Which pet is more expensive, a dog, or a cat? A lot of that could depend on the dog or cat you get, because first-year costs for purebreds from a breeder will inevitably be much higher than the adoption fee, and all other associated costs, from a shelter. Add into that the fact that big dogs need much more food, and have more expensive vet care, than either small dogs or cats, and that question can be hard to answer. Generally, though, do cats cost less than dogs?
For just the first year, on average, cats cost less than dogs
The Christian Science Monitor actually did manage to estimate all of the first-year costs of owning both a cat and a dog. For a full breakdown, click here. The first-year costs of owning a cat include the adoption fee, spay/neuter services, vaccinations, the cost of the litter boxes, collars and tags, and grooming materials. Along with the ongoing costs of food, litter, toys and vet visits, in the first year that you have a cat, you can expect to pay a total of $1,035.
Compare that to having a dog, where the first-year costs total $1,843. The Christian Science Monitor gets their estimates from the ASPCA, and, for dogs, does not include things like breeder fees. So yes, for the first year of ownership, cats cost less than dogs.
There are also unexpected expenses, such as vet visits for illness and injury, or irregular costs such as boarding or pet-sitting, and professional grooming, to consider. In other words, when you go to adopt a pet, it’s wise to assume you’ll be spending more than just these estimated costs.
It’s possible that cats cost less than dogs when it comes to your home, too
One thing that the Christian Science Monitor says is that you should consider the costs of potential damage, because both cats and dogs can damage your house. Cats can break things when they tear through the house, and they can scratch up your furniture and walls while you’re training them to scratch their posts. Dogs can destroy walls and doors if they don’t have appropriate outlets for their energy, or if they get badly frightened by something.
However, even though these are estimates, and things inevitably cost more, it’s pretty clear that cats cost less than dogs. Score another one for cats, and cat parents!
There are memes and cartoons circulating the Internet that show cats are jerks, because they like to knock stuff off of everything. Tables, shelves, bars; you name it, some cats will knock something off of it. What’s worse is that they seem to do it for no apparent reason, other than to aggravate us. Why do cats knock stuff off of, well, anything?
Your cat isn’t a jerk. There’s a reason cats knock stuff off
Parade spoke to famous animal behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy, about certain cat behaviors. For this one, Galaxy says that it could be boredom, kind of like giving a toddler crayons and no paper. “Hello, bedroom wall mural!” is how he explained what happens when you do that. One possible reason that cats knock stuff off of furniture and shelves is because they’re bored.
In my house, especially with Kali, that often seems to be the case. Kali is a little bundle of boundless energy, and if we don’t tend to that energy, she turns into a little rascal. It’s not uncommon for her to see something, like a tube of Chapstick, a piece of fuzz, a nail file or clippers, tweezers, or any other small or medium-sized objects, and suddenly decide they’re toys.
When she has balls, or little mice, to bat around, she’s far more likely to leave our stuff alone. Her behavior bears out what Galaxy says about why cats knock stuff off of tables. So what can you do, aside from more playtime, and ensuring your cat has ample toys of her own with which to play?
In addition to plenty of toys and playtime…
Cats also tend to find the outdoors fascinating, so in addition to toys, provide lots of window perches and non-toxic plants, to keep your indoor-only cat even happier. You can simply plant some cat grass and catnip in pots around your house, or you can actually create a cat garden as a refuge for your kitty. Put some toys in the cat garden, and having cats knock stuff off of tables might become less of a thing in your house.
The bottom line is, cats knock stuff off of tables because it’s in their nature to do so. It does make them seem like jerks, because they do it at random. But take heart! There are ways to address this. And if you can’t, you can always just ensure that whatever your cat knocks off won’t break.
So you’re going to travel, but you can’t take your cats with you. If you have to find a new pet sitter after having one who knew all your cats for years, you might be concerned about what she needs to know. This is also true if you’ve never hired a pet sitter before. According to an article on Princeton Veterinary Hospital’s website, there’s a lot of information you should tell your pet sitter so your cats have the best experience possible.
