By Janet McAfee

People who never cared for feline creatures may end up meeting their life partner who owns two purring cats.  Then something they never expected happens. These independent intelligent cats work their magic, and next thing you know they fall in love with the cats!

David Kirk was an ardent dog lover who never owned a cat when he met his future wife Leigh and her cat Poodie.  David ended up falling in love with both of them.  The Kirks learned about the plight of cats in public shelters and formed  The group’s foster homes help socialize and rehome homeless cats that otherwise might be euthanized.

Other folks begin their love affair with cats by feeding groups of stray cats.  They eventually discover trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs which prevent a few strays in their backyard them from turning into hundreds.  Next thing you know, they join volunteers who set cat traps and bring them into clinics for sterilization, vaccines, and other needed medical services.  They begin to love the feral cats, and become determined to do more things to enrich and improve the lives of these once overlooked animals.

As parts of our nation experience torrential floods, community cat lovers worry about how their feline friends fare when their feeding stations are destroyed. Recently, some volunteers pled their case to state troopers to enter off limit areas after the flood water subsided.  Cats with nine survive natural disasters more often than not.  One volunteer explains, “During a recent hurricane, someone saw the colony matriarch of the colony leading all the cats up the street to safety as the flood waters were rising.  These cats bond and really care about each other.  When we resumed getting the cats fixed and returning them, the colony matriarch walked right up and rubbed against my leg as if to say ‘Thank you for helping these guys’.  This work is a labor of love.”

Christine Gross never owned a cat.  When her husband suddenly passed away, a neighbor suggested a cat would make a great companion.  At first Christine balked, explaining, “I never liked cats at all!  Growing up in England, my mother never liked them and told us stories about how her missing cat returned home hissing and snarling.  After John died, I dreaded the first night I would be on my own with the stillness and quiet in the house.  I ended up in a place I never expected, the Seal Beach shelter adopting a beautiful Snowshoe cat.  That first night, Verity sensed I needed comfort and slept next to me.  She does such funny and unique things.  She’ll toss things around the floor and then run up on her perch to look down on them.  She’ll sit happily on my lap, but then turn her back when she gets mad.”

What are some special things you can do for your own cat to repay them for the happiness they bring?  A previous column discussed the dangers of letting a domestic cat roam outside.  Predators, theft, disease, and neighbors’ complaints are just a few of the reasons to keep kitty safely indoors.  Some home owners have constructed indoor/outdoor cat habitats known as catios that allow them to have the best of both worlds.  Carpeted cat trees provide exercise for indoor cats that otherwise would climb trees outdoors.  Cats love simple toys such as a cardboard box where they play ‘house’ for hours.

For seniors and apartment dwellers, cats are the ideal pet.  They don’t require tedious walks in Coachella Valley hot summers.  You don’t have to hire a pet sitter when you go out of town overnight.  Landlords are more likely to permit cat ownership before canine occupancy.  Sadly, cats are often overlooked for adoption in favor of dogs, and tragically more likely to be euthanized at public shelters.

Local animal welfare organizations work hard to help curb the cat overpopulation crisis.  Looking to adopt?  Make an appointment to visit dozens of vetted and friendly felines at Kittyland in Desert Hot Springs, the largest private cat rescue in our region.  The Palm Springs Animal Shelter and the county Coachella Valley Animal Campus shelter have lots of kittens and cats needing homes.  Pretty Good Cat in La Quinta is a foster based charity that provides good feedback about the personality of their available animals.  Petco and PetSmart usually have areas where you can view felines needing homes.

In need of low cost spay/neuter and vaccination services for your cat?  Contact Animal Action League at (760) 366-1100, a wonderful nonprofit group with a mobile vet clinic that travels throughout our Valley.  A great resource is the book THE NEW NATURAL CAT, A COMPLETE GUIDE FOR FINICKLY OWERS.  Written by Anitra Frazier, this book contains wonderful articles about cat behavior, cat health and disease prevention, and a wonderful section on happily introducing a second cat.  It’s the Bible for cat owners.

Anyone can become a cat lover, a club with open membership and many rewards!

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