Archive for Behavior

If My Cats Had a Bucket List

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Ocean and Christy watching the bird feeder - environmental enrichmentI recently read a post on GoPetFriendly.com that really got me thinking. The author mentioned the stories you may have seen recently about people who took their dogs on great adventures after learning their dogs were terminally ill. The post was really about living life to the fullest every moment–starting right NOW. After dealing with a life-threatening illness, surgery and chemo therapy, this post really struck a chord with me.

As part of my healing, I retired early and moved to a beautiful place with few pressures left in my life. I’m doing what I love, spending time with animals, my own and my pet sitting clients’ pets.

What that post really got me thinking about was my cats. Are their lives as full and rich as they could be? Dogs, to me, are easy. They are gregarious animals that love going on adventures with their humans. But what about cats? If my cats had a bucket list, what would be on it?

So I started thinking about what cats like: eating, sleeping, hunting, climbing, and hiding. These were the main things that came to mind. I started assessing how I am doing in each area and how I could improve it — what I could add to their bucket list.

Eating

I feed a homemade raw diet. I am constantly researching to make sure I’m feeding a nutritionally balanced diet that is the best it can be. I rotate the proteins I feed. They eat better and more exotic than I do! I know they would like me to add more treats to their list. OK, maybe.

Sleeping

There’s lots of sleeping going on here and there are beds all over the house. I think we are good there. In spite of all the beds, they prefer to cuddle with me, at least when it is cold, so there will continue to be lots of that.

Environmental Enrichment

The things that are left, hunting, climbing and hiding, all fall in the category of environmental enrichment and where I feel I fall a little short. Here’s where I could add some great things to their bucket list.

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t like setting myself up for failure. One thing I did decide at the beginning of the year, though, was that I would play with my cats more. I know they don’t get enough exercise. They rarely play on their own but come to life when the wand or laser toys are brought out. I’m already falling down on that since the first of the year so I need to work harder at it.

They have a lot of small toys for play on their own but there are things I could do to make them more fun. I could put toys in a box with a small hole or in a bag to shake around. There are lots of great toys on the market aimed at this play drive.

They have multiple cat trees and window shelves, including one that is heated. I have put a couple of shelves on the wall to give them even more vertical space. I have two more shelves that have been sitting around since last summer and a remodel I want to do on a large cat tree. Sounds like a good project for this rainy weather we’ve been having.

I’ve put bird feeders at several windows and hummingbird feeders on the deck. I find it interesting that these feeders don’t see much action in the winter. When the birds are scarce, I could try one of the cat entertainment DVDs that showcase prey.

They have boxes and cubes that they can hide in and there’s always the furniture to hide under in a pinch or for an ambush. Mine aren’t into hiding that much. I’ll usually find them in one of the boxes when it is chilly and they are trying to keep warm while they are sleeping. I do want to cover and decorate one of their boxes that is just a cardboard box they love.

I think one of the best things I can do for my cats is to get them outdoors. I have big plans for a catio in the spring and I hope they love it. In the meantime, I bring the outdoors in by growing grass (not often enough) and occasionally giving them leaves to play with.

Ocean eating grass, Echo watching - environmental enrichment

Keeping cats mentally stimulated reduces stress, depression and aggression. Click To Tweet

My Cats’ Bucket List

So here’s what I think my cats would like to see on their bucket list. I’ll evaluate it periodically to see how I’m doing and what else I can add to it.

My Cats' Bucket List with lots of things for environmental enrichment

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Therapy Cats

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I have followed Sparkle the Designer Cat for some time now and was so sad to hear that she was so very sick. I fear that as of this writing, she is no longer with us. She wrote a couple of posts in anticipation of this, including one introducing her “replacement” gift for her human, Summer.

love on a leash therapy catSparkle’s human had been looking for some time for a cat that could be a therapy cat. Now this intrigued me. Of course, I have heard of therapy dogs and I am involved in equine therapy. I have even thought about raising puppies for the blind but fear I would have such a hard time letting them go. But a therapy cat? Although it is no surprise to me that cats make wonderful therapy pets, I had never really thought about it. So, I did some research.

Research shows that felines can relieve stress and lower blood pressure, and studies have found that the hormone oxytocin is released when we’re around pets, triggering feelings of happiness.

What are the Requirements to become a Therapy Cat?

Right off the bat, I learned that my cats would not qualify as I feed them a raw diet. Somehow, the thing that is best for them is not good for the humans. A raw diet puts people — especially those with compromised immune systems — at a higher risk for infection. Hmm… I’m on chemotherapy. Should I not be making raw food for my cats? I know I am not supposed to be eating anything raw myself. A definite question for my oncology team!

