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.

 

Litterbox Locations: Hide or Take Pride?

By Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

Pay no attention to the cat behind the curtain...

Pay no attention to the cat behind the curtain…

As a consultant that troubleshoots litterbox avoidance problems in your home, I often see well-intentioned cat guardians making choices for their cats that are based solely on their own preferences and not so much in the best interest of their finicky friends. It seems some folks just don’t want to live with certain cat accommodations creeping into their personal space. Some guardians even find out the hard way that their decision to tuck litterboxes away in backrooms, garages, under stairs, in cabinets or hidden in a designer – “camouflaged” litterbox set up, may ultimately back fire from the back end of their cat. I totally get it. It’s not your bag to see or clean litterboxes, but isn’t it ironic that the very thing you are trying to hide is now happening on your living room couch?

Maybe kitty would rather be with you?

Maybe kitty would rather be with you?

It might be time to make some territorial compromises to restore the balance. Some cats just prefer to eliminate in places with more “social value”. Yup, you guessed it. I’m talking about your living room, bedroom and basically anywhere you like to hang out. Bummer… yea, I know, but we can make this work for both of you. This is going to require a trip to your “Discomfort Zone”. You know this place. It’s where you have drawn the line between your stuff and the cat’s stuff. Let’s blur that line a little, shall we?

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So what DO cats want when it comes to litterbox options? Here are some litterbox basics that will help your cat pee with glee!

The boxes are ideal. Large, easy to enter and plenty of vantage points!

The boxes are ideal. Large, easy to enter and plenty of vantage points!

  1. How Many Boxes?

Cats need to have options when they choose territories to eliminate in. You should have one box per cat in your home, plus one extra to break the tie. Give each cat at least two places to choose from. Avoid placing boxes next to each other if you can and spread the territory out to avoid conflicts between cats competing for resources.

This box is TOO SMALL!

This box is TOO SMALL!

  1. Size Matters

Cats prefer a box that they can enter, pivot around a few times and make a choice. Ideally, the litterbox should be the length of your cat’s body plus ½ more space. This gives the cat ample space to move, choose a place to do their business and then depart when the dirty deeds are done. If your cat’s whole body fills the box like fresh baked bread, rising in a baking pan, it may be time to upgrade to a larger box.

This is a litterbox constructed by one of clients, designed to eliminate tracking of litter.....Holy cow.

This is a litterbox constructed by one of clients, designed to eliminate tracking of litter…..Holy cow. A little overkill.

  1. Covered or Uncovered

Most cats prefer an open box to eliminate in, but guardians often opt for covered boxes to manage the smell and mess associated with litterbox usage. This can limit a cat’s line of sight, restrict their headroom and movement inside the box and make entering and exiting a reason to panic or leave abruptly. Not to mention, they are hot boxed in a smelly place. Not cool. An uncovered box or large storage bin with high sides will keep the mess contained just as well.

When using covered boxes, always make sure the entry/exit door faces outward (not facing a wall or barrier) and choose a box with max headroom. Avoid door flaps that have to be pushed with the cat’s head and body. Keep it simple.

An IKEA hacked bench that works nicely as an open air litterbox cabinet.

An IKEA hacked bench that works nicely as an open air litterbox cabinet.

  1. Litter Lessons

Making the right litter choice is a crucial part of keeping your cat’s dirtiest decisions inside the box. A quick clumping, flushable and super-soft litter like World’s Best Cat litter is ideal for fast and efficient removal of urine clumps, allowing the litter box to be a comfortable / viable option, all the time and every time. You will also get about 30 days of usage out of one bag!

Avoid clay litter that keeps urine trapped and lingering, until you have to change the whole box.

Scoop the box twice a day and adjust the litter depth to your cat’s preference. Some cats prefer less litter than others do, but keeping your depth between one and three inches is ideal for most.

Out sight, out of mind.

Out sight, out of mind.

  1. Out of Sight. Out of Mind

Cats are less likely to retreat back to an isolated location to eliminate. Move hidden or tucked away boxes into open spaces, common rooms and any room that you and your cats spend time together in. Select an area or areas of your home or apartment that have clear vantage points and ambush-free zones. A box that’s hidden away in a less trafficked room will also be scooped less!

