Do you know the signs of a cat urinary blockage? Do you know about FLUTD? Maybe you’re puzzled why your cat suddenly pees outside the box? Or maybe he strains and strains but can’t eliminate. Is it constipation? Or does he have a cat urinary blockage? How can I stop my cat from peeing on the carpet?
If you’re asking these questions, you’ve come to the right place. Feline lower urinary tract disorders (FLUTD) can cause deadly cat urinary blockage. It frustrates cat owners—and also the cats! A cat urinary blockage can be deadly, so it’s vital to recognize the signs of a feline urinary tract disorder. This post is dedicated to my friend Susan Richardson-Cripps and the memory of Heathcliff, a fun-loving orange boy.
Cat Urinary Blockage & Disorders
Your cat has always been faithful to the litter box. After all, you trained your kitten to use the litter box from the beginning. But suddenly your adult cat, Tom, leaves damp messages on the carpet, Sheba cries and squats right in front of you, and bloody urine puddles in the bathtub. This is different from urine spraying, and is a cry for help.
My dear friend Susan messaged me on a Friday evening, concerned her cat Heathcliff had constipation. Although he managed to defecate, he still seemed to have a lot of pain. He walked “funny” and meowed a lot. She’d called her vet but couldn’t get an appointment until Monday afternoon. I suggested the local emergency hospital, and the next morning, she took her orange boy there for an exam.
Some litter box problems can be easily solved with these tips. When your well-trained cat suddenly begins missing the mark, that can be a sign of a health problem. Any health issue requires veterinary help.
Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disorders (FLUTD)
Cats are known to suffer from a group of disorders, including stones, as a part of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD. Male and female cats are affected equally. Urinary bladder stones occur in only about 20 percent of cats suffering from LUTD.
Actual “stones” of pebble-size and larger can develop. More commonly the tiny mineral deposits (called urolithiasis) are microscopic to sand-size. A mucous-crystal matrix can plug the urethra and prevent the bladder from emptying and cause cat urinary blockage. Just think back to your childhood, remember a never-ending car trip with no bathroom access. Multiply that discomfort tenfold to understand how the blocked cat feels.
Signs of Cat Urinary Blockage
Signs of urinary stones may include any one or combination of a break in housetraining, dribbling urine, straining in the litter box or spending lots of time “posing” with little result–this can look like constipation. When urine does pass it may contain blood, and/or have a strong ammonia smell. Affected cats may cry during urination, or excessively licking the genitals.
Diagnosis is based on these symptoms, urinalysis, and/or X-rays to reveal stones in the urinary tract. Without prompt medical attention, the blocked cat will die when toxins build up in the bloodstream, the kidneys stop working, or the bladder ruptures.
Heathcliff’s Sad Experience
The veterinary emergency clinic examined Heathcliff and explained to Susan that his bladder had enlarged to softball size, filled with bloody urine and crystals. They anesthetized him to place a urinary catheter to help him pass the urine, and planned to prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to address possible infection. Tragically, five-year-old Heathcliff’s heart stopped after he came out of anesthesia, and didn’t survive despite attempts to save him.
“Our sweet boy was only five years old. How does this happen so fast to a beautiful and energetic cat? He went downhill so fast.” She hadn’t seen any bloody urine at all until at the clinic, and Heathcliff had acted like his normal, rambunctious self only a few hours earlier. “They did all they could to revive him, but our little guy just didn’t have the fight in him. I do want to say thank you to Christian and the staff at Grayson County Animal Emergency Clinic for the kindness they showed me and the gentleness they showed to Heathcliff.”
FLUTD & Creating Kitty Urinary Crystals
Not all stones are the same. Crystals and/or stones form when specific minerals and organic substances are present in the urine in the right concentrations. In addition, the urine must be the right pH (acid/base balance). It also must stay in the bladder long enough for crystals to form. Consider pancake syrup in a pan–if it sits still long enough, crystals form. Therefore, formation of stones depends on volume of urine, concentration and type of minerals, frequency of urination, and genetics.
Cats evolved as desert creatures, and consequently conserve water extremely well. They may urinate only once every 24 to 48 hours. That means urine sits in the bladder for long periods and becomes more and more concentrated. Cats also drink sparingly, and seem to prefer to get water from their diet rather than lapping from a bowl. These instinctive tendencies predispose felines to develop bladder stones. Some kinds of crystals like struvite can be managed easily with diet. Others like calcium oxalate stones are a challenge–and diets that prevent one actually promote the other kind. Yikes!
The cause of feline crystals often can’t be identified. Diet can play a role in the formation of certain types of feline stones. And because up to 70 percent of cats have repeated episodes of stones, a therapeutic diet has become the standard way to treat and in some cases prevent them.
Cat Urinary Crystals
Twenty-plus years ago, 80 percent of feline bladder stones identified as struvite and developed in part due to alkaline urine. Pet food manufacturers learned to counter this by creating acidic urine (and therefore prevent struvite formation) by adjusting the formulation of cat diets. Bless their furry lil’ hearts! Nearly every commercial cat food on the market today has been designed to reduce the chance of struvite formation, by increasing the acidity of the urine.
When the diet has undergone expensive tests to prove this effect, the label may say, “for urinary tract health.” Honestly, though, all of the major cat food brands do pretty much the same thing. They just haven’t spent extra money on these tests and so legally can’t place a claim on the label.
A percentage of cats still develop struvite stones despite eating good foods. Special therapeutic veterinary diets can dissolve existing stones and/or prevent formation of new ones, and most of the major pet food manufacturers offer therapeutic options. Therefore, if your cat hates the first food offered, ask about another therapeutic alternative. Diets only work if the cat eats them.
Cats that become blocked from urethral plugs–crystals mixed with mucus that get stuck in the urinary track–typically are unblocked with catheters to reestablish flow from the bladder. But repeated catheter use may cause scar tissue in the urethra that makes the problem even worse. Perianal urethrostomy surgery may be an option for these cats. The procedure shortens the male cat’s urethra—removes the penis—which creates a wider conduit for release of urine so the urethra doesn’t block as easily even if crystals continue to form.
More Urinary Crystals & Calcium Oxalate Conundrum
Today calcium oxalate stones are becoming most common. Struvite seems to affect younger cats while calcium oxalate more often impacts aging felines. In fact, some calcium oxalate uroliths, especially those in the kidneys, may not cause obvious health problems for months to years. As the cat ages, the bladder becomes less elastic and may not empty totally each time the cat urinates. Over time, this may lead to increased susceptibility to infections and large bladder or kidney stones.
The change in commercial diets to reduce struvite actually promoted a rise in calcium oxalate stones. These struvite-prevention diets increase blood-acid levels, which also tend to leech calcium from the bones. Calcium spilled into the urine can form calcium oxalate stones. Calcium oxalate stones most typically block the ureters–the conduits leading from the kidneys to the bladder–and if too big to pass, require surgery to remove.
FLUTD & Stopping the Stones
So, what can a cat lover do? Be alert for signs of distress.Consider a blocked cat a life-threatening emergency and see your veterinarian immediately. Do your best to reduce cat stress, since that can predispose kitties to repeated episodes.
If your cat has been diagnosed with FLUTD, your doctor likely will analyze the crystals (if present); determine if an infection is involved and prescribe medication and recommend an appropriate diet. Remember that an old cat with calcium oxalate crystals should NOT eat a food designed to prevent struvite, or vice versa. In addition to diet change, avoid giving any kind of mineral or vitamin C and D supplementation to cats, which can predispose to calcium oxalate formation. The veterinarian has the information to prescribe and recommend the most appropriate treatment for your individual cat.
Dilute With Water
Increase your cat’s water intake by feeding canned diets, which typically feature 70 percent water. There’s some argument whether or not cats drink more when the water remains fresh or running. It won’t hurt to provide a feline drinking fountain, available from pet products stores. More water helps dilute the urine and encourages the cat to use the litter box more often. That way the bladder doesn’t remain full for long periods of time.
While filtered or bottled water isn’t routinely recommended, it probably won’t hurt and might help especially if it encourages your cats to drink more. Try flavoring the water with liquid drained from water-packed tuna or a bit of no-salt chicken broth. All’s fair in keeping cats healthy–sometimes despite themselves.
Susan gave me permission to share Heathcliff’s story, in the hopes it might warn other cat lovers and save them the pain her family feels. “Monty misses his baby brother, Heathcliff. He has wandered all over the house today looking for him and can’t understand where his wrestling buddy has gone. I’m afraid Monty is going to find this difficult to deal with because they were inseparable.” I’ve written about helping yourself, and pets, through the grieving process.
Karma-Kat has always remarkably healthy and (knock wood!). He never misses the litter box and this tragic story reminds us all how quickly a vibrant, health pet can suffer a life-threatening health crises. We’re fortunate to have a veterinary ER available in our community. What about your cats? Have they had problems missing the box? Crystal issues? What has been your kitty experience with regard to lower urinary tract issues?
April 26 is Kids & Pets Day, and maybe a good time to discuss pets as gifts yet again. Giving pets as gifts prompts discussions every time the subject comes up. Most recently, we got our “gift puppy” and “gift kitten” when they adopted us, and we’re so glad Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup are part of our holidays. But for many folks, this year means a new puppy or new kitten for Christmas. Learn how to gift pets–and please share your experiences in the comments!
The professionals used to say that the holidays were a TERRIBLE time to get a new pet–that impulse adoptions could leave the cat or dog without a home after the cute-holiday-thrills wore off. More recently, though, the ASPCA conducted some surveys and discovered that when done properly, these adoptions can be lasting, loving adoptions. So I had to re-think my advice.
Holidays tend to be hectic times when normal routines go out the window. Whether a baby, adult, or senior rescue cat or dog, new animals need the stability of knowing what to expect. In fact, some holiday schedules may allow you to be home more during this time to help the new kitty or pooch adjust.
Holiday pets take more work, true. But just think: you’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting cat or dog, a fur-kid hungry for a loving, permanent home. Happy holidays, indeed!
Everyone who adores puppies and kittens wants to share the furry love affair, but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a pet’s life.
Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as visits to the grandkids. Will the new kitten climb the Christmas tree and land in kitty jail? A puppy that eats Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup or kitten for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.
Giving Puppies and Kittens As Gifts
Before you put a bow around his neck, ask yourself these questions. Will the new owner have the time, ability, and funds to care for the dog or cat over the next 10 to 20 years? Is their space better suited for a Chihuahua, Persian or Great Dane? Do they already have a fenced yard? Will Uncle Jim’s knees keep up when hunting with that Pointer pup? Does your mom really want to chase Junior Cat off the mantel every day?
Children delight in pets as gifts but living things can’t be shoved under the bed and forgotten when the latest must-have-kid-gadget has more appeal. Remember—even if Fluffy is for the kids, the ADULT ultimately holds responsibility for the well-being of the pet. Will the child’s parents have the time to spend on one-on-one attention a new pet needs, and deserves? Be sure that the recipient truly wants and is ready for a puppy or kitten.
I Want A Puppy/Kitten!
What if the kids, your spouse, Aunt Ethel, or a best friend have made it clear they want a furry wonder, are prepared for the responsibility and feel ready RIGHT NOW for a furry loved one in their life? You’re sure, and so are they. What can you do?
The time, the place, the person, and the pet must be right for love to bloom into a lifetime commitment. The selection should be made by the person who will live with, care for, and hopefully fall in love with the baby for the next decade or more. You still want the recipient to make this important choice, so give them that gift. Here’s 6 tips for giving pets as gifts.
