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.
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!
* 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
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.
To mark Pet Dental Awareness Month I am re-posting this blog about brushing your cat’s teeth
Dental hygiene is as important for cats as people.
It helps keep your cat in great condition and prevents diseases (and a bad breath).
Still, you may feel a little unsure about brushing your cat’s teeth. I know I was a little taken aback when my vet first suggested brushing Dirk’s teeth.
He showed me how to do it and – surprisingly – Dirk seemed fine with it.
However, trying it at home was a different story…
If only it was this easy!
When I first started I was a bit too optimistic. Having seen the vet do it made me think it wouldn’t be so difficult. Dirk was not happy about it though. I tried every other day at first but I have to admit this soon became less frequent. Until Dirk was diagnosed with a dental disease called feline resorptive lesions.
After he had two teeth removed my mind set changed. I went from ‘I’ll try’ to ‘OK, I have to do this’.
Around this time I also started with my advanced feline behaviour course and was learning about learning theory and training cats. This was the perfect opportunity to put what I’d learnt into practice!
I took small steps to get Dirk used to having his teeth brushed. Admittedly, he still doesn’t like it. He tolerates it now although we have to odd day where he doesn’t. Those days are less frequent now, I brush his teeth most days. And afterwards he gets a special reward: his favourite treat which he goes nuts for.
First of all, buy toothpaste for cats. Toothpaste for people is toxic for cats, so never use this. Toothpaste for cats comes in tasty flavours such as chicken. Rest assured, even though it is tasty it also contains all the enzymes needed to clean your cat’s teeth.
Introduce your cat to the toothpaste. Let your cat lick the toothpaste off your finger (my cat loved it!). This allows the cat to get used to the flavour and texture and they will have a positive association with the toothpaste.
Once your cat is used to the toothpaste you can introduce a toothbrush, for example by letting your cat lick the toothpaste off the brush. There are several types of brushes designed for cats. Buy the one you feel most confident using.
Getting the job done:
Both you and your cat should be calm and comfortable before you start brushing your cat’s teeth.
Either sit behind your cat so they cannot escape or ask someone else to hold and soothe your cat.
Start by stroking and reassuring your cat. If you notice your cat becoming stressed, then don’t start brushing. Try again another day. If you turn this into a routine then your cat will become more relaxed over time and will allow you to brush their teeth.
Gently pull back your cat’s lips as shown in the picture.
What it looks like at the vet’s… What it looks like at home
(Dirk prefers to lie down on his side)
Brush the teeth in slow circular motions and keep the bristles at a 45-degree angle. Brush the teeth and just beneath the gum margin, don’t brush the gums directly.
Brush as many teeth as the cat allows and praise your cat while doing so. Initially you may only be able to brush for about 10-15 seconds, but that’s a good start! When you’re more experienced and the cat has become more tolerant of having their teeth brushed you’ll be able to brush their teeth in about 1-2 minutes.
For more information please ask you vet or veterinary nurse.
For a video instruction, as well as additional information, please consult International Cat Care’s website.