Feline-Human Bond

Zee and His Senior Cat Wellness Veterinary Emergency

His coat, once silky and shiny had lost luster. And his eyes, once bright and clear had begun to cloud. His body, once thick and full had lost some girth. Naptime consumed most of his day and his penchant for bringing a stockpile of plush gifts into the bedroom during the night had waned. But it really wasn’t a surprise. After all, he was nearly 14 years old, a senior cat, and the effects of aging were to be expected. Read more

Summer is Here! Company is Coming! Coping With Visitors in a Multi-Cat Home!

It’s summer – that fun and busy time of year when lots of people are traveling and vacationing. In my case, many of those traveling people are family members of mine and their vacation destination is with Dan and me at our tropical, South Florida home. I love having them around – July and August will be a revolving door of blessedly wonderful activity but for our cats, some will be less than thrilled when they’re unexpectedly woken from a peaceful nap to the jarring, whirrrrr noise of luggage wheels on the pavement heading to our front door.

Before said visitor hands can even knock on the door, announcing their already evident arrival, the cats will scatter to assume whatever personality role they have. Seven cats. Seven distinctly different reactions – all of which are predictably predictable.

The more things on the dining room table, the happier Zee is to plop himself right in the center of it all.

Zee, our eldest, will be instantly social. Though he’s slowed down in age, he still likes to be in the thick of things like when he was an inquisitive young kitten and is not shy around visitors. Since much of our family gatherings center around food, eating, and the dining room table, that means he’ll spend most of his time on the dining room table. What’s a little cat hair in your coffee, or a cat tail on your plate for that matter when you’re among family? I can pretend we don’t let him on the table, but it’s rather a moot point if you’ve known me for as long as my family has.

Even when she’s in a good mood, Zoey has looks to kill, but deep down she’s actually a sweetheart. Just don’t try picking her up if you care for your life.

Despite her glaring looks to kill and withering scowl, Zoey has actually mellowed in her age and might even snuggle up on a surprised guest’s outstretched legs if they’re sitting on the couch. That said, unless you’re a foolish thrill-seeker, you still should never attempt to pick her up because she will become a wild, lethal weapon of razor-sharp claws at that point. 

It’s not that Mia doesn’t like company, she just prefers to keep herself low-key and will stay in the bedroom until she decides she wants to come out and say hello.

Mia has come a long way over the years. Once never allowing any touching from Dan and me, she is now glued to our laps at night when we sit on the couch to watch TV and you can sneak some pets in then. When it comes to company, I think she’d prefer we didn’t have any, but that said, I also don’t think company bothers her. I would say she’s non-committal one way or another. And she’ll still come out at night to hang out on the couch when we have visitors, so it can’t be that bad.

Another lap to sit on? More hands to pet me? When it comes to Peanut, the more loving the better!

Peanut has always been a love bug and will always be one. She doesn’t shy away from anyone, rather embracing the opportunity for more laps to nap on, more hands to pet her, and more people to listen to her incessant meow chatter.

Sergeant Rolz, reporting for duty. All-day, every day.

Rolz lives on the counter next to the food pantry nearly 24/7/365, rain or shine, company or no company, because “there might be something” and he never, ever wants to lose that possible chance of gaining access to that all-important food pantry door, because that’s where all the cat food and cat treats reside. But to his credit, his plan is actually quite brilliant as I don’t think a day goes by that someone doesn’t fall for his charming and patient ways which do result in morsels of divine food for him.

I love having you around, I really do, just stay away from MY counter!

Kizmet is a sweet, lovable cat. You can pick him up, you can hug and kiss him, and he’s happy to go with the flow. Company is not an issue, even the company who sometimes bring a dog with them. The only caveat with him is the kitchen counter. His kitchen counter. It’s where he eats his meals every day and he’s quite possessive about it, giving a swat to those who dare decide to be near it, whether human or another cat.

On her own, Jazmine is a bold, confident, and often bossy cat. When company comes, her M.O. is a big ole scaredy-cat.

Jazmine is a bold, confident, sassy, and very friendly cat. With Dan and me. When company comes she runs and hides for several hours, slowly inching her way to the end of the hallway where she watches the goings-on, not willing to cross whatever invisible line she’s set in her mind. But, Jazmine is also addicted to food so, despite her reservations to mingle with guests, if the treat bag is shaken, or if the aroma of tasty food is wafting through the house, she will allow herself to be picked up and brought into the kitchen to be plunked front and center with everyone else, having a priceless look on her face of “look at me, see I’m not a scaredy-cat at all!”

Jazmine’s not the only one tempted by treats. It’s typically the magic wand for them all, even when we have company visiting, but much of that is because our cats have become somewhat used to having company around throughout the year and don’t feel truly threatened. Really, the best rule of thumb for any cat when people are visiting is to respect the boundaries he sets and interacting with visitors should never be forced.

Cats are very sensitive to change, causing them stress, so don’t let your guests take it personally if kitty reacts by hiding or acting scared. If the company is going to be around for a couple of days, chances are you can ease into the relationship by working with positive reinforcement. 

Treats and interactive play toys typically entice most any cat, so if you have your guest be the bearer of good things, it can go a long way toward building trust. If it’s not meant to be, at the very least, make sure your cat has a room with litter, fresh water, food, toys, and bedding to feel safe while the company is around.

How about your cat(s) – how do they act around company?  

 

Happy 7th Birthday, Kizmet, and Happy 4th of July!

Happy 7th birthday to Kizmet!

