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National Cat Day grows bigger through social media

Posted by  November 1, 2013 10:30 AM

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By Hannah Rex, Boston University News Service

They ask for cheeseburgers and they tap on electric keyboards. They sit in boxes, hide in suitcases, and just as you’re about to fall asleep, they pounce on your toes to grab your attention. The Ellen DeGeneres Show devoted an entire week to them, and earlier this week, a national holiday was dedicated to our most curious feline friends.

The eighth annual National Cat Day was celebrated across the country on Oct. 29 with Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, and trending Twitter hashtags dedicated to our kitty companions. The holiday was created in 2005 by Pet Lifestyle Expert and Animal Welfare Advocate, Colleen Paige, in order to raise awareness about cats in need of rescue and to encourage cat adoption.

“Our goal is to save 10,000 cats a year through shelters and adoptions, but we always exceed that number,” Paige said in a telephone interview. 

Paige, who lives in Portland, Ore., found her harmonious match with cats when she was 7-years-old. Her first kitten’s birthday was on Oct. 29, and that became the inspiration for the national holiday. Paige also has created National Dog Day, Puppy Day and Wildlife Day, to name a few, and National Kitten Day is next on the agenda. 

“Right now there are 15 active pet holidays,” Paige said. “Every year gets bigger and bigger.” Last year, National Cat Day did not see much internet activity because of Hurricane Sandy, but this year drew more attention.

“The hashtag NationalCatDay was trending right below the sponsored hashtag [on Twitter],” she said. “That’s one thing to show that it’s grown – you can’t get better than trending on Twitter.” 

Seeing kittens in teacups and videos of cats prancing up and down stairs is one way to spread awareness, but these national holidays are prime opportunities for animal activists and shelters to ramp up the conversation about pet adoption.

“It’s always nice to have these national holidays for cats,” said Ami Bowen, director of marketing at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. “We use these pet holidays to talk about animal health or to announce animals that are up for adoption.”

October is also Adopt-A-Dog Month, and earlier this month the shelter featured Chance, a 6-month-old Labrador mix. As a special event, he predicted the outcome of the World Series by choosing a bowl of food labeled for the Boston Red Sox over the St. Louis Cardinals. Did Chance foresee the future of the World Series? Or did he give the Red Sox some extra luck to help them win the series with a final score of 6-1 in game six, breaking the 95-year drought of a home field win? Either way, Chance showed his Boston support and got a tasty treat in the process. 

Dogs might be better at predicting sports, but cats have their own special qualities, from sassy saunters across tables to spastic pounces at invisible objects. “Cats love to play and they love to snuggle, but they’re more independent,” Bowen said. The shelter has a cat playgroup to learn about the felines’ personalities, their interactions with other cats and their lifestyle patterns. This allows potential owners to find a friend that will be most compatible with them.

Not only does National Cat Day promote the adoption of cats, but it’s also an opportunity to talk about how to keep cats safe. Paige said it’s important to keep cats indoors and away from the danger of predators and harsh weather. Halloween is a particularly dangerous time for outdoor cats with so many people trick-or-treating, and Paige said the timing of National Cat Day is a great reminder to be aware of their safety. 

Micha Sabovik, assistant dean of Boston University’s College of Communication, has two indoor cats, Charlie and Nikko, and is an advocate for all small animals to stay indoors. Charlie, a candy corn striped cat, had pneumonia when he was a kitten, so he stays inside because of a weak lung. Nikko, a black Halloween cat, has a club leg, so he stays inside for extra safety. 

Sabovik shares her love of her cats – or as she likes to call them, her children – through daily “snapcats.” “It’s like SnapChat, but I just send pictures of my cats to my friends in a group text message,” she said. “They’re adorable little nuggets.”

Much to her disappointment, Sabovik didn’t realize that it was National Cat Day until a colleague informed her in the afternoon. But once she became aware of the holiday, she said it was worth making an occasion of it, perhaps with party hats and extra-special wet food.

“Cats deserve the very best. Their love is unconditional and so sweet,” Sabovik said. “When they are standing on you, purring and kneading your leg with their paws, you just can’t be in a bad mood.”

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and the Boston University News Service

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