Soup for Cats is Now a Thing

We have dry cat food. We have every variety of canned cat food imaginable. We have raw cat food, and now, it seems, we have soup for cats. Yes, Purina has come out with a gourmet soup for cats, which they say is a response to a “key consumer demand,” and “provides a brand-new feeding occasion” for cat parents and their cats. It’s called GOURMET Soup.

Why on earth would they put out soup for cats, anyway?

Basically, GOURMET Soup for cats plays on cats’ love of all things gravy. Other brands of cat food, like Fancy Feast, have already worked to address the fact that cats do, indeed, love gravy, and have made some of their canned foods to meet this love. Purina decided to do it with soup in single-serving packs.

Or, put another way, Purina has decided that too many of us feel we’re not spoiling our cats enough and wants to help us get better about that. Their soup doesn’t just promise a new feeding experience for our cats; it also promises to “satisfy the most discerning cats.” However, Purina is not quite the first to do this, as other brands have put out soup for cats in varying ways as well.

At least cats don’t need spoons to eat this.

My cats may like it, but they may not

My cats are fed a raw diet, and these soups come with some vegetables in them. As raw feeders, my cats actually don’t tolerate carbs too well anymore. Cats’ digestive systems aren’t designed to process vegetable matter at all – they lack the enzymes necessary to absorb and synthesize nutrients from vegetables.

That doesn’t mean this can’t make a tasty treat for them. However, we have to be careful with two of our cats. They have some problems with commercial treats now, especially on an empty stomach. With the vegetables, it may not be a good idea for me to give this soup to my own cats.

Purina makes it clear that this is supposed to be an appetizer, and not a full meal. Their flavors include chicken with vegetables, tuna with anchovies, tuna loins with whole shrimp, and fine chicken. Purina’s GOURMET Soup for cats is available in most supermarkets today.

Matted Fur in Cats – How do you Handle it?

Most cat parents know that at least some brushing is good for their cats. Many, however, may not get around to it nearly as much as they should. Long haired cats especially need frequent brushing, because they’re prone to matting and pelting. What’s matted fur like for a cat? It’s not pleasant, and if it gets out of control, can actually become a health problem.

A very small knot of fur, like this, can become a huge problem if ignored.

My own odyssey with matted fur on my cats

We have three longhaired cats in our house. Aria somehow manages to never, ever, ever have any mats at all. Chase gets the occasional mat, and Kali seems to always have mats somewhere. The most common places for Chase and Kali to get matted fur is between their front paws, in their armpits, and between their back legs. Kali also sometimes gets mats in her ruff and on her haunches.

Once, I noticed Kali was walking a little funny, like her shoulders or her front paws were bothering her. I picked her up and felt a huge mat on her chest, between her paws. She wasn’t happy with me fiddling with it, but I had to find out how bad it was. It turned out that it was so tight, it was pulling at the skin on her chest. Moving made that worse. No wonder she was walking funny, poor girl – the matted fur might even have hurt her a little.

With the help of my husband (because the mat was so uncomfortable for her that she was resisting me), I worked a pair of ball-tipped scissors into the mat, with the blades perpendicular to her skin so as to avoid cutting her, and broke it up. Then I worked a flea comb into the base of each smaller mat, to protect her skin from the scissors, and cut the mats out. Then I brushed her chest as gently as possible, until I was sure any remaining matted fur was combed out.

Surprise! With her fur freed up, she could walk just fine again. She is a perfect example of how matted fur can be uncomfortable for a cat. However, compared to some kinds of matting, Kali’s example is actually a mild one.

Thorough brushing helps prevent seriously matted fur

Many cat parents only concentrate on their cats’ overcoats. Unfortunately, matted fur occurs in the undercoat first. This is where it’s easiest to catch it, because it’s still just a small knot that you might be able to gently clear with a comb, or even your fingers, before it gets to the point where you need to cut it out.

Matted fur, left unchecked, gets hot, itchy, tight, dirty and uncomfortable. Imagine your hair getting more and more tangled, and those tangles getting closer and closer to your scalp. Eventually, your hair is tangled so tightly that it’s pulling at your scalp all the time, no matter what you do. You can’t wash it thoroughly, and you can’t tease the tangles out and relieve the pulling on your scalp. All you can do is cut it all off for relief.

