How Pets Play, Why Cats Play, and What Dog Play Means
Happy national pet day! Nothing is more fun that watching how pets play. But do you know why cats play? or what dog play means? Or how to play with puppy or kitty? Turns out, it’s more than just fun and games.
How pets play and why dogs and cats play games fascinates the people who love them. Cat play, dog play and kitten games are exactly the same–only different–with identical purposes but variation in styles. 😛 These days, I have a front-row seat with the “old lady” Seren-Kitty doing her best to keep order, while Magical-Dawg and Karma-Kitten wreak havoc.You can’t help but smile or laugh out loud when the fur-kids throw a play-party.
Oh, and that picture (above) of the kitten vaulting over another? That’s Karma’s latest favorite hiss-inspiring activity. I call it his “drive by” when he races across the room, and LEAPS over top of Seren, creating feline angst and prompting her to chase-to-chastise the furry miscreant. Of course, that’s what Karma wants, to get the old girl to chase him. When she catches the big guy, he immediately flops on the floor while she yells cat curses at him, and paw-swats his face.
When that doesn’t work, Karma simply tackles Seren, using his 13 pounds to pancake her petite 6-pound frame to the carpet. You can almost see him smile as she yodels her outrage.
Karma is in kitty heaven.
He does something similar with Magic. Karma saunters up to my 90+ pound German Shepherd, crouches for a moment, makes sure the Magical-Dawg is watching, and then SPRINGS away to duck under furniture. Magic takes the bait and invitation, and sprints after him. It makes me tired to watch.
Kitten play can be relentless.
HOW PETS PLAY…IS IT PLAY, OR AGGRESSION?
It can be hard to tell sometimes what’s “real” and what kind of play is “just fooling around.” In fact, both dog play and cat play can tip over into dangerous aggression if the pets get too wound up.
Dog and cat play use the same behaviors as hunting, attack, and aggressive behavior, but the pets use “meta signals” to let the other party know it’s all in good fun. For instance, dogs use the “play bow” with butt-end up and forepaws down to signal that everything that comes after this signal is not serious. Cats also can use a play bow, or roll on their back to solicit attention or a game.
Here’s a BIG clue. Doggy play includes growls, whines and barks. Cat play typically is silent. If your cats become vocal during play, it’s time to stop the games. And if both of the pets keep coming back for more, they’re likely just having a good time.
Dogs use a “play bow” to tell others they want to play and mean no harm.
WHY CATS PLAY & WHAT DOG PLAY MEANS
In years’ past, the experts often ascribed play to be only the means by which juvenile animals practiced skills they’d need later as adults. Kittens played to hone hunting ability, while puppies played to strengthen muscles and practice various doggy techniques.
They neglected to mention that play, quite simply, is FUN! Cats stalk toy mice and kittens attack ankles for the pure joy, as an outlet for energy, stress reliever, and potent relaxation technique. Dogs steal socks and dance away out of reach, and play “tag” with owners, other animals, and even the reluctant cat. If you believe cats and dogs don’t laugh, just look more closely at your furry companion in the throws of blissful play.
Now 13 pounds and a year old, the play has slowed down, and 17-year-old Seren is grateful!
By four weeks of age, kittens practice four basic play techniques: play fighting, mouse pounce, bird swat, and fish scoop. The first play displayed by kittens is on the back, belly-up, with paws waving. Feints at the back of a sibling’s neck mimic the prey-bite used to dispatch mice (toy or real). Kittens also practice the simpering sideways shuffle, back arched high, almost tiptoeing around other kittens or objects. Soon, the eye-paw coordination improves to execute the pounce, the boxer stance, chase and pursuit, horizontal leaps, and the face-off where kittens bat each other about the head.
Karma has decided “riding” a towel dragged across the floor is great fun. Kitty sledding, anyone? Keep in mind the high energy level of kittens when you decide to adopt.
Puppy play can be similar, but while kittens use paws to tap-tap-tap objects and manipulate/test their surroundings, pups mouth–everything. By five weeks, puppies often carry things around. This ensures owners must be good housekeepers or risk losing wallets, underwear, and other important valuables. About the same age, pups begin playing tug-of-war with your pant leg, each others’ tails, and anything within reach.
Magic still loves to play keep-away. Thank goodness he only targets doggy toys and human socks these days, rather than (urk!) puppy poop.
Puppy and kitten play offers endless entertainment to them as well as watching humans. The awkwardness, intensity, and abandon of these antics give way to greater finesse and dexterity as the pet matures. Learn more about puppy development in the Complete Puppy Care book.
HOW PETS PLAY…AS ADULTS
While adult pets play less than rambunctious babies, all dogs and cats play to some extent through their entire life. It’s not only fun for you both, but healthy as well. Keeping dogs and cats active and moving ensures they stay lean, and interested in the world around them.
At age 17, Seren still raced laps around the living room and up and down the stairs. While she’d deny it, chasing the Karma-Kat brought back a gleam back to her eyes. The pair really enjoy edthe tag-team matches they play.
