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Kittens, in their “formative weeks”

Apr 6, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Behavior

training a kitten

Kittens are born with their eyes closed and just basically sleep and nurse, and sometimes meow loudly. The queen stimulates their elimination, and they are completely dependent upon her for their first few weeks. They will communicate with the queen vocally on day 1; and by 4 days they can clumsily walk to their preferred teat for nursing. Because olfactory sensation is working very well right at birth, it is their main sense along with the tactile stimulation of touch, especially on their face. A feral queen can teach her kittens to be afraid of anything (especially humans) as early as 2 days old. There will be differences in socialization toward humans that extend into adulthood when a kitten spends these first few days with a truly feral mom! Eyes open around 7-10 days; and, between weeks 2 and 3, the ears open (although they do hear with closed ears by day 4) and those senses now contribute in the transition to the next phase, the development of the ultimate predator. Speaking of, those needle baby teeth begin to bud between weeks 2 and 3! Poor mom…

The socialization phase is vitally important; and, it proceeds separately with each species. First and most importantly, cat on cat socialization is being learned. Kittens are responsible for all gait patterns, adult locomotion, and most body postures by weeks 6 to 7. So interacting with others begins immediately! Or it does not, based on the individual’s environment and exposure, and on a species to species basis. But remember that no experience equals a bad experience. So if a kitten is isolated early, their socialization could suffer greatly. Kittens that do not hang out with other cats at this young age will develop very little social skills for the group setting. They also learn by visual inspection, so grooming and even hunting skills (through play) are being learned as early as one month of age! Starting at 4 weeks, mom is getting sick of the nursing; but, sometimes she does not completely quit until they are 7-8 weeks of age. At the age of 2 months, most kittens are eating solid foods or prey items brought by mom. And studies have shown that the earlier they stop nursing, the more effective hunters they become! The budding stars are helping her eat her prey items by week 4, and stop nursing immediately. They will all follow the queen on her hunts by weeks 15- 18, and most kittens are self-sufficient predators by 6 months of age! Cats usually have a “specialty” or preference in what they hunt, and mom’s influence is huge in this decision.

Now it is time to leave the house, especially for the young boys. And unless resources allow for succession planning, the little queens must also leave home! The best chance of any cat having a lifelong social mate is by teaming up with a littermate. These are often same sex pairs, 2 boys or 2-3 girls, in the barn cat setting. And though some genetic tendencies, like a “boldness gene”, do contribute these first few months are vital to shaping the level of socialization in each cat’s life. If they do not meet dogs until they are 6 months, the acceptance of a dog will be limited throughout their life. If you adopt a feral kitten that has had little to no human contact at the age of 6 months, socialization with humans may be greatly limited. So lots of exposure to a variety of animals and to a variety of people results in the most favorably socialized pet cats. And this process should begin as early as possible. Interestingly enough, the little toms become sexually mature as early as 6 months of age in the pet setting, or with the breeder, but as late as 18 months in the wild. I guess they have to put it on hold until they can fight for their right to mate? Or maybe it takes about a year to find a good place? Or maybe it is just like being a freshman in high school; none of the girls pay attention that year!

A general rule of thumb in animals is that the longer time spent with their mother, the more intelligent the species. And although post-college children living at home may challenge that rule, it is generally true. So, as I often tell clients, the cat is more instinctual and predictable and intelligence is just not their game. Although some are smarter than others, the primal nature of their behavior is one of the most beautiful things they offer us as a species. They are simultaneously the perfect predator and a perfect model for meditation and yoga masters. They can be so peaceful as they rest and groom, and so seemingly vicious during a hunt. And we all know that no one consistently acts as cool as a cat. And on a pound for pound basis, they are the most powerful, the fastest and the most aggressive athlete that has ever lived… and number 2 is not even close! I am always amazed that this is all learned in 6 months, and a good chunk of it by 3 months! So enjoy kitten season and keep this information in mind during the formative weeks.

Dr Michael Ray

Dr. Ray is a Marietta Georgia native and graduate of Osborne High School. He received his bachelor of science at Georgia Southern University, and went on to graduate with his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida in 1997. After graduation, Dr. Ray completed an internship in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at Animal Specialty Group in Los Angeles.

Dr. Ray has spent most of his career working in Feline Only hospitals, and is very excited to have the opportunity to own his own cat practice. Dr. Ray has been the Medical Director of The Cat Clinic of Roswell since March 2008.

