Cat fence with rollers
Cat in fenced yard with Oscillot roller system. Courtesy oscillotamerica.com

It has become more and more common to keep cats solely indoors. Indoor cats live longer – they are not run over by cars, hunted by coyotes, or injured in cat fights.

However, there is a cost to this safety and security. Indoor cats have fewer opportunities to exercise and don’t receive the mental stimulation from hunting and exploring the outdoors.

Both cats and zoo animals are captives in the environments we provide for them. Like zoo animals, cats need enrichment to maintain their health and welfare. An outdoor safe place is a great way to enrich your cat’s life!

The compromise: Outdoor Safe Places


Do you live in an apartment? Or in a house with a backyard? There are many options available to you and your cat for an outdoor safe place.

 systems with netting – flexible


In these systems, a sturdy net or mesh is attached to rope or wire rope that forms a frame. The wire rope versions have turnbuckles to tension the mesh. Although some more nimble cats can climb this mesh, most cats seem to leave it alone. These systems can be customized to fit apartment balconies and porches, and enclose areas next to your house.

Cat enclosures


A commercial cat enclosure kit has access from a pet door in the sliding glass door.

These are basically outdoor cages. They range from portable to larger dog-kennels to elaborate enclosed systems with walkways linking cat doors to larger enclosures.
You could repurpose a standard freestanding dog kennel to be a cat enclosure but be aware that you have to secure the top with netting or mesh to keep the cat from climbing out and extend the fencing below ground to keep more adventurous cats from digging under the kennel.
Purrfect Fence sells enclosures consisting of a box-style frame with net stretched over it.
Purrfect Fence also markets a freestanding cat yard using supports, gates, and netting. This cat yard could enclose your entire back yard or just part of it. The netting forms a fence and there is no “ceiling”.
Each fence support has an arm that forms an overhang. Each arm is spring-loaded and buckles if a cat tries to climb over the netting fence, dropping him to the ground. Other vendors sell similar systems.

Have a backyard with an existing fence?


There are systems to cat-proof your fence by making it higher (6 feet or more) with an overhang that is difficult for cats to scale. The fence extensions are covered with sturdy netting. The Purrfect Fence extensions come with their spring-loaded arm. Deerbusters also sells fence extensions that are covered by netting.

Cons of netting


  • net can rip
  • clog with leaves or snow
  • trap birds or squirrels?

roller systems


If there is already a tall (6+ feet) fence around your yard, the Oscillot system could fit the bill! Oscillot is designed for fences 6’ and higher and can be adapted to a variety of fence types: wood, chainlink, masonry, wrought iron. The Oscillot System features x-shaped rollers at the top of the fence, that spin and prevent the cat from gaining traction to get over the top of the fence.

So far, we have been concerned with keeping our cats in but what about keeping other animals out?

Other critters….


You don’t have to live out on the range to have problems with raccoons and coyotes. These animals are increasingly becoming urban pests. Raccoons can climb as well if not better than cats and are not above viewing your cat as a snack. Coyotes are capable of jumping 6’ fences, so if you are concerned about coyotes or raccoons, a tall fence is in order and one of the roller systems can be effective.

Purrfect Fence observes that netting is difficult for predators to climb and once inside, they are trapped. They recommend giving a cat-free trial of  a new outdoor enclosure for a few days and see if any predators get trapped. Once trapped then freed, predators are unlikely to come back. Purrfect Fence does not recommend allowing your cat out in the fenced area at night.

Fully enclosed spaces (enclosures) should not have issues with predators although sometimes bats can find their way inside. Bats carry rabies so make sure your pets are up to date on their vaccines.

The low-tech Option…


Perhaps you can join your cat on a morning or afternoon walk in your backyard or neighborhood. After all, getting outdoors is good for us too! It never hurts to have your cat harnessed even in a fenced backyard – this way you can clip the leash on as needed. If you walk your cat in public places, make sure to have kitty in a harness with leash and  have a mobile “outdoor safe place” – stroller or backpack – with you.

 

A final word…


There is no substitute for supervision or training.  It is a good idea to keep an eye on your cats while they are in an outdoor safe place. Teach your cat to come when called. Remember, any time you call and your cat comes to you, make sure to reward him – no recall should ever go unrewarded!

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art by Cal Meyer

Cats and boxes are a purrfect combination.  An enclosed space like a box can be a safe place, help keep a cat warm and give him a vantage point to ambush “prey” (unfortunate insects, catnip mice…). Boxes are also popular with other animals – big cats are often given boxes for enrichment at zoos and refuges; dogs also like boxes to play in but some may tend to chew the box up!