Now, Karma-Kat plays nonstop with his buddy Shadow-Pup. He loves fetch and tug games, and of course, rolling on his back with a squeaky-chew in his mouth is right up there with treats. His most favorite game of all, though, is sniffing cat butt. Ahem.
Play is serious business for our dogs and cats. Take a lesson from them and find time to play every day. In a stress-filled world, we all benefit from a daily dose of giggles. Play with your pets–and watch them smile from both ends.
So what special games do your cats and dogs play? Seren used to love to play “chase the feather” as it disappeared underneath a pillow. Are doggy (or kitty) games learned from each other? Do tell!
Dogs are passionate about food and that’s reflected in how dogs eat and how they drink. In fact, many dogs will eat anything that doesn’t move faster than they do, and it’s up to owners to ensure the canine diet is appropriate.
How Dogs Eat
The canine style of eating is rooted in evolution. Dog ancestors hunted in packs and required large animal prey to sustain the group. The mouse or rabbit an individual might catch was eaten outright, but larger animals posed a problem. What wasn’t eaten immediately drew scavengers ready and willing to steal leftovers out of canine mouths. That’s one reason many dogs gobble their food.
That’s why most modern dogs are gorgers. Like their ancestors, dogs can eat huge quantities of food at one time. Such a meal would last wild canines several days, which meant they didn’t need to hunt or eat as often. Modern hunting breeds — Labrador Retrievers and Beagles are notorious — tend to be gorgers that gulp mouthfuls of food without chewing until they reach the bottom of the bowl.
Dogs enjoy chewing, so a carrot can be a healthy snack.
Dogs Love Veggies!
Dog ancestors also developed the ability to benefit from vegetables, which is why modern canines share the human enthusiasm for sweet foods. Sweetness is the signal that a plant has reached ultimate ripeness and highest nutrient value. This diet flexibility gave dogs an edge in survival by allowing them to eat whatever was at hand.
A dog’s teeth are designed for an omnivorous diet, that is, one composed of both animals and vegetables. Dagger-shaped canine teeth hold and slash prey, while the small incisors across the front of the jaw gnaw flesh from bone. Molars crush bone, shear meat, and grind vegetable matter. Drinking is accomplished by curling the tongue into a backward spoon to suction up liquid. In this way your dog throws water up into his mouth, and swallows every two to three laps.
Feeding Dogs On Schedule
Dogs are happy to eat anytime — or, all the time — but it’s healthier and easier for you to manage feeding on a routine basis. Feed your dog in the same place and at the same time every day. Most dogs consider eating a social event, and enjoy company while dining.
However, if you have more than one pet, competition may be a problem. Dogs tend to eat more when another pet is present because of their gorger mentality; if I don’t eat it, he will. Make sure each pet has his own bowl, and feed them at separate ends of the kitchen, or even in separate rooms, if necessary. Plenty of clean water should be available at all times.
Managing meals can reduce the risk of canine bloat in Great Danes and other dogs.
Are your dogs picky eaters? Do they come and go from the food bowl, or gulp mouthfuls at a time? Magic used to get sick and URPS yellow bile if he waits too long to eat. And Bravo would eat everything, then get excited and lose his lunch. Shadow-Pup appears to be a picky eater, and refuses to munch until he’s sure we’ve finished our human meal and there’s nothing for him.
How cats eat and their cat bowl preferences seems the next logical post in a series of blogs that have covered how dogs eat, as well as how cats hunt. The cat that must hunt for his food typically catches small game like mice, rats, or rabbits, crouches over the kill, and swallows small prey headfirst, fur, feathers and all. If the cat is able to rarely nab a bird, it may be plucked first to remove obnoxious tail feathers. Rabbit-size prey are eaten more slowly.
How Cats Eat
The cat’s teeth are designed for a carnivorous lifestyle. The dagger-shaped canine teeth are used to kill, while the tiny incisors across the front of the jaw pluck feathers or skin from the prey. Rather than chewing, cats shear off manageable portions of food with their molars, then swallow these chunks. The specialized teeth are located in the side of the cat’s mouth, so Kitty typically tilts his head to the side while eating. Nibbling with incisors and licking with his rough tongue rasps off smaller pieces.
Cats tend to be intermittent feeders, or grazers—rather than gorgers (like dogs). Healthy cats eat several small meals throughout the day. A typical meal of dry food might consist of half a dozen kibbles or so—about the nutritional value of a mouse. That’s why I prefer to feed Karma-Kat with feeder like the Doc & Phoebe No Bowl solution. It mimics the way cats hunt. Some food-obsessed cats gobble food, though, which can lead to problems.
How Cats Drink
To drink, the cat uses his water-absorbent tongue curled into a spoon shape. Kitty laps up liquid creating an efficient bio-mechanical process that creates a column of liquid they swallow before gravity sucks it back into the bowl. They swallow after every four or five laps. Larger cats lap more slowly than smaller cats to adjust for the size/process.
