Tag Archives: behavior

Pilling cats: Here are 4 methods for doing so

Every long-time cat owner has had to find ways to give their cat a pill. In fact, pilling cats is often so difficult that there are entire humorous stories dedicated to it. So how the hell do you do it without getting shredded and stressing out your poor cat to boot?

The easiest method for pilling cats is to turn it into a treat

One great method for pilling cats involves using something tasty, such as a pill pocket, her favorite treat, and even certain types of people food. This helps get her to eat the pill without really realizing that it’s even there. Chase and Gizmo are both on long-term medication, and we’ve found using pill pockets works very well. They hear the pill bottle and they come running, instead of hiding. Unfortunately, many cats will eat some of the treat, spit the pill out, and then finish the treat (or not). We’ve found that giving them empty pockets regularly helps keep them from learning there’s a yucky filling and spitting it out.

The old-fashioned way of pilling cats is stressful and can be dangerous, but here’s how you do it

There’s the old-fashioned way of pilling cats, which involves holding your cat down, forcing the pill into her mouth, then trying to make her swallow. According to Dr. Dawn Ruben of Petplace.com, the proper way to do this is:

  1. Firmly hold your cat’s head in your non-dominant hand, avoiding the lower jaw and neck/throat as much as possible. You don’t want to restrict your cat’s ability to swallow.
  2. Raise her nose upward, toward the ceiling, which should force her to open her mouth. This will also make it harder for her to bite you.
  3. Hold the pill between the thumb and index finger of your free hand. Use your ring finger, pinkie or middle finger, gently press on her canines, which should make her open her mouth wider.
  4. Place the pill on her tongue, as far back towards her throat as you can, but avoid putting more of your hand in her mouth than is necessary. If you make her gag, the pill will come back up too and you’ll have to do it all over again. It might also be more difficult to pill her in the future if this happens.
  5. Close her mouth and gently hold her that way. You can then stroke the tip of her nose, which can make her stick her tongue out to lick away the tickle. That should make her swallow the pill. You can also very lightly stroke her throat, which can also make her swallow. The latter method is not always effective, however.

Remember to praise your cat, and even reward her with a treat, as soon as she’s swallowed it. You don’t want her to remember being frightened and uncomfortable.

I personally hate this method for pilling cats, though.

There are devices you can use to shoot the pill into the back of her throat

There are certain devices available for pilling cats that you can use without having to stick your fingers directly in her mouth. Devices like pill guns are basically a type of syringe that holds the pill in place, with a plunger that helps you get it onto the back of her tongue. This can help to save your fingers and time, because they’re less likely to be able to spit it out.

If you’re good at getting the pill onto the back of her tongue, but she’s stubborn about holding it on her tongue, try coating it with a little butter. This can help it slide down faster and prevent her from holding it in the back of her throat.

If none of these methods for pilling cats works, then consider this option

You can always take her medicine to a compounding pharmacy, if there’s one near you. These pharmacies make the medication easier and more convenient for your cat to take. They can even make it tasty so that she might find herself thinking of it as a treat, and want to take it. You can take a look at this list to see if there’s one near you, or ask your veterinarian for recommendations as to where to go.

Ideally, one of these methods should work. Remember, though, that one method will not work well with every cat. If you have a multi-cat household, you might find that what works well for one of your cats doesn’t work at all for another. The biggest keys are patience and staying calm.

3 great products for removing cat urine and stains

Cat parents often have one major headache, and that’s cleaning up after their cat has urinated outside the box. Even when you catch your cat at it, and clean the spot immediately, you still often have a lingering odor. Worse, if your cat has used one spot, there’s a decent chance he uses other spots, too. Removing cat urine from all those spots is a daunting task.

It’s frustrating. Believe me, I know how frustrating removing cat urine is, especially from carpets. Cat parents often feel that the only option is to replace the soiled carpet and padding or piece of furniture. To add insult to injury, many carpet cleaning manufacturers have “pet” cleaners that are intended to get rid of pet stains and odors. Those rarely seem to work when the odor is cat urine, though. Fortunately, I’ve found a few cleaning products that work well for removing cat urine.

