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January 29, 2020

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

 

Grooming Helps Keep Cats Cool

08.24.14 Help your cats keep cool by brushing them every day. In addition to preventing matting, daily grooming helps shed undercoats. Some kitties also enjoy being petted and massaged with a cool damp cloth.

Maulee keeping cool

Maulee keeping cool

Cats and Heat Stroke

08.10.14 Cats can quickly overheat on hot days. Watch for panting, drooling, sweating paws and restlessness. Cats will often excessively groom in an effort to cool off. Extreme signs include vomiting, lethargy and stumbling.

AsiaGrooming2

Hot Weather Tips for Pets: Cool it Down

Have plenty of fresh water available for your companion animals. Cool the water down with an ice cube. Add water to canned food to help keep them hydrated. Place water bowls in the shade for outside animals. Fill a 1-2 liter bottle with water, freeze it and put it accessible areas to help keep them cool. (TY Tracy P for the suggestion)

Hot weather tips for pets. Add water to the canned food

Hot weather tips for pets. Add water to the canned food

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

My New Caricature

Ask a Behaviorist

Ask a Behaviorist: Caricature of Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

Guess who this is! This is a caricature of yours truly and I love it! I’ve been writing two articles a month for Catster (Ask the Behaviorist) since February. Starting with my May 23rd article, this is my new visual identity in Catster. The artist is the talented Nigel Sussman. Although, I think he did an exceptional job on the whole image, his depiction of the Bengal rocks. The first of my articles that displayed the new identity is my piece about clicker training: Can You Actually Train a Cat? Sure — Here’s How.

Myths about Cats and Cat Behavior

Myths and misconceptions have been spun about cats ever since people started sharing their world with them. Some paint cats as mysterious, others put them in league with the devil. Different factors shaped these inaccurate beliefs—one of the strongest contributors to these myths is that people have found cats and their behaviors puzzling. Many of these erroneous beliefs persist today. Unfortunately, some are harmful and life threatening for cats.

Four of these misconceptions I frequently encounter are:

Cat behaviors can’t be changed

“I used to have a cat, but he peed on the furniture so he had to go”.

Many people believe that once a cat is repeatedly displaying an unwanted behavior, the behavior can’t be stopped. This is a dangerous myth because the consequences include surrendering cats to shelters, abandoning and euthanizing them for fixable behavior problems.

Although some behavior challenges are unpleasant to live with, they can be resolved through a combination of addressing the reasons for the behavior, behavior modification and by making changes to the environment. This is what I do.

Cats can’t be trained

 “No way can cats be trained like we trained our dog!”

The concept that a cat can open his carrier door, go in and close it behind him is often met with eye rolls and heads shaken in disbelief. Many people usually stare in blank befuddlement when told that cats can be trained to do tricks such as shaking hands and jumping through hoops—tricks acceptable and expected from dogs. These folks mistakenly think cats do whatever they want, only when they want and that they cannot be trained. Popular quotes support their misguided beliefs. “Dogs have owners, cats have staff”. “Cats take a message and get back to you”. Although, these idioms may sound catchy and cute, they perpetuate the stereotype that cats are un-trainable.


Cats, like all animals, are trainable. Clicker training, a scientific and force-free method is a popular and effective training technique. Felines can be easily trained to do many of the same tricks dogs are taught to do, such as sitting, shaking hands, playing dead and jumping through hoops. An added benefit is that clicker training is fun for both the learner and the teacher. It’s also a great tool for helping to resolve behavior challenges such as fearful behaviors, furniture scratching, counter surfing as well as many other troublesome behaviors. My book, Naughty No More! details how to use clicker training in conjunction with other force-free methods to solve behavior problems and teach tricks.

Cats are independent and self-contained

“My cat can be alone for a couple of days. I’ll leave enough food for him to eat while I’m gone”. 

There is a widely held belief that cats are self-sufficient and can fend for themselves. The results of this fallacious assumption include cats left to fend for themselves while their people enjoy a holiday away from home as well as being left alone for hours every day without the benefit of a companion or environmental enrichment.

Often cats are chosen as companions over dogs because they are said to be more self-contained and require less maintenance then dogs. To a small degree that is correct. Cats don’t need to be walked and they spend a good portion of their day napping. They are also proficient litter box users.  Regardless of the differences, they still need fresh food and water every day and their litter boxes need to be scooped minimally once a day. Additionally, cats need companionship and mental stimulation. Leaving them alone while on holiday or for hours every day with nothing to do and no one to socialize with can lead to depression, obesity and destructive behaviors.