6 Steps for Giving Pets As Gifts
Plot With Professionals. Contact the professional breeder, shelter, and/or rescue organization and explain the situation. Ask them to conspire with you—arrange to pay a deposit, or fund the purchase FOR the recipient, with the puppy or kitten to be chosen later. Perhaps also pre-pay puppy clicker training classes for the new family member, or fund the cost of the kitten’s first veterinary visit.
Avoid Puppy Mills. Those cute babies sold in some retail environments are born and raised in horrendous conditions. The ASPCA urges you to know what you’re getting, and pledge to avoid supporting that awful system.
Go Shopping. Create a “puppy or kitty care package” for the big day. Fill a puppy bed with treats, food, training and grooming equipment and lots—lots!—of appropriate toys. Don’t forget to include a book or twoabout the pet’s breed, training or behavior tips, or other fun information.
Get Creative. Why not make a “gift certificate” that details this special surprise, and have that ready to present on the big day. Perhaps it could be packaged inside a pet carrier, or in an envelope attached to the collar of a stuffed St. Bernard or Siamese Cat toy.
Take Your Time. Holidays can be hectic when normal routines go out the window. New puppies and kittens–even newbie adult pets–need the stability of knowing what to expect. But you can “gift” with the certificate on the special day, and the recipient can choose the best time to bring the pet home. Hopefully you also have the fun of accompanying the person later, when they choose their own furry wonder.
Cat aggression? Yikes! When a snuggle-puss turns into a snarling ball of claws, owners are at a loss to understand or deal with cat aggression. You wonder, why does my cat bite me? Besides hurt feelings, cat aggression can cause injuries or cause the cat to lose a loving home. Learn more about cat fights here.
4 KINDS OF CAT AGGRESSION
Health issues including pain or hyperthyroidism can cause aggression. Any sudden personality change demands a veterinary exam. But cats don’t aggress because they’re mean—they always have a good reason, whether or not it makes sense to humans. Recognize these 4 common types of cat aggression and learn how to keep the peace.
Your cat begs for attention, but then he bites you! Karma does this–ouch! “Why does my cat bite me?”
Some cats simply can’t tolerate more than two or three strokes and use the “leave-me-alone-bite” to stop the petting. The bite does stop the owner’s touch, which trains the cat that biting works so he repeats the behavior.
Instead, confine petting to back of kitty’s neck rather than whole-body strokes that some cats find offensive. Stop petting before he asks—his ears will turn sideways or flatten, and tail gets active right before he nails you. Don’t touch him, just stand up and dump the cat off your lap.
Kittens don’t know how to inhibit bites and claws during play, and “only kittens” target owners in painful play-attacks that mimic hunting behavior. Luckily, kittens are made so cute we usually forgive them—and most outgrow the behavior by six to nine months or so.
This is one of the few behavior problems that can be fixed by adding another kitten to the household. Yes, I’m giving you permission (like you need that!) to go out and adopt another cute baby. That way the babies play-attack each other, and learn to pull their punches. At my house, it’s been helpful because Karma likes to play with Magical-Dawg, and Magic enjoys the games, too.
Most cat aggression arises from fear. The “fight or flight” instinct means if a frightened cat feels she can’t escape, she’ll attack. Cats also naturally fear strangers, and consider anything unknown and familiar a potential threat. That’s why it takes many cats a long time to accept new people or new cats. Fearful cats hide, slink close to the ground, turn ears sideways like little airplane wings, and hiss which means “stay away.” Growls are a step up and are a serious warning to stay away or risk an attack.
Give fearful cats space, extra hiding spots like cardboard boxes or cat tunnels, and elevated perches to help them feel safe. In multicat homes, provide a house of plenty with multiple toys, litter boxes, cat trees and resources so cats don’t have to compete for them. Direct stares intimidate cats and increase fear, so avoid making eye contact. Sit on the floor with an interactive toy like a fishing pole or feather lure, and tempt the scaredy-cat to approach. You’re less frightening when on the cat’s level.
Redirected aggression happens when the cat can’t reach the intended victim, like a critter outside the window. Instead, kitty takes out upset feelings on the nearest pet or the owner. It’s like being mad at your boss—you can’t chew him out so instead lose your temper with a spouse. Redirected aggression is tough to solve because each cat fight “practices” aggressive behavior until it can become a habit. Use these steps to mend fences.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT CAT-TO-CAT REDIRECTED AGGRESSION
Immediately separate the cats for two or three days. Begin an introduction protocol, as if the cats are total strangers (they ARE!), so they can learn to be friends again.
Next, allow one cat out while the other stays confined, so they can meet with paw-pats and smells under the door.
Feed both cats on opposite sides of the door so they associate good things with each other’s presence.
After a few days of no growls, hisses, or airplane ears, allow supervised interaction.
Separate immediately and start reintroduction again if the cats aggress.
Be sure to cover windows and block sight of the evil squirrel that created the angst. If you see your cat window watching, avoid petting until his tail talk calms down.
It’s become a tradition on the blog (and in my PETiQuette newspaper column) to share my favorite Christmas cat story this time of the year. This touching legend, included in Complete Kitten Care book, tells the story of a simple Tabby cat, and her gift on the very first Christmas day to a special mother and child. My own special tabby boy honors this page–notice the “M” on Karma’s brow…Enjoy!
There was no snow that night in Bethlehem. Instead, the small cat watched a star-spangled sky from her perch in the window of a stable. She liked the stable, for it was a warm safe place to raise her furry babies, and the innkeeper sometimes left scraps out for her to nibble. Tabby wasn’t particularly distinctive, and most humans didn’t look at her twice. After all, her short gray/black fur was quite common. But Tabby’s striped coat hid a heart bigger than cats twice her size.
This night, though, Tabby was out of sorts, for she’d not been able to hunt and catch dinner. Travelers had poured into town for days, so noisy they disturbed decent cat-folks’ rest. Why, they’d even invaded Tabby‟s quiet stable, a place she had before shared only with other furry creatures. Tabby hadn’t minded the human couple—they were calmer than most. She’d left that morning for her usual rounds, but when she returned, the stable was packed with people.
From her perch on the window, Tabby watched the last of the strangers leave. She slipped from the window, and padded silently inside—and froze!
“Meewwww, meewww, meewww,” cried a tiny voice.
A kitten? Tabby’s ears turn this way and that to find the sound of the kitten’s voice. It came from the manger, the very place Tabby often made her own bed. A woman knelt beside the manger, intent on the small mewling that arose from within. Tabby was drawn by the kittenish sound, though she knew her own furry babies were grown to cat-hood. She tiptoed forward very slowly, and passed by a wooly burro, a warm cow, and all the other animals.
The woman looked up, and saw the striped cat. “Oh, little cat,” she murmured, “my baby cannot sleep, and nothing calms him this night.” She sighed, and turned back to the manger. “How grateful would I be to anyone able to bring him sweet dreams.”
And, as Tabby watched, each stable animal stepped forward in turn and tried to soothe the woman’s baby. But the kittenish sounds continued, and finally Tabby could contain herself no longer.
Quickly, she washed herself—paws, face, behind the ears, to the very tip of her tail (so as not to offend the child’s mother)—and then shyly stepped forward. She leaped gracefully to the manger, and stared into the face of the most beautiful baby (human or kitten!) she’d ever seen. He cooed and smiled, waving his tiny hands at Tabby, and she very carefully drew in her claws and settled beside him. Forgotten was her empty tummy; she could only hear her heart calling out to this sweet human-kitten.
And Tabby began to purr.
The wondrous cat-song filled the stable with overwhelming emotion. The animals listened with awe, and the child’s mother smiled as her baby quietly went to sleep.
The child’s mother placed her hand gently on the purring Tabby’s forehead. “Blessings upon you, Tabby-cat, for this sweet gift given to me and my child,” she said. And where she’d touched Tabby’s brow, there appeared an M—the sign of the Madonna’s benediction.
From that day forward, all proper tabby cats are honored with an M on their brow for the great service they performed that first Christmas night. And Christmas nights often find Tabby cats staring into the night, purring as they recall a very special child their ancestor once sang to sleep.
Seren arrived at a time we’d been pet-less for many years. A friend called to tell me she’d found a kitten–and could I help? The wannabe Siamese baby climbed up my leg, wrapped her chocolate paws around my neck, and purred her way into my heart. It was, indeed, Serendipity that we found each other.
That was more than two decades ago. She inspired my cat writing, hated and finally tolerated “that !@#$%!!!-dawg” when Magic arrived (and outweighed her even as a pup!). And Seren tolerated and ultimately loved her pesky cat brother, Karma. Seren’s tiny frame packed a powerful presence for over 21 years, and now the house echoes with her absence. We mourn, oh how we mourn . . .
We’ve been through pet grief already this year when we lost Magic. The tears just won’t stop. And now I’ve added more verses to Magic’s song:
A thousand tears I shed each night
Since Seren left that bitter day,
She took away a special light
And turned my world to gray.
If we could, you know we’d fight
To keep her near just one more day.
But clinging love can’t make it right
We let her go, she couldn’t stay.
Swift sweet joy, condensed delight,
Great love is magnified that way.
The years sped by, we couldn’t fight
The deal we made, we had no say.
In time the tears I shed each night
Will shimmer bright, I pray.
For all who mourn love out of sight
Sweet memory holds sway.
And in honor of my tiny girl’s beginning with us, it seemed appropriate to once again share this story about her early days with us.
HOLIDAY SPARKLES: A CAT-MAS STORY
“Amy! Will you please get your cat before she tears up the house?”
I sighed, and pushed away from the computer. My husband grew up cat-less. Mahmoud neither understood nor appreciated kitten antics, especially while he watched television sports.
By the sound of it, the eight-month-old delinquent had donned virtual racing stripes. She ran laps that traversed the carpeted living room and family room, slid across the oak floor entry, bumped down steps to the dining room, then finished with a claw-scrabbling turn around the slate-tiled kitchen.
Aha, a new path discovered . . . The sound grew louder as she raced toward me up the stairs and flew down the hallway to land tippy-toed on the guest bed across the hall from my office. I peeked inside.
Seren(dipity) stared back with blue-jean-colored eyes. Then she self-inflated in mock terror and began trampoline calisthenics (boing-boing-boing) on the mattress.
I quickly shut the door, confining the demon seed–my husband’s name for her–to my upstairs domain.
Back in June, a friend discovered the dumped kitten napping in an empty flowerpot on the back porch and called me, her pet-writer buddy, for help. I had been pet-less for longer than I cared to admit. E-mail, phone and fax lines kept me connected to my clients and colleagues, but I figured the kitten would brighten the long, sometimes lonely workdays. Besides, as a pet writer I needed a pet. So it was Amy-to-the-rescue, and love at first sight.
My husband wasn’t so easily smitten. He still missed our elderly and sedate German shepherd but cherished the freedom of being pet-less. I convinced him a lap-snuggling kitten would be no trouble. Besides, the cream-color carpet he’d chosen matched the color of Seren’s fur. It had to be an omen.
The cat gods have a wicked sense of humor. They made me pay for that fib.
The Siamese wannabe had no off-switch. She talked nonstop and demanded the last word. She opened drawers and explored kitchen cabinets. She answered my office phone but never took messages. And she left legions of sparkle ball toys everywhere.
The colorful toys polka-dotted the stairs. You’d think a peacock threw up. The toys floated in the kitten’s water bowl, swirled in the toilet, and bobbed in my coffee cup. And Seren hid sparkle balls everywhere to later stalk and paw-capture them from beneath household appliances.
Mahmoud quickly learned to check his shoes each morning before putting them on. He was not amused. I knew better than to suggest he should be grateful Seren only stuffed his shoes with sparkle balls and not–ahem–other items.