The Cat Clinic of Roswell
1002 Canton Street
Roswell, GA 30075

Phone: 770-552-PURR (7877)
Fax: 770-552-8855
Email: info@catclinicofroswell.com

Website: http://www.catclinicofroswell.com/
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10 Things Your Cat Wants You to Know

Jan 20, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

  1. I like fleece more than any other bedding material. And there is research to prove that cats prefer fleece over towels and other bedding material.
  2. Even if I hate the other cats in our home, I usually won’t get into a cat fight with them. Instead I will try to avoid them, even if it means that I need to pee on the carpet instead of passing them to get to the litter box. That’s because I need to keep myself protected and healthy just as my wild ancestors did because I am a great hunter.
  3. If I pee on your carpet, clothes, or bed, please, please, please don’t get rid of me at least until you have taken me to the vet to make sure I am not sick. If I am not sick, please talk to a vet who knows a lot about cat behavior or a behaviorist about what kind of litter and litter boxes I want, and how to give me space away from that other cat you love and I hate, or whatever else is upsetting me.
  4. If I am like most cats, I get bored and pudgy (58% of cats in the US are overweight or obese!) if I don’t work for my food. I am a great hunter, and I like to chase my kibbles, find hidden kibbles, and eat canned food. You might think canned food is like a treat, but it really is closer to what my wild ancestors ate (I am trying not to gross you out, but that is mice), and is much lower in calories because it is 70-80% water. I may act like I want to eat all the time, but that is because in the wild, I spent most of my time hunting and a much smaller time eating. If you take my hunting away – chasing food, finding it in hidden places, frequent and small meals a day – I eat more, and I may beg for more, but really I want more hunt, which can also be called play. Please don’t make me pudgy – you may think I look cute, but it makes me sluggish, and I don’t want to be diabetic. There has been a 16% increase in diabetes in cats between 2006 and 2010 because we have become so pudgy. Cat vets – and many others – know about safe weight loss (losing weight quickly can make cats so sick that it can be deadly). Please help me!
  5. If I lick to groom another cat or they lick me, or if we cuddle or sleep together, we are bonded and like each other. However, even best buds nead their space, and approximately 50% of the time, I like to be alone. And I often don’t want to sleep with my buddy in the hot summer – yuck! One fur coat is enough!
  6. I absolutely hate it when you say I am old! There are people who are healthy in mind and body into the 90s and 100s even! If I am slowing down, I am in pain from arthritis or something else, or I am sick. Please take me to the vet no matter how hard I resist. And if they can’t help, find a vet that can!
  7. My favorite toy is a USED hair ‘scrunchy’ or pony tail holder. Don’t worry if you are a guy, bald, or with very short hair. Just rub it on your head and get your scent on it and voila – it is a used scrunchy! Please note that if I like to eat things other than food that the scrunchy should be tied onto a string and only used when you help me play with it.
  8. I don’t cough up hairballs on a routine basis – see Why does my Cat Vomit? and Hairballs. It may happen once a month or two (don’t laugh, my hairless Sphynx friends!), but more frequently than that and there is something wrong. If it is right after eating, I eat too fast, and all you need to do is spread my food out on a flat plate so that I don’t mow it down too fast. But if I continue or it isn’t related to that, it’s likely that I have a health problem, and need a vet to help.
  9. As a cat, I am supposed to appear healthy to protect myself from dangers, including bigger hunters than me. So even though I act like I don’t want to go to the vet, it is because I hate change – unless I instigate it! – and I am scared (and I may act tough because I don’t want anyone else to know it!). I want to be with you forever or at least as long as possible and always be comfortable and happy, so please take me to the vet to learn how to prevent the health problems that I don’t need to have including those awful bugs and worms, and to control health problems that I may get, and make sure I am never in pain. I am purrfect and don’t deserve to ever be in pain.
  10. I love you when you do what I love, and because you are awesome!

Dr Ilona Rodan

Dr. Ilona Rodan, ABVP Certified in Feline Practice
Medical Director and Owner, Cat Care Clinic, Madison, WI
Feline Behavior Consultant

Dr. Ilona Rodan has been a leader in the field of feline medicine for more than 25 years. She started the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin in 1987 to provide the best feline health care individualized to each patient in a compassionate environment that is more comfortable for cats and cat lovers, and where cats are better understood and handled in a respectful manner. With her extensive knowledge of feline behavior, she also understands the cats’ needs at home, and strives to enhance and prolong the relationship between cats and the people who love them. Our clients frequently tell us that our knowledge and caring has increased their cat’s length of life, often by several years.

