Why Cats Chew Fingers, And What You Can Do About It

Some cats seem to have an odd habit. When you’re cuddling them and petting them, they go after your fingers. To you, it seems different from love bites and petting-induced aggression, and maybe you’ve noticed that your cat doesn’t bite so much as chew, gnaw or suck your fingers. Our matriarch, Gizmo, has done this with us her whole life and it is…perplexing behavior, to say the least. Why do cats chew fingers, anyway?

There is a variety of reasons why cats chew fingers

First off, if your cat is actually a little kitten around 9 weeks of age, she may be teething. Kittens who are teething often bite anything and everything. That includes your fingers and toes, because it relieves the discomfort of teeth growing in.

This is actually the perfect time to teach your kitten not to chew on things. The first thing you can do is give her chew toys she can chew on when you’re not playing with her. You can also teach her appropriate biting through interactive playtime.

There’s also “Ow! and Down,” which is a great way to teach her not to bite you. When she does, you say, “Ow!” in a high-pitched, but not loud, voice, and put her down or walk away from her. This teaches her that biting you is unacceptable without teaching her to fear you.

Adult cats chew fingers, too, though.

There are a few reasons why adult cats chew fingers. For many, it’s like wool-sucking – it’s something comforting from their kittenhood. It can also be your cat’s way of playing. We think that both these reasons are why Gizmo chews our fingers. To her, it’s both a throwback to her kittenhood, and it’s also fun and playful for her. We didn’t do much to stop her from doing it when she was a kitten, so she’s kept doing it through her entire adult life.

If your adult cat is chewing on your fingers, you can train her out of it with more playtime, and also with the “Ow! and Down” technique. Be aware, though, that it will take considerably longer if she’s already grown. It’s always easier to train kittens than cats, but don’t let that stop you if you’d rather she didn’t use you as a chew toy.

Kittens and male cats: Can they be good daddies?

Most female cats will make good mothers. They’ll feed, wash, and care for their kittens. But what about male cats? Do they make good parents, too, even when they didn’t father the litter? Many of us have at least heard that male lions kill all the cubs they didn’t father when they take over a pride. I’ve sometimes wondered if that extends to other feline species. Can kittens and male cats be good together?

One woman’s experience with kittens and male cats changed her whole outlook

Dianne Meriwether answered that question, which originally appeared in the question form Quora, in a blog post that appeared in The Huffington Post. In it, she said she would have thought that male cats did not make good daddies. Her experience involves a male feral cat that approached their house after her female cat had kittens in the house. She had always heard that male cats eat kittens, so this frightened her. She thought he was after a meal.

What happened, though, surprised her. At first, she held one two-week old kitten up to the screen door, and the male cat responded by rubbing his cheeks on the screen. She finally let him in when the kittens were about four weeks old. He spent time washing each of the kittens, while their mother spent time trying to stay out of their reach. He also taught them to hunt, and fend for themselves. They followed him everywhere.

Male cats can sometimes take over mama’s role in her absence, but it’s wise to be careful with kittens and male cats

The Nest has an article with its own take on whether male cats can make good daddy cats. Author Elle Di Jensen of Demand Media advises people to keep an eye on mothers and their kittens if male cats are around, because they may still pose some danger. She also discusses some anecdotal evidence that male cats have actually shown up at people’s doors with litters of kittens in tow. Kittens wouldn’t follow a cat that threatened them; they’d run and hide.

Other answers to the original question on Quora insist that male cats can’t be good fathers. The bottom line appears to be that there’s no one way to answer this question. So, if you have a new litter of kittens in your household and male cats around, protect them, and perhaps introduce the male cats very slowly when the kittens are older. If the males show any aggression towards the kittens at all, keep them separate.

Cats Bullying Each Other: How Do You Stop It?

Bullying. It’s common in multi-cat households. We have it here – Chase and Kali will sometimes gang up on Gizmo, and Kali harasses Aria. I started looking for ways to stop this because there are days that our cats bullying each other gets really bad.

What can you do to stop your cats bullying each other?

First and foremost, if your cats aren’t spayed or neutered, get that done right away. This can prevent bullying, along with unwanted litters, yowling, and other behavior issues that arise with intact cats.

If your cats are sterilized, though, and you’re still having problems, consider how your cats might view the resources in your house. Those resources include food and water, the litter boxes, and territory. Do each of your cats have adequate territory, horizontal and vertical? You can create extra vertical territory with multiple cat trees, or even carpeted shelves on the walls. Vertical territory is very important for cats. Make sure each of your cats can get up high and away from the others. Ensure they have multiple escape routes, too. That way, nobody can trap anybody else.

