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?

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.

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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

 

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