Maintain the litter box

maine coon catCats are naturally clean and hate dirty, stinky litter boxes. If the box isn’t squeaky clean, your kitty might search for a substitute, and whether that’s a corner of the carpet or a basket of clean clothes, you don’t want it to happen.

If the litter box is squeaky clean and your cat still avoids it, consider seeing a vet – it might be a sign of a physical problem.

The box itself

Some cats are picky about the box itself. It needs to be large enough to scratch, dig, and turn around in – and it has to be easy to get in and out. Many cats don’t like covered litter boxes, because they trap the smell. Cats have 14 times the sense of scent we do, and they don’t want to smell their own waste any more than we do.

Many cats get along fine with automatic litter boxes, but others don’t like them at all. In that case, a large plastic box scooped manually a couple of days is the best choice, even though it requires work.

A box for each cat

Many multi-cat households only have one box, and this can also lead to problems. A rule of thumb is one box for each cat, and maybe one extra. It’s okay to have the boxes side by side.

The litter

Some people like to use a liner in the box. That’s a personal preference – the cats usually don’t care. Most litter manufacturers recommend using 2″ to 3″ of litter, but if you have a deep scratcher you might want to use up to 4″. It’s easiest to use clumping litter, because it’s easy to scoop.

Pick a scoop that fits your litter – large particle litter requires larger holes to sift the clean litter out, while fine-grained litter needs smaller holes.

The box should be scooped at least twice a day.

Clean the box

Regular scooping and replacing the litter will keep the box clean and smelling fresh for quite a while, but eventually you’ll need to empty it and clean it. Depending on the type of litter you use this might need to be done weekly, or monthly. If you don’t like the smell, you cats won’t like it either.

Wash the empty box thoroughly with hot water and detergent. Rinse well and spray with a mild bleach solution. Make sure you don’t use a cleaner with ammonia, because this smells a little like a cat’s pee, and might make them avoid the box.

What would it be like to be a cat?

Black catHave you ever wondered why it would be like to be a cat?

While no one can truly experience the world like another species does, here are some highlights of the differences between humans and cats.

A cat’s vision is quite different from a human’s. Cats see colors, but not in the same way we do, and the muted colors make it easier for them to see movement. They also see well in light conditions that would render a human virtually blind.

On the other hand they can’t focus on anything that’s closer than a foot away, and they use their whiskers for detecting objects close the their bodies.

Cats also move quite differently from humans. They have a unique skeletal structure that lets them scale vertical walls, balance on the top of fences, and land on their feet. Their posture allows them to move quietly as well as absorbing the shock of falling from heights many time their size. In addition to all this, their back legs work almost like springs and can propel them upwards and forwards at great speed.

The cats’ ears are also different from a human’s. They can rotate their ears independently up to 180 degrees, and they can hear a wider range of sounds than we can. A cat with normal hearing can detect 11 octaves, which is two more than a human and even more than a dog. They also have a much larger number of neurons between the ear and the brain than most other mammals, so they can decipher all this information quickly.

So, what about the sense of smell? A cat has a sense of smell at least 100 times better than a human, and it can distinguish between thousands of smells. They also have a secondary scent organ above the roof of their mouths to help them detect odors when they breathe.

Pop up cat cafe in Los Angeles

Black catCat cafes originated in Asia and offer tea, coffee, food, and cat cuddling. They are extremely popular in cultures where people might not be able to have a pet themselves, and today there are cat cafes in Europe and Canada as well. Thus far, the US has lagged behind.

New York City saw a pop-up cat cafe earlier this year, but it might be Los Angeles that gets the first permanent installation. The first try starts today and will be open through October 5th 2014.

The cafe partners with no-kill shelter Best Friends Animal Society Los Angeles, and with the Chinatown Business Improvement District. There will be cats available for petting and adoption, costumed butlers, and entertainment.

Hopes are the cat cafe can become a permanent installation, and the plans include space to house homeless cats as well as showing visiting shelter cats seeking new homes. There are also plans to open cat cafes in Portland, San Francisco, and Oakland.

The dreams of a permanent NYC cat cafe might also come to fruition soon – there is currently a crowd funding campaign attempting to raise startup funding.

