Celebration of All Things Felis sylvestris

“As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat” ~Ellen Perry Berkeley

National CAT DAY 2013

2013

Today, cat lovers all over the world celebrate and honor the felines that have touched their lives.  We also come together to encourage their adoption.

This national day of feline adoration and acknowledgment started in 2005.  Eight years later, the organizers hope to find at least 10,000 shelter animals new homes.  Why?  Well, because cats are amazing.  They are so misunderstood and highly underestimated.  They deserve our love and respect, and no animal deserves to live and end their life alone and scared in a shelter. And, as many of us know, rescued cats are by far, one of the best things in life.

Despite many of the myths about people who love cats, we are not “crazy”.  In fact, we are some of the most sincere, loving, devoted and kind-hearted people in the world.  As the Susan Easterly quote so perfectly explains, “People who love cats have some of the biggest hearts around.”

It takes a very special someone to understand a cat, to listen to them, and to take the time to figure out the puzzles they are.  Mysterious, warm, playful, affectionate, warrior-like, and wise; these are the traits of the wild and domestic cats that Conscious Companion has been blessed to have known.


 


In ancient Egypt cats were worshiped as gods. Cats have not forgotten this.


Dating from 664 B.C. - 395 A.D, Egyptians mummified their house cats. The ancient Egyptian reverence for cats is well-known—and well-documented in the archaeological record: scientists found a cat cemetery in Beni-Hassan brimming with 300,000 cat mummies. (National Museum of Natural History)
Egyptian cats were associated with the goddess Bastet, and were revered and immortalized in many forms of art, like this one.

Cats and humans have enjoyed a mostly symbiotic relationship for thousands of years. A study published in the journal Science secured more pieces in the cat-domestication puzzle based on genetic analyses.  They discovered that all domestic cats, are descended from a Middle Eastern wildcat, Felis sylvestris lybica, which literally means “cat of the woods.” Cats were first domesticated in the Near East, and many scientists speculate that the domestication process began up to 12,000 years ago!

A genetic study in 2007 revealed that domestic cats are descended from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica). I had the honor of working very closely with this species in captivity at the Audubon Zoo
A genetic study in 2007 revealed that domestic cats are descended from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica). I had the honor of working very closely with this species in captivity at the Audubon Zoo

 


Cats not only are an incredible source of affection, love and healing for us today, but they have always been useful to people in other ways.  As humans began to settle down, till the earth and store surplus crops, mice entered the picture. And when the first wild cats wandered into town, the stage was set for what the Science study authors call “one of the more successful ‘biological experiments’ ever undertaken.” The cats were delighted by the abundance of prey in the storehouses; people were delighted by the pest control. The symbiotic relationship was born.

Opus vermiculatum in the National Museum is a floor mosaic with a cat and two ducks from the late Republican era, first quarter of the 1st century BC. House cats were considered to be both useful and reverent to Roman society.
Opus vermiculatum in the National Museum is a floor mosaic with a cat and two ducks from the late Republican era, first quarter of the 1st century BC. House cats were considered to be both useful and reverent to Roman society.

You can view more images from the Smithsonian Museum’s A Brief History of House Cats here


Cats are the most popular animal companion, with over 95 million domesticated cats sashaying and sauntering around 34 percent of homes in the US alone!  Check out these house cat stats:

  • 95.6 million —  Estimated number of companion cats
  • 46 percent of guardians live with one cat
  • 31 percent of homes live with two cats
  • 24 percent of guardians live with three or more cats
  • 26 percent of companion cats were adopted from an animal shelter

Source: 2013-2014 statistics, contact the American Pet Products Association Pet Owners Survey

Top Ten Countries with Companion Cats
Top Ten Countries with Companion Cats

Cats are one of evolution’s most charismatic creatures. They can live on the highest mountains and in the hottest deserts. They are extremely adaptable and are now present on all continents except Antarctica, and on 118 of the 131 main groups of islands—even on sub-Antarctic islands. ~ Geneticist Stephen James O’Brien

wild cats desert and snow
Cats can live in forests, grasslands, tundra, coastal areas, agricultural land, scrublands, urban areas and wetlands. Their habitats even include small oceanic islands with no human inhabitants. Pictured here are the domestic shorthair cat (left) and The Sand Cat (Felis margarita) — “Desert Cat Extraordinaire”  on the right

 

Fascinating Feline Facts and Folklore: 

  • Dating from 664 B.C. – 395 A.D, Egyptians mummified their house cats. The ancient Egyptian reverence for cats is well known and well documented in the archaeological record: scientists found a cat cemetery in Beni-Hassan brimming with 300,000 cat mummies.
  • Ancient Celtic lore speaks of Grimalkin, a grey cat with magical powers. Many works of art have been dedicated to the Grimalkin. While magical cats are nothing new, it is interesting to note that even the Great Bard, Shakespeare spoke of Graymalkin in Macbeth. In Act I, the first witch says, “I come, Graymalkin,” when her feline familiar calls.
  • The religion of Islam speaks of cats as being clean, useful animals. (Which, all cat guardians know this to be true!) In the Islamic world, the cat was respected and protected at least in part because cats were loved by the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. According to folklore, Mohammed’s cat Muezza once fell asleep on the sleeve of his master’s robe –instead of disturbing his beloved cat when he had to leave, Mohammed cut off the sleeve of his robe.
  • Due to Papal influence in the 13th century, horrible acts of atrocity were carried out on humans and felines, all in the name of The Church. Black cats in particular were believed to be agents of the devil, especially if owned by an elderly woman and were burned alive with their human.
  • In Japan, there is a myth that cats turn into super spirits when they die. According to the Buddhist religion, the body of the cat is the temporary resting place of the soul of very spiritual people.
  • When God covered the world with water, and Noah set his ark afloat, the ark became infested with rats eating up the stores of food. Noah prayed for a miracle, and a pair of cats sprang to life from the mouths of the lion and lioness. They set to work, and quickly dispatched all the rats — but for the original two. As their reward, when the boat reached dry land the cats walked at the head of the great procession of Noah’s animals. Which is why, the legend concludes, all cats are proud, to this very day.
  • Some people believe that cats engage in astral travel even in life. They also believe that if a cat adopts you, it will stay with you forever, even after death.
  • The Druids thought black cats were human beings. These humans in cat form were punished for evil deeds.
  • In ancient Poland, Ovinnik, who appeared in the form of a black cat, was worshipped by many farming families because he watched over domestic animals and chased away evil-natured ghosts and mischievous fairies. Like most creatures of Slavonic mythology, they were great until you didn’t appreciate them or give them what they needed — then they made mischief that could have tragic results.
  • King Osorkon, of the twenty-second dynasty, placed a white cat in the center of a magnificent temple and ritually endowed it with supreme power.
  • The Romans respected the vermin-catching abilities of the domestic cat, but also saw them as exotic pets and sacred animals. They associated the cat with liberty and divinity and so the cat was the only animal allowed to walk freely around their temples. Libertas (the goddess of liberty) was often depicted with a cat at her feet
  • Fisherman’s wives kept black cats while their husbands went away to sea.  They believed that the black cats would prevent danger from occurring to their husbands.  These black cats were considered so valuable that they were often stolen.
In Norse mythology, Freyja (Old Norse the "Lady") is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats
In Norse mythology, Freyja (Old Norse the “Lady”) is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja rides a chariot pulled by two cats

