-brainer. After all, one doesn’t usually leash up the cat and take it for a stroll at the local cat park, and spoiled Hollywood starlets haven’t turned the cat into the latest fashion accessory–at least, not yet. So what, then, is the deal? What is the goal of Leave Your Cat At Home Day (or LYCAHD as it will be referred to hereafter)?
“LYCAHD is designated to revere cats, and the way they have arranged the world so everyone else goes to work and they get to stay home,” says Jaeger. “Since everyone knows that cats don’t work and because they have humans to do it for them, I thought celebrating them in their favorite place–home–would be appropriate and fun.” The first LYCAHD was commemorated on February 25, 2005, and since then has been annually observed on the last Friday in February.
Since it’s been established that domestic cats traditionally spend their time at home anyways, how then should they celebrate a day off? What can we, their human owners, do to distinguish this day from all the others? A relaxing day off for an owner might involve sleeping in, taking a luxurious bath, and treating oneself to a favorite meal, but most cats already spend the bulk of their time sleeping, bathing, and eating. The trick to celebrating LYCAHD is to cater to your cat’s indulgences, says Jaeger. “Does your cat have a certain treat that is really special? This is the day for it! Does your cat really love catnip? Shower them with it! Does your cat have a special place to nap? This is the day to plump up those pillows, fluff that laundry, or just open the sock drawer, and leave it they way your cat likes it...above all, this is the day to pamper your cat and let them know that you know who’s the boss.”
As any owner can attest, cats are highly individualistic creatures, each possessed of a unique personality. They can be friendly, demanding, imperious, standoffish, cuddly, or aggressive. The may treat you as an intimate companion, or merely regard you as The One Who Brings Food, a menial role at best–after all, cats come fully equipped to provide their own meals. Indeed, the only thing cat owners can agree on is that cat’s sole universal characteristic is their individualism. They are independent, self-contained machines, genetically programmed to create a territorial space for themselves.
But is a cat’s sense of independence simply a biological holdover from the wild days of their ancestors, or is it something more? Laura Lluellyn-Lassiter, an Animal Communicator and Behaviorist, seems to believe so. “Cats have a reputation of being independence,” she says, “ and most are less demanding of attention compared to dogs...[but] they do like attention and will seek out their pleasures by meowing, following us everywhere and staring at us. They are creatures who like routines and generally adapt to their person’s schedule. They like their own space to sleep and guard from other creatures. Territory is of the utmost importance.” “Cats are independent because it is a survival technique,” concurs Carmen Linda Conklin of CW Shelter, though she offers an additional corollary: “Regardless, each cat is unique, and there are some who are more dependant upon human contact than others.”
Tracie, a Telepathic Animal Communicator from New York, suggests that this perception of cat behavior may say more about the owners than the animals. “I think it’s really just us humans who like to classify cats as being one of the more common domestic animals that don’t lean on or depend so much emotionally on being part of a group, and who don’t lean on us as much as we’d like them to.” “Cats relate to people who are ‘animal friendly,’” says Conklin, “and often shun those they do not trust when they first meet them. [But] They know our feelings as well, and relate to us in many ways.”
Since the personalities of domesticated house cats integrated so much with their owners and the people around them, what about wild cats? Do they share any of the idiosyncracies of their housebound relatives, or are they a breed of their own? For the sake of clarification, “wild cat” in this context means just that: the undomesticated species of little and big cat, not specimens of domesticated cats commonly considered “feral” or “stray,” living wild in human neighborhoods and surrounding districts. General consensus is that, since these animals have never been domesticated, it is best to simply leave them alone. In the past, efforts to overlap human society with their environment has proven disastrous; while local bobcats or cougars might enjoy celebrating LYCAHD, attempting to pamper them will undoubtedly prove hazardous for anyone who tries. If you would like to treat a wild cat to something special this LYCAHD, it is recommended that you make a donation to your local zoo or wildlife organization.