I’d managed to buffer the cat-shock-effect over the past months by keeping her in my office during the day and wearing Seren out with lots of games before Mahmoud came home from work. Weekends proved a challenge. By Monday morning, my husband reached his kitty threshold and welcomed a return to the cat-free-zone at work.
But now the holidays loomed. Mahmoud looked forward to two weeks at home, two weeks of relaxation, two weeks of napping on the couch in front of the TV.
Two weeks sharing the house with “the devil.”
It would indeed be a Christmas miracle if we survived with sense of humor intact.
In the past we’d often visited my folks over the holidays where we enjoyed a traditional snowy Indiana Christmas morning, stocking stuffers, decorated tree, lots of relatives, and a sumptuous turkey dinner. This year we planned a quiet celebration at home in Texas, so snow wasn’t an option. But I wanted to decorate with lots of holiday sparkles to make the season as festive as possible.
“A Christmas tree? Don’t cats climb trees?” Mahmoud’s you-must-be-insane expression spoke volumes. He’d already blamed Seren for dumping his coffee on the cream-colored carpet. Maybe matching fur color wasn’t such a great omen after all.
But ‘tis the season of peace on earth, and I wanted to keep the peace–and the cat. So I agreed. No tree.
Mahmoud didn’t particularly care if we decorated at all since Christmas isn’t a part of his cultural or religious tradition. But he knew I treasured everything about the holidays. So we compromised.
Gold garland with red velvet poinsettias festooned the curving staircase, wrapping around and around the banisters and handrail. Gold beads draped the fireplace mantel, with greeting cards propped above. A red cloth adorned the dining room table, while in the living room, the candelabra with twelve scented candles flickered brightly from inside the fireplace. Other candles in festive holders decorated the several end tables, countertops and the piano.
The centerpiece of Christmas décor was the large glass-top coffee table placed midway between the fireplace, TV and the leather sofa. The wooden table base carried puppy teeth marks, silent reminders of the dog Mahmoud and I still mourned. Since we had no tree, the table served to display brightly wrapped packages that fit underneath out of the way. And on top of the table I placed Grandma’s lovely three-piece china nativity of Mary, Joseph and the Baby in the manger.
Grandma died several years before, right after the holidays. Each family member was encouraged to request something of hers to keep as a special remembrance, and I treasured Grandma’s nativity. The simple figurines represented not only the Holy Family but evoked the very essence of Grandma and every happy family holiday memory.
Of course, Seren created her own memories and put her paw into everything. It became her purpose in life to un-festoon the house. She “disappeared” three of the faux poinsettias, risked singed whiskers by sniffing candles, and stole bows off packages.
She decided the red tablecloth set off her feline beauty. She lounged in the middle of the table beneath the Tiffany-style shade that doubled as a heat lamp, shedding tiny hairs onto the fabric. As every cat lover eventually learns, fur is a condiment. But Mahmoud had not yet joined the cat-lover ranks and was not amused.
“Off! Get off the table. Amy, she’ll break your glass lampshade.”
Mahmoud had no sooner resettled onto the sofa to watch the TV when the whirling dervish hit again. The twinkling gold beads dangling from the mantel caught her predatory attention. Seren stalked them from below, quickly realized she couldn’t leap that high, and settled for pouncing onto the top of the TV. From there, only a short hop separated her from the ferocious mantel quarry she’d targetted.
“Off! Get off the TV. Amy, will you come get your cat?”
I arrived in time to see her complete a second Mario Andretti lap. I swear she grinned at us as she skidded past. With the next drive-by Seren stopped long enough to grab my ankle, execute a ten-second feline headstand while bunny-kicking my calves, then resumed her mad dash around the house.
Mahmoud glared. “I thought you said cats sleep sixteen hours a day.”
I shrugged and hid a smile. Seren had already learned what buttons to push. Rattling the wooden window blinds worked extremely well, but now she need only eye the decorations to garner all the attention she craved.
Cute kitty. Smart kitty. Mahmoud wasn’t amused, but I was.
She raced into the living room, leaped onto the glass top table, and belly-flopped alongside my treasured Holy Family . . .
“Off! Get off.” Mahmoud shooed the kitten out of the danger zone before I could react in shock. This time, I was not amused.
Mahmoud knew what Grandma’s nativity meant to me. “Decorating was your idea. Don’t blame me if the devil breaks something,” he warned.
Before he could suggest it, I caught the miscreant and gave her a time out in the laundry room to cool her jets. We’d relegated Seren’s potty, food bowls and bed to this room and routinely confined her at night or when away. Otherwise, she set off motion detectors and the house alarm–or dismantled the house while we slept. Besides, Mahmoud complained Seren’s purring kept him awake at night.
I used a wooden yardstick to fish toys from beneath the washer/dryer to provide necessary feline entertainment during the incarceration. Several dozen sparkle balls–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple–and the three missing faux poinsettias emerged, along with an assortment of dust bunnies and dryer lint.
I sighed. The kitten’s age meant several more months of madcap activity and I wasn’t sure how much more Mahmoud could take. He only saw Seren at full throttle. He also suffered from “Saint Spot Syndrome” which meant he recalled only the happy memories of our beloved dog, and overlooked potty accidents, chewed shoes and other normal canine misbehaviors of the past.
Seren suffered mightily in the comparison.
I felt exhausted after the first week of running vacation interference between my husband and the kitten. Whenever possible I kept Seren confined with me in my upstairs office but that backfired. She slept in my office, but once downstairs she turned into a dynamo intent on pick-pick-picking at Mahmoud especially when he ignored her.
The second week began, and as Christmas drew near I found more and more errands that required my attention outside of the house. Mahmoud came with me for some, but other times he preferred TV.
“Just lock up the devil before you leave so she doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I don’t want to watch her.”
It made me nervous to leave them alone together in the house. I worried that Seren might commit some last straw infraction and I’d be unable to salvage any potential relationship. I loved her, heaven help me; she’d hooked her claws deep into my heart. And I loved Mahmoud. I wanted my two loves to at least put up with each other.
But as I prepared to leave I couldn’t find her. At less than five pounds, Seren could hide in the tiniest spaces. One time I found her inside the box springs of the guest bed, but that day–December 23rd–she disappeared and refused to come out of hiding.
I think she planned it. Maybe the spirit of the holidays inspired her. Or perhaps some other loving canine (or grandmotherly) influence worked its Christmas magic. Whatever the motivation, when I returned home that rainy December evening, my unspoken holiday wish had been granted.
And atop Mahmoud’s chest, quiet at last, rested a very happy kitten.
Mahmoud roused enough to open one eye. “Fafnir–I mean Seren still purrs too loud,” he grumbled.
Fafnir had been the name of our dog.
With a nod toward the overcast day, Mahmoud added, “At least our cat won’t need to be walked in the rain.”
Seren blinked blue-jean-colored eyes and purred louder.
Note: The story first appeared in a short story collection titled Christmas Cats: A Literary Companion (Chamberlain Bros. Publishing). You can also find it in the new anthology, The Cat in the Christmas Tree (Revell Publishing). May your Christmas be joyous, bright, and filled with loving woofs and purrs of those still with you, and those who live on in your heart.
Cat safe Christmas tree? Is there any other kind? I post this blog every year and — with Shadow-Pup now in the house, I’ve decided to try the Christmas tree this year for the first time in a couple of years.
In the past, our old girl, Seren-Kitty, ignored the decorations and so did Magic. We were lucky that way—until Karma-Kat came along. Bravo-Dawg eggs him on, and the last time we put up a tree was quite an experience.
Karma turned the tree into a kitty jungle gym! And Bravo-Boy loved playing “tug” with branches. We’ll see how Shadow-Pup reacts. Meanwhile, here are my annual tips to help with YOUR tree, and you can read more about pet-safe holiday tips here.
CREATE A CAT SAFE CHRISTMAS TREE
Karma considers the Christmas tree to be an early holiday gift. Many pets can’t resist the urge to sniff, claw, water—and Karma thinks it’s great fun to scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. I don’t blame him. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society, and dogs may want to “mark” the convenient indoor doggy signpost. He’s so heavy, though, that high treetop shenanigans aren’t in the cards.
Our tree has bunches of red and white silk rosebuds, a string of “pearls” and some cat-safe sparkly but prickly décor that doesn’t appeal to Karma. We also offer him treat-filled puzzle toys placed well away from the tree so other spots in the house are more appealing.
Create a cat safe tree your kittens and cats will leave alone–or can safely play with.
WHY CATS LOVE THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Kitty can’t resist the urge to sniff, cheek rub, claw—and scale the branches to reach the highest possible perch. Don’t blame your cat. It’s normal for cats to compete for the top spot (literally and figuratively) to secure their place in kitty society.
Youngsters won’t care about social standing, but high energy kitten play turns the holiday tree into a jungle gym. Tree encounters of the kitty kind not only risk breaking your heirloom ornaments, your furred family members can be injured by chewing or swallow dangerous items. Read about pet proofing your holidays here. Rather than fight a losing battle to keep cats at bay, create a second cat-safe tree with these 12 tips, so the fur-kids can enjoy the holidays as much as you do.
Cats turn anything into toys, even Christmas ornaments.
12 TIPS FOR A CAT SAFE CHRISTMAS TREE
Put yourself in your cat’s “paws.” Satisfy her desire to claw, lounge on branches, and trust that it won’t tip over under her assault. Match the tree size, sturdiness, base (perhaps add guy-wires for steadiness) to the activity level and number of cats.
Ditch the lights, and any “fake-snow” flocking that can be chewed or swallowed. Instead, decorate with cotton balls or pillow-stuffing fleece for that snowy look on branches or around the base. If you’ve chosen a real tree, water with plain water and no additives in case kitty decides to drink.
Strings and garland look great on the tree, but prove deadly inside a cat when swallowed. Dried flowers like baby’s breath look lovely and are nontoxic even if clueless kittens nibble.
If you don’t mind your cats turning the tree into a jungle gym, insert a few sprigs of dried catnip—but be prepared for the cats to dismantle the tree!
Catnip toys make great kitty tree decorations and won’t be destroyed during the feline assaults. Use “orphan” socks (singletons without a mate), fill with the ‘nip, and knot the open end.
Jingle bells (quarter size or larger) can’t be swallowed and offer movement and sound when hung from ribbon on a branch. Put one inside the sealed catnip sock for more jingly fun.
Furry toy mice come in bright colors—or go with a standard white theme—and can be placed in the branches for your mouse-aholic feline.
Craft stores offer inexpensive bags filled with soft pompoms in a variety of colors and sizes—even sparkly ones. Cats love to play with these. Pompoms are so cheap you can fill the branches with one color theme, or a rainbow approach.
It’s not just the ornaments, but the electrical lights that can cause dangerous burns or death if chomped. Even the pine needles can cause injury if swallowed.
Many cats adore feathers but remember they can chew and swallow these. As long as supervised, a few feathers placed in the tree can be a fun accent as well. How about a bright feather boa instead of garland?
Small stuffed toys—kitty theme or otherwise—appeal to many cats. Place around the base of the tree. Feline puzzle toys filled with special treats also are fun.
Don’t forget the “cheap thrills.” Empty boxes, wads of holiday paper, and even paper shopping bags thrill cats. Remove bag handles so the cat won’t get hung around her neck.
Toss a few special kitty treats in the boxes or bags. The smellier the treat, the better cats like them.
Be prepared to re-decorate the tree after the cats have fun. But a “Cat-mas” tree not only answers your kitty’s Santa Paws prayers, it means she’ll be more likely to leave your formal tree and decorations alone. That promotes a merry Christmas for the whole family, furry and otherwise.
Here’s Karma-Kat’s first tree experience…hoo boy!
