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.

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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!

 

Dirk discovers Nyagomidokoro’s fish kicker

If you regularly read my blog then you’ll know I sometimes review cat toys for Katzenworld. I’ve met them at cat shows as well and I know they sell the best cat toys. I wanted to give Dirk a new toy and preferably not a catnip one this time! He has plenty of those 🙂

I came across a Japanese brand, Nyagomidokoro. Their toys look great and they contain matatabi, or silvervine. Dirk has never tried that so I was curious and got him a fish kicker. Any toy that involved vigorous kicking is a hit with Dirk so I was hopeful about this one too.

As pictures are always better than words I’ll just show you how much Dirk likes his new toy. The one thing you can’t see in the pictures is that he was even drooling all over them and the floor!

And in case you are worried about the smell, I find it quite pleasant and not too strong (I like catnip too, but it makes my nose feel a bit itchy when it’s fresh).

If you want to get your cat something new this Christmas, check out the series of Nyagomidokoro toys or any of the other toys in the Katzenworld shop.

You may think Dirk likes all cat toys, but I only write reviews about the ones  he likes. I give feedback about the ones he does not like to the manufacturer so they can improve their product. Sometimes it’s simply a case of toys being more suited for kittens than older cats in which case I recommend they add that to their marketing details.

Christmas came early for Dirk: Gus & Bella’s Santa Paws box

* Originally written by me for katzenworld.co.uk

Regular readers of our Katzenworld blog will know about Gus & Bella’s Boxes, but for those who haven’t heard of them yet let me tell you a little bit about them.

Gus & Bella’s gift boxes contain gifts for cats and people, so they are perfect for cat owners! They contain a mix of toys, food and treats for your cat and trendy gifts for yourself. You can subscribe to get a box every month or choose to buy a single box, ideal as a gift. This year’s Christmas box makes an ideal gift for any cat owner, whether they have a kitten or adult cat. And rest assured if you have a fussy cat or if your cat has any food intolerances: these are catered for as well!

Dirk and I received our very own Christmas box, the Santa Paws box. I don’t know who was more excited about it!

Obviously, unpacking it together is part of the fun. If you order the box for yourself then you’ll see on the website what is inside so it’s less of a surprise. I had no idea though, so it was very much like the anticipation of unwrapping a Christmas present.

Dirk could hardly wait. In fact, he decided to get inside the box first at the opportunity he got to check out his gifts.

So let’s check out the cat presents first. The box contains a lot of food and treats. Now that makes Dirk a very happy boy!

However, the first thing he went for was, of course, a catnip toy. He loves both catnip toys in this box and we had a great time playing with the teaser wand together (although Dirk would not have minded having the toy all to himself…)

As for my presents, well, Dirk was not overly impressed (can’t eat them, no catnip, he’s not allowed to play with them) but I am very happy with them indeed. I’ll be spreading some Christmas cheer and helping to keep others safe with the Christmas cats face mask! I also absolutely love the felt Christmas bauble. No problem if Dirk tries to knock this one from the Christmas tree and it looks so cute! I’ll need to get more, even if just for the lower branches of the tree 😉

Last, but not least if you ask Dirk, the box itself is a gift for the cat as well – even if he does not quite fit inside….

The Santa Paws box is available for pre-order here and ships 8 December

Dirk’s unusual game with Peek-a-Bird

* Originally written by me for katzenworld.co.uk

We all know that cats don’t always do what we want or expect them to do. For me, that’s part of what I like about them: they are not as docile or obedient as some other pets. They very much have a mind of their own and can be very particular about things.

Dirk is – frankly – pretty docile but even he doesn’t always do what I want him to do or play with a toy quite the way it was intended… PetSafe’s Peek-a-Bird is one such example.

The Peek-a-Bird has openings on either side and when switched on a feather appears randomly from either side so your cat can chase it. Sometimes it appears on the same side twice in a row so it is not possible for your cat to predict on which side the feather will appear next. The feather moves around for a bit before retreating to entice your cat to hunt for it.

A play session lasts for 10 minutes after which the toy switches off automatically. You can also activate and ‘all day’ mode. The toy then switches on for 10 minutes at a time every two hours. Even better: it also switches on when the sensor picks up movement from your cat. Basically, your cat will have a toy that switches on whenever they want to play! I absolutely love that idea.

As I said, though, Dirk had other ideas of how to play with the toy!

When switched on, Dirk keeps watching it and also tries to bite the feather, but he does not chase the feather much. However, as soon as the bird switches off he wants to play with the bird itself. He does sometimes try and get the feather out of the toy when it’s switched off, but his main focus is giving the bird a good kicking.

He’ll kick it around the floor or the rug and also seems to like kicking it back and forth with me. Should perhaps not have been too much of a surprise as he is named after a football player 😉

But in any case, that is not what I expected him to do at all. When the Peek-a-Bird is on the floor somewhere he’ll walk over to it when he wants to play with me and starts pushing or kicking it towards me.

Peek-a-Bird also comes with a spare feather in case the first one becomes too damaged to play with. Knowing most cats are mad about feathers (Dirk is too with some of his other toys) it’s good that PetSafe included a spare one. However, it would be even better if they start selling extra spare feathers as I can imagine some cats will quickly go through both.

My guess is that cats will either love Peek-a-Bird or ignore it and whether or not your cat will like it may be difficult to predict. I’d recommend it to owners of kittens or cats that enjoy hide-and-seek style games.