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From the Life of a Cat Sitter

Besides being a cat behaviourist I work as a cat sitter as well.

People ask me whether I just feed and clean litter trays all day. Well, yes and no. I mean I do feed cats and clean litter trays, but there’s much more to it.
In the series of posts I’ll share some anecdotes from my life as a cat sitter. I promise these stories are all true, though the cat’s names have sometimes been changed to protect their identity 😉

I see a lot of litter trays and types of litter in my work as a cat behaviourist and as a cat sitter. Some cats are extremely fussy and don’t use a tray twice: it has to be clean or else they won’t use it. In multi-cat households you always need multiple trays, although I did once visit 5 cats that all used the same tray…

What type of litter you use depends on both you and the cat. No matter how much you like a certain type of litter (for example one they are not as likely to traipse around the house) if your cat does not like it they will not use it. Most cats prefer a sandlike litter as they can dig around properly. You can get various types of litter trays or put down a mat in front of the tray, but in all honesty I have yet to find the perfect solution to prevent cats spreading litter through the house.

You can also use a wood pellet type of litter. These are not as likely to stick to your cat’s feet, though not all cats like these. This is especially the case for older cats.

Two other popular types of litter are silica crystals and non-clumping granules. These are known to absorb urine and last longer so you don’t have to scoop litter trays as often (just scoop poo). While this is true, please remember that cat’s have a far more sensitive sense of smell than we do. You can’t wait until you smell the urine to clean it as your cat will be able to smell it long before you do. If your cat is a bit fussy then they may well decide to do their business elsewhere…. I know some unlucky owners who have found pee inside shoes and poo just beind the front door.

Some cats pee or poo on their owner’s bed when they are left home alone. Although it sounds disgusting, some cats feel happier when they mix their scent with yours. That it why they may pee (or poo) on your bed or laundry when you are away.
If your cat is like this, then let your cat sitter know. It may be best to restrict access to the bedroom while you are away. Also consider getting a herbal or pheromone diffuser to help your cat feel calmer while you are away.

If your cats have strange toileting habits then always let your cat sitter know. As far as strange habits go, peeing or pooping in the bath, shower or on a tiled floor are not too bad as these can easily be cleaned. Sofas or beds are a different story… If your cat refuses to use a litter tray then get in touch. Together we can figure out why your cat is doing its business elsewhere and how to tackle it.

Most cats prefer some privacy when they go to the toilet, though some, like my own, are quite happy to have an audience….

Cat agility (or training your cat)

I was at the London Cat Show in 2019 and they had a cat agility section, much like dogs do at Crufts. Obviously, I was intrigued and curious to see how (or actually whether) the cats would perform. They did much as I expected: not so well. I have no doubt that all cats in the agility section are actually really good at doing the agility course, but cats do not perform well in front of an audience, under pressure, or with an unfamiliar trainer.

You can train cats to do tricks on command: Dirk has mastered giving paw. And not just that: if I know once it means right paw, two quick knocks means left paw. In return, because there has to be something in it for him, he gets a treat, but only if he gives my the correct paw and does not use his nails…

It is actually a lot of fun to train your cat. You build a way of communicating and interacting with them that is rewarding for both of you. Cats learn best when they trust their trainer and feel happy in themselves and their environment. And if you want to show off to friends and family it’s best to film their performance rather than rely on a live performance on the day.

http://www.heikkisiltala.com

Challenges of keeping indoor cats happy

* Originally written by me for citikiti.co.uk

From the ICatCare Conference

Vicky Halls, the well-known cat behaviour counsellor, was one of the expert speakers at the conference in Birmingham. One of her presentations focussed on keeping cats happy, especially indoors cats. My own cat lives indoors and so do many of our clients’ cats. There are many things we can do to keep our cats happy: activity feeders to prevent boredom and combat overeating, playing games with our cats and providing hiding & resting places for our cats.

The biggest challenge, however, is our relationship with cats and this was the topic of Vicky Halls’s talk.

I will be the first to admit that I talk to my cat and I also talk to your cats when I’m visiting. I say hello to let them know I’m there, they hear my voice and pick up on my energy and decide whether or not they want to coma and say hello to me. I am under no illusion, though: my cat has no idea what I’m talking about. He is, after all, a cat!

Sure, our cats know certain words. ‘Treats’ is one such example. My cat usually comes over when I use his name, but we all know that cats sometimes hear their name being called but choose to ignore it! So cats recognise some words and may respond to them, but this doesn’t mean they always understand what we are saying.

Picture the following ‘ conversation’ with your cat: “Hi sweet pea, I’m home!!! Where are you? Come on out. I’m so sorry I’m late, are you hungry? Did you miss me? Yes, you missed me, I missed you too! I’m sorry I was away all day, you must have been so lonely!”
We may not use those specific words or voice those feelings, but many of us feel guilty for leaving the cat alone all day and feel the need to give the cat quality time when we get home. We tend to think of our cats as family members. While it is great that we care so much about our cats, we should always keep in mind that a cat’s needs are not the same as our own. Or, as Vicky Halls put it, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking: me + love = happy cat.

When you read the ‘conversation’ I wrote above you can well imagine that the amount of love and focus and energy is all a bit too much for your cat. Cats are happiest when they have a sense of control over their environment and their interaction with us. Some cats enjoy a lot of fuss and cuddles, but most cats are quite happy just sitting in the same room with us or on the sofa next to us and just being stroked occasionally. They enjoy playing games with us, mainly games that mimic their natural behaviour such as hunting.

