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Feline Friday: Second Story Cats & Countertop Cruising

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Seren With Lamp
Cats become pests with their determination to stay above it all. They cruise kitchen countertops, lounge atop doors and leap to refrigerator tops to ambush treats.

The urge to be the top cat seems a universal kitty vice. By understanding why cats scale the heights, cat owners can provide legal outlets that keep both the kitty happy, and out of the owner’s butter dish.

Why Cats Love Heights

Cats come pre-programmed to seek elevated lounging spots. Think about it–a kitty walking on the wild side wants to see enemies (and potential munch-able critters) but remain invisible. A cat quite literally believes she “owns” the space she can see.

Cats also control each other’s interactions—or even the dog’s movements—with pointed stares. This cats-eye-power packs even more punch from an elevated perch, giving the cat ownership and control over even more territory. The cat that commands the highest perch is the high-cat-on-the-totem pole in that particular room.

What’s The Attraction?

Individual cats may have specific preferences for lounge spots. But in general, there are five reasons cats seek a particular place.

  • Height. The taller the perch, the more important the cat.
  • View. Perches near important pathways like windows or stairways offer high kitty value.
  • Warmth. Cats are furry heat-seeking missiles, so the tops of warm TVs or computer monitors, or snuggled under lamps prove irresistible. My cat loves to sleep in the paper well of my printer.
  • Comfort. Lounging requires a soft, comfy surface like the back of chairs.
  • Food. Kitchen counters and stovetops smell yummy or even have snacks within paw reach that keep the cat burglar returning to the scene of the cat crime.

You won’t keep your cat on the ground. Cats tend to avoid low spots with no view, or that are cold and uncomfortable. So give your cat what she wants with irresistible legal perch options and make forbidden spots unattractive.
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Grounding High Rise Cats

Evaluate your cat’s favorite perches, and make your choice better. My cat Seren loves to lounge on top of the piano (height) beneath a lamp (warmth) next to the window (view). To purr-suade her otherwise, we placed a three-tiered cat tree that’s TALLER than the piano and has a softer surface (comfort), still under the lamp beside the piano, and still in front of the window.

  • For your cat household, have at least one cat tree (or acceptable high-value lounge spot) for each cat. Otherwise, they may argue over who gets first dibs.
  • Make the legal lounge taller than the forbidden object, but nearby so the location remains attractive. An empty bookshelf can work, or even an inexpensive ladder. Put a cat bed stocked with kitty treats on the paint rack.
  • Make off-limits spots unattractive. Booby-trap counters so they’re no longer comfy. Double-sided tape products like Sticky Paws applied to placemats can be scattered on forbidden surfaces, for example.
  • Cats hate weird textures, too. Aluminum foil that covers stovetops can keep some cats at bay.
  • For hard case cats, invest in clear plastic carpet runner to line the countertop, dining table or other illegal location. Just place it nub-side up, and kitty will seek a more comfy spot to lounge.
  • You can also set up the SSScat! Product, an aerosol can with a motion detector that hisses air to shoo critters away even when you’re not there.

Choose which battles to fight, because it’s hard to win them all—and you want your cat to like you. Seren-kitty isn’t allowed on the mantel because she plays gravity experiments with fine breakables. But she won the battle of the dining room table where she lounges in a plush cat bed beneath a stained glass lamp. I’ve also trained her to exit the printer when I need it. In families, sometimes you must compromise.

What is your cat’s favorite second-story territory? Do you butt furry heads over the location? Has Kitty won the battle or do you compromise? Here’s an Ask Amy on the subject with tips as well but I’d love to hear from you. Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Solving Behavior Problems in Your MultiCat Household

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It’s HERE! The latest Kindle-ized book ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems in Your MultiCat Household has been released and it’s all about explaining why cats do what they do (aka DRIVE YOU CRAZY) and how you can solve those peevish problems.

Did you know that the United States is home to 86.4 million owned cats, and 52 percent of owners own more than one cat? That means more furry love for owners, but also can put your cats’ tails in a twist over that (HISSS!) new feline friend. From conflicts over favorite sleep spots to sharing potty facilities, adding new pets rubs fur the wrong way and creates hairy situations for everyone—including you.

