Five Ferocious Cat Behaviors and How to Fix Them


Cats are the most lovable creature on Earth when they want something (food perhaps?) and sharpening their claws on your couch the next. We asked top feline behaviorists for tips on how to solve 5 of the most common bad cat behaviors seen by the Humane Society of the United States when cats are relinquished to shelters.

1. Cats Going Outside the Litterbox
Cat LItterbox
According to Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Cat Behavior Advisor to and Cat Behavorist at The Cat Behavior Clinic, this bad kitty behavior is the No. 1 reason cats are relinquished to shelters. Never fear, she has some simple tricks to keep your feline going in the appropriate place.

Scoop your litterbox at least one to two times a day. Make sure you have multiple boxes in multiple locations for multi-cat homes. The rule of thumb is one box for each cat plus one more (though there are exception where more or less may be needed). “I have worked with thousands of cat owners since 1999 and placing all your boxes in the basement spells trouble,” Nagelschneider explains. “This can increase territorial thinking which leads to hostility between cats (and, of course, out of the box behavior).  Increasing box number and location can help your cats get along.” Use Night Lights. “Cats cannot see in absolute darkness. This is a misconception about cats! They need a bit of light to see well. Please add night lights on the way to and in the litterbox areas,” she suggests. Finally, uncover those boxes. “Where in nature do cats urinate in a hollowed out log? They don’t,” Nagelschenider responds, “Covered boxes create a Porta Potty effect, trap smell, and make the box very unattractive.”

2. Male Cats Spraying Urine

Some say cats spraying is worse than not using the litterbox. Intact male spray has a pungent odor that really repulses. Unlike any of kitty’s other bad habits, your cat will spray repeatedly after you clean up.

For most cats, a simple and effective solution exists. Dr. Carlo Siracusa DVM, MS, PhD, Dip. ACVB, Dip. ECAWBM, Director of Animal Behavior Service at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital School of Veterinary Medicine for the University of Pennsylvania, says, “Neutering reduces marking in about 90% of intact male cats.” For the rest, he goes on to explain that “the use of medication can also be discussed with the veterinarian.”

3. Cats’ Destructive Scratching
No one wants shredded drapes and a clawed couch. Amy Shojai ( blog), CABC IAABC Certified Behavior Consultant and author of 26 award-winning pet care books, explains that scratching for cats is a way of marking territory with visual and scented signs.

Keep kitty from destroying your territory by paying attention to what your cat scratches (fabric, wood, carpet), Shojai suggest, and providing “legal” opportunities to scratch in the material your cat is attracted to.

“Since clawing marks territory, location is key,” she explains, “Situate claw objects in the same spot as the illegal target. Then reward your cat with praise and treats for clawing correctly. Make the illegal targets unattractive. Sticky Paws double sided tape product can keep cat claws at bay when applied to these items.”

4. Play Aggression with Cats
Cats provide entertainment and bonding. This quickly can become a dreaded chore if your cat’s claws come out. Dr. Carlo Siracusa has a couple of easy tips to save your hands and your kitty friendship.Kitten BIting

“Do not play using your hands and other parts of your body,” Siracusa warns. Instead, “provide environmental enrichment and play using toys that increase the distance from you (e.g. a stick with feathers). Redirect using treats or food-toys when you finish a play session, do not just walk away since this will leave your cat too aroused and likely to play with your hands/legs.” Dr. Siracusa also warns against trying you punish your cat, which can trigger fear-related aggression.

5. Cats Jumping on Counters, Etc.
We all know cats like to “perch,” usually on the highest point in the room. However, some places are just not for kitty – like the counter where there is food (and who can blame you? After all, your cat has had its paws in its toilet and you can bet he didn’t remember to wash his hands).

Amy Shojai suggests making the high surface, such as the counter, unattractive by putting away food, using a product like Sticky Paws or the Ssscat products. “give the cat a better place to lounge,” she says, “Provide a cat tree or other high perch that’s taller than the countertop, more comfy (has a bed, perhaps), and includes fun stuff (a catnip mouse, treats) that will create kitty allegiance toward the new spot.”


7 Household Hazards for Cats


Keeping your cat indoors is one of the best ways to keep him or her safe, but closing the door doesn’t eliminate all the risks to your favorite feline. Read on to learn about some of the most common household hazards for cats, and what you can do to minimize their risk.

1. Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications

While many people are aware of the dangers human medications pose to dogs, cats are also at risk for toxicity due to human medications ingested accidentally or administered by an owner who didn’t check with his or her veterinarian. Cats have systems quite unlike a human’s and do not process medications the same way.

Cold medications, antidepressants, and pain relievers are some of the most common causes of pet poisoning. Even one dose of Tylenol can be fatal to cats, who cannot metabolize the drug the same way people do. Never give your cat a human medication without talking to your veterinarian first.