The cat, it is well to remember, remains the friend of man because it pleases him to do so and not because he must. ~Carl Van Vechten


Since cats are known for bringing laughter into the home, World Cat Day wouldn’t be complete without some humorous feline facts.  To help educate us about our furry feline friends in a comical way, check out these humorous 17 Things Worth Knowing About Your Cat.

Click the Image Above
Click On the Image! 


But if you really want to get to know cats of all shapes, sizes, and species, check out our Feline Resources and Support pages HERE.


 

egyptian cat gods

“O sacred cat! Your mouth is the mouth of the god Atum, the lord of life who has saved you from all taint.” ~ 4th Century B.C. Song of Praise from Egypt


 

References:

http://www.terriwindling.com/blog/cats-cat-lore/

http://www.nationalcatday.com/index.htm

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/cat_know

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/brief_cats.html

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership

http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/countries-with-most-pet-cat-population.html


Feline Articles and Must-Know Info!

More Please! … Please Stop!

Petting: to stroke, caress, fondle, or pat an animal affectionately

I can certainly do without that “F word”, but you get the idea of what petting is. We all love to pet our animals. It makes us feel good. It relaxes us, and it increases our mood. But what exactly is it doing to, or for, our animals?

Anyone that has ever met a cat knows that felines can be particularly sensitive to petting. It matters to the cat who’s doing the petting, how they are petting, and for how long the petting lasts. If you are unsure when to stop petting, a cat will tell you when you are done, usually well before you are ready to stop petting him or her.

CAT:  You failed to notice that I wanted you to stop petting me, so here is how I tell you that you can stop petting me NOW.
CAT: You failed to notice that I wanted you to stop petting me, so this is how I tell you that you can stop petting me NOW.

If you really think about it, humans (especially those of us who know what they like) are not that different from cats.  I don’t like to be manhandled. I don’t enjoy being touched by strangers without being asked first. I like my personal space. If I don’t like the way someone is massaging my back or neck, you can bet that I will ask him or her to stop. Usually I don’t bite. Cats know what they like and don’t like, and they have no problem telling us. I adore them for that very reason.

Last week there was a lot of discussion around this very subject.  It centered around a study published recently in the journal “Physiology & Behavior” suggesting that petting cats in general can actually stress them out!  The study was conducted by animal behavior experts from Brazil, Austria and Britain. They examined whether cats living in multi-cat households are more stressed than cats housed singly. The researchers found that cats release hormones linked to anxiety when handled by humans.  Many media outlets responded to the study with an interpretation of the results and published articles titled “Cats Hate to be Stroked”.

I was a bit surprised, believing this scientific article to be true, but I kept rolling it over and over in my head. I kept trying to correlate the article to all four of our cats, and it didn’t seem to add up.  Only two of the four cats in our home have ever shown that they are stressed from being petted, and that was usually when “the “petter” was not aware that the cat was already wound tightly, or stressed from other stimuli in the home.  The other two love to be petted 24/7, no matter what is happening in their environment. So what gives?

To the relief of conscious cat guardians everywhere, who thought they would have to keep their hands off their felines, one of the study’s authors quickly issued a release retracting her conclusion.  The co-author, Rupert Palme of the Institute of Medical Biochemistry at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, explains: “As a matter of fact, the majority of the cats enjoyed being stroked. Only those animals that did not actually like to be stroked, but nevertheless allowed it, were stressed.” She explained that the study had been misinterpreted and assured cat guardians that they “can carry on stroking their four-legged friends without worry.”  Good to know.

John Bradshaw, author of Cat Sense was recently interviewed by National Geographic and he explained, “I think what they have shown is that there are some kinds of cats that are very anxious about something, and you pick that up from the stress hormones they are excreting as well as the fact that they are very nervous when they are being stroked. They aren’t stressed because they are being stroked; they are stressed because something in their lives is making them very twitchy and very apt to overreact to things. But [the researchers] weren’t able to pinpoint what that was.”

 

“Cats are in no way generally stressed when they are stroked. It depends much more on the situation and the character of the individual animal.” ~ Professor Rupert Palme

The Updated and Corrected Summary of How Petting Affects Felines:

  • Every cat feels and reacts differently
  • The majority of cats like to be stroked

If you are a cat guardian, you probably already know those two facts.

Every cat is unique, so we must interact with them as individuals. Each cat has certain preferences
Every cat is unique, so we must interact with them as individuals. Each cat has preferences.

“It seems that those cats on whom the owner imposes him or herself are the ones we need to be most concerned about.” ~Professor Daniel Mills

Now, I must mention that petting a cat may seem like a fairly simple thing to do, but there is much more to it than you think.  Jackson Galaxy, TV star and cat behaviorist, offers his tips on how to ensure that petting a cat will be enjoyable for everyone involved.  You will see in the video below that there is no mindless full-body petting, and he is aware of where she enjoys to be touched. He also asks permission several ways.

The dog may be wonderful prose, but only the cat is poetry.

~French Proverb

 

Cat Sense

Cats have been popular household companion animals for thousands of years, and their numbers only continue to rise. Today there are three cats for every dog on the planet, and yet cats remain more mysterious, even to their most adoring guardians.  Unlike dogs, cats evolved as solitary hunters, and, while many have learned to live alongside humans and even feel affection for us, they still don’t quite get us” the way dogs do, and perhaps they never will.  But cats have rich emotional lives that we need to respect and understand if they are to thrive in our company.

Image

In CAT SENSE: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, renowned anthrozoologist John Bradshaw takes us further into the mind of the domestic cat than ever before, using cutting-edge scientific research to dispel the myths and explain the true nature of our feline friends.