Do not place boxes in busy hallways, hard to reach corners or underneath tables or cabinets if they seem hesitant to enter or exit. If you opt for a stylishly camouflaged box to go with your décor, remember that the tips above still apply.

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

CULTURE TRIP MAGAZINE – A Profile of DQ

Below is an article published in Culture Trip Magazine.

Feline Fanatic: A Profile of DQ

Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi of Go, Cat, Go! is the rebel cat guru of San Francisco. Sporting rockabilly hair, DQ also rocks multiple tattoos including a gothic Jersey Boy inscription on his chest, angel and devil cats on his forearms, and quirky cat symbols all over his fingers. His knuckles read: Cat’s Meow. Now that’s commitment to a cause. Here, The Culture Trip’s Nancy Garcia meets with DQ to find out about his work as a cat behavior consultant, and how humans can learn to be more like cats.

DQ | Courtesy Kingmond Young
DQ | Courtesy Kingmond Young

NG: You started on the feline path by working for twelve years at the San Fransisco SPCA. How did that experience inspire you to create Go, Cat, Go!?

DQ: It happened as a progression. After working for an animal shelter for that long, I really believed that my calling was to be a social worker, and I planned to go back to school and get my degree. Then it dawned on me that I was already a social worker – for cats and people, and that made more sense.

NG: Were you a cat behavior consultant at the SF SPCA?

DQ: I had a lot of different jobs there that led to advising people on cat behavior. Eventually though, I felt that my own unique contribution to cats was limited, because I wasn’t able to reach out to everybody that needed these services at the SF SPCA. I used to process animal surrenders (when an a pet is given up), sometimes ten a day. I witnessed people giving up their pets for all sorts of personal reasons, from their own lifestyle changes to challenging cat behavioral patterns. The behavioral reasons made me think: well, if someone could have just talked to them, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.

The SF SPCA is one of the best shelters around, but there are many that aren’t, and many animal lives are lost. I had a yearning in my heart to connect to people in order to prevent this from happening, so I started Go, Cat, Go! in 2012.

NG: And it took off!

DQ: Yeah, it took off pretty quickly. I think there was a need for the service, and when people finally found out that it exists, that there’s someone who can come to your home, and give you real advice on how to deal with the cat-owner relationship and the issues that come up, they’re very relieved.

DQ in the cat mind | Courtesy DQ
DQ in the cat mind | Courtesy DQ

NG: What do you do specifically as a cat behavior consultant?

DQ: As a consultant, my job is to help people interpret their cats. People often call me in times of crisis – at least that’s their perception of the problem. My task is to come into the home and decipher whether it’s truly a behavioral problem, or whether it’s just a misinterpretation of the cat’s needs. I’m in the cat brain all the time. When I come to your home, the first thing I do is size it up for cat-friendly furniture. I ask myself: if I were a cat, would I like being here? Most of the problems I come across boil down to human intention versus feline free will.

NG: What do you mean by human intention?

DQ: What people want or need out of their relationship with their cat. Often the cat can meet those needs, but they may not fulfill them in the way they were expecting. The secret to getting a return on our relationship with our cat is by working for them, and that is the opposite of what most people want from their pets. Pet owners think, I’m not going to be controlled by this animal!

NG: That’s funny – what does “working for our cats mean”?

DQ: Humans have a way of wanting obedience from their pets. That’s part of the relationship we have with dogs. Dogs are really eager to please us, and cats often sit and wonder why we haven’t pleased them enough!

DQ and the Cat’s Meow | Courtesy DQ
DQ and the Cat’s Meow | Courtesy DQ

NG: That’s so true! Cats can be demanding, and then at times aloof – they’re so mysterious. How can we communicate better with them?

DQ: By getting into the mind of an animal that is looking for resources all the time – cats are hunters, and they’re looking to fulfill their own needs. A lot of problems that manifest with cats originate from boredom. When we get home at night, they’re like – OK! Show time, let’s get going! Twelve hours can pass, and how much human interaction has your pet had? This creature has been waiting for you all day to come home. Sometimes, we feel as if we do enough by coming home and putting some food in a bowl and scooping some poop out of the litter box. I think that’s the bare minimum. It’s a cycle that we get into because we’re all tired when we get home from work, but it affects our pets too. I advise clients to try to tune out of all the distractions – the media and phones and computers and TV for a bit, until it’s just the owner and the cat.