I’ve written this new guide to save owners from hair-pulling angst. It helps explain the kitty aggravation, and how to soothe the growls and turn your household into a peaceable kingdom. You’ll find detailed how-to advice focused on the most common problems found in the multi-cat household. Use these fun techniques to calm fears, explain cat body language, and strengthen the bond you share with your cats. Step by step tips explain how to:

  • Recognize and diffuse cat-to-cat aggression
  • Settle disputes over territory, potty problems and mealtime woes
  • Choose an appropriate furry friend that resident cats welcome with open “paws”
  • Introduce the new arrival (including babies and kids) to the current cats
  • Solve common pet peeves: meowing, clawing, countertop cruising, door dashing and more!
  • Understand weird behaviors: phone attraction, mirror fear, “elevator butt” and toilet pests

Below I’ve included an excerpt from Chapter 2: How Cats Think and hope you’ll enjoy. If you’re having kitty cat-astrophes or would just like to better understand what’s going on between your cats’ pointy ears, I hope you’ll consider checking out the new book. By the way, the “dog version” should be available sometime next month. 🙂

Together with Mom!! (Copr. KrazyBoutCats/Flickr)

The “Whoops” Effect

A “whoops” experience can be happy accident or create behavior problems down the road. Kittens and cats continue to learn an incredible amount through observation, even after the prime socialization period ends. A friendly, trusting cat needs only a few positive interactions with a strange person to show positive behavior toward them, and it takes significant negative experiences to override this initial response. On the contrary, a shy cat needs LOTS of positive experiences with a stranger to overcome lack of socialization during the sensitive phase, and will react adversely toward even minor negative encounters.

In other words, the socialized cat generalizes positive experiences quickly, but the unsocialized cat must learn gradually to trust the individual person or family and does NOT generalize later positive experiences. Instead she expects that one negative experience will apply to all new situations.

When your current cat(s) know good manners, they serve as wonderful role models to new pets. By observing your interaction with a resident cat that meows at a certain time each day to get fed, Sheba more quickly makes that connection. Think of this as a positive “copycat” behavior. New cats also learn bad habits from a resident feline and vice versa. If you allow Sheba to get away with wild antics, the older cat also may start pushing your buttons. Adult cats learn by watching you, too. After seeing you open a door, they learn to jump up and hang on the door ‘lever’ to open it.

Cats are experts at getting their way. They are so good at training owners, that we often don’t recognize we are being manipulated. Sheba easily trains you to fill the food bowl when she paw-pats you awake you at 5:30 a.m. It only takes one or two repetitions of this cause-and-effect for cats to remember what works in each situation. If rattling the wooden window blinds makes you let her out the door, she’ll remember and use that ploy again and again. Therefore, pay attention to not only what Sheba does, but your own resulting behavior, to get a clue how she’s training you.

There are times when our patience runs out, and owners may be tempted to react with anger. To be blunt, corporeal punishment doesn’t work. Hitting, yelling, or using force not only is inhumane, it almost always makes the bad behavior worse. Dr. Lansberg explains that any strong arousal interferes with Sheba’s ability to learn because that portion of the brain must deal with the emotional fallout instead. Instead of thinking, these cats react out of instinct (the fight-or-flight response) and typically either attack, or hide. You’ll teach a lesson you don’t want Sheba to learn—to fear or dislike you.

*****

So then–have your cats ever learned a lesson you didn’t expect or appreciate? What did you do? Have your cats taught each other positive behavior or have the juvenile delinquent cats been a bad influence? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Ask Amy-Why Cats Hate Cars

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"Nice bed...as long as it doesn't move, Mom..."

I’ve blogged about traveling with pets before. Chances are, you won’t have to worry about cat plane travel with your kitty-kids, but every pet must at least visit the veterinarian for well pet exams.  My Seren-kitty is due a vet visit this month, too, and she’ll be wearing her brand-new cat-designed Thundershirt to see if that helps calm her down (stay tuned for a review!).

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A halter and leash gives you something to grasp, other than slinky-kitty.

Kitty crate training goes a long way toward helping cats feel more comfortable about the car ride. But to date, I’ve found a number of things help keep my cat calm for the ride. I sit in the back seat with her while my husband drives to the clinic. Should we have a fender bender, the airbag from the front could crush a pet, so the fur-kids always ALWAYS stay in the back.

Meanwhile, Seren wears a halter and leash. The snug fit of the halter uses the same principle as the TTouch body wraps, which I suspect are what prompted products like Anxiety Wrap for dogs and the Thundershirt. I like having her secured with a halter, though, for something to grasp if she gets wiggly, even though she stays in her carrier.