Other than the diet requirement and a few age and time requirements, it all seems to boil down to the cat’s temperament. The cat needs to be laid back and friendly, non-aggressive, and comfortable with loud noises and unpredictable situations. The cat must walk on a leash. 

A variety of organizations give training and certify pet therapy teams both in person and online. Pet Partners and Love On A Leash are two of the largest, but some areas also have local organizations. 

So what do you think? Do you know a therapy cat? Do you have a cat that you think would do an awesome job? Tell us in the comments.

More info on therapy cats and getting therapy cats certified:

Cats As Therapy Animals? Here’s How To Get Your Feline Certified
How to Get Your Cat Certified as a Therapy Cat
ASPCA Animal Assisted Therapy Programs
Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program • Frequently Asked Questions

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Paper or Plastic?

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Cats and Boxes

Cats are so fun to watch playing in boxes. Which do you think they prefer, paper or plastic?

 

cats and boxes

sunny box

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Cats love small spaces. Boxes are like little dens where they can curl up and feel safe from predators. They can also hide and stalk the world around them.

Check out Why Do Cats Love Boxes? for more insight and fun videos.


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Wordless Wednesday: Mr. G and Jellybean

Mr. G and Jellybean
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Video credit: Animal Place/First Spark Media

Read more: http://animalplace.org/mr-g-and-jelly


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AJ Update — It’s Slow Going

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AJ update 2I know some of you are wondering about AJ so I wanted to give you an update. He is making some progress but it is very slow going. He is painfully timid and still wants to hide all the time. He is very wary and seems like he keeps expecting to be jumped. I can’t imagine that he was ever “acting out” in his original home. 

He is still in a room with just a couple of kittens who he pretty much ignores. He figured out right away how to open the closet door and hung out in there until I cameAJ update 1 copy into the room. Then he would come out to be loved on. I fixed the closet so he can no longer go in, forcing him to deal with his surroundings a little more. So now he just hangs out under the furniture. 

He is extremely sweet and loves to lay next to me when I sit on the floor to scratch and love on him. It is still pretty difficult to photograph him because as soon as I stop petting him, he wants to slink away.

He is a bit of a picky eater. He has been offered raw food, several flavors and brands of grain free food and Friskies. His favorite, by far, is the Friskies.

AJ update 3

If you would like to donate to AJ’s care, visit MeoowzResQ’s website. I know they will appreciate any amount.


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Black Cat Appreciation Day

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Black Cat Appreciation DayBlack Cat Appreciation Day is on Saturday, the 17th. Why do they need a day? What is it about black cats that cause them to be overlooked at shelters? Orange or blue-eyed kitties are often adopted on their first day while black cats may stay for months before being adopted. Far more often than others, they are euthanized before they get that chance at a happy life. Rescues have the same problem, with some black cats remaining in the rescue for years.

Surely, in this day and age, it is not the “unlucky” myth! Perhaps to a few, but to others, what is it? Some say they are harder to photograph. Yes, that’s true, but really? Are people just looking for something flashier? Something with stripes, spots, or an unusual color? I think black cats just blend into the background at shelters and rescues, like they do in a photograph where they seem to lose their face. 

Topper - in celebration of Black Cat Appreciation Day

Topper

I don’t currently have any black cats of my own. My beautiful Topper went to the rainbow bridge a few years back and is actually the reason I got into fostering. (That’s a tale for another post.) As a foster, I have cared for many black cats and kittens and it seems to me that they are the most affectionate and loving. When I go to a friend’s house where multiple cats live, it is always the black ones that come for attention and affection.

Black Cat Appreciation day was created by Wayne Morris, who invented the day in honor of his sister (who passed away on August 17 years ago) and the black cat that she loved. He used social networking to spread the word on his Facebook page For the Love of Black Cats (Black Cat Appreciation Page).

adopt black cat

How you can help bring awareness on Black Cat Appreciation Day — and beyond!

It is a mystery why people are less likely to adopt black cats, but here’s how you can help bring awareness to their plight.

  1. Join the Black Cat Appreciation Day Event on Facebook. Share the event on your page and invite friends.
  2. Share black cats anywhere you can, like your social media posts or your website/blog. Show people how special they are — or even just how they are like other cats!
  3. Learn to take great photos of black cats. It can be done.
  4. Find a local shelter or rescue and volunteer. Find creative ways to help them promote their black kitties.
  5. Adopt a black cat.

So, after writing this, I have to wonder: If we bring awareness and get more black cats adopted, are more orange and blue-eyed kitties going to die? The real awareness we need to foster is spay/neuter and adopt-not-shop. But for this post, black cats rule!

