Ticha the torty. Photo by Anne Fawcett.

Over 200,000 unwanted pets are killed in pounds and shelters in Australia every year, just because they can't find homes.

These are innocent animals, whose original human companions did not take responsibility for them.

Be part of the solution. Adopt a rescue animal.

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Playing games
Contrary to popular belief, many adult cats are indeed playful creatures. Play equals exercise and stimulation, and for cats, the best games are the ones where you are involved.

Chasing balls and wind-up mice are great entertainment, as is dangling a plastic toy from a string. Hide and seek can also be fun. You can also hide a treat and send your pet on a "search and eat" mission. These are games that are interactive, you're not only providing pleasure for your pet, but you're strengthening the connection you share.

Always check that the toy is safe, and there are no small parts your pet might be able to remove and swallow. String and balls of wool are not safe toys – the thread can be swallowed and get tangled in the intestines. Boxes and paper shopping bags (avoid plastic) are safe and fun for cats to poke in and out of.

Cats also respond to television images, and cat lovers have been amused and fascinated watching their feline paw at two-dimensional fish. Enterprising companies are now producing videos specifically designed for cats, with scenes of fish, birds or unsuspecting squirrels to keep your companion glued to the screen.

Most of all – even more than TV – your cat will enjoy being part of your daily life – let your cat accompany you while doing the housework or gardening, and talk to your pet while you're working. Your cat loves the sound of your voice, and the attention that goes with it.

One area that's often overlooked in cats is training. Almost all cats are litter-trained, but for most, the training stops there. Cats can be taught to sit, come, wave and other feats – all it requires is a bit of practice and patience … and a lot of treats. Make the training a game for your cat.

When looking for feline fun, let your imagination – and your cat – guide you.

Pregnant women and cats
Every pregnant woman wants to do the very best for her baby, and many expectant mothers have concerns about contracting the parasite toxoplasmosis from their feline friends. There is no need, however, to consider rehoming your pet because you or someone in the household is pregnant.
Cats may contract toxoplasmosis after eating infected rodents or birds (for this reason, an indoor cat is very unlikely to be carrying the parasite). While cats can be carriers of the parasite, it is rare for them to develop the toxoplasmosis disease.

Toxoplasmosis can spread to people only by direct contact with cat faeces or soils/litter that have been in contact with infected faeces. If a pregnant woman contracts the parasite, she has a 40 per cent chance of infecting her baby. For a baby, infection from toxoplasmosis can cause brain damage and numerous other problems including pneumonia.

Pregnant women should avoid handling their cats' litter trays – this job should be taken over by another member of the household. If that's not possible, the pregnant woman should use disposable gloves and thoroughly wash her hands with soap and water after handling the tray (this goes for those planning a pregnancy too!). The litter should be changed daily. Gloves should also be worn for gardening, as the parasite may be present in soil.

Whether meat is for feline or human consumption, it should always be well cooked, and hands should be washed thoroughly with soap after touching raw meat. Also avoid touching the eyes, mouth or nose while handling uncooked meat, and carefully clean cooking utensils.

Other general strategies to avoid infection include thoroughly washing produce to remove traces of soil, and avoiding children' sandboxes where the parasite may lurk.

Pregnant women cannot contract toxoplasmosis from handling or petting a cat: the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis is actually greater from eating undercooked infected meat than from your pet.

Articles by Annette Basile

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Call 0417 360 700.




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