NG: Do you believe that cats miss their owners when they’re out?

DQ: It’s more like they need interaction and stimulation when the owners are around. This is where providing at least fifteen minutes of interactive play a day can really count.

DQ on a house call | Courtesy Kingmond Young
DQ on a house call | Courtesy Kingmond Young

NG: What is interactive play?

DQ: It’s when you are the toy. You’re not physically the toy, but you operate the toy as if you’re an extension of whatever it is that you’re playing with. Your cat isn’t sitting there saying, “ Ah, I can’t be bothered with that toy” – they are waiting for the toy to do something exciting. A great game is “now you see me – now you don’t.” It’s when you, with the toy go around a corner. The second you turn that corner is when cats say, “wow – where did that go”? And they run and pounce on it.

Don’t keep something in front a cat all the time, or make the toy mouse or bird run to your cat. The cat is sitting still. Prey does not run to a hunter – prey runs away, and the minute it runs away, it becomes real to your cat. Waving a pen light in front of them is not interesting to them, by the way.

NG: What is a behavioral problem that you frequently encounter in your practice?

DQ: A big one is: the cat keeps me up all night crying, or wakes me up at 5 a.m. for food. That’s going to take some serious schedule changing, because you’ve hardwired a routine and cats don’t like change. When I come over, people sometimes expect the behavior to go away, boom, but it’s probably going to take a couple of months of trying things out, and creating a new habit for your cat. You’re going to have to bear with some really uncomfortable times when your cat is saying – I don’t get it! I’ve been eating at 5 am for years!

NG: So you’re saying that we humans create habit patterns for cats that are hard to break when we want them to change. What is your advice in this case?

DQ: We as human beings have a circadian rhythm, and so do cats. Yet our bodies are on this daytime clock – and cats are on a different one. So half the time cats are up, looking for things to do. The good news is that there are plenty of options for you to deal with this. If it’s feeding that they want, you can take yourself out of the picture by using an automatic feeder with a timer. Or, you can change their eating schedule – feed them an hour before bed, so they won’t get hungry in the night.

For active cats or hunter breeds such as Bengals, make it a creative adventure. Maybe you have food hidden all over the house, in little puzzles that take time and effort, and it takes three hours for them to complete a whole meal. That’s three hours that will keep them busy hunting, keeping their brain occupied and they’re not thinking about you. They’re not going: wake up, wake up! Their needs are being met, all on their own.

NG: What sort of cat toys do you recommend to help us create puzzles, and keep cats busy?

DQ: There are many toys on the market that help you accomplish this. Some spill out food little bits at a time, so it makes them work for it. Foraging toys, slow feeding toys – they even make bowls with a mechanism that prevents the cat from putting its whole head into the bowl, forcing the cat to creatively figure out how to get the food out of the bowl. They’re also for cats that overeat – or who eat and then throw up because they eat so fast. These are things that allow them to accomplish the task, all without putting the owner in a position of fighting. Let them learn them new skill sets, and you’ll both be happier.

DQ at a client’s home | Courtesy Kingmond Young
DQ at a client’s home | Courtesy Kingmond Young

NG: These practical solutions make so much sense, and they sound like fun, too. People really love their pets; they’re family members. It’s upsetting if there’s a behavioral problem because we can’t communicate or understand them as easily as we wish. How do you deal with the owners themselves?

DQ: There’s a strong emotional component to it. We respond emotionally when things happen with our pets that we don’t understand, or that we think are vile – like when your cat pees on the bedspread. We can take that personally or even interpret it as spiteful. Maybe we’ll put two and two together and think: “Oh, it started when I began seeing this new boyfriend, or when I started taking long trips.” There’s some truth to that, yes – but it’s really that something has changed in the routine. It’s not your cat saying: “I don’t like your boyfriend, so I pee on things you like as revenge.” Your cat doesn’t know what you like, because everything in the house belongs to them anyway!

In any case – there could be many reasons why a cat’s behavior changes, that’s why I need to go into the home to see what’s really going on, and meet the cat and owner.

NG: Why do cats hate change so much?