Cats will also sit on just about anything, comfortable or not. Anyone who does craft projects well knows that once the fabric is out to be cut, a cat will be sitting on it soon enough. Years ago, cats sat on newspapers if you tried to spread the paper out on the table – nowadays, they park on computer keyboards. Some of this is attention-seeking behavior – Zelda only lets me type so long Sunday mornings before she gets up on my desk and threatens to contribute to the post if I don’t take her for her morning walk.

In 2009, the USPS came up with the Christmas slogan, “If it fits, it ships”.  A few years later, a variant of the slogan became an Internet cat meme: “It it fits, I sits”.  This gave rise to posts of cats in all sort of places, from egg cartons and shoeboxes, to bowls and sinks.

The Internet exploded again in 2017 as people used tape to outline squares on the floor for their cats to sit in. Cats were “trapped” in all manner of taped shapes, with cat experts offering explanations ranging from cats reacting to new smells (from the tape) to survival instinct, where the cats must investigate something new (the taped square) to determine if it poses danger to them.  Some felt that the taped square offered the cat a sense of security, much like a real box.

The phenomenon did not stop here – in 2020, during the COVID pandemic, a woman in the Philippines photographed stray cats practicing “social distancing” – the cats sat on circles painted on the ground 6 feet apart outside a food market.

cats and boxes: optical illusions


It is not surprising that cats in taped squares became the subject of a research study investigating cats’ responses to optical illusions. In a two month study in June-August of 2020, researchers at Hunter College enrolled over 500 cat owners to participate in a study to assess cats’ responses to a taped square, a Kanizsa square (which gives the illusion of a square), and a control figure.

Enrolled owners were sent booklets containing pairs of these shapes that they affixed to the floor.  The owners then took videos of their cats’ responses to the shape-pairs and submitted the videos to the research team.  They were to do this once daily for 6 days.

The results found that of the 30 cats that completed all six trials of the experiment, only nine of them “participated”, that is, sat in one of the shapes. These cats were just as likely to sit in the taped square as the Kanizsa square. Only once did one of the cats choose to sit in the control shape.

What does this tell us about cats? Are they susceptible to the optical illusion of a square? Do they recognize it as a square? I think more research will have to be done:

  • Only 9 out 30 cats actually sat in the shapes.
  • Cats are not as tall as we are and don’t see well close up. Can they see the squares from their vantage point?
  • I, for one, would like to know how many cats will voluntarily sit in a taped outline – I tried leaving a hula hoop out on the floor to see if any of my four cats would voluntarily sit in the circular outline. I did not have any takers!

This study is the first to use “citizen scientists” (the owners) to observe the cats in their home environments, thereby avoiding stress-induced behaviors that cats can exhibit in unfamiliar settings, such as a laboratory.

Back to cats and boxes…


Cats are practical. They prefer their owners to their owners’ T-shirts. I feel that they would prefer a physical box to a taped outline. A box is a great source of enrichment – it can be a bed, a den, it can be place to hide while ambushing a toy mouse going by. Shelter cats acclimate to their surroundings more quickly when provided a box to hide in.

Boxes that are too small to allow a cat to hide may make him feel good by putting physical pressure on his body, like when we wedge ourselves in the corner of the sofa watching a favorite TV program.  Pressure on soft tissue has been shown to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety in both humans and animals.

So, make sure your cat has a safe place – a place he can call his own, a place that is secure, secluded, a hiding place to retreat to, warm in the winter, cool in the summer. It can be a cardboard box in a closet or in a secluded corner!

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Moving to a new home is stressful even when everything goes right! Imagine how confusing moving is to our cats – the boxes are fun when empty but soon they fill up with things and your cat can no longer jump in.

From the Feline Purrspective…


The bed you used to siesta on gets bagged up and taken away by strange humans. Your world seems to be coming to an end. Will you have enough to eat? Will you be safe from predators? Where can you hide?

Cats are territorial animals. An outdoor cat’s home range is the maximum area he roams and hunts in. Within the home range is a smaller area that the cat will actively defend – his territory. Inside this defended area is a smaller area called the “core territory”, where the cat can rest, has shelter, and feels safe from predators and other cats. Moving with your cat removes him from his core territory – the house or apartment he lives in.