If you continue to neglect your hair after it starts growing back, the same thing will happen. This is what happens when you neglect your cat’s coat. Her matted fur gets so bad it becomes pelted, which carries all sorts of health implications for her. At that point, the only way to help her is to cut all her fur off. This has to be done at a vet’s office, or at a groomer – you should not do it yourself.

In addition to gentle, daily combings, your cat needs thorough brushing regularly, even if she doesn’t like it

Because of this, you should definitely comb your kitty every day as gently as possible, but once or twice a week, she needs a thorough brushing, even if she doesn’t like it. That’s probably what’s hardest for me. Chase, Kali and Aria like gentle combing, but not thorough brushing. It’s hard for me to do something they don’t like because I can’t explain to them that it’s for their own good. They don’t like it and that is that.

Gizmo just flat doesn’t like to be combed at all for some reason, making it even harder for me to groom her. She’s a short hair, so it’s not as hard to make sure her fur stays smooth and knot-free, but she still needs brushing to help remove dead fur and dirt.

For this reason, I like to have treats available for all of my cats when I give them thorough brushings. It goes more smoothly when they know there’s a reward for it. If this is too much for you, you should take your cat to a groomer for the brushing she needs. I find it’s easier and cheaper to do it myself.

As I write this, Chase is curled up a few feet away, looking at me through the fur on his long, fluffy tail. He doesn’t understand what I’m doing when I brush him, including that gorgeous tail of his, but I know he’s a happier and healthier cat because of it.

Scruffing Cats – Should you EVER do it?

You may have seen a video around the Internet showing how a binder clip on a cat’s scruff will calm him down. You may have also heard that scruffing cats is a good way to make them behave themselves, or to discipline them when they mess up. Mother cats carry their kittens around by their scruffs, and kittens go limp when their mothers pick them up. It stands to reason that scruffing cats is a good way to stop bad behavior when they’re adults, right?

The truth about scruffing cats

Wrong. Really wrong. Cat behaviorist Anita Kelsey says that many clients say they grab their cats by their scruffs when they’re misbehaving because that’s what their mothers would have done. The problem is that mothers only carry their kittens by the scruff when they’re moving them. They don’t do it any other time.

The truth about scruffing cats is that it can actually make bad behavior worse. It’s uncomfortable for the cat, and can make him feel more guarded and defensive, not more relaxed. The response of a young kitten to his mother picking him up by his scruff doesn’t really persist into adulthood, and you could unnecessarily stress your cat out if you scruff him.

Mother cats also know how much pressure to apply to their kittens’ scruffs to pick them up and move them. We, on the other hand, have no idea how best to pick up a cat by its scruff. Adult cats obviously weigh a lot more than young kittens, and it’s extremely likely that scruffing cats when they’re adults can actually injure them. It certainly causes pain.

I did once scruff a cat, but there was no other option

My sister’s cat, Maggie, and our cat, Gizmo, did not get along at all. Their relationship was very adversarial, and they were known to fight each other aggressively enough to cause injury. One afternoon, an orange and black ball of snarling, screaming, hissing fur came tumbling into the living room. Their teeth were out, their claws were out, and they were clearly trying to tear each other to bits.

My sister and I had no choice but to separate them as quickly as possible, and in such a way as to minimize the potential for injury to ourselves. I took Maggie by her scruff, while she took Gizmo by her scruff, and we pulled them apart and held them as gently, but firmly, as we could until they were calm.

Here’s how we accomplished that

We did not pick them up by their scruffs, nor did we hold them on the floor by their scruffs. What we both did was take their scruffs in one hand, while putting our other hands under their chests, pull them apart, place ourselves between them so they couldn’t see each other, and slowly release their scruffs while still holding them firmly, but gently, under their chests. Then we gently stroked their heads and backs until they were calm enough that we could pick them up the right way, and fully separate them in different parts of the house.

