This month’s ‘Short Takes’ makes me particularly happy, and I really hope it sparks a trend in the animal welfare community. Researchers at the University of Georgia are matching senior citizens who live alone with shelter cats — to see if the relationship is helpful at making the person feel less lonely and with more purpose.
As someone who just fostered a mother and six kittens, I absolutely know the answer. No, it wasn’t easy to say goodbye to everyone. But it absolutely did give me a tremendous sense of purpose. Plus, it really is hard to feel lonely when you have an animal (or several) needing you for companionship and care, as well. To me, it’s a win-win situation and one that I hope can be developed into a viable solution for the many adult cats languishing in shelters and the elderly who feel isolation in a different way.
But back to my kittens. I always enjoyed watching them “play wrestle,” and it struck me as interesting how they use their hind feet much like a bunny. Kicking and scraping at each other’s bellies (sometimes at each other’s heads), but somehow without inflicting too much damage.
And then I noticed the hanging “fat pouch” on one of my adult cats that belies the fact that he’s actually pretty lean and fit. And so the research began! And I learned about the primordial pouch.
Experts believe that the loose skin found on our cats’ bellies serves different purposes. One is that it provides extra protection during cat fights for the vital (and vulnerable) organs. Another theory is that this pouch allows cats to be more flexible and able to extend their bodies further when running and jumping. And lastly, it is also theorized that these bellies provide some extra room after consuming a large meal — which is especially important for wild cats who may not know when they’ll eat again.
Happy New Year, dear readers!
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Tufts Catnip