Pets in the Park Dr Loretta Woodgate has shared her life for the last 17 years with her cat, Harley. Loretta shares her story about her special relationship with Harley and her tips to keep your feline friend happy.
Loretta is a volunteer veterinarian for charity, Pets in the Park, where vets, vet nurses and others give up their Sunday once a month to treat homeless people’s pets for free.
Who’s the boss? When did your passion for cats start?
Loretta: When I was growing up we only had a dog so I actually started out my vet career thinking I was more of a dog person or at least both a dog and cat person. It wasn’t until Harley came into my life and home that I realised the joy a cat can bring. Over the years I have realised that I much prefer sharing my home with a cat than a dog and have a real soft spot for them.
Who’s the boss? Tell us about your 17-year-old cat called Harley.
Loretta: During my first year as a vet there were numerous kittens dumped at the veterinary practice I was working at. We couldn’t find a home for this particular kitten so he ended up coming home with me. He is now 17 years old. He has slowed down somewhat, preferring a warm lap than doing sprints around the house. He still greets me when I get home and loves a pat and brush. He likes being in the middle of everything, always with us when we are relaxing in the lounge room and sleeps on our bed every night. As a very senior cat he has a couple of health issues I am treating him for and he is not as steady on his feet as what he once was, but he is still a happy and loving boy.
“If they come to you for attention, lavish it on them and they will love you for it”
Who’s the boss? How does Harley get his way?
Loretta: Harley is not particularly vocal except when I arrive home. His excited greeting warms my heart to know he is just as happy to see me as I am to see him. Whenever he wants attention Harley stands on me and head butts my hand or face. In the morning, if I haven’t gotten up early enough to his liking he uses his paw to pull the blanket off me with the most innocent of looks on his face. Being a dumped kitten he did not learn all the socialisation skills that he should have so there is only a few people he likes to be around and hides from everyone else. Unlike with most dogs that are happy to be patted by anyone and everyone, I feel very honoured that he is so comfortable and happy to be part of my life.
Who’s the boss? What have you learned from treating cats as a volunteer Vet with Pets in the Park?
Loretta: There are quite a number of cats that are regularly brought to Pets in the Park and the majority are very sweet cats. The owners are often putting their cat’s needs above their own and going without to provide for them. It is obvious to see how much joy these cats bring to their owners and it is clear that cats don’t discriminate on the size of your bank account. It is nice to be able to help out a little with their basic medical care.
Who’s the boss? What are your tips for cat owners to keep their feline friend happy?
Loretta: Besides the practical provisions, such as appropriate feeding, litter tray cleaning and medical care routines, the key to maintaining a happy relationship with your cat is to assess their mood before each interaction. If they want some alone time, then you need to leave them be. If they come to you for attention, lavish it on them and they will love you for it. They really are the ones that dictate the interactions you have with them – forcing a cat that wants to be alone to accept your attention may not end well. They do need some time to relax and chill out and having several sunny spots around the house where they can lie in comfort will keep them very content.