Tracing the cat’s evolution from lone predator to domesticated companion, Bradshaw shows that although cats and humans have been living together for at least eight thousand years, cats remain independent, predatory, and wary of contact with their own kind, qualities that often clash with our modern lifestyles.

As Bradshaw shows, cats still have three out of four paws firmly planted in the wild, and within only a few generations can easily revert back to the independent way of life that was the exclusive preserve of their predecessors some 10,000 years ago. Yet cats are astonishingly flexible, and given the right environment they can adapt to a life of domesticity with their owners—but to continue do so, they will increasingly need our help. If we’re to live in harmony with our cats, Bradshaw explains, we first need to appreciate their inherited quirks: understanding their body language, keeping their environments—however small—sufficiently interesting, and becoming more proactive in managing both their natural hunting instincts and their relationships with other cats.

A must-read for any cat lover, CAT SENSE offers humane, penetrating insights about the domestic cat that challenge our most basic assumptions and promise to dramatically improve our animal companion’s lives—and ours.

Read an excerpt here!

Click Here for a Chance to Win a Book Giveaway for Cat Sense!

Emotional Eating In Animals

Image

Jack Sprat he loved no fat,
and his wife she lov’d no lean:
And yet betwixt them both,
they lick’t the platters clean.

English Proverb (1670)

The American waistline isn’t the only thing that’s a growing problem.  Companion animals are packing on the pounds as well.   Studies show that up to 60 percent of companion dogs and cats are obese or overweight.  They are actually in worse shape than we are, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of Americans are obese.  You do the math.

What’s most surprising is that calories and laziness are not the only factors causing this epidemic in animals.   If an animal in your home puts on weight, you might assume it is simply the result of an animal with a voracious appetite combined with an indulgent owner.  New evidence is showing us otherwise.

obese cat
Stress eating is quite common in humans but until recently, it was not considered a prime cause of domestic animal obesity.

According to the research review, published recently in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, companion animals can use food as a “coping mechanism” to deal with “emotional distress”.  Many pets are becoming obese because they are prone to “emotional eating”, where they eat in an attempt to dispel feelings of unhappiness and stress.

Comfort or stress eating in humans involves specific kinds of foods. These can range from sweet to salty, crunchy or soft.  However animals will usually eat whatever and whenever.  Their stress eating doesn’t involve any particular food. They just eat a lot of their normal food, explains Dr. Franklin McMillan, a vet and former clinical professor of medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine:

Research shows that animals, like humans, can eat too much, not necessarily out of hunger, but also a result of “disinhibition” – whereby overeating is in response to stimuli other than internal hunger cues, such as stress. ~ Dr. Franklin McMillan

He also cites earlier studies to show that some animals offered an abundance of food do not overeat, as well as others showing a link between stress and negative emotions and eating. McMillan identifies several triggers to an animal’s stress eating. Some of these triggers are boredom, anxiety and depression. He also addresses skeptical animal guardians who think their pets are only happy when their faces are buried in a food dish, by explaining that research on pet obesity suggests overeating can be a sign of a pet’s pleasurable emotional state, or an animal mind “in turmoil.”

some pets use food as a coping mechanism to cope with emotional distress
Some animals use food as a coping mechanism to cope with emotional distress

The review makes one other thing clear — we need to change the way we think about pet obesity. Simply taking the food dish away or running your dog around the block aren’t necessarily going to address the underlying causes of stress eating.  Not all instances of pet obesity are tangled up in a pet’s emotional distress (some pets are just gluttons, and some owners are just irresponsible) so it’s important to recognize that one cause of an animal’s obesity is that the animal is eating more than it requires, the excess is stored as fat, hence the animal becomes overweight.  By overfeeding an improper diet that contains too much fat, too many carbohydrates and too many snacks without proper exercise will lead to obesity.  However, McMillan’s article shows that, just like with human obesity, pet obesity is probably way more complex than we realize.

 

Dr McMillan, who now works for Best Friends Animal Society, says the findings are such that they should change the way obesity in cats and dogs is addressed.  Rather than simply reducing the amount of food they can eat and increasing their exercise, guardians and veterinarians need to address the animal’s underlying emotional problems.  By simply putting an “emotional eater”on a diet, they could make the situation worse; taking away the animal’s “coping mechanism” and making the animal even more unhappy – and even hungrier.

The bottom line is that there is a ton of evidence in humans and animals like rodents that stress induced eating, or emotional eating is a very real thing and contributes to obesity, so we should be looking at it in “pet” animals.  If this is a major factor in our pet animals, then the standard approach, by simply yanking away their food, is very misguided and potentially harmful.  The indicators show that obesity is rising in humans and in pets. How much is attributable to emotional factors – that is the great unknown. 

fat ginger tabby
Fat animals are not cute. Obese pets are at serious risk for health problems and being overweight is damaging to their overall well being.

The United States is not the only country to see an increase in waistlines of humans and animal companions.  Two thirds of veterinary professionals in Europe say that pet obesity is the single biggest health issue facing domestic animals throughout Europe, with 96% of those questioned identifying early death as the most serious consequence of the condition.  Britain’s obesity crisis has claimed a new victim – the nation’s horses.  A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour found that a third of recreational riders were too obese for their mounts, leaving the animals at risk of several welfare conditions.

The United States is not the only country to see an increase in waistlines of humans and animal companions.  Two thirds of veterinary professionals in Europe say that pet obesity is the single biggest health issue facing domestic animals throughout Europe, with 96% of those questioned identifying early death as the most serious consequence of the condition.  Britain’s obesity crisis has claimed a new victim – the nation’s horses.  A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour found that a third of recreational riders were too obese for their mounts, leaving the animals at risk of several welfare conditions.

To address this weighty problem, the first Animal Obesity Clinic geared especially for our animal companions has opened its door!  Created by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, The Tufts’ Veterinary Obesity Clinic will tap the strengths of the Cummings School’s nutrition service, a 15-year-old clinical, teaching and research service located at its Grafton, Mass., Foster Hospital for Small Animals — one of the nation’s busiest teaching hospitals.


