Straight talk with DQ

Five Rules for Humans Living in Catlandia

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Written by Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

Humans and cats have been trying to peacefully coexist for centuries, and for the most part, we are doing ok…with a little room for improvement.  Our relationship with cats has definitely changed over time, with technology allowing us to connect with the masses and disconnect from the very place our cats try their best to meet with us; the present moment, or as I like to call it: “The Meow”. Modern convenience also allows humans to have very specific ideas about how they want their homes to look and feel. It enables a sense of urgency to how fast we like our conflicts to be resolved. Cats however… have not changed one bit. If anything, they may have become lazier from our influence and they have all the time in the world to do nothing.

We’ve basically evolved into beings that fit their whole lives into boxes. Sometimes, we invite cats to live inside and outside our boxes with us. Heck, we even expect them to use a box as a bathroom, regardless of how it looks, smells or where it is located. Basically, we set our own ground rules for living and expect our cat friends to adhere to the lines we draw around them. We come to understand that our feline guests have their own agenda pretty quickly. In fact, they’re not acting like guests at all. They’re treating our homes like their personal AirB&Pee!

The cats have taken over. They’ll live in your box… sure, just not by your rules. Think about the CAT, not the BOX. Your home has a different name now … Welcome to Catlandia, which is basically any place that cats live! You invited cats to stay; now you have to obey! Resistance is futile. Surrender is inevitable. Please consult the following guidelines for peaceful coexistence in a world free of your own frustration:

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Cats don’t understand “property”.

So here’s the thing… cats don’t see a difference between your stuff and their stuff. They aren’t drawing lines between where they are “allowed” to go. We do that; expecting them to understand that jumping on a countertop or dinner table is unacceptable. The problem is, cats go anywhere they please, because to them, everything in their territory belongs to them, including your stuff and sometimes…YOU. They expect it all.

Cats have a natural instinct to get off the ground, especially if it’s not rewarding on the floor. They want to be where the action is. That’s why cats choose to hang in places with high social significance, like couches, dressers and countertops or anywhere they can get the best possible vantage points. If you haven’t provided alternatives like cat shelves, climbing structures or made it practically impossible to sit or stand in places that you can’t compromise, cats are going to take advantage of what the landscape provides.  You’re going to have to give in a little to strike a balance and erase the lines.

Cats scratch furniture. True story! But… it doesn’t have to be that way! Give cats alternatives to your furniture and be observant of their preferences for location and material. Cats are going to scratch places that they consider important. That’s usually any scratch-able surface that you sit on too! If you’re having a hard time accepting their compliments, then make sure to provide your cats with places that they can call their own and scratch-friendly options that respect their preferences. The ultimate compliment is embracing their need for ownership.

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 Cats Are Disobedient.

Like fuzzy little punk rockers; cats have a way of pawing their noses at authority. They just can’t be told what to do and the harder you try to make them conform, the more they push back against your will to change them. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be influenced or trained. It just means that if it’s your idea to make them do something, it’s probably not going to happen the way you planned.  They read your intentions like a psychic.

Cats are not motivated to please you the same way that dogs are. They have unspoken expectations and even a sense of entitlement to the resources that humans provide. That doesn’t mean that they don’t understand reward. It’s quite literally the one the thing that a cat understands best! They just prefer to get those rewards on their own terms and not on your behalf. The trick is allowing them access to the rewards without stepping on their toes too much.  If there are benefits to be had, you can bet a cat will be around to receive them.

Training a cat is easy to do, if you understand what motivates them and are willing to devote the time. For some cats, it might be food or treats that keep their eyes on the prize, while others prefer playtime or affection.  You can clicker train cats to do all sorts of tricks and tasks, if they’re willing to work for food. Food might be the one thing you can actually control in this relationship, but don’t get cocky. Using food too much robs you of power and might ultimately backfire on you.

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Cats Can Be Selfish.

To say that cats are self-serving creatures would be a bit of an understatement. They mostly do what benefits them personally. When sharing living spaces with humans, cats learn quite quickly that there are very specific benefits to the partnership. We provide access to never ending buffets of food, along with all the bells and whistles (sometimes literally) to keep them happy in our homes. But is it ever enough? Probably not; the more benefit you provide, the more likely a cat is to be there waiting for it each day.  I call this the “Double edged sword of cat companionship”.

Most cats don’t like to collaborate with other cats when it comes to playtime. When faced with one target in a group dynamic, some cats just take a seat and wait until it’s their turn, which may never come, because one cat is monopolizing the playing field. In a multi cat home, it is essential that each cat have solo opportunities for interactive play. This helps to reduce tension, competition, anxiety and boredom. Keep it real and the benefits will balance out the rest.

Does it seem like some cats just don’t appreciate petting? Or are we just opting to pet them in the wrong places? Cats like to be stroked in self-serving places like their cheeks, flanks and shoulders. Respectfully petting these areas, allowing the cat to steer the experience, releases pheromones and solidifies the bond between guardian and friend on equal terms. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Serve the cat first and you’ll be richly rewarded later.