That prevented injury to us, and also helped to calm and reinforce trust in two very angry and aggressive cats, rather than making the situation worse. Kelsey says that the only time you should ever scruff your cat is when you need to restrain him very quickly in an adverse situation, like the one above. Note that we had them by their scruffs for as short a time as possible.

This is not something that I recommend anybody do whenever their cats are bickering. The fight above was a really serious situation, not the usual, mild sniping you might see between two cats that merely tolerate each other.

The videos you see of people scruffing cats, and people holding their cats up by their scruffs, thinking it’s funny, shouldn’t be used as teaching for how to handle a cat. They shouldn’t be out there at all. It’s not okay to scruff your cat, especially as a disciplinary measure. For how to properly train your cat, in a way that stops unwanted behaviors altogether, and helps to build trust and strengthen your relationship, click here.

When Your Cat Turns its Back to You, What’s he Saying?

Cats are often described as aloof loners; creatures that would rather be left alone than cuddled, pet, or otherwise attended to. They love turning their backs to us, which, in human-speak, is rudely and coldly dismissive. We tend to ascribe human emotions and behaviors to what cats do, when there are often very different reasons for similar behaviors. When a cat turns its back to you, it’s actually a sign of trust, and a huge compliment.

Chase turns his back to me all the time, but he still loves me

My cats do this all the time. At night, Chase will hop up on the bed, cuddle on me for awhile, and then go down toward my feet and make himself comfortable with his back to me. He’ll angle his ears at me if I say his name, or if I do more than turn over, but he keeps his back to me, even if he’s listening to what I’m doing.

Chase does this because he trusts me, not because he’s through with me and wants to go to sleep. Cats are both predator and prey, and as such, must always be on the lookout for potential danger. Allowing something to sneak up behind them is something cats simply don’t do. A cat turns its back to you because he knows that you’re not going to hurt him.

He might even feel like you’re a type of “protection” behind him.

When a cat turns its back to you, it’s one of the ultimate signs of love

Your cat’s instincts dictate that he position himself so he can see as much as possible. It’s not just so he can be on the lookout for danger, it’s also so he can be on the lookout for potential prey. He knows prey isn’t likely to come from you, either, so he turns his back to you, rather than to his surroundings.

Take heart, though. Your cat’s neck is flexible, and he’ll turn his head to look up at you, and into your eyes, with his best lovey-dovey look. So when a cat turns its back to you, know that you’re getting paid one of the highest compliments a cat can give.

Why do Cats Make ‘Stinky Face’?

You’ve seen your cat stick her nose into something, whether it’s a blanket, a spot on the carpet, whatever, then look up with her mouth slightly open and her eyes slightly narrowed. It looks exactly like she’s saying, “Ewwwwww, what is that nasty smell?” There’s a reason that cats do “stinky face,” and it actually has nothing to do with whether they find a smell distasteful.

What, exactly does “stinky face” mean?

Cats have a gland known as the Jacobson’s gland, or the vomeronasal organ, in their mouths that allows them to “taste” the air and better identify scents. It’s in the roof of your cat’s mouth, and she uses it to analyze the scent of other cats. This is especially useful when cats smell another cat’s urine, but you might see your cat do this with feces, and even old vomit spots, depending on how well they were cleaned.

“Stinky face” is also called the flehmen reaction, and it’s not limited to domestic cats. Big cats make this face, too. They, like our furry feline friends at home, actually make this face when they like the smell and want to identify it. This is also how intact male cats identify a female cat in heat.

This is a good explanation of “stinky face:”

Did you know “stinky face” can be helpful to you?

We’ve had problems with some of our cats urinating on our furniture, so whenever I see one of our cats making “stinky face,” I immediately go smell the spot myself to see if I can figure it out. Sometimes I regret it, and sometimes I can’t smell anything. Sometimes, I catch one of my cats making “stinky face” when they’re smelling a spot in which another cat has lain or bathed.

In fact, the “stinky face” I see on Chase and Gizmo is often how I’ve found urine spots. It can be almost as helpful as a UV light. The problems we have with our cats urinating outside the boxes is stress; we’ve had them evaluated by the vet several times for medical problems. They don’t do it nearly as much they used to, but the flehmen reaction has been very helpful in telling us when someone has gone outside the litter boxes.