 FAT FACTS

  • Triggers to an animal’s Stress Eating can be boredom, anxiety, general stress and depression.
  • Obese cats are more likely to be living in houses with only one or two cats.
  • Dogs in single dog households were more likely to be fat. Female dogs seem to be more susceptible to obesity than male ones.
  • Vets say over half the pets they see are overweight and most guardians are surprised to hear this news.
  • The obesity rate is at least 25% in cats and 45% in dogs.
  • Eight out of 10 dog, cat, and rabbit guardians believe that their animal is just the right weight, although when asked which of a series of pictures most closely resembled their pet, only 33% of dog guardians and 23% of cat guardians chose the “normal weight” picture.
  • Breeds prone to obesity: Labrador retriever, cairn terrier, cavalier king charles, Scottish terrier, cocker spaniel and in cats, the domestic shorthair. (For the record I would like to nominate the orange tabby cat to be added to this list.)

being overweight can lead to complications such as diabetes, orthopedic problems and respiratory complications, as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy.
Animal obesity leads to complications such as diabetes, orthopedic problems and respiratory complications, as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy.

Animals Are Not Meant to Be Chubby!

In the video below, Rollin’ Safari shows a series of four animated shorts created as an animation project by students from Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, a film school in Germany.  Each short puts a humorous spin on animals seen in the wild by making them extremely bloated and round.  As humorous and clever as the clips are, they are not far from the truth of what is happening with the animals that we share a home with.

You can learn more about this project at CGSociety.

obese fat pets emotional eating

 Tools You Can Use

To tackle the companion animal obesity issue The Pet Food Manufacturers Association PFMA launched an obesity prevention campaign.  The aim is to raise awareness of companion animal obesity by asking animal guardians to take action on 4 simple things:

1.  Read the feeding guidelines on the pet food packet 

2. Monitor your animal’s weight on a regular basis and adjust the amounts fed accordingly

3. Use a Pet Size-O-Meter for cats, dogs and rabbits.  (This is a user friendly version of the Body Condition Score Chart used by pet professionals).

Being a Conscious Companion means we monitor the health of our companion animals
Being a Conscious Companion means we monitor the health of our companion animals

Download the Size-O-Meters for all species in your home:

4. Track Their Health – Keep track of your companion animals health using these:

fat_bunny
Companion rabbits suffer from obesity too

It can be difficult to judge a rabbit’s body condition visually because their thick fur can hide prominent bones or disguise fat.  You will need to feel your rabbit so you can tell what is underneath the fluff.  A rabbit in healthy weight should have a smooth curve from neck to tail, and from hip to hip. You should be able to feel the spine and ribs but they should feel rounded not sharp – like they have a thin layer of padding.  It is normal, for females, to have a roll of fur under the chin. This is called a dewlap. It can look like fat but should just feel like a fold of skin when gently felt.  Learn more about how to determine and maintain healthy rabbit weight here and here.

 

Why You Should Be Proactive and Involved

We love our animals and we give them the best care possible, but unfortunately many of them are overweight. As their guardians we want to keep them happy, healthy and safe, so it’s easy to be embarrassed when one of your animals puts on the pounds like they are storing up for the next Ice Age. If one of your companion animals is putting on the pounds, remember that you are not alone. I am the first to admit that we have an obese cat. We have tried everything from prescription foods, holistic medicine, monitoring his food intake, increasing his physical activity and everything else you can imagine, but genetics and his love of food are winning the battle of the bulge. After discovering this study about emotional eating in animals I now firmly believe that this cat is a prime example of an animal who eats to comfort himself. Humans do it, so why wouldn’t animals? The question is how do we help them? What can we do to help their emotional needs, other than placing more food in front of them?
What about your animal family? Do you have a porky pooch, a hefty horse, a ravenous rabbit, a fat feline, or a big bird?
Do you think their extra pounds are due to a sedentary lifestyle and the foods they consume, or could they be an emotional eater?

 


SOURCES:

http://www.pfma.org.uk

http://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-obesity-campaign/

http://www.therabbithouse.com

http://www.rabbitwelfare.co.uk

http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/animals-are-becoming-obese-like-us-says-study.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9950467/Easy-rider.-Why-horses-are-feeling-the-strain-of-Britains-obesity-crisis.html

Was It Out of Spite? Think Again.

Dogs do not do things out of spite or malice. They are often bored, scared, or need exercise!
Animals don’t do things out of spite or malice. They are often bored, frightened, or need exercise!

Many animal guardians truly believe that their cat, dog, bird, rabbit, pig, horse etc. does things “to them” out of spite or malice.  New Flash: This is not true.  When we don’t know how or why an animal behavior problem exists, we tend to make it about us; we personalize it.  In the animal behavior world, this is referred to this as Anthropomorphism.

Anthropomorphism: Attributing human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena

I need to be exercised. I am bored. I need to expend my energy elsewhere. Please help me, human.
I need to be exercised. I am bored. I need to expend my energy elsewhere. I am not trying to be a jerk. Please help me, human.


8 Things We Must Acknowledge:

1. All Behavior Serves a Purpose.

Every behavior that at animal does serves a purpose to fit that animal’s particular need at the time; that purpose is not to upset us.  When we find urine or feces on purses, backpacks, clothing, bedding, etc. most people’s first thought is usually that the cat or dog is doing it because he or she is mad or spiteful.  Nothing could be further from the truth. When your pet urinates or defecates on items in the house (your baby’s diaper bag, your boyfriend’s backpack, or your husband’s uniform), it’s not because they are jealous or spiteful.

I see you brought a new item into the house.  I will pee on that new thing and it will be mine.
I see you brought a new item into the house.  I will pee on that new thing and our scents have become One 😉


There could be a few reasons behind this behavior.  Unfamiliar scents in the home can be a stressor for our pets.  Cats “reaffirm” their claim on their territory by marking on a new item.  Although we don’t like it, this is a very normal feline behavior.  When they mark (pee or defecate on them), they are claiming that that particular territory belongs to them. (Diaper bag and backpack = their turf).

Self-preservation is at the root of almost all cat behavior.

Spraying Is Communication.  The abundance of pheromones in your cat’s urine spray are packed full of important tidbits. Spraying provides information about reproductive status, age, sex and even a cat’s emotional state! If you want the spraying to stop, you need to find out what and to whom your cat is trying to communicate.

Cat Spraying is NOT out of Spite_Why Cats Spray


Is it Medical?

If your dog is peeing inside the house, you need to first make sure there is not a medical issue at hand.  When a previously house-trained adult dog starts having accidents in the home, you need to see the veterinarian.  There very well could be a medical component to the accidents, such as a urinary tract infection or the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction.

Is it Environmental?

As their guardian, we need to review any changes that have occurred in our dog’s life.  Ask yourself:  Has there been a move, a change in routine or schedule, a change in diet, more people in the home – guests or new family members, the loss of a family member, a new pet, or the loss of a pet?  These are just a few changes that can contribute to a dog feeling anxious. Anxiety and stress can lead to inappropriate soiling in the house.