How can we communicate safety and security to our cats when we move? Somehow, we cat owners have to provide what our cats need even though we are no longer “at home”.Needs of Domestic cats

What our cats need:

  1. Resources : food, water, litter box, shelter
  2. Safe access to resources
  3. Belonging: territory
  4. Human interaction: predictable
  5. Playtime: predatory behavior

Moving with Your Cat

Getting ready


  1. Resources: Stock up on your cat’s preferred litter and food – if you are traveling by air, perhaps you can ship some of this to your new address.
  2. Safe access to resources: Create a “safe place” for your cat. When moving with your cat, this will most likely be her carrier.  Make sure your cat is comfortable in her “home away from home”.  In the weeks leading up to the move, leave it out for her to explore and nap in. Consider feeding her meals in it.
  3. Set up a “mobile” territory: A lot of cat communication is by smell. Cats have some of the best noses -with 30 genetic variants of the V1R receptor protein in their vomeronasal organs, they are able to discriminate between a wide variety of smells. So, avoid laundering cat blankets or quilts that your cat sleeps on – the familiar scent of home can help reassure your cat of his territory when he is on the move.
  4. Predictable, positive human interaction:Try to maintain daily feeding and grooming routines as you travel.
  5. Predatory play: Don’t forget play time – try to set some time aside to play with your cat when traveling.

moving day


 

You may want to keep your cat(s) in their own room with carriers as furniture, etc is moved – you don’t want them to escape!

Arriving at your new home…


  • Establish a “safe place”: Choose a room that you can locate your cat’s essential resources in. Some familiar furniture will reassure him. Leave his carrier in there.
  • Use pheromone diffusers in the “safe place”. You may also want to have them throughout the new house or apartment.
  • A gradual introduction to the new house is best for many cats.
    Pay attention to your cat’s body language – if she seems scared or frightened, allow her to stay in the “safe room”. Once she seems curious, allow her to explore while having access to the “safe place”.
  • Maintain feeding and play/grooming routines as best as you can.

Some cats are more adventurous than others and may want to explore the new place once things are moved in. Keep a close eye on your cat’s body language.

Other things to consider when moving with your cat:


  • Is your cat microchipped in case he escapes?
  • Consider a calming supplement such as Zylkene, Calming Care. It is best if you start these several weeks before moving.
  • Copies of your cats medical records
  • Do you need a health certificate for travel?
  • Consider getting your cat accustomed to wearing a harness and leash. Even if not fully leashed trained, a harnessed cat can be more easily handled in an airport or at a rest stop if you have to change out soiled pads in the carrier.
  • Consider asking your vet for calming medication for travel.

Moving with your cat is an adventure…


I recently moved from my townhome of 13 years to a larger, two story house. It was a local move and was a bit drawn out since we did the moving ourselves. The four cats were curious at first but seemed to be a bit edgy as furniture began to disappear. I had started giving them Calming Care about 10 days before moving and planned to continue it for a week or so after arrival. (Many of these supplements may need 4-6 weeks to reach full effect).

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…

(adapted from  “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns)


I had planned for the four cats to stay in the master suite for a few days after moving and had set them up in there. But before long, paws began to show up under the doors, as all four cats proceeded to rattle the closed doors.

I finally gave in and let them out. I was worried that they would hide in some inaccessible space but they proceeded to explore and prowl around. I had placed the large cat tree so that the cats could access the top of the kitchen cabinets – this was a popular (although dusty) activity. The next day, Gus managed to catch some mice in the basement – we were officially moved in!

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Needs of Domestic cats

Abraham Maslow first introduced his concept of a hierarchy of needs in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. In this paper, he postulated that people are motivated by five types of needs.
He assigned a hierarchy to these needs, which are often shown in a  pyramid diagram, with physical needs at the bottom. Applying this to our cats can give us insight into the cat-human bond.

Needs and motivation


The five categories that Maslow came up with are:

  1. Physical needs (food, water)
  2. Safety
  3. Love/belonging
  4. esteem
  5. self-fulfillment (be all that you can be)

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

As an individual satisfies needs in one of these categories, he is motivated to tackle the next level.

  1. What motivates behavior at the most basic level is the need to survive. We need to eat and drink to stay alive.
  2. Having satisfied these needs, the next step is to ensure that we will continue to have food and water. We need shelter and a job.
  3. Once fed and secure, we can address the need to be part of society – to belong to a group.
  4. The next level of needs is esteem: we need to value ourselves and feel that other people value us.
  5. We are now at the top of the pyramid. We can work on reaching self-imposed goals: maybe become a writer or artist, nurture extended family, or climb mountains.

