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October 20, 2017

Covered litter boxes

03.29.15  The best litter boxes for cats are large and uncovered. Covered litter boxes can be unpleasant for cats—they keep the odors in and cats feel they can be trapped and ambushed in them. Instead of covered litter boxes, get your cats large, uncovered, transparent plastic storage containers. These boxes have high sides, keeping litter in, but at the same time allowing cats to easily escape. If your cat has difficulty jumping into them, cut a “U” into one side.

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

Large, uncovered storage boxes make perfect litter boxes for cats.

Large, uncovered storage boxes make perfect litter boxes for cats. by Marilyn Krieger.

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.

Redirected Aggression

03.08.2015 Redirected aggression is frightening. It makes enemies out of bonded friends. It happens when animals of any species, unable to respond directly to a threat, vent their frustrations on the nearest animal. Common causes of redirected aggression in cats are neighborhood cats. The inside cats can see and sometimes smell the outsiders but are unable to reach them. Frustrated, they turn their angst onto whoever is nearby. Immediate action needs to be taken. Without risking becoming a victim of the aggression, herd the reactive cat into a room where there are no other animals, including people, and close the door. The room should have a litter box, food, water and a place to sleep. It may take a few hours, over night or longer for the cat to calm down.

Cat looking out of a window.

Cat looking out of a window. by Fotolia.

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

 

Cat Behavior and Medical Issues

03.01.15 Cats need to be examined by veterinarians whenever their behavior changes or they have behavior issues. Felines are subtle—sometimes the only indications of medical problems or injuries are changes in behavior. Elimination issues, aggression as well as other behavior challenges can be caused by painful and sometimes serious diseases, injuries and chronic conditions. Even subtle changes in behavior need to be checked out.

Cats need to be examined by a veterinarian when they display changes in behavior.

Cats need to be examined by a veterinarian when they display changes in behavior. by Shutterstock.

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

Train Cats to Scratch the Right Furniture

Set up for success: cat scratching info-graphic

Many cats are unnecessarily declawed because they scratch household furniture. Although cats have to scratch, they can be easily trained to scratch appropriate objects and avoid scratching couches and carpets.

This info-graphic describes why cats have to scratch and how you can train cats to scratch the right furniture. It is my hope that it will help keep cats from becoming declawed. It first appeared in an article I wrote titled How to Train Cats to Scratch Only Where They Should for Catster.com

You are welcome to use and distribute it as is, without alteration.

Cats can be trained to scratch the right furniture by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

For lively discussions about cats and behavior, please check out The Cat Coach on Facebook.

Cats Show People Affection through Their Tails

11.09.14 Cats have many ways of displaying affection towards their favorite people. One of the sweet ways cats show people affection is through their tails. Sometimes cats will slightly raise the fur around the base while quivering the tail tips. Another way they use them to show affection is by wrapping them around the hands, arms and ankles of their favorite people.

 

Emergency Evacuation Pet Tip

09.07.14 Do not leave your pets behind, take them with you. Arrange for a safe place to go if you have to evacuate. Find friends and relatives outside your area willing to provide you and your pets’ shelter. Locate hotels and inns that accept animals. Check out kennels and boarding facilities. Many vet hospitals board pets. Local animal shelters may provide emergency shelters or foster care as well. List contact information for these safe havens and keep it with the emergency supplies.

If forced to evacuate, do not leave pets at home

If forced to evacuate, do not leave pets at home. Photo by Shutterstock

Rescue Alert Stickers for Pets

08.31.14 Emergencies can occur at any time. Let people know you have pets. Stick a rescue alert sticker where rescue workers can see it–on a window or door. List the number of pets in your home, along with the veterinarians name and contact information on it. Also include your pets hiding places. Free rescue alert stickers for pets are available from the ASPCA or purchase them from Petco.

Make a note on the stickers of the cats hiding places

Emergency Preparedness Tips: Make a note on the stickers of the cats hiding places

 

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!

 

Maulee’s Story: Obituary for a Bengal Cat

Although, I cherish all of my cats, there is one who stands out. I am not sure why that happens. Maulee was my heart cat.

Maulee was my first Bengal. In 2001, we drove into a remote area in Oregon to adopt her. She was seven years old at the time. The woman who owned her sent me loads of pictures. In all of them, Maulee looked very pissed off. Who in their right mind would drive hundreds of miles to another state to rescue a cat who obviously wasn’t friendly?

Adoption picture of Maulee

Not a happy cat

She was originally part of a breeding program but was retired after one litter due to a congenital problem. Her original name was three words too long and did not describe her personality. We renamed her Maulee. She lived up to her new name.