DQ: Cats are creatures of routine and they literally set their circadian rhythms to the habits of their guardians. When removed from a predictable routine, they can become anxious and stressed. When I worked in the shelter environment, I would see cats that had lived in the same home for over 10 years go crazy when moved to an unfamiliar environment. All the familiarity of their routines vanish and suddenly they have to understand new smells, people and they hear and see other cats, which might also stress them out further. It’s not that cats hate change, as commonly believed. Some do just fine, moving from place to place. They just prefer that changes roll out at a slow pace so they have time to adjust and feel safe. This is why a trip to the vet can be so shattering to a cat.

NG: Are some of these problems medically based, or symptomatic of an illness?

DQ: Sometimes it’s a medical problem that underlies a behavior issue, so make sure you rule out illness as a cause. Unfortunately, cats tend to be very good at hiding symptoms until it’s too late. They may have a solid habit using the litter box their whole lives, and then quite suddenly they go on your bed – the cat is taking drastic measures. I have clients who say things such as, “my cat suddenly started peeing over my floor, my stove.” These aren’t places that have social significance. It could be a marking issue, or a litter issue – but if these places are random or make no sense at all, it could be a medical cause, so it’s important to get them to a vet as well.

NG: Are there any cat issues that are particular to San Francisco?

DQ: I always say that people in San Francisco live in small environments with really big hearts. If they have too many animals in a small space, that can be a problem until they make vertical changes. What I mean is, if everything is on the ground level, that’s where all your conflicts are going to happen. You’re going to have cats fighting in hallways and over food bowls. Getting them up off the ground is not only a good tactic to avoid conflict, but it gives cats a sense of status. When you have multiple cats, the cats with the higher status want to be on top, looking down. So I recommend cat trees, and building easy access to higher spaces. To a cat, everything in your house is territory.

NG: Do you recommend people to limit the number of animals that they have?

DQ: I hesitate to put a limit on it, but if it’s manifesting as conflicts with your pets, then you really have to think about it. It’s easy to get more cats, save more cats; I’m all for that, save as many cats you can, but you’re going to have to provide vertical space so they can live together and be happy. More pets means adding more territory.

NG: What can we learn from our cats?

DQ: This is my own personal philosophy: When I observe cats, I admire that they’re living in the present moment all the time. We can wonder why our cats are sitting there staring and doing nothing. Well, in truth – they’re not sitting there thinking, or going back in time, or worrying about tomorrow. All they’re about is: are the same things going to happen every day that keep me happy?

NG: Acquire a Zen-like state as your cats do, and be one with them.

DQ: Sure. It’s the closest thing to meditation you’ll find. I think that all animals have this ability – the human mind is fallible. I’m finding the secrets to being a better person through cat behavior, so I use that, and I use it to tailor my advice to my clients.

NG: Anything else you want to add?

DQ: My one message is: Surrender yourself, not your cat.

To contact DQ, visit his website at Go, Cat, Go! You can also hear DQ dishing out animal behavior advice on KGO Radio as a regular guest on the Maureen Langan Show and as a cat expert on KOIT Radio.

Tattoos. A Siamese version of the diety KuanYin and a Burmese Buddha | Photo Courtesy DQ
Tattoos. A Siamese version of the diety KuanYin and a Burmese Buddha | Photo Courtesy DQ

By Nancy Garcia

Nancy Garcia is a writer and television producer who divides her time between San Francisco and New York. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website and following her on Pinterest.

Surrender YOURSELF… not the cat!

Written by Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

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Cats are surrendered to animal shelters every day because of behavior changes that humans interpret as spiteful, annoying and downright personal. Giving up on their companions completely, well-intentioned but desperately frustrated cat guardians throw down the white flag and assume that behaviors like petting/ play or territorial aggression, attention-seeking, excessive meowing and litterbox avoidance / spraying and marking are personal attacks against them. Perhaps if people knew that having a cat came with some personal sacrifice, the true surrender would be happening from within. It’s not always about you, but right now it is.

Congratulations! You live with cats. Notice I didn’t say you “have” or “own” them. That’s because when you agree to add a cat or cats to your home, you just made the ultimate sacrifice. You pretty much just agreed to surrender every possession you have, including YOURSELF to the enigmatic whims of a species put on this earth to make you work for them. In return, you will get conditional love. Yes… I just said that…because truthfully the conditions or compromises that you make just to live among these creatures are what confuses most people. Humans feel the need to control. You have a cat. You are now in control of absolutely nothing.