If you’ve ever seen your cat make “stinky face,” it’s simply because she’s trying to analyze a scent she’s encountered, and doesn’t mean she’s encountered something unpleasant like it does with us. She’s just trying to identify what she smells.

Post Office Cats – A Look At Working Cats In U.S., U.K.

Cats in businesses is an increasingly popular thing here in the U.S. From the bodega cats in New York City to the cats that keep pests out of produce and grain stores in Chicago and L.A., to bookstore cats, and cats in antique shops, it’s actually quite popular to have “business cats.” Did you know, though, that there’s a history of post office cats, too?

Artist’s drawing of New York Post Office cats in the 1890s. Public domain image

Why were post office cats even a thing?

To be sure, Smithsonian is talking about a museum exhibit in the U.K. Way back, over a hundred years ago, postmasters didn’t necessarily love cats so much they just had to have them at work; rather, post office cats kept mice away. In other words, the postal service used cats in much the same way that everyone else did – as pest control.

The Royal Mail’s exhibit will pay homage to their furry feline workers, who were actually considered employees and paid a “wage” of sorts. England inaugurated the program in the fall of 1868, and they’re considered so important to the history of the Royal Mail service that there are actual records of them and their work.

Post office cats in the U.S.

However, post office cats weren’t unique to the U.K. Here in the U.S., cats had become such a huge part of the postal system that we actually had an agency, or a department, of Federal Cats for a time. It was unofficial, as was its superintendent, George Cook. He had 60 cats at his 81st birthday party.

The U.S. had actually allocated about $5 per month to feed and shelter cats for the purpose of keeping vermin out of the post offices. George Cook’s responsibility included feeding all the mousers that lived at the New York Post Office. However, breeding was out of control back then, and as such, the cats multiplied out of control.

They tried sending cats to New Jersey and elsewhere, which, of course, didn’t solve the problem. Way back at the turn of the last century, sterilization wasn’t the norm, let alone the existence of TNR programs. Cats bred out of control because there was no way to stop it.

The post office cats still served a purpose, though, and actually served in the U.S. postal system until the mid-1920s. That may have continued for even longer, but no reports confirm that. In other words, post office cats may have been one of the forebears of modern business cats, although cats have lived among humans for the purpose of pest control for millennia.

Boiling Water Kitty Given New Chance at Life

18-year old Leon Teague decided it would be funny to pour boiling water over a cat, take video of it, and post it online. The Chicago man was arrested when authorities identified him in the video. The boiling water kitty didn’t escape even remotely unscathed – he suffered severe scalds to his midsection and legs thanks to Teague’s cruelty. Thankfully, Teague is behind bars and a Rogers Park shelter has stepped up to take care of this poor cat.

The boiling water kitty has a name now

Driver, as Felines & Canines named him, was released from animal control sometime on Monday. Once he was brought to Felines & Canines, they rushed him to their vet so he could begin treatment (WARNING: The images below are graphic. Discretion is advised):

To everyone who has been anxiously awaiting an update on Driver, the innocent cat who was doused by a pot of boiling…

Posted by Felines & Canines on Monday, February 8, 2016

The video itself went viral, and I couldn’t watch all of it

When I first discovered the video, I burst into tears and I couldn’t stop crying for an hour (while I went and hugged all my cats repeatedly). It takes a special kind of sick and twisted nature to harm an animal in any way, and especially to put it on video and post it like you’re bragging. Burns are very painful, and very subject to infection and other complications. Driver, the boiling water kitty, has a long, tough recovery ahead of him.

I don’t know if the video has been pulled, or if it’s still available. I won’t post it here because it was very traumatic for me to watch, and I don’t want to give any more views to it, even for the best of reasons.

For his part, Teague is being charged with one count of felony animal cruelty, and one count of misdemeanor depiction of animal cruelty, for making Driver the boiling water kitty. He’s being held without bond, and he has been put in solitary confinement to keep him away from the rest of the prison population. It seems inmates take to animal abusers in much the same way that they take to child abusers.

If you’d like to help the boiling water kitty in his treatment and recovery, there is a donation link in the Facebook post above. You can also click here to donate to Driver’s fund.