The most important things to tell your pet sitter are your cats’ regular routines
First off, you should tell your pet sitter your cats’ regular feeding schedules and habits. Where is their food kept? Does it have to be stored a certain way (frozen, refrigerated, in a closed bin)? Are they fed on a schedule, do they get a certain amount of food, are they free-fed? Also, what treats do they get and how often do they get them? Do they get them right before or after meals, or are they used to them in the middle of the day, or right before bed? Do they get treats at all?
If your cats are indoor-outdoor cats that prefer going outside to using a litter box inside, then you should also tell your pet sitter about their bathroom habits. You’re aware that they want to go outside within a certain amount of time after eating, whether you have a pet door or not, but your pet sitter doesn’t know that. You also know how often you have to let them out during the day to urinate. If you have a pet door, and they can come and go as they please, your pet sitter ought to be aware of that so they know to look outside if someone’s missing at mealtime.
You also need to tell your pet sitter about medications that your cats might be taking, along with their side effects. How often does your cat take her medication? Does she take it before, after, or with her food? Are there any usual side effects, such as hyperactivity, lethargy, suppressed appetite, more frequent urination, anything along with those lines? How is the medication administered? This is all information you should actually write down, so your pet sitter has it easily at hand.
You should also tell your pet sitter where extra food and medication are, in case she runs out while you’re gone.
Your pet sitter needs your contact and emergency information, too
As with babysitters, you should give your pet sitter the number of where you’re staying, along with your cell phone number, vet’s number, and emergency contacts. Sometimes, things do wrong and your pet sitter will need to be able to get in touch with you immediately, and possibly your vet or the nearest emergency clinic. Having these numbers within easy reach can mean the difference between an emergency and a tragic disaster. Princeton Veterinary Hospital also recommends writing down what you’d prefer they do if there is an emergency.
The location of your cats’ favorite toys, and whether it’s okay to leave them out or put them away, will also help your pet sitter keep things as normal and stress-free for your cats as possible. Who likes to play with which toys, and when? do any of your cats refuse to play if the others are playing? Is there a specific toy of her own that she should have while the others are playing?
Also, tell your pet sitter where your cats’ favorite blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, perches, and hiding places are, along with how they respond to strangers, so that she knows where your cats are most likely to be when she shows up each day. This is especially important if you have a shy cat that likes to hide. Your pet sitter needs to be able to locate your hiding cat quickly, to be sure that everyone is present and accounted for when they first arrive, and then again when they leave.
Other information you should tell your pet sitter
You should have a first aid kit for your cats, also, and your pet sitter ought to know where this is. If you don’t have one, you can buy them online, or you can read this article from Drs. Foster and Smith about how to make one. This will help your pet sitter handle momentary illnesses and minor injuries, such as scratches from squabbling.
Finally, you should tell your pet sitter about any special behavior she needs to know about. For instance, some cats stick their paws in their water before they drink it, or they toss their food around, and then eat it off the floor. If your cat vomits frequently, you should mention that to your pet sitter, especially if you control the vomiting my limiting how much your cat eats at one time. If all your cats always sit in the kitchen while you’re preparing their food, that’s important information, because one of your cats not coming might indicate that she’s not feeling well. A cat that insists he’s starving to death at every meal time just sitting quietly might also indicate a problem. Your pet sitter needs to know what’s normal for your cats, so she knows what’s worrisome, too.
Since cats are still partly wild, they often seem capricious and prone to mood swings. You might wonder why one of your cats is aggressive in certain situations, while another is just as mellow as can be in those same situations. Chalk it partly up to individual personality and disposition, but it’s also possible that cats’ coloring determines aggression, too.
If cats’ coloring determines aggression, which cats are most aggressive?
According to a story in the Independent, female calicoes are more likely to be aggressive than cats of other colors. There isn’t data on how male calicoes behave, due to how rare those cats are (you will occasionally find male calicoes, but they’re very rare due to the fact that genes for both orange fur, and black fur, are carried on the X chromosome).
