Cat with July 4th colorsDoes the color of your cat’s coat mean anything? Is there a link between coat color and temperament in cats?

Black cats are often associated with the occult; orange cats tend to be regarded as friendly.  Calico and tortoiseshell cats – those cats with tri-colored coats – are considered strong-willed and difficult to work with.  There is even a term – “tortitude” – to describe these cats!

In a study published in 2016, researchers at UC Davis decided to look into whether there is a link between coat color and temperament – in particular, do cats with particular colors of coats tend to be more aggressive? Cat owners were recruited online to fill out a survey about their cats. The team received 1,274 responses that they analyzed with statistics. 

Owners scored their cats for

  • aggression toward humans
  • aggression when being punished, petted, or brushed
  • aggression when in the veterinary clinic

Aggression toward humans scored the frequency with which a cat reacted with aggressive or affiliative behavior to people. A 6 point scale was used ranging from 0 = never through monthly, weekly, up to 5 = daily.  Behaviors included hiss, bite, slap/scratch, bite/scratch and stalk (play), groom/lick, curl up next to, approach and greet with head/body rubs.  The possible range of scores was 0-20.

Aggression from handling scored the likelihood that the cat would react to being punished, petted or brushed by hissing, biting, slapping or scratching.  Scores ranged from 0 = unlikely to 3 = very likely. The maximum score possible was 27.  Aggression during the veterinary visit was also scored from 0 = likely to 3 = very likely but with a maximum score of 9.

Overall, the aggression scores are rather low in all three categories.  For example, in the “human aggression” category, high scores were 2-3 out of 20.  Female cats had higher scores overall but the research team felt the difference to be small enough that they could combine the sexes in the overall study.

Coat color and temperament – findings


Tortitude


The calico and tortoiseshell cats were found to have some of the higher scores (2.47) for aggression toward humans (Gray and white cats scored 2.26 – so not much different than the tri-color cats). 

  • These scores are not very high scores out of a possible 20. 
  • Calico/tortoiseshell cats are predominantly female (the tri-color pattern is linked to the X chromosome making the combination of 3 colors very rare in male cats).  Female cats were found to be a little more aggressive than male cats in this study and this sample would have had more females.
  • Perhaps, the stereotype of the “strong-willed” tri-colored female cat affected how respondents scored their cats.

other findings


  • Gray and white cats, both female and male, were more aggressive toward humans and when being handled. 
  • Black and white male cats scored higher than other groups of male cats in human-directed aggression.
  • Surprisingly, there were no significant differences in aggression among cats at the veterinary clinic.

Although the results of this study seem to support the stereotypes of cat color and aggressive behavior, e. g. “tortitude”, it is best to take these results with a grain of salt. 

  • Overall, the scores for aggression to humans and when being handled were quite low.
  • The questionnaires were completed by the owners and there will be some differences in the way people interpret and score things.
  • Stereotypes may have affected how respondents view their cats and scored them.
  • The questionnaires did not involve a random sample of cats and cat owners but cat owners who voluntarily signed up to fill out the forms. These could be potentially more interested and “saavy” owners.
  • There will be differences in how people approach and handle their cats.

At the Battersea Dogs and Cats home, cats were more friendly with humans after the human volunteers watched a video demonstrating how to  interact with cats. ( see “Practical Guidelines for Interacting with Cats” )

The link between coat color and aggressive behavior does not seem particularly strong.  Such information could be useful to cat owners, shelters, and veterinary clinics to allow them to anticipate what behaviors they may encounter. But as the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.  A cat’s coat color is only part of the story – it is important to assess each cat as an individual.  Approach him or her respectfully following the CAT guidelines.

Want to keep up with the world of cats?  Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective.

Subscribe

Cat on Baby Scale
This scale does not tip when your cat walks on it. I have added a non-skid mat.

Feeding the older, skinny cat can be a challenge. Older cats do not digest food as efficiently as younger ones and can require more calories. Due to disease and natural aging processes, the older cat often suffers from a reduced appetite. Reduced appetite means that less food is eaten. Less food eaten means the cat will lose weight and muscle mass.

Reduced appetite in the older, skinny cat can be due to:

  • Chronic kidney disease which can cause nausea
  • Pain due to dental disease or arthritis
  • Decreased odor and taste sensitivity (part of the aging process).

How can you get your older, skinny cat to eat better?


  • Offer a palatable food with the appropriate nutrients
  • Feed her in a way that mimics a cat’s natural behavior
  • Use appetite stimulants if necessary

 

palatable, nutritious food


“Senior” Diets

A recent study by researchers at Oregon State, Colorado State, and University of California, Davis found that the only difference between commercially available “senior”diets and the adult diets was that there was higher fiber in the senior diets. So find an adult food your cat likes – preferably one that has been evaluated in a feeding trial.

A therapeutic diet may be recommended by your veterinarian if your cat has kidney disease or another medical condition.