When Dr. Rodan is not practicing and teaching at the clinic, she lectures internationally
and writes about feline-friendly hospitals, cat behavior and prevention of behavior problems, and recognizing and treating pain in cats. She has been active in the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) since 1982, and has served in every office, including President. She is most proud of her accomplishments in helping to establish guidelines for feline medicine, which include retrovirus testing, vaccinations, senior care, feline life stages, behavior, pain management, and feline handling guidelines (the latter published in 2011). Dr. Rodan was also an ambassador in the development of a specialist category in feline medicine.

In 1995, she became one of the first board-certified feline practitioners. Her hospital is an AAHA-Accredited Feline Specialty Hospital. She and her team are involved in community service, including free spays and neuters for Friends of Ferals. Dr. Rodan also lectures to the public and staff members of the local shelter, Dane County Humane Society.

Dr. Rodan received the national Friskie’s award for outstanding accomplishments in feline medicine in 1998. In 2005, she was chosen from 70,000 veterinarians to receive the most prestigious award given to a veterinarian, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Award, This award was given to Dr. Rodan for her work locally and nationally to enhance the welfare of cats through medical and behavioral advancements, and her contributions to community and society. Dr. Rodan’s passion and desire to help both cats and their people is unwavering.

Dr. Rodan continues to be well trained by the two feline family members she lives with, their predecessors, and the cats she has treated for more than 30 years. They have taught her how to respectfully handle and work with cats, to understand that the needs of cat’s in their home is an important part of their healthcare, and to ensure that they have the best quality and length of life.

Cat Care Clinic
322 Junction Road
Madison, WI 53717

Phone: (608) 833-9750
Fax: (608) 829-0345
Email: catcare@catcareclinic.net

Website: http://www.catcareclinic.net/
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Not Grooming after Eating

Jun 11, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Tips & Advice

One of the main reasons cats groom themselves after eating is that in the wild, cats want to protect themselves from predators, and want to eliminate any traces of blood that might have collected on their furs as they were hunting or eating.  So, today’s domestic cat carries on what its ancestors did by tidying up after eating.  If you find that your cat is not spending time sprucing up its appearance after a snack or a meal, it is possible that something is wrong.

Dental disease can lead to a decrease in how much a cat grooms, if not a complete stoppage of hair care.  Cats will often continue to eat when they have painful teeth, because many, many cats swallow their food, chewing very little if at all.  But once they have satisfied their bodies need for food, the discomfort they experience from having unhealthy gums or diseased teeth can lead to their deciding it just hurts too much to keep their fur clean.

Older cats who suffer from cognitive dysfunction and stressed out kitties, who are having trouble sharing their homes with other cats, can also not groom after eating like they should.  Your senior cat might need some help in the grooming department and your sensitive cat might need for you to make sure it eats by itself and has some private time when it won’t have to worry about sharing its space with another cat.

If you have a cat that doesn’t groom after eating, it is possible your kitten or cat skipped that class in kitten school, making it normal for your cat not to groom after eating,   To be safe, discuss the fact that your cat doesn’t clean up after eating when you take your cat to your veterinarian for its regular semi-annual or annual visit.  Your veterinarian should perform a thorough physical exam; including taking a good look at your cat’s teeth and gums.

Dr Diane Eigner

Diane Eigner graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School in 1980. Dr. Eigner established her exclusively feline practice, The Cat Doctor, in Philadelphia in 1983, and began offering house call services at the Jersey Shore in 1991. She is a past president of the University of Pennsylvania’s Veterinary School Alumni Society, a Past President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and is a member of the advisory board of Harcum Junior College’s Veterinary Technical School. Diane has been the consulting veterinarian for the Morris Animal Refuge since 1983. Doctor Eigner’s column “Ask The Cat Doctor” appeared in the Cat Fancier’s Almanac from 1996-2000. Diane joined the Catalyst Council’s board as the American Association of Feline Practitioner’s representative in 2009. She is now serving as the immediate past-chair of the Catalyst Council.

An avid Sailor, Diane loves nothing better than to be at the Jersey shore where she keeps her sailboat, Purrfect, and where she has a second home. Since meeting her husband, Fred Turoff, Temple University’s Men’s gymnastics team head coach, her family life has been dominated by men’s gymnastics. Her son Evan is a level ten gymnast that competes nationally and will join her husband’s division I men’s gymnastics team in the fall.. Diane also shares her life with three very entertaining cats. Though she shouldn’t have a favorite, her Sphynx cat, Velvet, which she rescued at the shelter where she consults, is the cat love of her life. Her integrated home also includes a Welsh Corgi named Twinks, two Cornish Rex cats, Naui and Padi and a Russian Tortoise.

The Cat Doctor
535 North 22nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Phone: (215) 561-7668
Fax: (215) 561-3616
Email: meow@thecatdr.com

Website: http://www.thecatdr.com
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