What have I missed? How do you keep the holidays safe for your cats? Teaching kittens the ropes may be easier than dealing with an adult cat. Have you ever had a cat-astrophe with your tree? Do tell!
Every year, I write about our old cat needs. While Karma-Kat has just reached middle age (and still acts like a kitten!), cats age at different rates. When do you consider your cat old? Is your old cat a senior kitty by age 8, or 13, or…when? For cats, what is old? Here are 8 reasons to consider adopting a senior citizen pet.
November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. I have to admit, there’s something special about old cats. This post first appeared in 2012, and has been updated several times. Now that Seren-Kitty has gone to Rainbow Bridge, this post is in Seren’s honor and for all the golden oldie senior cats that rule our hearts (whether here or waiting for us at the Bridge.)
SEREN & OLD CATS
Seren went to the Bridge in December 2017, and would have celebrated her 22nd birthday on February 1st. I wanted to celebrate old cats and talk a bit about what is old age for cats. Some cats age more gracefully than others, and despite her longtime senior status, Seren continued to act like a youngster and keep Magical-Dawg and Karma-Kat in line, up nearly to the last week of her life. Now Karma-Kat has reached senior kitty status.
Siamese as a breed tend to live longer, and it’s not unusual for healthy cats to live into their late teens or even early twenties. Of course, Seren was a found kitten, and we’re not sure what her heritage was, but she continued to maintain clean teeth, good appetite, normal litter-ary habits, sound heart and no lumps or bumps. After her bout with the schneezles, and losing one canine (fang) tooth, she continued rockin’ and rollin’ like nothing could stop her. I thought she’d live forever. *sigh* If you have a senior kitty, here are some tips for helping to keep old pets comfortable during their golden years.
What is considered old for a cat? The question of what is old is complicated by the impact of genetics, environment, and individual characteristics. Consider human beings: one person may act, look and feel “old” at 65 while another 65-year-old remains an active athlete with a youthful attitude and appearance. The same is true for our cats.
“I think that actually varies a lot, and it’s getting older every year,” says Rhonda Schulman, DVM, an internist at the University of Illinois. “It used to be that eight was the major cutoff for the cat that was geriatric. Now we’re moving to the point that’s a prolonged middle age.” According to Guinness World Records, the oldest cat on record was Creme Puff owned by Jake Perry of Austin, Texas. Cream Puff was born August 3, 1967 and died August 6, 2005 at the age of 38 years and 3 days.
A good definition of old age for an animal is the last 25 percent of their lifespan, says Sarah K. Abood, DVM a clinical nutritionist at Michigan State University. However, since we can’t predict what an individual cat’s lifespan will be, the beginning of old age is a bit arbitrary. Certain families of cats may be longer lived than others, in the same way that some human families enjoy a much greater longevity than others. The lifespan of your cat’s parents and grandparents is a good predictor of how long you can expect your cat to live. People who share their lives with pedigreed cats may be able to access this information through the cat’s breeder.
PREDICTING LONGEVITY IN OLD CATS
Longevity of unknown heritage cats is much more difficult to predict. Even when felines are “part” Siamese or Persian, for example, these felines may inherit the very worst, or the very best, from the parents. The majority of pet cats are domestic shorthair or domestic longhair kitties of mixed ancestry, and the products of unplanned breeding. That by itself points to a poorer-than-average level of health for the parents, which in turn would be passed on to the kittens. Siblings within the same litter may have different fathers, and can vary greatly in looks, behavior, and health. When all is said and done, one should expect the random-bred cat-next-door kitty to be neither more nor less healthy than their pedigreed ancestors—as long as they all receive the same level of care and attention.
“If you get a kitten, it is very likely you will have this cat for the next 15 to 20 years,” says Dr. Abood. That means the last 25 percent would be 12 to 15 years. To simplify matters, most veterinarians consider cats to be “senior citizens” starting at about seven to eight years old, and geriatric at 14 to 15.
Here’s some perspective comparing cat age to human age. “The World Health Organization says that middle-aged folks are 45 to 59 years of age and elderly is 60 to 74. They considered aged as being over 75,” says Debbie Davenport, DVM, an internist with Hill’s Pet Foods. “If you look at cats of seven years of age as being senior, a parallel in human years would be about 51 years,” she says. A geriatric cat at 10 to 12 years of age would be equivalent to a 70-year-old human.
Veterinarians used to concentrate their efforts on caring for young animals. When pets began to develop age-related problems, the tendency among American owners was to just get another pet. That has changed, and today people cherish their aged furry companions and want to help them live as long as possible. Now there are many things you can do for common cat aging conditions.
Modern cats age seven and older can still live full, happy and healthy lives. Age is not a disease. Age is just age, says Sheila McCullough, DVM, an internist at University of Illinois. “There are a lot of things that come with age that can be managed successfully, or the progression delayed. Renal failure cats are classic examples.” It’s not unusual for cats suffering kidney failure to be diagnosed in their late teens or even early twenties.
“I had a woman with a 23-year-old cat who asked should she change the diet. I said, don’t mess with success!” says Dr. McCullough. These days veterinarians often see still-healthy and vital cats of a great age.
“I think if the cat lives to 25 years, I shouldn’t be doing anything but saying hello,” says Steven L. Marks, BVSc, an internist and surgeon at Louisiana State University (now at North Carolina State University). “If you’ve ever had a pet live that long, you want them all to live that long.”
What about your senior cats? Does he or she act like a senior? What age did you notice a change, if any?
Seren’s aging changes meant her dark Siamese mask turned gray, with white hairs surrounding her eyes. Arthritis made it hard for her to leap as before. Her claws thickened so she could no longer retract them, and she “clicked” while she walked on hard surfaces–I kept them trimmed for her. In her last four months, she needed extra potty spots as she couldn’t quite anticipate getting to the right place on time. But I’ll forever be grateful for the nearly 22 years we shared together.
Happy (early) Valentines Day! Do you have anything special planned–for the cats and dogs, that is? What do they have planned for you? 🙂 You’ll want to avoid the Valentine’s day pet dangers, of course. How do your pets show love?
I get a boatload of pet products at various events, conferences and through the mail from folks who ask me to try them out. I’m very grateful, even if I’m not always able to review them–it’s best NOT to send unless you ask first. At times, it looks like a pet toy box exploded at our house.
Sort of embarrassing, but past dogs sometimes prefer dirty socks to high dollar toys, and Karma thinks the 15-year-old peacock feather is da bomb. Cheap thrills, right? Pets don’t care what you spend, as long as it’s TIME with them! But here are some of my favorites and maybe your cats and dogs will enjoy them, too.
Climate Changer Quick Drying Fleece zips up the side for a snug fit, and available for $49.95 at Amazon. It comes in four colors — I think Shadow looks great in blue! (Click picture to go to the site).
Valentines Gifts for Dogs
PLUSH KISSING BOOTH TOY: Shadow LOVES hide-and-seek toys. He inherited a squirrel-treehouse one from Bravo-Dawg but I think this Frisco Valentine Kissing Booth Plush dog toy from Chewy has his name all over it. Measuring about 10″ x 8″ it works well for medium to large dogs at $16.98. And hey, it squeaks! ‘Nuff said.
COATS & SWEATERS FOR DOGS: Ruffwear for Dogs makes some of the most stylish and useful outdoor equipment for dogs. If you love to go camping, play dog sports, or just hang out with your dog in the great outdoors, check out the offerings. They sent Shadow-Pup a couple of coats. Our Texas weather rarely requires extra coats, but for those who must deal with extra ice, snow, or rain, check them out. They’re also available from Amazon.
The Ruffwear Quinzee Jacket comes in four colors, and is $74.95 at Amazon (click picture for the site). Easy on with click-release side buckles, an elastic gusset for better sizing, and leash/harness opening in the back.
Dog Treat Dispenser for Dog Valentine Gifts
Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Snoop Treat Dispenser: Oh my doG, just rediscovered these! I love the Planet Dog products–made in the US out of recycled materials. Many years ago, I got a bunch to review with Magic as a puppy, and they lasted forever. Now, I need to get a fresh supply, because Shadow-Pup would adore them. They come in all kinds of fun shapes and sizes (fruit and veggies, for instance). This one’s new to me, but has nearly 500 great reviews at Chewy.
You can fill the Snoop Treat Dispenser with over a cup of dry food or treats, and even add a small ball inside to provide more challenges. Great to keep dogs occupied when bad weather keeps them confined inside.
KONG WOBBLER: I’m a big fan of the Kong line of products. Shadow-Pup inherited Bravo’s Kong Wobbler, the same one that Magical-Dawg used. It’s like the kid’s toys that “wobble but they don’t fall down.” The weighted bottom holds it upright, while you fill the screw-on top with treats or regular dog food. And the dog “wobbles” the feeder to knock yummies out the small hole. Some genius dogs (like Magic) learn to unscrew the top and get everything out at once. So far, Shadow hasn’t managed that. And here’s a bonus: It sorta-kinda looks like a football…and the Superbowl (and puppybowl) are the day before Valentine’s this year!
Valentines Gifts for Cats
STRAWBERRY CATNIP DELIGHT: Here’s a basket filled with catnip-infused strawberries (four of them) that looks good enough to eat. Don’t worry, it’s fake chocolate, and crinkles with Kitty grabs and rolls on the toys. Another cute plush toy from Frisco, is the Valentine Strawberry Basket. Karma-Kitty loves catnip, so this would get his purrs rumbling.
GREENIES TREATS FOR CATS: Karma-Kat’s favorite treat helps keep his teeth nice and clean. The last time he had his vet checkup, Dr. Clay couldn’t believe his age and said Karma’s teeth looked like a one or two-year-old cat. I love Greenies (for dogs, too!)
OSCILLOT CAT-PROOF FENCE: Karma-Kat doesn’t get to go outside. And he wants to join Shadow. We take him outside on a harness and leash from time to time.
But I now have a wish-list for the future to make sure our fenced back area is cat-proof. If you haven’t seen this Oscillot Cat-Proof Fence Kits, it’s worth taking a look! These are rollers that attach to the top of your existing fence to keep kitty from jumping out (or other animals from jumping in. The video below gives you a taste.
Pet Bed: The Furhaven Bed (below) currently ranks #1 for both dogs and cats on the amazon store, with 72,793 reviews averaging 4.5/5 stars. I’d say there’s enough room there for Shadow and Karma to share … aww, who am I kidding? They’d argue over who got dibs on it, the same as they do for prime sofa spots! It comes in 12 colors and 5 sizes with cost from about $36 to $105 (depending on size of the bed). Some reviewers note that the foam can collapse with use, especially for heavy dogs. Shadow would probably chew up the bed, but for older, more sedate dogs and cats, this could be a lovely Valentine’s gift.
Valentine’s for Pet Lovers
If you want to please the pet lover in your life, get ’em something for the dog or cat. And what if your cat or dog HATES your date? Well, there are some things you can do to woo their furry love. But you might also want to package up something in a red bow (or red bottle?) for the pet-loving human to soothe bruised feelings. Here are a couple of fun suggestions.
Oh, and don’t forget the books! Y’all know I got ya covered on the book front. For gift books, my recommendation would be Cat Life, or Dog Life (or both!).
What About The Pets’ Valentine’s Gifts?
We don’t wait around each year to have a special day to gift Shadow-Pup or Karma-Kat. And they gift us every single day with their presence. I dare ya to argue that’s not so! I’ve written before about how pets show love. But how do you return the favor? It goes beyond a Valentine gift for pets.
