Archives for posts with tag: cat behavior

Courtesy of Ingrid KingImage

“Cats have a reputation for being low maintenance, which is probably one of the many reasons why they have surpassed dogs as the most popular pet in America. Unfortunately, because of this reputation, many people think cats don’t need as much attention as dogs do. They couldn’t be more wrong. 

Play is vitally important to a cat’s mental and physical health, and it’s especially important for indoor cats. Even though cats may sleep up to 16 hours a day, when they’re awake, they need stimulation, and the best way to accomplish this is with play. In the wild, when lions, tigers and other wild cats aren’t sleeping, they’re either hunting, or teaching their young to hunt. And play is nothing more than channelling your domestic tiger’s hunting instinct into play.

Benefits of Play

  • Exercise. Obesity is the number one health problem in cats. According to a recent survey, 55% of America’s cats are overweight or obese. In addition to feeding a species-appropriate raw or canned diet, exercise is the best way to keep your feline charges fit and trim.
  • Relief of boredom. Cats who don’t get challenged or entertained get bored, which can lead to depression. This can be a problem especially for single cats. I learned this the hard way when Amber died shortly after I adopted Allegra as a 7-month-old kitten. We both learned together what it takes to keep a single cat happy.
  • Stress relief. You may wonder what our pampered house cats could possibly be stressed about. Feline stressors range from changes in their environment to picking up on stress from their humans. One of the best ways to counteract stress in cats is through regular playtime.
  • Help with behavioral challenges. If you watch Jackson Galaxy on My Cat from Hell, you will have noticed that “play therapy” is part of Jackson’s recommendations in almost every case he tackles.
  • Increase of the bond between cat and human, and between cats in the same household. Cats chasing each other and playing with each other is a great way to build a bond between cats in the same household. Playing with interactive toys is a wonderful way to increase the bond between you and your cat.

Creative Playtime for Cats

Toys that simulate play and satisfy a cat’s innate hunting drive will be most effective for creating a fun play experience for your cat that also helps her burn off excess energy. Even though there are lots of cute little catnip filled toys on the market, simply placing one in front of your cat and hoping that she’ll play with it doesn’t work with most cats. Interactive, fishing pole type toys such as theNeko Flies or DaBird are the best way to get your cat playing with you, and to satisfy her hunt/prey instinct. 

Certified Cat Behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett provides wonderful advice on how to make all the right moves with interactive toys in her article on Interactive Play Therapy:

How you move the interactive toy is important. Don’t wave it around frantically just to give your cat an aerobic workout. That’s not how cats naturally hunt. Stick to what’s natural for your cat. In the wild, a cat would stalk her prey while staying as quiet and invisible as possible. She would inch closer and closer and then, when she gets within striking distance, she would pounce. Cats don’t have the lung capacity to chase to exhaustion so don’t conduct marathons throughout the house. Move the toy like prey, alternating between fast and slow motions so it gives your cat time to plan her next move. Here’s a tip: movements that go away from or across your cat’s visual field will trigger her prey drive. Don’t dangle the toy in her face or move it toward her.

 

Interactive puzzle toys can be a great way to keep your cats entertained and mentally stimulated when you can’t play with them. The toys are designed to be filled with treats, and they challenge kitty to retrieve the treats through varied openings in the toys. 

Rotate toys in and out. Don’t keep the same toys out in the same spot all the time – this will almost guarantee that your cats will get bored with them. Put some toys away for a week or two, and then bring them out again. Your cats will think they got a brand new toy. Of course, you don’t want to do this if your cat has a favorite toy that she plays with all the time. I’ve turned my family room into a giant kitty playroom. There’s is no human furniture in the room, only cat trees, scratchers, and a ton of cat toys. Every once in a while, I’ll take some things away, bring out others, and rearrange everything to keep Allegra and Ruby interested. 

Cat toys don’t need to be expensive. To a cat, almost everything can become a toy: grocery bags with the handles cut off, boxes, toilet paper rolls, milk carton tops, tissue paper – in a cat’s mind, these were all just made to be played with. Some cats enjoy chasing bubbles, or batting Q-tips around the bathtub. Think like a cat, and you may be surprised at the things you already have in your home that make the purr-fect cat toy. 

Make time for one or two play sessions, 10-20 minutes in length, each day. You and your kitties will find that you’ll look forward to these session every day.   

 

©Ingrid King 2014. All Rights Reserved. 

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One of my weekly dog visits is with an adorable six month old German Shepard Chow rescue mix.  Her name is Addy and she is very bright.  Her “mom and dad” are first time adult puppy owners.  Recently they brought home a smart squirrel toy for their dog.  http://www.ihelppets.com/Products/Hideasquirrel.html.  Addy has taken to this game with amazing enthusiasm and concentration.  The game has three adorable squirrel toys that are hiding in a plush “squirrel tree”.  Addy’s job is to get the squirrels and remove them from the tree.  It is so much fun to play with her when I visit her for her daily pet sitting walks.  The puzzle solving dog game helps develop intelligence and keeps her young mind busy. She is challenged to focus on the task at hand and in the process fun, entertainment and bonding take place between humans and canines.