By scheduling appointments so dogs (spit!) aren’t around when we enter the clinic, and so she’s seen immediately, Seren has less time to angst. I’ll also admit that part of choosing this clinic was they’re less than a 10 minute drive away–again, less time for the kitty to get wound up on the ride. It’s awesome, though, that our veterinarian not only takes great care of the Magical-Dawg but also has managed to get a hands-on full exam of my 7-pound devil-kitty without blood-letting.

Do your cats tolerate, love or hate the car? How do you manage the trip? Please share your tips! The Ask Amy video answers the question, but what else would you add? For those of you with kittens, now is a GREAT time to teach car-etiquette to prepare for the adult feline life (kittens tend to be clueless about such things!). You’ll find crate training tips in Complete Kitten Care.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Cat Baths–Are you INSANE?!

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Persian show cats get bathed a LOT!

Tomorrow I get to attend the Westchester Annual Cat Show and schmooze with AMAZING pedigree kitties plus rescue felines needing homes. SQUEEE! The intro of kittens playing in the Ask Amy (below) comes from video taken at last year’s event. And the question for today’s Ask Amy seems quite relevant–cat baths–since show cats get dunked on a routine basis.

Why Bathe Cats?

Lick-and-a-promise Mom-cats who allow themselves to get dingy offer a poor role model and their kittens also will be less fastidious. Illness, poor grooming habits, parasite infestation, or simply getting themselves dingy may require more help than a brush can handle–as with the poor rescue kitty in the video. A bath stimulates the skin and removes excess oil, dander, and shed hair. But bathing too often can dry the skin. As a good rule of “paw” bathe shorthaired cats no oftener than every six weeks; two to three times a year during shedding season should suffice unless Kitty gets really grubby, or is a show cat. Longhaired cats benefit from more frequent baths, and felines appearing in shows learn as kittens to accept baths.

Should you decide to take the plunge–pun intended–your cat should be thoroughly brushed and/or combed ahead of time. All mats must be removed before bathing, because water will just cement mats in place. Be sure to clip claws as well or risk having your clothes and skin shredded as Sheba tries to escape. In fact, to keep your reluctant kitty from figuring out the score and disappearing, perform the brushing routine and claw clipping the day before.

The bath area should be warm and draft free. The bathtub will do, but your knees will thank you for using a waist-high sink. Move all breakables out of reach, and push drapes or shower curtains out of the way or they may spook your cat and end up shredded. For routine cleaning, you only need a simple grooming shampoo labeled specifically for cats. Human baby shampoo or dog products can be too harsh and dry the skin or in some cases prove toxic.

Assemble your shampoo, several towels, and washcloth near the sink or tub, and run warm water (about 102 degrees, or cat body temperature) before you bring in the cat. Some cats like the Turkish Van actually enjoy water, but no cat wants to be forced to do something. Don’t torture Sheba and make her watch your preparations. Instead, save bath time as a (hopefully) pleasant surprise.

Dunking is less stressful than the sprayer.

Cats hate the insecure footing of the slippery surfaces so place a towel or rubber mat in the bottom of your tub or sink. That does wonders for cat confidence and often reduces yowls and struggles by half. Or, try standing the cat on a plastic milk crate, which gives him something to clutch with his paws, while allowing you to rinse him on top and underneath without turning him upside down.

Wear old clothes. Expect to get wet. Seren clutches my shirt, pressing her face to me as I wet and soap the rest of her. She makes sure I get as wet as she does. Also, close the door to the bathing area, or you risk having a soapy cat escape and leave suds and a wet cat print trail throughout your spanking-clean house.

For small cats or kittens, the bucket method of bathing often works best. Use the double sink in the kitchen, two or more large roasting pans, or a couple of buckets or wastebaskets set in the bathtub. Fill each with warm water, then gently lower your cat (one hand supporting her bottom, the other beneath the chest) into the first container to get her wet.

Cruel and unusual punishment?

Don’t dunk Sheba’s face or splash water on her; that’s what gets cats upset. Let your kitty stand on her hind legs and clutch the edge of the container as you thoroughly wet the fur. Then lift her out onto one of your towels, and apply the shampoo, using the washcloth to clean her face. After lathering, dip the cat back into the first container to rinse. Get as much soap off as possible before removing and sluice off excess water before rinsing in subsequent containers of clean water.

Adult cats may object to being dunked, and running water can be scary. Instead, you can use a ladle to dip water. If you have a spray nozzle from the sink, use a low force, with the nozzle close to the fur so kitty doesn’t see the spray. Use the washrag to wet, soap and rinse the face area. Keep one hand on the cat at all times to prevent escapes. Rinse beginning at the neck and down Sheba’s back; don’t neglect beneath the tail or tummy. When the water finally runs clear and you know she’s clean, rinse once more just to be sure. Don’t forget to remove the cotton from the cat’s ears.