For the furry-centric folks, I suspect every day is Valentines Day, with pets returning the love with snuggles, wags, and purrs. In no particular order, here are some ways that the Shojai’s show Valentine’s Love all year long to the pets, and how Shadow and Karma reciprocate.
It’s the time of year when the new kitten is SURE she’s missing out–and so makes a mad door dashing escape to find out about the great outdoors. In my neck of the woods, that’s a recipe for disaster (and the coyotes). There are ways to keep outside cats safe in this post.
This topic always gets lots of attention. Note: This information and more is available in the ComPETablity: Cats book, too. And should the unthinkable happen, refer to this post about how to find lost pets.
There is a saying, that a cat is “always on the wrong side of a door.” My cat Seren(dipity) faithfully adhered to this principle, although with age, her dash-for-the-door became more like a stroll. Karma-Kat these days waits for the dog’s potty time, and makes a bee-line for the door. When you live with a cat, chances are you’ll have a door dashing cat escape now and then.
Dealing with door dashing cats is particularly frustrating for owners. Even when Kitty understands that a particular location (the doorway) is forbidden, she may avoid the place when you’re looking but making a zooming escape as soon as visitors arrive and the door cracks a whisker-width open. Kitties easily get scared with unusual circumstances–storms or fireworks, or howling neighbor dogs. And with a flick of the tail, your cat slinks out the door and disappears.
What can you do? Recognize you will NOT stop a cat’s urge to see on the other side of the door. You cannot change instinct, but you can modify some of these irksome behaviors.
How to Stop Door Dashing Cats
Encourage her to stay away from danger zones with training techniques. Any time you see the cat lounging near the doorway, use an interruption such as a loud “SSST!” or clapped hands to shoo her away. The idea is to make the doorway area unappealing, so that kitty keeps away—and offer her a more rewarding pastime.
Some cats are dissuaded with the help of a long-distance squirt gun aimed at their backside. However, some cats like my Seren enjoy being sprayed. Other cats become too frightened, or even switch to aggression with such techniques. Also, you must always be there for this to work. Cats typically see you pick up the spray bottle, and behavior only when you’re within sight, and look for other times and ways to door dash. Frankly, the spray isn’t all that effective and can do damage to your relationship. There are better ways.
Tips to Keep Cats Away from Doorways
Make the entry way unfriendly. Many cats dislike the feeling of walking on aluminum foil, so place a couple of sheets over the walkway. Or use Sticky Paws (double-sided tape) to make the surface uncomfortable. Put the Sticky Paws on placemats positioned on the forbidden area, so it’s easily removed. You can also use clear plastic floor mats placed spike-side up so the cat will avoid the area.
The SSSCAT is a cat-repellent device that sprays a hiss of air to startle the pet that triggers the built-in motion detector—you don’t have to be present for it to work. You may also use smell deterrents to keep the cat away from forbidden doorway zones. Cats dislike citrus smells, so orange or lemon scents sprayed at the bottom of the door may help.
Many cats adore doorway areas to watch the comings and goings, and they often perch on furniture or windows nearby. While you can make these spots unappealing, consider it’s not fair and also nearly impossible to forbid a much loved activity. Offer her legal outlets that are more attractive than the forbidden zones, and she’ll naturally choose to lounge there and abandon the doorway dash.
Position a cat tree or kitty bed on a table top right in front of a window some distance away from the forbidden door. Make this the most wonderful cat lounge spot ever—hide catnip or food treats in the bed, for example. Before you go out the door, make a point of giving your cat the best-treat-in-the-world, but only if she’s on this cat tree/bed (a safe distance from the door). While she munches, you can make a safe exist. Enlist help from friends to knock at the door or ring the doorbell to practice, so arrivals also make kitty think, “Hey, it’s TREAT time!”
Choose your battles and perhaps allow her to lounge on the television as long as she leaves the doorway alone. Karma enjoys his multilevel cat tree by a window on the same wall as the front door. He can watch all comings and goings from the window—and gets paid with a treat for planting his furry tail and staying put.
Karma also loves sitting on the stained glass kitchen table, to watch through the windows and chatter at the birds and squirrels. But when Shadow-Pup takes his potty break from the back door in the kitchen, though, Karma stays out of the kitchen. We close our pet gates to keep him out, and Karma safe.
Do your cats beg to go outside? Perhaps you have a terrific safe outside kitty playground–how did you create it? What are safety tips or training advice that have worked with your cat? The Ask Amy video below has some suggestions, too.
Do your cats sleep under the bed? Cats sleep a lot, often in unusual places. In fact, kitties sleep two-thirds-of their life away, up to 16 hours each day. That’s more than any other mammal, except for the opossum and some bats.
We don’t know why cats sleep so much. We theorize that predators with few natural enemies (like cats) sleep for longer periods of time. Some experts believe a cat’s need for sleep increases in direct proportion to the amount of energy kitty requires for hunting. Cat hunting behavior requires a lot of energy.
“You can’t see me!” Image copr. Amy Shojai, CABC
How Cats Sleep
While humans sleep in marathon eight-hour (or longer) sessions, cat sleep combines short and long naps throughout the day. Habits vary between cats but very old and very young kittens sleep more than robust adults. Sleep time increases on cold, rainy or cloudy days.
Two patterns of brain activity characterized the sleep activity of cats, like that of people and many other mammals. Scientists measured this activity with an electroencephalograph (EEG) that records waves or pulses of activity on a graph.
Kitty brains broadcast little bunched-together irregular peaks while awake. But when dozing, the cat’s brain produces long, irregular waves called slow-wave sleep and lasts fifteen to thirty minutes. He lies with his head raised and paws tucked beneath him as he dozes. Sometimes he actually sleeps sitting up, in which case his muscles stiffen to hold him upright. This way he’s ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
Cat Sleep Positions
You’ll know when kitty moves from light into deep sleep: his body relaxes; he stretches out and rolls to one side. His brain patterns change and become smaller and closer together, and are very similar to his waking patterns.
During deep sleep (also called “rapid sleep” because of the quick brain wave movement) cats remain fully relaxed and hard to awaken. This phase only lasts about five minutes, and the cat then returns to slow-wave sleep. Thereafter, rapid- and slow-wave sleep alternates until he finally wakes up.
Interestingly, kittens fall directly into deep rapid sleep without this alternating pattern until they’re about a month old. Cat dreams are born during rapid sleep–twitching whiskers and paws chase dream mice, perhaps.
The cat’s senses continue to record sounds and scents during up to 70 percent of sleep. That means cats awaken quickly at the squeak of a mouse or smell of a rat. A predictable pattern of blinking, yawning and stretching characterizes slower awakening. First the forelegs, then back, and finally rear legs flex and stretch in turn. Most cats also groom themselves briefly upon first awakening.
Cats are crepuscular creatures, and most active at daybreak and sundown. But they typically adapt to the humans they love, sleeping on the owner’s schedule. So they sleep when you are gone and spend more awake time when you are home.
Why Cats Sleep On You
…Because they can! For many of us, cats that sleep ON the bed with us…and on the pillow, on your head, on your chest, and pretty much in any position they want. Sleeping with us shows incredible trust and love. But today’s Ask Amy addresses those felines that prefer the company of dust bunnies to humans. What’s up with that?
Do your cats have weird sleeping spots? What’s the oddest place your cat likes to nap? Seren-Kitty used to cuddled up in her blue bed on the table beneath the stained glass lampshade. In her youth Seren hung out on damp towels on the tile tub surround in the bathroom. Karma-Kat stretches out on the carpet in the middle of the room and sleeps on his back. At night, he sleeps in the crook behind my knees. Oh, and do your kitties argue over prime sleep spots? And what about pet insomnia? Oy, it never ends!
Do your pets drink from toilets? New puppy or kitten owners often feel disgusted but also curious and wonder why pets drink from toilets. After all, that’s not the cleanest place to find water, and with the puppy’s acute sense of smell, you’d think that he’d realize that!
With tiny puppies and kittens, there’s also a danger of them falling into the toilet and being unable to get out. Babies can drown in very little water. Adult pets suffer poisoning from bathroom cleaners left in the water. If your pets indulge in toilet slurping, take these safety precautions. It may be as simple as remembering to latch the bathroom door or close the lid.
Do your pets indulge? Image Copr. ArtGoesHere/Flickr
Puppies and adult dogs are creatures of habit, so once they find a “drinking fountain” they like, chances are they’ll make a beeline for the commode. Learn more about how pets drink in this fun post with videos. But exactly why do pets drink from toilets?
Why Pets Drink from Toilets
Smells Good. Part of the attraction may be the scent. After all, your own personal signature odor identifies you as the love-of-his-life, and nothing is more personal to you than the scent of elimination. What’s nasty to us offers the puppy lots of important information, so surrounding himself with “eau de YOU” when he dips his head into the tank may be the thrill of a puppy lifetime.
Cool Drink. The toilet also keeps water cool. The porcelain container insulates and the larger water surface compared to a tiny puppy bowl also helps so it doesn’t heat up as quickly. On hot summer days, water in the toilet may be more tempting just from a temperature standpoint. You may wish to invest in a water bowl that keeps the contents cool to stop dogs drinking from the toilet.
Image via izismile.com
Cool Room. It’s not only the water that’s cooler. Human bathrooms stay cooler than any other part of the house, because of the tile on the floors. For a hot, panting pup on a warm summer day, this may be the best snooze spot ever. And he doesn’t want to range too far from the cool nap zone to get a drink, so he just nips over a few paw-steps to take a slurp from the commode. It’s not unusual for cats to follow you to the toilet, either, and puppies have some of the same reasons.
Fresh Drink. Water that sets in the pet’s bowl not only can become warm, it can get stale quickly. Every time you flush the toilet, a fresh flood of water—oxygenated for even better taste—floods into the holding area. Yum!
Tastes Good. Some kinds of water bowls hold odor or flavors, too. Plastic and metal containers may be off-putting to the dog or cat, but drinking from the toilet container doesn’t absorb these odors and the water stays clean tasting.
Cleaner Water. From the puppy’s standpoint, water in the toilet may be cleaner than that found in his bowl. My dog Shadow uses his water bowl to wash out his mouth after he’s played tackle-the-ball in the grass and dirt. That means his first gulps of water leave grass and dirt in the water.
Instinctive Choice. Some experts speculate that drinking from constantly refreshed water instead of a bowl may hearken back to how dogs evolved to survive. Moving water—as in a rushing mountain stream—prevents the dangers of stagnation where all kinds of bugs like mosquitoes or molds and parasites like coccidia and giardia may be found. So dogs may be instinctively drawn to prefer “toilet water” to that in the bowl.
Of course, the “stuff” that ends up in the toilet (when puppy isn’t drinking) doesn’t provide the best water-fountain option. Aside from it being unappealing from a human standpoint, the cleansers we use in the toilet can be quite dangerous of the puppy ingests these toxic substances.
We have a rule at our house. When the human has finished—the lid goes down. Of course, that gives the CAT a great perch, as well.
Why do cats sit on books? Do your cats know how to read? Well of COURSE they do. I suspect our felines subscribe to the Kitty Manual on Rooling Humanz or wouldn’t have such a uniform method of intervention.
I had to laugh when I got the Ask Amy question: Why do cats sit on books and paper? We know they liked to climb on counters–but then they also find the morning newspaper and use it as a bed. What’s up with that?
Do your kitty friends do this? Sitting on top of books can certainly get in the way of reading. My Karma-Kat wants to prop his head on manuscript ages and even the computer keyboard, too, sort of cutting to the creation part of the book.
While cats sitting on books or lying on paper can be aggravating, it’s fun to figure out WHY they do it. Simply chasing them off elevates kitty stress, and we want to reduce stress, not create more. Once we understand, then perhaps we can find some solutions so we can read undisturbed.
