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November 18, 2018

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.

Cats for a Busy Life Style

Life styles are changing. People are spending more time away from home—working longer, harder hours. Some, out of necessity, are working two or more jobs.  Understandably, cat-parents are concerned that their grueling schedules are adversely affecting their cats.  They wonder if there are specific breeds they can adopt who do well when left alone. Recently I was interviewed for two different publications, both interviewers asked me the same question “What breeds of cats are best for people who spend long hours away from home?

Although some breeds are sedate and seem more self reliant then others, no cat does well when left alone for long hours every day without companionship or stimulation. They can become depressed, bored and lethargic. Some develop behavior challenges such as over-grooming, litter box avoidance or other destructive behaviors.

Busy cat parents with active life-styles do not have to forgo cat companionship. They can take steps to keep their felines stimulated while working those long hours away from home.

A buddy

© Konstantin Kovtun - Fotolia.com

Two cats are better than one © Konstantin Kovtun – Fotolia.com

People who do not spend much time at home should seek out and adopt cats who are bonded to each other. Bonded friends keep each other entertained while their favorite people are away. Adopting a new friend for the resident cat is also an option. It is essential that both cats have histories of getting along well with other felines.  Adopters should be aware that successful introductions could take weeks, sometimes months.

Environmental enrichment

Creating cat-centric home environments will help mentally stimulate cats. Although homes do not have to become Cat Disneylands, they do need to be equipped with cat furniture and toys.  Toys cats can interact with by themselves will keep them engaged and active. Puzzle boxes, Turbo Scratchers, puzzle feeders as well as ping-pong balls are good toy choices. Boxes and paper bags without handles become intriguing places to explore and hide in.

Homes need to be furnished with vertical territory such as shelving, window perches and tall cat trees. Cat trees put in front of windows are perfect places for cats to relax and watch the daily happenings in the neighborhood.

Activities

Cats are predators—their feral counterparts hunt for a living. Meal and treat times should become mentally and physically stimulating. Instead of placing cat food in bowls or tossing treats directly to them, encourage cats to work a little for their food. Treasure hunts are the perfect solution.  Before leaving for the day, busy cat parents can hide treats and dry food throughout the home—on cat trees, shelves, in tunnels, paper bags, cardboard boxes, puzzle boxes, Turbo Scratchers and in other toys.

Don’t forget clicker training and play! Clicker training is a fun activity for everyone—cats and their people alike. It helps keep cats mentally challenged, physically active and strengthens relationships between cats and their people.

Daily play sessions using pole-type toys will also help keep cats from becoming bored. The toy is pulled away from the cat in a way that imitates hunting. These types of toys should always be placed out of cat reach when no one is around to supervise.

Quality time

In addition to activities and creating a cat-centric environment, cat people need to spend quality one-on-one time with their cats every day. Special times together include cuddle and lap times and active play and clicker training sessions. Quality time benefits all participants—cats and their favorite people alike.

More help

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

Post Byte: Scratch & Play

04.15.12 A toy that cats love combines playing and scratching. The toy has a flat, circular cardboard scratcher in the center which is surrounded by a plastic channel, open from the top which contains a ping-pong ball.

Cat Toys and Environmental Enrichment!

I am sure that it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I am a big proponent of environmental enrichment for cats.

Cats get bored, especially cats left alone for hours every day with nothing to do and no one to interact with. Sometimes these cats can become depressed and/or start exhibiting troublesome behaviors. Interactive toys, lots of high places to climb and horizontal and vertical scratchers can help keep them stimulated. Depending on the situation, a new cat buddy might chase away those boredom blues.

I am always on the lookout for toys that I can recommend to my clients. Although I like puzzle toys and toys that don’t need human involvement, I really like toys that need people on one end and cats on the other—the interaction helps strengthen the bonds between cats and their people.

I usually don’t review products. I don’t like writing negative reviews… so to be fair, I usually don’t write reviews. Occasionally I’ll give in and write a review—especially when I’ve found something that really rocks my socks. In order to rock my socks, the products have to earn top grades from my rambunctious cats. In regards to toys, this means, they have to not only excite and delight, but they have to withstand extreme play from a 22 pound Savannah and a gaggle of Bengals and one cantankerous Norwegian Forest Cat.

Two toys pass with flying colors.

The first are the Nekoflies toys, by Nekochan. These are toys with interchangeable kritters that attach to a wand. My cats paid attention even before I assembled them… I think they have special Cat ToyDar—sensing toys are theirs before they meet them. Neko sent me two wands and a Katarantula, Kragonfly and a Kittenator. The  Katarantula, Kragonfly and Kittenator are the toys that attach to the rods… Anyway, that’s the theory.

My intentions were to start with the Kittenator. As I was removing it from the box, Sudan, my Savannah, grabbed it while it was still in the box and ran through the house with it clenched firmly in his mouth. It was his until something better was unpacked—the  Kragonfly. All of my cats, including my 19 year old Maulee (19 on Valentines Day) went ballistic over these toys. So far the Neko toys have successfully survived sliming, chewing, being buried, chased, pulled and rolled on.

Neko toys should not be left within reach of cats unless there is someone to supervise. These are wand/pole toys and have pieces that can be potentially dangerous.

The second toys that impressed me are the durable Hyendry toys. My Bengals and Savannah enjoy carrying the alpaca and sheep hide toys throughout the house, sometimes throwing them up in the air, sometimes rolling on them. I never know where the toys will end up. Yesterday, during a meeting, I reached for my glasses, but found an alpaca toy filled with cat nip living in my purse. The day before I found a furry toy lump stuffed in my shoe.

They are Bengal and Savannah proof. And, they even withstand being mauled by a cranky Norwegian Forest Cat. These toys come with or without catnip.

Hyendry recently started producing Flutterhyde cat teasers. Since my cats haven’t been exposed to them yet, I can’t comment on them. Based on the other Hyendry products, I am sure they are durable and have extreme cat-appeal.

 

Enriching the Lives of Inside Cats

Most of you know that I’m big on never letting cats outside. I know it’s a controversial subject, but in addition to healthier cats who live longer, I’ve noticed that people develop stronger bonds with their cats when they are inside 24/7. I think part of this is due to cat parents seeing more of their cat’s personality and individuality.

I am segueing away from the initial reason for this blog entry. Cats can be very happy living indoors 24/7.  All it takes is a little entertainment and enrichment. You can read more about it in USA Today and on page 6D of the printed version of USA Today.