Territory generally isn’t a problem in our house, even though it’s a little small for four cats. Neither is resources – we have five litter boxes around the house, and they all get fed in separate rooms on a schedule. They do have a communal water bowl but nobody chases anybody away from it.

One more thing you can do: Be sure your cats aren’t sick or injured. Cats are good at hiding pain and illness, but will swipe at someone who makes them feel worse.

So now what do we do to stop our cats bullying each other?

Well, to be honest, I haven’t been the best cat mom when it comes to interactive playtime. One of the things that playtime does is stimulate your feline friend’s instincts. Another is that it helps you bond with her. It can also tire them out so they don’t have the energy to bully each other.

Cat Behavior Associates also recommends giving each of your cats individual attention with playtime so nobody’s competing, especially if there’s only one of you to play with multiple cats. The same goes for affection: Don’t play favorites.

The best thing you can do, though, is to stop conflict between your cats as early as possible. Cats bullying each other happens when there’s conflict, and only gets worse over time. If you see one of your cats trying to stare down another, or intimidate each other—whether it’s over food and water, litter boxes, territory, or anything else—gently separate them and find a way to make it so things don’t escalate. Above all, do not yell at them or swat them. You’ll only make things worse.

Cat love bites: Why on EARTH do cats do that?

You’ve been there before. You’re with your beloved feline friend, and she’s happily purring away while you pet her and scratch her in all her favorite spots. Maybe you’re holding her, if she likes that. Then out of nowhere, she nips you. Not hard – she doesn’t break skin and it probably doesn’t even hurt, but you suddenly feel little teeth on you. Cat love bites are perplexing – why do cats do that?

Cat love bites are a form of communication

Kali will lightly bite both of us, but oftentimes it’s just a tiny little nip when we’re petting her and cuddling her. Sometimes, when I hold her and she’s happy and purring, she’ll put her tiny needle teeth on my shoulder. She gives me a love bite.

Cat love bites may happen because your cat is feeling over-excited or over-stimulated, but it could also be because she feels a strong bond with you. Cats don’t communicate with us the way we communicate with each other. That little nip you get in a moment of affection is her way of saying she loves you.

We’ve figured out that she uses bites to communicate any number of things, including telling us when she wants more rubbing, when she’s done, when she wants us to feed her, and when she’s just feeling frisky. Sometimes we can tell it’s because she’s getting annoyed; she’s usually also giving us other cues, like twitching the tip of her tail. This particular type of bite is caused by petting-induced aggression, which you can read more about here.

Not all cat bites are love bites, though

There’s one thing you should remember if your cat is biting you: You have to determine the cause. That means paying attention to her body language, and her purring and/or vocalizing. What does your cat do when she’s at her happiest, and how does that compare to when she’s annoyed? Cat love bites can be difficult to distinguish from other bites. However, if her bites are at all aggressive, let her go so she can calm down.

But if her behavior indicates that her little nips are, in fact, just cat love bites, and she’s not hurting you at all, then she’s saying to you, “I love you!”

Cone of shame & alternatives: Helping your cat deal

Things happen to our cats. They get injured, or need surgery, and they insist on trying to eat the scabs or chew the stitches out of the healing wound. Your cat is acting on his instinct to stop the discomfort from the wound, which can make things worse. So you have to put him in a cone of shame, which he absolutely hates. Even if it’s a soft cone, he will probably be very stressed during this time. What are some good ways to help him handle it, without risking his recovery?

Making the cone of shame easier on your cat

Your cat may have trouble eating, drinking and using the litter box while he’s in the cone of shame. However, if the cone is on properly, he should still be able to do these things. Try putting his food and water bowls up on a little stool or stand so he doesn’t have to bend down as much to get to the bowls. Or simply hold his bowls for him when he wants to eat and drink (if that works for you).

Remove any litter box covers you have so that he can move freely inside the box. Also, while it might seem distasteful, you can temporarily put his box in a more open area of the house, again, so that he can move freely. This, too, might help to reduce his stress and feel better while wearing the cone of shame.

Alternatives to the dreaded cone of shame

Everything is more difficult with a cone of shame. Eating, drinking, using the litter box, even getting comfortable and sleeping are difficult. You might start hunting for alternatives—any alternatives—to forcing him to wear that cone. One possible alternative is to put him in a shirt. Shirts sized for babies aged 0-3 months are good sizes for cats and they’ll cover most wounds. This will likely be much less stressful for your cat.