How do Tuxedo Cats Get Their Markings?

Tuxedo cats are gorgeous, cute, and fairly common. These beauties are black with white patches on their chests and stomachs, along with white boots or socks on their paws. The look resembles that of a black tuxedo with a white shirt, hence the name. They may also have white patches elsewhere, but not always. How do tuxedo cats get their coloring?

Image by Solarflarepixie. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

There’s an actual word for the markings on a tuxedo cat

Piebald coloring, which is the word for tuxedo cats’ markings, and white patches on other animals as well, comes from a lack of pigment in those areas of the skin. For a long time, scientists thought that pigment cells moved too slowly across an animal’s body while it was still in the womb, which resulted in the white patches.

However, it’s actually that tuxedo cats and other animals don’t have enough pigment cells to cover their whole bodies. These cells fail to multiply, rather than fail to spread. That results in the white patches across tuxedo cats’ bodies. The cells originate along the spine while in development, and the white patches result when there aren’t enough cells to move across developing skin.

The study looked at mice embryos, and found that the pigment cells that did exist moved efficiently, and spread throughout the mice’s bodies. This discovery was quite a surprise because it’s in direct contradiction to previous schools of thought on piebald markings.

Are tuxedo cats a breed, is it just a description of their coloring?

Tuxedo cats aren’t a breed of cat – the pattern can exist in any breed, and in longhairs and shorthairs. They can be mixed breed or purebred, but the rarest of them actually have a black patch on their chests that resembles a bowtie, thus completing their tuxedo look.

Some others will have a little black mustache, giving them a debonair, “Clark Gable” look.

Tuxedo cats are adorable. I personally have never had the pleasure of having one – all the cats that have adopted me in adulthood had other markings, but I have friends with tuxedo cats and they are very cute.

These cats are also sometimes referred to as Jellicle cats, which is a reference to a T.S. Eliot poem, “The Song of the Jellicles.” He described those cats as black and white, which most likely refers to tuxedo cats.

Cats Like Warm Things, and Here’s Why

There’s very little that’s more satisfying for a cat parent than curling up with a warm, fluffy cat. It’s not just our choice to cuddle with them, though. They often seek us out, too, pinning us down on the sofa, in a chair, or even in bed. Sure, they love just being near us, but if you look carefully, you’ll notice they also seek out warm blankets, the heat vents or the radiator, sun puddles, and more. Why do cats like warm things?

I’ve written about cats and sunbeams before. Cats are so attracted to sunbeams because it helps them regulate their body temperature and conserve energy at the same time. The sun warms them, so they spend less metabolic energy on staying warm, and more on recharging from hunting, fighting and defending territory, and more.

With their fur coats, the fact that cats like warm things can be baffling

Cats have built-in fur coats. They can’t possibly get that cold, can they? It may not be that they’re actually cold, per se. According to Mother Nature Network, cats crave warmth because they’re descended from desert animals. Because of that, cats are hardwired to thrive when they’re toasty. So, despite the fur coats, cats like warm things because they like being much warmer than we like for ourselves.

Cats’ fur is insulating and helps them to regulate their body temperatures, but given cats’ proclivities for finding and cuddling up to heat sources, their fur can become a problem. The insulation also keeps them from noticing that they’re getting too warm until it’s dangerous.

This is especially a problem with radiators and other, similar heat sources, like heated foot rests and heating pads. These things can burn your cat, because she’ll lie on it for too long without noticing the heat the way you and I would.

Cats can also create havoc by pulling curtains or towels down over radiators, and other mischief like that. Even though cats like warm things and it can be cute, this is something to be aware of.

How you can provide warmth for your cat without the danger

One solution is a heated pet bed. We have one of these for Gizmo, because her fur is thin and she gets much colder in the winter than our other cats do. The heating pad inside the bed is pressure-activated, so it only warms up when she’s in the bed.

Another solution is to put their favorite pillow, bed, or blanket near their heat source, but not directly on it, so they’re more likely to lie down at a safe distance from it. The fact that cats like warm things doesn’t have to be dangerous for them, or for you. It doesn’t even have to be inconvenient, and you can give them the warmth they desire.