Training Kitty to Come When Called

 

Training Kitty to Come When Called

by Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

Can you imagine your cat coming when called just like your dog?  Well, it can be done and he/she might already be trained to respond you just don’t realize it.

So why would you need to have your cat respond to you when called?  Life and death situations come to mind in the event of a natural disaster or fire.  It’s also important not to use this training to call your cat for anything he might (or will surely) find unpleasant, like giving him medication or taking him for a veterinary appointment. In those situations, says Christensen, it’s better to go find him so that he doesn’t make any associations between being called and a negative result.

You may not realize it, but your cat probably already comes when he’s “called” by any sound that tells him it could be mealtime, such as the whir of the electric can opener. If there’s no sound involved, he’ll be called by the aroma of his meal being prepared. Since he’s already answering these calls, you can easily build on this foundation, says veterinary behaviorist E’Lise Christensen in an interview with Adventure Cats.1 The trick is to pair calling your cat with something he’s already responding to.

First you need to decide precisely how you’ll call him from now on when you want him to come to you. For example, you can call him by his name using a different vocal inflection, or by his name followed by “come” (“Fluffy, come”) or preceded by “here” (“Here, Fluffy Fluffy”). The key is to consistently use the same words and tone of voice each time you call him to you.  According to an animal communicator, it helps the “call” if you visualize the cat coming to you in your head as you call their name.

You can also use high-value treats to train kitty to come when called. Standing next to him, call him to come and then immediately give him a treat. When it’s obvious he’s made the connection between your call and yummy treats, you can start increasing the distance.

Move a few feet away from him, call him, and when he comes to you, give him a treat. Once he’s doing this consistently, gradually increase the distance between you. If things go according to plan, he’ll be reliably responding to your call from all over the house. Keys to successful training sessions:

  • Plan to do several sessions each day to help your cat maintain his training; keep each one short — no more than five minutes
  • Never, ever punish your cat for not coming when you call — it’s ineffective and can cause him to become stressed or fearful
  • Always reward him, no matter how long it takes him to respond to you; remember that you’re asking him to do something entirely unnatural for a cat

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How to Keep Your Dog Safe and Comfortable When Moving to a New Home

Written by:  Cindy Aldridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Moving can be stressful for people, but it can be even more so for dogs. The activities and sounds leading up to and on moving day can be frightening to dogs, so it is important to take the necessary steps to reduce his stress as much as possible and to prevent an accidental escape. When moving with a dog, there are steps you can take prior to the move and on moving day to keep your dog comfortable and safe.

 

Preparing for the Move

 

The stress of moving day increases the chances of your dog escaping, and your dog’s risk of running away increases when you first move into a new home. Before moving day, ensure your dog’s collar fits well, and ensure his tags are up to date with your name and current phone number. Have a tag with your new address handy too so that you can switch tags with the proper identification from day one. If you haven’t done it already, now is a good time to microchip your dog, which should cost you around $45.

 

Many dogs experience car sickness. Your dog’s veterinarian can prescribe medications and offer feeding recommendations to help lessen the likelihood of car sickness. Also, if you’re moving to a new state, ask about region-specific vaccines that your dog may need. Before you move, find a veterinarian in your new location

 

If you’re one of the millions of Americans making a long-distance move this year, locate pet-friendly hotels along your route and book rooms ahead of time. Also, when you make pit stops for yourself, be sure to give your dog a potty break and fresh water. Leash your pet before exiting the car and keep him or her leashed for the break.

 

While you’re probably feeling stressed from packing and preparing for the move, try to keep calm. Dogs can pick up on your emotions, so the more anxiety you show, the more stress your dog will feel. Maintaining your dog’s normal routine as much as possible will also help reduce his or her stress. These suggestions also apply to moving day.

 

On Moving Day

 

When moving day arrives, make sure your dog is secured in a crate or closed room until you’re ready to load him or her into your car. You can also ask a friend or family member to pet sit, hire a pet sitter, or board your dog for the day. One of the best options is to take your dog on a fun outing for the day. Hiring movers means you don’t have to worry about loading and moving all of your items. Instead, you can take your dog to the dog park or a nearby dog-friendly restaurant to hang out.

 

If you hire a professional moving company, inform them ahead of time you have a dog, as they may have policies regarding dogs. Many professional movers offer services that pack up your items for you as well, so they may be interacting with your dog. If so, they’ll need to know about your dog’s temperament. Sometimes, it’s best to keep your dog in a separate room or take him or her out while they work.

 

When the time comes to transport your pet, you’ll want to make sure he or she is restrained, even if your dog loves car rides and is normally obedient. Remember that moving day is stressful, so the anxiety can change his or her behavior. Also, never transport a pet in an open truck bed, car trunk, or storage area of a moving van.