 

“Aging Cats Prefer Warm Food”

Ryan Eyre and colleagues investigated the effect of temperature on how much older cats eat. Thirty-two cats between 8 and 14 years of age participated in a “two bowl” study of a chunks and gravy food at different temperatures.  The food was refrigerated or heated as needed to 43° F , 70 °F and 98 °F.

In a series of trials, each cat was presented with one bowl of colder food and a second bowl of warmer food. The amount of food consumed by the cats was recorded. The researchers also measured 1) thickness of the gravy at the different temperatures and 2) the volatile compounds released when the food was heated.

What they found:

  • There was no change in gravy thickness with temperature, so the texture of the food remained the same.
  • Heating increased the release of volatile compounds associated with a “meaty” flavor
  • Heating decreased the amount of volatile compounds that give rise to scents like orange peel

The cats preferred the warmer food in each of the pairs tested. They overwhelmingly preferred the food heated to 98 °F.

Other reasons cats may like warmed food:

  • The warmest food had a temperature similar to the prey a wild cat would eat – so maybe a little bit of instinct is at work here.
  • Heat is thought to activate taste receptors. Cats are thought to have about 470 taste buds and have taste receptors that detect salt, sour, bitter, and umami (meaty). So, heating food may also make it more palatable to cats by making it taste more “meaty”.

Heat your cat’s food before serving it – make sure to test before feeding. It should be “baby bottle” warm

Feeding your older, skinny cat: mimic natural feeding behavior


  • Feed small meals frequently
  • Use food puzzles to engage the cat in foraging behavior
  • Put food out in different locations
  • Consider elevated feeding stations for arthritic cats
Surefeeder for Cat
Athena’s Surefeeder opens only for her. Note the bubble on the back to keep the other cats out.

Reduce inter-cat stress in multi-cat households

medical intervention – appetite stimulants


  • Mirtazapine: Tetracyclic antidepressant that stimulates appetite in cats.  Mirtazapine comes in pills and a transdermal ointment called mirataz. Mirataz is FDA-approved for cats.
  • Capromorelin stimulates the production of Ghrelin, a hormone your stomach produces and releases. It signals your brain when your stomach is empty and it’s time to eat. Capromorelin (Elura) comes in an oral liquid for once daily administration. It was developed to manage weight loss in cats with Chronic Kidney Disease.

Make sure your old cat eats – fasting longer than 2-3 consecutive days can result in hepatitis lipidosis, which can be fatal if not treated promptly 

Keeping your older, skinny cat well-fed is essential to maintaining a good quality of life for him or her.

Warm canned food

Feed small meals frequently

Talk to your vet about an appetite stimulant if necessary.

Want to keep up with the world of cats? Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

Subscribe

cat gets harness and treat
Gus enjoys a treat while being harnessed

Training your cat to a harness and leash can come in handy even if you don’t plan to take him adventuring.

Training your cat to a harness and leash: Benefits


  • Enrichment for your cat
  • Extra security if you are traveling
  • Useful for introducing your cat to other animals

ENRICHMENT: With one of the broadest hearing ranges of any land mammal, a keen and discriminating sense of smell, and vision that tracks fast moving prey, the great outdoors is stimulating for a cat. Even if your kitty has a catio, leash time is special time, allowing him or her a chance to investigate new places and to spend time with you.

SECURITY WHILE TRAVELING: If you are traveling, having a leash and harness on your cat gives you some extra security during flight layovers, customs checks, or taking a break when driving. You can have an “extra hand” while changing soiled pads in the carrier or allowing your cat to stretch her legs.

INTRODUCING OTHER ANIMALS:  Once you have passed the scent swapping stage and feel the animals are ready for the next step, you can have the them “meet” with a barrier in between. Having your cat on leash and harness can give you more control over encouraging calm behavior around the new arrival. If your cat wants to “rush” the barrier, gentle pressure on the leash can slow this down and avoid a hostile encounter. The leash can help us model the appropriate behavior of a slow, non-aggressive approach to the newcomer.

Training your cat to a harness and leash


I often hear that “my cats acts as if she were paralyzed when I put a harness on her – she just flops downs and won’t move”. There are a number of videos on the internet of cats being dragged along by the leash while laying down.

A Better Way


  1. cat on leash
    Zelda walking indoors on her leash.

    Like any new item, introduce the harness and leash separately. Pick a highly valued treat and train when your cat is likely to want to eat.

  2. Let your cat sniff the harness and offer him a treat.
  3. Reward him for letting the harness sit on his back or for putting his paws through the arm holes.
  4. Secure the harness, reward and remove.
  5. Allow your cat to become accustomed to the harness being on for increasingly longer periods of time. Distract him with treats and toys. If he knows how to target, use the targeting stick to encourage him to move forward while wearing the harness.
  6. Once comfortable with the harness, add the leash. Work with kitty inside at first, with the leash attached but not being held. It is a good idea to have your cat get used to dragging the leash behind so if you drop it mistakenly, the dragging leash won’t frighten her. You can use treats, a target stick or a toy on a wand to encourage her to move forward.
  7. Pick up the leash and go for a walk! Start indoors and do some laps around the house.