Cats relish food that is body or room temperature—the same as prey. Food cooler than this may be refused, or even vomited when eaten cold, so always allow refrigerated foods to warm before serving. A few seconds in the microwave often helps, but don’t overheat.
Do your cats prefer room temp foods or will they gnosh on refrigerated items? For a while just due to easy storage, I kept Seren’s dry food in the freezer and she didn’t seem to mind.
Some cats share food bowls with no problem, but dinner time is less stressful when everyone has his own place. When you have more than one cat, feed them in separate bowls some distance apart to help avoid confrontations.
CAT BOWL PREFERENCE
Several bowl choices are available, from trendy designer crockery to paper plates. Consider what the cat likes before making your choice.
Cats dislike chasing a lightweight bowl over the floor. They are turned off by a dirty or smelly dish. Longhaired and flat-faced cats prefer shallow bowls that allow them to eat to the bottom without bending their whiskers or getting their face messy.
Plastic bowls tend to hold odors, are hardest to keep clean, and their light weight allows them to slide around the floor. Some cats may suffer skin problems like acne resulting from plastic food bowls.
United States-made ceramic bowls are better choices because of their solid weight and ease in cleaning. The glazes in ceramic bowls manufactured in some foreign countries, though, may contain lead.
Heavy non-breakable glass bowls are also good choices, and cats may drink more water from glass containers because they like the taste. But care must be taken if the glass is breakable.
Stainless Steel Cat Bowl, the Cats Meow
Stainless steel bowls are the choice of veterinary clinics because they are easily sterilized and are non-breakable. The FrostyBowlz is one of the best products I’ve seen, in which the insert can be frozen to keep food and water chilled and fresh. See what Seren thinks of the bowl, below. Some cats object to the taste of water or food offered in such containers, though. You may need to experiment before finding a safe, practical alternative for your cat.
What sort of bowl or dish do you serve to your cats? Do they care or are they persnickety? Do tell!
Are your pets safe from appliances? Stoves and ovens, dishwashers, clothes dryers, garbage disposals and other appliances are convenient for us but can prove deadly to cats and dogs. While the photos in today’s blog make us smile, the “what if” makes me shiver, because I know they represent tragedy waiting to happen.
Bravo-Dawg does his best to “pre-wash” the dishes, like the puppy in the picture, below. But any small pet could potentially climb inside when you’re distracted. And that could be lethal.
FOOD & SMELL. Do you give your pets the chance at a “first rinse” before putting dirty dishes in the washer? (raising hand…GUILTY). Just licking off or pawing food-smeared utensils can cut tongues or paws. A tiny pup or kitty could crawl inside after yummies, and be seriously injured or die when the machine turns on.
HEIGHT. Do your cats countertop cruise? A couple of things draw the kitty to scale the heights. Available food, yummy smells, and a GREAT perch lookout.
WARMTH. Stoves, ovens, and clothes dryers draw cats, especially to the warmth. Yep, it can make for some LOL Funny Cat moments, but not if the cat or dog ends up with burned feet or worse.
HIDEY-HOLES. Pets seem drawn to small enclosed spaces for naps or ambushes. Paw-poking into holes is a cat rule, while dogs enjoy nosing into tight spots as well.
Sprout apparently hasn’t had enough coffee! Image Copr Kim Smith/Flickr Commons
Funny–NOT Funny! Keep Pets Safe From Appliances
When I edited one of the stories in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul, it made me turn green–and we had to preface the story with the note that “it’s a happy ending!” or folks likely wouldn’t have wanted to read it. The cat in that story went head-first into the garbage disposal after fishy leavings and got his head stuck. They had to remove the entire sink and take it to the vet clinic for the cat to be sedated, oiled up, and extricated. Funny story when it’s a happy ending. I’ve caught Karma-Kat sticking his paw down into the garbage disposal, too, yikes!
Sadly, not all funny stories end so well.
As far as I know, Audley’s adventure in the tumble dryer turned out fine. Image Copr. RaGeBe/Flickr
Cats And Dryers
My friend Mary McCauley sent me a message last week that broke my heart. This post is for Mary and her kitty friend, Boo:
“Amy, a few weeks ago our beautiful young cat had climbed into the dryer. My son turned it on. I heard a loud thumping and thought the washing machine was out of balance. I found Boo in the dryer. Blood was coming out of her mouth. She was convulsing. I ran up the stairs to get my keys, but she died in my arm. I tried rescue breathing and cardiac resuscitation with two fingers, but she was gone. I cried for two days. Please warn your readers about this danger. My son felt so guilty for a few weeks.”
Accidents happen, and our pets can get into trouble in the flick of a whisker. Cats are furry heat-seeking missiles and I have no doubt that Karma-Kat would do the same thing, given the opportunity. Even Bravo loves to dive into the pile of fresh-from-the-dryer clean clothes dumped onto my bed for folding. A ride inside the dryer could cause not only head and body injuries but also heatstroke.
Pets In Freezers? Oh no!