Cats know how we feel

Your cat does not think like you do. In fact, “thinking” is what is getting you in trouble to begin with. Just for a few moments… zero out your intentions, your ego and your past experiences. Think of nothing but breathing and follow that breathe, in and out. Pay attention to only the breathe. When you start to think about the past, you future plans, your resentments, your insecurities, the smelly guy on the bus that ruined your morning… go back to the breath and pay attention to ONLY what is happening in the NOW. You have just become a cat. Time to surrender to living in the here and meow. This may be the hidden secret to understanding cats.

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Relinquish control, because trying to make cats do anything based on your own intentions is futile. Are your cats misbehaving or are you just not allowing them to make freewill decisions? Ever tried to get your cat in a carrier just 1/2 an hour before a vet appointment. Chances are, your intentions (based on time constraints, fear of being late, the clerk at the desk rolling their eyes at you, etc) will impede on your cat’s freewill decision to enter the carrier on their own, thus resulting in personal blood loss and heightened stress for your cat. It’s like trying to defuse a bomb with a timer. Cut the wrong wire and that clock ticks faster and faster ….until BOOM! You have now pushed your cat way beyond their personal freewill comfort level and it’s on. Oh, it’s so on right now. Your lack of patience just got you served.

That same frightening experience can be changed by allowing your cat access to the carrier 24/7. Take the door off and make it a bed, heck, throw treats in there and your cat’s toys for crying out loud! Cats need time to adjust to things and they make negative impressions last if things are predictably disappointing. Surrender to the fact that your cat needs EVERY experience to go down by their own choice and with self-serving rewards. YOU can’t expect your cat to live by your rules. Mostly because your rules kinda suck. It’s not personal. It is defiance to your intentions. Breathe. Ok, welcome back.

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Your cat is not doing things to piss you off. Instead, you are just upset because they are not doing what you want them to do. Guess what? Cats don’t care about what you want. Once that’s understood, you quickly realize that their actions and your intentions will never line up.  You want the cat to stay off the counter tops. Ok… fair enough. Just realize that cats have an innate need to get up off the ground, particularly in places where the resources are highly valued or shared.

YOU are a resource for food and social bonding. YOU typically prepare the cat’s meals and your own in the kitchen. Trying to prevent your cat from being where the action is and where the  “gettin’s good” is pointless, unless you have vertical climbing  alternatives nearby that are more appealing and a positive experience. In order to stop the cat from going on the counter… that area better be humanely booby-trapped 24/7 and or a total pain in the ass to stand on, both when you are home and when you are not. Trust  me, surrender is easier. You live with cats now. Just give them what they want.

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Chances are…what you want and what your cat wants will never line up completely. Well, not until you give up and set yourself free of this burden. Stop expecting a cat to do what you want, stay where you put them, sleep in the beds you buy, eat the food you heard was good, play with the toys you fail to keep interesting and pee in the world’s crappiest litterbox  that you purchased for it’s convenience. You have a cat. Now you also have a job. Right now, you are so close to getting your ass fired. The solutions to making the cat bosses happy are in allowing them to make yes-no decisions and reading between the lines of their requests. Your review is coming up and so far “sometimes meets expectations” is your overall rating. You can’t quit. Just pay closer attention.

TOP TEN CRAPPIEST LITTERBOX CHOICES

 Written by Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

 

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As a cat consultant that visits your home, I am frequently called to troubleshoot litterbox avoidance problems that end up being a cut and dry case of the cat’s refusal to use the litterbox style selected by a well-intentioned consumer. Cat guardians can easily be seduced into buying litterboxes that appeal to the convenience of not having to scoop it, low litter tracking, small compact size or a design that stylishly camouflages it from public view. You have a cat. Time to put the work into sharing your space together.

I’m here to tell you that being lazy about cleaning your box and hiring a robot to do it for you is going to blow right back in your face. Shit WILL eventually hit the fan… and then your rug, couch, comforter and throw pillow. Technology and the elimination of waste should probably not mix. I’m just saying. Take a moment to yourself and mindfully scoop your box. You laugh.. but it makes the task less…well …shitty. Remember to breathe… on second thought, you might want to inhibit breathing.