Cats need privacy

“I spent $500 on a painted designer litter box cabinet. It functions beautifully as a side table and hides the cat box!”

Myths about cats and cat behavior

Litter box hidden in a cabinet

Litter boxes are often placed in cabinets, closets and other out-of-sight areas because people are under the impression that cats need privacy when they go to the bathroom. These may seem like ideal locations for litter boxes because they are out of the way, hidden from view and private. Although this might be a perfect solution for people, it’s not for cats. They have a different perspective on ideal places to eliminate. Often what is perfect from a cat’s viewpoint clashes with their people’s preferences for litter box placements.

Survival and safety take priority over privacy any day. Cats prefer eliminating in areas where they can’t be potentially trapped or ambushed by another animal. Cabinets and closets are perfect set ups for ambush. The types of boxes make a difference too. In addition to the trap potential, covered boxes retain unappealing odors.

An ideal location for a litter box is against the wall in a large room—not in a cabinet or enclosed in a closet. The view from the litter box should be expansive. The cat needs to see the whole room, out the door and down the hall (if there is one). A box with a view is perfect for identifying any potential threat which can then easily be escape from. Litter boxes should not be placed in high traffic areas or areas with lots of noise and activity. Although cats aren’t into privacy like people are, they do not want to do their business in high traffic areas either.

Help for Cat Behavior Challenges is Available

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

 

Doing it the Happy Way

01.06.13  After explaining why using force-free approaches for behavior change is extremely effective and do not have the negative fallout of punishment-based methods my client wrote the following: “Doing it the happy way will be much better”. She is right.

Cats and Redirected Aggression

Aggression is a universal animal behavior. Cats, like all animals can become aggressive depending on the circumstances. One common aggressive behavior cats and other animals sometimes display is called redirected aggression.

cat behavior redirected aggressionThere are many flavors of aggression, all triggered by a variety of circumstances and expressed in a number of ways. Aggressive displays usually start with vocalizations, though cats sometimes initially broadcast their agitation through spraying and other marking behaviors. If the problem isn’t resolved or contained the agitation can escalate to the point of becoming physically harmful. It is terrible to witness aggression—worse to become the recipient of the behavior.

Definition and causes of redirected aggression

Redirected aggression is an alarming behavior that animals, including cats display under specific circumstances. This behavior makes victims out of innocent by-standers. Anyone, cat, dog or person who happens to be nearby or attempts to intervene can become the unfortunate recipient. Redirected aggression occurs when cats cannot respond directly to perceived threats and subsequently vent their frustrations on to the nearest animal. Other unexpected and startling stimuli in the environment can also cause this frightening reaction. The most common causes of redirected aggression in cats are other animals. Cat parents sometimes witness neighborhood animals hanging out around their homes—in full view of their indoor resident cats. The agitated insiders respond fractiously to the unwelcome visitors, doing everything within their power to reach the instigators, but without success. Being highly agitated, they turn their frustrations on whoever is nearest to them.

The fall out of redirected aggression

This aggression can lead to serious consequences. If the behavior is not immediately addressed, cats who were bonded buddies can become sworn life-time enemies. The experience can be so traumatic, that a once sweet relationship becomes fearful and vicious. Although the cats probably do not remember the initial trigger, they have formed negative and fearful associations with each other.

Addressing redirected aggression

Take steps to keep redirected aggression from destroying relationships. In addition to immediately separating fractious cats from each other, remove them from the source of the aggression. Ideally, it is best to separate them before they start brawling, but that is not always possible. Never use hands, other body parts or stand between fighting animals. Doing so pretty much guarantees becoming a casualty of war.

Depending on the circumstances and the intensity of the interaction, a flat piece of cardboard, slipped between the cats can create an instance of distraction and separation—an opportunity for one cat to flee. Sometimes a loud noise can briefly interrupt the fighting, long enough for one of the cats to escape. Every situation is different, what works to separate cats in one may not work in another.

Can we be friends again?

Warring animals, once separated should be herded into their own quiet rooms for a cool off period away from each other. Darken the rooms by pulling shades and turning lights off and then leave them alone. Cool down periods may last a few hours or a day.

Because the fall out of redirected aggression can be serious and long lasting, cats may need to remain in separate areas for awhile and then gradually re-introduced to each other.

More help

For further help with redirected aggression or other behavior challenges, contact Marilyn to discuss scheduling a consultation.

Change Unwanted Cat Behaviors

12.30.12 Too many cats are surrendered to shelters and euthanized for fixable behavior problems. Behaviors can be changed through environmental and behavior modifications along with other force-free methods. A certified cat behavior consultant can identify the behavior triggers and develop an effective plan.