Of course, there is flexibility in this hierarchy- some needs are met at the same time; for some individuals, reaching your full potential may be more important than the esteem of others.

what do cats need? wild cats


  • A wild cat’s needs begin with having prey to eat.
  • Once fed, he will find a safe place where he can sleep, eat and retreat from danger – like a den.
  • He must establish his territory where he can hunt regularly and have access to food.
  • A well-fed wildcat who hunts successfully has good prospects for mating. 
  • As far as Nature is concerned, the wildcat has reached his or her full potential once he or she has ensured that there will be another generation to hunt and mate, continuing the species.What does a wildcat need?

 

what do cats need? Domestic cats


Things are a bit different for the cat who lives with humans. Hunting and establishing a territory have become separate from getting enough food; our house cats are spayed and neutered, so do not have a drive to mate and reproduce. We can construct a hierarchy showing what do cats need for the cats that live with us.

the 5 pillars of a healthy feline environment


The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) list five things that make a healthy environment for a cat. We can assemble these into a hierarchy of needs.

  1. Resources : food, water, litter box, shelter
  2. Safe access to resources
  3. Belonging: territory
  4. Human interaction: predictable
  5. Full potential: predatory behavior

Needs of Domestic cats

  • At the bottom of the pyramid are the needs for survival: food, water, and litter boxes.
  • The next level ensures that these essential resources are available to each cat to use safely, without fear. The cat owner should provide multiple, separate feeding and watering stations and litter boxes.
  • One of the AAFP requirements is an environment that respects the cat’s sense of smell.  Such an environment is the cat’s territory. Cats will mark walls and furniture in the home with facial pheromones and scratching posts with pheromones released when scratching. Your cat belongs to his territory.

The old way of thinking about cats as aloof and independent, would most likely consider the cat’s needs are met at this point.

What do cats need and the cat-human bond


Our cats share basic physiological needs with their wild relatives. But the domestic cat has chosen a different path and has some different needs because of his bond with his human caregiver. The two final levels of the pyramid are 4) positive and predictable human interaction and 5) the opportunity for predatory play.

  • Human Interaction: To truly feel safe and secure in her territory, a housecat needs to know how the humans in the house will behave: when will she be fed? Will they approach quietly and greet her? Will they swoop down on her and pick her up when she least expects it and hold her dangling in the air?
  • Predatory Play: The need to hunt defines who your cat is – this is what he was born to do.  We need to provide our cats with an opportunity to hunt – if it is fishing kibble out of a food puzzle or chasing a stuffed mouse at the end of a wand toy.

These last two needs bring us to the heart of the cat-human bond.

Positive and predictable interactions  allow us to communicate with our cats; predatory play helps us recognize the cat’s nature as a born hunter and allows us to share this essential part of his life.

In return for helping our cats satisfy their needs, we humans enjoy the pleasure of our cats’ company, better heart health and reduced stress and anxiety. 

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” – Sigmund Freud

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It’s 1:50 am – you know by the red numbers on your alarm clock. That darn cat meows at night and has woken you up once again.Cat and alarm clock

What is happening?
If this is a new pattern, it is time for a vet visit to make sure that there is not a medical cause underlying the nocturnal activity. High blood pressure and hyperthyroidism are two conditions that can contribute to meowing at night. Treating these conditions may solve the tendency toward night-time activity and meowing.

If your cat has had a physical exam recently and has no untreated health issues, there may different things underlying the “feline nocturnes”. In the wild, cats hunt at dusk, nighttime and dawn when their prey, small rodents, are foraging.

Our indoor cats usually adapt well to being active during daylight hours and snoozing at night.
If this is not the case, what can you do to reset your cat’s internal clock?

Perhaps your cat meows at night because he is bored and awake. He may be seeking your attention.

  • Make sure your cat is active during the day. Give him some play sessions during the day;  engage him in foraging behavior with food puzzles.
  • Establish a night time routine. Cats thrive on routine – it lets them know what is going to happen. Pets can be as good as a clock when reminding you for dinner. Let’s come up with a sequence of activities that signal that the household is slowing down and ready for sleep.

Bedtime Routines when your cat meows at night


Play/Treat time: My cats look forward to treats before bed every evening. After dinner and TV, the litter boxes are scooped and then – IT’S TIME.
All 4 cats proceed to the hallway where they take up their stations and wait to have treats tossed to them. After that, it is time to settle down and they each go to their sleeping place and tuck in.

Your cat might enjoy a play session before treats. This session does not have to be long – 10-15 minutes should do the trick. After that – IT’S TIME FOR BED!

Foraging toys: Try leaving some foraging toys (food puzzles) out and turn in. Again, this is a bedtime routine – you put the toys out and you turn in.

