Homemade Toys That This Cat Loves

This is one of Gizmo’s favorite homemade toys. It’s just a crushed paper bag with old spearmint tea bags inside. She treats the spearmint in this toy like it’s catnip, because both catnip and spearmint are part of the mint family. We’ve found that these toys are great enrichment for her, especially since she doesn’t like playing when the other cats are around.

Gizmo was 13 years old when this was taken, and now she’s 14. She still loves these homemade toys. If you’d like to try a toy like this, it’s easy. All you need are brown paper lunch bags, and dried catnip, mint, spearmint, or even pumpkin spice. You could even try valerian root, since some cats respond to that as well. These are great ways to make a variety of toys for your cat that are fun, cheap and replaceable.

Click here for a short list of plants and herbs that are safe for your cat.

 

 

Kneading Behavior: Kali’s Favorite Pillow

Kali and Chase were bottle babies, so they were taken from their mother way too early. As such, there are some behaviors they never grew out of: Wool sucking, and kneading. Cat behaviorists believe that kittens need to be with their mothers until about 12 weeks of age, rather than the usual six to eight weeks. This could be why we have so many cats that engage in wool sucking.

It may also be why cats knead on pillows, blankets, your stomach, and whatever else that might remind them of their mothers’ bellies. When Kali does it, she very gently touches her muzzle to whatever it is she’s kneading on. It’s usually either one of us, or her favorite pillow, like in the video below:

Kneading behavior is both kitten behavior and a way of showing affection

The fact that she was a bottle baby explains a lot of her kneading behavior. She didn’t have her mother to teach her, and wean here. She had us, and she thinks that we’re her mama. PetMD concurs that her kneading very well may signal that she’s “a kid at heart.” Nursing kittens instinctively knead on their mothers’ bellies to stimulate milk production. They knead before they learn to walk, before they learn anything other than nursing.

Another reason for the kneading behavior is affection. You might have noticed that your cat flexes her paws on your lap when she’s relaxed, content, and purring. PetMD says that kneading and flexing can be one way our cats tell us they love us and they’re happy. Unfortunately, it can hurt, since the happier they are, the harder they knead.

Kneading behavior in the wild

There’s also the possibility that your cat kneads because she’s softening up her nest. Our cats’ ancestors liked to make sure their nests were soft and comfortable, either to sleep or to give birth. Kneading down tall grass was a way of making a safe, warm, comfortable nest, and also allowed her to check the area for potential hazards and hidden enemies. If your cat’s favorite time and place to knead is in her usual sleeping spot, it’s entirely likely that’s what she’s doing.

The only real problem with kneading is her claws, so if she’s tearing up pillows and blankets, or your clothes, train her to use old blankets and clothes for her beds, instead of your good things. But kneading behavior itself is normal, affectionate, and basically kitten behavior. Treasure it.

How to Make Your Own Raw Cat Food

Have you ever wanted to make your own cat food, but didn’t know how? My husband and I have been feeding our cats a raw food diet for a little over three years now. In our three years of doing this, there’s a lot that we’ve learned about how to make the food, and how to make that process easier. Here’s how we make our raw cat food.

First, a note. The raw cat food recipe we use isn’t one we developed. We found it here, on Dr. Lisa Pierson’s website, Catinfo.org. This site a fantastic resource not only for making the food itself, but also for why these diets are the best for cats. It explains why commercial cat food isn’t healthy for our cats, and why raw food is considered “species appropriate.” It also explains the ins and outs of making raw cat food. We have modified the recipe slightly based on what we can afford and what’s practical for how much food we make.

Supplies you’ll need

Meat grinder labeled for grinding both meat and bone
Large measuring cup
Meat cutting scissors
Mixing bowls and regular bowls
Mixing spoon
Kitchen scale capable of measuring fractions of ounces
Safety pin (optional)
Mortar and pestle (optional)

Ingredients

3 pounds chicken thighs with bone and skin (must be free of hormones and antibiotics, does not need to be organic, though that is best)
4 oz chicken livers
400 IU vitamin E
50 IU vitamin B-complex
2000 mg taurine
5000 mg fish oil
1 tsp iodized salt (must be iodized)
2 eggs (scrambled)
1 cup water

A note about the supplements for raw cat food

We prefer to use the Source Naturals brand of supplements, which is available at Amazon. This is especially important for the B-complex, because the Source Naturals vitamins don’t contain the same amounts of vegetable cellulose that store-bought vitamins do.

We found out the hard way that our cats’ digestive systems are very sensitive to vegetable cellulose when we subbed store-bought B-complex for the Source Naturals B-complex, because we ran out. Even though our cats were only getting tiny amounts of the store-bought vitamins, all four ended up with nasty cases of gastritis. One had to be hospitalized. Thankfully, they’re all fine now. This is why we get the Source Naturals supplements.

This B-complex also doesn’t have any vitamin C in it, which is good.

One more note: It’s best to order fish oil capsules because they’ll stay good for much longer than just a bottle of fish oil, and make sure it’s not cod liver oil. According to Dr. Pierson, cod liver oil is not good for cats.