Ceva’s Urine Away is by far the best product I’ve found for removing cat urine

I didn’t know about Urine Away for a really long time. In 2012, we piled all four cats into my car and drove out to my father’s house because of a family emergency. I was out there for nearly seven weeks with them, then we piled them back into the car and drove back home. Before that trip, we hadn’t had much of a problem with our cats urinating outside the litter boxes. Afterward, though, we started having a massive problem with our two most high-strung cats.

I took them to the vet to rule out medical problems. The vet gave me the all-clear, so I tried everything I could think of to stop the behavior and clean it up and get rid of the smell. Nothing worked. After 8 long months, I went back to my vet and asked about fluoxetine. She agreed, and it’s helped a lot, but I still had a ton cleaning to do. I told her I had no idea how to really get rid of all that cat pee.

She told me about Urine Away, which destroys the molecules that cause the distinct odor of cat urine (and has a strong “soapy” odor).

Since the fluoxetine helped Chase and Gizmo stop their marking behavior, I was able to get ahead on their spots. After cleaning, I noticed that they didn’t stop to dig their noses into their spots anymore. They didn’t flinch from the scent, but they didn’t seem to smell the urine anymore. That has been par for the course for well more than a year now.

Urine Away is available on Amazon.com, at Wal-Mart, and elsewhere online in 8 oz and 16 oz bottles, and full gallon jugs.

1-2-3 Odor Free is also good at removing cat urine, but requires more effort

1-2-3 Odor Free is a cleaning system containing certain bacteria that break down the uric acid crystals that form in and underneath carpet and padding. It’s 100-percent harmless to people and cats.

However, because it’s a system and not a single product, you must use it exactly according to its directions for it to work. Fortunately, the manufacturer believes in educating its customers about how to get rid of pet stains and keep them gone, so they walk you through how to use 1-2-3 Odor Free on different materials and surfaces if you place your order over the phone. The system takes work and effort, but it does work very well.

Psssst, I have a secret: This system requires you to soak an area, and then place a damp terry cloth towel over it and leave it until either the towel is saturated or 24 hours have passed. The damp towel helps to wick out excess urine.

Nature’s Miracle works well for removing cat urine in many people’s houses

Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odor Remover uses an enzyme that works to destroy not only the urine and stain itself, but also the pheromones left that attract your cat back to the same spot. Nature’s Miracle has a whole line of products for both cats and dogs, and can be found at places like PetSmart and Petco.

If you see your cat urinate on the carpet or you find a fresh urine spot, blot it up as quickly as possible to minimize staining and odor. That will always make removing cat urine easier.

Avoid punishing your cat, however, as that may simply encourage him to do it more. This includes avoiding rubbing his face in his mess and swatting him, or roughly tossing him into the litter box. The last thing you want is to create a negative association with simply urinating when you’re trying to rid your house of existing stains and odors.

If you have something that works that I haven’t listed, please feel free to share it!

NEVER let anyone say this to you after your beloved cat dies

For many of us, our cats are part of our families. They’re more than just pets, they’re companions who nurse us through tough times with their cute antics, and their quiet understanding and sympathy (or they cheer us up with such an obvious lack of sympathy that it’s laughable). They give us things to giggle about, like they know they can entertain us and take advantage of that. They can act like little children, too, jumping up where they aren’t supposed to, only to jump back down and become all wide-eyed innocence when caught, like a small child insisting his hand was not in the cookie jar. But sadly, we’ll see when our cat dies, often before we do, and it’s devastating. But not everyone will have words of comfort or empathy when it happens, and that can be worse.

Recently, I’ve been comforting a friend whose beautiful feline friend died suddenly. He and his wife are grieving, their child cries over her loss, and for what? Who cares when a cat dies? She was just a cat, right?

WRONG. When a beloved cat dies, you lose a full member of your family

Our beloved feline companions are not just cats, whatever people who don’t understand may say. Your cat didn’t judge you for any mistake you ever made, when the people around you did. He didn’t offer advice that was both unhelpful and unwanted when your relationship fell apart. He knew when you wanted company the last time you had the flu, and when you just wanted to be left alone in your utter misery to try and get at least one moment of sleep. You knew his love was true and unconditional, even when it felt like nobody in the world loved you. He was, in many ways, your best friend, and so much more. So when your cat dies, it’s awful.

