Should you get your elderly parent or grandparent a cat?

Think long and hard before getting a cat for a senior citizen.

I’ve seen some rough situations with senior citizens and cats. Even though it can be a beautiful relationship, there’s potential for awful abuse of the cat.

A mean young person is only going to get meaner when they grow old. A terrific young person can turn evil if dementia attacks their brain. Eye sight and hearing can go, which means the owner won’t even see how ravaged their cat looks. They can forget to feed the cat and forget to provide water. They can scare off groomers and pet sitters by being irritable and irrational.

Bad things that can happen to a cat:

  1. Claws growing into the paw pad so deeply that the paws bleed. A senior citizen owner became enraged when I told her the claws had to be trimmed.
  2. Cats with mats covering their body.
  3. Filthy litter boxes.
  4. Cats so fat that they can hardly move.
  5. Cat owners who are on sedatives, so they can barely talk, let alone care for an animal.
  6. Cat owners who repetitively scream out their cat’s name (due to owner’s loss of hearing), then complain that their cat doesn’t cuddle with them.
  7. Temper.  Some old people are very, very angry. They may not get many visitors other than the maid, so no one will know if they take out their frustration on their cat. Some old people scream at their husband and the house keeper, creating a scary home for everyone.
  8. Some old people hate to spend money. They remember when you could buy much more with just a few dollars. This can make them hesitate to take the cat to a vet or deal with urgent grooming problems.

Look, it’s great if a cat helps a senior citizen enjoy life more, but do you really want to be the reason some timid former-street-cat gets abused? That’s not rescuing a cat. That’s putting a cat in harm’s way.

Make no mistake about it, being starved of food and water, being neglected so that litter piles up, having mats growing all over our body, or being screamed at is all abuse.

Yes, many senior citizens take good care of their cat. Just make 100% sure your elderly parent or grandparent is going to be one of them. A cat may be “just an animal” but they do have the ability to feel pain and fear. Personally, I’m not going to have a pet after the age of 70.  I’ve seen too many sad things.

TNR cat grooming. Grooming a matted outdoor cat.

Got an email from a TNR (trap neuter return) group. One of their cats is pretty friendly and can be brushed for about ten minutes a sitting, but he’s matted. Here’s my reply.

“Look, cat grooming is simple because it’s 99% about handling and 1% about tools. If you can handle the cat, you’ve almost got it licked.

Throw away the darned Furminator. That thing is a piece of marketing crap. If you overdo it you tear the skin’s surface. If you use it gently, you’re not making progress. Junk. They should be ashamed of themselves. Cat skin is like our eyelids — super thin and tears like paper. Cats won’t react when you tear their skin, so you don’t even know you’re doing it until it rips all the way through which might not happen for a week or two.
This is the stuff to get — cheap, easy to use.
Also get a small ball-tip scissor so you don’t poke the cat when you trim. Should cost about $8.
Don’t brush and comb like a wussy. Most people brush like their hand is made of cotton candy and the cat is made of fairy dust. If you’re just doing the surface, don’t even bother doing it. Need to get to the skin, like when you’re late for work and brush your own hair. You use some energy then, right? Not hard or hurtful, but all the way to the skin.
As far as winter goes, shelters and heating pads are what counts, so not sure what you mean about his coat. Winter or summer, he needs to be free of mats because those mats are pulling on his skin and blocking flow of air to his skin. Usually there’s a bunch of dandruff under the mat, sometimes even an infection if the mat pulls hard enough.
If he’s really matted though, with solid mats up against his skin tight, then shaving needs to be done most likely. We call that  type of mat a “pelt”.
Good luck and good for you for doing TNR. I’m against putting outdoor cats in shelters because I’ve been there, done that.
You want to arrange a training session for your group, let me know.
$80 for a half hour. We could meet at my place on upper east side. I’ll show you tools, how to hold, answer questions.”

Don’t take your cat to a salon where untrained people work. Your cat will feel the heat.