2. Household plants

Poinsettias usually top owner lists of plants to avoid, but these holiday plants are generally benign, causing no more than a transient gastrointestinal upset. Lilies are much more dangerous to cats. These very common flowers cause kidney failure in cats when ingested in even small amounts. Even worse, all the parts of the plant, leaves included, are toxic.

In 2013, antifreeze manufacturers in the United States agreed to add bitter-tasting material to their product to discourage pets and children from ingesting it. While the antifreeze itself will be no less toxic, pets will be less likely to help themselves to a fatal mouthful.

3. String

Most of us have seen greeting cards with a playful kitten tumbling around with a ball of yarn, but the feline love of string has led to many emergency surgeries. When cats swallow the end of the string, one end can lodge near the base of the tongue while the rest works its way down the intestine, bunching it up as it moves along. This can lead to a sawing action that requires emergency surgery to fix.

Any string-like substance can cause this problem: thread, ribbon, yarn, even holiday tinsel.

4. Flea medications

While there are many safe and effective flea medications on the market specifically designated for cats, certain products made for dogs can be toxic to our feline friends. Permethrin, a synthetic form of the pyrethrins derived from the chrysanthemum plant, can cause vomiting, excessive salivation, seizures, and even death.

Most of these products are clearly labelled “not for use on cats”, but whether or not the warning is present, don’t share your dog’s flea medications with Fluffy. Stick to products specifically labelled for cats.

5. Antifreeze

Antifreeze toxicity is common in colder areas of the world. The sweet taste of the liquid makes it very tempting for felines. When ingested, antifreeze containing ethylene glycol causes calcium oxalate crystals to form in the kidneys, resulting in rapid and usually irreversible kidney damage. Antifreeze containing the agent propylene glycol is considerably less toxic, though you should still be cautious.

6. Rat bait

Rodenticides, commonly used in households to eliminate a mouse or rat problem, contain a variety of toxic agents that cause symtoms ranging from bleeding to seizures and death. While most dogs who suffer from rodenticide poison do so through ingesting the poison directly, many cats are affected by eating a rodent that has been killed with the bait.

Because the type of bait used dictates the treatment needed, make sure to keep your packaging and let your veterinarian know immediately if you suspect your cat has ingested rat bait. Better yet, consult a professional pest service for pet-safe control methods.

7. Liquid potpourri

Many cat owners turn to liquid potpourri as an air freshener instead of candles, correctly concerned about the possibility of a pet knocking over a lit candle. However, liquid potpourri can be very toxic to cats. They may ingest it due to its sweet smell, and suffer painful ulcerations as the caustic liquid travels down the throat into the stomach.

This list covers some of the more common dangers to cats in the house. If you suspect your cat has ingested a toxic substance, make sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for guidance. Many pets’ lives are saved through quick intervention in these cases when time may be of the essence.

10 Ways to Keep Your Cat Cool in Summer Heat


Summer starts soon, and with it comes hot weather. Here are ways to protect your cat.

 For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer starts on Friday, June 21. That’s the longest day of the year and with it comes hot weather until the fall. During the summer heat, you can strip down to shorts and a tank top, but your cat has to wear a fur coat all year long. This can easily become a health issue. So what can you do to keep your feline friend comfortable during the summer? Here are 10 of my favorite tips.

1. Ice Ice Baby

If you’re going to be away all day and you know it’s going to get warm in the afternoon, drop three or four cubes into kitty’s water bowl before you head out.

2. Ice Ice Baby, Part 2

Fill a small soda bottle with cold water and leave it in the freezer overnight. In the morning, wrap the bottle in a towel and put it in your cat’s favorite lounging spot. If she gets overheated, she’ll appreciate the kitty cooling room. Don’t fill the bottle to the top: Water expands when it freezes, and you could have a mess on your hands if you don’t leave some air space.

3. Elevate the Bed

Cloth-covered plastic frames with short legs will allow your cat to sleep in comfort during hot weather, and the air passing under her bed will help to keep her cool.

4. Give Her a Fan

Get a small box fan and set it on the floor near your air conditioner or an open window. If your kitty gets too hot, she’ll appreciate the breeze blowing through her fur to keep her cool. For extra cooling power during summer heat, put one of those frozen water bottles in front of the fan.

5. Shave and a Haircut

If your cat has long fur, consider getting her a lion cut to help ease her suffering on those hot summer days. But be careful: White and light-colored cats also have very pale skin and can be subject to sunburn.
Talk to your vet about whether giving your feline friend a shave could help keep her cool in the hot weather. Another option is to have only her tummy shaved: that way, she can get sun protection as well as cooling.

Hot cats will instinctively seek out cool places like tile floors.