However, according to Vetstreet, putting him in a shirt might not be effective on its own, especially if your cat is extremely determined to get at his wounds.You can try a no-lick spray, or some other non-toxic, but icky substance to discourage him and protect his wounds.

Other options besides the hard plastic cone include an inflatable or cushioned “donut,” or a neck brace-type appliance. The softer cones are better than the rigid plastic cones, but because they can invert, they don’t necessarily work for all situations. Also, cats can hate the soft cones as much as the rigid ones.

Consider giving him time out of his cone of shame, but be careful

You can consider giving your cat supervised time out of the cone of shame, especially around feeding time. However, Dr. Phil Zeltzman says that dogs can be even more traumatized by this, as he might see it as some form of punishment. The same is easily true for cats. Dr. Zeltzman believes that the stricter you are with it, the more quickly he will get used to it.

As much as we hate seeing our pets suffer more than we think is necessary, protecting their injuries and incisions from themselves is crucial to their recovery. So, if you’re having trouble with your cat and the cone of shame, try some of these options and see if they help. But don’t just remove the cone and hope everything will be okay.

Urine crystals in cats: What causes them and how do you get rid of them?

A little while ago, we noticed that someone was peeing on some of our furniture. Given that we’ve got two cats on fluoxetine long-term due to stress marking, I was worried that their medicine wasn’t working anymore. But then I noticed something odd when I treated the pee spots with Urine Away. They became sparkly, which I’d never seen before. The spots weren’t saturated enough to cause that, and I realized we might have a cat with urine crystals. Urine crystals in cats require veterinary diagnosis and treatment.

The first thing we had to do was take all four of our cats to the vet for testing because we didn’t know who it was. It’s always a good idea to take your cats in when new and worrisome behaviors appear. Urine crystals can be irritating to your cat’s bladder and urethra, making them feel like they need to go all the time. They can also lead to stones, which can cause life-threatening blockages, and cause UTIs. This is why it’s so important to take your cat to the vet if your cat is peeing outside the litter box.

What causes urine crystals in cats?

It depends on the type of crystal, but some causes are:

  • Urine pH is too high or too low
  • Dehydration
  • Dietary issues (which can affect urine pH levels)

How are urine crystals in cats treated?

This, too, depends on what caused the crystals. Sometimes, simply ensuring that your cat is getting adequate water is enough. Other times, your cat may need a change in diet, or even medicine, or some combination of all of this.

It’s important to note that urine crystals in cats may show an underlying problem. Your vet will work to determine whether that’s the case, and if so, recommend an appropriate treatment for it in order to stop the crystals.

So which cat of ours had the crystals?

It turns out that it was Chase with the crystals. All three of our other cats’ urine was normal, with the exception of Kali, who had a high pH. Chase did too, so it’s very likely his crystals were struvite crystals because those tend to form in urine that’s too alkaline (calcium oxalate crystals are more likely to form in urine that’s too acidic, according to our vet).

Our vet recommended we put some cranberry extract with vitamin C into his food to help acidify his urine and ward off infection. We did, and a month later, the crystals were gone. So we thought that was the end of it, and continued putting the cranberry in his food. For him, it seemed it was an open-and-shut case. Stay tuned…

**Please remember to call your vet if you notice any unusual or alarming behaviors!

Watch Kali solve this ‘irritating’ problem

Kali and Chase both like the shelves in one of the bedrooms, but they don’t necessarily like to be up there at the same time. And when one is “trapped” by the other, they’re faced with a choice: Wait it out, or find an alternative way down. Now, Gizmo has jumped from that shelf to the bed a number of times, but Kali’s never done it before. She took her time surveying, which gave me time to pull out my phone, and then she just sucked it up and jumped. Watch below:

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.

Hearts that Purr is a ‘retirement’ home for homeless cats left behind

What do you do when something happens that makes it so you can no longer care for your cat? Some people have arrangements, but many don’t. One organization in Tucson, Ariz., known as Hearts that Purr, aims to help cats in this tragic situation.

What is Hearts that Purr?

Tucson.com says that Jeanmarie Schiller-McGinnis created Hearts that Purr to be an organization dedicated to cats that are left homeless due to illness or death. According to Schiller-McGinnis, cats that have lived with people for a long time don’t do well in shelters. This is especially true of senior cats. “They deteriorate rather quickly,” she said.

Because of that, once they go into shelters, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever come out. Hearts that Purr has two missions: The first is to provide a loving, caring environment for cats in these situations. The second is to educate the public about how important planning for your cat’s ongoing care is in the event you’re incapacitated.

