Cat Meets Dog….Can’t we all just…get a room?

By Daniel Quagliozzi

Ninja-Cat

In all my years of working with cats in a shelter environment, perhaps the most popular question asked is; “Can you help me find a cat that will get along with my dog?” As simple as this question may appear to be, it’s a huge math equation that requires a predictive approach to finding the answer. It involves a little guess work, prior knowledge about the independence and gregariousness of the cat and also some background on the resident dog. To put it frankly, it’s very hard to answer without thumbing through an entire list of animals and trying to imagine them adapting to a specific situation or enviroment.

So, to make things simpler for all of you, I have compiled some tips to help you out with the search for the ultimate dog-friendly-feline.

Smoothing Out the Rocky Road Ahead:

The best predictor of how cats and dogs will get along together is their background. Have you walked past a cat with your dog? Did it growl, bark or lunge, or did it just get curious or not care? Audition your dog on leash with a willing cat that already has dog experience – they are less likely to run away and pee on your brand new Ikea sofa. It’s also good to try out the same cat on more than one occasion and to try out more than one cat. The trick will be finding this brave and un-frazzled feline. Some cats, or shall I say most cats …will want nothing to do with this experiment.

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Read up on the cats past history. If you are adopting from a shelter, ask the adoption staff to dig up any information on the cats prior experiences. This will be essential in trying to imagine how it will be effected by a dogs approach, play and general cohabitation.

Be aware that certain dog breeds are hard wired to chase small prey. A feisty terrier that digs holes in your yard and brings home dead critters may not be a good companion for a 2 month old kitten. Predatory types are much more stressful for cats and must be constantly managed when around the cat if they are to live with one. Predation is not something a dog can be easily trained not to do as it is deeply ingrained.

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Cats who have not been socialized to dogs will almost always behave defensively, by fleeing and/or with an aggressive display the first time they encounter a new dog. If the dog does not come on too strong, and if the cat is given dog-free zones to retreat to, many cats will gradually get used to the dog and sometimes even become bonded.

Ok, So you did it. You combined a cat and a dog. What should you do to make your home more appealing to both?

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  • Have a “safety room” or rooms as well as high places the cat can access but the dog cannot. Baby-gates, cat doors and clearing high surfaces can accomplish this. It is important that the cat can retreat to regroup and relax away from the dog and then venture forward into “dog territory” at her own pace. The cat should have access to food, water and litter in this area so no interactions with the dog are forced.

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  • Never force the cat (or dog) into proximity by holding them, caging them or otherwise restricting them from escaping. This is defintely not going to help matters. Aside from it being inhumane, stress is a common reason for cats to break litter box training and nobody wants that!
  • For the first introduction, have the dog on leash in case he decides to chase. If it seems to be going well, take the leash off and supervise closely.
  • If the dog is behaving in a friendly and/or cautious way, try to not intervene in their interactions, except to praise and reward the dog for his good manners.

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  • Interrupt any intense chasing and try to redirect the dog’s attention to another activity – this is very difficult so you may be forced in future to manage the dog on-leash around the cat until you have worked out a routine or divided up the house.

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  • In the first few weeks, observe the trend: are things getting better or worse? Monitor interactions until there is a pattern or plateau in their relationship.

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  • If the dog is the newcomer, be sure to give plenty of extra attention to the cat so she does not associate this change with reduced attention and affection. If the newcomer is a cat, it’s also a good idea to make sure the dog associates the new intruder with good things for him. Shoot for positive associations always.

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  • Dogs should not have access to the cat litterbox – it is too stressful for the cat and the dog may eat cat feces and litter. Most dogs will also eat cat food the cat leaves behind – we suggest feeding cats in the cat’s “safe” room or on a high surface.

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>;If you are successful with getting the dog and cat to live in harmony, perhaps you want to try adding a rat for good measure?

P.S. I purposely chose pictures for this blog where the cat had the upper hand over the dog. No offense to you dog folks.

Resistance is Futile

By Daniel Quagliozzi

Cat Behavior Consultant

 

 

 

One of the things that I find truly fascinating about cats is their keen ability to train human beings to do their bidding, no matter how inconvenient the task may be. We go to all sorts of lengths to keep our cats happy, eating, drinking and using their litter boxes, even if it means displacing ourselves in our own homes.

Cats are quirky animals. They could even be described as eccentric and little bit manipulative in their methods. Sure, human beings are particular about things too, but cats seem to boggle the mind when it comes to their likes, dislikes and habits. No one ever said that living with a cat would be easy. As long as you are trainable, your cat will have no worries at all.