Processing the meat

The first thing we do when we make raw cat food is process the chicken. Dr. Pierson says that removing bone from roughly 25 percent of the meat will create the proper balance between the calcium of the bone, and the phosphorus in the meat, for your cat.

She also recommends removing the skin from 40 percent to 70 percent of the meat so that your cat is getting the fat content that she needs, but isn’t getting too much.

We prefer to remove the largest fat deposits from the chicken thighs, too. This is because we have two cats that need to be on low-fat diets, due to health problems that a higher fat content makes worse.

Don’t try to trim all the fat off the thighs, however, because then you’ll remove too much fat and your cat will lose too much weight too quickly, which can make her very sick. There are usually two big fat deposits on the sides of the thighs that are visible and easy to trim off. That’s all you need to trim.

However, if your cat doesn’t need to lose weight or otherwise avoid higher amounts of fat, then don’t remove those two deposits either. Just remove the skin.

At this point, you can bake each piece of chicken in the oven to kill surface bacteria. We don’t do this, however, it’s a wise idea if you’re getting your meat from the grocery store. Dr. Pierson cooks her poultry thighs until they’re about 10 percent to 20 percent cooked. You can do that, or just cook them for a minute or so.

Avoid cooking them any more than 20 percent, because doing so will destroy necessary nutrients and make the bones so brittle they’ll shatter in the grinder. That will make the food very unsafe for your cat to eat.

Put each finished piece of chicken into a mixing bowl. Once that’s done, cut up one de-boned, trimmed thigh per 3 pounds of meat into small, bite-sized chunks, so your cat has something in her food to chew. Put these into a separate bowl, because you don’t want to put them through the grinder. Cover the bowls, and put them into the fridge to chill while you’re working on other parts of this process.

Mixing the supplements

My husband and I work together on making the food, because we make so much at one time. So while he’s processing the chicken, I’m mixing the supplements. The first thing I do is count out all the pills I need, and put them into separate cups so I don’t have to count while I’m working. I also make sure I have some of the water we need for the food ready so that I can mix the supplements in as I go along.

After I gather everything together and count it out, I measure the salt and pour it in the water. Then I use a mortar and pestle to crush the vitamin B-complex into powder. When that’s done, I stir the powder into the water as well as I can. The B-complex doesn’t mix very well, so just do the best you can with that. I also pull apart the taurine capsules and shake the powder into the water, too, and stir occasionally.

Once those three parts are finished, I use a safety pin to poke holes in the vitamin E and fish oil capsules, and then I squeeze the oil out onto the water.

Oil sits on top of water, which is why you want the powders done first. If you do the oils first, then mixing the powders into the water will be far harder than it needs to be.

The gelatin in the shells for the fish oil and vitamin E won’t hurt your cats any, but they take forever to dissolve in water. The same is true with the vitamin B pills, and the taurine shells. You can do it that way, but you’ll be waiting a long time for everything to dissolve. It’s more work to do it my way, but it’s also easier in the long run.

When you finish with this step, set the mixture aside. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

Now you need eggs for your raw cat food

Take your eggs, scramble them, and cook them lightly. We find this to be easier than separating the yolks from the whites, and then only cooking the whites while leaving the yolks raw, as Dr. Pierson recommends. We do that because we tend to make 120 pounds of food at one time, and that is a lot of eggs to separate. So we scramble them and cook them. When they’re done, set them aside. It’s time to start grinding the meat.

Putting your raw cat food together

Set your biggest mixing bowl under your grinder, and then start grinding the chicken up. The order you use doesn’t matter, but we prefer to do the intact thighs first, then the trimmed thighs that still have bone in them, and then the rest of the thighs. Then we put the eggs through the grinder, and finally, the liver. The reason I prefer this order is because the livers come with a lot of juice that can help “rinse” out your grinder.

That, in turn, leaves less meat and bone in your grinder, making cleanup easier.

Now you have an odd-looking, segmented, layered mixture. Pour the water and the supplements in carefully, and then add more water as you see fit. Use your mixing spoon to mix it all together very thoroughly. Make sure the mixture is uniform all the way through. Once it’s all mixed, that’s your raw cat food.

At this point, because you’ll have to transition your cat from her normal food onto her raw cat food slowly, I suggest that you first divide it into half-pound portions and store them in quart-sized Ziploc baggies in your freezer except for the bag you’re currently using. If you only processed three pounds of meat, this should give you about six or seven baggies’ worth of food. You might end up with a little more or a little less.

One more thing that might make it easier for you if you’re making a whole lot of food, too: We’ve recently started de-boning and trimming the chicken as soon as we buy it. This way, food-making day takes a lot less time, and all those pieces of chicken take up less space in our freezer. If you think you’ll eventually make a lot of food like we do, this could work for you, too.

Recommended Links

Feline Nutrition Foundation
Dr. Lisa Pierson

If this method isn’t for you, but you want to put your cat on a healthier diet, try looking for foods that have as few plant products as possible. The biggest problem with many commercial cat foods is that they contain too many plant products, which cats can’t digest. You can look at the ingredients lists, or check for fresh food diets at your local supermarket.