 

Your dog will feel less anxious at the new home if you arrange his or her sleeping, playing, and feeding areas in a similar manner to the previous setup. Have plenty of treats and toys on hand to keep your dog distracted while you move in. Make sure the home has a wood fence to prevent your dog from escaping; average prices for a fence service in Cleveland are $2,103-$4,180.

 

The activities and sounds of packing and moving your home may cause your dog to experience anxiety. Your dog is also at great risk for accidentally escaping during the moving process. Fortunately, you can help reduce your dog’s stress and keep him or her safe and comfortable with a little preparation and thought.

 

 

 

Can Street Cats and Stray Cats Become Pets?

By Nancy Dunham as seen in PetMD

Comments by Diane Weinmann

 

(Piper who was a stray feral kitten living happily in my girlfriend’s home)

 

Is there a stray cat hanging out outside your home? Or slowly spending more and more time in your yard? You might very well have been adopted by a local street cat and are now probably asking yourself, “Can you turn a stray cat into a house cat?”

 

Yes, that stray cat or alley cat can become your beloved house cat, but there are some caveats you should consider.

 

First, understand the difference between a stray cat, an alley cat and a feral cat. It’s often impossible to tell at first glance. Both types of cats may seem skittish when you first approach them.

 

So, what’s the difference? Feral cats are wild and not used to people or domesticated. Stray cats and some alley cats have often had socialization and may have even been neutered and received health care. These distinctions can be critical for the health of your other pets and family members.

 

Domesticating Feral Cats

 

Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, DACVIM (SAIM, oncology) at The Animal Medical Center in New York, urges extreme caution when attempting to turn a street cat into a pet. “Feral cats are likely to have some health issues. Stray cats can too, of course,” she says. “But feral cats have lived outdoors and likely haven’t had any health care.”

 

Street cats may have serious illnesses that can spread—ringworm, feline leukemia, rabies and other infectious diseases can infect other pets and humans.

 

“If you adopt a feral cat, you are setting yourself up for heartbreak,” said Dr. Hohenhaus. “”I am not saying you shouldn’t ever take a feral cat [into your home] but think carefully about it first.”

 

Pet behaviorist Pamela Uncles, Companion Animal Behavior, a practice in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, adds that behavioral challenges may abound.

 

“I don’t think you shouldn’t take them. I think you should be informed,” she says. “You need to know the risks going in. That’s the bottom line with everything.”

 

Taylor Truitt, CEO and founder of The Vet Set, Brooklyn, New York, says that feral cats might be best cared for outside as community cats. “If cats aren’t socialized by 16 weeks of age, it usually doesn’t go well,” she says.

 

“I have owners who say they have feral cats as pets, but they feed the cats outside,” says Truitt. “The cat is never in the house….It’s tough to catch a feral cat, and when you do, they are more afraid than anything….I always say don’t do it.”

 

Diane Weinmann’s in laws had great luck domesticating two feral cats together.  They were born outside and after vet appointments they were welcomed into their home but be aware—they did not have any other pets!

 

Adopting a Stray Cat

 

Generally, stray cats—those that have had basic human socialization—may easily adapt to home life and form bonds with people.

 

Stray Cat Health

 

And unlike feral cats, strays are often fixed and have had some medical care. So you’re generally not starting from the beginning with major medical expenses. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your new friend to the vet. Always take a new pet to your veterinarian for a checkup for any vaccines they might need or health issues you need to address.

 

Make Gradual Introductions

 

Cats brought into the home should be secluded from other animals, even after their vet visit, says Dr. Truitt. That will allow them to adapt to the sights, sounds and smells in their new environments. You and others in your home might be used to the sound of the dishwasher or doorbell, but new pets aren’t.

 

You may want your new cat to become best friends with your current cat or other pet. That can happen if you slowly introduce them. For first meetings, Uncles recommends that you keep it to just a few minutes long. Each day, allow the pets to see each other for longer periods of time, and allow them to gradually interact with you.

 

Allowing cats to see each other for short times, such as through glass doors, is another way to begin to introduce them. But depending on the stray cat’s background, she may not acclimate as you would hope, says Uncles.

 

Pet Supplies for Bringing Home a Stray Cat

 

If you are taking in a stray cat, here are some cat supplies you should have on hand:

 

§  Litter Boxes. When cats have lived outdoors they often must be reintroduced to using cat litter boxes. Dr. Truitt says that it’s a wise idea to have one on each floor of your home.

 

§  Cat Toys. It’s a great idea to have a few cat toys for your new kitty to play with to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. In the beginning, keep the new cat’s toys separate from those of your other cat or pet, advises Dr. Truitt. Try different types of toys, like cat feather wands, interactive laser pointers and cat toy mice. Playing with your cat is a great way to build trust and strengthen your bond while also providing a healthy outlet for their exercise needs.

 

§  Cat Scratchers and Trees. Some cats prefer to scratch vertically, while others enjoy horizontal scratching. Buy a few different types of cat scratchers so you can discover which your new cat prefers, says Uncles. You can also get something that offers both options and gives your cat a safe, high place to go to—a tall cat tree. Don’t assume that your new cat will have the same cat-scratching preferences as your current or previous cat.