Are you gone all day? Dogs really shouldn’t have to hold their bladder for more than 4 or 5 hours. Consider asking a neighbor or dog walker to let your dog out while your’re away. You try holding your bladder for 8+ hours. I know I can’t.

Your dog may be anxious about conditions outside.  The sound of distant thunderstorms, construction, or traffic can all be very stressful for some dogs.  Your dog may normally potty outside, but if the noise is happening, he/she may hunker down indoors and refuse to leave the house; this can lead to  potty accidents in your home.


2. Our Human Perception Is Very Different Than an Animal’s

Ok, so you still aren’t convinced that animals are not acting like jerks just to upset us?   Let’s really think about this.  If our companion animals peed and pooped out of spite or malice, that means they would have to understand and believe that urine and feces are “gross”.  (But that is our personal, human perception of urine and feces; not theirs.)

Science shows that animals view feces and urine quite differently.  To an animal, there is nothing gross about taking a nice fat dump, or a long steamy pee.  In fact, urine and poop are absolutely fascinating to animals!  That’s why they investigate another animal’s urine and feces to learn more about them!

Poop has a plethora of information!
Poop has a plethora of information!


3. Assigning Human Attributes to Animals Is a Big Mistake

Have you ever done anything out of spite?  Think about what’s involved.  You have to do something now in order to upset somebody later.  You also need detailed insight into what would upset the other person, even if that same thing wouldn’t upset you.  And you have to plan it out, because the Nasty Surprise isn’t going to happen now, and might not happen for hours, days, or weeks later. That’s a lot of forethought for an animal. This is what cognitive scientists call “theory of mind“.  It’s the understanding that others have a viewpoint and perceptions all of their own, which might or might not be the same as yours.  Theory of Mind is “the way somebody conceives of mental activity in others, including how children conceptualize mental activity in others and how they attribute intention to and predict the behavior of others.”  

Experiments testing imitation, self-recognition, social relationships, deception, role-taking (or empathy), and perspective-taking help us to answer whether nonhuman animals have theory of mind.  Results have been mixed; only some results show the possibility that animals demonstrate awareness of the mental states of others.

I have my own personal beliefs about this. Almost every species I have worked with has demonstrated that they are self aware, but being spiteful and vengeful  were not part of the equation. So it’s really a very far stretch to believe that your cat, dog, rabbit, or pig can think to him/herself, “I find urine and poop quite interesting and informative, but my people are totally grossed out when they find a steamy pile of it on the family room carpet.  Hmmm.  I think I will poop there just to see their reaction.  I might even pee on their pillow.  That will teach them to not leave me again.”

Our animals are not plotting their revenge to get a reaction from you in the future!  Their behavior is not about YOU.   Let’s review this one more time:

 Anthropomorphism: Attributing human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena


4. But They Look Sooooo Guilty!

I hear people say this all the time, “But they look and act guilty when I find the mess!”.  Here’s the simple truth: If your pet seems to look as if they know they did something wrong after they have shredded something to pieces, or if they have peed or pooped in an off-limits area, there is a very simple explanation; they have learned that wanton destruction or pooping and peeing in the house combined with the presence of their guardian equals bad things (punishment or scolding).

When our pup puts on that doleful, guilty look, they must be guilty of something, right?  He/she clearly feels bad for doing something wrong!   The truth is simply this:  when your dog knows that you are upset he/she will use various facial expressions and body postures (their natural dog language with each other) for you to settle down and therefore avoid punishment.  

A group of canine cognition researchers created an experiment about the myth of guilt that explained the behavior that we see in our dogs when they display that “guilty look”.

There is plenty of evidence for what scientists refer to as primary emotions – happiness and fear, for example – in animals. But empirical evidence for secondary emotions like jealousy, pride, and guilt, is extremely rare in the animal cognition literature. The argument usually given for this lack of evidence is that such secondary emotions seem to require a level of cognitive sophistication, particularly when it comes to self-awareness or self-consciousness, that may not exist in non-human animals.  In other words, guilt is complicated.

Hey, if you left them out and they smell like you, they are going to get chewed. Don't be angry.  Prevent it and provide appropriate toys for them to chew!
Hey, if you left your things and they smell like you, they are going to get chewed. Don’t be angry. Prevent it next time by removing access to “unauthorized” chew things and provide appropriate toys!


5. Animals Do Have Emotions.

Unfortunately, many of us have learned that humans can be vindictive and spiteful.  However (but fortunately), this is not part of an animal’s nature.  Their innocence and purity of heart is one of the many reasons that we adore them.  But as you probably have learned for yourself, many of the animals we live with do not come with a clean slate.  Many of them have emotional burdens.  Many of them are sensitive to our emotions.

Because of this, our companion animals can (and will) destroy or improperly eliminate due to underlying emotional reasons. FACT: Anxiety is the most common emotional state underlying soiling in the house and destroying “our property”.   Anxiety is also the number one reason why physical punishment should NEVER be used for correcting behaviors.  Can you imagine being stressed beyond belief that your human has left you, so you destroy something, and then your human comes home to scream at you, or hit you?  Punishment only creates more fear.

Physical and mental punishment never helps the situation, and it certainly only makes behavior issues worse.

Avoid Punishment.

What if you were sick and you couldn’t hold your urine or bladder, then someone hit you, yelled at you, or rubbed your face in it? How would that make you feel? Would you learn not to do it again? Or would you start to fear that person, OR fear going to the bathroom in front of them?

Punishing your dog for potty accidents in the house is never a viable solution. Rather than learning that going inside the house is wrong, your dog will learn that people are unsafe and unpredictable. This can make your dog afraid to go potty in front of you, even outside, and it can make indoor accidents more frequent.

This will continue to happen until you give me appropriate chew toys.
This will continue to happen until you give me appropriate chew toys. I am bored. I have so much energy that needs to be released through healthy exercise. Help me.


6. Pets Are Not “Fur Kids”.

Ok, we all refer to our pets as “fur kids”, but animals are not humans.  Animals have their very own specific environmental, mental, and physical needs that need to be met.  When we treat them as if they are children, we are not recognizing what they inherently need to be happy and healthy in our home.  Your pet is not a child, nor should they be treated like one.  We need to learn to see animals for who they are; a living being that has species-specific needs. Of course our pets have distinct personalities, and they are some of our greatest teachers, but they are not children.  We do them a disservice when we don’t allow them to be a dog, a cat, or a parrot.  When we label them, and put unrealistic expectations on them, we hinder them, and what they need to fully thrive in our home.