Don't let the cat catch a chill!

Wrap the squeaky-clean cat in a dry towel. Shorthaired cats dry quickly, but longhaired felines may need two or more towels to blot away most of the water. If your cat tolerates or enjoys the blow dryer, use only the lowest setting to avoid burning the cat. Combing long fur as you blow dry will give “oomph” to the longhaired coat.

Do you bathe your cats? What does he think of it? What are some tips for keeping the blood-letting to a minimum (yours, not the cats!).

SPECIAL THANKS

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Screen Scratching Maniac

Cats claw. They’re just wired that way. And they’ll find all kinds of unique targets if they don’t feel satisfied with the usual fare.

Today’s blog has two Ask Amy videos, both with advice and information about your kitty claw-maniacs. How have you managed your cat “nailing” your valuables? I’m fortunate that Seren-kitty hasn’t done too much damage, although in her younger days she used my pant legs as moveable scratch objects. Of course, she’s now a senior citizen kitty.

SPECIAL THANKS

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Happy Cat Month

Kisa

"Get spiffed up for Happy Cat Month!" Copr. Maria Magnus

The CATalyst Council declared September to be Happy Cat Month, dedicated to finding ways to keep kitty companions happy, healthy and purring all year long. They suggest these top 10 ways cat owners can promote feline happiness–and I’ve added a few additional links for detailed how-to, further info or just play furry fun. Enjoy! Oh, and please feel free to add your own tips to the list (I have *s*).

1.        Visit the veterinarian. Healthy cats are happy cats. Many owners dread vet trips with cats, even though a good number now work hard to be cat friendly or have doctors who specialize in cats. Sterilizing your cat helps keeps cats healthy by preventing behavior problems and some types of cancer.  Here are reasons why cats hate the vet and how you can change that purr-ception.

2.       Microchip your cat. In addition to a collar and identification tag, owners should ask their veterinarian about microchipping their feline friend. If a cat ever escapes or gets lost, having this type of permanent ID will make a reunion between cat and owner much more likely. I’ve blogged about lost pets before . Learn more about pet ID in this puppies article (works for cats, too!).

seren scratching 1

Seren's office chair shows her artistry.

3.       Go outside (appropriately). Yes!  There are ways owners can safely take their cats outside to allow them to broaden their horizons. Teach your cats how to walk on a leash so they can periodically and safely experience the world outside their windows.

4.       Scratch the surface. Cats need to scratch for physical and emotional health.  Figure out what your cat likes to scratch–vertical, horizontal or angled position–and what kind of surface, and provide it. Giving legal scratch options keeps the furniture safe.

5.       Provide preventive medications. No one likes fleas, ticks, mites or heartworms, especially your cat. Even indoor cats are at risk. Magical-Dawg goes outside and can bring creepy crawlies inside to Seren-kitty so she gets prevention just like he does.

6.       Train together. Cats can be trained to do fun tricks just like dogs, and the mental and physical stimulation is great for felines. Clicker training can boost the confidence of shy cats, too. Teaching your cat to sit, for example, is easy, and training your cat to sit on stools instead of counters will make you and your cat much happier. Training also helps you connect and strengthens your bond with the cat–she’ll finally believe YOU are smart when you can communicate with her!

7.       Work for food. Feline obesity is a huge problem in this country, and one way to combat it is for owners to make their cats work for their food. I love offering cats their meals inside puzzle toys or hiding it around the house on small bowls to stimulate kitty’s innate hunting instinct. That keeps the cat’s brain exercised, too.

8.       Get your cat acclimated to the carrier. Many cat owners find that the worst part about taking their cats anywhere is getting cats into their carriers. Owners should work with their cat on making their carrier a safe, secure, and inviting place to be prior to veterinary visits or family vacations.  Visit www.catalystcouncil.org to view Cats and Carriers: Friends not Foes for tips on how to get cats to love their carriers. You can also find tips in this article about ways owners HISS OFF their cats (and how to avoid that!).

9.       Provide prey toys. One of the easiest ways to make a cat happy is with a new prey toy. Cats love to play and turn wads of paper into pretend prey so you can give kitty “cheap thrills” to keep her happy. Here are some tips how to get the prey-play kitty games going!  And one of my previous blogs included some very kewl kitty toys.