 

§  Catnip. Some cats find it appealing, says Dr. Hohenhaus, but about 25 percent of cats aren’t affected by it. But don’t worry—there are other safe and healthy catnip alternatives. Here are some recommended by Dr. Hohenhaus:

 

o    Silver Vine (Actinidia polygama)

 

o    Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) 

 

o    Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

 

§  Calming Aids. There are some natural cat calming products you can discuss with your veterinarian when bringing any new cat into the household—especially a stray or feral cat. Cat pheromone diffusers and cat calming treats can be helpful if used correctly.

Essential oils of Lavender or Calm-A-Mile RTU (ready to use) petted on or diffused  (Calm-A-Mile neat) will help along with Bach Flower Essence’s rescue remedy 4-5 drops on their food (only on food) three times per day. http://www.animaleo.info/calm-a-mile-rtu.htm or http://www.animaleo.info/calm-a-mile-neat.html or http://www.animaleo.info/g-to-m-singles.html (lavender)

Email Diane Weinmann with questions on essential oil or Bach Flower Essences at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com

 

 

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

Hyperthyroidism in Cats

By Dr. Karen Becker

Recent research has revealed that yet another chemical substance found in households may be contributing to feline hyperthyroidism, a disease that affects a significant percentage of cats over the age of 10. The chemicals are called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and they are widely used as water and oil repellents. According to ScienceDaily:

“PFAS are a family of more than 3,000 structures of highly fluorinated chemicals used in industrial processes and consumer products, such as protective coatings for carpets, furniture and apparel, paper coatings, insecticide formulations, and other items.”1

PFAS are used in many industrial applications calling for nonstick or slick surfaces, such as food packaging, stain- and water-resistant fabrics, nonstick cookware and firefighting foam. These chemicals are now ubiquitous in our environment, having migrated into the air, household dust, food, soil, and ground, surface and drinking water.

Study Links PFAS Chemicals to Hyperthyroidism in Cats

For the study, a team of researchers at the California Environmental Protection Agency looked at blood levels of PFAS in two separate groups of Northern California kitties, most of which were at least 10 years old. The first group of 21 was evaluated between 2008 and 2010; the second group of 22 was sampled between 2012 and 2013.2

The researchers observed that the higher the blood levels of PFAS, the more likely the cat was to be hyperthyroid. One type of PFAS in particular, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was significantly higher in hyperthyroid kitties. These findings “… may indicate a possible link between PFAS levels and cat hyperthyroid, warranting a larger study for further investigation,” according to the research team.

In a bit of good news, the scientists noted a slight decline in PFAS blood levels between the first group of cats tested eight to 10 years ago, and the second group tested more recently. This mirrors recent results in humans as more companies phase out use of these chemicals, and presumably, as people gradually replace PFAS-treated household items.

Reducing Your Family’s and Pet’s Exposure to PFAS

Your best bet is to avoid all products that contain or were manufactured using PFAS, which will typically include products that are stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick. From the Environmental Working Group:3

Find products that haven’t been pre-treated and skip optional stain-repellent treatment on new carpets and furniture
Cut back on fast food and greasy carryout food, since these foods often come in PFC-treated wrappers
Especially when buying outdoor gear, choose clothing that doesn’t carry Gore-Tex or Teflon tags, and be wary of all fabrics labeled stain- or water-repellent
Avoid nonstick pans and kitchen utensils — opt for stainless steel or cast iron instead
Pop popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stovetop, since microwaveable popcorn bags are often coated with PFCs on the inside.
Choose personal care products without “PTFE” or “fluoro” ingredients; also avoid Oral-B Glide floss, which is made by Gore-Tex

It’s also important to filter your pet’s drinking water, and yours, to remove contaminants such as fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals and others. Household tap water typically contains enough toxic minerals, metals, chemicals and other unhealthy substances to damage your pet’s health long term.

Flame Retardants: Another Enemy of Indoor Kitties

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), or flame retardants, are another type of household chemical that has been linked to overactive thyroid in cats, and a 2017 study confirmed the results of earlier studies that prove the high levels of PBDEs measured in indoor kitties are from house dust.4

PBDEs have been used since the 1970s in textiles, electronics and furniture to prevent them from burning, but like PFAS, they aren’t chemically bound to the product material, so they drift into the environment and cling to particles in the air such as house dust.

A number of these chemicals have been banned for use in household products, but they are extremely persistent and can leach into the environment for many years. Contaminated household dust can be inhaled as well as ingested, and can have an adverse effect on the health of kitties.

Brominated Flame Retardants Are Known Endocrine Disruptors

Prior studies of PBDE blood levels in cats have focused primarily on potential causes of feline hyperthyroidism, however, the intent of this study was to measure levels in healthy cats to establish their dust exposure.