These clothes smell new. I think I will make them smell more like me by peeing on them.
These clothes smell new. I think I will make them smell more like me by peeing on them. I am a cat. This is what we cats do.


7. If There Is a Behavioral Issue, It’s Your Job to Figure Out Why.

If your pet is house soiling or destroying “unauthorized items”, it’s your job as their guardian to figure out WHY.  There is always a reason, and I promise it’s not to upset you.  When we explain behaviors away by saying the animal is just “mad” at us or “being a jerk”, we are missing what’s really going on with our animal companions.  Your animal companion may need your HELP, instead of your anger and frustration. As their guardians, we have to learn to see their motivation behind the behavior.  Ask yourself:

  • Is there a medical issue that needs to be addressed?
  • Are they stressed from someone else, or another animal in the house?
  • Is there something outside that is adding stress?
  • Are they experiencing separation anxiety?
  • Are they bored?
  • Do they need more mental and physical enrichment?

Animals will find things to chew if we do not provide appropriate ones.
Animals will find things to chew if we do not provide appropriate ones.


 8. There could be a medical or behavioral issue that needs to be addressed ASAP!

When someone contacts me to help them with a behavior issue that they are seeing in their pet, the first thing I ask is, “When is the last time your ___ had a medical exam?  This is where we want to start.  If there is a behavior issue, we need to rule out the possibility of underlying health issues.   Health issues -in every species of animal- can directly affect their behavior. If there is a confirmed clean bill of health by the veterinarian, then we can start to address the environment, and what might be creating the new, (undesirable) behaviors that they are seeing in their pet.  This can be anything from their diet, to their “person”. Here are some common possibilities for why your pet is doing what you might refer to as “naughty things” when you’re not home:

  • They are climbing out of their skin with excess energy because h/she doesn’t receive enough exercise!
  • They cannot hold their urine or feces for the long time that you are gone.
  • Something else is scaring, frightening, or stressing them while you’re gone.

cat scratcing furniture
If you had given me an appropriate cat scratching post, I wouldn’t have done this to the couch. It was my only option.


So what’s the take home message here?  Our animals are not plotting their revenge on us.  They are not planning how to get back at us.  They are not programmed the way humans are.  So we must learn to recognize what is really going on with the animal that we have chosen to bring into our lives. Yes, “accidents” and mishaps happen in the house, but not because that’s the animal’s way of acting out and being “mad” at us.   Please take the human perceptions and judgments out of the situation, and learn to view life from the animal’s perspective.  Help them!  Find out what they need and what is causing their behavior.  There is always a valid reason and explanation behind it, and it’s not about trying to upset us.


“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” –Anais Nin


Recommended Reading:


Sources: http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/behavior/behavioral_medicine_introduction/diagnosis_of_behavioral_problems.html

http://www.journalvetbehavior.com/article/S1558-7878(11)00156-0/abstract

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/EncyHumBehav.html

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/2487

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1333309/

http://petbehaviorblog.wordpress.com

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/ http://www.littlebigcat.com

http://www.parrottoysandsuppliesblog.com/tag/foraging-bird-toys/

Feline High-Fives!

Cat Greeting

We have all seen it, or we have had it done to us. You are minding your own business and a cat sticks his or her butt in your face.

Cats do this when they are greeting a person, another cat, a dog, etc.  They will also do this when you are petting them.  Most of us think that cats do this because they want you to scratch that area, but this is simply not true.  (By the way, do not touch “that area” unless you want a paw to the jaw).  

So why do cats offer us their rear end?  Well, simply put, a kitty derrière in your face is the feline version of a high-five in cat language!

Cats have scent glands at the base of their tails that produce their own “signature” scent.  When they offer this posture to you or another animal they are saying, “I trust you.  Go ahead.  Check me out.  Get a good whiff of what I have goin’ on.”

 

So the next time a cat offers their rear to you, don’t be offended.  It’s a compliment!

cat_body_language
Cat tails are expressive, but you have to look at the whole cat to see the full story: A cat with a straight-up tail is displaying confidence and friendliness. But if the cat is also displaying an upright tail with erect fur, dilated pupils, and ears folded back, this cat is exhibiting fear or aggression. We must read all of our cat’s signals to see the full story!

 

Does your feline family member offer you their derrière?

Crepuscular Cats!

June 2013Image

A firefly (Photuris lucicrescens) or “lightning bug” is a crepuscular beetle


June 2013

Cat lovers love their cats, but let’s be honest: Not all cat lovers know cat facts. Here’s one common misconception about house cats:

Myth:  Cats are nocturnal.

Fact:  The domestic house cat (Felis silvestris catus) is actually crepuscular, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn.  Most indoor cats follow a very specific trend of dawn and dusk activity, rather than strictly at night.  

Crepuscular behavior is also one of the reasons why cats wake us up every morning at the Same. Darn. Time.

cat night vision
Cats and fireflies are both crepuscular!

Crepuscular Critters!

Crepuscular animals are species that are active primarily during twilight (at dawn and dusk). They tend to sleep at night and lay low during midday, when the sun is at its peak, reserving their energy when it’s hottest.  The word crepuscular is derived from the Latin crepusculum, meaning “twilight”.   Crepuscular behavior differs from diurnal and nocturnal behavior, which respectively peak during hours of daylight and darkness.  However, crepuscular critters can also be active on a bright moonlit night, or on an overcast day.  Some animals that are casually described as nocturnal are actually crepuscular.  There are subdivisions of crepuscular animals.  Matutinal animals are most active in the morning, while vespertine animals are most active at dusk.

Cats_crepuscular_not nocturnal_dusk dawn animal activity_why does my cat_cat behavior_cat wakes up

I hesitate to state that every house cat is crepuscular, but most indoor cats do fall under the crepuscular category.   However, it’s important to note that companion cats have adapted to our schedules so that each individual cat, whether a stray alley cat or pampered house cat, can change their activity level at will, choosing to become less nocturnal or more diurnal in response to their environment or the routine of their humans.

The time of day when cats are most active may not be all hard-wired genetically, but may vary according to their lifestyle, which is greatly influenced by the human in their house.  This was revealed in a scientific study.  The results showed that there was a “high influence of human presence, and human care on the amount of activity in cats”.  This means that many companion cats will adapt their activity levels according to how they are cared for by their person, and the routines that the person has in their home.  It seems that many house cats are more “in sync” with their people than previously believed!