Read more about the pop up cat cafe here.

Pet shelters step up efforts on keeping pets in their homes

According to the humane society, between three and four million pets are euthanized in shelters each year. It is a mind boggling number, but still an improvement – in the past the number was 20 million. The really sad part is that many of these cats and dogs aren’t strays; they are surrendered by their owners. These pets used to have a home, and for different reasons their owners can’t or won’t keep them.

Every person’s life is more complicated than it appears at first glance. Some things are easy or self evident to one person, and difficult to someone else. Situations change – many pets are given up because their owners can’t afford their vet bills, or even become homeless.

Shelters around the country are stepping up to the challenge, and many now try to work with owners to help them keep their pets. Some need education – they might honestly believe that their dog is happier on a chain in the back yard than in the house – others need practical help, financial support for vet care, help with a pet deposit on a rental, or help with boarding a pet for a shorter period of time.

If the pet is surrendered to the shelter, one of two things can happen: either the pet is killed, or the shelter pays for medical care, food, toys, and the effort to find it a new home. Helping the original owner keep the pet is a win for everyone.

If your pet presses its head against the wall, it might be time to see the vet

Sometimes, not often, a cat or dog starts pressing its head against the wall or another object. The pet might even walk into a corner and seemingly not know how to get out. The head pressing is often the most notable behavior, but the pet might also show compulsive pacing, circling, changes in trained behavior, and even have seizures. If you note some or all of these symptoms, it’s time to see the vet. 

These strange behaviors indicate damage to the nervous system, or a toxic poisoning. There can be a number of underlying causes, and the sooner the pet gets to the vet, the better.

Amongst the possible causes are cancers, stroke, metabolic problems, an infection, lead poisoning, head trauma, and parasites. Treatment is imperative for the future health of your pet.

Compulsively pressing the head against a wall or other object shouldn’t be confused with playfully “head butting” their human. Head pressing is hard to miss – the behavior doesn’t look normal.

New Oregon Law is a Win for Animals

Late August the Oregon Supreme Court passed a ruling that changes how animals are treated under state law. Now, any animal can be seen as a legal victim in a case, and this gives animals more protection against abuse. 

For a pet lover, it’s evident that each pet is an individual. Up until now, the law has seen them as property. The new ruling means, for instance, that if a person abuses 20 animals he or she can now be sentenced on 20 counts instead of just one – each individual animal is a separate victim. This can, in turn, result in longer sentences and make it more difficult for abusers to expunge these convictions from criminal records.

The ruling also makes it easier for law enforcement to help animals in danger – if an animal is “property” an officer would need a warrant to step onto private property and for instance take the animal to a veterinarian. Getting a warrant can take four to eight hours, and that is enough time for an abused animal to die.

2014 has seen some great steps in the right direction for animal rights. Hopefully, the trend will continue until they are all protected.

 

Problems with cats and water?

Cats sometimes do things that seem peculiar. Like, drink out of glasses or the tap instead of the water bowl, or splash their water around before drinking. 

These behaviors are much easier to understand when considering that cats are wild survivalists. A cat in the wild will seek out moving water, because that is safer and fresher than standing water, and they’ll look for water as far away from their prey as possible, to make sure it’s not contaminated.

If your cat drinks from everything but the water dish, he or she might be worried about the water being poisoned by the food. This is a strong instinct and it won’t go away just because we think it’s a great place for the bowls – try moving the water away from the food bowl. Putting the water in the opposite corner of where kitty eats usually solves the problem.

Cats who prefer to drink from the tap or even the toilet might want moving water instead of the kind that’s been sitting still in the bowl all day. Some cats splash their water with a paw before drinking in an attempt to solve the problem. If your cat shows these behaviors, consider buying a recirculating water fountain for cats. This might not fit all households, and in that case, try changing the cat’s water more often.

Today is “Take your Cat to the Vet day”

Cats have personalities just like peopleThis sounds like a bizarre holiday, but there is a reason for it. Most humans visit the doctor and dentist annually. Dog owners are generally pretty good with taking their pooches to the vet at least once a year for a check-up. Cats, on the other hand, are often forgotten.