You can try closing the bedroom door. Of course, for many cats, if you close a door, this is the place they have to get into and will shake and rattle the door for access.

My Cat meows at night – Does he need a room of his own?


 

You have tried more play during the day and you are putting out food toys at night – still your cat meows at night.

This may be time for some “tough love” – after all, you need your sleep. If you have the space, give your cat a “bedroom” at night. This could be a spare bedroom or walk-in closet, someplace where you can close the door. Put all his resources (litter box, toys, water) in this room. Put a “calming” pheromone diffuser in this room.

When you are ready for bed…

  • Take kitty to his bedroom
  • Give him a snack.
  • Close the door – do not respond to crying at night once the cat is in the room.
  • He will be safe in there until you get him out in the morning.

While this may seem “cruel”, remember that cats are “socially flexible”. They are able to live socially with humans and other animals but do very well on their own. They don’t get “lonely” the same way we do.

to have a quiet night…


 Be sure to give your cat regular, daily playtime and activities. This may be a good time to review how you are feeding your cat – leaving out a food bowl filled all the time is like having a bowl of potato chips out all the time. Feeding can be self-soothing behavior for a bored cat.

3-4 smaller meals gives kitty something to look forward to – you can put one of these meals in his room for the night.

The Takeaway: if your cat meows at night, try giving him something to keep him busy – some extra play during the day and a bedtime routine just might silence the “kitty nocturnes”.

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Sometimes there is trouble when we house a group of cats together in our home. How do we reduce the number of inter-cat squabbles?

Cats are socially flexible

  • they do fine on their own
  • they can live with other cats IF there are enough resources.

This is the sticking pointcats are territorial. Territory is all about resources – food, water, litter boxes, resting places.  Cat fights are frequently about territory and resources!

Cats of the same social group can often (but not always!) use the same resources at the same time. If cats do not belong to the same group, then they will often time-share, taking turns to use that heated bed every cat likes.

But sometimes even cats that are “BFF”’s have a spat. One answer is to “space” them – make sure there are enough resources spread throughout the house or apartment.

Space Cats Vertically > more space for everyone > Less fighting>less stress


Many cats like to perch up high. They have a great vantage point and can see who’s coming. Your apartment or house may have a small footprint but have you thought about the unused “cat space” up toward the ceiling?

cat tree access to high beam
A tall cat tree gives this cat access to a high resting place.

Vertical places can be valued resting places or alternate feeding stations.


We’ve all seen the videos and posts of those amazing cat houses but your vertical cat world does not need to be so elaborate or require as much work. It can fit in seamlessly to your decor.

cat trees


 

Cat trees, true to their name, have  small footprints and utilize vertical space. Some  have “hide boxes” for an undisturbed nap. A cat tree also can give a cat access to a high place or offer an alternate path to another part of the home.  Placing a tall cat tree next to a stair case might allow a cat to climb up and through the railing,  avoiding another cat on the stairs.

book shelves


Whether actually used for books or storage, the tops of book shelves can be a cat highway. “Step” bookcases can provide tasteful storage for you but give your cats a ladder to a valued resting place – perhaps the top bunk of a bunkbed.

access to stair landing
A “step ” bookcase gives a cat a different route to access  a stairway landing.

the top shelves of closets


  • Often unused space – after all the shelves are hard to get to. 
  • Good place for a secluded nap.
  •  A step ladder may get kitty up there. Baskets that  hang on the underside of the steps can give you storage.
  • Stack storage bins in a step configuration so your cat can climb to that top shelf 
  • An inexpensive single pole cat tree may provide access.

“Thinking  vertically” allows you to provide your cats with additional resting places and feeding stations. There will be less conflict if each cat can find his own space.

A stairway landing provides a feeding station, heated bed, and cat cube.

Release your inner cat and space cats vertically – spread out resting places and feeding stations!


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cat found in swamp

For a time, I lived in the Florida Keys, about 50 miles north of Key West. Half of the island where we lived was owned by the Nature Conservancy and was a natural habitat of mangrove swamps, alligators, snakes and raccoons. There were some feral cats in the Conservancy reserve.

One summer, there was a litter of 4-5 kittens that we saw playing with their mother near the side of the road. In a few weeks, these cats had disappeared with the exception of one little female kitten, who continued to return to the side of the road. We used a Havaheart trap to bring the small kitten home. It was October so we named the orange and black kitten Pumpkin.