Feral cats’ daily activity patterns—sleeping during the day and being active at night, which likely reflects the behavior of their prey, lets them better avoid humans—was very different from kitties with homes.  Those animals were most active in the morning and evening, when their owners were likely home and awake. ~ The Secret Lives of Feral Cats

Knox, our youngest cat is a perfect example of a crepuscular kitty - most active at dawn and dusk, and sleeping mostly during the day and night.
Knox, our youngest cat is a perfect example of a crepuscular kitty – most active at dawn and dusk, and sleeping mostly during the day and night.


Fast Feline Fact:  Most cats will sleep up to 16 hours a day, and older cats will sleep as much as 20 hours a day!  These sleeping times vary in individual cats and in each home, but most sleep is during the daytime.  When cats are most active is dependent on the home environment and how in sync they are with the sun, or their human’s schedule.


Secretive Kitties or Careful Cats?

Some people live with felines that hide away all day in their secretive, quiet spots in the house while the humans or other animals are awake and moving about.  If this is the case, then chances are your Secretive Kitties will creep out at night when the coast is clear.  One of my feline companions, Samantha, loved to explore the house when the people and the annoying Kitty Boys were asleep.  She would wait until the house was “sleeping”, then romp around, playing with toys and jumping about when she thought no one was watching.  She loved to explore every nook and cranny of the house when she knew it was safe.  The prime real-estate window that was claimed during the day became her throne at night.

black_cat_near_window-t2

Samantha and the kitty boys are much like the average cat that sleeps between 12 and 20 hours every day, but they had very different schedules that fit their feline needs.  While this varies from cat to cat, most of a cat’s sleep takes place during the daytime.  This daytime hiding and sleeping behavior tends to make humans believe that cats are nocturnal.  If we rarely see them during the day and then see them come out at night when they are most comfortable, we assume they are nocturnal.   However, true nocturnal animals hunt, forage, eat, bathe, etc. at night.


Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by activity during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is “nocturnal”.  Nocturnal animals are more active at night than during the day.  These animals sleep during the day, often in a burrow or den. Many animals, like desert animals, are nocturnal in order to escape extreme daytime heat.

Hedgehogs, red-eyed treefrogs and barn owls are true nocturnal species
Hedgehogs, red-eyed treefrogs and barn owls are true nocturnal species


 Older Cats and Outdoor Cats

Outdoor cats tend to display more nocturnal behaviors, due to their natural hunting instinct and their ability to follow through on this powerful innate need to hunt, capture, and kill prey.  Scientists believe that nighttime is when cats’ prey is most active outdoors.  Therefore hunting is best at this time. This behavior stems from their lineage as desert cats, where nighttime temperatures were cooler, and prey was more available.

Panthers are also crepuscular (most active at dusk and dawn)!  They tend to rest during the daytime, then travel long miles to hunt during the cooler hours of the evening and early morning.
Panthers are also crepuscular (most active at dusk and dawn)! They tend to rest during the daytime, then travel long miles to hunt during the cooler hours of the evening and early morning.

Younger cats tend to stay up at night, because they instinctively know that this is “prime hunting time”.  But as cats grow older, they will adapt to the sleeping patterns of their home environment.  Eventually these cats will become more crepuscular.

I have seen this happen with our two older male cats. They sleep most of the day, are very active early in the morning (dawn), very active at dusk, but sleep again when the rest of the humans (and dog) are asleep at night.  Our youngest cat stays up later than the older boys, but he does eventually come to bed after he is done exploring the quiet house.

Scottish wildcat
Scottish wildcats are active at dawn and dusk when hunting or marking territory


Fun Feline Sight Facts:

Cats’ night time vision is far superior to that of humans, however they can’t see in total darkness.  The structure of a cat ’s eye allows them to see well in low light.  Cats only need 1/6 of the light humans do in order to decipher shapes.  The muscles of the cat’s iris surrounding the pupils are constructed to allow the eye to narrow to a vertical slit in bright light and to open fully in very dim light, to allow maximum illumination.  These special feline features developed for survival purposes, as wild cats are nocturnal and do much of their hunting at night.

cats eye
Cat night vision is far superior to humans, but they cannot see in total darkness

A reflective layer behind the cat’s retina called the tapetum lucidum reflects incoming light and bounces it back off the cones, making more use of the existing light.  The tapetum is what we see in action when light hits a cat’s eyes at night, you see shiny green orbs.


Felis silvestris catus Sundials

Cats are such great examples of sundials.  They naturally define their life by the sun.  Most cats who are in sync with the sun’s movement will be active at dawn and dusk.  This is because it’s part of their natural feline biology.  It’s instinctive!  I encourage you to be a Conscious Companion and start to observe how your cat moves with the sun around the house throughout the day. See if your cat is more in sync with your human schedule, or with the sun’s movement.

Cat Sundial


Does your feline fit in the crepuscular category, or do they hideaway during the day and release their inner wildcat at night? Share in the comment section below!


Interested in learning more about your feline family member? Check out our Feline Educational Resources!

Looking for support to assist you with your feline companion? Conscious Companion is here to help! Learn more here.


ConsciousCompanion.com


Heading Back to School or Work and Leaving Our Feline Companions Behind

Only the lonely 
Know the way I feel tonight 
Only the lonely 
Know this feeling ain't right

There goes my baby
There goes my heart
They're gone forever
So far apart

But only the lonely
Know why
I cry
Only the lonely 

- Only The Lonely Know The Way I Feel ~ Roy Orbison 


I hope my humans come home soon.

 

Last week’s post discussed the effect that our sudden and prolonged absence has on our canine companions.  But dogs are not the only ones that feel the effects of our changing and sometimes hectic schedules.

Our feline family members can feel the strain and stress of our busy lifestyles. There are steps that we can take to help our feline companions cope with our absence. This post is here to help you with that!


 




Unless you have a techno laser light club like that set up at your house while you are gone for long hours, you are going to need to provide some entertainment and fun for your feline family members. We have to remember that many animals, especially cats, do not display their feelings as outwardly as dogs do.  It is naïve to think that feline companion cannot experience loneliness or boredom.  Their anxiety and depression flies under the radar; too often their humans don’t notice. Professor Dodman, director of the small animal behavior clinic at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, states that a countless number of cats will display signs of separation anxiety or exhibit increased levels of anxiety if they are already prone to it.  This separation anxiety can come in  numerous forms.  It is important to understand and appreciate that cats can experience anxiety and boredom. 


