Feline behaviorist Rita Reimers has never been one to let “the cat get her tongue.” Sharing her home with 19 cats and her advice with worldwide audiences, the expert dishes on A to Z cathood and offers practical solutions to questions that both existing and new cat owners may have about their furry companions.
Rita's "cat magic" comes from her over 30 years of experience as a multi cat owner and cat rescue worker. Understanding cats and their behaviors is a natural ability for Rita and she considers it her "calling" in life. In her advice column, "A New Cattitude," which is featured in every issue of CATSTER, she combines humor with practical solutions for feline behavior challenges. She also writes regularly for websites such as Chewy.com, Pet MD, and Pet Central. She is also a sought-after guest writer, providing her advice for pet care companies such as Litter Genie, Meow Mix, and 9Lives.
“Eight years living in the Carolinas and now 10 years in L.A., rescues would just come along and I would foster them,” says Reimers, “I didn’t set out to be the crazy cat lady but I kept then because they were so happy living with me. My mom runs a humane rescue Society, My cats now range in age from 1 ½ to 14. I’ve lost many over the years – 14 – but they grew old with me. They’ve taught me so much about how so many different personalities can live together in one place and about how they get along. Twenty cats is my maximum and I may be taking another that no one wants to help. Cats are so accepting, Some want to integrate into the population immediately.”
The author of the book, “Sadie's Heart, Loving and Losing Our Beloved Cat Companions,” e Rita shares the joy of the deep bond owners share with their cats, and the inevitable heartbreak of saying goodbye. Following the story of losing Sadie, Rita shares resources where people can get help with the grief of pet loss
As for the care of the 19 cats currently in her home, Reimers has a home vet and another one very close by. All her cats are tested, inoculated, and spayed and neutered. She is currently working on setting up a 501c sanctuary. A cat owner since the age of 24, Reimers maintains that she was born with an affinity for felines and that God gave her the gift of being able to understand them and their behaviors. She notes that each one is an individual with its own natural behaviors and likes and dislikes. The key is to watch its body language. Reimers does individual counselling for cat owners about everything from what to feed your cat to the best pet products, what to ask your vet, adjusting multiple cats into one home, behavioral issues, your relationship with your cat, and more.
“Cats are crepuscular, meaning that they are most active at dusk and dawn,” she explains. “That’s when they hunt/ They are not nocturnal. One of the biggest misconceptions about them is that they can’t be taught but they can learn to do all kinds of things at any age. My cats know each other’s names. And I can sometimes say something in an English sentence and they understand. Cats are solitary creatures in nature but they can live in colonies. However, they hunt individually, mostly rodents or garbage. Luckily, there are people who feed feral colonies.”
“Another misconception is that cats are not affectionate,” she adds. “You just have to earn their trust and be consistent. You have to cultivate the relationship. Once you do, cats are even more loyal than dogs in some ways. You have to establish trust and prove yourself. They love to hear you talk to them. You have to work on that bond. You can do that with older cats, too. Just don’t yell at cats. If they are doing something you don’t like, walk away and withhold affection. Cats learn from the consequences of their behavior. On the other hand, keep rewarding them for their good behavior.”
“It’s trial and error with cats,” she continues. “They like stability and routine. They don’t like a lot of change. They like routine because they like to know where things are, things that mimic life. They need good nutrition and you. Cats can be happy playing in a cardboard box. Again, you need to be constant with them, especially with the litter box. What a cat likes and what we like are two different things.”
When it comes to feeding and hydration, Reimers says that it’s important that a cat has a wide bowl. If the bowl is too narrow, the cat can get “whisker fatigue,” which is an irritation of the whiskers. Cats’ whiskers are sensitive; they are the sensors by which they maneuver. Nutrition-wise, cats are carnivores and need a high-protein diet, preferably holistic and grain-free, and they can have both wet and dry food.
But above all, what is the most important advice Reimers can give you about your fur baby?
“Watch your cat,” she says.
That says it all – Reimers is definitely the cat’s meow.