What does a person do when they’ve accumulated decades of cat rescuing experience and perfected the art of caring for and communicating with cats?
They write books and host shows on PetLifeRadio!
Newbie cat parents can really learn a thing or two from her, as well as career cat ladies. She has a lot of insight, which is hugely beneficial when it comes to our purring enigmas.
I reached out to her recently to see if she could share some of her knowledge with our cat-loving community by letting me ask her some questions. She happily agreed!
Here’s what Pamela Merritt had to say about all things feline!
The Road To Cat Life
The first thing I wanted to know was what got Pamela on the road to educating people about cats.
JULIA: What made you want to write books and do podcasts about cats?
PAMELA: I ran an amateur cat rescue in my home for many years, interacting with the rescue community. When I had to completely change my life, my friends urged me to write a book to share my cat knowledge.
It turned into a popular blog with my Dear Pammy advice column, and now a book.
These experiences confirmed for me how eager people are to get good cat advice. When I read then-current books on the subject, I was not impressed. Some of them made cat relationships sound so boring. Where was the fun?
I want more people to know how much fun cats are.
Basic Cat Needs: Why Include Kitty Grass?
When books and podcasts have content that’s interesting, I can’t get enough! If they’re outdated or boring, they can become a huge chore that you dread listening to.
I used to have an hour-long commute to work. As soon as I discovered fun podcasts, that drive went by so quickly. It’s true–like Pamela said–we need fun books and podcasts to let the world know just how awesome cats are.
Speaking of podcasts, I wanted to know more about something Pamela mentioned in one of her podcast episodes–kitty grass.
JULIA: In Episode 5 you discuss “The Basic 5”–five basic cat needs: food, water, scratching post, litter box, and kitty grass. Why is kitty grass an important need?
PAMELA: In nature, cats graze on fresh greens. Providing them in the home will keep them away from our houseplants. Though of course, we should never try to grow anything toxic to our cat without suitable precautions.
Any instinctual drives a cat has, I believe in providing it for them. Otherwise, they will try to solve this problem themselves, and that rarely works out for we humans.
Scratching Posts Are Important For Catting
Since we were on the subject of cats’ five basic needs, I also wanted to know a little more about scratching posts. We’ve all been told that they’re important, but some of us might not know why–or just how important they are!
JULIA: Why are scratching posts important for cats?
PAMELA: Good ones are meant to simulate trees, which are many things to our cats. Their scratching dislodges old, dull claw sheaths and exposes sharp new ones.
But that is only the start of the benefits. They also use scratching posts to exercise, and stretch out that long back and tail. They have twice as many vertebrae as humans do. Some of them need to climb to really get a good workout.
It also acts as an instinctive signal for our cats to show possession by scratching as high or as deep or as prominently as they can, to tell other cats of their power and presence. We want them to do this on their furniture, not ours.
A good scratcher, of whatever kind our cats prefer, should be available to our cats in rooms we own together and share.
Kids Meeting Cats: Make It A Game!
Pamela has such a smart way of looking at cats’ needs. Everyone has needs. If you take care of your cat’s needs, everyone will be a lot happier!
To people adopting kittens this season: don’t forget the scratching post. If a cat scratches furniture, it’s not because they are mad at you. Scratching is part of a kitty’s well-being.
Of course, if you have kids in your home and you’re considering adopting a cat, you have even more needs to take care of. I wanted to know if Pamela had any advice for youngsters who want to make a good first impression when meeting new kitties.
Once again, her response was purrfect!
JULIA: Do you have advice for kids when it comes to meeting a new cat? Not necessarily a new pet, but any cat?
PAMELA: I tell them it’s a game to play with the cat, like Hide and Seek, and show them how to draw the cat to them.
Even when [kids are] small, they are bigger than the cat, and they know it. So my affection games let them show polite friendship to the cat, which works for both the cat and the child.
Did You Know Cats Have Super-Senses?