A day after I got Mary’s message, my husband called me into the kitchen to shoot this photo (below) of Karma-Kat. He’s a door dasher and often sprints into the pantry to gnaw through the dog food container–but the frig fail was new.
Karma is big enough, the chance of shutting him inside the frig is small–but it could happen. Left overnight in the refrigerator–or worse, inside the freezer!–could quickly result in hypothermia and death. I’m just hoping he doesn’t learn to open the frig himself. I know of one owner who resorted to a bungee cord around the frig to keep her cats out of the goodies.
Pet Proofing Appliances
So what’s a responsible pet parent to do? Pet proofing your home is job one, especially when you have a clueless puppy or kitten. But it doesn’t stop when the cat or dog grows up. Pets are endlessly curious and always find new ways to get into trouble and push our buttons. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your pets safe around modern conveniences.
Baby gates keep pets away from danger zones. I lock the fur-kids out of the kitchen when cooking and clearing up, to prevent paw burns on stovetops or me spilling something hot on them when they wind around my feet.
Double-check washing machines and clothes dryers before hitting the “start” button. If your pet is inside, don’t pull them out immediately. Instead, BANG-BANG-BANG on the top to make a horrendous scary racket and watch them rocket out. Most pets won’t get near that scary thing ever again.
If you have hard-case pets, make a sign to stick on doors of appliances to remind kids, spouses, and guests to CHECK FOR CAT. That’ll be a fun conversation starter, too. 🙂
Invest in stovetop covers to protect kitty feet. One of the best ways to keep pets from cruising counters and stoves is to give them a cat tree that’s higher than the counters. Make the stovetop uncomfortable by spreading aluminum foil across the top, for instance.
Have you ever caught your dog or cat up close and personal with one of your appliances? How did you handle the situation, and prevent future problems? Do tell!
And please–if you love your cats and dogs as much as Mary loved Boo–share this warning far and wide and tell folks it’s in memory of a special Boo-kitty.
The innovation of cat litter meant our kitties could move inside, permanently. Today, there are many cat litter options, but that wasn’t always the case. Cat litter choices can make or break a kitty-human relationship. Litter box problems plague many cat lovers. What goes in your cat box? I’m not talking about Sheba’s “creative efforts” or the dog diving for those special kitty treats, but the substrate she likes to dig.
Cat Litter History: In the Beginning…
Did you know that indoor cat toilets are a relatively recent innovation? Most cats spent time outside and did their business in the dirt. The inside felines might be accommodated with a box of sand or perhaps ashes. Can you imagine the sooty footprints?
Back in the winter of 1947 in Cassopolis, Michigan, a cat owner’s sand pile froze, and she got tired of using ashes for her pet. She visited the local hardware that sold industrial absorbents including sawdust and Fulller’s earth (a type of clay). Edward Lowe suggested using clay instead of sand for the cat–and it turned into a multi-billion dollar industry after his introduction of the original Kitty Litter, and later Tidy Cats and Scamp. Purina bought the brands much later and expanded the market even further.
From humble beginnings at 65-cents per 5-pound bag, today cat owners find a smorgasbord of litter choices. But what you like and what Sheba prefers may not agree. We’re all about odor control and convenience. Cats just want something soft to dig in, that doesn’t offend their noses. Strong perfumes and dust can turn them off. And we all know what happens when Sheba shuns the box–we have to change the carpet!
There are 14 different kinds of litter–and I took that photo about 20 years ago, when writing a litter comparison article. Just imagine how many MORE kinds now!
Kinds of Cat Litter
You can still find plain clay litter. Cats love the clumping clay litters because of their fine texture. Humans love ‘em for their ease of scooping waste. But clay litters get dusty–they’re dirt, after all. The finer stuff tracks more, too, especially if it catches in very furry cat feet. The most common additive to make it clump, called sodium bentonite, can pose a risk to mouthy kittens that taste everything or to dogs intent on raiding the box.
To answer the demands of eco-friendly owners, you can find edible and biodegradable litters made from corn, wheat, paper, cedar chips, and even citrus. I’m a bit perplexed, frankly, by the citrus litters since most cats hate the smell and I recommend citrus as a feline deterrent. *shrug* Some of the corn and wheat products cats accept pretty well. Next week I’ve got a post about a new kind that Seren’s testing…so far, so good.
Bottom line–the best litter in the world ain’t worth spit if your kitten or cat won’t use it. Litter with a strong odor, too much dust, or other issues may turn your litter into a forbidden zone. Cats love routine, so if your cat’s happy with the facilities and tends to be persnickity, don’t mess with success. Unless you want new carpets.
What kinds of litter does your cat prefer? Would you rather use something else–environmentally conscious paper, perhaps? How do you reconcile the cat’s needs with your own $$ or other concerns? Do tell!
Bathe cats, are you INSANE?! Well…not really. Besides, I found that picture and just had to share. But just because the cat says, “No way!” doesn’t mean it’s not possible. And you don’t need a special kitten bath tub to properly groom cats. Here’s how to give a cat a bath.