An article on the North Shore Animal League’s website tells the truth when it says that nobody is surprised to see us grieve over the death of a loved one, but many are when they see us grieving that same way when our cat dies. Non-pet owners often feel that a pet is just an animal, and that you’re making a huge deal over nothing (some who have pets of their own do this, too). These people might even question your mental health, which is just plain offensive.

Cats are fantastic at hiding when they’re sick

With our cats, a death can be especially devastating because we often have no idea that they’re even sick until it’s too late to do anything. Cats are very good at hiding illness until they’re too sick to keep putting in the effort. Alessandro Macaluso published a poignant article about her cat, Bear, and how he’d seemed just fine two days before his death. He had a large mass on his bowels, which killed him.

My friend’s cat may have felt perfectly fine before she passed, too, but she may also have been hiding something. She suffered from hyperthyroidism and had high blood pressure as a result. He doesn’t know exactly what happened – she appeared to have a seizure, for which they took her to the vet. Later in the day, she passed away in her sleep. Who knows whether she was feeling bad, or if the seizure came upon her as suddenly as it looked? Not knowing that your he’s even feeling bad makes it that much harder to process it when your cat dies.

Arin Greenwood talks about what it’s like when your cat dies unexpectedly. She, too, wonders what she could have missed when her cat, Derrick, died suddenly. The vet said it was likely a stroke or a heart attack, but she and her husband second-guessed themselves for a long time, wondering what they missed.

Some people are just plain insensitive

There are people who will ask you how you could possibly not know your cat was sick. The truth is, it’s not hard, and it doesn’t mean you were neglecting him in an way. Chase was once very sick, but he just seemed slightly out of sorts and I thought maybe he had a little bug. I felt silly taking him to the vet, but it turned out he was so sick he needed emergency surgery (fortunately he survived and is still with us). He’s a master at hiding when he’s not feeling well. Most other cats are, too.

Even when you know that his time is limited, it’s still devastating when your cat dies

But even if you knew your cat’s time was coming, it can still be very difficult when he actually does go. Yes, you knew, but that doesn’t make it easier. Those who don’t understand might say, “But you knew it was coming.” You might know it’s coming with a human family member, too, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Macaluso and Greenwood were understandably devastated over the deaths of their beloved cats. And those who would say, “It’s just a cat,” to them, or to us, are those who just don’t get how painful it is when our cat dies. You don’t have to justify your grief—or your love—to them. He was your family, your companion, and your friend. And it’s perfectly okay to grieve, and to do so in your own time and your own way. He was not “just a cat.”

Cats’ Tongues Keep Them Clean, But How?

How much time do your cats spend every day bathing? Mine all spend a lot of time keeping themselves clean. This seems to be especially true at night, after we’ve gone to bed and the kitties are with us. We turn out the lights, and the bathing commences. Those tongues of theirs are little miracle-workers on that front, but how exactly do cats’ tongues clean their fur?

Cats’ tongues have little backward facing barbs

The barbs on cats’ tongues are small enough that they don’t actually function very well as little combs, like we might have thought. They face backward, which is why she swallows her fur (and anything else that gets stuck on her tongue). Scientists, however, have found that the little barbs don’t have to function as combs, since they function like Velcro.

Alexis Noel, an engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, got curious about how cats’ rough tongues actually help to clean them when she saw a cat get his tongue stuck on a blanket. The cat was able to free himself by pushing his tongue into the blanket, rather than pull it out. That unhooked him from the loops on the blanket.

Those little barbs are hook-shaped and sharp. They remind Noel and other scientists of cats’ claws, actually. They glide over untangled fur, and can actually tease out tangles by rotating deeper into the tangle after getting caught.

Cats’ tongues are also useful for eating, and erasing traces of food

That rotating action also wedges food particles between the barbs. This is why cats’ tongues are uniquely suited to cleaning all the meat off of the bones of their prey. And afterward, they groom themselves because instinctively, they need to remove all the traces of their meals from their bodies. Their Velcro-like tongues can catch any food particles left on them, helping to remove the scent of fresh-kill.

My cats also like using their tongues to wash me, which can get painful after a little while because I don’t have their fur to protect my skin from all those little barbs. Cats’ tongues are still somewhat mysterious to scientists, but at least now we have a better idea of how cats use them to stay clean.