Walking outdoors


Walking outside may not be for all cats. Cats who have spent most of their lives indoors may find the great outdoors overwhelming and frightening. It may never be their “cup of tea”.

To give this the best chance of success, start slowly. If you are just going to the backyard, start with brief trips outside in a carrier that is covered (have her harnessed and leashed). Leave the door open and let your cat smell and hear the outside. Let her come out on her own, if she wants to. Gradually work up to allowing her to meander around the yard with you at her side.

If you are planning on venturing further, it is wise to have a “mobile safe place” – a stroller or backpack. Introduce these items gradually but let your cat guide you – I have had cats that jumped right into the stroller and quickly learned that the stroller meant shade and safety.

Walking a cat vs walking a dog.


  • Cats do not have the stamina of dogs. Cats have evolved to move stealthily and quietly, with short intense bursts of activity: running and pouncing. They do not have the stiff-legged gait of horses and dogs, who can walk and trot for long periods of time – cats will get tired and will need some way of being transported.
  • Cats will want to run and hide when danger presents itself. The backpack or stroller will keep your cat safe and comfortable when on a walk.
  • Is your cat walking you? Walking your cat is often you going where she wants to go. If you feel you need to direct her path, target training can help.

An essential skill for the “adventure” cat is recall – train your cat to come when called. This can be invaluable if the worst happens and he somehow gets away. He most likely will hide and not respond at first – give him some time to calm down and let his training kick in. Keep calling him or giving him his recall cue.

 

Training your cat to a harness and leash can come in handy when traveling or introducing new pets. It also can strengthen your bond with your cat as you both enjoy the flowers in the garden together!

Want to keep up with the world of cats?  Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

Subscribe

Art by Kal Meyer

“Music has charms to soothe the savage beast” is actually a misquote of the poem, The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve in 1697. The word “beast” is commonly substituted for the original word “breast”.  But perhaps Congreve actually meant “beast” – a similar reference to “savage beasts” and music is found earlier with the Roman poet Lucan, whose work was translated into English by Thomas May in the 1620’s.

“…Whose charming voice and matchless musick mov’d

The savage beasts, the stones, and senseless trees…”

Music can arouse strong emotions in people – it can help instill a martial spirit, make us happy but also make us melancholy and sad. It clearly effects our mood.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin set out to find music that would affect the moods of our cats. Snowden, Teie and Savage created music for domestic cats that would calm the cats. They observed the responses of cats to the “cat music” and compared these with the cats’ responses to classical music that humans find calming.

Human Emotions and Features of Music


Specific features of music induce particular emotions in humans:

  • Slow tempos, a narrow frequency range, decreases in pitch, longer sounding of the notes are characteristic of “sad” music
  • “Joyful” music features fast tempos, increasing pitches and notes tend to be more staccato and not held very long.
  • “Angry” music is louder and has a higher fundamental frequency; “fearful” music also has a higher fundamental frequency but notes are not held as long.

Snowden and Teie hypothesized that music with the features described above would affect cats in the same way as people, as long as the frequencies and tempos are the same as what is found in natural cat communication.

Cat Music vs Human Music


The “cat music” used in this study had an average pitch that was 2 octaves higher than the human music; it was also 1 octave higher than the fundamental frequency of natural cat communication  (“meows” and “howls” were excluded).

The “cat music” also included elements at lower frequencies for the listening pleasure of the cats’ human friends. One piece contained a pulse rate of 1380 bpm, similar to purring, with melodic sliding frequencies; another had a pulse of 250 bpm, similar to kittens suckling, also with melodic sliding frequencies.

 

Do cats like cat music?


Snowden, Teie, and Savage’s study compared the reactions of 47 spayed and neutered cats to the “cat music” with the cats’ reactions to the human music. Researchers watched for the following responses:

orient/approach behavior

  • orient head toward speaker playing music
  • move toward speaker
  • rub speaker
  • purring

Avoid/fearful behavior

  • leaving the room
  • hair on end
  • growling
  • hissing
  • arched back

results:


Cats showed more Orient/Approach responses to the cat music than the human music. They also approached the source of the cat music more quickly than the human music. There were few Avoidance/Fearful behaviors (9 out of 94 trials – same for both types of music).

Cats were more interested and responsive to music that was designed for them. These pieces were also composed to be calming, so perhaps it is not surprising that there were few “negative” behaviors seen in the cats’ responses to the music.  So, when choosing music for your cat, consider the features of the music and what emotional state they may induce.  Just randomly picking some classical music to play for your cat may not achieve the goals that you are looking for. 