Kitten litter box training tops the list for frequently asked questions from new kitten owners. Planning ahead can save cat lovers lots of heartache by preventing litter box problems before they happen with kitten potty training..
Whenever new kittens come to your home, it’s important to figure out what they know, plus help them learn the new rules of the house. When you have other cats (after proper cat introductions, of course!) the older felines can help teach the youngsters the rules. How to train cats to the litter box usually comes naturally, but these tips can help with potty training your cat.
How to Potty Train Cats with Kitten Litter Box Training
Congratulations on your new kitten adoption! Most cats come pre-programmed to use the potty but you’ll need help if the baby is very young. Felines are great imitators and simply “copy cat” their mother’s behavior when they watch and follow her to the litter box. Most kittens and cats will already know what a litter box is for and how to use it by the time you adopt them.
But if you hand-raise an orphan or adopt a kitten younger than 8 to 10 weeks, you’ll need to do the job of the mother cat. Transitioning outdoor cats to an indoor lifestyle also may mean re-training bathroom etiquette from “going” among the flowers to aiming for the litter box. Check out the Ask Amy video below, and you’ll find more of the basics here.
Kitten Litter Box Training Preparation
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Felines are naturally clean creatures and dislike eliminating where they sleep or eat. They also appreciate privacy when (ahem) doing their duty. Build allegiance to the litter box by positioning it correctly, in a low-traffic area away from the cat’s bed and food bowls. Also remember that kittens may not have the physical capacity to “hold it” long enough to run clear across the house or down the stairs. Provide a box on each end of the house, or one per floor.
SIZE MATTERS. A regular size box may be too large for new kittens to climb in and out. A disposable cookie sheet works until he’s bigger. Average size adult cats do well with standard commercial litter pans, but jumbo-size cats (Maine Coon kitties come to mind!) may need larger toilets or risk hanging over the sides when they pose. Translucent plastic storage bins with a cat-size hole cut in one side may be ideal.
FILLER ‘ER UP WITH…WHAT? A variety of cat box fillers are available, from plain clay to pine pellets and recycled wheat or corn crumbles. The ideal material absorbs moisture, contains waste and odor, and most important of all, suits the cat. Fine textures such as the “clumping” clay litters seem to be the feline favorite. Fill the box an inch or so deep with the filler. Learn about the history of litter here.
If you’re transitioning an outdoor cat to an indoor box, do a bit of research and follow him to find out his preferred substrate. Changing litter too fast can prompt hit or miss potty behavior. Dusting a bit of plain garden dirt, or a layer of grass or leaves over top of the commercial litter may help give him the idea of what you have in mind. Give your cat what he wants and kitten litter box training will be a breeze! And if you already have other pets, you may want to invest in a pet gate or pet door to control the space in your house.
Kitten Litter Box Training: How to Potty Train Cats
Get all the MUST KNOWS for your new kitten in the book!
Kittens and cats new to your home won’t know where the box is, even if they know what it’s for. Place the kitty on top of the clean litter and scratch around with your fingers to prompt imitation. Even if the cat doesn’t need to “go,” a pristine box often tempts them to dig a bit, which may lead to the first deposit.
When he’s creative in the box, reward your cat with verbal praise, a toy, or even a tasty treat reserved only for training. Don’t pick your new kitty up out of the box. Let him make his own way out of the box and the room, so he’ll better remember how to get back there the next time nature calls.
For tiny kittens, leave one recent deposit in the box after he’s been productive. The scent is a reminder of where the box is, and what he’s supposed to do once he’s there. But remember to keep the box clean or the cat will avoid the dirty toilet and find a better spot—such as under your bed.
Until you’re sure the kitty consistently uses the box, make a point of scheduling potty times. Kittens need to eliminate more frequently than adults do. Take the baby for a pit stop after each nap, meal, and play period. Playtime is fun for kittens–and you! Learn more about how pets play here.
Teaching basic bathroom allegiance from the beginning ensures your kitten gets off on the right paw—and saves your carpet. You’ll find even more of kitten “must knows” in the book Complete Kitten Care. Have you ever had problems training kittens to “go” in the right spot? How did you manage?
Is a new cat in your future? Each spring, kitten season may bless you with a new feline friend. But can you predict talkative cats? You wonder, why does my cat meow so much? Heck, cat meowing may be one way cats show love. My Siamese wannabe Seren lived to be 21-years-old, and she talked constantly. We relished her kitty conversations, but some cats over-indulge and pet parents want to stop cat meowing.
Karma-Kat rarely talks unless we address him and doesn’t randomly meow. Mostly, Karma comments center around FOOD and TREATS. He also meows at Shadow–thank goodness the noise doesn’t scare him! Yes, he understands the words, and his “meow” is typically a “yes, please” answer to our questions. Oh, and Karma “announces” when he uses the (ahem) facilities.
Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com
How to Stop Cat Meowing
Recently we had a discussion with some of my Facebook friends and colleagues who have new kitties with — let us say — loud mouth issues, LOL! How to stop cat meowing can be a huge challenge, especially with kittens and demanding older cats.
I figured this was the purr-fect time to share some of the information from a couple of my books, particularly since kitten season is here. COMPLETE KITTEN CARE has some tips on choosing your new kitten based on breed (of course, strays may choose you!). When you want to stop cat meowing that pesters you, one of the best ways is choose a cat that meows less frequently.
A few cat breeds are famous for their loud voices. Siamese-type cats are known for their distinctive meows and love to hold long—and loud—conversations with their humans. If you adopt one of these kittens, they’ll always get in the last word!
Quiet, prefers watching: American Wirehair, Birman, British Shorthair, Chartreux, Egyptian Mau, Exotic Shorthair, Havana Brown, Korat, Scottish Fold, Snowshoe
High-fashion models, requires lots of grooming: Exotic, Himalayan, Maine Coon, Norwegian Forest Cat, Persian, Ragdoll, Scottish Fold (longhair)
KITTEN MEOWING & CAT COMMUNICATION
Cat communication begins early in life. Kittens less than three weeks old vocalize a defensive spit, contented purr, and distress call (similar to adult meow) if the baby becomes isolated, cold, or trapped. Interestingly, the call for “cold” sounds much higher pitched and disappears from the repertoire once the kitten can self-regulate body temperature at about four weeks of age.
Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com
Cat Meowing Explained
Cats rarely meow at each other. They learn to direct meows at humans because we reward them with attention. Each cat learns by association that meowing prompts feeding, access to locations (let me OUTSIDE!), and other resources provided by humans. Learn how to foil door-dashing felines in this post. Some cats learn to produce unique meows for each circumstance.
Humans often overlook body language that makes up a great deal of cat communication, but feline yowls, growls, hisses and purrs get our undivided attention—especially at 5:00 a.m.
In multi-pet homes, troublemakers (other pets pestering) may prompt problem meowing. Cats introduced to other cats or dogs for the first time often meow more as a result. Felines use a wide range of vocalizations to communicate with other cats, but seem to reserve “meows” primarily for talking to their people. Meows are demands: let me OUT, let me IN, pet me, play with me, FEED me! As the cats become more passionate and insistent, meows grow more strident and lower-pitched.
Image courtesy of Deposit Photos.com
How to Stop Cat Meowing
Giving in to cat meowing demands tells Sheba that pestering works to get her way, and any response, such as putting the pillow over your head, yelling at her, or pushing her off the bed still gives her the attention she craves. The only way to extinguish this behavior is to totally ignore the cat.
That means you DON’T get up to feed her; you DON’T indulge in toe-tag games; you DON’T yell at her, spray her with water, or give any attention at all. That’s hard to do when she’s paw-patting your nose, or shaking the windows with yowls. It can take weeks to months to get rid of this behavior once established, but with patience, it can be done.
For some reason, cats tend to become more vocal when suffering from hypertension (high blood pressure), which can be a result of kidney or heart disease. When Sheba can’t hear her own voice any longer, she tends to meow louder and longer. Excessive meowing also may be a sign of deafness in aging cats or even kitty Alzheimer’s (feline cognitive disorder). Check with your veterinarian about excessive meowing in any cat and learn more about cat health and behavior issues from A-to-Z in CAT FACTS.
Here’s a fun Infographic that was shared with me—does any of this look familiar to you? How do you deal with bedtime pester bugs? Do tell!
Does your cat DROOL during petting? What’s up with that? I’m fortunate that Karma-Kat doesn’t do this, but for some cats, petting ends up drenching the cat AND the person. You both end up needing a bath, not that cats enjoy bathing.
WHY DOES MY CAT DROOL, EWWW!
How many folks have experienced a drooling, bubble-blowing saliva-spewing kitty? Since they’re much smaller than dogs, the drool factor may not be quite the same level as, say, a St. Bernard. Lovers of drooly dogs invest in drool-resistant attire and regularly hose down walls, furniture, or anything else within drool-flinging range.
I exaggerate, but not by much.
Cats also can turn on the waterworks. Sometimes a drooling cat is a sign of dental issues or sore mouths. While the sight of something tasty can get my Bravo-Dog soaking wet with slobber-icity, the same thing rarely seems to happen with cats.
Cats (and dogs) do sometimes suck on weird objects, though. And when a cat feels stressed, excessive grooming may be a way he helps calm himself. That could require increased salivation, but I’m not aware of a direct link between drooling and stress.
But some cats salivate when petted. The more they get petted, the greater the drippy flow. I really don’t know why some cats drool and blow bubbles while others don’t. They must simply be wired differently.
The mechanism to turn on the waterworks has to do with the same pleasure triggers that prompt petted cats to knead/tread in satisfaction. Cats’ impulse to knead hearkens back to the sensation they felt when nursing, and eating would trigger salivation. So it’s not a huge jump to attribute salivating and drooling to these same pleasurable sensations. Drooling when petted is one more way cats show us love.
Do your cats drool? What are the circumstances? I’m curious if cats in the same household might “copy cat” behavior and more than one do this or is it primarily an individual issue? What are some other ways your cats show you they LIKE something? What else have I missed in the Ask Amy video below? Please share!
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?
The First Cat Litter
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!
Do your cats get to go outside? How do you keep them safe from harm? How would you go about transitioning an exclusively INDOOR ONLY cat to life on the outside? What can you do to make certain your kitties are always safe? If you’re concerned about indoor vs outdoor cats, read on to learn options for how to keep outside cats safe!
Can you see the fine-webbed fencing that keeps these kitties safe? There CAN be options–if you make the effort! Image Copr. Sanskrittlady/Flickr
Indoor vs Outdoor Cats? & How to Keep Inside Cats Happy
Seren used to stand at the door or window, meow, and dig against the glass with her paws as if she couldn’t wait to escape the plush indoor lifestyle. Karma-Kat watches Bravo-Dawg when he takes a break outside and has started stalking the door to dash outside–but then acts terrified once he finds his paws on the patio. Folks who live in the UK think we Americans are cruel for not allowing kitties the joy of grass between their toes–many cat lovers in the UK have back gardens and the whole neighborhood of cats comes and goes.
Here in North Texas, coyotes come and go from my back patio and turn into land sharks patrolling for kitty treats. Although in her younger days Seren went out on a leash to sniff roses, I’d never feel comfortable letting her out without that safety net. Karma once escaped his harness while outside, and only returned when Magical-Dawg brought him back. We don’t have kitty outings these days o9n a regular basis. I’ve made the choice to keep them inside and keep my cats safe. Instead, I offer lots of indoor enrichment like multiple cat trees and condos–and a best friend dawg for playing chase.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not invest in an “electric fence” type of product that purports to protect cats (or dogs) using shock collars. Such things are not the plug-and-forget-it answers you want–it requires training to use correctly and even then can result in the pet “breaking through” the invisible barrier and then being prevented from returning home. You simply create lost cats that way.