Whether it is because they’re so independent, seem so healthy, or put up a fight when it’s time to get in the carrier, many cats only get to see the vet when there’s something evidently wrong with them. This results in needless suffering and high veterinary bills that might have been avoided if kitty had gotten routine checks.

Cats are excellent at hiding when something is wrong with them, and by the time an owner realizes their kitty is sick, the problem has usually escalated.

Most dogs get annual tests for worms, regular inoculations, and blood screening. Cats need this too, so any problems can be caught early. Take your cat to the vet for a check-up and find any medical problems before they require extensive and expensive treatment.

Prepare for emergencies

Summer is a wonderful time, but can hold some extreme dangers such as hurricanes. Every year, families lose their pets in weather-related emergencies, and while some are reunited, other families search in vain for years. Here are some tips on preparing for emergencies, to make sure everyone is unscathed. 

Prepare in advance

Make sure all pets are microchipped, and that the information connected to the microchip is correct. Your vet can help you read the chip number, so you can double-check. Put a tag with your contact information on each pet’s collar.

If you don’t already have decals on your windows informing rescue workers that there are pets in the household, this is a good time to put some up.

Check your emergency kit

If you already have a pet emergency kit, look it over to make sure everything is up to date. If you don’t have one, make one, and keep it with your family’s emergency kit. Pack things in plastic zip-lock bags. Good ideas for your kit include:

  • At least two weeks’ supply of any pet medications.
  • Extra collar with ID-tag for each pet, and sturdy leashes.
  • Photocopies of pet health records, and a recent photo of you and your pets. In case the worst happens and you’re separated the photo will help you search, and help you prove that you’re the rightful owner.
  • Two week supply of water and food along with bowls.
  • First aid supplies. Many vets have good lists of things you might need. You should at least have bandages, tweezers, tape, scissors, and antibacterial ointment.
  • Crate with bedding and a toy your pet will recognize. This  can help your pet cope with stress and new environments.
  • Poop bags and similar supplies.

Have a plan

When something happens it usually happens quickly, and it can be difficult to make the right decisions in a stressful situation. The more you prepare in advance, the better your chances of everyone staying together and being okay.

Know where to go if you need to evacuate. If you need to leave your home, do everything in your power to bring your pets along. If it isn’t safe for you to stay, it isn’t safe for them, and animals left behind are often lost, injured, or killed.

Check emergency shelters in your area. Many don’t allow pets, and you need to find one where everyone is welcome. Make a list of relatives and friends that can shelter you and your pets in case you have to leave the area completely. Also make a list of pet boarding facilities, and keep all these numbers and addresses in your pet emergency kit.

If you stay at home during the emergency, keep your pets with you in a safe room. Put them in their carrier or on a leash ahead of time – if there’s a tornado you don’t have time to dig the cat out from under the sofa. On a leash or in a carrier you can bring your pets quickly, and you have them under control.

It can be difficult to stay calm, but do your best to keep your composure. If you’re anxious, pets and children will feel it and be anxious too.

Is your cat trying to tell you something?

Singapura is the world's smallest cat breed.Cats might not be able to talk like humans do, but they do communicate. Unfortunately, we often misunderstand the attempts of communication and think the cat is “bad” or just weird.

Here are some instances when kitty might be trying to tell you something.

From time to time, cats chow down on strange things, but if your cat eats cardboard, plastic, paper, or something similar and looks at you when he/she starts eating, it’s probably a call for attention.

When kitty deliberately knocks things on the floor it’s not to mess with you or a sign of disliking your decorations. This too means that the cat wants attention – which could mean food.

A cat presenting its butt to you might not seem like a good thing, but in cat language this is a huge compliment. It means that you’re a trusted friend.

Black cat appreciation day!

Black catIn many cultures black cats are seen as good luck. Here in the US they’re sadly more associated with bad luck, and they have a hard time finding homes. Cats with black coat are nearly five times as likely to be put to sleep in a shelter than cats with another color.

Black cat appreciation day is intended to change the myths that keeps them from being adopted. Many people don’t understand cats. Some fear them, or even hate them, and keep spreading misinformation about them.

Not everyone has to like cats, but distancing oneself from a species because of myths and erroneous information is a loss both for the person and the cats.