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Let’s use my former best friend Matilda for example. These pictures are old as she has now crossed over into immortality. When Matilda was living, her old age and experience paved the way for many alterations in my lifestyle. There were certain conditions that she just had to have in order to get through the day. Most of these conditions happened at the my own expense.

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1. Matilda needed very cold water presented to her in a drinking glass, located on the night stand next to the bed. (I  found this out the hard way when I set a glass out for myself in case  I got thirsty during the night)

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2. Matilda demanded that sleeping be accomplished under the covers and on top of my chest… the moment I lay down for bed each night. This required me to lift my comforter up so that she could spin around several times on my chest and get comfortable. Other times, she preferred to be tucked in like a human…and I happily obliged.

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3. In the absence of a blanket, Matilda would attempt to crawl under my bathrobe. As you can see, this is was partly successful as there is only so much bathrobe to go around and I am wearing most of it.

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4. Matilda asked that her wet food be served exactly at 7:00 Am and 9:30 PM, which was communicated by the act of trampling all over me  until I finally give in to her cries for attention as she stood on my wind pipe. Her night-time demands were quite effective to say the very least.

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5. Once the food was served, Matilda would have roughly three or four bites of the food, walk away and make herself comfortable in the now empty master bed. She would remain in the bed until roughly 7 pm… when I returned home.

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6. For her daily work out session, Matilda required that a shoe lace attached to a stick be forever dangling from the same night stand she perched on for water. I guess she decided that having her very ownhome  gym was easier than pestering me for playtime.

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Cat guardians across the country can relate to Matilda’s story. She may be gone in body but the spirit of her quirks will forever live on. Her needs, although not that outlandish… were still her very own.

Freedom of choice is a cats prime directive. They do what they want, when they want and there’s nothing you can do about it. Resistance is Futile.

My Cat Ate My Snuggie™

Written by:

Daniel Quagliozzi

Cat Behavior Consultant

 

 

 

Has this ever happened to you? You’re getting ready for another day at work and you decide to wear your favorite blouse…the very same blouse that has been sitting on the back of your chair for a week because you were too lazy to put it away after you got it back from the cleaners. As you put your arm through the sleeve, you notice there is a soggy hole in the side. Your cat has chewed another chunk out of your wardrobe. What the @*%!?!?! Guess what? Your cat is not hungry or trying to piss you off. Chances are,  your cat has PICA!

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What Is Pica?

Pica is the term for the repeated ingestion of non-food objects. Accidents will happen, this is true. Sometimes cats will unintentionally eat an object like yarn, string or even a plastic cord. It probably looked like a snake to them? Can you blame them?

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Pica is quite different and happens when cats deliberately chew and swallow inedible materials. Common targets include wool blankets, plastic coated wires, rubber, plastic bags, even thumbtacks, hair ties & spare change . Often, individual cats will have different preferences- so the cat that eats wool may not eat rubber, or the cat that tries to eat your bobby pins may frown upon your hipster sweater. Some cats have a broad range of preferences. Though it might seem amusing to some people, it could result in a lethal ingestion for your cat. Yarn can get wound up in the digestive system and plastic can obstruct major organs. Luckily, most of the time, PICA is more annoying then it is deadly. No one wants to come home to find a huge soggy hole in their favorite shirt. Unless of course, you’ve just been shot, in which case, you need to call 911 immediately.

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What causes this disorder has been subject of debate among vets and behaviorists. Some attribute it to a lack of fiber in the diet while behaviorist’s may claim that it is caused by boredom or anxiety.

 

 

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To rule out medical causes, a veterinarian should examine all cats displaying pica. Once your veterinarian gives your cat a clean bill of health, discuss with them what steps you can take to modify your cat’s behavior. These may include the following:

1. Remove targeted items – Placing clothing, blankets, plastics and electric cords out of the reach of your cat is often the easiest solution. Storage containers, electric cord guards, and other useful items are available at most home supply stores. The upside of all of this is that your house or apartment is going to be super clean! NO MORE CLUTTER! I wish my cat had PICA. It would be great incentive for my wife to stop collecting shoes.

2. Provide alternative items to chew or eat – Food-dispensing toys, durable cat toys, or pieces of rawhide can be used to redirect your cat’s chewing behavior to more appropriate and safe items. For cats attracted to houseplants, small flowerpots of grass or catnip can be planted and kept indoors.

3. Provide lots of structured play – Many cats chew on household items out of boredom. Provide interactive toys and set aside time each day to play with your cat. As mentioned in many blogs prior, exercise, play and environmental enrichment provide stimulation that will cure most miss-behaviors. A bored cat has more time to focus it’s energy on misbehaving while an active and distracted cat will not have the time of day to devote to such foolish activities.