Such products also don’t keep strange dogs or cats (or other critters) from invading your pet’s home turf. You gotta hope that your kitty has proper identification (is your cat microchipped?) to help the pet get home.
I do agree, in the best of all possible worlds where cats could be safe, the best thing in the world would be for them to chase butterflies and sleep in the sun-puddle on the back patio. When you can’t provide a safe outdoor environment, maybe you’d want to take Kitty for a safe outing in a cat stroller. The next best thing is to bring the outdoors inside with lots of hidy-holes, climbing ops, kitty grass for munching, and fun toys that float your cat’s boat.
When Inside Cats Want Out
Today’s Ask Amy video is a heart breaker. It’s a composite of some of the consults that I’ve dealt with over the past several years. Every home and person’s circumstance is different and I’m not in the other’s shoes so can’t judge–and only seek to offer some insight and help. I hope you’ll share some of your suggestions (positive ones, please!) for any lurkers out there who have ever found themselves in such a dilemma.
How would you transition an indoor-only cat to the outside? And then, how would you transition an outdoor cat BACK into an inside cat? I know this is a controversial subject–but we all want the best for our cats so let’s see what creative ideas we can develop!
Is your cat fluffy or a fat cat? Kitty obesity is defined as exceeding ideal body weight by 20 percent. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s annual study, 55.8% of dogs and 59.5% of cats are overweight or obese. Fat cats tend to carry a “pouch” of fat low in the tummy, but seem of average size otherwise. If you can’t feel the pet’s ribs, and/or she has a pendulous or bulging tummy, your pet is too plump.
I’ve been head-down busy working on the next book projects (shhh, news to come!) and haven’t posted in a while. But today, I released the next installment in my CAT FACTS, The Series, which covers feline obesity. So I hope today’s post is a help to you and your feline friends.
I’m fortunate that Seren-kitty has always been petite, a good eater but not overly pudgy. She doesn’t even have that tummy pouch. In her case, she’s always been very active and I think that’s one reason she remains so healthy even at nearly 21 years old.
Karma-Kat tends to put on the pudge, even though he’s very picky, compared to Seren. She’ll eat just about anything and never gains an ounce. Personally, my own metabolism is closer to Karma’s than to Seren. Drat!
If your tabby is tubby, why should you care? Obesity increases risk for diabetes, and is an aggravating factor in heart problems, arthritis, and skin problems.
Common Causes for Fat Felines
Spaying and neutering won’t make kitty fat, but does reduce metabolic rate—how fast and efficiently food is use—by 15 to 20 percent. So unless food intake and exercise are adjusted after surgery, cats can gain weight.
Middle aged and older cats also tend to gain weight. Part of that may be due to changes in aging senses. While feline appetite is stimulated by scent, veterinary experts say a partial reduction in smell sense prompts cat to eat more food.
Indoor-only cats exercise less since they don’t have to chase mice to survive. Couch-potato pets fed high-calorie tasty foods often overeat either out of boredom or from being over-treated by owners.
8 Ways to Slim A Cat
Your vet should rule out potential health complications beforehand. Kitty crash diets can prompt deadly liver problems, called hepatic lipidosis. It’s best to aim for losing only about 1 percent of kitty’s starting weight per week. Medical supervision or a special therapeutic weight-loss diet prescribed by the vet may be necessary for obese cats. But for moderately overweight kitties, these tips work well.
Curb Snacks. Eliminating or reducing treats easily cuts calories. Instead, reserve part of the kitty’s regular diet—a handful of kibble, for instance. Keep it handy to dispense as “treats” when Kitty pesters, or reward with attention, not treats. (Ooooooh I can hear the cats now yowling, “No fair!”
Meal Feed. Rather than keeping the bowl full for all day nibbling, switch to meal feeding measured amounts. Divide the daily food allotment into four or even five small meals keep her from feeling deprived. Multiple small meals increase the body’s metabolic rate, so she burns more calories faster. (Hey, this works for me, too, when I can manage to do it.)
Offer Diet Foods. Reducing diets typically replace fat in the food with indigestible fiber, dilute calories with water, or “puff up” the product with air. “Senior” diets typically have fewer calories, so switching older pets to an age-appropriate formula helps. “Lite” diets aren’t magical and only mean the food has less calories than the same brand’s “regular” food—it might have more calories than another company’s food. Some cats eat more of the diet food to make up for lost calories, so you still have to measure the meals. Be sure to check with your vet before deciding to make major nutrition changes, though.
Go For A Walk. Make twice-daily 20 minute exercise part of your routine. Cats won’t power walk, but a slow to moderate stroll at the end of the leash once or twice a day around the house or garden will help burn energy.
Schedule Play. Interactive play is the best way to encourage feline exercise. Feather toys or fishing-pole lures that the cat will chase are ideal. Some cats learn to play fetch if you toss tiny wads of paper across the room or down the stairs. Entice your cat to chase the beam of a flashlight. Or toss kitty kibble for the cat to pounce and munch.
Create A Hunt. Put food at the top or bottom of the staircase, or on a cat tree so kitty has to get off her pudgy nether regions to eat. If she can’t manage stairs or leaps, put the bowl on a chair and provide a ramp up so he’s burning a few calories. Setting the bowl across the house from Fluffy’s bed also forces her to move.
Puzzle The Cat. Commercial treat balls and interactive feeders are great options. Place one or two meal portions inside kitty puzzles so he must work to get the food. This can solve portion control, exercise, and the pester factor all in one.
Automatic Feeders. When you must be gone during the day, consider using an automatic feeder. Some have refrigerated units to offer fresh canned food servings from locked compartments at timed intervals
Last week, I received this press release with a request that I share it today–and I’m such a huge fan of the AAFP and anything that will help our cats, that I’m delighted to share this news of a wonderful cat health feature on Discovery Channel. The American Association of Feline Practitioners also just confirmed their sponsorship of a Cat Writers’ Association “Cat Friendly” Award for the 2015 contest to encourage getting the word out about how to help cats get health care they need. Find out more about sponsorship ops here.)
Watching this upcoming TV segment is a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the work that AAFP does on behalf of cats and the people who love them. Hurray for Discovery Channel for making this possible!
Now then, if you love cats, read on–and then share with all the other kitty advocates.
Innovations Series, to Feature American Association of Feline Practitioners
Discovery Channel, April 20, 2015 DMG Productions explores the latest advancements in animal health
The AAFP improves the health and welfare of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education for veterinary professionals, and scientific investigation. Scroll down for a video sneak peek of the AAFP’s Discovery Channel debut!
In this segment, Innovations will educate viewers about the AAFP’s dedication to advancing the field of feline care through supporting veterinary professionals in elevating the standard of care for cats. The association also focuses on educating cat owners to increase their understanding of feline behavior, the value of veterinary care, and the need to actively participate in their cats’ individual healthcare plan. The AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice® Program (CFP) designation is a major way the association is innovating the field of feline medicine.
Viewers will learn about the AAFP’s CFP designation, which is a program that provides the tools for veterinary professionals to integrate a feline perspective and embrace the standards needed to elevate care for cats. It equips practices with the tools, resources, and information to improve the treatment, handling, and overall healthcare of cats. The CFP program also focuses on reducing the stress of the veterinary visit for both cats and cat owners.
“The AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice Program is a groundbreaking program in veterinary medicine,”said Susan Little, DVM, DABVP (Feline), 2015 AAFP President. “The time is ripe for a program that helps veterinary practices do the best they can with their feline patients. The CFP program is about setting the standards of care, educating veterinary practices about what their feline patient’s need, about decreasing the stress of the veterinary visit, and it’s about making sure that once the cat is at the veterinary clinic they receive the best quality of care that’s appropriate to the cat.”
In addition, the segment will examine how the AAFP focuses on educating cat owners to increase their understanding of feline behavior, how to reduce the stress of the veterinary visit which actually starts at home before the cat even gets to the clinic, the value of routine veterinary care, and the need to actively participate in their cats’ individual healthcare plan.
“We are thrilled to be able to bring this important information to our viewers,” said Michele Nehls, Producer for the series. “Cat lovers around the world will be amazed by the cutting-edge feline-friendly advancements the AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice program provides.”
The segment will air Monday, April 20, 2015 at 7:30 a.m. EST/PST via The Discovery Channel and be available to view immediately after at: http://www.catvets.com/cfp/ . Dates and times of additional broadcast airings of the episode are still TBD.
About The American Association of Feline Practitioners:
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) improves the health and welfare of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education and scientific investigation. The AAFP has a long-standing reputation and track record in the veterinary community for facilitating high standards of practice and publishes guidelines for practice excellence which are available to veterinarians at the AAFP website. Over the years, the AAFP has encouraged veterinarians to continuously re-evaluate preconceived notions of practice strategies in an effort to advance the quality of feline medicine practiced. The Cat Friendly Practice program is the newest effort created to improve the treatment, handling, and overall healthcare provided to cats. Its purpose is to equip veterinary practices with the tools, resources, and information to elevate the standard of care provided to cats. For more information or to find a Cat Friendly Practice by you, visit: www.catvets.com.
About Innovations and DMG Productions:
Innovations, hosted by award winning actor Ed Begley, Jr., is an information-based series geared toward educating the public on the latest breakthroughs in all areas of society. Featuring practical solutions and important issues facing consumers and professionals alike, Innovations focuses on cutting-edge advancements in everything from health and wellness to global business, renewable energy, and more. For more information visit: www.InnovationsTelevision.com, or contact Michele Nehls via phone at (866) 496-4065 x 822 or via email at: Ryann@InnovationsTelevision.com.
SQUEEE! It’s puppy & kitten season, and just in time for YOUR big adoption gotcha-day celebration, during March local PetSmart® stores will have crate, kennels, carriers, and accessories on sale. There are many kinds of crates and carriers, from soft sided to hard plastic to wire, and in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Magic at 8 weeks old and 11 pounds. Can you see the “divider” in this crate making it puppy-size? Crate train pupies and kittens for life long benefits. Image copr. Amy Shojai, CABC
Why would you want to “cage” that new baby? The way Junior-Dawg howls and Kitty-Kins yowls you’d think they’re being hung up by their furry toes!
Actually, it’s not cruel, but without proper introduction, it can be a wee bit scary. In my Complete Kitten Care and Complete Puppy Care books, I call this LIBERATION TRAINING. Teaching your new pet to accept the kitty carrier or puppy crate is a pet safety issue, but also means they get a ticket to ride…and travel beyond the confines of your house and yard.
That doesn’t mean your new puppy or kitten automatically understands the concept, though, so this blog post not only explains the benefits of crate training to YOU, it also helps you purr-suade your kitten and convince your canine that the notion is a CRATE IDEA. (sorry, couldn’t resist…)
BENEFITS OF CARRIERS & CRATES
Most puppies and kittens–and even their adult counterparts–feel more secure in a small, enclosed den-like area. That’s not to say your new baby should be in the crate for outrageous lengths of time. A youngster should be gradually introduced to the crate or carrier and never left unattended longer than he’s able to “hold it” for potty training.
Prime Nap Spot. A crate works well as a bed. And when a pet claims the spot for naps, it’s no longer scary, but becomes a happy, familiar place he feels secure.
Private Retreat. Because it’s enclosed, the puppy crate or kitty carrier also serves as a safe retreat to get away from other pets or pestering children. Don’t you want a private place of your own where you won’t be bothered? Pets are no different.
Safe Confinement. A crate also can be the safest place to confine that rambunctious baby to keep him from pottying in the wrong spot or cat-climbing to dangerous heights when you can’t watch him.
