Cat behaviour expert, founder of Club Cattitude, Podcaster and author, Rita Reimers, has always been drawn to animals, cats in particular and she possesses a unique ability to communicate with and understand the tender nature of cats.
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 behaviours 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 humour with practical solutions for feline behaviour 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.
You can find Rita hanging out in Club Cattitude, the "members only" section of her website, RitaReimers.com. You can ask Rita and the staff cat questions, as well as enjoy a community full of other cat-loving people.
The club also contains exclusive blogs/videos, giveaways forums and much more. Rita also conducts regular chats, where she holds one-on-one cat behaviour sessions with members.
She is the author of the book, Sadie's Heart, Loving and Losing Our Beloved Cat Companions, where 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.
Born and raised in Buffalo, Rita never had the luxury to consistently have a pet cat growing up. From 2005 until 2008, Rita was heard live weekly as an on-air personality and Associate Producer of the "Lighten Up with Richard Simmons" show, heard exclusively on Sirius Satellite radio station Stars 102. You can also see Rita in Richard Simmons' last video series entitled Project Hope. When she decided to move to South Carolina to open a cat sitting business, Rita didn't realize how many families would require her assistance and how far her cat journey would take her.
Rita founded Just For Cats Pet Sitting, with locations in Charlotte, NC, and Rock Hill, SC. Rita recently merged her Beverly Hills location with the celebrity loved Meowtel. Rita is a member of the Animal Behavior Society, a supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and is a Professional Member of the Cat Writers Association.
Question: Can you tell us about Club Cattitude?
Rita Reimers : I created Club Cattitude so I could help more people with their cat behavior problems and questions. With private consultations, there are only so many people I can reach in person. I wanted to create a place that was an affordable solution for everyone who needs help with their cats. It's also a place for just anyone who wants to learn more about cats in general. I spent 6 years (and went through 5 web designers) creating Club Cattitude, which I envisioned as a place not only for cat behavior information, but a community of people who are dedicated to giving their cats the best care possible.
Question: What impacts does COVID-19 have on animal rescue organizations?
Rita Reimers : Rescues have done a great job working around the COVID-19 challenges. Fostering of both cats and dogs is up, which is wonderful, now that people who were just considering fostering have stepped up to do it. Rescues have new ways of screening both fosters and potential adopters too, with online video chats and scheduled meetings where no other people are present. It has slowed down the adoption process somewhat, but pets are still finding their forever homes, despite COVID-19.
Question: Can you tell us about the importance of cat adoption?
Rita Reimers : There are so many cats and kittens out there who need homes. The ratio of cats to dogs at most shelters is 2 to 1. Sadly, more cats are euthanized than dogs each year, simply because of lack of room. Adopting a cat from a rescue or shelter not only gives that cat a home, but also makes room for another cat to have a chance at life.
Question: What can you tell us about cat behaviour? Do cats have a daily routine?
Rita Reimers : Cats are loving creatures, but they are creatures of habit, too. I suggest people get their cats into some type of routine, especially in the morning and evening. Now what do I mean by this? One of the issues I hear about quite often from people is that their cats don't let them sleep through the night. The reason for this; you are a captive audience when you are in bed, so if your cat has pent up energy or hasn't had enough attention that day, yes he is going to wake you up demanding it.
I suggest people follow PEGS in the morning and evening, to give you both some structure. Let me explain PEGS, which is cats' natural morning and evening ritual in nature:
P = Play/Pray: cats in nature will be hunting for prey both in the mornings and evening, at dusk and dawn when their prey is stirring. For indoor cats, we substitute playtime before meals, to give you both some interaction and to mimic the prey hunt for your cat. Let him catch the toy, so he really feels like he caught his meal.
E = Eat: next, feed your cat his meal, just as if he caught his prey. He will enjoy his meal much more after the playtime hunt.
G = Groom: your cat will naturally groom himself from head to toe, both to remove any remnants of his meal that in nature a predator might smell, and to prepare himself for the next step.
S= Sleep: hunting done, belly full, nice and clean, your cat will enjoy a nice long sleep to digest his food and get ready for the next adventure.
Following PEGS will ensure you can sleep through the night and also that your cats won't have any separation anxiety during the day while you are working. It also helps him release that pent up energy that cats normal use up during the hunt.
Question: We noticed you have 19 cats, how do you manage to take care of each?
Rita Reimers : I do have 19 cats, and I have had up to 20 at a time. I drove cross country with 17 cats when I moved from California to the Carolinas, but I think that's a story for another time. Working in rescue and getting calls about extremely young kittens or cats that had medical or physical issues is how my gang grew to be so large. My cats are a wonderful group of kitties, and they get along well together (with occasional tiffs, just like with children). They each have a special relationship with me, as well as with other cats in the group. Because I practice PEGS, my cats are all in sync with me, and with one another, as to how our daily routine will go. I also make sure each cat gets special one-on-one attention from me, as well as within groups as certain cats hang around together. It does take up quite a lot of time, and it's not a lifestyle for everyone. I wouldn't trade them for anything. A few of my cat loving friends enjoy coming here to visit, so they can spend time with my cats. I wonder if I can open a Kitty B n B!
Question: What other tips do you have for cat owners?
Rita Reimers : I like to say that while a dog may love you instantly, a cat only loves you after being given a reason to do so. Cats are very sweet and loving, but a loving relationship with a cat doesn't just happen. It needs to be nurtured, your cat needs love, attention, playtime, and alone time every single day. I have entered homes where you would not even know a cat live there, which means the cat has not been set up for success in the home. Cats also need cat trees, scratchers, toys, and maybe even a kitty friend to really thrive in our homes so they can act like the wonderful creature they are.
Question: What's next, for you?
Rita Reimers : We are working on a game for our Club Cattitude members called "Simon Says." Our game will teach people about cat behavior, and offer some fun prizes, too! My cat behavior book, The LUCKY CAT, I hope to release later this year. Once we're able to travel again, my business partner, Linda Hall, and I plan to visit cat rescues around the county and create a show we will broadcast on YouTube (or if we're lucky, maybe Animal Planet will pick us up!). And of course, we continue to work on our Cat Products line, Just For Cats by Gracie and Esther. We are about to roll out cat nip mice that are hand-made and stuffed with USA grown organic cat nip, as well as an organic cat nip spray. We also have created hand-made coasters, featuring various fluffy kitties, and we can also take special ordered for purr-sonalized coasters as well.
Interview by Gwen van Montfort