Trying Out Cat Music


In 2019, the cat music was tested in the veterinary clinic at Louisiana State University. Twenty one cats completed the study. The cats presented for 3 examinations, two weeks apart. Each cat was exposed to one of three soundtracks : silence, cat music or classical human music. Each session included an examination and blood draw. The chosen soundtrack was played throughout the session, until the cat was placed back in her carrier.

Cat Stress Scores (CSS) were measured when the cat arrived, during the exam and at the completion of the blood sampling. A Handling Score (HS) was also measured during the examination.

The CSS and HS were not very different comparing cats exposed to silence and classical music; however, CSS and HS were significantly lower for cats exposed to the “cat music”.

cats prefer species specific music


Art by Kal Meyer

Cat music can help reduce stress-related behaviors.  I have found “cat music” useful to calm my kitties

  • when work is being done on my house
  • when I am transporting my cats in the car.

 

The cat music developed for the studies above can be purchased at https://www.musicforcats.com.

Want to keep up with the world of cats? Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

 

Subscribe

Friendly cat greeting a humanCats live in a landscape of odors. Odors tell them about their world and its inhabitants. The signature odor or scent can play an important role when introducing a cat to something new – whether it is a another cat, dog, person or a piece of furniture.

Cats and signature scents


The signature scent is a collection of odors secreted by an individual animal. This signature scent is influenced by the individual’s hormones, diet, immune system and other animals that he hangs out with.  Using her superb sense of smell, a cat can learn a surprising amount of information from the signature scent of another animal.

  • gender
  • health status
  • sexual receptivity
  • fitness
  • are you part of my social group?

The signature scent gives the cat a way of identifying an individual animal. But, like the resume submitted by a job applicant, it is not the whole story. There is more to be learned by a physical encounter. A young cat may pick up the signature odor of an older cat with kidney disease and find this scent a little frightening – he has never met a cat that smelled like that before.  After he spends some time with this older cat, he learns that particular odor of disease is not going to hurt him.

Cats and signature scents: learning about other cats


Introducing cats to cats

Free-roaming cats live in colonies if there is enough food in the neighborhood. Each colony has its own signature scent. Members of the colony identify each other by this scent. This colony scent also marks the core territory of the colony, where the members feel safe, can eat, rest and play.

One of the first things we should do to introduce a cat to another cat is to swap scents. Each cat will pick up some of the other’s scent – it is the start to creating a sense of “colony”.

An easy way to do this is to exchange bedding between the two. Why choose bedding? We hope that the cats are relaxed and calm in their beds and so the scents and pheromones in the bedding should convey a message of calm and relaxation in addition to things mentioned above, such as gender and health status. On the other hand, bedding may not be the best choice if the cat is in pain and discomfort when in the bed. See below for other ways to collect your cat’s scent.

Exchange the scented items between the two cats before they have any visual contact. There may be some hissing and growling at the scented object but hopefully this will go away in a few days. You will need to renew the scented item every other day or so. If your cat ignores the item and just walks on by, then she is not disturbed by this new addition so far. You can proceed on to step 2 of Introducing Cats: “time sharing” the common areas and the newcomer’s room.

Collecting Your Cat’s Scent

In The Trainable Cat, Sara Ellis views scent collection as one of 9 key skills that form a foundation for training cats. She recommends getting your cat accustomed to the process.  The goal is to make scent collection part of a pleasurable experience.  There are several ways to collect your cat’s scent – use whichever way suits your kitty.

  • Use a clean, light-weight cotton glove while stroking the cat in front of the ears and under the chin and cheeks (behind the whiskers).
  • You can also collect hair from the brush you’ve used to groom your cat in these areas.
  • As mentioned above, you can place a small piece of cloth on your cat’s bed for him to lie on.

The more you touch/brush these areas or the longer your cat lies on the cloth, the stronger the scent.

from Bradshaw, John W. S. and Sarah L. H. Ellis. “The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat.” (2016).

Cats and signature scents: learning about dogs and humans


Scent swapping should be the first step in introducing cats to dogs and even humans.

  • A piece of the dog’s bedding is a way to start the cat-dog introduction. Follow the same steps used for introducing two cats.
  • Let’s say you have a pet sitter coming to care for your cat while you are away – you may feel awkward asking for a T-shirt prior to the pet sitter coming to your home but your cat may appreciate it!

Cats and signature scents: new items in the house


If you are able to collect your cat’s scent, applying it to a new piece of furniture just might keep your cat from scratching that new armchair ( Make sure to put a scratching post nearby!) Take something with your cat’s scent on it and wipe the new piece of furniture with it. Now, that chair or table smells familiar to your cat and its sudden appearance is not so scary.

Remember – Our homes are our cat’s territory; we are members of our cat’s colony. Our homes have the signature scent that makes our cats feel safe and secure. Please make sure to maintain the “colony scent”!