All animals can benefit from smart toys and smart play and you don’t have to spend money.  I know that every pet owner can relate to what I have experienced with my kitten, Jasper.  I buy a toy and bring it home, completely excited…and sadly she wants nothing to do with it.  Instead she wants to hang out on my vanity when I am primping and steal my hair scrunchies.  I have given in and now refer to one of my velour silver hair scrunchies as “her baby”.  I place the scrunchy on faucets, door handles and more and encourage her to find a way to remove it.  Which she does and proudly prances away with the pitifully stretched scrunchy dangling from her mouth.  Purina offers advice on their blog about puzzles and smart play.  http://www.petcentric.com/Read/Articles/Smart-Active-Cats.aspx?articleid=89c401d6-3362-432a-b475-3c3ae00e3f79

“In addition to the usual cat games, where you dangle a cat toy or pull something on a string, try some games that make her think. Dangle a favorite cat toy over a high surface, so she has to figure out how to get up there. Hide treats in places that are a little difficult to get to. Start simple, by placing one under a can or cup. Work your cat’s mind up to solving more complex problems such as getting a treat out of a small box with an easy-to-remove lid. Hide small treats in various places throughout your house.”

If you want to hire a sitter or pet trainer in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area, visit www.yourneighborhoodpetsitter.com

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“I Love Pigs”.

Lessons from Heaven

Three months ago, I lost my beautiful Calico cat, Charity at the age of 17.  After months of battling illness, I made the heart-wrenching decision to put her to sleep.  I had held her and comforted her for weeks and told her that I would never have another cat again…she would be my last kitty.  I was with her in the end and returned home in tears to receive comfort from my three dogs.  For weeks, Charity’s cat supplies sat packed up near the door, ready to donate to an animal shelter.

Before revealing the end of this story, I must make an embarrassing confession.  I have always been a dog lover.  I love all animals and have had many pets, but everyone who knows me is well aware that I adore canines of every shape and size.    I’ve never been a huge fan of cats.  I am not saying that I don’t like them, more that I have been dispassionate about felines.  I never understood or took the time to understand them on any deep level.  As a result, I could have a friend for years that knew cute little antidotes about my dogs and upon visiting my house would comment, “I never knew you had a cat!”

And so you may ask, how did a non-cat lover, come to own and take care of a cat for 17 years, through multiple moves and up and down economic times?

Seventeen years ago I attended a Christmas Event for pets at my local veterinarian clinic in South Florida.  I had a pet sitting business and I shared referrals for years with this vet.  I was dressed as an elf and there to take pictures of pets and owners for the annual “Santa Paws” event.  A cage of homeless kittens had been placed next to my elf chair and there it sat for six hours that day.  She was a tiny calico with a beautiful, full and fluffy coat, bright green eyes and covered with fleas.  So we went home together that day and I named her Charity because I did not have it in my budget for another pet.

Two weeks later, my animal production agency landed her a job on a major movie and I worked with her on the set.  She actually worked in a scene with a new up and coming actress, named Jennifer Lopez.  That night on the outdoor movie shoot, it was freakishly cold in Miami and I had her tucked in my sweater with only her head sticking out.  As I walked around, talking to cast and crew, I joked that, “I’m not a cat lover, but here is my cat”.   People offered to take her because she was so very tiny and adorable.  The answer was, “No, thank you.  She is mine now.”  We brought home a pay check of $400 for our work (more money than any of my dogs ever made).

For 17 years, Charity was a low maintenance pet.  She was always healthy, sweet, hardly ever even meowed and was kind and tolerant of the five dogs in our pack over the years.  The truth is that I came to love her very much.  The main reason I did not want to own another cat is because I do not like a litter box in my home and all that goes along with that.

When she was gone I noticed a unique presence missing in my home.  My dogs are so wonderful, but cats offer a spirit and interaction that is innately different from a dog.  I was missing her terribly.  I did some research on sitty kitty and other alternatives to litter boxes, but I was not convinced.  Three weeks after she died, I happened into a thrift shop that was sponsored by a cat rescue group.  Unexpectedly, I was faced with tiny kittens running around behind the cash register.  I asked if I could hold one.  They passed me a kitten with bright blue eyes.  She was cute but immediately when I held her, I was compelled to give her back.  I walked out, telling the staff, “My heart is just not ready”.

Three weeks later, I responded to an ad for a free kitten.  When I went to the person’s house, there were two kittens left.  They were playing on the porch, a brother and a sister.  The girl was tiny and mostly white with a calico pattern along her head, back and tail.  I told the owner about my recent loss and quickly gave her a verbal disclaimer.  “I am just going to hold her, but I don’t know if I am ready for another cat.”  Then something amazing happened.

I picked her up and brought her close to my face.  She calmly looked at me and took her right paw and gently placed it on my cheek and began to softly feel my face, in the same way a blind person would explore facial features.   My heart skipped a beat and from that moment on, I knew she was mine.

I’ve named her Jasper.  She now plays in “Charity’s garden” every day.  And guess what?  She does not use a litter box.  She goes out the kitty door I made for her and prefers to dig holes in the garden and go outside!!!!  Ha!

And what happened to the blasé cat girl?  She makes homemade cat toys, takes tons of pictures, teaches the cat tricks and tapes every episode of her new favorite show, “My cat from Hell”.

See Charity, You can teach an old dog, new tricks!

http://animal.discovery.com/tv/my-cat-from-hell/