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January 27, 2021

Three Theories about Primordial Pouches

10.12.14 Primordial pouches are the loose skin found on cats’ bellies. Three theories about them: they provide extra protection for vulnerable, vital organs during cat fights. Primordial pouches allow cats to be more flexible, extending further when running and jumping. And, they provide a little extra room after eating a large meal—especially important for wild cats who do not know when they will eat again.

Example of a cat's primordial pouch

Example of a cat’s primordial pouch

Brief Cat Fact: Whisker Basics

10.05.14 Whisker basics: They contain nerve endings at their base along with their own blood supply. Whiskers are more than twice as thick as individual cat hairs and they are rooted about three times deeper. They are sensitive, detect changes in air currents and help cats navigate and orient themselves in their environment.

Portrait of Maulee and her whiskers

Portrait of Maulee and her whiskers

Pet Emergency Documents

09.28.14  Be prepared! Add pet emergency documents in the pet supply kits. Important documents include: description of pets; species; sex; age; pictures of you with your pets, diet details, medical information including prescriptions, veterinarian contact information as well as your and a friend’s contact information.

Include important documents to emergency pet supply kits

Include important documents to emergency pet supply kits

Protect Cats from Sunburn and Cancer

08.17.14 Although all cats are at risk for becoming sunburn and developing skin cancer, those who are white and a light color are more at risk. Protect cats from sunburn and cancer by limiting sun exposure: don’t let them outside when the sun is strongest, provide lots of shade and close curtains and drapes.

Protect cats from sunburn and cancer

Protect cats from sunburn and cancer

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

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!

 

Bite Byte

11.11.12 Avoid becoming the victim of redirected aggression. Do not pick up, pet or use hands to separate cats who are agitated or fighting

My Cat is Mad at Me

I know my cat is mad at me because she is: (urinating on the bed, defecating on my clothes, biting me when I sleep, scratching the furniture—fill in the blank—). People sometimes jump to the conclusion that their cats have a vendetta against them or are mad at them when they engage in unpleasant behaviors. I hear this frequently from my clients.

Behavior does not occur in a vacuum. There is always a reason for behavior, cats being mad at their people or trying to get even with them is not one of them. Cats do not hold grudges. People do.

Look beyond vendettas and grudges.

Check the environment—look for the circumstances that contribute to the behavior. Inadequate litter box maintenance, poor litter box locations, lack of scratching posts and vertical territory, changes in schedules and household tensions are examples of situations that set the stage for unwelcome behaviors.

Additionally, check out the consequences of the behavior. Consequences predict if a cat will repeat a behavior. It is common for cat parents to unknowingly reinforce behaviors. Attention seeking, night time/early morning demands, counter surfing and aggression are some behaviors that people easily and accidentally reinforce.  A cat who wakes her favorite person at dawn will predictably repeat the annoying behavior if her person feeds and pays attention to her. The cat has learned that when she wakes her person, she gets what she wants—food and attention. A cat who bites when soliciting play most likely has been played with using hands and bites during play. The cat, enjoying the interaction with her favorite person, will try to solicit attention and play from her favorite person through biting.

There are other times when no one is reinforcing the behavior. A cat who urinates on their favorite person’s bed or couch may feel safe eliminating in those locations (always rule out any medical reasons by first having the cat examined by a veterinarian). Beds and couches usually have extensive views—perfect for a cat to identify and then escape a potential threat. Feeling safe is the consequence of urinating on the bed or couch.

It is easy to understand why people make ethnocentric assumptions about cat behavior. Humans hold grudges and they sometimes indulge in vendettas against each other. Cats don’t hold grudges, neither do they engage in unpleasant behaviors because they are mad at a specific person. Look beyond initial assumptions for the reasons for a behavior. After identifying the triggers, a successful behavior modification plan can be designed and implemented.

Ninja Kitten! Play Aggression

Today I met an adorable kitten—a 12 week old orange fluff ball, appropriately named Fluffer, who had been adopted when she was 8 weeks old. This tiny little ball of fur was terrorizing her adoring humans, biting and scratching whenever she wanted to play. According to the sleep-deprived cat parents, the only down time they got was when the kitten ate and eliminated. They were desperate for help and asked me to come to their home.