Want to keep up with the world of cats?  Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

 

Subscribe

Fighting catsIt is not uncommon for cats in a multi-cat household to engage in some redirected aggression. For example, cats waiting to be fed may engage in “boxing matches”. A cat watching birds at a window may swat at another cat who comes “too close” to her “bird-watching” spot. The cats are frustrated because the food or the birds are not available and they release their frustration through a physical motion. These incidents usually extinguish themselves and there are not lasting consequences.

 

when redirected aggression in your cat becomes a problem


One cat encounters an outdoor cat at the window, and becomes highly aroused, hair standing on end, hissing, growling, howling. He turns on his housemate who is passing by. If the aggressor associates the negative emotional state of a cat fight with his housemate, we may have a bully-victim relationship in the making. The aggressor cat (bully) may become aroused each time he sees the housemate and go after him. The housemate is now the victim and may become fearful of the bully. The bully may guard resources (litter boxes, food) from the victim, making the victim’s life miserable.

When the victim is not another cat


A cat may redirect his frustration and fear on whomever is closest and that could be you or the family dog.  Let’s say you drop a ceramic dish, which explodes with a crash and terrifies your cat.  You go to pick her up and she hisses and strikes out at you.  She may be leery of you after that, slinking away when she spots you, associating you with that horrible noise and things flying through the air.

redirected aggression in your cat – first aid


If the incident involved two cats:

  1. Place or “herd” the aggressive cat and the victim cat into separate rooms, with litter box, water and the lights off.  
  2. Once the cats are calm, see if there are any injuries and seek veterinary attention if needed.
  3.  If neither cat is injured, see if you can reintroduce them once they seem calm. See if they will eat or play on either side of a closed door. Work up to gradually opening the door – it is not a bad idea to have a barrier such as a baby gate in the doorway.
  4. This may take anywhere from a few minutes/hours to days/months.

If the victim was the family dog or human, first aid is similar with some modifications. Assess the victim for injuries. A dog will benefit from a quiet room while a human will, most likely, take comfort in discussing the incident with other people. A slow and gradual re-introduction with the cat is still a good idea.

How do I tell if my cat is calm?


Calm cat
This cat appears calm.
  • Is his body language calm – ears up, eyes open, muzzle relaxed, whiskers relaxed – not pinned against the muzzle?
  • Will she approach you in a friendly way – say, with tail up, relaxed  posture ?
  • Will he eat a snack?
  • Will she play with toys?

 

redirected aggression in your cat – the aftermath


  1. Try to identify the trigger.
  2. If you can identify a possible cause, for example, a neighborhood cat at the window, be proactive and move to prevent future occurrences.
  3. Coax the cat back to the place where the aggression happened. Allow her to thoroughly examine the area while providing a tasty snack and possibly some toys to make a positive association with the area.
  4. If the incident involved a person, desensitize the cat to the area where the incident happened before having that particular person return to the area. Once the cat is calm, have the “victim” come back but approach the area gradually. If the cat remains calm, he can come a little closer. The “final” approach should allow the cat to choose if she wants to interact.  Have some tasty treats on hand. Use of a harness and leash can be useful in this situation.
  5. If the incident involved two cats, let each cat return separately and make a positive association with the area. When both of them are calm in the area, you can try having them there together after reintroduction – be prepared in case hostilities break out again.

If the victim continues to trigger aggression in the “bully” cat, consult your veterinarian regarding medication and/or referral to a veterinary behaviorist.

Want to keep up with the world of cats? Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

Subscribe

cats fighting due to frustrationYou are sitting by the window, engrossed in your latest murder mystery. You don’t notice that neighborhood tabby outside your window but your cat does and goes into full battle mode, hissing and striking at the window. You look up and jump, as your cat turns and strikes out at you. She looks like a miniature saber tooth tiger! Alarmed, you throw your glass of water at her as you beat a hasty retreat.

This is an example of what we call redirected aggression. Something happens that frustrates or frightens a cat, and the cat strikes out at whomever is closest. The cat cannot strike out at the cause of the arousal – it may be out of reach or too risky to confront. In this case, the tabby cat is out of reach but you are not!

People can find themselves in a similar situation. Say you get criticism from your supervisor. You can’t retaliate – it could effect your work evaluation. So, instead, you “take out” your frustration and anger on the assistant helping you, directing some snarky comments at her.

Avoiding Redirected Aggression in your cat


As Benjamin Franklin observed, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Be aware of situations that could trigger redirected aggression in your cat or any cat. Redirected aggression can damage the cat-owner bond if either the owner or cat is hurt. Redirected aggression can wreak havoc on the fragile harmony of a multi-cat household.

things that can Trigger Redirected Aggression in your cat


  • presence of another cat
  • high-pitched or loud noises
  • visitors in the house
  • a dog
  • an unusual odor
  • being outdoors unexpectedly

Your cat may feel he must defend his territory against strange cats, visitors to the house and dogs. He may scratch or bite when you intervene to move him to a safe place.

Strange odors, say smoke from a wildfire burning nearby, and loud noises can instill fear in your cat and he starts fighting with his housemate.