 

Separation Anxiety in Cats

Cat separation anxiety syndrome (SAS) was described in felines for the first time by Dr. Stefanie Schwartz, a board certified veterinary behaviorist, in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in 2003. According to Dr. Schwartz, separation anxiety syndrome is an emotional response that triggers misbehavior when separated from an attachment figure.  Of course, its’ not misbehaving according to the cat, but cats experiencing SAS will engage in normal cat behaviors, just at very  inappropriate times or locations by our human rules or standards.  When our feline family members “misbehave” they are not being spiteful, vengeful or vindictive.  When we label them as such, we are projecting our human traits onto them.  


Signs that your cat could be experiencing Cat Separation Anxiety (SAS):

  • Excessive meowing

 

  • Scratching furniture

 

 

  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box (specifically on your personal items)

 

 

  • Knocking items off shelves, counters, or dressers

 

 

  • Stops greeting people

 

 

  • Sleeping more than usual

 

 

  • Grooming excessively

 

 

  • Reduced appetite or a complete loss of appetite

 

 

If your feline family member starts to display any of these behaviors, there are three simple (yet very effective) tools that you can implement to help them adjust to your changing schedule and prolonged absence: companionship, exercise, and enrichment.




 

“Happy owner, happy cat. Indifferent owner, reclusive cat.” –Chinese Proverb

 

Companions Wanted

We share our home with both young and geriatric cats.  They are not unlike most domestic cats; they sleep roughly 13 to 16 hours per day, and although they enjoy sleeping as much as they can, on the days when I am not working/home from work, they will follow me around the house.  They want to be near me whenever they can.  Regardless of what most humans think, cats do enjoy and seek out human company! In their former, more adventuresome and riskier lives, my felines had access to outdoors.  When I came home from work every day, they could hear my truck rumbling down the street.  Each of them would come running from different directions in the neighborhood to greet me in the driveway. They never missed an opportunity to greet their human mother. It always brightened my day. Some people would see them running down the sidewalk and assume it was their dinner time signal, but they had access to food around the clock.  People couldn’t believe that cats were running to greet me, merely because I was home.  Yes, cats do love to be around their humans.  Despite the many stereotypes of felines, most cats are not solitary, stoic loners.


 

Run Cat, Run!

If you have an indoor-only cat that is young, or older and still full of energy, they will need ways to express that energy, or they will find creative ways to do just that.  If your feline companion has more of an aloof or elusive demeanor, don’t let them fool you.  Cats of every temperament need plenty of activity to stimulate their mind and body.  Cats benefit from at least 30-40 minutes of exercise each day.  An indoor cat left home alone all day, with no one to play with and nothing to do, may become either listless or destructive.

Enrichment

Exercise is only one piece of the Content Cat Puzzle.  Enriching your feline companion’s environment is a must.  Toys are a necessity for any kitty stuck inside for several hours. A constantly rotating selection of interesting and interactive toys is helpful for not only entertaining them while you are gone, but this will also provide exercise and healthy playtime while they are alone.  If they are busy with enough things to play with, hunt, pounce and attack, they will hardly notice your prolonged absences. There are countless toys, games, and activities available for your feline companion.  There are interactive toys that scurry, fly, and jump to entice them to run, pounce, and leap away all of his or her stored-up energy.  Enrichment toys are tremendously rewarding for cats that are home alone all day. Keep their hunting skills sharp with Undercover Mouse.  Twist ‘n Treat Teaser   and Doorway Dangli are creative ways to give them treats while you are away, but they really have to work for them! TIP:  Take fifteen to twenty minutes before you leave for school or work to play with your feline companion.  Be sure to gradually decrease the fun and games to ease them into a calmer state in preparation for your departure. Ending a play session abruptly leaves your cat wanting more and this is bound to end badly, usually for the human. Make sure the toys that you offer them while you are away are safe or they could end up like this.


 

Think Outside the Cardboard Box

Toys are an easy additive to your cat’s Adventuredome, but there are other types of at home enrichment.  Do you know if your cat enjoys television or movies?  “Mewvie the Motion Picture for Your Cat – Backyard Buffet”  could be your cat’s favorite genre! Another easy form of entertainment that can reduce boredom is setting up a bird feeder by a window so your feline companion can watch wildlife while you are away.  This can provide hours of entertainment for a cat stuck inside all day.


 

Alternatives to Home Alone

Another option to consider is hiring a pet sitter to stop by your home once a day.  If you cannot afford a sitter, ask a neighbor to stop by once or twice a day.  If you are not comfortable asking your neighbors to come over, ask them to listen for any unusual meowing.  Be sure that this person is comfortable being around your cat and that your cat approves of this person.  The last thing you want is a human coming over and freaking out the felines.

Holistic Options

If the toys and enrichment are not helping your feline friend cope with your absence, there are non-prescription or holistic remedies that may help reduce anxiety.  Rescue RemedyFeliway, and Spirit Essences can help cats to relax, and feel confident and secure in their home environment.  Aromatherapy oils can be used around our animal companions to help with calming.  Discuss any holistic options with your veterinarian.

Consider All Possible Causes

It is important to consider that a medical issue could be the cause of these new or destructive behaviors.  If you or anyone in your family notices a sudden change in your cat’s behavior, it is important to investigate.  Don’t assume that he or she is merely acting out or “misbehaving” because of your absence.  A visit to your veterinarian may be in order.  Remember to explore all of your options before coming to any conclusion.  Be open to all possibilities.

Is Your Stress Stressing Them?

Our animal companions are quite adept at picking up our human emotions, even if we don’t wear them on our sleeves.  Cats are very sensitive and emphatic; they can sense human emotions.  So if you or someone else in the household are showing signs of stress, they will pick up on it and that will alter their behavior accordingly.


 

Strengthen Your Bond

 

“Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” ― Colette

 

Maintaining a strong bond between you and your feline companion will help them adjust to your hectic or demanding schedule that keeps you away from home.  Exercising and grooming your feline friend is an excellent time for bonding.  Time spent doing these activities will strengthen the human-feline bond.   Set aside a minimum of 15 minutes a day to devote to your feline. This will reassure them that you are still there for them and that you haven’t forgotten about them.  Remember that they enjoy affection as much as you do.  Give them your time and undivided attention. No matter how stressful your day has been, I promise that you will feel worlds better after taking a few moments out of your day to be with your feline friend.




Going back to work and school doesn’t have to result in our feline companions being left behind in a lonely, dull home.  Boredom and anxiety can be prevented if we plan ahead and give them enough exercise, enrichment, and quality time.  Cats are just as sensitive to changes in their environment as humans are.  Take the time to discover what makes your feline companion anxious and what makes them purr.  You are the one that can change their world.

What can you do to make their world a stress-free and happy home?

This is part two of a three part series.  Part three will discuss our bird buddies.  Stay tuned!