Our Cat's Place – Living With Cats

thoughts, articles, & information on cats, their behavior, and their relationships with us.

  • May 7

    jumping-cute-playing-animals

    From the time a kitten is born, their instinct for play is very strong. At first, baby kittens play with the others in their litter as a way to learn about cat social structure. After a few months, they start to play with the things around them. A young cat loves to play with just about anything! This is how they develop their ability to stalk, pounce, kick, and wrestle, which are all important motor skills involved in hunting.

    In fact, for cats in nature, playing is actually how they learn hunting skills. But even a domestic indoor cat has the built-in instinct and need for play; it is part of the feline nature. As cat owners, we need to understand this in order to raise a happy and healthy cat.

    Young kittens will learn that it is not OK to scratch or bite humans, as long as they have a toy mouse or bird to play with. Kittens have almost unbelievable stores of energy that can be redirected to chasing a cat toy. Some of my cat’s favorites have included small cardboard “sticks” attached to the end of a long wire, and feathers on a string attached to a long stick. They love to chase these around and will do so for long periods until they finally get worn out! For the cat, this play exercises their hunting and “prey” drive, while for the cat owners, it helps us bond with our cats, and can also help save the furniture from being scratched or climbed!

    Grown cats still have the need to play. Playing provides good exercise for your cat, benefiting his overall health and fitness. It also allows them to use their mental abilities associated with stalking and hunting prey. I often play with my cat before feeding him. If he successfully catches his toy mouse on a string a few times, he might feel more like he has “earned” his dinner, and we both enjoy the bonding time together.

    In fact, play has been found to be a successful method of therapy for cats that have been misbehaving. If this is done correctly and consistently over time, play can help a cat be less aggressive, more accepting of new pets or humans in the household, adapting to a new home, and even to stop urinating outside the litter box.

    What are the best toys for cats? Well, this really depends on the cat and his environment.
    Young kittens often like to have a stuffed animal to cuddle with, the way young human children do. And even adult cats can enjoy these! Another type of toy is the kind that encourages the cat to figure out a problem or puzzle. This would include the toys where the cat must figure out how to get a small ball or toy out of a box full of holes, or a treat out of a dispenser. These can keep your cat entertained for quite some time, and might be a good toy to have if you are away from the house a lot.

    But the overall favorite cat toys are those that allow the cat to play at hunting prey. Something that moves, whether on it’s own or with help from you, is best. The mouse or bird on a stick, as mentioned above, is great, but also try one of those laser pointers that you can run around on the floor or up and down a wall. Many cats go absolutely nuts playing with these (mine does!), and they can provide loads of fun for both you and your cat. Try running a toy or a light beam around through a cardboard box or cat-climbing tree for extra excitement. Your cat will feel like a mighty hunter indeed when he catches one of these!

    Before you give your cat a toy to play with, make sure it’s safe for him. Don’t give your cat a toy with very small parts that he might bite off and choke on. Also avoid anything with ribbons or small pieces of plastic that could get stuck in your cat’s stomach if he swallowed them. Cats always enjoy new things to play with, so it’s a good idea to remove some of his toys and “rotate” them so that he always has something different. If you run out of ideas, just put some empty cardboard boxes or paper bags on the floor and watch your cat go! It doesn’t matter so much what they toy is, more that your cat has something to play with and on. Cats simply need and love to play!

    Find many more great tips on cat behavior and caring for cats in Mary Matthew’s book “Ultimate Cat Secrets”.

    all the best to you and your feline friends,

    Beth

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  • Dec 14

    Cats can be elusive creatures, and sometimes the task of getting them to come when called can seem daunting. However, if you approach this in the right way and with the right attitude, it can be much easier than you think! These are the steps that can be taken.

