Will my current cat(s) accept a new cat?

*Adapted from International Cat Care

It is very difficult to predict whether a cat will accept another cat into its household.
Cats, as a species, have become more socially flexible during the process of domestication, but individuals still vary hugely in how accepting they are of other cats. Furthermore, their ability to change their sociability is limited once they reach adulthood.

Sociability refers to how comfortable a cat feels around both people and other animals, including cats. This shouldn’t be confused with a cat’s general confidence towards all aspects of the cat’s environment, both physical and social. If a confident cat is not sociable to other cats then it will not necessarily accept a new cat. A cat that loves spending time with people is sociable with people but may not enjoy the company of other cats.

There are a number of areas that should be given careful thought before making the final decision as to whether to get another cat or not. These factors are all likely to interact rather than act in isolation, and therefore the more that are answered in favour of another cat, the greater the chances of a new cat being accepted. Click here for the questionnaire if you are thinking of getting another cat.

If you do get another cat or already have more than one cat and are experiencing problems, contact me.

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.

Brushing your cat’s teeth

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 ho
cat brushing teethw 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.

The basics:

20190417_175628

  • 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:20190417_180510

  • 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.

Scratch, scratch, scratch

As a cat owner few things are more annoying then your cat not using their scratching post but instead scratching your bed, sofa, carpet, wallpaper or really anything BUT the scratching post! I know all about it, because Dirk and I went through quite a few climbing trees and scratch boards until we finally found some options that we are both happy with. Dirk was fairly persistent in his sofa, chairs, carpet and bed scratching behaviour, but we’ve now mostly tackled the issue (although he does still scratch the bed in the morning as a means to get me to feed him).

The first scratching tree I got Dirk was a fairly small one and not all that sturdy. He is a big cat and needed something bigger. So that’s what he got!

I loved this scratching barrel, it looked very sleek and had levels inside so Dirk could climb inside and hide. Dirk loved sleeping in it, but hardly ever used it as a scratching post. He still used the carpets, sofa and chairs instead…

I figured he might like some horizontal scratching surfaces as well as some thinner scratching posts. In came the scratching pads and sisal poles, but with limited success. Dirk used them, but rather in addition to his other “scratching posts” (by now you know which ones I mean).

I don’t give up that easily though and realised that part of the appeal when scratching carpets and sofa was the fact he was destroying them: pieces of fabric came off. Perhaps he would be happier if I gave him a scratcher that he could shred?

Luckily, he really likes his cardboard scratchers, both to scratch (or shred) and sleep on!

Dirk also loves the most recent addition, which is a floor to ceiling climbing tree. He actually uses it to scratch, climb and sleep and has left the sofa and chairs alone since the tree’s introduction (knock on wood).

If you want advice about which type of scratching post to choose, then check out this brilliant article by International Cat Care.