Here are some fun facts about black cats:

  • According to the Japanese and the British, black cats are good luck
  • In Scotland, the black cat is believed to bring prosperity
  • Black cats are believed to be the best ship cats, because they bring good luck
  • Black cats are actually just like all other cats, except for being black. They’re just as sweet and cuddly as all other cats.
  • Black cats are like miniature panthers. They’re natural ninjas. Having a ninja panther is cool.

If you have a black cat, or adopt one, take some photos and share on social media. Together we can debunk the myth about black cats being bad luck!

National Check the Chip Day!

If you pet goes walkabout or is stolen, the chances of getting him or her back increases if the pet is microchipped. However, the chip only works if the registration information is correct. Check the Chip Day is created by AVMA – the American Veterinary Medical Association – and the AAHA – the American Animal Hospital Association.

To update your pet’s registration you need your pet’s microchip number. If you don’t already have an account with the manufacturer you need to do that as well, so you can update the information if something changes in the futures. It’s particularly important that your phone number and address are correct.

Most animal shelters and veterinarians will search a big database updated by the chip’s manufacturer. If you have your chip’s number, you can try to search it here to see if the information is correct: //www.petmicrochiplookup.org

Ever wonder how far away your cat goes?

The Cat Tracker is a new mapping project that encourages cat owners to put GPS collars on their cats in order to monitor their habits. The information can give new insight into cat behavior, and help conservationists save wildlife. Anyone in the USA, New Zealand, or Australia can participate. 

There are at least 95 million pet cats in the USA and millions more feral cats, and ecologists are concerned about their impact on wildlife.  The project will show whether cats in general kill wildlife routinely, or if just some cats engage in this. It can also help show whether cats that do kill and eat during their outdoor adventures have a higher incidence of parasites, and if these parasites are dangerous to humans.

The project will also track cats’ habits – some have been known to live with more than one household – and how large their areas are. A similar project tracked a cat with a home range of more than 1,300 acres. Does your cat stay close to home, or does he/she roam?

In order to participate in the program, the cat must be yours, and it needs to spend time both indoors and outdoors. Naturally, local leash laws must be observed.

If you want to learn more about the cat tracker project, click here!

International Cat Day

CatToday is a good day to take some extra time to play with your cat – August 8th is International Cat Day, celebrating our feline friends. The day was first celebrated in 2002, and has become a yearly festivity.

Around the world, an estimated 500 million cats frolic in homes and gardens, regardless of country and climate. In the USA, there’s almost 100 million owned cats. Around 46 percent of US kitty-households have one cat, 31 percent share their home with two cats, and 24 percent have three or more cats.

Having a cat in the household has been proven to relieve stress, depression, and anxiety. Cats are particularly good for the heart – over a ten year period a cat owner is 30 percent less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than a person without a cat. They may even lower the risk of cancer.

If you don’t already have a cat but you’ve been thinking of getting one, celebrate International Cat Day with going down to your local shelter and giving one a new home.

What’s up with cats and scratching furniture?

maine coon catCats love to scratch things. It removes the dead outer layer of their claws and keeps their claws sharp and conditioned. It’s a way for kitty to mark territory – cats have scent glands on their feet, and the scratching leaves a scent mark. Scratching also helps cats stretch while flexing their feet and claws.

Unfortunately, we humans don’t share the cat’s enthusiasm over scratching up the new sofa.

Observe in which rooms your cat likes to scratch, and on what. Then, substitute that object with something similar that’s okay for both you and the cat. For example corrugated cardboard, a log, or a carpeted post.

Cover the forbidden object in something cats don’t like, for example aluminum foil, cotton balls with perfume, or double-sided tape. Then, place the new and acceptable object close by.

Patience is key. Let your cat get used to the new acceptable object, and move it gradually – nor more than 1 inch every day – to a spot more suitable to you. The closer you can keep it to the cat’s preferred location, the bigger the chance this will work in the long run.

Keep the unappealing foil, tape, or cotton balls on the forbidden object until the cat has used the acceptable object in its right place for at least a month.

If you cat likes cat nip, looking for a scratching post with catnip hidden under the surface might help motivate him or her to use the “right” object for scratching.