    • Step 1: Begin by making it a habit to talk to your cat often, and create a strong bond with her through petting, brushing, and spending time together. Take every opportunity to give her your love and attention. Having a good relationship with your cat is very important.
    • Step 2: Find a special dry treat that she really loves. This should be something that she doesn’t have very often, and it will only be used for this purpose. While you are training her to come when called, make sure you don’t give her this particular treat at any other time. Please choose something small and nutritious. A snack that is good for your cat’s teeth would be ideal.
    • Step 3: Find a special word that will be used for training her to come. This will become a word that she associates only with this special treat, so think of something that she won’t often hear at other times.
    • Step 4: The next time you give your cat a snack, use the special word. Put one treat in her empty food bowl while speaking the word out loud.
    • Step 5: Say the word again after she eats the treat. Then give her another of the same treat, and use the word again in the same way.
    • Step 6: Step away from your cat now. If she protests that she is “starving” you can say the word again and give her one more piece. Then leave the room.
    • Step 7: About 4 minutes later, repeat the entire process again. Your cat will begin to learn to associate the special word with her special treat.
    • Step 8: Continue doing this a few times a day for the next several days. Eventually, your cat will learn to come to you when you say the special word.
    • Step 9: When your cat starts coming to you every time you say the special word, start giving her the treat only once in a while. The rest of the time, give her lots of attention (petting, scratches, playing with a toy, whatever she likes) for a few minutes. Then let her go. Repeat this process a few minutes later.
    • Step 10: If you have created a strong bond with your cat, and if you have followed the above procedures correctly, your cat will now associate your special word with the extra attention and loves she gets from you. She should now be coming to you when she hears you say the word.

    Please remember, the treat must be a small and nutritious snack, not something large, or a whole bowl of food. She will be eating a fair number of these during training, and we don’t want her to gain extra weight!

    Make sure that you use the special word every day, just so that she will come to you for affection and hugs. If you use it only when it is time to take her to the vet or give her a bath, she will learn to associate the word with unpleasant times and it can undermine the effects of your training. When these types of occasions do come up, give your cat the treat and then wait a little bit before following through with your “hidden motive”.

    So why does this technique work so well?

    What this all boils down to is conditioning your cat to associate your special word with getting attention from you. The word becomes the trigger, to which she responds in order to get something she wants. Once this happens, any time you say the special word your cat comes because she knows she will be rewarded.

    As you can see, the bond you form with your cat is the most important aspect of getting her to come when you call. When your cat knows that she will get love and affection from being close to you, then she will WANT to come to you any time she can.

    I learned these tips and many others from Mary Matthews’ book “Ultimate Cat Secrets”. If you would like to enjoy a loving relationship with a perfectly well behaved cat, this is well worth a read!

    all the best to you and your feline friends,

    Beth

  • Oct 3

    Holiday & Celebrations

    Most cat lovers know that black cats should be kept strictly in the house during the times just before and after Halloween. But there are dangers to all cats during this holiday season, both outside and in. Here are eight things every cat owner should be aware of:

    1. Chocolate can be toxic to cats. Because there is so much candy available around Halloween, it is very important to keep it out of your cat’s way. If kitty does happen to eat some chocolate, please contact your veterinarian right away for advice. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is.

    2. Curious cats can get burned easily. Think twice about having any lit candles around the house. Although candles can lend a lot of atmosphere to a darkened house, it can be very easy for a cat to get into them, which could be disastrous. If you must have candles, keep them in a room where your cat will not be going.

    3. Carved pumpkins start to go bad quickly. Don’t let your cat get too close to a pumpkin that has been carved and sitting out for a while. The smell and taste might be very tempting for him, but a raw carved pumpkin can start to grow mold and bacteria within a few hours, which could give your cat stomach problems or diarrhea.

    4. Decorations should be kept out of reach. Please keep your Halloween decorations to areas where your cat cannot reach them. Foil, plastic, batteries, electric cords, fake hair and “spider webs” and other typical decorative items may look like cat toys to your cat, but they were not meant to be chewed on and could harm your cat if he tries to bite or swallow them.

    5. Keep your cat inside on the big night. Halloween activities are disruptive, and can be loud and scary for a cat, even one who normally goes outside. Many cats run away on Halloween. Please don’t let yours be one of them!

    6. Your cat may prefer a nice, quiet hiding place away from the noise. If you are expecting a lot of “trick or treaters” at your house, consider letting your cat stay in a quiet bedroom or den, where she won’t get frightened by the noise and all the strange people coming in and out. Cats who are scared can tend to bolt away, and you do not want to risk losing your cat in the crowds at night.