The researchers took “paired samples” from the homes of each of the cats, meaning they took both dust samples and blood samples at the same time. They found evidence not only of brominated and chlorinated contaminants currently in use, but also chemicals that have been banned for decades. According to study co-author Jana Weiss, Ph.D.:

“By taking paired samples, we have greater insight into the environment that the cats live in. Moreover the cats in the study spent the majority of their time indoors and therefore air and dust in the home is expected to contribute more than the outdoor environment.”5

The study results are a heads up not only for cat guardians, but also anyone with small children, because both kitties and kiddos engage in a lot of “hand-to-mouth activities.”

“The brominated flame retardants that have been measured in cats are known endocrine disruptors. It’s particularly serious when small children ingest these substances because exposure during development can have consequences later in life, such as thyroid disease,” said Weiss.

Minimizing PDBE Exposure at Home

Most new foam products are not likely to have PBDEs added. If you have foam items in your home, office or vehicle that were purchased before 2005, however, they probably contain PBDEs. The Environmental Working Group offers the following tips to help limit your family’s and pet’s exposure to PBDE-containing products:6

Whenever possible choose PBDE-free electronics and furniture; PBDEs shouldn’t be in mattresses, couches and other foam products sold in 2005 or later, however they’re still put in some new televisions and computer monitors
Avoid contact with decaying or crumbling foam that might contain fire retardants, including older vehicle seats, upholstered furniture, foam mattress pads, carpet padding and kid’s products made of foam
Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum cleaner, since these vacuums capture the widest range of particles and are also good for reducing lead or allergens in house dust
Replace couches, stuffed chairs, automobile seats and the like that have exposed foam (if you can’t afford to replace them, cover them with sturdy cloth and vacuum around them frequently)
Don’t reupholster your older foam furniture, especially in homes where children or pregnant women live
Be careful when removing or replacing old carpet, since PBDEs are found in the foam padding beneath carpets; isolate the work area with plastics, and avoid tracking construction dust into the rest of your house
The replacement chemicals for PBDEs in foam are not fully tested for their health effects, so buy products made with natural fibers (like cotton and wool) that are naturally fire-resistant and may contain fewer chemicals

Did You Know PBDEs Are Also in Commercial Cat Food?

The same researchers who published the 2017 study I mentioned earlier also measured PBDE levels in cat food (both canned and kibble) matching the diets of the kitties in the study. They found that blood levels of PBDEs in the cats also significantly correlated with concentrations of those chemicals in the cat food.

In addition, another recent study concluded that fish-flavored cat food is a problem.7 A team of Japanese scientists evaluated cat food and feline blood samples and discovered that the type of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and PBDE byproducts found in both the food and blood samples are derived from marine organisms.

The researchers were also able to simulate the way in which the bodies of cats convert the type of chemical present in the food into the type of chemical seen in the cats’ blood samples.

Based on their results, the team concluded the byproducts detected at high levels in cats’ blood samples likely came from fish-flavored food and not exposure to PCBs or PBDEs. However, further work is needed to determine the link between the metabolites (byproducts) and hyperthyroidism. If you’re wondering how these chemicals wind up in fish-flavored cat food, Dr. Jean Hofve of Little Big Cat explains it very well:

“There is a link between the feeding of fish-based cat foods and the development of hyperthyroidism, which is now at epidemic levels. New research suggests that cats are especially sensitive to PBDEs … [which are] found at higher levels in both canned and dry cat foods than dog foods; and more in dry than canned cat foods.

Fish-based foods are even worse, because marine organisms produce PDBEs naturally and can bioaccumulate up the food chain to high levels in fish; this compounds the exposure cats get from fabrics and dust.”8

5 Tips to Help Prevent Hyperthyroidism in Your Cat

  1. Rid your environment of flame-retardant chemicals
  2. Provide an organic pet bed
  3. Feed a nutritionally balanced, fresh, species-appropriate diet to control iodine levels in your cat’s food, since iodine has also been linked to hyperthyroidism
  4. Avoid feeding your cat a fish-based diet, since seafood is a very rich source of iodine, and cats aren’t designed to process a lot of iodine
  5. Avoid feeding soy products to your kitty, as they have also been linked to thyroid damage

I also recommend checking your cat’s thyroid levels annually after the age of 7.

 

Your Kitty Loves This More Than Just About Anything

Written by Dr. Becker and comment by Diane Weinmann

 

As pet lovers, we all recognize that the connection we have with our cats is very different from the way we interact with our dogs. It’s not just a myth that kitties are more independent and self-reliant than dogs — it’s a fact. Cats simply don’t view their humans in the same way dogs do. For instance, they don’t get crazy happy when we arrive home. Their primary attachment is to their environment/territory/turf, not to us, whereas our dogs tend to treat us as if we hung the moon.