Rough beginnings

Maulee did not like people and she had IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)—not a great combination for a cat who would have to be medicated. Whenever anyone came within 10 feet of her, she would start foaming from her mouth, hissing and spitting. What had I gotten myself into? Maulee and I had a rocky beginning together.

The first few weeks were traumatic for everyone. Then I found a secret weapon—chicken. Chicken along with the art of non-action won her over. I sat on the floor a short distance from her, making sure that she was never cornered. She needed to be able to retreat. I called her name and tossed her a piece of chicken. And, I sang to her. She sang back. Whenever I paused in my song, she chirped and chortled. I always reinforced her responses with pieces of chicken.

With time and patience, I slowly earned Maulee’s trust. Play helped too. I discovered she loved pole toys and would wait by the door for our daily sessions to chase toys around the room. Of course, I always gave her either a meal or a piece of chicken after each play session.

Medical issues

Because of her IBD and food allergies, it was important that she develop a good relationship with her cat carrier. Trips to the vet had to be as stress-free as possible. I kept the carrier in her room, made it part of the furniture. It lived with her. Sometimes I fed and threw treats in it. I also put toys inside and made it a comfortable place to sleep. After about one week, Maulee voluntarily hung out in it. The little Bengal loved her carrier. It grew to be a safe place for her to go. She would seek it out when she was startled by a noise or sudden movement and when she didn’t feel good.

Maulee had severe IBD. I tried many different diets and proteins until I finally found a diet she tolerated and loved—canned Venison and Pea.  Thankfully, she could also eat small pieces of chicken without getting sick. She also needed a cocktail of medications—twice a day. How does one medicate a cat without traumatizing both the cat and the piller? Especially a cat who does not fancy being touched.  Positive reinforcement of course! I will write a follow up blog about medicating Maulee. She will continue to teach, even after her death.

From anti-social to social butterfly

Who knew? Within a few years, Maulee became a lap cat. She also enjoyed hanging out with my friends who came to my house specifically to socialize with her. She had to be an active part of whatever was going on and always had lots to say.

Maulee sleeping

Maulee sleeping on my lap

Maulee in the media

In 2005 Maulee and I discovered clicker training.  She was 12 years old at the time. Maulee was a fast and eager learner—quickly learning to sit, stay, shake hands, find my keys, follow directional hand signals and jump through hoops. A year later we were contacted by Ken Bastida, the news anchor at CBS. He wanted to come over and do a segment on purring. Since Maulee was big on purring, she was perfect for the segment. She wowed Ken and the camera crew with her beauty, inquisitiveness, her singing voice and personality. Maulee was a natural. This was the start of her media career. She was featured on many other programs, including Animal Planet’s Cats 101. 

A couple of months ago she was in a segment about hybrid cats, hosted by Monte Francis on NBC Live.

Maulee helped me write my book Naughty No More! as well as my articles. While I wrote, she usually slept either in my lap or between my keyboard and my monitor.

Maulee help me write my book Naughty No More!

Maulee helped me write

She helped in other ways as well. Maulee’s antics caused me to develop creative solutions for specific challenging cat behaviors. Additionally, because of her, I started to work on ways that seem to slow down the symptoms of feline dementia.

Can dementia be reversed?

Maulee’s behavior started changing when she was about 16 years old. Sometimes I found her facing a dark corner, crying and calling. Other times she wandered aimlessly around the house, disoriented and lost. It was heartbreaking.

The vet did a thorough exam and found nothing medical that would cause the concerning behaviors. He agreed that Maulee was suffering from feline cognitive dysfunction. Maulee and I started to experiment until I found a combination of specific activities along with slight changes to the environment that seemed to decrease her symptoms. Once again, she was my bright, mischievous Maulee.  Although the disease probably cannot be stopped or reversed, perhaps its progression can be slowed down.

Now, other elderly cats suffering with feline dementia are benefiting from the plan I developed for Maulee.

Activities seem to slow down Maulee's symptoms of dementia

Maulee, at 19 years old sitting pretty

The last days

Maulee’s IBD got the better of her, as it does with so many cats. The last year of her life, she no longer tolerated commercial food of any kind. She also could not eat raw. Since the only protein she did not react to was pork, I cooked a special diet of pork and peas with added supplements for her. She was not thrilled with the diet, but she ate it. I made her meals more palatable by sprinkling powdered chicken on top. Her medications were adjusted and we went to holistic as well as western veterinarians. I did everything possible to slow down the progression of the disease and I lost.

I helped Maulee cross the bridge on Sunday, September 15th, 1:45 PM. I miss my Maulee. Although she is no longer here, her legacy continues through the lessons I learned from her and can pass on.

Obituary for Maulee a Bengal Cat

Sleep in peace my little one.

February 14, 1993–September 15, 2013