4. Increase dietary fiber – It may help to increase the amount of fiber in your cat’s diet. High fiber foods usually contain fewer calories. Your cat may be able to satisfy their craving to eat more while still maintaining their weight. Consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your cat’s diet.

5. Make targeted items aversive – Occasionally, applying aversive substances (e.g. hot sauce, Bitter Apple®, Bandguard®) to an item may deter a cat from chewing it. If this is not possible, spraying strong smelling substances (e.g. citrus air freshener, potpourri) or using physical deterrents (e.g. upside down carpet runner, compressed air or Ssscat®,) around an object may prevent cats from approaching. Eventually, your cat will get tired and stop heading for the same places of obsession. Just be extra careful with aversive techniques. Many times they do more harm then good and can confuse the issue.

6. Consult with a veterinary behaviorist – If your cat continues to ingest non-food items, referral to a veterinary behaviorist is recommended. Further environmental and behavior modification plans, specifically tailored to your pet, may be needed. In some cases, medication may be helpful. Anti-anxiety medications can lower stress levels and help to subdue the ingestion of non-food items.

 

 

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Hopefully, with the right guidance and a little bit of tidying up, your cat will no longer bite off anything bigger than they can chew! Buy more cat toys!!!! No cat ever complained about too much enrichment in their lives. It’s up to you to listen to their demands, even when they are unspoken…and most of the time…they are.

Daniel

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.

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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.

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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.

Oops I Did It Again!

By Daniel Quagliozzi

Seriously, I could devote my entire career in cat behavior to diagnosing litterbox avoidance problems. It seems that cats miss their litter boxes more often then any other behavior issue and it’s apparent that we humans are having a hard time trying to figure out why this is happening in such sacred places as our bathroom sinks, tubs , beds, couches or kitchen floors. What motivates a cat to suddenly designate your back pack as the place to leave a present? Look to the litterbox. All of the answers lie in your environment.

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Let’s talk about expectations first. Is it just me or do we all just EXPECT a cat to enter our home and know where to poop? Technology, human convenience and laziness on our parts has made it almost an assumption that if you put a litterbox in your home, no matter what size, shape, type of litter or location…the cat will go there. This is obviously not true.
Cats are picky and vulnerable when it comes to dropping their guard and going to the loo. They look for safe and easy places with no complications. Most likely, your litterbox located in the far back washroom, tucked under the sink, filled with colorful, scent fighting crystals will not be as attractive to your cat as it is to you. Kitty is looking for a basic bathroom with an easy entrance, no frills. un-scented, sand-like substances to cover up with and an escape route. The more complicated the picture, the less likely a cat is to be successful in your home environment.
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Cats are sensitive to change. They can react to sudden changes in environment by making some adjustments of their own. Ever go away for three days and come back to find that your cat pooped on your bath mat? Discovered a smelly gift on your pillow? When routines suddenly break, cats fall apart at the seams. Some adjust and roll with the punches, while others tend to just go south. What can you do to avoid such surprises? Don’t ever leave your home! Just kidding. No seriously, it’s all about keeping things consistent. Try to have a friend check in and maintain your routines. Sure it’s a lot of work, but no one ever said having a cat was going to be a low maintenance partnership.
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Don’t be fooled by gimmicks! No offense to the manufacturers of automated litter boxes, but cats don’t generally want a robot to clean up after them. That’s your job! Cats need efficient housekeepers that are ready to clean up on THEIR schedule. Also, some of these fancy boxes inadvertently make the box dirtier!
Keep your litterboxes simple. Have more than one! Clean them like it’s an OCD of yours. Your cat doesn’t want to sit on a dirty toilet and neither do you.
Ok, lets review:
    • Find a litter that is appealing to the cat. NEVER use scented litter. Perfumed, chemical scents repel cats. Use a mild dishwashing liquid or hot water and vinegar for cleaning—not ammonia or other harsh chemicals which will leave an odor.
    • Texture is important, too. Generally speaking, the clumping type or gravel type of litter is most acceptable. The sand type is very popular, but as a health precaution for kittens under four months old, it may pose a problem as they may ingest the litter.
    • Cleanliness is absolutely essential! The single most common reason for a cat’s refusal to use a litterbox is because the box is dirty—no one likes a dirty bathroom. Clumping litter should be scooped daily, and the litterboxes washed weekly. Non-clumping litter should be scooped daily and the box emptied every week or bi-weekly depending on the frequency of usage.
    • How many litterboxes do you need? Having one box per cat in the household, plus one extra is the best formula for success. Being the individuals they are, some cats prefer to urinate in one box and defecate in another. Some cats will refuse to use a box that another cat has already soiled.
  • Litterbox liners—they are often irritating to cats because their claws catch in the plastic. Covered litterboxes, or ones that are too small for the cat, may cause litterbox avoidance. Think about size too! Cats need to be able to spin around and sit upright when eliminating.
    The best location for a litterbox is a quiet, private place where they will not be disturbed by people or other pets. Noisy areas near washing machines, furnaces or under stairs may frighten the cat away from the box. Never place the litterbox close to food and water dishes.
    So remember, remove your expectations and think like a cat. Sometimes the writing on the wall…bed or carpet…is a message telling you to pay attention to the space you are sharing. Don’t take it personally!