Unlike Small Kids and Dogs, Cats Don’t Develop ‘Secure Attachments’ to Their Human Caregivers

Even kittens who were properly socialized to people at precisely the right age and are quite comfortable around humans, don’t form the type of emotional attachment to their owners that dogs do, which was illustrated by a small 2015 study in the U.K.1

For the study, two University of Lincoln researchers used the Ainsworth Strange Situation Test (SST), a tool that measures whether a small child or dog has developed a secure attachment to a caregiver who represents safety and security in strange or threatening environments. They used the SST, adapted for cats, to evaluate 20 kittles and their owners.

Beyond the observation that the cats vocalized more when their owners left them with strangers than the other way around, the researchers found no other evidence to suggest the kitties had formed a secure attachment to their humans. According to the researchers:

“These results are consistent with the view that adult cats are typically quite autonomous, even in their social relationships, and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety.”

This obviously doesn’t mean cats have no ties to their humans; however, we need to develop alternative tools to better measure the normal characteristics of the cat-human bond, since the concept of secure attachment isn’t among them.

Cats Evolved as Self-Sufficient Loners

If you know much about felines, it’s no great mystery why they’re so different from dogs and therefore, in their relationships with people. Cats evolved as independent loners, unlike dogs, whose wolf ancestors lived in packs with a well-defined social structure.

The domestic cat’s ancestor is the African wildcat, which hunts alone for small prey animals such as mice, rats, birds and reptiles. Wolves, on the other hand, need members of their pack to help them bring down bigger prey. The exception to this rule is the lion, who lives in packs (prides) like wolves, and hunts and eats communally.

In domestic cats, socialization during the first 2 to 8 weeks of life gives them the ability to socially attach to their human, but only on their terms, of course. Once a feral kitten, for example, is over 2 months old, it can be very challenging to try to “tame” him or turn him into an indoor kitty.

But regardless of how well-socialized a kitten is, she’ll retain her independence throughout her life. She can be extremely friendly and extroverted, but she’ll never submit to you as a dog will. She won’t hesitate to set you straight if you do something that displeases her, either.

And because cats evolved to be loners, they don’t have the communication skills dogs do. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your kitty’s behavior for signs she’s feeling stressed, ill or has an injury. If you find her hiding in her covered litterbox or in a closet she never visits, for example, chances are something’s wrong and you need to investigate.

Despite Their Aloofness, Cats Enjoy Interacting With Their Humans

In a 2017 study, a pair of U.S. university researchers concluded that cats actually seem to like humans a lot more than they let on.2 According to Phys.org:

“[The researchers] point out that cats may simply be misunderstood, noting that recent research has found that cats have complex socio-cognitive and problem solving abilities. They suggest further that the commonly held belief that cats are less reactive to social stimuli might be due to a lack of knowledge regarding the things that cats actually find stimulating.”3

The researchers set out to determine what types of things stimulate cats, and to what degree. There were two groups of kitties involved — one group lived with families, the other group consisted of shelter cats. For the study, the cats were isolated for a few hours, after which they were presented with three items from one of four categories: food, scent, toy and human interaction.

The researchers mixed up the items for the cats so they could better evaluate which they found most stimulating, and determined the kitties’ level of interest for a given stimulus by whether they went for it first, and how and how long they interacted with it. The researchers observed a great deal of variability from one cat to the next, regardless of whether they lived in a home or a shelter. But overall, the cats preferred interacting with a human to all other stimuli, including food.

The kitties spent an average of 65 percent of their time during the experiment interacting with a person, leading the study authors to conclude that cats really do like being around their humans, despite how they might behave around them.

You Have More Influence on Your Cat Than You May Think

A study published in 2013 offered further insights into captive feline behavior.4 For example, did you know our cats take on human habits, or that they adapt their lifestyles to ours?

While genetics certainly play a role in feline personality and behavior, it’s clear environment is also a significant factor. “Our findings underline the high influence of human presence and care on the amount of activity and daily rhythm in cats,” says study co-author Giuseppe Piccione of the University of Messina’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.5

The purpose of the study was to explore the effect of different housing environ­ments on daily rhythm of total locomotor activity (TLA) in cats. The cats in the study lived with owners who worked during the day and were home in the evenings. They were all well cared for. The kitties were separated into two groups, with the first group living in smaller homes and in close proximity to their humans. The other group lived in more space, had an indoor/outdoor lifestyle and spent their nights outside.

Over time, the cats in the first group adopted similar lifestyles to their owners in terms of eating, sleeping and activity patterns. The second group became more nocturnal. Their behaviors were similar to those of semi-feral cats, for example, farm cats. Dr. Jane Brunt of the CATalyst Council made this observation to Seeker:

“Cats are intelligent animals with a long memory. They watch and learn from us, (noting) the patterns of our actions, as evidenced by knowing where their food is kept and what time to expect to be fed, how to open the cupboard door that’s been improperly closed and where their feeding and toileting areas are.”6

Indoor cats who spend a lot of time with their humans tend to mimic their eating habits, including those that lead to obesity. And if you happen to keep the litterbox in your bathroom like many cat parents do, you might notice Fluffy often seems to use her “toilet” while you’re using yours.