Black-and-white cats tend to be aggressive when handled, and gray-and-white cats get most aggressive while visiting the vet. Veterinary scientists at the University of California, Davis, surveyed 1,274 cat parents about what color cats they had, and when those cats most often displayed aggressive behavior. It seems that this survey may have, indeed, discovered that cats’ coloring determines aggression, at least to some degree.
What are the ideal colors for low levels of aggression?
The ideal colors, then, are solid black, gray or white, or tabby. That is, at least according to this study of whether cats’ coloring determines aggression. Gizmo, our solid black cat, does not like to be handled at all. She will claw and hiss, and sometimes even bite, unless we’re handling her on her express terms.
Kali’s a gray tabby, and she can be very affectionate, but she, too, only enjoys it on her terms. Her terms, however, come far more frequently than Gizmo’s. Chase is a black-and-brown tabby, and he’s a lot like Gizmo, except he doesn’t get aggressive when he doesn’t want to be handled. He just tries to get away.
Of all our cats, Aria is our most mellow, and will put up with an awful lot of petting, holding, hugging, and carrying, than our other three cats. She’s a dilute tortoiseshell, which isn’t mentioned in this article.
If it’s true that cats’ coloring determines aggression, then perhaps this could help people with deciding on a cat to adopt. It’s best to adopt a cat with a temperament that’s suited to your own lifestyle and home situation. For instance, if you have small children, you’ll want a cat that’s easygoing, mellow and tolerant. If calicoes truly don’t tolerate handling as well as, say, a solid white cat, then you can avoid calicoes that could snap at your children, just for being children.
If you’re a crazy cat person, like me, there are times you might think that you’re actually a cat in human form. Last year, I was walking through a parking lot with a friend, and a car turned a corner rather quickly. In darting out of its way, my friend noted that my movements were vaguely feline. I often feel like a cat in human form, but if you’re not sure, then I Heart Cats has a list of signs you should look for. Here are the most important signs.
You might be a cat in human form if you love your naps.
I love naps. Being surrounded by sleeping cats makes me very sleepy, just like a cat. Besides that, I actually sleep a little better at night when I’ve got a cat with me. If this is true of you, too, then you might be a cat in human form.
You might be a cat in human form if you’re nosy by nature…which you label as curious.
You find that you have to investigate everything that looks strange. Walking along the sidewalk, and something shiny catches your eye? You must go to see what it is, even if you’re sure it’s just a foil gum wrapper. I do this all the time. I also have to stifle my natural inclination to ask questions about things that aren’t any of my business, and then I feel like I’m going to die of curiosity.
You might be a cat in human form if you like affection on your terms.
This can be a bit of a sticking point between me and my husband, but we work on it. Despite feeling like I’m a cat in human form, I’ve had to work with my husband on giving him affection sometimes when he needs it. It can’t all be on my terms.
Did you know you might be able to train your cats to like certain types of affection, too?
You might be a cat in human form if you’re a bit of a loner.
This is definitely me. I’m not anti-social, but crowds drain me of energy, and can even upset me to the point where I need to run away. This can even be true at small gatherings if there are too many people I don’t know there.
I love spending time with the people I’m close to. If this is you, you just might be a cat in human form.
Click on the link to I Heart Cats, above, to read the full list. Are you a cat in human form?
Nearly all of us who have cats have thought about figuring out how to toilet train them at one time or another. It’s a natural thought – scooping and changing dirty litter boxes, plus the smell if we don’t stay on top of it, conspire to make us think, “There must be a better way.” Toilet training cats can be done, however, is it really a good idea?
You can try toilet training cats, if you have a lot of patience
Vetstreet says it’s possible, and they talk about a product known as the Litter Kwitter, which is designed specifically for toilet training cats. However, Vetstreet warns that toilet training isn’t right for every cat. You have to consider your cat’s temperament; the toilet might scare cats that are skittish and high-strung. They also warn that cats with physical problems, like arthritis, will have problems getting up on the toilet and squatting on the edge of the seat.