I’m sorry, did you say something?

Dear Go, Cat, Go,
 
What are the challenges of adopting a deaf cat? Do they require special housing? Can they live safely with other cats?           
 
Shelly – San Francisco, CA
 
 
 
Great question Shelly!  Most of us are used to our cats ignoring us. We try and try to get their attention, but they are too busy staring off into space or licking their paw to give us the time of day. Is kitty preoccupied with the art of zen or is Mr.Fluffypants just hard of hearing?Believe it or not, it’s not terribly uncommon for cats to lose their hearing, just like humans. In fact, they can get along just fine without it, but it does present interesting challenges for those of us who care for their special needs.

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In addition to the usual causes of deafness, most people don’t realize that a cats’ coloring often plays a huge role in the degree of hearing loss. Studies show that about 65% of white cats who have two blue eyes are deaf in one or both ears. White cats with just one blue eye have a 40% chance of being deaf, and white cats without blue eyes are deaf, or partially so at a rate of around 20%.

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Whether the hearing loss is sudden or gradual, behavioral changes may alert the guardian to the possibility of deafness. The kitties compensate so well in many cases, that it may be a very long time before the hearing loss is noticed, particularly if it is a gradual loss. Hearing impairment can cause any kitty to become irritable, confused, easily frightened, skittish, and insecure. Since they can’t hear their own voice, cats may vocalize loudly and often. In some cases the hearing impaired cat may become mute.

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In the case of my client Snowpea (pictured above), she tends to get lost in her own world, sleeping most of the day, unless there are fun activities, playful interludes with people or the distractions that can only be provided by another cat.

Deciding whether or not a deaf kitty is better off as a single pet is difficult. While some cats will take behavior “cues” from other resident cats or litter mates, some will not. Some deaf kittens will play fight more aggressively, and swat and bite more because they cannot hear the cries of the other kittens. Deaf cats living with hearing cats and/or dogs may become the “victim” of surprise play attacks, and over-react causing friction in a multi animal household. In this stalking type of situation the deaf kitty may redirect his or her aggression toward the humans in the household. All in all, a deaf cat will probably do best as a single pet or with another kitty he or she has known all their life.

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If you are thinking about adopting a deaf cat, remember the following:

Hearing impaired cats will do best with routine handling and an out pour of love. I know, what a hassle right? Cuddling them close to the body and speaking will possibly allow them to “hear” your voice through vibrations. You may even experience a closer relationship with your cat as a result of all of this body to body interaction.

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Hand signals similar to the ones used in dog training may be effective with some cats while others may not rely on it as much. If you are at close range and clap your hands sharply, the air might vibrate enough to attract their attention. Some people have noticed that their deaf kitties learn to respond to lights being turned on and off as signals that someone is entering a room, etc. Maybe a laser pointer will help to signal your arrival or dinner time? You will surprised how resourceful a cat can be when dinner is served. The ears may not work but the nose never breaks!

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Adopting one of these “special needs” kitties is totally a rewarding and admirable responsibility to take on, as long as you are aware that it will require a bit of extra work. These cats cannot be allowed outdoors as they would be unaware of the dangers around them and fall prey to a myriad of hazards. If you’re the type of person who can learn to predict a cats behavior while being a predictable schedule planner at the same time, you may just be the personal assistant a deaf cat needs. Interested in the job? See if your local shelter has a deaf cat that needs a guardian angel like you.

 
 
Daniel Quagliozzi
 
 
 
 

The GO, CAT, GO mascot

My best friend and the GCG mascot: Cubby the Munchkin Cat from Mars.

