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January 25, 2021

Litter box Bit Tip: The Right Size

11.25.12  Make sure litter boxes are large enough to accommodate your cat. Ideally the size of litter boxes is 1.5 times the length of your cat.

Cat Aggression

Petting induced aggression

There are many flavors of aggression, caused by a variety of triggers. One common aggression that seems to come out of left field is petting induced aggression. It usually occurs when devoted cat people are having special moments with their cats, petting, stroking and cuddling. Suddenly “out of nowhere” their beloved cats turns, bites and sometimes scratches. The physical and emotional damage can be painful. Along with bites and scratches, the victims often take the aggression personally. It just doesn’t make sense to cat-parents why their cats, who they are so bonded to, suddenly hurt them.

The cat isn’t being bad, nor does the cat have a sudden vendetta against her person. Petting induced aggression usually occurs when being stroked and touched becomes unpleasant for the cat. The cat may have a sensitive spot or the stroking may become too intense for her. Or, she may be falling asleep and suddenly is startled awake. In the majority of cases, the cat does try to communicate through her body language that she’s had enough. Unfortunately, most people don’t catch on to her subtle hints. When all other endeavors at communication fail, the cat uses a direct approach that is immediately understood—she bites or scratches.

Avoid being a victim of petting induced aggression by first learning to recognize the warnings. Cats communicate through body language and sometimes through vocalizations when they’ve had enough handling and petting. When cats have had their fill they often communicate their wishes by thrashing their tails, positioning their ears back, flattening whiskers against their face, tenseness and fur rippling. If these subtle messages are ignored, cats will look quickly at the hand that is petting them and then will bite it.

The next step to avoid being a victim of petting induced aggression is simple. As soon as the cat communicates her discomfort at being handled, stop interacting with her. After a time out you may be able to carefully pet her again, avoiding the sensitive areas and varying how she is petted.

Fat Cats

Many of the cats that I see are over indulging in the culinary delights that are being offered to them. Lately, it seems that the majority of cats that I visit are more then pleasingly plump. Unfortunately, obesity is a health concern in cats. The Winn Foundation has a very good article on obesity in cats and why obesity puts cats at risk for diabetes, hepatic lipidosis as well as other diseases. One alarming fact in this article is that somewhere between 40-50% of household cats suffer from obesity.

Why do we see more cats now suffering from obesity? What can be done about it? There are few reasons for this obesity trend that we are seeing in our cats. I will focus on one of the causes and a few possible solutions.

Thankfully, more people now keep their cats in 24/7 (a good thing), but they are failing to provide them adequate exercise and environmental enrichment. This is relatively easy to remedy through a few environmental additions and activities. Before doing any of these, please check with your veterinarian. Your vet may also prescribe a special diet for your porky kitty.

§        Treat balls. Many people free feed their cats, leaving bowls of food out all of the time for the cats. Free feeding and dry food can contribute to a cat’s over-weight challenges. If you must free feed, instead of leaving the food out in bowls, encourage your cat to work for his food. Put his food in treat balls. Treat balls are hard hollow balls with holes in them. You fill them either with dry food or treats. The cat has to work for his food, rolling the treat ball around in order to have access to the food. My favorite treat balls are Play-N-Treat and the Talk to me Treat balls.

§        Tall cat trees. Give your feline friend tall cat trees to climb. They should be at least 6 feet tall and have lots of wide shelves. Make sure the trees are stable and strong. Cats like cat trees that are placed next to secure windows. Putting bird feeders out in the spring or summer will provide endless hours of entertainment.

§        Treasure hunts. Use a small portion of your cat’s regular food and conduct treasure hunts. Hide the food up in the cat trees or on window perches or up on cabinets. The goal is for the cat to work for his food instead of grazing for food in a bowl.

§        Play time. Schedule regular play times with your cats. Use fishing pole toys and other toys that will encourage your cat to move around. Don’t overdo the exercise, gradually increase the time you play with your cat, based on your cat’s health and abilities. You do not want to over extend or compromise the health of the cat. Make sure to talk to your vet about the limits.

§        Interactive toys. TurboScratchers and puzzle boxes are a couple of fun interactive toys that can keep cats occupied for hours. TurboScratchers are round flat objects with a round cardboard scratcher in the middle, surrounded by a channel. In the channel there is a ping pong ball. You can add your cat’s favorite toys in the channel, or the channel can be another place for the treasure hunts. Puzzle boxes are boxes with lots of holes in them. There are already a few toys in the boxes and you can add your cat’s favorites. Additionally,  like the TurboScratcher, puzzle boxes can be used for treasure hunts.

§        Clicker training is always a great tool for encouraging your cat to move around and do various behaviors.

These are just a few suggestions on how to help your cat-friend slim down a little. It’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian, you want to make sure that whatever weight loss or exercise plan you put your kitty on is safe and healthy.

If you have other ideas for helping cats slim down, please add them in the comments. I would love to see a discussion about this.