Vetstreet goes on to explain how the Litter Kwitter works, and makes toilet training cats sound easy as long as you follow Litter Kwitter’s instructions. The basic premise is teaching your cat to accept eliminating over a hole, and gradually removing litter from his routine. The process can be long, and will take love and patience, but can remove what many cat owners consider to be a major source of frustration in their home.
There may be some problems with toilet training cats
Cat Behavior Associates says, however, that toilet training cats isn’t the best option. Behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett says she’s seen behavior problems associated with toilet training cats, because cats can become stressed and confused. One of the issues is that eliminating, and then covering it up, is a natural instinct for cats. When we try to stifle our cats’ natural instincts, it leads to behavior problems, because it causes stress.
Other problems with toilet training cats include the possibility that cats in multi-cat households may have problems if one cat objects to others using the toilet. You can always get more litter boxes to deal with a problem like this, but it’s much harder to get more toilets, which is a major problem if you have one cat that chases the others away from the toilet(s) you have.
Cats also can’t flush, so unless you’re there to flush the toilet whenever it’s used, you run into the possibility of waste sitting in the toilet for hours, which can start to smell pretty badly.
So, ultimately, toilet training cats sounds like it’s a great idea, but it’s not something to undertake lightly. The risks associated with trying may make things even more frustrating than they are with just continuing to use litter boxes.
You love to pet your cat, but after a few minutes, she runs off, or worse, she turns and bites you. Why is that? Doesn’t she know that you’re just showing her you love her? She probably does know that on some level, but reaches a limit with the petting and lets you know with a nip. This is known as petting-induced aggression, and is actually fairly common.
Petting-induced aggression may happen because our idea of affection is overly stimulating for some cats
While it’s easy to think that our cats understand affection the same way we do, they actually don’t. According to the ASPCA, many cats that exhibit petting-induced aggression are friendly and social, and seek out attention. These cats aren’t shy cats that bite because you pulled them out from under the bed and forced them to cuddle.
What gives, though? She obviously wants attention, so why does she then bite you for it? The ASPCA says that behavioral experts don’t really understand this, but think that some contact, such as petting and stroking, quickly becomes unpleasant for some cats. When that happens, out comes the aggression.
Can you do anything about petting-induced aggression?
Worry not, though. There are ways to train your cat to enjoy being pet for longer periods of time, and reduce petting-induced aggression. An article on CNN explains that the process is simple, but takes a lot of love and patience.
First, learn exactly how many times you can stroke your cat before she gets upset with you. She will give you signs, such as a twitching tail, or flattened ears. Watch her body language very carefully, and count how many strokes you can get in before she gets upset. Kristin Collins, a trainer with the ASPCA, says, “If she gets tense at stroke four, you know you’ve got a three stroke kitty.”
To get her to tolerate that fourth stroke, wait until she asks for your attention, pet her three times, and then give her a treat. Don’t go for that fourth stroke right away. Instead, let her have the treat, and then get up and ignore her for awhile. Give this about a week, and then see what happens when you sneak in that fourth stroke.
If she doesn’t tense up, then you can work on gradually increasing it to five strokes, and then six. Helping her associate good things with petting can help you increase your cuddle time with her. However, your cat may still end up having a limit. To avoid petting-induced aggression, don’t cross her threshold. You both will be happier if you give her attention on her terms.
Ever wonder what is up with cats and catnip? We have catnip pillows and catnip toys in our house, and we give our cats fresh catnip sometimes. They react the same to all of it – rolling and writhing on the floor, rubbing their faces on the catnip, and generally acting as though they’re high. The only cat that doesn’t is Aria, but she will eat catnip if she can. If your cats also react like this to catnip, you’re in good company.
Scientists don’t know exactly why cats react to catnip the way they do. They know that part of what happens with cats and catnip has to do with a substance called nepetalactone, but what, specifically, it does, remains a mystery. However, Dr. Karen Becker wrote a column in The Huffington Post, which cites what Dr. Nicholas Dodman, of Petplace, believes happens.
