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Give Your Cat a Happy Valentine

You can treat your cat to a happy Valentine's Day by avoiding these common human behaviors

Picking up your cat: Rodney Dangerfield is not the only one who didn't get any respect! Sometimes our feline friends don't get much respect either! We are being disrespectful when we assume it is OK to pick them up often—because we want to hold/hug them. Some cats may be OK at first, but some will begin to squirm, flick their tail or vocalize to let you know if they don't want to be held at that time. Cats aren't born with a need for a human to pick them up—that is OUR need! Hugging is one way humans show affection to each other but cats show affection to each other by head bunting, cheek rubbing, purring, giving slow love blinks and displaying their straight up "happy tail" position. Always keep in mind how much larger we are than our feline friends!

Feeding your cat a diet which is not designed for the obligate carnivore they are: Most cats should be eating a diet of high quality protein and fat but low in carbs (think"Catkins" Diet). Cats will usually maintain a more normal weight, shed a lot less and are more hydrated when they consume healthy wet food. Dry food is much denser calorically. If your cat is overweight, sheds excessively and/or has a bad coat condition which mats easily, throws up on a regular basis, has an unhealthy mouth condition and needs teeth cleanings often or wakes you up to eat, you might want to consider feeding higher quality food. It pays off!

Not providing a suitable "powder room" for the cat: Cats usually don't choose to eliminate in caves—there is only one way in and one way out. They don't like using an enclosed litter box any more than we like using a PortaPotty. Provide open litterboxes 1.5 times the length of their body and fill them with at least 3 inches of low-dust, fragrance-free litter. Place litterboxes in quiet areas or at least low-traffic areas. "Flush their toilet" (scoop their litter) 1-2 times a day. A large, strong metal scoop is much better than any plastic ones. They will make scooping easier and last a long time. Wash litterboxes with unscented dish washing liquid. Always replace litterboxes every 3-4 years! If your cat starts to avoid the litterbox, have a urinalysis and some bloodwork done ASAP. If those are OK, make sure you are practicing the above litterbox hygiene recommendations. If that doesn't work, reach out to the Catsultant®, who can work with you to resolve the behavior problem.

Not meeting your cat's innate need to hunt: When cats are sleeping, they are charging their battery for "the hunt". Cats need to discharge their stored-up energy every day (especially at dawn and dusk) by hunting and chasing "prey". This is like taking a dog on a walk each day! Inter-cat aggression can be reduced with regular "hunting" sessions. Feel free to contact the Catsultant® for a list of safe, effective toys for your cats.

Playing the hunting game with your cats on slick, hard flooring such as wood, tile or marble: Cats don't like to play on slick floors because they have no traction. Feels like driving on ice does to us. Cats need to have large area rugs or wide, long runners for their hunting activities. They need adequate traction and to be able to land more comfortably when jumping to catch that toy bird on a wand in the air! Also, playtime is most effective when playing solo (1 at a time) with each member of your cat household.

Petting your cat like a dog: Cats are NOT dogs in cat suits, so we must refrain from petting them like we pet dogs. Cats frequently become over-stimulated from heavy-handed petting. Cats prefer a much lighter touch and smaller strokes, mostly confined to their upper bodies. And, always be mindful when petting your cat—watch their tail closely. A flicking or lashing tail means your cat is becoming agitated, so stop for a while and let your cat chill a bit.

Using scented candles, air spays, plugins, or incense: Cats have 80 million smell receptors while humans have only 5 million, making a cat's sense of smell about 16 times stronger than ours. Keep your cat's indoor environment free from all artificial scents and harsh chemicals, some of which could be carcinogenic, and can be very irritating to a cat's respiratory system and eyes.

Feeding your cat in bowls made for dogs: It is much better to use shallow bowls (no more than 1-1/2 inches tall), preferably oval shaped because cats have very delicate and sensitive whiskers. Ceramic or stainless steel feeding bowls are ideal. They prefer to avoid having their whiskers touch their bowls when they eat. Dogs have "snouts" which allow them to eat more comfortably from deeper bowls. When you use "whisker friendly" bowls for your cats, they will be more likely to finish their desired meal because the food is easier to access.

Assuming it is OK with your cat to rub his tummy: Just because a cat is lying on his back does not mean he wants a tummy rub. He is probably just "chillin'." A cat's stomach is a very vulnerable area and the cat can go into a predatory mode very quickly when touched, which can become dangerous. We certainly want to avoid confrontations and cat bites! Hands should never be used to play with cats—hands are for loving! Also, please do not assume your cat wants you to pick her up when she stands on her hind legs and reaches up with her front ones—she may just trying to tell you she is hungry or wants to play. Little humans often let us know they want to be picked up, but not so much for cats!

Assuming your cat thinks like you do: They don't! They think like cats. Their world and the way they experience it is much different than ours. We often humanize our cats (and dogs) and unconsciously project our thoughts and feelings on them. Cats live in the moment and don't have drama or stories and aren't into retaliation. If your cat is scratching your sofa, it doesn't mean that he's trying to get back at you or retaliating for something you did or didn't do. He has an innate need to scratch and stretch and is scratching on your heavy sofa because you may not have a large or heavy enough scratching post to meet his needs. Providing heavy, 36" (or taller) scratching posts, strategically placed, will usually prevent a cat from destroying your favorite pieces of furniture. And, please trim your adult cat's nails about once a month and your kitten's nails every 2 weeks.

posted on 2/9/2019