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December 10, 2019

Cats Use a Variety of Ways to Mark

11.02.14 Cats use a variety of ways to mark territories and objects. Cats, who have not been fixed, typically mark their territories through urine and fecal marking.  Other ways cats show ownership is by scratching objects and by lip/mouth rubbing them.

Cats mark by scratching objects

Cats mark by scratching objects

It’s a Toy! It’s a Scratcher!

Cats are not designed to be bored. They are intelligent predators who need activities and toys to stimulate them mentally and physically. There are a variety of toys on the market that are designed to enrich their lives—some are more affective at fighting boredom then others.

Treasure hunt in the Turbo Scratcher

Kingsley and Sudan searching for treats in the Turbo Scratcher(r)

Turbo Scratcher® Review

I am always on the search for cat toys that mentally stimulate and physically motivate cats. There are two types I am on the alert for—interactive toys that people use to play with their cats and toys that cats can interact with when their people are not around to entertain them. One toy that stands out for me is the Turbo Scratcher®. Most cats enjoy interacting with this toy with or without the benefit of people intervention. Turbo Scratchers® are always marked as must-have toys on product lists I send my cat behavior clients.

The Turbo Scratcher® is multi-functional. In addition to mentally stimulating cats, it is a behavior tool. The TS is a flat, circular combo toy/scratcher with a replaceable cardboard scratcher in the center. Circling the scratcher is a tract with a ball inside.  This toy takes the frustration factor out of playing. The tract is open from the top—perfect for directly interacting with the ball. Because play is an extension of the hunt, cats need to catch their prey and feel it under their paws. The open tract design is perfect for satisfying this need—allowing them to chase and finally catch the ball.

Additionally, Turbo Scratchers® are perfect for hiding treats in when conducting treasure hunts. Encouraging cats to hunt and work for treats helps burn calories and mentally stimulates them. Treats are placed throughout a room, on vertical territory (cat trees), shelves, in puzzle boxes and of course in the TS. The added benefit of hiding a few treats in the TS is that cats typically will bat the ball around a bit while fishing for their treats.

It goes without saying—the Turbo Scratcher® is also a scratcher. Cats need to scratch for a variety of reasons. In addition to nail maintenance, marking territory, scratching when frustrated, they scratch when playing and when they excessive energy. The TS, being multi-functional, encourages cats to both scratch and play.

I like this combo scratcher/toy. It addresses cat behavior. I have not found many other cat toys that are as versatile and multi-functional as the Turbo Scratcher®.

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.

Ups and Downs

Before I muse about safety in high places, I need to give a lame explanation. I know it’s been forever since I’ve blogged. I’ve been so busy with other projects, including consultations, my columns for Cat Fancy Magazine and catchannel.com and a few others, that I just haven’t been able to sit down and blog. My dad’s sad and awful death has also been on my mind. It’s been an up and down year…

Talking about ups and downs… a recent mishap with one of my cats has inspired me to write about the importance of safety around cat trees and high places. Last month, my 15 year old cat, Maulee had a terrible accident, which resulted in a major laceration, Ms. Maulee loved to sit about 7 feet high in my laundry room. Unfortunately, the pillow she was surveying her world from, shifted under her weight and she fell, causing her major damage. She did not land on her feet. The good news is that after surgery and many hours at the vet clinic, she’s fine.

Her accident has prompted me to talk about safety. Yes, cats do need high places to sit for a variety of reasons. Those high places need to be safe. If you have cat trees, make sure the bases are stable enough that the whole tree can’t topple over. You may need to either add a larger piece of wood on the base, or secure the cat tree to the wall somehow. Also, the shelves should be wide enough to accommodate at least one cat, if not two. Always provide escape hatches, so that a cat can’t be cornered. In other words, have more then one way off and on the top shelf and these shelves or pieces of furniture need to be at different heights.

If shelves are used for vertical territory, make sure they are really securely fastened into the wall. Also, they need to be wide. I like shelves that are at least 10 inches wide, with a lip. Again, there needs to be multiple ways up and down so that a cat can’t feel like she can be ambushed by another cat.

Don’t make my mistake! If there are pillows up high on shelves or high furniture, make sure they are secure so that your cat can’t accidentally knock them off and fall. Velcro might work for this.

I spent about one hour yesterday rearranging the location of one of my cat trees so that my cats didn’t have such a long way to jump off of the top of one of my cat trees. One of my cats had gotten into the uncomfortable habit of jumping from 7 feet down to the floor, instead of using the shelves