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June 26, 2017

Obesity is Unhealthy for Cats

03.15.15 Obesity is unhealthy for cats. It can lead to serious medical issues and it decreases life expectancy. Before putting cats on diets or exercise programs, have them thoroughly examined by a veterinarian.

Help keep your cats svelte by encouraging them to work a little for their meals. Instead of food bowls, place small portions of food and treats on cat trees, shelves, in puzzle feeders and boxes. Do treat rolls. Roll cat food and treats on the floor for them to chase. If you have a stairwell, roll the food down the stairs. Play also helps burn calories. Use a pole toy to encourage cats to move and climb by pulling it on cat trees, shelves and sofas. Always be mindful of your cat’s age and physical conditioning. A little movement for an elderly or unhealthy cat can go a long way.

For lively discussions about cat behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook

Obesity is unhealthy for cats.

Obesity is unhealthy for cats. by Fotolia.

Tips for Adding Vertical Territory for Cats

Let’s Get Vertical!

Cats need vertical territory. The term “vertical territory” is a catchall phrase that describes the high places cats climb and jump up too. It takes many forms—commercial and homemade. You do not have to go in debt in order to give your cats high places to hang out. You can make your own or use household furniture and architectural elements that are already built into your home. Armoires, bookshelves and the tops of entertainment centers are perfect places for cats to lounge and nap. Architectural elements such as beams and windows with wide sills can also double as vertical territory. Other solutions include readymade cat furniture such as cat trees, condos and shelves.

Tips for adding vertical territory. Great example of vertical territory

Example of good vertical territory

Vertical territory (VT) serves many functions for cats. It helps them feel safe, secure and entertained. From up high, cats can survey their world, picking out a stray morsel of food, watch the goings on in their homes and they can observe other resident animals who may pose a threat to them.

VT is one of a few ways cats show their position in their changing hierarchy. Cats are into time and room sharing. One cat might occupy the top shelf of a cat tree during the morning, another at night, while another surveys her world from up high in another room. Many factors determine where cats sit in relationship to each other. It can be as subtle as a change in room temperature, a favorite persons’ presence, the arrival of food or it may be that one cat is feeling a bit under the weather. VT helps keep the peace.  For more details about why cats need VT, check out: Being High is Good. Vertical Territory Matters.

Tips for adding vertical territory. My cat playing in his cat tree

My cat, Sudan, playing in his cat tree

Not all vertical territory is created equal: tips for adding vertical territory

Some VT solutions are perfect—others not so much. Consider these five points when buying or building cat furniture:

  1. Stability. Cat furniture needs to be stable and should not have the wobbles. If it wobbles, stabilize it with extra hardware.
  2. Shelf size matters. Shelves and perches should be large enough to accommodate 1-2 cats. Kitties like to have the option of stretching out and lounging. Many delight in sharing a shelf with a buddy, especially on a cold day when they snuggle together for warmth.
  3. Check shelving surfaces. Although some creative interpretations of cat furniture are beautiful to look at, they may not be ideal for cats. Some have perches finished with a slick varnish. Cats can slip and fall when jumping up on them. Additionally, many cats find hard surfaces uncomfortable for napping. Make the slick surfaces comfortable and slip-free by firmly securing sisal, cat beds or other material to them.
  4. Keep it safe. Rambunctious cats can cause shelves to crash to the floor and cat trees to topple. Make them safe by securing shelves to the wall with substantial brackets and by attaching stabilizing pieces of plywood to the bases of unstable cat trees.
  5. Think accessibility. Cats who have special needs and those who are not quite as agile as they once were may find it difficult to navigate tall cat furniture. Help them access the tops by giving them furniture that has shelves down low they can easily reach. The lower shelves will help the special kitties safely climb to the higher perches. Pet stairs and chairs, placed next to the furniture, will also help them enjoy hanging out on cat trees and shelves.

Don’t skimp on vertical territory. More is more—your cat will thank you for it.

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More information on how to keep cats happy is found in Marilyn’s book Naughty No More!

 

Hiding Places

02.10.13 In addition to high places to climb, cats enjoy places to hide. Most cats like hanging out in tunnels, igloos and paper bags with no handles.  One homemade solution is to cut large circles in the bottom and sides of a few boxes and then firmly secure them to each other—creating a tunnel with 3 or 4 access points (bottom, two sides and possible the top).

Say No to Used Cat furniture

01.20.13 Cat posts, cat trees and other cat furniture should always be new and never used by a cat outside the household. Some infectious diseases are transmitted through pathogens on objects. In addition, cats mark territory through scratching and rubbing. Used cat furniture marked by other cats can stress cats and cause behavior problems.

Creative Meal Times for Cats: Part II

In addition to feeding cats with the creative food containers described in last weeks’ blog-article,  meal times can be spiced up with food games and increased feeding times.