Karma-Kat is a weenie when it comes to getting wet. He’s gotten into the bad habit of standing on top of his “puddles” while digging to cover them in the litter box. As a result, one rear paw gets nasty-wet with litter stuck halfway up his leg, and just dunking that foot sends Karma into near-hysterics.
I’m sharing this information from my GROOMING entry from Cat Facts, The Series 7 (G): The Pet Parent’s A-to-Z Home Care Encyclopedia which includes these topics:
Geriatric Cat, Giardia, Gingivitis, Glaucoma, Grass (Eating), Grief, and Grooming.
Why risk life and limb bathing your cat? Does it really matter that she’s gray instead of snowy white? Well, if the kitty gets into something, you may need to suds her up. A bath stimulates the skin and removes excess oil, dander, and shed hair. But bathing too often can dry the skin. As a good rule of “paw” bathe shorthaired cats no oftener than every six weeks; two to three times a year during shedding season should suffice unless Kitty gets really grubby, or is a show cat. Longhaired cats benefit from more frequent baths, and felines appearing in shows learn as kittens to accept baths.
Karma is a fastidious boy and usually keeps himself spiffy, but this new bad habit means he tracks “stuff” around. And, I’m not a fan of him having to lick off/ingest the soiled litter, either.
Kittens should not be bathed until they are at least four weeks old–learn more about kitten care in my book. Elderly cats or extremely ill cats may be stressed by bathing so follow your veterinarian’s recommendation in these instances. These days Seren plays the “age” card to keep her fur dry.
How To Bathe Cats—Plan Ahead
Should you decide to take the plunge—pun intended—your cat should be thoroughly brushed and/or combed ahead of time. Remove fur mats before bathing, because water will just cement mats in place.
The bath area should be warm and draft free. The bathtub will do, but your knees will thank you for using a waist-high sink. Move all breakables out of reach, and push drapes or shower curtains out of the way or they may spook your cat and end up shredded.
For routine cleaning, you only need a simple grooming shampoo labeled specifically for cats. Human baby shampoo or dog products can be too harsh and dry the skin or in some cases prove toxic.
Assemble your shampoo, several towels, and washcloth near the sink or tub, and run warm water (about 102 degrees, or cat body temperature) before you bring in the cat.
Wear old clothes. Expect to get wet. Seren clutches my shirt, pressing her face to me as I wet and soap the rest of her.
Also, close the door to the bathing area, or you risk having a soapy cat escape and leave suds and a wet cat print trail throughout your spanking-clean house.
Cats hate the insecure footing of the slippery surfaces, so place a towel or rubber mat in the bottom of your tub or sink. That does wonders for cat confidence and often reduces yowls and struggles by half.
How to Bathe Cats With The Bucket Method as a Kitten Bath Tub
For small kitties the bucket method of bathing often works best. Use the double sink in the kitchen, two or more large roasting pans, or a couple of buckets or wastebaskets set in the bathtub. Fill each with warm water.
Gently lower your cat into the first container to get her wet. Let your kitty stand on her hind legs and clutch the edge of the container as you thoroughly wet the fur.
Then lift her out onto one of your towels, and apply the shampoo to her body.
After lathering, dip the cat back into the first container to rinse. Get as much soap off as possible before removing and sluice off excess water before rinsing in subsequent containers of clean water or use a low-level spray closed to the body with the sink attachment.
If the cat acts scared of being dunked or the spray attachment, use a cup or ladle to dip water. Use the washcloth to wet, soap and rinse the face area. Keep one hand on the cat at all times to prevent escapes.
Rinse beginning at the neck and down Sheba’s back; don’t neglect beneath the tail or tummy. When the water finally runs clear and you know she’s clean, rinse once more just to be sure.
Wrap the squeaky-clean cat in a dry towel. Shorthaired cats dry quickly, but longhaired felines may need two or more towels to blot away most of the water. Seren prefers to dry her
self. If your cat tolerates or enjoys the blow dryer, use only the lowest setting to avoid burning the cat. Combing long fur as you blow dry will give “oomph” to the longhaired coat.
For Karma, I’ve found it works best to use the nozzle sprayer. He hates being “dunked” and the water coming from the faucet intimidates him. Go figure…he’s a sink cat and loves sitting in the empty basin, but that’s HIS choice, LOL!
Have you ever bathed your cat? What would cause you to dare the impossible? I used to bathe Seren at least once a year just to prove to us both it could be done. She’s now only
5 pounds so I figure that I’m the biggest “cat” in the house…but I think this year she may win the contest.
No, this isn’t some anti-canine post about why dogs suck. Rather, this post and video helps explain why some dogs practice nursing behavior on objects, and suck pillows or toys. Maybe your dogs suck, too!
“My name is Magic–and I’m a suck-aholic.” Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC
Why Dogs Suck
Has your dog ever had an obsession with a particular toy or object? It’s not at all unusual for kittens to nurse on their own toes, or the tail of a sibling. Just like with human infants, the behavior seems to be self-calming. Some dogs may outgrow the behavior as they mature and develop.
