Tagged with " behavior"

Do we really know what it takes to keep a cat happy?

May 18, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

For the last few weeks, I’ve been preparing to be a participant on a panel that will explore the need for environmental enrichment for our pet cats. What the heck is environmental enrichment, you might say? Sounds too complicated for what is thought to be a low maintenance pet. What it means is that you make allowances for an animal’s needs that you know are important to the way they would live if they could make their own choices. And I’m finding that lots of the things that I intuitively feel about a cat’s needs have actually been documented by some swell researchers that prove the need to add another level of consideration to care we give our cats.

Here’s a little food for thought. If you were kept in the lap of luxury with fully nutritious cookies and crackers available 24/7, you’d like that, yes? But wait, there’s no books, no TV, no computer, no exercise room. But there’s plenty of cookies over in that one corner of the kitchen. You’re only allowed to be in this 15 room mansion and never given even a deck of cards to play solitaire. Maybe you’d have to live with 2 or 3 other people and one of them was a bully, not looking so good now, eh? Makes you really think about what it means to be truly happy as opposed to just taken care of. Zoos have known this for years. Think about the outrage you would have if a zoo didn’t take an animal’s behavioral needs into account when planning how to keep it.

Cats have a job. It’s to be a hunter. They’ve developed amazing skills to be really good at this over thousands of years. We’ve only asked them to come inside and live with us maybe for the last 50 or 60 years. Through years of breeding we altered dog behavior and as well as form, but we never asked the cat to change their habits. We wanted good hunters and they obliged us. But when we decided to have them live inside exclusively, we didn’t like the stalking and pouncing on our leg behaviors, or we didn’t like that they needed really clean places to go to the bathroom, or we didn’t like them doing things that made them feel more secure like scratching the furniture. So, at first, we said that all those behaviors were “wrong”. Now we know that all those behaviors are “right” and that cats that don’t do them have done a remarkable job of adapting to a highly restrictive set of circumstances. Good thing too because most cats that are seen as doing “wrong” behavior end up in a shelter.

Recognizing the need to improve a cat’s environment is the first step to helping your cat be happier living with you. Luckily, there are some really neat cheap and easy ways to do this. The most important thing is that you change your perspective and start seeing yourself as a good zookeeper as well as a loving owner.

We feed them, protect them from injury and disease, and we shower our love on them with cuddles and coos. Most of us think that we are doing the best for our cats by making a physically safe environment. But now we know that we need to rethink the needs of this wonderful creature. It’s not enough to just keep them from the physical perils of their natural life style without working on their behavioral and emotional needs.

There’s a ton of reliable information available to learn about creating a happy cat home. Here are some great resources to check out to start the journey. In a few months we’ll be able to add information from the American Association of Feline Practitioners guidelines too! I’m really looking forward to continuing my journey as well.


Dr Eliza Sundahl

Dr. Eliza Sundahl completed her veterinary studies at Kansas State University in 1978 after graduating from Boston University. She has spent a great deal of her professional life promoting feline medicine and continues to do so. She has held many positions in The American Association of Feline Practitioners, including 2 years as president. She was involved in establishing board certification in feline medicine through the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners and worked with that organization for many years to help veterinarians through the certification process.

Dr. Sundahl started at the KC Cat Clinic in 1978 and became owner in 1979. She has been happily working with the wonderful clients and patients at the clinic ever since. She feels like she has the best job in the world. She shares the clinic with Boo and Simon and her home with Babycat, Ferrous, Boo (another one), and Angelo.

Kansas City Cat Clinic
7107 Main St.
Kansas City, MO 64114

Phone: 816-361-4888
Email: kccatclinic@gmail.com

Website: http://www.kccatclinic.com/
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What Do Kittens Need?

May 12, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Tips & Advice

Kittens learn from each other and their Mom and need them to develop their normal behaviors. They need social and physical contact to gain confidence. As they grow older, they will need each other less but remain interested in social interaction. The presence of the Mom with the litter also increases confidence. Kittens feel safe clustered around their Mom and can show interest in novel people or situations. If the Mom is confident around people the kittens will quickly learn to be sociable with humans. If she is hostile, they will learn to be too.

The first important relationship with a kitten is with his Mom. They are entirely dependent upon her for their survival. Before two weeks of age, they don’t move around much, have not developed many abilities that they will later and have poor eye sight.  She anticipates everything they need from nutrition to cleaning to toileting. By licking their abdomen, she stimulates the passing of urine and feces that she can then consume.

All social contact is limited to the litter and Mom. The family is matriarchal and independent. Related females in a colony will help with child rearing. They may help with nursing or moving the kittens. There is a lot of safety in numbers. Related Moms will guard kittens remaining behind if they have to be moved. Alone, a mother cat exposes the kittens left behind to dangers as she moves them one by one.

As kittens get older, they begin to move around more and begin to develop more independent behavior. In the early stages of these changes, they remain very dependent upon Mom for all their needs. As they begin to play with each other, they learn to communicate effectively with other cats and begin to develop the predatory skills they will need as adults.

Dr Elizabeth Colleran

Diplomate ABVP Specialty in Feline Practice

Dr Colleran attained both her Masters (in Animals and Public Policy) and Doctorate from Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. She opened Chico Hospital for Cats in 1998 and the Cat Hospital of Portland in 2003. In 2011, she became President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

Dr Colleran is a member with: American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and American Association of Feline Practitionesr.

Chico Hospital for Cats
548 W East Ave,
Chico, CA

Phone: 530-892-2287‎

Website: http://chicocats.com/
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Cat Hospital of Portland
8065 SE 13th Ave
Portland, OR 97202

Phone: 503-235-7005
Fax: 503-234-0042

Website: http://portlandcats.net/
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Petting Induced Aggression

May 8, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

I recently received the following question:

Why do cats completely flip out when you scratch their backs right above the tail? Our cat acts like she loves/hates it and is about to have a seizure every time.
– E. Rich

This could be a very normal reaction for your cat.  Some cats will develop “pet induced aggression” when they are petted for too long.  It can be on any part of the body. It is usually the head, the belly, or the tail base.  The best way to avoid this is to pet them only when you initiate the petting NOT when they come to be petted.

This could also be a sign of pain from arthritis or a neurological condition.  You veterinarian could best determine this with a video of the action.  Sometimes a radiograph of the area can be very helpful to determine if arthritis is involved. If this is the issue, mediations or a special diet may be extremely helpful.

In summary, it may be behavioral and minor modifications may be the solution.  Videoing of the incident may be very helpful to your veterinarian.  If it is a physical problem, other diagnostics and medications may be the answer.  In either instant, visiting a veterinarian should help diagnosis and treatment.


Dr Marcus Brown

Dr. Brown, founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic and co-founder of the NOVA Cat Clinic, received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois. Currently the medical director for Alley Cat Allies and is an active supporter in local, state and national feline organizations such as: American Veterinary Dental Society, American Association of Feline Practitioners, American Veterinary Medical Association and American Animal Hospital Association. Dr. Brown also contributed the creation of the Association of Feline Practitioners’ 2009 Wellness Guidelines for Feline Practitioners.

Dr. Brown enjoys continuing education and regularly attends seminars and conferences across the country focusing on the advancement in feline veterinary care. Dr. Brown also utilizes on-line discussion groups and veterinary networks to assist the clinic in maintaining the highest level of care and providing the newest treatments available in feline medicine.

NOVA Cat Clinic
923 N. Kenmore St.
Arlington VA 22201

Phone: 703-525-1955
Fax: 703-525-1957
Email: novacatclinic@gmail.com

Website: http://novacatclinic.com/
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