Ideal Travel Buddy. All pets need to travel by car to the veterinarian from time to time. That’s a STRANGER DANGER moment especially for cats, so already feeling safe and comfy in a familiar carrier puts your kitten or puppy at ease at the vet.
Potty Training Tool. For pups, it’s one of the best tools available for potty training. They don’t want to mess where they sleep, so just turning it into a bed prompts Junior-Dawg to let you know when he needs a potty break. Here are more tips on puppy potty training.
The perfect crate or carrier should be just large enough for a pet to go inside, turn around, and lie down to sleep. It can be a solid hard plastic container, wire mesh cage or soft-sided duffle-type carrier (for cats). While soft-sided pet carriers work great for transport, they may be too small and prove too tempting for chew-aholic pups to work well for safe confinement.
This standard “plain Jane” crate has served us well for three dogs now. The Frisco Fold & Carry is available at Chewy and several other outlets.
Of course, puppies and kittens grow, so especially for larger dog breeds, consider your pup’s future adult size before investing in a pricy dog crate. Large crates are available with partitions for you to “shrink” to puppy size, and then enlarge the area as your puppy matures. You can also purchase an adult-size crate, and insert a barrier like a plastic storage box that shrinks the space to puppy proportions until your pet grows to full size. That’s what I did with Magical-Dawg. He arrived at our house weighing about 11 pounds, and grew up to be nearly 90 pounds. Our dogs don’t the crate at all, because it doubles as an enormous doggy toy box!
The key to training pets to accept the carrier or crate is creating familiarity. You do that by introducing him to this new situation in a series of non-threatening, gradual steps.
5 Tips to Crate Train Pets
Make It Familiar. While well-adjusted puppies and kittens tend to be curious, some tend toward shyness. Anything new prompts suspicion. So make the crate or carrier “part of the furniture” and set it out in the family room for your new pet to explore. Leave the door open or take it off, and let him sniff it inside and out. Don’t make a big deal out of it.
Karma Kat decided on his own that sleeping among soft toys that smell like his best buddy Magic is a VERY-GOOD-THING! He also likes playing with lure-toys while inside. Image copr. Amy Shojai, CABC
Make It A Happy Place. Place a snuggly kitty blanket or dog bed inside. Or you can toss a toy inside, to create positive experiences with the crate. For kittens, Ping Pong balls are great fun inside the hard crates. Karma actually LOVES hanging out inside Magic’s crate because of all the fuzzy toys. Both Karma-Kat and Seren-Kitty have smaller duffle-style carriers (set on top of Magic’s crate), and take turns sleeping in them–they’re out all the time, with doors open.
Offer A Treat. For puppies, find a puzzle toy that can be stuffed with a smelly, tasty treat. This should be a treat your puppy loves, but he ONLY gets the treat when inside the crate. Show it to him, let him smell and taste the treat, and then toss it inside the crate and shut the door—with the puppy outside the crate and the treat on the inside. And after he’s begged to get inside, open the door and allow him to chew and enjoy it for five minutes but only with the door shut. Catnip can work well with cats, but youngsters won’t react until they’re 6 months old, so getting kitty tipsy only works for more mature cats.
Teach Him Tolerance. If your puppy fusses let him out—but lock the treat back inside. You’re teaching him that wonderful things can be found inside the crate. Most pups learn to tolerate the door shut at least as long as they have something to munch. Praise the dickens out of him! He should know that staying calmly inside the crate earns him good things. Do the same with your kitten, using healthy treats or fun toys like chase-the-flashlight beam, but only inside the crate. Repeat several times over the next few days, each time letting the kitten out after five minutes.
Extend Crate Time. By the end of the week, you can begin increasing the time the pet spends in the crate. For small pups and kittens, pick up the carrier while he’s in it and carry him around, and then let him out. Take him in the carrier out to the car, sit there and talk to him, then bring him back into the house and release him—don’t forget to offer the treat. Soon, you should be able to take him for car rides in his carrier, without him throwing a fit. He’ll learn that most times, the carrier means good things for him—and the vet visit isn’t the only association it has.
Cat Crate Training, Too!
For older cats, it can take several weeks to teach crate acceptance. Check out this PAW-some video from Catalyst Council on how to help your cats accept carriers. You–and your cats–will be glad you did.
So now it’s your turn. How are you teaching Junior Dog and Killer-Diller-Kitten to accept their carriers or crates? What about older pets–are they already crate trained? What worked best for your furry wonders? Please share tips to help out other pet lovers in the comments section!
MERRY CAT-MAS & HAPPY HOWL-IDAYS! This time of year means visitors of all ages and your pets may object to these INTERLOPERS. These tips can help–and the books are FREE today (Weds), Thursday & Friday! Please share with anyone you think could use the help!
STRAYS, an original musical by local playwrights Amy Shojai and Frank Steele, premiers at the Honey McGee Playhouse for three nights only November 6, 7, 8, 2014 at 7:00 pm. Cast with 30 local talents, the review-style show explores furry foibles from the PETS’ point of view.
STRAYS was written to be performed for (and by) animal rescue organizations as a fund raiser, and isn’t specifically a “kids show,” although talented thespians from the Theatricks program are cast. All ages will enjoy STRAYS.
“I’ve been a fan of STRAYS since I saw the concert preview back in 2013,” says Susan McGinn, “so I’m delighted that my husband John, daughter Sarah, and I are cast for the first fully staged production! It’s been fascinating (and unique in all my theater experience) to be directed by the co-writers of the show and watch them refine and tweaked the script and score during the rehearsal process. It’s an honor for all of us who are acting in the production to know that our work has contributed to shaping STRAYS.”
Susan McGinn (far left) and the other “cats” intimidate the Pariah Cat (crouched center) played by Kaitlyn Casmedes.
Jim Barnes recorded the show songs for the preview cast album, and decided to audition for the staged performance. He portrays the only boy cat, a feline who has used up 8 of his 9 lives. “I like performing in STRAYS because it gives me a chance to make people laugh,” he says. “Everyone should see it. You will laugh, you will cry a little and you will learn some insight on the behaviors of animals.”
Jim Barnes sings how he’s wasted 8 of his 9 lives, while two dogs (played by Theresa Littlefield and Lew Cohn) look on.
The large cast has become close. Lew Cohn says, “It is great to see talented performers of such a wide variety of ages come together to perform original material that is so well written and informative about the plight of stray animals. My favorite scene is the Old Dogs Talking, in which I play a Bassett hound with various “difficulties” that make for a lot of fun. But there’s something for everyone—bust a gut comedy, tear jerking drama and great original songs that tell a story.”
Two dogs played by Lew Cohn (left) and Steven Mildward (right) discuss bulldogs, bullfrogs, worms and Poodles–and other important dog schtuff.
Steve Mildward has been involved in many productions, both onstage and backstage. “I can address the excitement that comes from the direct involvement with the writers. In the classics, you can’t ask what the intent was. In this production, the directors are there to lend that insight.”
Cohn also appreciates being able to create a role from the ground up. “This is an exciting opportunity to set the bar in an original show.”
Abraham (a puppy) and kittens Eliana and Sofia Guerra have featured roles in the show.
For some actors, STRAYS is their first onstage experience. Carolina Guerra and her daughters Sofia and Eliana are first-time performers cast when Carolina’s son Abraham decided to audition. She especially enjoys being able to share the experience with her family. “My kiddos love to perform but I am more of an introvert so I was not sure how it would go. Much to my surprise, the play has been both educational and fun for all of us. It has been a great introduction to being in a theatrical production. I might even consider trying out for another one.”
Her son Abraham is a veteran of Theatricks productions, and says he likes getting to wear a bone as one of the puppies. He also performs a dog rap. His favorite scene is Show Dog, because it’s so funny. “The main difference (compared to other plays) is being on stage the whole time,” he says. “In some ways it is easier because we are not running back and forth but it is also hard because you have to stay in character the whole time.”
Both Sofia and Eliana Guerra like playing kittens. Sofia loves to sing and march in GOTCHA DAY, while Eliana prefers the fun song NORMAL.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to be not only working on a new show but a show with an important message,” says Kaitlyn Casmedes, who choreographed STRAYS and portrays the “pariah” cat. “Anyone whose heart goes out to animals will love this show.”
Carolina says her favorite song is RAINBOW PETS, the finale. “In particular the lines, “Lessons learned don’t come for free…shed no tear have no fear pay it forward in kind.” What a great life lesson not just about pet ownership but everything in life. I hope my kiddos will remember these words forever.”
“There’s a line in STRAYS that I think describes perfectly why the show is so appealing,” adds Susan McGinn. “There’s a lot of love represented here, a lot of love.” When the joyous finale arrives, we all truly feel it. We want the audience to know about the happiness that comes from helping cats and dogs in need. We can’t wait for opening night!”
Those who regularly read this blog know that I not only write about pets, but also give talks about pet behavior. You may be surprised to learn that sometimes I write music about pet behavior, too and even SING about cats and dogs. (Magical-Dawg howls, Seren-Kitty does her lion cough and Karma yawns…everyone’s a critic!) Now you have a chance to sing along!
I’m proud to partner with local actor/writer/musician Frank Steele to co-write STRAYS, THE MUSICAL. Next Saturday, September 13 from 10-noon at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, we’ll present a free workshop about the show. The workshop is designed to help pet loving performers prepare to audition for STRAYS on September 23, 24, 25. Those who attend may learn a thing or two about cat and dog behavior, too!
I’ve written lots of pet-centric schtuff, and Frank and I have written other scripts and performed on stage a great deal. But STRAYS combines all our loves—writing, music, acting and pets. Now we want to share STRAYS with area actors and audiences.
Love theater? Love pets? You’ll fall in love with STRAYS!
We’re looking for up to 20 performers and production folks to bring STRAYS to life. A few human characters appear in the show but most actors portray cats or dogs—but without any special makeup or costumes. That’s right! You get to create your own character using your skill as a performer—are you a Great Dane? Chihuahua or Siamese? Mutt or tabby? We’d love to cast families, too—with the kids playing kittens/puppies and parents as the adult pets.
During the workshop, you’ll practice channeling your inner pet. Feel free to bring a dog or cat toy to help get into character. Participants will learn one of the songs from the show and practice pet-centric moves. Are you a rapper or beat box expert? Come show your skills! Dogs and cats move and act in very specific ways that communicate to each other (and to clueless humans!). Shake your puppy tail or display kitty ballet moves to evoke the pet’s mood. During the workshop you’ll also practice reading funny or poignant scenes from the script.
Two featured parts call for 14-year old actor/singers to play the parts of Girl Kitten and Boy Puppy. But all other parts have no age or type limitations and performers aged 9 to 99 are welcome. STRAYS includes solos, ensembles, rap, featured dancers, non-singing actor roles, and fun company numbers in styles ranging from pop rock to blues, calypso, gospel, jazz, and Celtic. If you’re like me, you often “speak” for your pets and now’s your chance to bring that cat or dog character to the stage.
We look forward to working with Supporting Cast members from SCP-Theatricks. We also seek technical assistance with lighting, sound, projection, choreography, stage managing and more.
Dr. John McGinn will assist us as rehearsal pianist, and the show will be performed with a CD of full orchestration on November 6, 7, 8, 2014. We hope STRAYS will benefit animal welfare organizations in their fund raising efforts, as well as entertain pet lovers. And purr-haps bring a new audience to Sherman Community Players.
Now is your chance—come to the STRAYS workshop Saturday September 13 from 10-Noon to learn more. Please SHARE this post with cat and dog lovers and theater peeps. 🙂
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