Dogs also can find stress relief by nursing on objects. Blankets, pillows and stuff toys are common targets. Licking or sucking can become an obsessive/compulsive behavior. For instance, Dobermans seem to indulge in “flank sucking” behavior and other dogs may lick-lick-lick a paw or toe until it becomes raw.
But in the case of puppies and even adults that indulge intermittently, it may not be a problem. (Magical-dawg told me to say that!). Now it’s your turn–what kinds of items does your pet target with licks? Do tell!
Of course, with THANKSGIVING tomorrow, there are lots more tasty things for dogs to munch. Just be sure they’re safe–a small amount of “treats” is fine but some can prove dangerous. Check out this article on people food for puppies to see what’s acceptable and what’s not–or even poisonous!
What does cat food and cat treats have to do with making your house cat more friendly? One the most common questions I get as a cat behavior consultant deals with the evolving c’attitude of maturing kitties. Pretty much all kittens are in-your-face clueless (and confident!) spit-fires that never met a stranger. They gallop and pounce through life, love to play until they collapse–and then snuggle and purr themselves to sleep on your lap.
But the baby cat grows up and then OH NO! What happened to the snuggle-puss? Well, sometimes they stay cuddly throughout life. But very often, the baby grows up to be a bit more selective in how he or she wishes to interact. That can put the human’s nose out of joint when suddenly Junior-Cat disses the person who brought them into the house. So–what can you do?
TREATS & TIPS FOR TABBIES
People readily think about treats with dogs, but not so often with cats–and in fact, cats relish not only the tastiness but also the special interaction that comes with any food “extras.” That can encourage your cat to act friendlier and interact with you.
The key to treating cats, though, is to remember they are “grazers.” A full meal for a cat tends to be 4-8 individual kibbles. That’s all! They’re not going to belly up to the smorgasbord and gulp mouthfuls or handfuls the way Shadow-Pup does. So a teeeeeny tiny amount is enough–the smell as much as the taste and the attention–that associates something positive for the cat with your presence.
The human with the pocketbook decides the treat choice, but ultimately it’s in the cat’s paws whether or not s/he will indulge. Of course, we don’t want over-nutrition to create tubby Tabbies so it’s best to choose a treat that compliments the cat’s existing diet. Most pet food companies offer a “family” of products that go well together.
Treats that make kitty sit up and purr tend to be very different than what s/he eats on a regular basis. Reserving a very unique tasting/smelling food–a canned ration, for example–can be a great way to make your cat feel special without potentially upsetting the nutrition.
POSITIVE TREATING FOR FRIENDLIER CATS
How should you treat to help your cat be friendlier? Establish a routine. That could be every morning while you’re eating breakfast, or while you brush your teeth–or perhaps every evening while watching the evening news. Cats love routine, and once Kitty figures out the time and place that TREATS get delivered, you won’t have to remember–she’ll remind YOU!
Tiny bits are enough. You don’t want cats to gobble and spoil their appetite. Maybe dip your finger in the canned food. My Karma-Kat comes when called, sits up, waves, and (we’re working on) speak! with just me holding up my finger–he EXPECTS a tasty treat whenever I call. Eventually, you don’t need to reward every time. Intermittent rewards (reinforcement) works better, because Kitty never knows when he’ll get that reward, so he’d better come when called every time, just in case!
By rewarding your cat for a natural behavior, you also reinforce the interaction and teach the kitty there’s a benefit to paying attention to you. If the cat still won’t come near…use dry treats you can toss to him. And the next time toss it closer to you…and the next, closer still. Do this in cat-size steps, not all at once, and your cat will become friendlier without even realizing it!
FEEDING DIFFERENT FOODS?
Well, yes. Some cats do very well on the same old food all the time, but others relish variety. If your cat won’t eat, refer to this post. And let’s face it, PEOPLE love variety, So even if cats could eat MOUSE every single day, it makes us feel good (rewards US!) to offer variety to our beloved cats, too.
For instance, you could choose to provide a dry kibble in puzzle toys for “hunting” throughout the day, and then give a bonus wet food for the evening or morning meal. If your cat is a bit tubby, try putting treats in a cat puzzle toy for added feline enjoyment (and exercise).
Yes, the day has come. I am delighted at the outpouring of interest in naming cats who appear in HIDE AND SEEK, the sequel to my thriller LOST AND FOUND. There were 35 total suggestions for feline character names, me-WOW! I ended up choosing four or five of my favorites from your suggestions and then drawing the remainder out of a fish bowl. Two feline characters will be named based on your votes. (Check out Wednesday’s blog for the doggy poll picks!).
The winner’s names and why they chose their selection will also be included in the book, and winners will receive an advance copy of the book.
Just who ARE these kitty characters?
A sick cat that Shadow (the hero dog) tracks and saves after the kitty escapes from a car accident. The cat’s illness holds the key to the mystery plaguing area animals–and their people. What a legacy!