10.   Think about getting another cat. Cats are social animals, and owners should consider adopting two cats or kittens at once to keep them company. Just be sure to properly introduce your newcomer cats to resident felines.  Here are tips how to care for your new kitten–and you can also always refer to Complete Kitten Care for even more help including proper introduction tips!

During Happy Cat Month, CATalyst Council encourages people to adopt a kitty–or to spoil the cats you already love with these tips. And just for fun, channel your “inner kitty” and answer this question–

Do cats have ESP? Can your cats see ghosts? Why do cats STARE for hours at a time at stuff you can’t see? The ASK AMY below attempts to answer the question but–all kitties are different so what do your cats tell you? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Kitty Communication & How Cats Read

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Cats always seem drawn to sit on top of books.

TGIFF…Feline Friday, that is. In honor of TAKE YOUR CAT TO THE VET week, I’m re-running a blog (with a few updates) that some of my newest subscribers may not have seen. Enjoy!

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.

They simply sit on the page (or the E-reader), and absorb the text through their (ahem) nether regions. Just check out Wall-E, in the picture “reading” my first-aid book. Kitties want to be prepared. *s* What do YOUR cat’s read?

Speaking of being prepared, if you have a new kitten over the summer I’m sure you’re making the right next paw-steps to properly socialize the little fur-kid. Cats can be trained (yes, they can!) at any age, and continue to learn throughout their lives. But kittens are furry sponges that absorb lessons, both good and bad, at an incredible pace.

Dagur

Kittens are works in progress--and need help with socialization!

This prime kitten socialization period is a narrow window during babyhood when learning the “wrong” lessons can emotionally cripple the cat. For example, kittens not exposed to positive experiences with humans during this period will be wild (feral) critters and never accept people. Well actually they MAY accept a very patient and loving human who makes extra effort, but they won’t be the “pet-able” kitties we long to snuggle. Proper socialization teaches a cat how to be a cat, proper feline manners, how to communicate with other felines, and who the cat’s friends and enemies are.

The age when kittens are most receptive is two-to-seven weeks. That’s about the age of this gorgeous baby in Maria Magnus photo, above. Have your new kittens been properly socialized? How did you manage this? Proper socialization can be very helpful in getting them to visit the vet with the least amount of trauma!

Kittens tend to be snuggle-pusses. But adult cats can be puzzling when it comes to wanting attention. Or does your cat ask to be petted and then walk away and wait j-u-s-t out of reach, playing keep away for you to come to her? Seren does this, and I know other readers also experience “kitty keep away” behavior. She’ll move enough that I need to take a step, bend over and reach to pet again-whereupon she again tippy-toe dances a finger’s width away. I’ve seen cats (including Seren) do this over and over and over. Find out the reasons behind this behavior here.

I suspect that a future blog will cover the pushing “Velcro” kitties that pester constantly for attention. Is there a happy middle with kitties? Naw….that would be boring!

 

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Ask Amy & Teaching Shrinking Violet Shy Cats

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Tiger Lily

Is your kitty shy? How do you bring her out of her Shrinking Violet shell? (Image copr. Missi Hostrup)

Working with fearful cats can be a challenge. Does Sheba hiss at strangers? Dive under the bed when the doorbell rings? Attack other pets (or humans)? And what can you do to stop bad behavior if even a mild correction sends the cat into fearful meltdown? Alexa posted her Ask Amy question to my Facebook page and the answer is in today’s video.

We often feel that our fur-kids must have been abused and feel bad to make THEM feel bad. But they still need to know limits. One of my favorite ways to train is using positive rewards. Instead of waiting for kitty to scratch the wrong object and then interrupting the behavior–why not REWARD her when she scratches the RIGHT object? Using kitty clicker training can also build confidence in shy cats by teaching them what happens is in their paws. Over at my puppy-centric site, y’all can find similar tips for how to clicker train puppies. Yep, it builds canine confidence, too.

While a normal dose of caution keeps cats from becoming coyote kibble, extreme fear makes cats miserable and disrupts your happy home. Hiding cat may not bother you, constant anxiety increases stress that can make cats sick. For instance, stress can aggravate bladder inflammation (cystitis), which in turn prompts hit-or-miss bathroom behaviors. Even when the bladder doesn’t hurt, anxious cats use potty deposits or will increase scratching behavior as a way to calm themselves—sort of the way nervous humans bite their fingernails. Here are tips for helping your scaredy cat.