Stylish but complicated in execution.

Stylish but complicated in execution.

Cat guardians are easily pissed off when their cats refuse to use the fancy-free accommodations they provide. After all, they dropped a dime or two on a box that will make living with a cat easier….right?  How’s that working out for you so far? We can fix it. You’re just going to have to slum it for a while with a more basic box that is bigger than you might like to display, but the upside is you’ll be living in a home that doesn’t smell like a veterinarian’s waiting room. Just simplify your approach a little and remember, a cat wants to crap in a huge sandbox (twice their size at a minimum) with lots of drop zones and no minefields (clumps, nuggets, dingleberries, etc) to avoid. Keep the box clean. Keep the litter soft and scent free and match the depth to your cat’s preference.  Some like it deep. Some like it shallow.  Some want the moon. Give it to them.

A cat using the litterbox on the moon. Ideal size and substrate make the moon a destination for space traveling cats.

A cat using the litterbox on the moon. Ideal size and substrate make the moon a destination for space traveling cats.

Covered litterboxes reduce the headroom a cat needs to sit upright and urinate. This is why they often urinate out the entrance and on to your shag rug. You have given them little choice but to duck and squirt.  Now…add to the lack of headroom, an entrance with flaps, stairs, rough feeling entry ways (to avoid litter tracking) or a freakin’ turnstile for dog’s sake and we have a recipe for physical graffiti on the outside of the box.

Clevercat fail.

Clevercat fail.

Dude…I’ve seen cats stand on top of covered boxes and drop a deuce right on the lid. Some won’t even walk into a box and crap-blast the entrance mat, making it a no fly zone. YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!! Don’t you get it? They want to use it. They really do. You just have to remove the barriers, auto-scooping and flaming hoops that are blocking them from walking in like a cat.

Your cat is not mad. He is just telling you to get your ass moving and scoop more.

Your cat is not mad at you. He’s just disappointed in your housekeeping abilities. Get it together.

Guardians choose covered boxes with doors because they don’t want to smell what’s inside. Trust me, your cats are just as sensitive and they don’t want to walk into a smelly pee-swamp, day after day. Clean your friggin’ box,! Twice a day keeps the stench away. It only smells because you are a bad housekeeper.

 

 

Using the litterbox should not be a balancing act. If your cat is teetering on the edges or reluctant to enter at all, you have to change the presentation a bit. Top entry boxes are not ideal. They allow your cat only one place (where the hole is) to stand upright once inside, thus limiting the most desirable places to squat to one side, the entrance. Not to mention, climbing out of the box, rather than walking straight out is cumbersome and not appropriate for older cats with less agility. Another potential shit show that can be remedied by replacing it with a storage bin and cutting a hole in the side for a smooth entrance.

You want the ideal box, for any cat… Well, here it is…

 

Aren't they gorgeous? Easy Peesy! Your problems are solved.

Aren’t they gorgeous? Easy Peesy! Your problems are solved.

 

Check out DQ’s Top Ten Crappiest Litterbox Choices below. Did your box make the shit list?

 

Number 10: “The Stairway to Urine”

 

Half of this box is wasted by stairs. Trust me, your cat does not want to shit in an igloo.

Half of this box is wasted by stairs. Trust me, your cat does not want to shit in an igloo. Not to mention most cats pee against the back wall, which seeps through the seam and leaks on your floor.

It’s the spiral staircase entrance, low headroom and limited elimination area that bugs me on this one. Also, many of my clients ditch them because the seam on the side is not urine-tight.

 

Number 9: “Flash Gordon”

The Jestsons meets Futurama porta-potty. This one sports superior odor control while your cat is humiliated.

The Jetsons meets Futurama porta-potty. This one sports superior odor control while your cat is once again… humiliated.

This looks silly to me. Maybe remove the glass helmet shield and it would almost be ok. This one offers odor control. I dunno. Looks like your cat might come out with a perm afterward.

 

Number 8:” Crazy cupboard ”

Two diagonal entrances? Whats wrong with walking straight? Almost there...but the entrance is jacked.

Two diagonal entrances? Whats wrong with walking straight? Almost there…but the entrance is jacked.