Throughout her life, Pumpkin was prone to bouts of bloody urine and not using the litter box. Antibiotic treatment was palliative at best; x-rays and ultrasounds did not reveal any medical causes. She was affectionate but she did not like the other cats. She seemed happiest when my son took her with him when he moved.

Cats’ health and stress…


Veterinary medicine for cats has advanced in the past few decades. If Pumpkin were alive today, she might be diagnosed with FIC, or Feline Idiopathic Cystitis. Idiopathic means that although we recognize the condition we don’t know the cause of it; cystitis refers to inflammation of the bladder.

Cats that suffer from frequent FIC episodes handle stress differently than other cats – they do not release stress hormones such as cortisol in the same way “normal” cats do.

Cats prone to FIC


  • have lower levels of cortisol in their bloodstreams compared to “normal” cats.
  • have higher levels of the “fight-or-flight” hormones.

Like interstitial cystitis in humans, stress contributes to flare-ups of FIC, making a cat sick from stress.

 Cortisol is a potent anti-inflammatory hormone – the lack of cortisol can result in increased inflammation in the body, in this case, the bladder.

Ways to Reduce your cat’s stress at home…


Cat napping on dresser
Gus takes a break on a blanket on a dresser.

Make sure each cat has a safe place – a place that is secure and secluded, a hiding place to retreat to.

Safe Place

Feeding stations for cats
Gus is much more relaxed when eating away from the other cats.

Have several feeding stations, water stations, and litter boxes spread through out the house or apartment.

House map cat resources
A simple sketch of your house can help with locating litter boxes.

Draw the paths a cat must take to get to her food, water and litter boxes in your house. Is there plenty of room for cats to pass other pets and humans?

cat with wand toy
Zelda plays with a toy mouse on a wand toy.

Good kharma with humans.

  • Greet your cat before handling him or her.
  • Have a daily routine for grooming and play.

Positive cat-human interactions

Marley marks the corner wall at the top of the stairs.

Cats communicate  by smell.

  • Use pheromone diffusers in the safe places.
  • Don’t use of strong smelling cleaners.
  • Scoop litter boxes daily.

The Colony Scent

Outside the home – what can make a cat sick from stress


Your cat may view neighborhood cats or other animals coming to the windows and into the yard as threats to his territory. Territorial threats can make your cat sick from stress. Consider…
  • A cat fence can keep other cats from entering the yard
  • Have scratching posts at doors and windows so that the resident cats can mark their territory.
  • A motion-activated sprinkler can help deter animals from coming into your yard.
There is no substitute for appropriate and timely medical care. However,  increased stress contributes to flare-ups of not only FIC,  but other conditions such as chronic diarrhea and overgrooming.

Pumpkin lived to be 17 years old. She was euthanized due to complications of chronic kidney disease. I wish I knew then what I know now – her life may have been less stressful and more comfortable.

Aggression Between Cats After a Vet Visit


Zelda, my 5 year old Maine coon cat, went into the vet clinic on a Tuesday to have her teeth cleaned and to finish her lion cut that I started the day before. Zelda did well with anesthesia, teeth cleaning and lion cut. Upon returning home, Zelda stayed in the master bedroom for a few more hours for her anesthesia to wear off.

In the past, there has been some aggression between cats after one of the cats comes back from his or her veterinary visit.  In particular, Gus, my former street cat, has been aggressive towards the other cats when they come home from the hospital.  So, I made sure that the Feliway multi-cat pheromone diffuser was plugged in and bagged up the blanket Gus sleeps on for Zelda to use in her carrier on the way home.

In spite of all my precautions, Gus was agitated and aggressive not only with Zelda, but also with the older cats, Marley and Athena, when I let Zelda out of the bedroom for dinner. Not only did he strike at the other cats when they got too close, he went out of his way to strike at them if they were out of reach.

Cat in his safe place
Gus is in his chair in his safe place, the back office.

The aggression between cats continued into Wednesday and I found myself starting to lose my patience with Gus, who was the instigator. So time for some “tough love” – Gus was asked to go to his safe place. The door was closed and he spent the afternoon in the back office with some treats and his snuffle mat.

His attitude was much better when he was released at dinner time. The next morning, Thursday,  Zelda greeted him with a quick lick that he was not overly enthused about but he accepted.

What is the take-away here?


The smell of the vet clinic is disturbing to Gus – he associates it with unpleasant experiences. I also think he finds it confusing and frightening when his housemates smell like the hospital – he is not sure who they really are and this makes him anxious and afraid. 