Being outdoors unexpectedly can be terrifying to the indoor-only cat and she may vent her fear on her would-be rescuer using her teeth and claws.

These are all situations where a cat may strike out and attack an “innocent” bystander because the cat is aroused or frightened.

Watch your cat’s body language for aggression: hair standing on end, growling, hissing? Staring at other cats, dogs, people? Is she blocking another cat from areas in the house? Stalking another cat?

Removing the Triggers for Redirected Aggression in Your Cat


Outdoor cats:

  • Discourage them coming into the yard using a motion activated sprinkler.
  • If you have a fence around your yard, cat proof it .
  • Install privacy film on windows where your cat may see outdoor cats.
  • Place scratching posts by doors and windows and allow your cat to mark his territory by scratching

Loud noises: If a loud noise scares your cat, let her hide and calm down before handling her. Once calm, try to entice her with a tasty snack or a wand toy. Wait for her to approach you.

Visitors: Advise visitors to leave the cat alone unless she comes over to greet them.

Dogs: Keep dogs separate from the cats using a baby gate or other barrier until you introduce them, one cat at a time.

Odors: You may need to separate cats and put them in quiet rooms until the odor dissipates or the cats acclimate to it. (In the case of wildfires, you may wish to have the carriers out and ready to go. Having the cats in smaller rooms will make it easier to kennel them up if you need to evacuate).

Being outdoors unexpectedly:

  • Your indoor cat escapes and you find her hiding under the steps. Avoid trying to pull her out.
  • Instead, arm yourself with patience and tasty food.
  • Get her cat carrier and cover it with a towel (making it appear dark and safe). It may take a little time but there is a good chance she will choose the safety of the carrier over the “great outdoors”.

If you have trained your cat to come when called, call her periodically – give her time to get over her fright and let her training kick in. And having her carrier with you can help you get her back indoors.

Redirected aggression in your cat is a consequence of an emotional state.  He may be ready to fight, frustrated or fearful and he vents these emotions on whomever is close because he cannot reach what’s triggering the emotion or he cannot flee the situation.

Join The Feline Purrspective next week for “Redirected Aggression in Your Cat – When It Becomes a Problem”.

Want to keep up with the world of cats? Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

 

Subscribe

Kitten kindergarten programs are great ways to continue to expose kittens to new experiences and accustom them to humans. But what if you can’t find one of these programs near you? Consider introducing your  kitten to your friends and family in your own home.

Hosting a Meet and greet for your kitten


What you will need:

  • An area in your home your kitten is familiar with, large enough to accommodate 3-4 people
  • Hiding places for your kitten in the area – some cardboard boxes with holes cut in them can be fun for both your kitten and your guests.
  • Treats and toys that your kitten likes
  • A litter box
  • Plastic spoons for offering treats to the kitten

The Guest list


Expose your kitten to a variety of people – men and women of different ages and well-behaved school-age children. When hosting a Meet and Greet for your kitten, keep the group small, about 3-4 people, but invite different guests each time you do it.

For your first “Meet and Greet”, consider limiting the guest list to adults. Once you are more comfortable, you may include children but start with one child (school age) at first and make sure to supervise directly. Be firm about the rules and how to handle the kitten. Toddlers require a lot of supervision and can hurt a young kitten. They will do better interacting with an older cat.

Let your guests know that the goal of the “Meet and Greet” is to help your kitten learn how to interact with humans. It is important that your kitten has control over his interactions with us so that he develops confidence.  Even if he stays in a box or carrier, he has taken the first step to learning more about humans.

The Rules for Meet and Greet Guests

  1. Allow the kitten to approach you; do not reach for or grab the kitten.
  2. If the kitten approaches you, offer him a treat in a spoon or a toy to play with. If he seems comfortable, rub his head and cheeks.
  3. To pick up the kitten up, slide one hand under her chest and use the other hand to support her hind end.
  4. If the kitten starts to squirm when being held, place him back down on the floor.
  5. Don’t let the kitten play with your hands or feet – redirect her to a toy.
  6. Don’t feed the kitten using your fingers (kittens have needle-sharp teeth that can hurt when they bite)
  7. Do not hand the kitten from person to person.

Setting Up a meet and greet for your kitten


  1. Have each guest wash his or her hands before the Meet and Greet
  2. Have everyone watch the Battersea cat handling video (it is about 3 minutes long )
  3. Review the Rules with the guests.
  4. Each guest will get a bag with a few treats and can select a toy to play with kitty.
  5. Have everyone sit down on the floor in a circle.
  6. Bring out the star of the show in his carrier and sit him next to you.

Activities


Lure your kitten out with treats or a toy. Allow her to approach people on her own – reward with a treat or play. Guests can take turns luring the kitten with toys, cuddling the kitten (if she accepts this) and offering snacks!