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Cats Need Choices.

Most cats have a pretty clear threshold for how much physical attention they want. It’s the human need for petting and physical affection that often supersedes and disregards a cat’s crystal clear warning signs to cease and desist.

Before reaching above or below to pet, hug, carry, snuggle, kiss, move or dress your cat, ask yourself, ”Did I ask permission first?” Giving your cat the opportunity to answer, “Yes” or “No” to a proposal, allows them the free will to make a choice. We already know they won’t obey us or do anything for our benefit, so why would petting be any different? Cats are masters of the art of the deal. When given a choice, a cat will likely always say, “No”, if the benefits don’t outweigh the proposal. Eat your heart out, Trump.

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 In multi-cat homes, competition for shared resources, like feeding stations, toys, perches and litterboxes can be a huge trigger for tension, bullying and even inappropriate elimination outside of the box. It’s essential that each cat in the home have accommodations that match their individual preferences for privacy or party time.

Pay attention to your cat’s habits, particularly when it comes to litterbox placement and design. It’s always better to think about the cat first! Spread out scratching posts, cat trees and climbing structures and be sure to have places to soak up individual and group cat scents, along with the places that harness your own.

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Cats Are NEVER Wrong.

There’s never going to be a time when your cat thinks that they did something wrong. Their actions are 100% justified, even when the result is negatively received.  That’s why involving yourself in any form of punishment is a futile endeavor. Cats don’t follow directions or do things on your behalf, remember? So, unless your providing a benefit, getting yourself involved in the correction of their behavior will never get the point across.

Yes, I know, the pee incident happened on your pillow, and that is enough to anger anyone, but that doesn’t mean your personal reaction will have any impact on change. Shouting, scolding, or physically reprimanding your cat will only serve to complicate your relationship more. Remember, a cat is not motivated by spite or anger. That’s what WE do.. Don’t get angry! Get to work on your relationship. Your cat is telling you that something within our world of lines …. does not line up.

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CONCLUSION:

When cats “misbehave”, you can usually hold a mirror to their guardians to find the reason. After all, they are trying their very best to live in our boxes with us; to live in a world where lines are drawn and grey areas are quickly filled in. We can find Purrvana together. It’s really quite simple. Embrace the grey areas. The happiness and love we seek in Catlandia is just within our reach, but it will take collaboration. It will take humility. You’ll have to let go of yourself… just a little.

 

Does Your Senior Cat Really Want to Live with a Kitten?

Serving up hardcore cat behavior. Blunt force reality with DQ.

 

 

 

DQ appears on KGO 810 AM RADIO!

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I had the honor and privilege of being on KGO radio’s “Hangin’ with Langan” show this weekend. Maureen Langan and I talked about everything from the Portland 911 cat to the common behavior misconceptions that I see everyday through my adventures with Go Cat Go. We took some really funny calls too! I had such a blast on the show with Maureen. Her comic timing and brilliant approach to late night radio made me feel really at ease. I don’t need an excuse to talk about cats and the way humans contribute to their problems. Just straight shooting on this show. I love that!

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You’ll hear me referred to as “The Cat Hipsterer” which is just my way of poking fun at the way people use “whisperer” to describe anyone with intuition about animals.. and also some razzing about my own aesthetic. People get so insulted when they are called hipsters. Can’t take yourself too seriously when your job is to find out why cats pee on people when they’re sleeping. It’s ok to be hip… and it’s hip to be square.

You can hear the radio podcast here: DQ on KGO RADIO

(It’s 30 minutes long, so make some muffins with your feet and find a comfy spot sit and laugh.)

WILL WORK FOR FOOD

Written by:

Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi
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Got yourself a flabby tabby? Is your feeding routine the same every day – just a free for all, help yourself, all you can eat until you fill the bowl again type situation? I know why you do it….believe me, I do. It’s because cat’s are low maintenance companions, right? Just fill the bowl, refresh the water and it’s off to work you go, go, go! Sounds easy enough, right? This is why you got a cat, because they require so much less than dogs. I get that. But then, why is kitty extra vocal in the early morning hours (like around 4 AM), running aimless laps around the apartment at night or suddenly misfiring his play-drive on his best friend, ending in a fur flying? Better yet, why is kitty gaining so much weight? Could it be that just putting food in the same open bowl every day with no real challenge or activity could be slowly chipping away at the moral fiber of your cat? His very will to live has transformed into accepted boredom, as his meals are now expected and reliable disappointments. Worse yet, some cats share this disappointment with a friend. It’s more like an internal disappointment, though. That’s why it never occurs to us until the shit hits the fan in our own lives – AKA lack of sleep, breaking up cats fights and being bitten with “No provocation”. What if the provocation was boredom? I just blew your mind.