Feline personalities are often described in terms like “aggressive,” “arrogant,” “curious” or “timid.” These traits apply to people as well, and researchers theorize that cats’ environments may have a greater impact on their personality than previously thought.

Cats Appreciate Reciprocal Relationships With Their Caregivers

Dr. Dennis Turner is a leading expert on the feline-human bond and his research shows that unlike dogs, cats follow their human’s lead when it comes to how much involvement they have with each other.7 Some cat owners prefer a lot of interaction with their pet, others don’t have much time to devote or simply prefer less interaction.

Kitties are quite adaptable to their humans’ needs in this regard and fall into step easily with the pace the owner sets. They do this without complaint, and their independent, self-sufficient nature helps them get along without a need for the same level of interaction their canine counterparts demand.

Even more fascinating is Dr. Turner’s discovery that cats seem to understand the need for balance in their relationship with their humans:

“What we found was the more the owner complies with the cats wishes to interact, the more the cat complies with the owners wishes, at other times. They go up together, or they go down together. If the person doesn’t comply with the cat’s wish to interact then the cat doesn’t comply with the person’s wishes. It’s a fantastic give and take partnership. It’s a true social relationship between owners and cats.”

 As an animal communicator, I have found that cats love their owners very much but are not as demonstrative as dogs based on their physical differences in body types.  They cannot wag a tail and shake paws (usually but I have seen cats do a high five). I also find they are great cuddlers and take comfort in sleeping with their owners and being close to them.  They also like to hear your voice and enjoy when you talk with them.  They like being greeted when you get home and I had one cat client that told me when his mom got home she would yell LEEEEOOOOO (Leo) just like that. He really enjoyed hearing that and would come running.  Many of my cat clients come when called.  Not unlike our canine companions.  They also enjoy treats!

 

Disposing of cat litter in an eco-friendly manner

Disposing of cat litter in an eco-friendly manner

 

By Kate Hughes

Many pet parents are concerned with the impact that their pets are having on the environment. Maybe they’ve already adjusted their lifestyles to incorporate more sustainable products—like bamboo toothbrushes and reusable straws, taken a closer look at their recycling habits and even started to dabble in composting. But, for even the most eco-friendly pet parents, there’s one item that isn’t that easy to find a green alternative for—cat litter.

 

But there are green ways to dispose of cat waste and cat litter. With the right materials and a little know how, cat owners can reduce their eco-paw print and dispose of their kitty’s leavings in a way that is less harmful to the environment.

 

Searching for a Sustainable Cat Litter

 

Disposing of cat litter in an eco-friendly manner begins with the composition of that litter. “Clay litter is not the most sustainable option,” notes Ramsey Bond, a recent graduate of Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, whose studies focus on sustainability. For her senior project, Bond worked closely with the Colorado Animal Rescue (C.A.R.E.), a nonprofit animal care organization in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to develop animal waste composting procedures that lessened the shelter’s eco-footprint and transformed it into an overall more sustainable facility.

 

Bond strongly suggests that any person looking to lessen the environmental impact of their cat litter switch to a wood pellet-based product. “Wood pellet-based litters are a renewable resource and are ideal for composting,” she explains.

 

C.A.R.E. uses wood pellets from a local feed store, but other available options include the Okocat natural wood clumping cat litter, Simply Pine cat litter, Feline Pine original cat litter and Next Gen Pet Products Cypress Fresh litter with green tea.

 

Tracey Yajko, canine behavior and community outreach manager at C.A.R.E., says that her organization had been using pine pellets as their go-to cat litter for many years. “We switched to pine pellets for two reasons—cost and disease prevention,” she explains. “When bought in bulk, it’s less expensive than clay-based litters, and it’s dust-free.”

 

While seasoned cat owners might be hesitant to change the type of cat litter they’ve been using, as cats are notoriously picky about their cat litter boxes, Yajko adds that most of the cats at C.A.R.E. have no issues with the pine pellet litter. “There are some older cats that are a little finicky about their litter, but 90 percent of our animals take to the pine litter without any issues,” she says.

 

To the Compost Heap

 

As Bond noted, wood-based cat litter is ideal for composting, which is perhaps the eco-friendliest way to dispose of cat litter and waste. But you must be very careful about reaching the correct temperature to destroy pathogens.

 

Unless you’re using an enzyme to help break down waste or can guarantee that the compost bin is heating to over 145°F, you don’t want to use this fertilizer in a vegetable garden. “There are some pathogens in cat waste that are harmful to humans. If you can get temperatures over 145°F, you can destroy those pathogens and the fertilizer should be safe,” Bond says.