Even if the salon groomer knows what they’re doing, the bather might be clueless. Want to see how hot a cage can get after just a few minutes of drying the wrong way?  How’d you like to sit in a 100 degree metal cage with a wind tunnel of hot air blowing at you and loud noise to complete the picture of hell? Add in the sound of dogs barking and you’ve got a nightmare scenario.

A groomer named Debi Hilley did a test to see how hot cages get when a dryer is directed at them.

Look at her video to see the frightening results.

I hand dry, which means I don’t put the cat in a cage.

To clarify, I’m not saying all or even many salon groomers do what the video shows. Knowledgable groomers would never cage dry that way.

Reasons why you shouldn’t buy your cat from a pet store

I only need one reason.

If I am a breeder who has a few cats who have at most a few litters a year, I get attached to the cats.  They live with me. They’re all my own cats, until they go to a new home.  I see them go from being tiny specks of life who can’t even see, to lively, lovely animals with a personality of their own.

If I am a pet store owner, I don’t raise the cats. They don’t live with me.  They live in cages in the store.  I haven’t seen them go from being newborns to kittens. I’ve invested money in them, but nothing else.

Who is going to be more attached to their cats?  A breeder or a pet store owner? Who’s more motivated to treat the cats like they matter?

Stores are all about appearances.  As an anti-show groomer, I say a healthy appearance can be faked. Diarrhea can be cleaned up. Vomit can be cleaned up. Eyes can be cleaned.  A sick cat can be made to look healthy. Happens all the time.

*Probably don’t need to say this, but when I say “breeder” I’m not talking about kitten-mill breeders.

Vet, Pet Store Owner Arrested for Fraudulent Pet Health Certificates
A veterinarian and his pet store owner wife have been accused for falsifying health certificates for pets.

Having a cat improves your physical and mental health?

Truth, based on measurable results? Or well-intentioned marketing?

Based on what I see during my visits, cat ownership relaxes some owners and seems to improve their life. For other owners, a cat can become a source of anxiety. If the owner doesn’t have the time, the money or the patience to care for their cat, how can having a cat improve their owner’s health?

From Health News Review — A health news watchdog site.

Unsupportable ‘cat therapy’ stories score high on cuteness but low on quality, even though many of us probably don’t care….(and have never heard of the word zoonoses)

Key point:

“Even though Cat People like me are totally predisposed to believe the hypotheses, these stories do very little to scientifically underpin the cat-owning health claims, tease out the conflicts of interests at stake, or critically examine the evidence.”

“Rescue cats” really rescued?

Rescue can look a lot like prison. It DOES look a lot like prison in more than a few homes I visit.


No stimulation except when the guards allow you to have stimulation

Guards make every decision for you, without consulting you

Every day the same

Forced to live with those you don’t like (other cats adopted for “company”)

Same food every day

Very little exercise

Never feel the sun on your hair or the wind at your back

True rescue

Abundance of stimulation

Toys, play time, petting

Access to a window or to the outdoors

Varied food or treats

Opportunities to exercise — scratching posts, tree houses, active playtime with owner

Owner makes decisions while considering your needs

Cat destroying sofa? Science to the rescue!

New pheromone can modify scratching behavior of cats

News flash from the Winn Health Foundation’s blog.

Who is Winn?

“In 1968, the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) created what would soon become Winn Feline Foundation, establishing a source of funding for medical studies to improve cat health and welfare.”

Story summary, dumbed down to my level of comprehension:

Cats have a natural perfume on their paw pads. When they scratch, the scent rubs off. Like the perfumes worn by humans, the paw’s scent conveys a message. Human perfumes say, “Hey there Big Boy, wanna date?” Cat messages are, one would assume, both more subtle and less subtle.

If they bottle this cat perfume, aka pheromone, you will be able to spray it on places where you would like your cat to scratch, such as scratching posts.

Very cool!

Good reading for animal lovers: “Ethics Into Action” by Peter Singer

I’m enjoying Peter Singer’s book about Henry Spira and the Animal Rights movement. Henry Spira’s activism helped decrease the use of inefficient and inhumane tests such as the LD50. He had a passion for animals and people, treating both with respect.

If you read one book this year about activism or about animal welfare or about animal rights, make it this book.