This box might be ok if you remove the inside wall or line the two entrance holes up. Otherwise, fill that whole cabinet with litter. Don’t squander one square inch of real estate to avoid tracking litter.

 

Number 7: The Cradle of Filth

This one is all kinds of wrong. A baby carriage for your cat to crap in. Awesome. I hope it doesn't rock.

This one is all kinds of wrong. A baby carriage for your cat to crap in. Awesome. I hope it doesn’t rock.

Rockabye Baby. You’ll be hating yourself for even thinking about this one. Litterboxes should be stabilized with the entrance on ground level. I’d be willing to bet that this cradle will rock. Not to mention the crapcake cage on the side. Just scoop your box, people.

 

Number 6: Turd raker

Lazy people love an automated box. Better save up because you'll be buying another when this one clogs and malfunctions.

Lazy people love an automated box. Better save up because you’ll be buying another when this one clogs and malfunctions.

Automated boxes often clog up, scare cats and require special litter types that may not appeal to your cats sensitive paws. If you really want one though, just go to your local landfill. There will be thousands to choose from.

 

Number 5: “Klevercat”

There's nothing clever about it. No cat should have to dumpster dive to use the box.

There’s nothing clever about it. No cat should have to dumpster dive to use the box.

Oh Klevercat. You and I will never get along, I’m afraid. I have literally seen cats stand on the top and shit all over the entrance rim. Some particularly agile cats seem to do fine, but most of the time, this choice is the garbage can of litterboxes.  Use it as such.

 

 

Number 4: “Kitty Cement Mixer”

The Cement mixer of litterboxes. Again... smearing poop and pee on the sides of the box is not the way to go.

The Cement mixer of litterboxes. Again… smearing poop and pee on the sides of the box is not the way to go.

Ok, so how does it makes sense to roll cat feces and urine soaked litter all over the sides of the box? Are you going to clean it? Nope. I didn’t think so.

Number 3: “Litter Spinner”

Another cement mixer / crap roller. Imagine yourself sitting in there. That's what I thought.

Another cement mixer / crap roller. Imagine yourself sitting in there. That’s what I thought.

Again…a defecation mixer for your cat to stand in. You’re better than this.

 

Number 2: “No room at the Inn”

 

Do I need to explain why this will go badly?

Do I need to explain why this will go badly?

If your cat can stand upright… you’re golden with this automated gem! Why? How? Just don’t. ok

 

 

Number 1: “R2D-Poo

 

The Litter Robot is like a ferris wheel of cat poop in your living room.

The Litter Robot is like a ferris wheel of cat poop in your living room.

The automated poop mixer of your dreams. It does the rolling for you and traps the poo and pee smearings in a little box for you. The sides of the box remain an olfactory nightmare for your cat.  This one appeals to your disdain for cleaning the box and your love for science fiction. R2DPoo will be a great ice-breaker for your dinner parties and a wonderful experiment in futility.  Your cat will likely decide your open clothes dryer or washing machine is “The place to be/pee”.

This is not the droid you are looking for.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

People Behaving Badly

Written by:
Daniel Quagliozzi
Cat Behavior Consultant
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Is Mr. Fluffandstuff being naughty? Are your punishment techniques unsuccessful at getting results? A new approach to “bad behavior” may help you change how you look at your cat and find solutions that work for both of you. Punishment doesn’t work with cats. Here’s why:

There are often times when we may find ourselves at wits end with our cat. However, most behaviors that cats are punished for are actually normal, they just may not be what we humans consider acceptable.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of outdated or just plain inaccurate information about punishing cats available. Whether you heard it from your veterinarian, your friend or the internet, I’m here to tell you that all types of physical punishment are not only detrimental to your relationship with your cat, but they JUST DON’T WORK. Physical punishment has many negative effects on your relationship with your cat. The first thing you may notice is that your cat starts to cower whenever you approach with your hands. For fearful cats, this will only reinforce their apprehension of humans.

The other thing that happens is that punishment can turn a sweet cat into an aggressive one. If you swat or spank your cat, he may feel that you are “escalating” the situation or provoking it to fight. Many cats respond to a nosetap with a bite or swat – not exactly the response you may have been expecting…especially if you were looking for guilt or remorse.