6. Apply a Damp Cloth

Take a damp washcloth or paper towel and stroke your cat with it. Most cats don’t mind a little bit of moisture on their fur, especially when they notice how it can cool them off. In fact, one of the ways cats cool themselves down is by grooming, which is nothing more than wetting their fur with saliva rather than water.

7. Close the Curtains

Close the curtains or blinds in your south- or west-facing windows. Not only will it keep your kitty cooler, it’ll save you money on your a/c bills as well.

8. Avoid Cooling Gel Packs

Although gel cold packs are made with ingredients that are considered nontoxic for humans, the gel could be harmful to your cat if she happens to poke a hole in the plastic with her claw and ingest it.

9. Postpone Playtime

Even if your cat loves a rousing game of Chase the Mousie, it’s best to wait until the end of the day, when it’s cooler. Cats can get overheated pretty quickly by strenuous exercise on hot days.

10. Never, Never, Never Leave Your Cat in Your Car.

Not even for a quick errand. A closed car can reach temperatures well over 100 degrees in a frighteningly short time.
If your cat starts panting, drooling, or having trouble breathing, or she seems to be losing consciousness, get to your vet or the nearest emergency clinic right away. These are symptoms of heatstroke, and if left untreated, your cat could suffer from kidney damage, heart dysfunction, or other potentially fatal problems.

Meet the Pet FBI: A Group That Uses the Internet to Reunite Lost Pets with Their Families

When a black cat turned up on a woman’s doorstep in Worthington, Ohio, she did everything she could to find the lost kitty’s family. She contacted area shelters and put up posters around the neighborhood, hoping to hear from someone who was looking for their pet.

She also took her cat rescue effort online. Pet FBI, which stands for “found by Internet,” is a database dedicated to helping reunite pets lost and found in Ohio with their families. The woman had almost given up on finding the cat’s family when she got a call from a man in New Jersey. He had moved out of state from Reynoldsburg five months earlier, and he had lost his beloved cat, Midnight.

Pet FBI helps reunite lost pets with their families. 

The man, too, had almost given up when he found a description of Midnight on the Pet FBI website. After seeing a photograph, he drove 500 miles to retrieve his lost cat.

“It is still a mystery how Midnight ended up in Worthington after wandering away from home in Reynoldsburg,” says Maresa Fanelli, Pet FBI founder. “If only they could talk.”

Just goes to show that when looking for a lost pet, persistence pays off. Since Fanelli founded the nonprofit organization in the late 1990s, Pet FBI has helped thousands of lost pets find their way home. The database allows people to report and post descriptions of lost

or found pets. It is searchable by time frame, type of animal, and location. Since 1998, more than 39,000 reports have been submitted. Approximately one-third of the dogs and one-fourth of the cats have been reported as reunited.

“Sure enough, it was a match,” Fanelli says. “Just around that time, the Internet was taking off, and I thought, what a perfect application! Why not set up a database for lost and found pets?”Fanelli was inspired to take the traditional “lost pet” posters approach online after she witnessed a chance reunion between a lost cat and family. Her neighbor had been feeding a stray cat for several months when, by chance, her son saw a poster in another part of town with a picture that resembled the cat.

The holding time for strays at some shelters might only be a couple of days, so even after you’ve reported your cat missing, check back early and often.

Through her work with Pet FBI, Fanelli has learned some hard truths about animal rescue — and about the animals who end up in shelters. She did not realize that many of the cats and dogs in shelters were not merely lost but that many of them never had homes at all. She was also shocked to learn that a high percentage of these animals — particularly the cats and kittens — would never be given a chance at life.

“When I first founded Pet FBI I had some pretty naïve notions,” Fanelli says. “I thought that all the dogs and cats in shelters were strays and that someone somewhere was desperate to find them.”

When Fanelli learned the dire consequences of pet overpopulation, she expanded Pet FBI’s mission. In addition to reuniting pets with their families, Fanelli and the group’s dedicated volunteers also work to provide spay/neuter assistance to disadvantaged people and caretakers of feral cat colonies.

Since starting the spay/neuter program in 2002, Pet FBI has implemented or subsidized approximately 9,000 surgeries. Fanelli would like to do more, but acquiring enough funding and resources to meet growing needs remains challenging.

“The need is so great and the resources are so limited, and there are never enough trappers, foster parents, or homes for all the kittens,” Fanelli says.

When searching for a lost pet, persistence pays off.

Based on feedback from Pet FBI users, when looking for a lost pet, Fanelli recommends taking the search into the community as well as online. Posters are effective — but “they should be highly visible and there should be many of them.”

“Unfortunately, there is no one single source of information, so if you lose a pet you should be very aggressive and very persistent and avail yourself of every possible resource,” Fanelli adds.

This includes regularly checking in with local shelters. Many shelters are understaffed, so they might not rush to contact you even if you’ve reported your pet as missing. This is not because they don’t care, but simply because they cannot keep track of all the animals that enter their facilities. The holding period for strays may only be one to two days at some shelters, so it pays to visit early and often.