A mother barn cat befriended by a young girl whose cat-allergic mother won’t let her have a cat. When the cat’s “real” owner disappears, the little girl’s desperate need to rescue this “momma kitty” puts them in the bad guy’s path–will it be a happy ending for the pair?
Does your cat’s name embody the essence of these kitty characters? Love, devotion, fearlessness, stoic in the face of despair and smart as only a cat can be? Looks don’t matter, neither does breed or age or even sex–everyone knows that all cats are heroes at heart when they snuggle with us or bring smiles to our faces when we are at our lowest, so make your choice and follow your heart!
The poll below allows you to choose THREE (3) of your favorites. You can come back and vote again as many times as you’d like–and I hope you’ll encourage family and friends to champion your kitty cause and also vote.
DEADLINE FRIDAY NOVEMBER 15TH!
WINNERS ANNOUNCED MONDAY NOVEMBER 19th!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Don’t forget to vote for your NAME THAT DOG/CAT character choice in the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!
Yes, the day has come. I am delighted at the outpouring of interest in naming dogs who appear in the forthcoming dog viewpoint thriller HIDE AND SEEK, the sequel to LOST AND FOUND.
There were 15 total suggestions for canine character names–and I’ve included them all for you to choose. Two canine characters, both “hero dogs,” will be named based on your votes. (Watch for Friday for the kitty poll picks!).
The winner’s names and why they chose their selection will also be included in the book, and winners will receive an advance copy of the book.
Just who ARE these canine heroes?
A therapy dog that lives at an Alzheimer’s unit. The dog belongs to the administrator but prefers to spend all his/her time with one of the patients, Molly Williams (Teddy’s wife, for those who read LOST AND FOUND). The dog stays by Molly’s side when she “wanders” and disappears from the facility.
A dog that Teddy Williams and his wife Molly had years ago, and is the reason why the therapy dog strikes such a chord with Molly.
Does your dog’s name embody the essence of these doggy characters? Love, devotion, fearlessness, great heart? Looks don’t matter, neither does breed or age or even sex–everyone knows that all dogs have the heart and soul and devotion of heroes, so make your choice and follow your heart!
DEADLINE IS FRIDAY NOVEMBER 15th!
WINNERS ANNOUNCED MONDAY NOVEMBER 19th!
The poll below allows you to choose THREE (3) of your favorites. You can come back and vote again as many times as you’d like–and I hope you’ll encourage family and friends to champion your cause and also vote.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Don’t forget to vote for your NAME THAT DOG/CAT character choice in the forthcoming HIDE AND SEEK!
Those who regularly read this blog know that formal “reviews” don’t happen very often. But lately I’ve received some invitations and free products to try, and they somehow all seem of a common aromatic theme (ahem!) and so today the blog offers a litter-ary assortment for kitty potty products. I was sent free samples from the manufacturers, and all opinions expressed are my own…and Seren’s.
Last November at the Cat Writers Association conference, those in attendance received thumb drives from Tidy Cats (a longtime conference sponsor) that included some quite clever promotions of the new “natural” product Tidy Cats Pure Nature. They also provided each attendee a coupon for a free bag of the litter product for us to try.
Full disclosure, my cat Seren is a longtime fan of the Tidy Cats clay/clumping product so I wasn’t sure how she’d appreciate a change. At 16, she’s a bit of a fuss-budget old lady cat, too. I stuck the coupon in my purse, and each time litter box re-fill rolled around I shopped for the new litter.
I’m sure the nice folks at Tidy Cats expected a mention much earlier but it was nearly six months before Pure Nature appeared in our local stores. I only recently had the chance to give Seren the opportunity to weigh in.
As a result of attending the recent BlogPaws conference, I met with lots of paw-some products companies and got an invitation to review the Litter One kit, a self-contained fully disposable and biodegradable litter box system using pine pellets. The kit lasts 4 to 6 weeks and costs $24.95. I was sent a free kit to test with Seren, her Cranky-ness.
About the same time, I received an invitation to review the Litter Genie (above). How convenient! It’s designed along the same lines as the diaper pail product for babies only works as an odor/crappiocca container for litter box creativity. I’ve been using the Litter Locker for many years, ever since I won one as part of a Cat Writers Association awards (do you see a trend here? 🙂 ) With the new cat box substrates to test, it was a no brainer to accept a free Litter Genie to see how well it compared to my previous containment system.
I recently blogged about how litter evolved, and what cats tend to prefer. I always tell my consulting clients, “don’t mess with success!” and if you have a cat loyal to the box and substrate, don’t change it. Seren has never had an out-of-body(box) experience, though, and is a very confident roll-with-the-punches sort of feline. Heck, she’s got the Magical-Dawg totally buffaloed. Even so, I very carefully introduced her to both of these new litters. I added about half an inch of her favorite clumping-clay litter over the top of the new varieties. And I set the boxes side by side.
SEREN’S REVIEW: LITTER ONE
Seren totally ignored the Litter One. I suspect she didn’t recognize the pine pellets as appropriate substrate for digging. Cats tend to like very soft textures as their paw pads are quite sensitive, and since Seren is quite arthritic, this may also have been an issue. Granted, if that had been ALL that I offered (she had no other choice) she may have transitioned more willingly to give this a try.