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Believe it or not, Cubby was surrendered to San Francisco Animal Control. I thought it was odd to find a purebreed there but then I came to find out he was given up due to the illness of his guardian. When I was there one morning doing my daily intake for the SF/SPCA, I spotted him and fell head over heels. Cubby is one interesting fellow. He can stand upright (as pictured above) for minutes at a time. His short Munchkin legs give him a very unique sense of balance, not to mention a very awkward and clumsy play style. Add to that…the atypical Siamese breed traits and you have what I can only describe as a Munchkin cat from Mars. Cubby is not without his “behavior concerns”. He is diagnosed with Feline Hyperesthesia, which causes him to “chase ghosts”, running about the house as if his own tail is chasing him, eyes dilated and skin rolling across his back. He will even resort to self-mutilation and chew his own tail base. Thanks to Prozac, Cubby rarely has an episode these days, but it is quite surprising to see sometimes. It’s almost like he’s in a trance.

Like most cats, Cubby has a threshold that varies. He loves to be held and will stay in your arms for long periods of time, but is also very clear when he has had enough. The standard head turn, “love bite” or licking will precede a final warning. In my house, we never get to that point. Cubby stays comfortable in his surroundings because his boundaries and eccentricities are respected.

We found out the hard way that one of his boundaries was … NO OTHER CATS!! Cubby refuses to share his people with that of another feline. Like most people in San Francisco, I live in a tiny apartment with just enough space for us and him. We remedy that problem by providing Cubby with vertical climbing structures and cat shelves that get him off the floor and high up where he can be king of Mars.

Cubby exemplifies the Go, Cat, Go Motto. Slow down. Live in the moment. Be patient with the process.

Velcro kitties: Tips for 9 to 5 guardians with over-attached cats

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For those of us lucky enough to be working these days, a nine to five gig is a blessing, but for our housebound feline room mates, this time of the day can be downright traumatic. The consequence of forming a tight and routine bond with our animals can often be displayed as anxiety when we leave the inner sanctum and decide to leave for the day.

Cats are solitary by nature. They can get along just fine without the company of another cat, although there are many exceptions to the rule. While maintaining a life of independence, they tend to bond strongly with their human caretakers, even when they are paired off. After all, we are EVERYTHING to them! Humans are the providers of love, conversation, physical comfort, food, water and interactive play. Another cat simply can not provide this.

How do you know if your cat is stuck to you like Velcro? My guess is…. you won’t even have to ask this question!

Signs Of Feline Separation Anxiety

  • Over-attachment to the owner such as following the person to every room of the house (heal chasing).

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    • Distress as the owner prepares to depart: This can take many forms, but some of the more common reactions are meowing, sulking, apparent depression, slinking away and hiding. (No, seriously it’s true!)cat-kitten-cute-picture-photo-meow-closeup
    • Vocalization (crying, yowling, meowing) right after the owner has left or even when you are sleeping.
    • Anorexia – the affected cat is often too anxious to eat when left alone.
    • Inappropriate elimination – often in the form of urine marking. Deposits of urine or feces are often near to the door from which the owner has departed or are on that person’s clothing, bed sheets, or places like bath mats, rugs and behind or under furniture.

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    • Excessive self-grooming. This starts as a displacement behavior but can progress to compulsive self-grooming if unchecked.

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    • Destructive behavior – rare, but some cats may claw and scratch door edges presumably in an attempt to escape their solitude. This can also happen while you are sleeping to get you to wake up and give them attention.
  • Exuberant greeting behavior – as if greeting you after you left on a long vacation. ( Where have you been ?!?!?!)

Here come the solutions!

Enriching the cat’s “home alone” environment is the key to success! This can be achieved by means of:

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Giving the cat a view of the outside world! Add climbing structures, cat trees, open windows with screens.

Strategically position bird feeders near the windows with a view.

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Leave toys all over the house and change it up every now and again. The same defeated mouse that your cat played with two days ago is no longer a challenge. Hide toys in creative places like the peek-a-boo box above.

Putting the day’s ration of dry food in a puzzle toy will keep your cat focused on eating instead of your absence. Although cats with separation anxiety tend not to eat when left alone, hunger is a great motivator when other sources (YOU) are no longer available. Some caveats apply if cats refuse to eat for more than a day or so. Consult your local vet if this turns out to be the case and try to work out some kind of compromise. It can get tricky.

Leave the radio on. The “white noise” effect of the radio drowns out the otherwise perturbing sound of silence. We find that classical music has positive effects on loneliness.

If behavior modification by independence training and environmental enrichment do not work it may be necessary to resort to anti-anxiety medication for the cat for a while. Consult with a veterinarian about the use of drugs like Prozac to help calm an anxious kitty.

Ok, Now go to work and rest assured that kitty is not making long distance calls, ordering pizza or rearranging your apartment while you are away.