When your cat can go outside, they can ‘escape’ us for as long as they want to and they are quite happy on their own! Indoors cats don’t have the luxury of escape, so we should respect their need to control their environment and the quantity and quality of interaction they want. And who knows, your cat may well give you a slow blink to thank you!

 

How to take care of cats with kidney disease

* Originally written by me for citikiti.co.uk and posted again to mark World Kidney Day

From the ICatCare Conference

Chronic kidney disease is a common disease that affects over 30-40% of cats over 10 years old. This percentage is even higher in cats that are 15 years or older. Although the average lifespan of cats is roughly 12-14 years, more and more cats are now living beyond the age of 15 years (which roughly equates to a human age of 76).

My own cat is somewhere between 9-11 years old now – he is a rescue cat so we don’t know his exact age and I know a lot of your cats are over 10 years old. As our cats enter into the senior stage of their life they are more prone to many diseases, chronic kidney disease being one of the most prevalent examples.

There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, but we can slow down the progression of the disease and cats with chronic kidney disease can still have a good quality of life.

Before discussing how we can help cats with kidney disease, let’s first briefly look at the most common symptoms of kidney disease: increased drinking and urination, reduced appetite, weight loss and lethargy. You may also notice vomiting or a bad breath.
Chronic kidney disease is diagnosed through an analysis of blood and urine samples. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the prospects are of preventing further kidney injury, managing the complications and slowing the progression of the disease.

If your cat has kidney disease then your vet will discuss a plan of action with you. This will depend on the stage of progression of the disease and your cat’s specific complications. Treatment of chronic kidney disease will mainly focus on feeding your cat a specific type of diet as this is the only type of treatment we currently have that prolongs life in cats with chronic kidney disease.
What else can we do at home to make sure our cats are comfortable?

Make sure your cat is drinking plenty of water. Find out what your cat prefers. This could be drinking from a running tap or the shower, a water fountain or providing a different type of water bowl (most cats like drinking from a wide brimmed ceramic bowl. If your cat goes outside, put a ceramic bowl in the garden: quite a few cats prefer rainwater over tap water.

As cats with chronic kidney disease tend to urinate more often it is good to make sure you have multiple litter trays in various quiet places around the house. Some cats refuse to use a litter tray that isn’t clean. If you have multiple trays then your cat has multiple appropriate options when you’re at work.

And last, but not least: make sure their lives are as happy & stress-free as possible. Give your cat warm, comfortable places to hide & rest and engage with them: play with them, groom them, stroke them, etc. Remember though, you ill cat is still a cat and wants to be in charge of his life as much as possible: let him initiate the quantity and quality of your interaction and don’t overwhelm them with love

For more information about kidney disease in cats see International Cat Care’s website.

Gus&Bella’s Mother’s Day Box of Love

* Originally written by me for katzenworld.co.uk

Gus&Bella have got a special edition box again, this time for Mother’s Day.

We will be forced to celebrate Mother’s Day socially distanced once again and 2021 seems like the perfect year to surprise every self-confessed Cat Mum, be this your partner, Mum, aunt, sister, cousin, friend, anyone! Just imagine how they would feel to receive such a special and thoughtful gift on Mother’s Day 🙂

I’m pretty sure that if cats could read, write, spend money and send things they would certainly order this box for their Cat Mums (and not solely because there is something in it – quite literally – for them too). But let’s face it, they need a helping hand from a human reading this, so just order it in the cat’s name and everybody will be happy!

As always, this box is full of amazing things for both human and cat (you will definitely skyrocket in the ranking of the cat’s favourite people once they realise it came from you).

Let’s start with the cat goodies first. Inside this box are two toys, food and extremely delicious treats! My cat Dirk kept giving me paw, without me giving the “give paw” signal, that is how much he loves the treats! A always, the 4Cats toy was a big hit as well and the was an interesting Jolly Moggy Ladybird toy. This one will especially appeal to kittens and younger cats, but even oldie Dirk was excited. This is the first toy he aver reacted to as soon as he heard it chirp. Yes, it chirps when you (or your cat) touch it! These sounds are often a bit fake, but this one was really good. It is a high-pitched chirp, just the sound you can imagine ladybirds making, and piqued his interest straight away.

Now on to the gifts for Cat Mums, although anything that makes our cats happy is already a gift in itself. I love the cute card that comes in the box. You don’t even have to write anything inside it, the recipient will automatically know their cat gave them this lovely present. There is a special blend of earl grey tea that smells and tastes amazing.
And there are two gifts that will put a smile on your face for a long time to come. One is a pink, scented, hanging candle especially designed for Gus&Bella. The scent is gorgeous, it really is. It’s called Rose Velvet & Oud and smells very luxurious, yet subtle.
The other is a super cute umbrella. I know spring is coming, we this is the UK after all! You can put this umbrella in your bag, just in case, and take it out as soon as you feel a drop of rain. After all, you’ll want to show it off!  It will make you happy it is raining and is sure to put a smile on other people’s faces too.

It really is a feel-good, spring is in the air gift box. Perfect for Mother’s Day!

To order yours or order it for a special Cat Mum in your life, click here.