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Don’t feel guilty. It’s not your fault. As resource manipulators and protectors, cats learn to adjust to the accommodations we give them, even if it is against their innate best interests.  Cats adjust to convenience easily, this is for sure, but when they are given he option to work for their food, they quickly realize a whole new appreciation for “The hunt”. You have a trained killer or four (let’s be true to this audience) in your house. You can’t expect them to sleep in everyday when their every thought is on simulated murder. Give them what they want…just don’t give it away for free. Sleep is the reward for a day filled with activities only a human can provide. Your cat isn’t lazy. He just accepts life as it is…and right now it’s boring. You can fix this. Only YOU can fix this.

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Now, don’t be scared. I’m not proposing that you simulate the hunt literally. No need to release mice or beetles in your house. Just opt for a better, more challenging presentation. Hopefully, one that just adds a little time and thought to the process. You can start with something simple like a bowl that has built-in obstacles or store bought foraging toys- There are so many types on the market!  Heck, throw some food in a paper bag or box and watch your cat go ape shit trying to get it out. Make it a challenge and if kitty is hungry enough, the hunt begins! Just changing it up a bit makes it more appealing. Ever wonder why cats make a beeline for a new box? That’s because It’s NEW (Not to mention similiar to the space ships that cats arrived in many moons ago).  Cats can be sensitive to change…but where boxes and toys are concerned…sometimes…. change IS good.

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Some of my clients have made DIY puzzle feeders out of anything from a soda bottle to a plastic Silly Putty egg. Sometimes, smaller, lighter weight toys are more desirable over clunky ones. Test your cats preferences each day with a new and creative food foraging routine. If your cat is not stoked on food, try a high value treat that is only given on special occasions. The more desirable the treat or food, the more motivation there will be to hunt for it.

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The bottom line is this. You can do better. We can all do better. Playing with your cat is a patience game. Most of us (humans) lose interest in the hunt, long before our cats do. It’s not that they are bored with the toys you purchased. It might just be the way they are played with. It’s up to you to put aside the time to add enrichment to your cat’s daily routine. Your cats are simply not that inventive. From interactive play (be the toy!) that is more like the way a mouse, bug or bird moves and less like the way your hand does  – to a hassle FULL not “free” session of food foraging Your cat needs challenging meals, not comfort food. Try experimenting with some of these simple additions and watch all those other complaints slowly melt away.

[Read more…]

Venus Hand Traps

By Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

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Oh, that belly…that terribly inviting, soft and squishy, hard to look away from, magical and mysterious cat belly. It taunts you, or at least you have been conditioned to believe it is. The mere display of this potentially deadly part of your cats arsenal makes you want to tempt fate, each and every time, like a red button that says, “Don’t push me!” You want to put your hand there. I know you do.

My advice to you: Either don’t do it at all or be prepared to get owned like a house fly. I know….I’ve heard it before. Your cat LOVES to be petted on the tum tum and he never bites. Of course, thresholds will vary, but just know one thing- The big belly reveal is not an invitation for petting. It’s more like a finger waving you closer and closer. Doom awaits and you can’t avert your eyes. This is a trap and you are at a severe disadvantage. Your soft and supple, skin covered hand is no match for this wiggling warrior’s weaponry (Say that three times).

Cat’s will display their bellies for many reasons. Sometimes it’s a show of contentment, arousal (either negative or positive) or a reaction to a catnip toy. Most of the time, a belly display is an invitation for rough play. All positive reasons to squirm and show the belly, but still not an invite to put your hand there.

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Sometimes when cat’s are being petted on their back or flanks, they will choose to roll over on their side or back, displaying the gold. This can be confusing to well-intentioned guardians, because instincts will tell you to continue petting, working your way to that golden treasure chest of soft temptations. Be careful…You may be  inadvertently arousing your cat into a playful mood, bringing confusion to the purpose of your hand. One second your hand is petting with compassion, the next….threshold has been reached and you are being bunny kicked, bitten and held down by two very sharp paws. The bottom line is: Don’t take the bait at all or watch your cat’s body language closely. Make sure you aren’t provoking the petting aggression by missing the signals all together. Most of all, don’t take this sudden change in direction personally. It’s not about you. It’s about what you do with your hands.

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 If you see the following before a belly display…You may be heading into a Venus Hand Trap:

  • Flattening, turning or twitching ears
  • Tail swish – Slow to Fast
  • Cranky meow or drawn-out vocalizations
  • Staring or pupilary dilation
  • Quick head turn to watch your hand as you pet
  • Stillness or tenseness
  • Shifting body position repeatedly
  • Back feet push against your hand to keep it away
  • Front paws grab hold
  • Twitching of the back (often described as “skin rolling”)
  • Hissing and growling
  • Licking of your hand
  • Inhibited nipping (soft and gentle)
  • High play drive or need for interactive play
  • You just got bitten and scratched.

What to do if your hand is stuck in the trap:

  • Cease petting
  • Make your hand go limp (dead prey)
  • Do not react by pulling your hand or fighting back (this can provoke more aggression)
  • Redirect the focus to an interactive toy
  • Redirect to your cat’s favorite treat (only when the aggression stops)
  • Apologize for not noticing your cat’s limits
  • Never make the same mistake again
  • Tell all your friends how to avoid the trap

Next week: We’re covering ELEVATOR BUTTS!