Cats have a fairly limited concept of punishment. Many people assume that their cat “knows” he’s is being bad, because he did something wrong, such as scratching the furniture, and then skulks away. In fact, the cat is just associating the presence of it’s owner with being yelled at. He is not recognizing that scratching the couch is bad – again, to your kitty, scratching is a normal behavior (that also happens to feel good, and that may be reward enough to risk being yelled at).

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Many cats engage in problematic behaviors out of boredom. Just as with children, they may see “negative” attention (such as being yelled at) better than no attention at all. Often, in the case of a very bored cat who isn’t getting enough mental stimulation, humans actually reward negative behaviors by shouting. In this situation, the cat is looking for some sort of response from the human – that reaction is frequently enough of a reward that the cat will knock things off your dresser or scratch your furniture, even if he knows he may get in trouble for it.

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So, do we just give up and let the cats do whatever they want? The answer is an unequivocal, no. But, there are ways to “correct” bad behavior that are much more effective than yelling or getting physical with your cat. Cats learn by trial and error. If they try something and have a good experience, they will do it again. If they try something and have a bad experience, the behavior is more likely to be extinguished – although not always immediately. Sometimes they will keep trying in hopes that the good experience will return – just as humans will play the slot machines time and time again, hoping for the “big payoff” – before finally giving up.

Here’s an easy 4 step plan!

1. Prevention: Give your cat an appropriate outlet for “normal” feline behaviors

2. Use correction, but only when appropriate

3. Use Remote punishment to discourage undesirable behaviors

4. Reward to reinforce good behaviors

I have identified two of the most common reasons people will punish their cats below.

clawing couch

Scratching Furniture

The most common cause of furniture scratching is a lack of an appropriate scratching post. Since the couch fulfills most of the cats scratching needs (tall, sturdy, a material they like to scratch, and in an easily accessible location), it seems like the best place to sharpen those claws.

To work with this behavior:

1. Give your cat an adequate scratching post. Scratching is a natural behavior, and necessary for all cats – it’s how they stretch, mark their territory, relieve stress and shed their claws.

2. Correction or punishment, such as yelling or squirting with a water bottle, is not appropriate in this case. Cats learn quickly that the punishment only happens when humans are around, and will just return to scratching furniture when you leave. They may also scratch furniture, anticipating some attention (remember, to a bored cat, negative attention may be better than no attention at all).

3. Make the furniture an unappealing place to scratch by using tin-foil, double sided tape, or a product called Sticky Paws. These are all unpleasant sensations for a kitty trying to scratch.

4. Encourage your cat to use the scratching post by using treats, toys or catnip to lure them into a natural stretching position. Praise them for using their post instead of the couch.

OfficeCat

Climbing on Furniture/Knocking Over Items

Cats love to be up high. They also need lots of mental stimulation. When they don’t have outlets for these needs, they may start climbing up on your dresser, kitchen table or counters. In a playful mode, they may start batting at small objects, trying to knock them off. Not only does this provide them with some playful activity, but they may get a response from their human out of it, as well.

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1. Start by giving your kitty its own cat condo or high-up places to hang out (you can clear off some shelves and put fleece pads on them to make them more appealing). More interactive playtime with toys such as the cat dancer or DA BIRD, in addition to solo play toys (ping pong balls, fuzzy mice) will provide more mental stimulation.

2. As in the case of other attention seeking behaviors, punishment is not effective for this behavior, and may just reinforce it.

3. Make counters and other surfaces unappealing – you can use cookie sheets or pieces of cardboard with tin foil or double sided tape attached to them. You can also “booby-trap” the area with empty soda cans with a few pennies taped inside – when the cat jumps up on the counter, the noise of the cans being knocked over will be a deterrent. Keep in mind, this deterrent is not a good idea with shy cats or in multi-cat households where a non-guilty kitty may be scared off by the punishment.

4. Praise the kitty for using its cat tree, and make it a fun place to be – try placing some catnip, or solo play toys on the cat tree. Try incorporating the kitty condo into your interactive playtime – get your cat climbing or jumping on it to chase a toy.

So, with a little understanding, a watchful eye and maybe a little preventive re-arranging of your environment, your relationship with your furry roomates can stand the test of time!! Don’t be a human that behaves badly. Lead by example.