The Amazing Benefits Of Therapy Cats (VIDEO) (IMAGES)

Not many of you know that my day job is writing politics, and editing other political stories. For me (and for practically everyone, really), this particular election cycle has been tiring, grueling, and just all around miserable. I found myself drinking a lot more than I usually do. I would go to bed, wake up, and wish I could just crawl totally under the covers and stay there. My cats aren’t officially therapy cats, but through all of it, they provided a certain type of therapy that I really needed.

Therapy cats are gaining in popularity

In Los Angeles, Purina ran an experiment with therapy cats – or, in that case, kittens. Stressed-out people went into a clear box to sit down, and then came the kittens. Pretty much everyone involved said that they felt much better afterward, and how could they not? There’s practically no way a bunch of kittens is not going to help you relax.

Here’s the video of that experiment. It’s amazing:

If you need a certified therapy cat, you don’t have to go adopt one.  There are programs available to help you get your own cats certified as therapy cats. There are certain requirements that your cats have to meet, but if you’re willing to go through such programs, you don’t have to go about getting a new cat.

How my cats are therapy cats

You don’t really have to get your cat certified as a therapy cat unless you need to. Your cats are probably already your own personal therapy cats and kittens. I know mine are. Tonight, I was feeling particularly upset because an argument broke out between friends of mine on Facebook and I didn’t know what to do about it. I was worried they were going to expect me to take sides. I was worried they were going to jump on me because I wasn’t taking sides.

Fortunately, none of that happened. But at the height of my stress, I found myself pinned down with Kali in my lap.

How do you not relax and start to feel a bit better with this?

But Kali wasn’t the only cat to comfort me tonight. After she got up and left, Chase decided he wanted his own brand of cuddles (he’s a wool-sucker).

Of course, they don’t have to be in a purring, cuddling mood to provide therapy. We all know how easily feline antics can make us laugh and take our attention away from more stressful things. In short, cats are wonderful therapy animals, whether they’re certified or not. Mine have seen me through an awful lot.

Cat Bites: The Danger They Pose, And How To Treat Them

Cat bites, even small ones, can be dangerous if they aren’t properly cared for. Cats’ teeth are so sharp that they can create deep puncture wounds fairly easily, making them a bit more dangerous than scratches. This is especially true when your cat bites in anger or fear, because she’ll bite hard. However, playful nips and love bites can be dangerous if they break skin, too.

Cat bites are puncture wounds

Some people who’ve suffered deep cat bites are hospitalized (paywall), and need their bite wounds cleaned out surgically. Others don’t necessarily need the wound cleaned that way, but still need hospitalization to treat the resulting infection. While dog bites are also very serious, dogs don’t have the needle-like teeth that give cats the ability to insert bacteria deep into your flesh like an injection. This is what makes cat bites so dangerous.

What can you do to treat cat bites at home?

If a cat bites you, the wound will probably be small and may or may not bleed a lot. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need attention. You should wash the wound under running water, but don’t scrub at it. VCA Vet Hospitals recommends also using a salt solution, made with one teaspoon of table salt with two cups of water. Try not to use harsh chemicals, like alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, more than once because they can further damage the skin and hinder your body’s ability to heal the wound.

If the cat that bit you is yours, and she’s indoor-only, keep an eye on the bite, and wash it regularly under running water with soap. Keep it covered, and consider putting dabs of Neosporin on the bandage. If you notice swelling, numbness, or ongoing pain, see your doctor immediately.

If the cat was stray or feral, or your cat goes outdoors without your supervision, you should go see your doctor immediately after cleaning and covering the bite. This is because there’s a risk of rabies, along with all the other risks associated with cat bites. Your doctor might want to prescribe an oral antibiotic, and recommend that you go through the rabies series to prevent a rabies infection.

If your cat bites you regularly, what can you do to help her stop?

If you’re having a problem with your cat biting you, there are things you can do to help end it. If she bites you while playing, then be sure she has a wide variety of toys that she likes. She can bite those to her heart’s content, and you don’t get hurt. Play with her for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time, at least twice a day, so she’s expending energy on approved activities. This will help ensure she doesn’t feel like using your hands and feet (or other cats) as her toys.