 

Adopt a black cat


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Outdoor Cat Enclosures – Getting Cats Outdoors Safely

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Kelly’s article on pet doors inspired me to write an article about how to get yourlooking out window cat outdoors safely using an outdoor cat enclosure. Let’s face it, cats love to be outdoors but there are so many dangers out there for them. In the city, traffic is a major issue and in rural areas there are many predators looking for a meal. There are also some benefits of cats going outdoors, so which is more important?

Outdoor Dangers*

  • Cars
  • Dogs and other predators
  • Poisons
  • Inter-cat aggression
  • Communicable diseases
  • Theft
  • Inter-neighbor disputes
  • Wildlife predation
  • Skin cancer (especially in white cats)
  • UV light-related corneal lesions
  • Parasitism

Outdoor Benefits*

  • A lower risk of obesity and its related diseases (arthritis, diabetes, heart disease…)
  • A greater opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors and the myriad psycho-social benefits that confers
  • Fewer inappropriate elimination issues
  • Less inter-cat aggression among household members
  • Less litterbox cleaning (if any)

Outdoor Cat Enclosures

In my opinion, and I’m not alone on this, the dangers far outweigh the benefits, so outdoor cat enclosures seem to me to be the perfect compromise. Being an advocate of “indoor only” cats, I embarked on some research for enclosures for cats. There are some “prefab” enclosures that are great for small spaces, but I was amazed at the variety, creativity and beauty of some of the enclosures custom built by or for cat owners. They range from very simple spaces for cats only, to beautiful, functional spaces shared by humans.

outdoor cat enclosure

Outdoor cat enclosure

They are limited only by your imagination and the space you are willing to allocate to them.

piedmont-triad-cat-enclosure

Tunnels, on the ground or in the air, can be used to join multiple areas.

outdoor-cat-enclosure tunnel

There is cat fencing that you can use to enclose an area or an entire yard.

outdoor cat fencing

If you have an outdoor cat enclosure, please share it with us in the comments. If you are thinking of building an enclosure, click here for lots of samples and inspiration.

I live in a condominium where there are lots of rules so, as much as I’d like to enclose my patio, it is not an option. I will be looking into some of the prefab enclosures, so stay tuned to see what I do with that.

* From PedMD

Some updated, newly added links:
The Animal Rescue Site Ultimate Catio How-to Guide
Catio Showcase
Dream Catio from Catster
 



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7 Things You Can Do to Stop Garbage Scavenging Dogs

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garbage scavenging dogReturning home to find that the family dog has found its way to the nearby trash can can be both frustrating and unnerving. This undesirable dog behavior creates unwanted messes that can be a tremendous source of irritation to the dog owner. Additionally, the behavior poses a threat to the dog who could ingest food that has gone bad or choke on something not intended for consumption. Fortunately, this age old problem comes with solutions that can be quickly and easily implemented to ensure that the garbage remains where it belongs — in the trash can!

Steps You Can Take to Stop Garbage Scavenging Dogs

Of course, the younger the dog, the easier it is to stop this. But here are a few ideas that may help with garbage scavenging dogs…

Drop several coins into a soda can. Seal the top of the can with duct tape.garbage scavenging dog When the dog approaches the trash can, shake the can aggressively at the dog. The unpleasant sound will keep it away. For the puppy, it becomes a scary place to avoid.

Place an indoor pet training mat in front of the trash can. When the dog steps on the mat it releases a harmless, but unpleasant static shock that will create an aversion to approaching the trash can. In the past, the safety and humanity of electronic devices has been questioned. However, present day electronic devices have made great strides in becoming a safe and effective means of dog training.

garbage savaging dogPurchase a trash can that locks shut. There are several companies that design locking trash cans with the purpose of keeping garbage securely in the trash can.

Install a snapping device, which is similar to a mouse trap except it has a large plastic flap that will keep the dog safe from harm. When the dog begins rummaging through the trash can, the device will snap shut. The dog will be frightened and reluctant to return to the trash can.

For indoors, you can spray some of your perfume on the can. I have heard that this can actually work.

You can also put some of that bitter apple spray on the outside, where he might touch it, if he still tried to get into it. Bitter apple is safe. You can get it at the pet store. It’s really most useful to stop chewing, but you might even set up a trap for him, with your current trash can, and put the bitter apple on some things in the top of the can. See if he is put off from the bitter apple.

Febreze makes a carpet spray that is supposed to get rid of pet odors. For some reason some dogs HATE the smell of it.


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