 

“By combining wood and cat feces, you’re creating instant compost,” she explains. “All you need to start composting is a carbon source and nitrogen source. Wood is carbon; cat waste is nitrogen. Add sunlight, water and time, and all of those components will break down naturally.” Bond’s project launched this spring, and by summer, she and C.A.R.E. are hoping that the compost is far enough along that it can be used as fertilizer for trees and other plants.

 

How to Compost

 

Bond says that people looking to compost their cat’s waste should research their options and look into local ordinances before they begin. “There are so many different ways to compost, but the two most popular are the bucket method and starting an in-ground compost area,” she notes.

 

Buckets can be expensive and are only able to compost a small amount at a time, but this may not be an issue for people with only one cat. In-ground methods can handle more volume, but you should research to make sure your property isn’t anywhere near a water source. “You’ve got to check where your water table is if you live near a water source, because there can be runoff and leaching from your compost. You have to consider that you’re basically creating a mini landfill and should treat it as such,” Bond explains.

 

Bond suggests that anyone thinking about composting their cat’s waste read the book, “The Pet Poo Pocket Guide” by Rose Seemann. “It has so much information and really lays out all of your options as a pet owner,” she says.

 

Flushing Cat Waste

 

For apartment dwellers, composting what’s in your cat’s litter box might not be possible. However, Bond says that there is another eco-friendly way to dispose of cat waste—flushing it.

 

“If someone lives in an apartment, I’d say their best bet would be using a wood pellet litter and disposing of solid waste in the toilet,” she says. Keep in mind that we’re only talking about flushing the actual cat waste here.

 

“But if you’re going to go this route, check with local waste management companies first. You want to be sure that their treatment methods will kill all the bacteria and pathogens commonly found in cat feces,” says Bond.

 

But, can you flush the cat litter with it?

 

Bond cautions that people who live near the coasts or other major waterways shouldn’t flush their cat litter. “In coastal regions in particular, you never want to flush cat waste because it can contain Toxoplasma gondii, a bacteria that causes toxoplasmosis,” she says. “This bacteria can contaminate water and cause people to get sick.”

 

Keep an Open Mind

 

Bond says that part of the reason cat waste is having such a negative impact on the environment is that so many people are simply used to using clay litter. There are other options out there that are so much more eco-friendly. “All you have to do is be open to using them and you can decrease your—and your cat’s—carbon footprint,” Bond says.

 

Image via Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

 

Feline inappropriate elimination

Feline inappropriate elimination

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Feline inappropriate elimination — a fancy name for those times when kitty pees (or poops) outside the litterbox — accounts for about half of all reported behavior problems in cats. Sadly, it’s the reason pet owners give most often when they relinquish their kitty to an animal shelter. According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a professor at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and founder of the Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic:

“It is a cold, hard fact that cats who fail to use the litter box once a week are four times more likely to be relinquished; if they eliminate outside the litter box daily, these odds increase to over 28:1. About 4 percent of cats urinate outside the litter box weekly, and 1 percent eliminate outside the litter box daily.”1

Cats relieve themselves outside the litterbox for a number of reasons, some having to do with natural feline tendencies, and others involving their environment. Often there are both natural and situational factors underlying a problem with inappropriate elimination. The three main causes for feline inappropriate elimination are:

1.    A medical problem

2.    Urine marking

3.    Aversion to the litterbox

Estimates are that 10 to 24 percent of all kitties have an inappropriate elimination problem at some point in their lives.

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Inappropriate Elimination

If your cat suddenly forgets her manners and starts either peeing or pooping outside the litterbox — especially if she starts using the bathtub or a sink instead —the first thing I recommend is a visit to your veterinarian. There are a number of medical conditions that can contribute to inappropriate elimination, including feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), urinary tract infection, cystitis, obstruction of the urethra, diabetes, cognitive dysfunction and hyperthyroidism.

Diagnosing and treating an underlying medical condition is extremely important to your kitty’s health and to resolving inappropriate elimination behavior. Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam, and order a complete blood count, a blood chemistry profile, a urinalysis and check the thyroid if your cat is older. If the problem involves pooping outside the box, a fecal sample will be taken.

If your cat gets a clean bill of health from the vet but is a senior or geriatric kitty, it’s possible the aging process is causing changes in her elimination habits. For example, does she have to climb stairs to get to the litterbox? Is the box easy for her to get into and out of? It can be challenging to determine if a cat is uncomfortable or in pain. If your older cat is otherwise healthy but could be experiencing joint pain, make sure you’re doing all you can to make it easy for her to use her litterbox.

Urine Marking

Urine marking can be hormonally driven, but it’s most often the result of a natural system of feline communication, or stress. Both male and female cats spray, as do both neutered and intact cats. However, neutered cats spray less, and neutering can reduce or eliminate spraying in some cases.

Kitties who urine-mark generally use the litterbox normally, but also perform marking behaviors. Some cats do both house soiling and urine marking, but it’s easy to tell the difference between the two once you know what to look for.