The safe place smells familiar and is quiet. It conveys a feeling of calm and safety and this helped Gus change his emotional state. By the time dinner came around, Zelda’s “hospital” smell had faded a bit more and the dinner routine helped reassure Gus. He remained calm and did not go out of his way to swat the other cats.

Going to the safe place is not a like the time-out used with human children. The time-out spot for children is a spot with minimal stimulation and away from other people. The idea is to remove the child from whatever was reinforcing the undesired behavior and have him/her calm down, link his or her behavior to the wrongdoing, and change it. 

Your cat will not link misbehavior with being isolated (human toddlers have trouble with this also). The safe place is not a punishment – it has all your cat’s resources (litter boxes and toys) and allows you to remove him from whatever is stimulating the “bad” behavior, in this case, the aggression between cats. The safe place should convey a feeling of calm to your cat and change his emotional state, from one of possible arousal and fear to one of calm and security. Once your cat feels calm and secure again, you will be able to interact with him and communicate with him – he should be able to respond to any training he has had.  In this case, if reintroduction is not successful after some “quiet time”, you may need to try a more gradual reintroduction.  See Introducing Cats: A Short Guide

Easter Egg

 

Happy Easter from The Feline Purrspective! Click on the egg for cats playing an Easter game!

Owning a cat does not mean that your arms and legs should be covered in bites and scratches.  Is there anything you can do if your cat gets aggressive when playing?

 First of all – understand “Play” for a cat is hunting practice and it is serious business.

Hardwired to Hunt…


Your cat is good at detecting fast motion – his eyes can process over 60 visual images per second. By comparison, we are able to process 20-30 images per second. Your cat is designed to detect the quick, rapid movements of mice and other rodents. Motion is what attracts him – if the prey “freezes” for long enough, it may get away to live another day.

A successful hunt ends with the capture of the prey. Sharp teeth and claws put an end to the game.

Aggresive play

Why your cat gets aggressive when playing…


It may seem cute to let your kitten climb your legs, and pounce on your hands and feet. When your kitten grows to be a large cat, fully equipped with sharp teeth and claws, this kind of play can be dangerous.

Even if you use gloves and let your cat bite and scratch the gloves, she is still viewing YOU as PREY.  After all, your arms are connected to the rest of you!

Cat bites and scratches easily become infected. Make sure to clean any bites and scratches with plenty of soap and water. Seek medical attention for bites  and scratches that break the skin.

So, you feel your cat gets aggressive while playing.  What can you do when he wants to play rough?

  • Use toys that keep your hands and feet away from him.
  • Don’t play games that have you pretending to be prey – if you want your cat to run after you, drag a string along behind you so that the string, not you, is the focus of his attention. 

    cat with wand toy
    Zelda plays with a toy mouse on a wand toy.

What if your cat initiates “rough play”?

What is happening?


  • Stalking and attacking your legs and feet?
  • Wrestling and attacking your hands?
  • Stalking and pouncing on you or the kids?

When does it happen?


  • When you arrive home from work?
  • When you are working and not able to pay attention to your cat?

Where does it happen?


  • Does the behavior occur in a certain place in the house?

THE PLAN: DISTRACT YOUR CAT BEFORE THE  “ROUGH PLAY” STARTS


Some examples…

Your cat attacks your legs and feet when you come in the door from work.


  • Have a basket of toys on a table near the door.
  • Direct her attention to a wand toy or catnip mouse BEFORE she starts to attack you.
  • If your cat does manage to complete the pounce, FREEZE – don’t run away, she will “hunt” you

Your cat pounces on you when go through the hallway


  •  This often starts as playing “peek-a-boo” around the corner. It usually goes away on its own, but some more bored cats may make a game of it.
  • Have a cache of toys nearby  or some treats that you toss BEFORE you get to the corner to distract him.
  • Or have a laser pointer in your pocket if this behavior happens at different corners
  • If your cat does manage to complete the pounce, FREEZE.  Do not reward him by acting like a prey animal trying to get away.

Your cat attacks your arm and hands while you are on the sofa watching TV


  • Have a cache of toys on a table next to the sofa
  • If you can intercept your cat before he launches on to the sofa, toss a treat or toy and direct him to it with a laser pointer.
  • If he gets you in a “clawed” embrace, FREEZE.  By not moving,  he should lose interest in you.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

A sturdy sheet of cardboard and long pants/sleeves, socks  and gloves can shield your legs, feet and hands during the “re-training” period. “Protective gear” will make staying still a bit easier.

Your cat gets aggressive when playing…Other things you can do.


 Keep your cat busy and happy.