Not every cat can share the same birthday as America without getting lost in the hoopla, but our Kizmet can because he’s truly one cool cat! Kizmet came into our lives in November of 2012 after I saw him in an adoption cage at Pet Supermarket and it was love at first sight. He always beat to his own drum, and as he celebrates his 7th birthday, he remains a very unique cat.   Read more

Cat Allergies? Don’t Despair – 10 Tips to Manage the Symptoms for Adopt a Shelter Cat Month

Despite the importance of spay/neuter for cats, not only for their health and well-being but as a humane means to prevent new litters of kittens from being born and entering shelters already overcrowded with cats, the ASPCA estimates 3.2 million cats enter U.S. shelters annually, with approximately 860,000 euthanized because their numbers exceed available adoptees.

Cats end up in shelters for numerous reasons, typically because their human guardian surrenders them for behavioral, financial, or personal reasons. One of the most common surrenders is a result of cat allergies, and for June, Adopt A Shelter Cat Month, the good news is, with some patience and preventative measures, many people who are allergic to cats can adopt that feline friend they’ve always wanted, or at the very least, keep the sniffles to a minimum if they already have a cat!  Read more

When Not a Hug is a Hug for Hug Your Cat Day!

Today is National Hug Your Cat Day and while I find all seven of my feline companions irresistible, wanting to smother their precious kitty floof with hugs and kisses, let’s be honest – not all cats like to be hugged. But no need to frown and fret – just because kitty might not want to be held in your loving embrace, doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you or enjoy your company. As with anything feline related, it’s about understanding and respecting the feline mindset. Once you do that, it’s just a matter of translating other behaviors to what equates to a hug in your cat’s mind.

Here are 10 tips, tricks, and bits of advice in which you can improve the friendly radar with your cat or interpret the ways she shows you love, i.e., a hug:

1. Just like people, cats have different personalities and levels of tolerance for physical attention. If you don’t like your personal space invaded, maybe your cat doesn’t either, so go at her pace and respect those boundaries. 

Peanut and Mia are littermate sisters, but Mia despises being picked up and Peanut can’t get enough of it!

2. Look at the signs around you – for example, does your cat follow you from room to room like a loyal puppy dog, sleep next to your computer while you’re doing whatever, or meow a greeting of hello when you come into a room – all of these are ways kitty is letting you know you’re okay in her mind.

Do your cats greet you with a “hello” when you walk into a room? Good! That’s their way of saying they appreciate you and enjoy your company!

3. Don’t aggressively chase your cat for attention or unintentionally provoke her. If she feels threatened, she’ll react and the next thing you know, the claws come out. She doesn’t mean to be mean; it’s just instinctual for her. Follow her lead and work with positive reinforcement. Talk in gentle tones and focus on petting her in small doses and in areas she’ll tolerate. For example, most cats aren’t fans of tummy rubs, so why tease her, no matter how adorable and fluffy her tummy is.

4. A gift dropped at your feet (dead or alive) or left about the house is your cat’s way of saying, “look what I’ve done, aren’t you proud of me, oh, and by the way, I like you!”

A well-placed plush toy dropped at my computer is kitty’s way of saying, “I brought this to you because you are important to me, I want to impress you, and I love you.”

5. Your cat might not want a hug, or to snuggle on your lap, but maybe a well-placed pillow next to you on the couch for him to sleep on while you watch television is his idea of a wonderful feline-human bonding moment.

Kizmet might not want me to smother him with hugs and kisses, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to hug me on his own when he sleeps next to me on the couch.

6. A cat that doesn’t tolerate petting might enjoy some gentle grooming with a brush—not only will it reduce hairballs; it feels good to her and can strengthen your bond.

7. Interactive play can also be fun – for both you and kitty. A wand toy with feathers typically entices most any cat. Or a healthy and yummy snack – there are very few cats that won’t turn on the charm for a tasty morsel, allowing you to be her BFF for at least a few minutes. If you establish a daily routine with these types of efforts, it shouldn’t take long before she associates you with good things.

All seven of my cats have different levels of tolerance for physical attention, but the one thing they all love is playtime and snack rewards!

8. Keep in mind your cat comes with a history, especially if you found her as a stray or adopted her from a shelter. You don’t always know what kind of life she had and much of her behavior will be triggered by situations from her past. Current circumstances will also dictate what she’ll tolerate—if she just had an altercation with another pet, or has perhaps been startled by something outside, or is wary of visiting company, or whatever else out of her perceived norm, it’s not the time to be experimenting with hugs.

9. Pay attention to body language. If kitty is growling, hissing or spitting, with flat, backward ears, dilated pupils, and twitching or waving tail, he’s telling you to leave him alone. He’s annoyed, frightened, or angry and might become aggressive—this is also not the time to be picking him up. The same if he becomes a “Halloween” cat—ears back and flat against his head, whiskers back, back arched, fur standing on end and tail erect or low.

With Kizmet’s wide, dilated eyes, he’s clearly saying, “DO NOT PET, DO NOT HUG ME!”

10. If kitty is arching her back up to meet your hand when you pet her, with her fur flat, and her tail high, proud, and erect, that’s a signal she’s enjoying your touch! This is often accompanied by chirps and trills, which probably means she wants something from you – such as food or attention. Or a kitty that flops over, freely exposing her belly with no reservations. Go for it – pet her, love her, and consider yourself hugged by your cat!

Jazmine is clearly saying, “Yup, it’s okay to love and hug me!”

hearts

Feline behavior is a fascinating subject and how it ties to the environment they live in and the relationship they share with us is equally fascinating. I did significant research on the subject when I wrote Makin’ Biscuits – Weird Cat Habits and the Even Weirder Habits of the Human Who Love Them. If you would like to learn more about the how’s and why’s of what our cats do, I highly recommend you check the book out! Not only is it entertaining, it’s educational, too! For more information, please click here.