Do you have a shy cat? How does s/he react to strangers or new situations? What tips have you used to bolster confidence? Are you concerned (like Alexa, below) about damaging your pet relationship during training?  How do you avoid that?

Of course you can find lots more fur-kid care tips in the pet books. But I hope anyone with a burning furry question (or heck, ANY question! *s*) will share in the comments and perhaps it’ll be a future Ask Amy feature!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Got Herb? Kitty Catnip Delights

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Honest, I didn't inhale...well maybe a little..."

I have no doubt that catnip prompted the Cheshire Cat’s grin. My cat Seren wears the same expression when she indulges. But why do cats find this nondescript herb so attractive? Is it a kitty aphrodisiac, a harmless pleasure or something more sinister?

Nepeta cataria, or catnip, is a strong-scented mint that contains a volatile oil that’s easily released into the air. Biting or rolling on the plant crushes the leaves and releases the oil so cats can get a good sniff. It doesn’t take much. Cats can detect catnip oil in the air at saturations as low as one part per billion. Seren-kitty (in the picture above) can ferret out fresh herb through several layers of shopping bags. I never knew she liked the stuff until some really potent catnip came home with me from the Cat Writers Conference and she went wild.

Do your cats react to catnip? What about other substances? I’ve known some cats that show the same reaction to honeysuckle slices–pieces of the wood–or to other mints, and even a few who rolled and yowled for olives! Here’s more about how catnip works like LSD detailed in my latest Paw Nation article about catnip. And here’s a repeat of an Ask Amy that fits right in with the them.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Feline Friday: Ask Amy–Sit On THIS!

Posted on

1-B-Seren&books 1-21-08

I am at THRILLERFEST, and surrounded by best selling authors, aspiring writers, book editors, agents and all-things-literary. I am in book-heaven! I’ve already loaded up my tote with fresh hot-of-the-press autographed books to schlep home.

At my house we already have a wealth of reading material. The stacks of books waiting to be read and reviewed, tear sheets of articles to file, printouts from the Internet and “virtual” Ebooks give new meaning to “up to my eyeballs.” So it should come as no surprise that the fur-kids in the family also have a litter-ary bent.

The Magical-Dawg believes his life’s mission includes picking up and carrying stray bits of paper—anywhere—just out of reach of human hands (or waste receptacles). Since moving said waste baskets to second-story territory onto counters, he indulges in less “fishing” for these treats. Hey, don’t judge me…it’s a decorating choice!

The cat is a bit more genteel in her recreational reading. I suspect your kitties also indulge in planting furry nether regions atop any bit of reading material they find. Mostly, Seren targets the newspaper spread across the breakfast table and has an incredible ability to position herself EXACTLY atop the article of most interest. She has great taste.

Blackie Reading Petiquette

"So THAT'S what d*gs (spit!) think!"

Or, she’ll attempt to sit on my book. That’s fine until I reach the end of a page and need to turn to the next, whereupon feline mutterings turn the air blue with Seren’s disgust. Because after all, SHE wasn’t finished reading that page!

Why are cats drawn to human reading material? The Ask Amy video, below, addresses this question, but here are a few more thoughts.

Sitting on a single piece of paper left on an otherwise bare table top doesn’t elevate them much, but has a psychological effect. After all, cats are nothing if not psycho—I mean, psychic. Wait, let me start over.
seren in file basket
Sitting on top of something that hasn’t yet been “scented” by the cat invites her to claim and control that piece of paper/book/whatnot and the surrounding. It’s sort of like leaving a toddler alone in a room with pristine white walls—and a new box of Crayolas. Irresistible! Something’s going to get marked.

kitten on bookcase

"Such big words...where am da pictures?"

Also, when you’ve been reading a particular book, your scent on the cover draws kitty to investigate. If I don’t set it down but hold the book up to read, Seren cheek-rubs the corners of the book cover over and over. It’s a cat’s way of paw-tographing something. When she does that to my Kindle, she “turns the pages” for me.

Adam Stritar's cat Holstein

"I'm the top cat, yep, I am I am!"

Finally, I suspect one of the main reasons cats (and some dogs) insist on inserting themselves into our reading is for the attention. Humans sit and stare for hours at that book/page/paper. The pet can only imagine we’re brain-dead. Magic gets between us and our view of the TV because he knows (of course!) we’d rather look at him than stare into space.

So when a pet gets between you and the words or TV screen, consider it furry intervention to get human attention focused properly where it should be focused.

On them.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!