    7. Watch out for candy wrappers! If you or your kids are munching on wrapped candy, please keep the wrappers away from your cat. Kitty will find the look and feel very exciting, but if they eat one it could cause serious damage to his internal organs.

    8. Don’t force your cat to wear a costume. Cats look adorable in Halloween costumes, but not every cat enjoys wearing them. If your cat is one of these, then please let him go without it, he will be much happier and more comfortable. If your cat does seem to like his costume, make sure that he can get around easily and his movement is not restricted.

    These are just a few things you can do to help ensure that you and your cat have a happy and healthy Halloween.

    Find many more great tips on cat behavior and caring for cats in Mary Matthew’s book “Ultimate Cat Secrets“.

    All the best to you and your feline friends,
    Beth

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  • Jan 16
    filipCats are curious by nature, and they often gather information by smelling or tasting the objects around them. Electrical cords present a serious potential danger to cats. If they manage to bite through the cord with their sharp teeth, they may be burned or shocked, causing issues with breathing or even stopping their heart. Kittens who are teething are especially at risk because they seek out tough things to chew on. Let’s talk about a few ways to prevent your kitten or cat from being hurt by chewing on an electrical cord.

    1. Keep the cords neatly taped to the wall if possible. This will not only keep your cat from chewing on them, it will also prevent humans from tripping!

    2. Make sure that any excess cord is out of sight to your cat. If a cord is hanging off a table, your cat is likely to play with it, thinking it’s a toy.

    3. Wrap tin foil around the cords. This will make them less attractive to your cat, and even if he does happen to bite it, the tin foil will taste unpleasant to him and he will stop right away.

    4. Put sticky paper or two-way tape around the cords. This will keep your cat from getting too close to the cords, as the stickiness feels unpleasant to a cat.

    5. Try putting bad tasting liquids or sprays on the cords, so that you cat will not want to chew on them. Some of the best things to use are bitter apple spray, toothpaste, lemon juice, and mouthwash. And something that has always worked for me is rubbing the cords with a bar of moist bath soap (I don’t like the taste of that either!)

    6. Keep your cat’s favorite toys near the cords, so that they will chew on those instead of the cords.

    7. If all else fails, keep your cat out of the room where the cords are until they either grow out of kittenhood or just lose interest in chewing them.

    By keeping your kittens and cats from chewing on electrical cords, you will eliminate one serious risk, and will greatly help to keep your feline companions safe and happy.

    Many great cat tips can be found in Mary Matthew’s book “Ultimate Cat Secrets”. Check it now to learn more about dealing with cats behavior.

    all the best to you and your feline friends,

    Beth
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  • May 1
    cat communication

    Image by PJAR72 via Flickr

    As a fellow cat lover, I know how much you love your cat. And I’m sure you do everything you can to show her. I’m sure she knows how much you love her too! But wouldn’t it be great if you could say “I Love You” to your cat in actual cat language?

    Believe it or not, there are ways that you can communicate with your cat using the same signals that the cat would use to talk to you. By observing cats behavior and paying close attention to how they communicate with you, it isn’t too hard to pick up a few things. Here’s one that I have learned from my cats over the years.

    Have you ever noticed your cat looking at you with his eyes narrowed, almost squinting? That’s his way of “flirting” with you! Or maybe he looks at you and slowly closes his eyes, then just as slowly opens them again? That’s your cat’s way of saying “I Love You”. You can send him the same message, the same way. First, look at your cat directly in the eyes, but be careful not to stare, let your eyes go a little unfocused.

    Slowly close your eyes, while continuing to gaze at him, then as soon as your eyes are shut, slowly open them again. Be sure you don’t shut your eyes tightly, or keep them closed. Just use a very slow, soft close and then open, as if you were blinking in slow motion. Send him the thought “I Love You” at the same time to reinforce the message.

    Won’t your cat be surprised? It is likely that she will return the same gesture to you right away, my cat often does! It’s a very simple and charming bit of cats behavior to learn. This is something I try to say frequently to my cat, even just in passing. It doesn’t take long, it isn’t difficult, but your cat does understand. It’s a loving expression to receive from your cat, and just as loving to give.

    Try this with your cat today!

    Beth
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