Being picked up can be scary for kittens. If your kitten is calm enough and approaches and greets a guest, the guest may pick him up, reward him with a treat, and see if he’ll sit with the guest. If your kitten gets squirmy, you may need to gently remind your human friend that your kitty friend needs a break!

After about 30 minutes or so, take your kitten to a safe place (another room) for a break and rest.
Treat your guests to pizza and a movie!

LIMIT how much the kitten is fed – the number of treats should not be more than what your kitten eats at a meal.

Kitten with adult cat

As you get the hang of doing a Meet and Greet for your kitten, you may want to introduce her to well-behaved adult animals. Make sure these adults are vaccinated and dewormed. Choose one pet for the “Meet and Greet”. Start with a barrier like a baby gate between the kitten and the adult animal. Have the pets play and have treats on either side of the barrier. For safety, the adult animal should be harnessed, leashed and have a dedicated handler.

Even if you keep the barrier in place, this is still a valuable experience for your kitten – he will get to see and smell these adult animals up close!

Other kittens around the same age are welcome IF they are vaccinated, dewormed, retrovirus- tested (FeLV/FIV), and are NOT vomiting, having loose stools, coughing or sneezing.  Treat them in the same way as the adult animals – apart at first and gradually bring them together.

Hosting a Meet and Greet for your kitten will help her be confident and accept new experiences, for example, having a pet-sitter at her home. She will learn what appropriate handling is and this will contribute to her safety and well-being.

Want to keep up with the world of cats? Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

 

Subscribe

Aggression between Cats
Two cats engage in a spat while waiting to be fed.

In spite of our best efforts, things can go wrong and our cats confront each other aggressively. You may have adopted a new cat and he escapes the room you are keeping him in while introducing him to your resident cats. Something may startle the cats, say an outdoor cat comes to the window and one cat attacks a housemate in a bout of redirected aggression. Separation is the immediate solution to these unplanned events.

Indoor Cat Fights vs outdoors


There is nothing as dramatic as a cat fight. Two cats face off, fur standing on end, yowling and spitting. Often, one cat may slowly move away, all the time presenting his side to the other cat (to look larger); his back may be arched. Depending on the motive for the standoff, the remaining cat may just stand his ground and allow the other to leave or he may pounce, and the two cats grapple each other, biting, clawing, kicking, and the “cat ball” rolls away until it stops and both cats take a breather.

Unlike cat fights outdoors, the indoor cat fight can be more aggressive and more likely that either a person or a cat gets injured as things are in such close quarters. There may not be the ritual posturing and howling of a territorial cat fight outdoors. There may not be the opportunity for one of the cats to get away and there is not the extinction in fighting that can happen once one cat leaves the other’s territory.

How do we “break up” the indoor cat fight?


  1. Move calmly and deliberately – avoid fast or jerky movements
  2. Close doors to the area the fight is happening.
  3. Distract the cats momentarily so that you can block them from seeing each other.
  4. Herd the cats away from each other.
  5. Lure the cats into separate areas (rooms) – put a door between them!
  6. When all is calm, evaluate cats and people for injury. Seek medical attention if necessary.

Resist the temptation to scruff both cats and pull them away from each other. You will most likely get scratched, and, worse, get bit. Not only may you require medical treatment, your bond with your cat or cats will suffer.

Scruffing does not calm an adult cat and can actually injure him. Many people have been bit while scruffing a cat – the kitten reflex is long gone.

breaking up the indoor cat fight


  • cardboard barrier to separate cats
    A broom can be handy to gently separate fighting cats. It you anticipate aggressive encounters, attach some cardboard to the broom.

    Distractions: Make a loud noise – shout, clap your hands – to get the cats’ attention. If a bag of cat treats is at hand, shake it. Try scattering treats on the off-chance it may distract them.

  • Block visual contact: Try to slide some sort of barrier between the combatants. This may be a broom, piece of cardboard, or a sofa cushion.
  • Herding/Luring: Once out of sight of each other, try to direct them away from each other by tossing treats in opposite directions. If food is unsuccessful, “herd” one cat (preferably the more aggressive cat) with your barrier gently away from the other toward a place where you can separate the cats by a closed door.

A towel or blanket can be used as a barrier, albeit a flimsy one. If you can keep some tension on the edges and target the aggressive cat, this may be enough time for the other cat to get away, for example, and climb a cat tree.  You can also try and cover the aggressive cat with the towel. Be aware that fighting cats are tense and coiled like springs – they move extremely fast and may just outrun your well-aimed towel.

Be careful not to succumb to the emotion of the moment – hitting either cat with a broom, cardboard, or cushion will not be effective.

if you have help


DO ask your “helpers” to clap their hands together or rattle pots and pans. Be ready to slide your barrier in to block visual contact as soon as the cats are momentarily distracted.

DO have your “helpers” open the door to a room where you can herd one of the cats to. If there are additional materials for barriers (cardboard, broom, sofa pillows), have them herd one cat into a room while you work with the other or vice versa.

