February is National Cat Health Month, and this year it’s more fitting than ever that it falls so close to Valentine’s Day. Because if there’s one thing we’ve all become intimately aware of during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s the importance of the good health of those we care about.
That’s why, in honor of the celebration of love, we encourage you to give a cat—or many!—the incredible gift of improving their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Here are six things you can do this month (and always) to enrich a cat’s life, boost her health, and put a little more love into the universe. We need it now more than ever!
1. Spay or Neuter a Cat
This is the kindest, most important thing you can do for any cat in your life. Improving health, preventing the stresses of mating and pregnancy, decreasing the risk of certain reproductive cancers and other diseases—spay and neuter can really do it all! For a community cat, Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) not only provides critical spay and neuter services but saves her life by keeping her in her outdoor home and out of the shelter system, where too many cats are still killed every day.
Don’t forget vaccinations, particularly the rabies and FVRCP vaccine, which protects against three highly contagious viruses. These days, we all know the value of a vaccine.
Of course, nothing is the same in the age of COVID-19. Alley Cat Allies is very much aware of the difficulties many are facing in securing spay and neuter slots for cats and dogs, especially at low-cost clinics. We have some advice to help in our guide to TNR during COVID-19.
2. Get a Cat Microchipped
Don’t underestimate this tiny technology—it’s jam-packed with lifesaving power! Search up some recent headlines and you’ll find dozens of stories of cats and dogs reunited with relieved, overjoyed families because of a single scan of a microchip. And those are just the cases reported in the news!
Plus, with a quick microchip scan, a cat can be out of the shelter system in no time should she be picked up by animal control. That’s literally a lifesaver, because many shelters still lack nonlethal and humane programs for cats. Protecting physical health—check. Protecting the emotional and mental health of cats and their families—double check.
So this month, if you can, microchip a cat in your household or a community cat you care for. Don’t forget to register your information!
3. Support Animals in Your Community
We can’t sugarcoat it: the COVID-19 crisis has left millions wondering if they’ll be able to afford their next meal, let alone their cat’s. As a result, a growing number of people feel pressured to relinquish the animals they love to animal shelters, or think they can no longer feed the community cats who have come to rely on their care.
Alley Cat Allies’ Keeping Families Together ™ campaign has donated thousands of pounds of cat and dog food and cat litter to communities across the United States. All supplies are given at no cost to recipients with no income requirement or any other string attached. It only takes a few clicks to support this critical work.
You can also make a difference close to home by volunteering your time or donating animal food items to your local animal food bank, or directly to a community member in need. When you do, you provide a meal a cat needs to stay healthy and happy and assistance at a time when a helping hand can be a lifeline. If that isn’t an act of love, we don’t know what is.
4. Enrich the Feline Experience
Cats can succumb to a bit of ennui while lying around at home with nothing to do. You may know the feeling. This month, think about what might enrich your cat’s indoor life and put some pep in her step. Not only will a little change of pace stimulate a cat mentally, it can also have great physical benefits and stave off obesity and other health risks.
Try playing a nature video for your cat—there are even some just for felines!—to get her mind working and her instincts kicking in. A perfect Valentine’s Day gift could be a new toy or a food puzzle to encourage her to run, jump, pounce, and chase to build strength and agility.
For a community cat, spend some time this month building an outdoor cat shelter. We have some blueprints and ideas to get you started in our Shelter Gallery.
5. Learn How to Care for Cats Safely During COVID-19
When it comes to protecting our health through the pandemic, knowledge is power. Take time this month to learn how you can look after your cat’s health by reviewing and sharing our COVID-19 cat care resources. We have updated guidelines on caring for your pet cats and community cats during the pandemic.
6. Bond With Your Cat
Cats are exceptional Valentines—they’re adorable, full of personality, and can be great listeners (and not just because of their superior hearing)! The best way we can give back is to listen to them in return, and that involves understanding the unique ways cats tell us how their day is going.
Not only can a crash course in cat communication help you meet the mental and emotional health needs of your cat, you can also catch physical problems early when you’re on the lookout for changes in normal behavior. All in all, interacting with a cat on her terms is like speaking her love language!
Our Cat Behavior Webinar series and our Visual Guide to Cat Body Language will give you some valuable insight into how to “speak cat.” You can also learn the unique ways cats interact with us in our in-depth Cat Socialization Continuum Guide.
Happy National Cat Health Month and Happy (almost) Valentine’s Day from all of us at Alley Cat Allies!