The fun with cats and catnip is a chemical reaction
Dr. Dodman thinks that catnip stimulates the areas of the brain that deal with hunting, hunger, and mating behavior. He says some of this is evident in the playful behaviors that cats exhibit when in the presence of catnip, and in the fact that cats might even start drooling in response to catnip.
The “interaction” between cats and catnip lasts about ten minutes, although it can be shorter or longer depending on each individual cat. The Human Society says it can take up to two hours, though, for your cat to fully “reset.”
The Humane Society also says that not all cats react to catnip. It’s an inherited sensitivity, it seems, so if your cat didn’t get that gene, then she won’t react to catnip no matter how strong it is. In fact, only about 50 percent of all cats will react to catnip (although in my house, it’s 75 percent).
Cats and catnip can lead to greater harmony in your home
Some research suggests, according to Dr. Becker’s piece, that catnip may help improve the relationship between cats. Catnip can stimulate the pleasure centers of cats’ brains, which can help de-stress them. This, in turn, can help cats get along better.
Catnip is non-toxic, and non-addictive, so even if your cat likes to eat it, the worst that will happen is she’s unable to digest it and throws it up. Because of this, there’s no reason not to give your cat all the catnip you think she wants. Who knows? It could improve playtime with her, which could help strengthen your bond.
Cats and kittens have nutritional needs that are very different even from dogs, to say nothing about how different those needs are from ours. While I’m a strong advocate of raw feeding, I also freely acknowledge that there are good commercial foods out there that contain the nutrition cats and kittens need not just to survive, but to thrive.
Did you know that cats nutritional needs change as they move through their life stages? Kittens need a lot more protein, to support their rapid growth. I recently ran across a great article on Petco’s website, titled “From Kittenhood to the Golden Years: What Your Cat Should Eat to Thrive,” which breaks down the types of nutrition cats require at each life stage. I recommend that you read the full article here, but I’ve included a fantastic infographic from that article, with permission from its creator, that also breaks it down.
Hopefully, with this knowledge, you’ll be able to make better decisions regarding your cat’s nutrition for whatever life stage he’s at.
This article is republished from my column on Examiner.com, with minor alterations.
Do you have a cat with extra toes, or know someone who does? Cats with extra toes are actually fairly common. Regular cats have five toes on their front paws, and four toes on their back paws, for a total of 18 toes. Cats with extra toes are known as polydactyl cats, mitten cats, or Hemingway cats.
How do polydactyl cats get their extra toes?
Polydactyl cats have a mutant gene that causes them to have extra toes, usually on their front paws, according to natural pet food company Canidae. Some cats might have extra toes on all four paws, though. What’s interesting is that this is a dominant trait, rather than a recessive one. That’s why polydactyly is fairly common; it only takes one parent with the gene to create polydactyl kittens.
The first record of polydactyl cats comes from 1868, according to Vetstreet. Back then, polydactyls seemed to mostly live in New England and Nova Scotia, and it’s possible that the first polydactyls came to the U.S. with the Puritans. Polydactyl cats were also frequently seen on ships because the sailors thought they were good luck.
Why are they called “Hemingway cats”?
The name “Hemingway cat” comes from Ernest Hemingway’s cat, Snowball, who was polydactyl. Vetstreet notes that Hemingway loved polydactyl cats, and got Snowball from a ship’s captain. The Hemingway Home in Key West is home to many polydactyls, 50 of which are Snowball’s descendants.
Catster writer Angela Lutz notes that polydactyly used to be quite common in Maine Coons. The theory there is that the extra toes made Maine Coons’ paws wider, helping them to function as natural snowshoes. Maine Coon polydactyl cats aren’t as common anymore, but are still recognized as a separate breed.
Polydactyl cats might look like they have opposable thumbs, but the extra toes don’t actually function that way. So there’s no worry that polydactyly is an evolutionary trait that will help cats take over the world. Yet.