Other tools in the indoor cat fight


Spray bottles with water – these can distract some cats but be warned there are cats that will keep going even if you soak them down. The spray also means you will need to get close to the cats and may be a casualty of redirected aggression.

Noise makers – Cans with pennies can be effective to startle the cats. Avoid the use of air horns – in close quarters, these will be really loud. You don’t want the cats to associate a traumatic event with each other.

Rattling the food container elicits a positive emotion – if you scatter treats, some cats may be distracted enough to chase and eat treats. Then you can lure them with treats into separate areas.

be proactive!


Materials to separate fighiting cats
A basket holds a towel, jar of treats, and a spray bottle of water. There is a cardboard barrier behind the basket.

If you are introducing cats or trying to correct redirected aggression due to, say, outdoor cats, have some “emergency” stations set up in areas close to where aggressive encounters may occur. Stock each ER station with:

  • A piece of sturdy cardboard  – you can make a “paddle” by attaching it to a pole. This will keep you out of the line of fire as you try to herd a cat.
  • A thick, large towel
  • A jar of treats and a can of pennies
  • A spray bottle of water

Want to keep up with the world of cats?  Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

 

Subscribe

A cat’s first experience with grooming is when she is born. In the first 3 weeks of life, her mother cleaned her nose to tail many times a day, stimulating the kitten to void her bowels and urinate. When the kitten reached 4 weeks old, she started grooming herself, and also grooming her litter mates and mother.

why do cats groom?


Cats are mammals. Mammals have fur to maintain their high body temperature. The fur traps air next to the mammal’s body, providing an isolating layer to regulate his temperature.

It is important to keep the fur coat clean, after all a matted or pelted coat cannot trap as much air as a clean coat, where air surrounds each individual hair.  Oil from the skin can combine with shed fur and dirt to form mats.  Grooming helps distribute the oils of the skin throughout the fur so that mats are not likely to form.

Grooming not only helps keep your cat warm when cold and cool through the evaporation of saliva when hot, it also has a social function.  A cat will not only groom himself, he also may participate in allogrooming. Allogrooming refers to animals of the same species grooming each other.

Grooming Your Cat – allogrooming


Some studies show that allogrooming occurs most among cats that are related, that are of the same social group. It is an affiliative behavior.

But there is also evidence that allogrooming is not restricted to family groups. It also a way for cats to redirect potential aggression and avoid physical conflict. Cats, being solitary hunters, prefer to avoid fighting. Fighting can result in injury, making a cat unable to hunt and feed himself.

In urban cat colonies and in multi-cat households, the abundance of resources make it possible for many cats to live close to each other, with abbreviated, overlapping territories.  More cats closer together increases the likelihood of  aggressive encounters.  Allogrooming gives cats a way to redirect the aggression with a few quick licks to the head, soothing a would-be combatant and avoiding a fight.

I have two male cats, Gus and Marley, who are not fond of each other but co-exist. I was surprised the other day to find Gus grooming Marley’s head. Had Marley appeared aggressive to Gus? Marley is bigger than Gus – was Gus trying to calm Marley down to avoid a  fight?

Grooming your cat: a social interaction


Cats often groom their people, licking them with their barbed tongues. How can we reciprocate? Consider grooming your cat.  Grooming your cat can be soothing, making her feel calm and secure. And, it can help reduce hairballs and mats, by removing excess hair and distributing oils over the cat’s coat.

tips for grooming your cat


  • Make sessions short.

    grooming comb with rounded tines
    Note the rounded tines on this “greyhound” comb. There is a “coarse” and “fine” side.
  • Only groom part of your cat’s coat at a time – say, one side.
  • Consider using a comb with rounded tines – it is often more effective than a brush.
  • Comb at an angle, in the direction of the hair.
  • Don’t pull knotted or matted hair out – this hurts! Tease mats apart gently with your fingers if possible, then comb the area, starting with a “coarse” comb and working up to a “fine” comb.
  • Groom frequently, say every few days.

My cat won’t let me groom her


Treat Holder
Soft food, spread on the Lickimat, can be eaten by the cat during grooming.

Desensitize your cat to being groomed. Try distracting her with tasty treats – a “Likimat” can keep her engaged with a soothing behavior (licking) while you groom.

If your cat is clicker trained, try the following steps:

  • Establish a cue for grooming, for example, show your cat the grooming comb and let her rub against it.
  • Touch your cat with the comb, click and treat. Work up to brief combings – make sure to reward.
  • Gradually increase the time of combings, making sure to reward kitty.
  • WATCH her body language to know when to take a break.

Oil, dirt and shed hair can clump together to form larger mats that feel like Brillo pads. These mats are best taken care of by a professional groomer. Cats’ skin is delicate and can tear easily, requiring a trip to the vet for wound repair.  Above all, resist the temptation to use scissors. Even small mats are best removed by hand or with a clipper.

Want to keep up with the world of cats? Subscribe to The Feline Purrspective!

Subscribe