Also, Fanelli says people should not assume their lost pets will just find their way home on their own. Touching stories of lost pets randomly turning up at home are often reported in the news, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

“Do not assume that if your pet is lost it will come running to you,” Fanelli says. “This is especially true of cats, but dogs will also keep a low profile out of fear if they are stressed.”

10 Surprising Cat-Care Tips


10 Surprising Cat-Care Tips


In his latest book, “Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual,” Dr. Marty Becker offers his expert advice for new cat owners.  From his tips on how to prevent health problems to how to stop cats from scratching the furniture, this book covers any cat-related question you might have.  Check out Dr. Becker’s top ten surprising cat-care tips from his book below.

Cats Dig Running Water
A pet drinking fountain is one of the best investments you can make in your cat’s health.  Cats find cool, running water to be appealing — it’s a natural behavior, because stream water is less likely to be contaminated than a stagnant pool.  Cats tend to be chronically dehydrated, and feline fountains are proven to get cats to drink more water. Many feline health problems can be aided with proper hydration, and it’s more efficient than leaving a faucet dripping to entice your cat to drink.

Pick a Pretty, Allergy-Easy Kitty
While no cat is guaranteed to not be an allergy trigger — and people with life-threatening reactions are better off without a cat — it’s possible to pick a pet who might be less of a problem.  Black, unneutered males are purported the worst choice for people with allergies, since they typically have higher levels in their saliva of FelD1, the protein that triggers sneezing and wheezing. Some breeds of cat, most notably the Siberian, have a high number of individual animals with low levels of FelD1. If you’re paying for a  “hypo-allergenic” cat, insist on saliva testing. If you’re choosing a kitten, choose a light-colored female, and get her spayed.

Panting Is a Problem
Dogs pant up to 300 times a minute to cool themselves, but if you see your cat panting it may be a medical emergency. While sometimes it can just be from extreme anxiety, it can also be a sign of respiratory or cardiovascular problems, warranting an immediate call to the veterinarian.

Canned Cat Food Is Preferred
Veterinarians recommend feeding canned cat food over kibble. Canned foods have a higher percentage of protein and fat than dry foods and are significantly higher in water content than kibble (70 percent vs 10 percent). Also, canned foods tend to be more palatable to cats that are finicky, elderly or have dental problems.  Better health for your cat can start by closing the all-day kitty kibble buffet and feeding measured amounts of a good canned food. Talk to your veterinarian.

Want a Cat to Love You? Look Away!
What can you do to get a cat to come to you? Avoid eye contact. Cats don’t like eye contact with strangers, so will almost always go to the person who’s not looking at them. This also is the answer to the age-old mystery of why cats always seem to go to the one person in the room who doesn’t like cats. It’s because she may be the only one not “rudely” — in the cat’s view — staring.

Tale of the Tail
You can tell a cat’s mood by watching his tail. Tail upright, happy; tail moving languidly, keep petting me; tail low, twitching erratically, I’m on the prowl; tail swishing rapidly, beware and leave me alone. If you’ve ever been surprised when a cat you’re petting suddenly grabs you angrily, you missed a tail tale: The unhappy twitch of the tail tip would have told you to stop petting, now.

Surprising Signs of a Cat in Pain
Chronic pain is not uncommon in cats, especially as they age. Cat-lovers miss the signs of a pet in pain because cats are good at hiding it. Any cat observed as being hesitant to jump up or climb, not using the litter box, not able to groom themselves as well, more aggressive or more withdrawn need to see the veterinarian. These are classic signs of discomfort, and need to be addressed.

What Litter Do Cats Really Prefer?
Forget the people-pleasing scents. Forget special formulas or alternative ingredients. Your cat is more likely to prefer unscented clumping litter, according to preference tests. And if you want to keep your cat using “the bathroom,” be sure to keep it clean, place it in a quiet, cat-friendly place and don’t use any liners in the box — cats don’t like them. None of these changes will address a cat who has stopped using the box because of illness. Urinary tract infections and other health issues need to be addressed by your veterinarian before box re-training can commence.

How to Prevent a Finicky Cat
Feed your kitten a few different foods so he or she will experience different textures and flavors of food. Just as people typically stick with the toothpaste they start with as youngsters, cats who are only exposed to one type of food will be less likely try other brands and kinds. That can be a real problem if the favored food goes off the market, or your cat needs to eat a special food for health reasons. So mix it up on your kitten.

Don’t Toss That Ratty Scratching Post
When a post starts looking worn is when a cat starts liking it best. Get a new one and your cat may switch to the arm of the couch. Instead, refresh your cat’s post by adding some coils of fresh sisal rope — it’s cheap, easy to add and cats love to dig their claws into it.