Treasure hunts and treat rolls

Cat Behavior-Feeding Cats. Jinniyha on a treasure hunt

Jinniyha on a treasure hunt

Treasure hunts are fun for everyone—cats and their humans. The goal of a treasure hunt is for cats to seek and find their food. In the process of tracking down tasty morsels of food, they burn calories and exercise—perfect for those kitties living a sedentary life.

Strategically place treats and small pieces of food on shelves, cat trees, sofas, in puzzle boxes and in toys. The game starts simple, becoming increasingly more challenging as the participants understand their roles. Start by putting small pieces of food near the cat. A widely spaced trail of food then leads to low shelves. The next step is planting the treats and food in harder-to-access locations such as high shelves, tunnels, paper bags, boxes and toys.

After the cat effortlessly finds the food, make the game slightly more difficult. Instead of letting her observe the food placement, temporarily put her in another room and close the door while placing food in other areas. Then open the door. The kitty will have to rely more on her nose then her eyes for locating the food.

Add an occasional treat roll for diversity. Although treat rolls work well in homes with stairs, they are also effective on flat surfaces. Treat rolls are exactly as described. Roll treats on the floor or down the stairs and the cat will chase, catch and munch down on them.

Because these food games should stimulate and not frustrate, they need to be tailored to each individual. Every cat is different. Those who are older or have physical limitations cannot climb as high or move as fast as young, healthier cats.

An example of treasure hunts for kitties with limitations is positioning a smattering of treats in circle patterns around them. In order to access the food morsels, they will have to locate and walk to each treat.  Energetic attention seekers benefit from more challenging games—climbing higher for prizes and seeking food in harder to reach areas. Monitor cats—treasure hunts should be stimulating and fun, not unpleasant and aggravating. Additionally, they need to eat their allotted portions of food every day.

Multiple small meals

Cats are not designed to graze. In the wild, they do not meander over to a food bowls for snacks when they are hungry. Instead of free feeding or feeding only two meals a day, divide the food up into smaller portions and increase the number of meals fed each day. Auto feeders are perfect for this task. They can be adjusted to automatically open at specific times throughout the day and night. Some have ice packs, designed for keeping canned food fresh.

Diversity

Make it fun for everyone involved. Alternating between feeding cats through treasure hunts, treat rolls and creative food containers keeps meal times from becoming mundane and boring. Additionally, these creative feeding solutions burn calories and provide stimulation.

More help

For further help with cat behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.

Cat Behavior Feeding Cats Asia

Asia

Creative Meal Times for Cats: Part I

Some cats go into high gear as soon as they spot food. Meal times become feeding frenzies—a race starting the moment the food bowl hits the floor. They are voracious around food—inhaling their meal the instant it looms into view. Other household residents need to be vigilant. No meal is safe. The probability of eating a leisurely meal when living with a ravenous eater plummets to nil.

Motivations for this frustrating behavior vary. Felines who had rough beginnings—former strays who did not know when they’d eat again often exhibit this annoying behavior. Boredom is also a factor. Eating helps pass the time when there is not enough mental or physical stimulation. And let’s not forget the foodies. They simply love eating. Whatever the motivations, the results are the same. Cats who eat too much too fast often vomit undigested food. Eating too quickly can also cause cats to gag. Another consequence of over-indulgence is obesity.

The Mandatory vet check

Before approaching this as a behavior issue, cats with eating disorders need to be examined by their veterinarians. Medical issues, including parasites, can cause them to eat like there is no tomorrow.

Will work for food

Cats are predators—our household kitties’ feral cousins hunt for a living. Meals are not served in bowls or placed on platters. Neither do they graze whenever the mood for a nosh hits them. Hunting is hard work and it is mentally and physically stimulating. Keep in mind that hunting for a living is dangerous and food can be scarce. When ferals and other wild cats are not successful hunters, they do not survive.

Although felines are safer and live longer and healthier lives indoors, they still have instinctual hunting behaviors. Meal times for indoor cats can become almost as stimulating as hunting—without the outdoor dangers.

Creative feeding

Maulee retrieving treats from the Nina Ottosson Dog Spinny

Meals become exciting by changing how cats access their food. Standard food bowls are pretty boring and don’t encourage working for food. Exciting feeding systems include muffin tins, puzzle boxes and treat balls. It takes more effort to retrieve food from them. An added benefit is that cats are less likely to inhale their food and then immediately vomit because it slows down the food intake. Favorite puzzle toys include the Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado, Dog Brick and the Dog Spinny . Although these were originally designed for dogs, they are perfect for cats. Food and treats are placed in the different compartments and the kitties have to work for their food—spinning bones or sliding covers off compartments. The Stimulo Cat Feeding Station is an alternative feeding system for canned food. It comes equipped with cups of different heights.

Switching between food delivery systems also adds interest and spices up meals. It is important to monitor the use of creative feeding solutions—cats should be slightly challenged, not frustrated by them.

Part II of Creative Meal Times for Cats will be published next week. It will focus on food games and small meals.

More help

For further help with cat behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.