Chase “Gnaws” My Knuckles

This is something that Chase only does when he’s hungry, and sometimes he’s very insistent about it. I suspect it’s similar to wool sucking behavior, because sometimes he kneads while doing this, too. He’s not actually gnawing, per se, and it doesn’t hurt. He presses the corner of his mouth against my knuckles and…it’s more like gnashing his teeth, I suppose. Has anybody ever seen anything like this before? Do your cats ever do this?

Interactive Playtime: What’s it Like to be Underneath a Playing Cat?

What do playful cats look like from underneath? At least here, we can get a glimpse of paws, pads and toes. This is a unique perspective on how Chase, here, holds his paws, and how quickly he swipes and bats, during his interactive playtime. His current favorite toy is a stuffed mouse attached to an elastic string on the end of a stick.

Since taking this video, we’ve had to attach a new mousie to the string, because he finally tore the old one apart enough that I was getting worried about him swallowing pieces of it. The last time he swallowed a piece of a toy, he needed emergency surgery, so we’re really careful about making sure he can’t swallow anything.

Both Chase and Kali were feral kittens; they came to us at only three weeks of age. Despite the fact that they never knew the life of a feral, they’re both a little more “wild” than our other two cats, Gizmo and Aria. We’re not sure why this is, because they’ve been indoors since they were rescued, but it is what it is.

This is especially true for Chase. When he doesn’t get some good interactive playtime, he actually starts pawing at the knob on the back door, and mewing plaintively. He’ll stalk through the house, looking for things to bat around, and try to satisfy his instincts on his own, which doesn’t work too well. We’ve noticed that there’s always a marked improvement in his mood and behavior when we make sure to play with him regularly.

Of course, all four of our cats need their interactive playtime, and we can’t effectively play with Chase by himself. So all four cats get to play, too, as they want.

All cats need interactive playtime

Sometimes, cats can amuse themselves okay with their own toys, but they really do best when you’re around and can make their toy move the way their prey might, in the wild. Keeping their prey instincts satisfied is one way to keep cats, particularly indoor-only cats, satisfied.

When it comes to interactive playtime, one of the most important things you can do is make sure your cat is successful. Make him run after his toy, and jump for it, and chase it, yes, but also let him catch it. According to Cat Behavior Associates, interactive playtime includes both physical and mental stimulation. If your cat never catches his toy, it becomes just frustrating physical exertion, and he may not get excited about playing.

Also, at the end, start winding the action down so your cat can start relaxing and calming down. Don’t end interactive playtime suddenly, because he’ll have all this pent-up energy that suddenly has no release. Cat Behavior Associates says the best way to think of it is as a cool-down, the way you would after your own workout.

Scene Stealing Chase

What happens when you want to catch a video of your cat doing something specific, and you have a prima donna in the house? You get a videobomb. I was trying to catch Kali doing the sideways dance, as she sometimes does when she’s amusing herself. However, Chase decided that he would rather investigate the camera, and steal whatever glory his sister was getting, than let me continue to film her.

She Thinks She’s a Kitten: Why Cats Chase their Tails

Some cats chase their tails. This is Gizmo, chasing her own tail. When I took this video, she was 13 years old. One year later, she still thinks she’s a kitten. We have our suspicions about why she’s so “kittenish” at her age, but we really don’t know, other than she’s healthy and happy. And funny. Watch below:

We know that dogs like to chase their tails. Many of us have, or have at least seen, a cat that likes to chase its tail. Gizmo, in the video above, doesn’t chase her tail very much, but when she does, she goes after it for all she’s worth. Why do some cats chase their tails?

Cats chase their tails for a variety of reasons

Dr. Steven Zawistowski, a science adviser with the ASPCA, says that they turn around, or look over their shoulders, see their tails moving, and it’s like seeing prey. He says it’s a natural reaction to want to start chasing it. The tail is a small moving thing, and so they’ll spin around while trying to catch it, the same way they’ll chase small balls that go past them or around them.

Love Meow says it’s also possible that cats chase their tails because they see the motion, and it somehow annoys them. They go after the annoyance, and try to make it stop.

Other reasons cats chase their tails are boredom, seeking attention, and medical problems like skin allergies, fleas, or even impacted or infected anal glands, according to an article on Canidae. They could also have a neurological problem causing the behavior. A cat that’s compulsively chasing her tail might also suffer from feline hyperesthesia syndrome, which is a disorder that makes cats extremely sensitive to touch along their spines and tails. With this disorder, even their own fur can bother them. If you notice that your cat is chasing her tail frequently, and especially if it’s a new behavior, consider taking her to the vet to rule out medical problems.

In Gizmo’s case, this is kitten behavior, despite the fact that she’s now 14 years old. She doesn’t appear to have anything wrong with her tail that would make her chase it, she’s got no symptoms of anything else, and she doesn’t do it very often.