  • Consider meal-feeding her with food puzzles – she can hunt for her food and not you!
  • Have a regular play time around the same time every day.
  • Set up a “safe place” for your cat to go when things are getting too stressful

Planning ahead – Set up a “Safe Place” for your cat

A safe place should be a place your cat feels secure
A safe place should have all her resources in it
It could be a spare room or hallway with the doors closed

Put your cat in her safe place

  • when you are working
  • when there is just too much going on
  • when she becomes overstimulated

Your cat is a superb hunter. Make sure that he does not view you, your hands or feet as prey.  Seek professional help if the simple strategies outlined here don’t work!

 

 

Your cat’s carrier should be his castle. His carrier should be a place of safety and comfort, a little piece of home away from home. Cats are territorial and are attached to their territory.  When your cat travels, the stroller, backpack or carrier is part of his territory – it has his scent and is a “safe place” for him.

You may need different carriers depending on what you are doing.  Strollers and backpacks are more suited to walking or hiking with your cat. A kennel-style cat carrier is better for extended car travel and veterinary visits.

Cat in hard kennek
The top comes off this hard kennel, making it easy to load Gus in the carrier.

There are many kennel-style cat carriers that you can buy. Here are some tips when choosing a cat carrier that you plan to use for extended car travel or vet visits.

  • the carrier should be large enough for your cat to stand up and turn around.
  • it should have a rigid frame so that it does not collapse on your cat.
  • it should be easy to take apart or have more than one opening where you can easily remove your cat from the carrier
  • easy to clean
  • make your cat feel safe and secure – like a wildcat’s den

Tips for Choosing a Cat Carrier for Car Travel and Vet Visits…


Hard, plastic carriers


  • come in lots of sizes.
  • many have detachable tops which makes getting your cat in and out easy
  • they are easy to clean
  • can be covered with a blanket or towel to make your cat feel secure

Flexible, fabric carriers


  • attractive and are not as bulky as the hard plastic ones
  • some of these carriers tend to collapse in on your cat and are not as comfortable for him to stay in for longer periods of time
  • more difficult to clean than the hard, plastic kennels

Even if the carrier is rigid and has a top panel that zips open or unlatches, it can be difficult to put the cat in when he doesn’t volunteer to go in on his own. It can be hard to fit your cat and your hands through the top panels. Some fabric carriers have a zippered front and side mesh panels, making loading and unloading a bit easier.

Choosing a cat carrier that comes apart into two sections – a top and a bottom – can be really handy. If you need to get the cat out of the carrier, you can remove the top half and gently pick him up out of the bottom. You can put him back in the carrier in the same way. Your veterinarian can examine your cat in the bottom half of the carrier, where he feels safe. The bottom half can double as a basket to sleep in.

Fom the feline purrspective… being dragged bodily out of a place you are sheltering in is confusing and frightening. Be aware that a cat may feel threatened if you have to drag him out and may strike or even bite.

Choosing a Cat Carrier…Make your Cat’s Carrier His Castle


 

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME


Leave the carrier out at home and let your cat nap and play in it. Place it in a “neutral” area – away from food and litter boxes.

 

PURRSONALIZE THE CARRIER


Place a towel or blanket that has your cat’s smell in the carrier. Put some of his favorite toys and treats in the carrier.

 

FUN AND GAMES


You can also play games with your cat in and around the carrier. If your cat is fond of “treat toss” (tossing treats that kitty “hunts” down), make sure some treats go into the carrier during the game.

 

TAKE KITTY FOR CAR RIDES THAT DON’T END UP AT THE VET.


Start with short rides, maybe just around the block. Work up to longer rides to pleasant places – if you have a cat stroller you could work up to going for walks in the park. Remember, always move at your cat’s pace – if he is hunched and hiding, slow down and shorten the length of the ride until kitty is comfortable. Ask your vet about treating carsickness if your cat is prone to it.

 

CLEAN AS A WHISTLE


Clean your cat’s carrier regularly. When you are finished, spray the carrier and the bedding inside with Feliway, a synthetic feline pheromone that tells your cat that this a safe place. Make sure to give enough time for the alcohol in the spray to dissipate before using the carrier – 20 minutes should do the trick!

A Cat in his carrier
Marley is “king of his castle”!

Car travel – where to put your cat’s carrier in the car

The Center for Pet Safety recommends placing your cat’s carrier behind the front passenger seat or driver seat.
Crash tests have shown that the seatbelt used to secure a carrier can actually crush it in an accident.
Unless the manufacturer can show you that the carrier survives a crash test buckled up, don’t use the seat belts with your cat’s carrier.