You can also make sure she always has new things to explore and play with. Don’t throw boxes out, or collapse them and put them away immediately. Cats love investigating boxes, and it gives her something new to explore in a house that she’s too familiar with. Putting herbs, like dried catnip, spearmint, or even pumpkin spice, inside a paper bag and then crumpling it up can also give her something that will entertain her for awhile. Mix up the herbs you use so that they smell different to her. That’ll make her think she’s always got new toys.

Another thing you should do is get up and walk away from your cat if she does start to scratch and bite you while you’re playing with her. Teach her that behavior won’t be tolerated. Eventually, she’ll learn that she’s only to attack the toys you give her.

What if a cat bites you out of aggression?

If she’s biting out of aggression, you should call your vet and get her looked at, especially if this is new behavior for her. Aggressive biting can be a sign of pain or illness, and you’ll want to make sure that isn’t the case. If your vet can’t find anything wrong, then you might consider hiring a behaviorist to come and evaluate her. A behaviorist can help you can eliminate whatever’s frightening or angering her, and start working on helping her to feel calm, safe, and at peace again.

Giving Shelter Cats Boxes Reduces Stress

Shelters are loud, smelly, unfamiliar places, full of unfamiliar people, and cats that live in shelters suffer from high levels of stress. Scientists recently found that one of the reasons cats like boxes is because boxes make them feel safe. Now, some scientists believe that giving shelter cats boxes will reduce their stress, particularly if they’re new arrivals.

Giving shelter cats boxes helps them better adapt to the shelter environment

According to Phys.org, the authors of a study that was published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science specifically looked at new arrivals in a shelter in the Netherlands. They chose shelter cats because cats’ stress levels are quite high. What they found is that boxes did, indeed, help to reduce stress in shelter cats in the short term.

In the study, ten cats had boxes, and nine did not. At the end of their third day of observation, the cats with boxes had adapted to their new environment far better than the cats that didn’t have boxes.

Why is this? According to Wired, which put together the results of a whole bunch of studies on why cats like boxes, hiding is a behavioral strategy. Wired quotes one of the authors of the study mentioned above, who went on to say that hiding helps cats cope with stressors in their environment.

Giving shelter cats boxes gives them hiding places, too

Cats like boxes enough to find ways to get underneath them when they’re upside down.

Cats also have issues with conflict resolution, as Wired notes. So when they have the opportunity to engage in conflict or run away, they’re more likely to run away. If they can hide, then so much the better. Cats like to bluster, and they prefer to make their enemy back down without ever “firing a shot,” as it were. When that doesn’t work, they’ll try and run. In the wild, they often don’t fight unless they absolutely have to.

The implications for shelters are outstanding. Good shelters want to make their environments as stress-free as possible. For some cats, especially the more fearful, perhaps providing a box for the cat to hide in can help them adjust better, and behave better, thus raising their chances of early adoption.

Obviously, simply providing a box isn’t the whole solution. The whole solution is far more complex. But it’s a simple, low-cost way for shelters to temporarily address high stress levels in their cats.

Food Puzzles And Foraging Can Do Wonders For Your Cat

Awhile back I wrote about how we addressed Chase’s boredom with being an indoor cat. We divide his meals up into two or three portions, give one directly to him, and hide the other(s). He seems to love “hunting” for his food. We’ve never tried food puzzles with him, but those are also a great way to stimulate your cat’s instincts and enrich his life.

Food puzzles will make your cat exercise his mind and his body

Cats instinctively want to forage, and free-feeding them from a single bowl doesn’t serve that need. Cats are happiest when they’re able to engage in their natural, instinctive behaviors, and that includes with mealtime. One thing you can do, even if you free-feed, is what we do with Chase – place small bowls of food around the house for him to hunt.

Many people who free-feed might feel sketchy about that because of the fear of attracting bugs and vermin, though. That’s where food puzzles can come in. One cat behaviorist, Mikel Delgado, says:

“[Food puzzles] provide cats with exercise and mental stimulation. It gives them an outlet for foraging for their food… As hunters, cats would be working for their food all day if they were not provided with a bowl.”

The lack of an outlet for instinctive behavior can lead to behavioral problems, including not using the litter box, overgrooming, and excessive attention-seeking. What food puzzles do is stimulate your cat’s mind and his instincts, while keeping all his food in one container.