Personally, I very much like the “environmentally friendly” design, and the pellets smell fresh and do offer odor containment. Litter One was awarded the Becker’s Best Award at the 2013 Global Pet Expo as the best new product–(that’s my buddy and one-time co-author Dr. Marty Becker!) and the innovation is clever and appeals to pet parents. For cats already accustomed to pelleted substrate, this would be a terrific option. I would caution that the size of the Litter One box may be an issue with large cats. Although it is a standard commercial box size, those tend to run small which is why I often recommend purchasing a much larger plastic storage bin-type box instead. For a multi-cat household, remember the 1+1 rule (one box per cat, plus one) may impact the cost factor as well.
Litter One offers a variety of Partner Programs for veterinarians, humane societies, rescue centers and other cat service agencies–kudos to the company. I’m all for owner convenience and preference. But cat vote trumps humans paws down.
SEREN’S REVIEW: PURE NATURE
A 12-pound bag costs about $16
Seren immediately accepted the Pure Nature without hesitation.
It’s lighter weight than clumping clay, has a fresh scent, and feels (to me) very similar in texture but smoother. It clumps in a similar fashion to clay products, too. The clumps are not quite as solid, though, and may break apart if you scoop too soon after the…uh…deposit…but I didn’t find issues with them breaking apart. With multiple cats that tromp over top of waste before you have a chance to scoop, that could be a problem. This product has much less dust than the clay clumping Tidy Cats I used before, too.
The scent is a bit too strong for my tastes but didn’t seem to bother Seren–that could be an issue with some cats. Kitty doesn’t mind her own smell but harsh perfumes can really make her avoid the facilities. But where I really noticed a difference was tracking–there was almost no tracking compared to the clay. What did spill from the box vaccumed up completely while the clay clumping is so heavy it always leaves some behind. Seren’s primary box is in my office on carpet, in my walk-in-closet-aka-audio-recording-studio, so keeping it clean and fresh is important.
Will I purchase another bag when it’s time to refurbish the kitty potty? Absolutely–if I can find it locally again. That could be a deal breaker, although online suppliers do offer the product (click the picture for a link).
AMY’S REVIEW: LITTER GENIE & LITTER LOCKER
Now we come to the Litter Genie. It costs about $14.99 ($7.99 for refill) at Target, and requires disposable plastic baggy liners that come in cartridge inserts, about $24 for a 3-pack, each said to last up to two months per cat. I’ve not used it yet for two months so can’t speak to this. Once loaded into the plastic container, the lid opens for you to dump scooped waste into the top opening, which is contained inside the plastic sleeve liner. A spring-loaded internal plastic divider ‘pinches’ closed the neck of the bag to block the reservoir of waste below and contain odor. The system comes with a litter box scoop.
For a single cat, the Litter Genie may work effectively. I found that the light weight of the Pure Nature litter meant I had to shake the container to ensure the waste dropped completely through. I also had to juggle to pull out the divider so that it would pass through to the bottom of the bin, a somewhat awkward design. Therefore, I had to fill up the top bin to capacity, stop, pull out the divider and agitate the pail to make it drop through, and then release the spring loaded pinch-divider. Also, the scoop (which fits in the side) is tiny and pretty much worthless as a scooper unless you have a kitten. Once the bin becomes full, there’s a “child safe cutter” to cut off the bag but I couldn’t get that to work and used scissors. With Seren (a tiny single cat) the bin filled up pretty quickly and I can’t imagine how often a multi-cat household would need to do this. The Litter Genie worked well and effectively and is an economic option for single cat households. 9.5 x 8.5 x 17 inches ; 3.3 pounds
The Litter Locker is pricier–but also works better–at about $46 and inserts cost about $29 for a 5-pack.
Once I’ve run out of the insert cartridges for the Litter Genie I’ll go back to using the Litter Locker (above). It costs more than double but has a much larger capacity to hold waste, and is much simpler to use without having to juggle pulling out/holding the canister itself. It also came with a (pretty worthless tiny) litter scooper, and I suspect this design “feature” is more for looks than functionality. It also uses plastic sleeves in cartridges inserted in the top. Waste also is dropped through the top opening–so far, very similar to the Litter Genie, but there the comparisons change.
There’s no spring-loaded pull-out smell-container to manage. Instead, simply close the lid, and then turn the side carousel a half turn. That wraps the waste-filled sleeve around the internal spindle. To empty, open the hinged middle, scissor off one end and knot, and toss the bagged waste away. Because of the larger capacity, it’s better able to manage multiple cats’ waste, and with my one tiny kitty, it doesn’t need to be emptied very often at all. The Litter Locker is 14″ long, 8.8″ wide and 15.4″ high.
How do you handle getting rid of your cats’ creativity? Do you prefer “natural” litter? How do you choose what kind of litter products to use with your cats–ever try something new and how did your cats vote?