Urine marking, when it takes the form of spraying, typically happens on vertical surfaces. However, some cats urine-mark on horizontal surfaces, which can make it more difficult to determine whether you have a marking problem or a house-soiling problem. Where your cat marks is of primary significance. Generally speaking:

·         If he marks under windows or on baseboards, he may perceive a threat from animals outside, usually other cats

·         If he marks on or near furniture or doors inside your home, he might be having problems with other cats in the household

·         If your cat marks personal belongings, such as clothes, bed linens, a favorite chair or a computer keyboard, he’s probably experiencing some anxiety about the human who owns those things

Other places cats are known to urine-mark are on shopping bags just coming into the house, heating registers and household appliances.

Resolving urine marking involves identifying and addressing the source of your kitty’s stress. When did the marking begin, and what was happening in your cat’s environment at that time? Just as cats favor certain scratching surfaces, they also return to the same spot to urine-mark. You’ll need to use an enzyme-based product for cleanups to remove stains and odor.

You might also want to spray a synthetic pheromone like Feliway on kitty’s favorite marking spots. Cats also “mark” by rubbing their cheeks against objects (for example, the top of their human’s head), and Feliway may encourage your cat to mark with his cheeks instead of his urine.

It’s important to note that urine marking can be difficult to manage, as often the root cause, if determined, can’t be resolved completely. And sometimes despite addressing all possibilities, cats still mark. 

One option is talking to an animal communicator, like Diane Weinmann to understand the underlying problems your kitty has.

Litterbox Aversion

Cats who are happy with their bathrooms behave more or less like this:

·         Approach and jump or climb into the box without hesitating

·         Take a little time to poke around and choose a good spot

·         Dig a hole

·         Turn around and do their business

·         Inspect the result and then cover it up with litter

Cats who are developing a litterbox aversion may approach it tentatively. They may balance on the side of the box or put only two feet in. They may actually use the litter, but immediately leap from the box when finished. Worst case they may walk to the box, sniff at it, turn, walk away — and eliminate elsewhere. Pooping outside the box, but very close to it, is almost always a litterbox aversion problem.

Your cat can decide she doesn’t like her litterbox for any number of reasons. Perhaps it isn’t being cleaned frequently, or not frequently enough for her comfort. Maybe she’s sensitive to a chemical used to clean the box, or perhaps she’s not fond of a box with a hood. The box may be in a noisy or high-traffic location, or where another pet in the household can trap her in there.

Tackling Kitty’s Litterbox Aversion

Extra boxes for multi-cat households. If you have multiple cats, you may need to add more boxes. The general guideline is one box per cat, and one extra.

Litter preference. It could be kitty doesn’t like the type of litter in the box, or it’s not deep enough (4 inches is recommended). You can discover your pet’s litter preference by buying the smallest amount available of several kinds of litter, and several inexpensive litterboxes. Place the boxes with different litters side by side and see which box gets used most often.

Studies on the types of litter cats prefer show they are quite particular about particle size. The cat’s evolutionary substrate, for potty purposes, is sand. When kitties started living indoors, clay litter came along and most cats were okay with it. But clay has its own issues, as do corn- and wheat-based litters.

These days, there’s a wide selection of organic and natural types of litters on the market, but many of them feature big particle sizes, which don’t appeal to most cats. Kitties also don’t like synthetic scents or odor control additives in their litter. The litter I use for my own cats is our own Biocharged Kitty Litter made with organic biochar. Biochar has a large surface area and is a recalcitrant, which means the charcoal itself holds onto things such as water and smells.

Our litter has incredible clumping properties, which means it lasts longer and there’s less total wetness and mess. It’s also 100 percent biodegradable and compostable. And it’s entirely fragrance-free, because the carbon helps to lock in odors.

Litterbox location. Find locations for litterboxes that are somewhat out of the way, and away from noisy household machinery and appliances. Choose warm locations in the house rather than the basement or garage. And make sure boxes aren’t close to kitty’s food or water bowls.

Litterbox cleanliness. Boxes should be kept scrupulously clean. They should be scooped at least once a day and more often if you’re dealing with a potential litterbox aversion situation. Dump all the used litter every two to four weeks (I recommend every two weeks, minimum), sanitize the box with soap and warm water (no chemicals), dry thoroughly and add fresh litter. Plastic litterboxes should be replaced every year or two.

To review, litter box aversion can usually be resolved by:

·         Determining the type of litter and litter box your kitty prefers

·         Using the right amount of litter (4 inches, minimum, at all times)

·         Keeping the boxes scooped, and doing a thorough cleaning at least every two weeks

·         Having enough boxes and locating them in safe, easy-to-access locations

Diane has encountered many litter box issues in her 20 years as an animal communicator.  Many litterbox problems are related to changes in the household, cleanliness and actual litter preference.  Please note that sometimes cats change their mind about the preference of litter they like so the tried and true litter you’ve used for years may not cut it any longer.  Contact Diane at Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com to schedule an animal communication session.