Column: Cat’s birthday a time for a little research

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

On Feb. 19, our beloved cat Pip celebrated his fifth birthday. Each year the day spurs me to read up on the stages of a cat’s life, so I know what to expect.

This year I learned experts now consider Pip a “mature adult.” Researchers believe he has settled into a predictable day-to-day routine that fits his personality, tastes, and family ranking.

By now, Pip knows our daily routines and has trained my husband, his dad and me how he wants us to “serve” him.

So every morning Pip knows Ed will feed him around 6. If Ed wants to sleep a little later, Pip jumps up and down on Dad and cries, with the frequency of each behavior increasing as Ed tries to ignore the demanding feline.

Next is a 2 p.m. lunch, usually with me. Around 1, the cat starts pacing around me, trying to jump in my lap, blocking my view of the computer screen. I swear Pip understands when I explain, “It’s too early, you have an hour to wait.”

Pip will leave the room but come back minutes later, screeching, “Is it time, yet?”

“No,” I respond.

“Great,” he responds back while trying to lead me to his food mat.

This dance goes back and forth until one of us gives up. As you’ve already guessed, it’s always me. I fill up his square-shaped mat that features different compartments to separate his chicken kibble, and this slows his eating. I put about three-fourths of his kibble in the mat and the rest in his kibble ball. Much like our dog Teddy’s Kong tumbler, it has small holes around it and Pip must push the ball to retrieve the kibble.

I tell him to find me when he’s finished and get his food ball. And he always does.

Dinner is at 5 and we follow the same dance routine.

During the day there are also backyard walks with Dad and wand playing with me. The feline knows the time of day each activity takes place and loudly alerts us if we forget.

Pip knows if Ed and I go out there will be treats for him and Teddy when we get back.

And speaking of Teddy, when it comes to family order ranking, in Pip’s mind, Teddy is first, he is second, I’m third and Ed is pulling up the rear. Pip always defers to the canine.

Pip will move if Teddy needs to pass by, and when both are in the backyard, if Teddy starts barking, Pip considers it a warning and immediately heads back inside.

When reviewing the research, one medical issue caught my attention – cats’ teeth.

Sandra C. Mitchell, a veterinarian, writes in, “Almost 100% of cats will develop dental disease by the age of 5, so it’s an important issue to be aware of and address.”

Our cat before Pip, Abby, had an infected tooth that was at first missed by emergency veterinarians. We brought her in on a weekend because she had stopped eating, was lethargic and, overall, just wasn’t herself. Fortunately, the following Monday, her vet discovered the problem and removed the tooth.

Mitchell suggests brushing the cat’s teeth regularly.

Others also suggest dental treats and toys made to help reduce plaque.

So Happy Birthday, Pip, and one more year of a healthy, happy and definitely, fun-filled life.

Signs of dental issues in cats can include:

1. Reluctance to eat

2. Chewing on one side of their mouth

3. Dropping food when they eat‑health/signs‑cat‑is‑aging

Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry animals who inspire her. She can be reached at

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