Here are a couple of ideas for DIY food puzzles

You don’t even have to buy expensive contraptions. Purina ONE has some ideas for DIY food puzzles that are great. With just a plastic tub like the ones that hold cream cheese or sour cream (avoid PVC, though), an extra lid that’s bigger than the tub’s proper lid, a utility knife, and non-toxic glue, you can make a food puzzle that your cat has to push around in order to get his food.

You can use a bottle, or even a holiday egg, for this kind of puzzle. Click here to see exactly how to make these puzzle feeders. There’s still a chance that you’ll get some food around your house, but it will be much less than leaving bowls around.

In case your cat seems uninterested in those kinds of feeders, you can try a reach box feeder. Instructions for making that are on Purina ONE’s site at the link above as well. If neither of these feeders really works (and that is a very real possibility, cats are cats after all!), don’t give up! See what happens if you hide a few treats around the house, or very small bowls of food. Or come up with your own puzzle feeder and try that.

In our house, Chase has done so well “hunting” for his food that we started hiding bowls for Kali and Aria, too. Kali, especially, enjoys the “hunt” each night, and she seems like a happier cat, too. Whether you give your cat foraging opportunities, puzzle feeders or both, your cat will likely be much happier for it.

Encouraging Healthy Cat Scratching Behavior

Most of us have some idea of the frustration of dealing with our cats scratching up our furniture. While some respond to this by having their cats declawed, this is a bad solution. Amputating the first bone of each toe can result in lifelong problems for the cat. It’s important to understand that scratching is a normal, instinctive behavior. You should be encouraging healthy cat scratching behavior by giving your cat acceptable outlets for her need to scratch.

Encouraging healthy cat scratching behavior means not keeping your cat from scratching

The first thing in encouraging healthy cat scratching behavior is to avoid trying to train your cat not to scratch at all. Cats are happiest when they’re able to engage in all the behaviors that are normal to cats, like running, jumping, climbing, chasing, scratching and rubbing. When you discourage instinctive behaviors, you can confuse and stress out your cat, because she doesn’t understand why she can’t do those things that are natural for her. She’ll also just do them when you aren’t around.

Cat Behavior Associates says that scratching is far more than cats simply sharpening claws. While cats do scratch to sharpen their claws, they also do it to stretch and work their shoulder and back muscles.

Scratching is also a way for cats to mark territory. In the wild, the claw marks serve as warnings to other cats that someone has already claimed that territory. Besides that, cats have scent glands in their pads, and they can distribute scent by scratching.

Scratching can also relieve pent-up emotion. Cats that have excess energy for a variety of reasons may use scratching to relieve some of their feelings. That makes scratching a healthy outlet for emotion, and possibly one of the best reasons for encouraging healthy cat scratching behavior.

How do you go about encouraging healthy cat scratching behavior without sacrificing your furniture, though?

The first thing you can do to keep your cat from scratching your furniture is by making the furniture an unwelcome place. Use sticky tape, or spray it with something that smells pleasant to you, but is too strong for your cat. Maybe use sticky tape to stick aluminum foil, that’s also got sticky tape on it, on the places she likes to scratch.

If you do these things, instead of yelling at her or scaring her, you make the environment tell her not to scratch your furniture. This is far healthier and more effective for her than discipline ever will be.

Encouraging healthy cat scratching behavior requires more than deterrents, though

But that’s not enough. Encouraging healthy cat scratching behavior also means providing scratching surfaces for your cat, so she still has an outlet for her behavior. J. Ann Helgren of Petplace recommends having one scratching post per cat, plus one more, so that all your cats have their own “territory” to scratch.

Scratching posts should not be made entirely of carpet, according to Petplace, because carpet can’t withstand a cat’s claws very well. Plus, cats have been known to eat pieces of shredded carpet. A better post will have carpet on the perch(es), and sisal rope on the posts. Sisal rope is cheap, making the posts cheaper, and it’s far more durable than carpet. Plus, Helgren says that cats are more attracted to sisal rope than to carpet.

You can also use posts made of stripped tree trunks (or make your own). Because these are natural and durable, your cat will probably find these to be nice scratching surfaces also.

Long story short, if you pick the right surfaces and have an appropriate number of surfaces for your cat, you can encourage healthy cat scratching behavior without sacrificing your furniture to the cause. Your cat will be happier for it, and so will you.