This isn’t the first home for cats in this situation. Lincolnshire Trust for Cats is a retirement home for cats in these situations in the U.K. Founded in 1999, all of its cats once belonged to someone who either died, or is in a home themselves, and can’t care for their cats any longer. As of early March, they had 80 cats in their care.

Retirement homes for cats isn’t a new idea, but it is a good one

Japan has a concept retirement home for pets, as well, although last I heard, it was intended to be just for dogs. The law there requires people to care for a pet for its entire life, even though people might have legit reasons they can no longer do so. Aeonpet Co., created Japan’s retirement home as a way to address that problem.

Hearts that Purr got its start with two rescues that belonged to a 99-year old woman who died in 2013. She lived alone in a trailer in Cochise County, south of Tucson, and her biggest worry was for her cats. Schiller-McGinnis hadn’t yet opened Hearts that Purr, but she took them in anyway.

The two cats died within a year, but Schiller-McGinnis said that cemented her commitment to making this work. Schiller-McGinnis doesn’t just help cats who’ve lost their people, though. She also helps rescue cats at high risk for euthanasia from Pima Animal Care Center. They don’t turn any animal away, and they’re frequently overcrowded because of it.

We need more shelters like Hearts that Purr

Sadly, Hearts that Purr can only handle a certain number of cats, and Schiller-McGinnis is often forced to turn cats away. However, she’s hoping to expand her services, and possibly create some room, with a foster program that matches senior cats to senior citizens. Many seniors are isolated and living alone, and having a cat can provide a lot of companionship.

These kinds of “retirement” homes are a great idea for pets. Hearts that Purr isn’t unique in the U.S., but we could stand to have more like them.

Seasonal allergies in cats – What can you do?

Spring isn’t that far off, and so it’s time to start thinking about all the things that come with the season. That, unfortunately, includes allergies for a lot of us. Did you know that seasonal allergies in cats are a thing, too, though? Cats can react to the pollen and other triggers of our own annoying spring allergies. However, their symptoms are often different than ours. Seasonal allergies in cats are more likely to produce skin symptoms, rather than what humans experience.

Seasonal allergies in cats tend to look different than they do in people

According to PetMD, seasonal allergies in cats tend to show up as atopic dermatitis. Your cat might develop an itchy rash around his head and neck. He might also develop skin eruptions, and you might notice fur loss from excessive licking, grooming and scratching.

Allergies can be hard to diagnose, and it’s also very hard to figure out just what’s causing your cat’s skin problems on your own. If you notice skin issues, you need to take him to the vet to rule out other skin problems first. It’s not a good idea to assume that skin problems are merely allergies.

Cats can suffer from nasal allergies too, though

I remember one spring, it seemed I was getting up to little puddles of clear vomit pretty much every morning. I called my vet and she said she was seeing an unusually high rate of seasonal allergies in cats that year, and it was presenting more as nasal allergies than atopic dermatitis for some reason. The clear vomit was most likely from post-nasal drip. Of course, she also told me to closely monitor my cats for other symptoms to be sure I didn’t have some kind of infection going around my house, or other health problems requiring treatment.

Generally, though, nasal and respiratory symptoms are going to present in cats with weakened immune systems, and cats with other respiratory troubles. Kali, with her chylothorax, often coughs a lot more in the spring than any other time of year.

To treat seasonal allergies in cats, you need to know what they’re allergic to

If your vet diagnoses allergies, one of the ways to find out what your cat is allergic to is with intradermal testing. This is similar to that wonderful test we humans undergo when an allergist is trying to find out what we’re allergic to. Cats are usually put under general anesthesia for these tests. Then your vet or veterinary dermatologist will shave a small patch of fur, mark it with a pen, and inject tiny amounts of potential allergens. After anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes, the vet will evaluate the test.

Since this test has a small rate of false positives, it’s generally the best way to figure out what your cat is allergic to.

One of the potential treatments for seasonal allergies in cats is a “vaccine.” According to veterinarians at PetPlace, your vet will inject your cat with some of whatever he’s allergic to, repeatedly, over a period of time. The goal here is to slowly reduce your cat’s reaction to the substances. If that doesn’t work, then your vet will probably treat him with steroids. There are also allergy soaps that can relieve itching and help sores and scabs heal, although that means giving your cat a bath. Cool compresses on the affected areas might help if you cat allows it. Resist the temptation to give your cat human medicines, like Benadryl, until you’ve talked to your vet though. It’s never a good idea to give cats human medicines without your vet’s guidance.