I was greeted at the door by Brittany and her frustrated mother, Anne. In the middle of the room Christopher, Anne’s husband, laughed and giggled as he delighted in playing with Fluffer, rolling the kitten on her back and petting her irresistible tummy. I watched for a few minutes as Christopher hid his hand under a newspaper, moving his fingers, encouraging Fluffer to stalk and pounce.

According to Anne and Christopher, Fluffer stalked and attacked at every opportunity. The time of day or the circumstances didn’t matter—when Fluffer wanted attention, she jumped, attacked and then bit. Usually she didn’t break skin, but occasionally she did. The problem, instead of getting better had worsened. Christopher admitted that when Fluffer went into attack mode, he usually responded by roughhousing with her.

I wondered if Christopher would be willing to change the way he related to Fluffer.

90% Human Behavior; 10% Kitten

It is natural for kittens to play intensely. Although play is fun it is also serious business. Kittens learn important survival and social skills when they play. Play also helps kittens develop coordination.

Kittens are little sponges when it comes to learning—they have to be in order to survive in a hostile world. Like all animals, one way they learn is by repeating behaviors when the behaviors are rewarded. Christopher reinforced Fluffer’s biting by using his hands when playing with the kitten. He also encouraged the kitten to grab and bite him during play—rewarding the kitten with attention when she attacked. Fluffer, being a bright kitten, assumed that biting was acceptable so now whenever she wants to interact with her favorite people she does what works—biting.

Brittany caught on right way. She thought a possible solution would be re-homing her dad so that he wouldn’t roughhouse with Fluffer anymore. Brittany wanted a kitten she could snuggle and cuddle with, not a Ninja kitten who pounced and attempted to kill anything that moved.

Changing Behaviors

The kitten’s behavior can be changed, but everyone in the household has to be on board—modifying how they interact with Fluffer. Christopher has to stop using his hands when playing with the kitten and he needs to resist roughhousing with her. His task is to learn how to play; using pole type toys and other interactive play items instead of his hands.

Time outs will also help change Fluffer’s behavior. Whenever she becomes over-stimulated or solicits attention through biting, Fluffer’s victim needs to stand up and leave the room without interacting with her. Time outs are short; a few seconds are usually all that is needed. Fluffer will quickly learn that when she bites and attacks, her favorite playmates disappear.

Everyone in the household promised they would do their part—changing the way they played with the kitten. Brittany could now look forward to stashing the first aid kit in the cabinet and safely snuggling with her little kitten.

Cat Fix

Last week I took three days off and went on a mini-vacation with my mother, sister and my mother’s dog. We chose to vacation in one of our favorite towns, Carmel, California. I seldom take vacations. Why should I? I love what I do—I have the best job in the world. I meet lots of fabulous cats and their people and help solve cat behavior problems. The downside of taking vacations, even a mini-vacation is that it takes me away from cats—mine and my clients.

Carmel is the perfect place for a vacation, especially if you love dogs. Many restaurants have seating areas for dogs and their people. The Cypress Inn even hosts a Yappy Hour. People and their dogs can congregate every evening at 4:30 for drinks, appetizers, dog biscuits and dog talk. The Carmel City Beach is another perfect gathering place for dogs and their people. Dogs can cavort and run off leash while their people hobnob, mostly about dogs.

Dogs are fine, but they aren’t cats.

Although Carmel is dog centric, many hotels welcome cats as well. My mother chose well. She found the Carmel Country Inn. In addition to being a really nice place to stay, the inn accommodates both cats and dogs.  Even better, they have their own resident cat Tescher who has his own blog . Tescher Cat is the official greeter at the inn. I immediately bonded with him, but I’m not unique. Tescher is the type of cat who bonds with anyone who gently pets him or picks him up. One of Tescher’s jobs is to provide a cat fix for those visitors who miss their cats at home.

Tescher is very good at his job.

Tescher Cat. Carmel Country Inn

Tescher Cat. Carmel Country Inn