In turning to feral cats, it is important to recognize that there are several different gradations. The first are former pets who have escaped or been abandoned by their owners. They tend to stick close to the shelter of human habitats, and may “adopt” a neighborhood as their own, and in turn are adopted by humans who will put food out for them. Though living on the streets has made them wary, hesitant to approach people, with a lot of patience and love these cats can be rehabilitated and reintroduced into caring homes.
The second kind of feral cat is one who was born outside of a human home, and has spent its entire life living on the streets or in the local environment. Though they may appear cute as a normal house cat, or while their sometimes scraggly, unkempt manner may stir the heart, it is important to remember that these animals have never been domesticated, and many will shun humans or responded aggressively to attempts to handle them. They are much more vulnerable to disease, and can pose a health hazard, both to the public and the local flora and fauna. Due to their wild nature, it can be extremely difficult to domesticate them, but it is still important to help them. Efforts are underway in many cites to humanely trap these animals for the purposes of spaying/neutering, treating with antibiotics, and releasing into safer environments.
Though they may live different–and, some would argue, more exciting–lives than domesticated cats, they share many of the same characteristics. Feral cats display their moods through they same signs: purring, ears laid back, hissing, etc. Despite being a generation or two removed from domesticity, it is still embedded in their genes, and though wary or frightened by people, most of these cats still instinctually equate the presence of humans as “shelter” or “food.” Though they may have a larger “territory” than house cats, feral cats still spend the bulk of their time sleeping, preferably in a safe, warm place. But unlike domestic cats, who turn their hunting instincts into play, feral cats must actually find and stalk their own meals. Though plenty of house cats would like to assure their owners that they’re more than capable of doing so as well.
One of the other original concepts behind the creation of LYCAHD is Grace Jaeger’s desire to assuage the behavioral concerns owners may have with their cats. While every cat owners knows that, with a cat in the house, no piece of furniture is sacred, unhappy or unfulfilled cats act out more. Poorly maintained litter boxes or urinary tract infections can lead to waste disposal problems, and a lack of proper stimulation or exercise will often generate restless, “mischievous” behavior. Above all, it is a cat’s mood that shapes its behavior, so it’s important that a pet cat be given plenty of playtime. “Playing and mischief making are very much related,’ says Jaeger. “Playing provides stimulation to keep a cat mentally alert and healthy. The more time a human spends playing with a cat, the less a cat will need to get into mischief.” Still, sometimes the problem is medical, and Animal Behaviorist Faye Lapp advocates that owners “talk with a Cat Behaviorist, veterinarian or shelter person who has knowledge and can help retrain your cat’s unacceptable behaviors.” And of course, owners should use LYCAHD to show their cats that, despite problems with their behavior, they are still loved and adored.
Though LYCAHD is still in somewhat of a grassroots infancy, celebration of it is growing. Every year Jaeger’s website hosts a photo contest, and each year she receives more and more entries. She has begun offering official LYCAHD merchandise, the proceeds of which are donated to the Home For Life® animal sanctuary. Even if you’re not a cat owner, you can still celebrate. Make a purchase for a friend, or just come over and spend some free time playing with the cat.
Whether you’re a cat owner or not, hiring the services of a professional pet sitter can be a wonderful gift. Even if you have to go to work, and thus leave your cat at home, someone can still be there to provide all of LYCAHD’s requisite pampering. “Your cat gets to stay home in their own bed,” says Jaeger, “and can get lots of personal attention if they choose. And they can continue to be the boss!” And what better treat, then providing your cat a whole new human to be the boss of?
If you would like more information on Leave Your Cat At Home Day, visit www.leaveyourcatathome.com or contact Grace Jaeger directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information on finding a professional pet sitter, please visit Pet Sitters International (PSI) at www.petsit.com. For local information on pet sitting in San Diego County, contact Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Services by Kat on the web at www.petsitdogwalkbykat.com.
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