Pamela knows such great ways to approach cats. Kids can relate to games, so of course, that would be a great way for them to make introductions that both they and their cats can understand.
That’s especially important because most people find that cats can be aloof–even frightened–when it comes to meeting new animals and people.
However, Pamela doesn’t believe this is a drawback in our felines’ personalities. Rather, it’s the result of their heightened senses–ones that we should be aware of and take into account in our approach to cats.
JULIA: Why do people think cats are jumpy or startle easily if they hear a loud noise?
PAMELA: I find most regard this as nervous or neurotic behaviors and see it as a flaw in the cat.
When I let them know about how the cat’s super-senses, and faster nervous system, are the reasons, they get a better picture of cats.
NOTE: If you listen to Episode 7: Super Senses, Pamela does an amazing job explaining the awesomeness of cats and why it seems like they startle at the slightest sound. They are like superheroes with superpowers and super hearing!
The Cat ‘Teen Years’ Last Longer Than You Realize
Even if new cat adopters work on their approach to cats–and their kids’ approaches–they’re still bound to make a few mistakes a long the way. Even experienced cat owners do. We’re only human!
But I wanted to know if there was one mistake that new cat owners should know about before they adopt so they could hopefully prepare and take steps to avoid it.
JULIA: What is one mistake that many new cat parents tend to make?
PAMELA: So many do not understand the cat teen years. This distinct developmental period lasts much longer than people think, as [cats] don’t fully mature until three to five years old. So as the easy kitten stuff is fading, this teenager who tests boundaries and is much bigger and stronger takes their place.
As your cat develops a more adult brain, they begin to understand the Law of Reciprocity. This is the human social law that urges trading favors for favors. It’s about feeling a sense of obligation and cooperation that makes us all social. So the teen cat will start playing coy. They want to be pursued–and reassured.
If the new cat parents believe the myth of the aloof cat, they will conclude that their cat is growing away from them.
They don’t pursue, and even worsen the situation with bad training choices which make the cat suspicious and uncooperative–when all they need to understand is this is how cats play poker.
They see our gesture of affection to them, and then they raise the stakes by giving us affection.
Don’t abandon that kitten. Play the game right.
Myths About Cat Hydration BUSTED
I enjoyed another of Pamela’s episodes titled “Mythbusting.” I’m sure we’ve all heard a lot of myths about cats and their weird relationship with water. But I wanted to hear from an expert about how we can make sure our kitties drink enough and stay healthy.
JULIA: In Episode 20: Mythbusting, you discussed water, which I thought was very interesting–the myth being that cats don’t like or need much water. Can you offer any tips or advice for cat parents when it comes to making sure our kitties are getting enough water?
PAMELA: Cats who turn on faucets or lurk in the bathroom are being driven by their instincts for running water. When I added multiple water bowls in the rooms we spent the most time in, the cats drank more water.
We went to a fountain. Now we use a porcelain model from Thirsty Cat which is easy to clean and lasts for years.
Smelling that the water is clean and fresh is what our cat is looking for. For years I used giant coffee cups that I rotated through washing and refilling regularly. Fill them near the top because no cat likes to have their whiskers folded back into their face while they eat.
Also, dry food is a problem for many cats. It dehydrates them. Canned food is more adapted to their digestive systems, and a source of water.
Keep Up With Pamela And In A Purrfect World!
I can’t thank Pamela enough for her time and insights. I hope you enjoyed what she had to say and found it as helpful as I did! I’m certainly going to keep up with her podcast.
Cats are wonderful creatures and an honor to have in our lives. If you are contemplating adopting a kitten or have a young cat, it really helps to understand them. The book Way Of Cats by Pamela Merritt would be a great place to start.
Have you listened to the In A Purrfect World podcast yet? I highly recommend it. Pamela Merritt offers great insight into the world of kitties. Let us know about your favorite cat podcast in the comments below!
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