Straight talk with DQ

Balancing Style & Purrspective

By Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi

Your home is a sacred place for both you and your cats. It’s where you retreat, recharge and relax. If you’re a cat person, it means so much more. Let’s face it, some of us are home a lot. So, why not create an environment that exemplifies your style, keeps your stuff organized and allows your cats to share the same space with you, while still calling it their own? It can be done….even in your tiny apartment!

I think most people are hesitant to add cat furniture to their homes, because the choices we are used to are bleak and unattractive. I mean, beige on beige carpet is cool and all, but we’re living in modern times. We ARE doing so much better with cat enrichment and design. You just have to take the time to create the design. Manifest the vision. It’s meow or never.

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My consult in Mountain View with my clients, Sean & Bonnie and their cats, Dudley, Xena & Clyde was a total blast! I just had to feature their catification project on my blog, because I think it really combines aesthetic style, attention to comfort, cat logistics and just straight up consideration for the happiness of their cats. Virtually every nook and cranny in this house has thoughtful cat enrichment of some kind, paying extra attention to scent soaked areas like scratch pads, posts and perches.

Using Kate Benjamin & Jackson Galaxy’s book, “Catify to Satisfy” as a guide, the preferences of each cat to get up off the ground and into the mix have been embraced and catered to with modern elegance and kitsch. They added cabinets and shelves to areas that had the most social significance, like home offices, workshops and of course, the living room and bedroom areas.

Check out their hard work below. Most of the cabinets are Ikea models and the climbing pole was DIY, based on the book referenced above.

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.

 

DQ & Cubby give you the skinny on food toys

 

 

Are you being constantly annoyed by your cat begging for attention or food or who knows what? Cubby “The Munchkin from Mars” and DQ took a few moments today to show you some simple techniques for food foraging,  which can work wonders for cats that are easily bored or looking for jobs to do. Change what seems like an annoying behavior into a designated activity. Make a those cats work instead of giving them an all-you-can-eat buffet every day! It’s super easy! Foraging toys are easy to find online or you can DIY your own out of common household items. However you make it happen, your cats will be happy and the best of all… not under your feet or on your desk begging for your attention. Check out the video!

 

Talking Cat Dynamics: Are some cats just hard wired?

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.

Keeping it Real: The Art of Interactive Cat Play

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 Written by Daniel “DQ” Quagliozzi Cat guardians are always telling me that their cats show no interest in playing, yet their play/prey drives are misfiring like an antique musket. They tell me that their cats get bored easily and just sit there, staring blankly at the toy moving in front of them without budging an inch, but at night time they stalk ankles like a ninja. Is your cat truly bored? Maybe it’s the way that you’re playing that has them waiting for something better to happen.  Let’s discuss.

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As a consultant that visits your home, I see all the lonesome toys that you choose for your cat. I see the baskets (aka toy graveyards) filled with discarded and skinned mice of all sizes, clunky automatic toys, broken wands, wet and shriveled feathers, laser pointers, cat dancers, catnip socks, rainbow fleece shoelace things that are disintegrated from cat saliva and that homemade contraption that’s hanging by a thread and falling apart, but it’s the only thing your cat truly loves anymore. We can do better. Let’s troubleshoot some of the potential problems.JippyJooDon’t take the art of play for granted. It’s not always easy to keep your cat’s eyes on the prize. Let me ask you some crucial questions about how you get down with the business of cat play:

  • Are you sitting in a chair, waving the toy around in a two-foot radius?
  • Are you moving the toy back and forth, so quickly that your cat just watches it for a few minutes, get’s confused and then gives up?
  • Are you… yes, YOU, petering out before your cat does?
  • And finally… Are you being the toy? That’s right, are you making the toy move like the actual creature that you are simulating?

Here are five key pointers on how to BE THE TOY! 1234628_10202021109629690_123156539_n Pick the Right One. Cats like to chase small, lightweight toys that are easy to carry in their mouths. I find that pretty much every cat that I meet likes Neko Flies because they are realistic looking and if moved correctly, spark that prey drive almost instantly. I also like DA BIRD because it flies and sounds like a real bird. Your cat might like less noise and more skittering. Finding the right fit for your cat’s play style takes some awareness of what makes those eyes light up. Pay attention. Bored Don’t Be a Couch Potato If you’re sitting down, you are limiting the playing field. Get up and move that toy around the room like a mouse, bug or bird would. Cats want prey to run away from them, not run to them. You are failing at making it seem realistic if YOU are too lazy to get up. Take some time and be the toy. Forget what happened at work today and take 15 minutes to clear your head and be a bug instead.

RIPLEY

Keep Your Distance Don’t use short wand toys with a toy on the end that have you leaning over and lurching around the room. Your cats will likely just advance right up your arm and nail you. Choose a toy with a long wand and a long string, so that your cat only concentrates on the toy, not you. Being the toy means separating your physical self from the action. Get your mind inside the toy instead. cat-owner-24 Use the environment Keep prey targets moving along walls, around corners and through the cracks and crevices. Cats like challenges. You’ll notice once something is harder to catch, a cat seems to want to catch it even more. Weave in and out of table legs and between couch cushions. Make it worth it. target sighted“Now You See Me. Now You Don’t” Cats LOVE it when a toy suddenly disappears. Try this experiment. Move your prey target to a doorway and pause at the doorsill. Now make it turn the corner out of view. That one moment where it disappears is golden. You’ll notice your cat take chase once the toy is “getting away”. You can try this under the rug or in a bag or basically anywhere a toy can crawl under. Never make a toy run to the cat. That’s just ridiculous. Watch for the wiggle. The wiggle is worth the wait.

If you can just concentrate on the toy and be in the moment, you’ll find your thoughts jumping into the mind of the creature that you are simulating. You’ll find that your worries drop away. Try this for fifteen minutes a day. Meditate on mouse movements. You owe this quiet time to yourself and your cat will be very grateful for the hunt.

When Animals Go Mad!!!

I am super excited to announce the release of a truly amazing and inspiring book that aligns with my own philosophies about animal emotion and how we interpret it as humans Today, ANIMAL MADNESS, by Laurel Braitman is available to the world. It was an honor to contribute to this book and the hilarious trailer that you see above. My cat Cubby even makes an appearance. Grab a copy on Amazon or wherever badass animal behavior books are sold.

“Acknowledging parallels between human and other animal mental health is a bit like recognizing capacities for language, tool use, and culture in other creatures. That is, it’s a blow to the idea that humans are the only animals to feel or express emotion in complex and surprising ways. It is also anthropomorphic, the projection of human emotions, characteristics, and desires onto nonhuman beings or things. We can choose, though, to anthropomorphize well and, by doing so, make more accurate interpretations of animals’ behavior and emotional lives. Instead of self-centered projection, anthropomorphism can be a recognition of bits and pieces of our human selves in other animals and vice versa.” ~ Laurel Braitman