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11 Ways We Annoy Our Cats

 

Picking them up is just one way we annoy our cats.How do we annoy our cats? Just ask Belle. She’s still mad at me for giving in to temptation and picking her up.

She’s so tiny and so cute, I just couldn’t resist. I picked her up and hugged her, my face against hers.

But like most cats, Belle does not appreciate being picked up. And getting squished between my arms really was a bit much. She’s outside now, telling the other cats how annoying and disrespectful I am. 

Despite our best intentions, there are so many things we do that annoy our cats. Here are 11 things we do that really annoy our cats.

11 Ways We Annoy Our Cats

It’s June, Adopt A Cat Month!

Kittens flood into shelters in June, Adopt A Cat Month.Personally, I wish every month was Adopt A Cat Month. But if American Humane had to settle on just one month, June was a good choice. In June, spring kittens flood into shelters. Sadly, many of them, and even more adults, don’t come out alive.

​During Adopt A Cat Month, American Humane hopes to not only encourage adoptions but to call attention to cats’ unique needs.

Cats Get Less Of Everything Than Dogs Do

Ouch! How To Prevent Cat Bites

Angry cat ready to bite, but cat bites can be prevented.© Ermolaev Alexandr-Fotolia.com

A few nights ago, I came across an article by Christine Schelling, who’s one of my favorite online vets because of her outspoken stand against declawing. But in this article, she wasn’t talking about declawing. She was discussing cat bites and why they should be taken seriously.I have to admit I’ve had lots of experience with cat bites. For 18 years, I lived with a cat who slept with me every night and would sink every tooth and claw into my arm if I moved the wrong way. And then there was the damaging sneak attack by a pet sitting cat. I still pet sit for her, although she terrifies me.

Having read Dr. Schelling’s article, I realize I should have taken those bites more seriously, and in the future, I will. But I also believe the best cure for a cat bite, like anything else, is prevention.

Seven ‘Catspeak’ Words You Need To Know To Prevent Cat Bites

‘People Food’ For Cats – The Good, The Bad & The Dangerous

People food for cats is great, as long as it doesn't c. ontain onion, chocolate or other toxic ingredients.

Years ago, when I ate meat, my cats would gather in the kitchen around my mealtimes to see what goodies I had for them. Tabby enjoyed her little saucers of milk, and Ted and Van Gogh liked any kind of meat, but pot roast was their favorite. I used to make it just for them. Little did I know that the onion in the gravy they loved could be fatal to cats. I’ve learned a lot since then, and now I know some people food for cats is great, as long as I pay attention to the ingredients. 

People Food That’s Good For Cats

Happy Heart Month! Find Out About Preventing Heart Disease In Cats

It's heart month and the perfect time to think about preventing heart disease in cats. voren1 – Fotolia.com

February is heart month, and we’re celebrating in two different ways. I’ve already ordered my cats’ Yeowww Catnip hearts for Valentine’s Day. And now I’m turning my thoughts to something more serious — those essential-for-life muscles that beat inside their chests. After all, healthy hearts are as important for cats as they are for humans.

Six Things That Frustrate Cats

Puzzle feeders are one of the things that frustrate cats.

Humans come up with so many things that frustrate cats. That really hit home this week with my pet sitting cats.

Ollie and Hobbes have a plastic “puzzle feeder” that would be fun if they could figure out how to pull the pieces of kibble through the holes in the plastic. LK and her friends have covered litter boxes with swinging doors — cute, except one cat got tired of being hit in the face every time she had to go to the bathroom and is now using the floor instead. Poor Brian has pills so big they’d choke a horse. And Pebbles has one of those laser toys with the uncatchable red dot.

Six Things That Frustrate Cats

Five New Years Resolutions For My Cats

Tabby cat being petted© mariesacha – Fotolia.com

2016 was a difficult year at our house. We lost both a human family member and a beloved cat friend. And I was deeply affected (and traumatized) by the election. But if I was traumatized by the election, my cats were, too. After all, our cats pick up on our thoughts, and when we’re upset, they’re upset, too.

So as I’m looking forward to a new year and a fresh start, I’m thinking about my cats. My resolutions are all about them this year and their mental health. Picking up on each other’s emotions goes two ways. If they’re happy, I’m happy.


New Years Resolutions For The Cats

I don’t think I’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution I kept, but I intend to keep my resolutions this year. After all, the cats are my family, and I want to do these things for them.

  1. I’ll check my emotions at the door. It’s not their fault that my candidate lost or that an impatient driver blasted his horn at me because I didn’t take off at full speed the instant the traffic light turned from red to green. In 2017, I’ll leave my frustration with the world outside and enjoy the peace and calm that comes with sharing space with cats when I’m inside. When I’m calm, they’re calm and happy.
  2. We’ll reestablish our rituals. My cats love to walk with me at night, and we’re going to start doing that again. Every night. No matter what the weather is like. Our walks boost my spirits and doing something together as a family boosts theirs. 
  3. I’ll be more patient with them. Yes, it’s annoying when Boots tries to bury the food that costs well over $1 a can and Soda insists on sitting on the counter while I’m trying to putting food in dishes. But I know I do things that annoy them, too, and they don’t tell me to “Stop!” or “Get Down!” There’s a reason why they do what they do, and I need to remind myself of that and work around them. They work around me. I can do the same for them. 
  4. I’ll be more patient with the technology that seems to rule our lives. It’s not their fault that I can’t find what I’m looking for on a Web page or that Google can’t figure out what I’m searching for and return helpful results. And when I hurl nasty words at my laptop, they have no idea whether I’m angry with my computer or with them. So when I’m frustrated with all the “devices” I own, as I often am, I’ll take a deep breath or count to 10, or even better, take a break and pet a cat. Then, we’ll all be calm, and in the meantime, maybe the offending computer, iPad or phone will figure things out for itself. 
  5. My schedule won’t become their schedule. Their dinner shouldn’t be late just because I’m deep into a writing project. Taking a break to fix their food at the right time will be as good for me as it is for them. 

The New Year Starts Now

I’ve been writing and writing, and now it’s way past the cats’ dinnertime. Muffitt is standing on my lap with her fluffy tail in my face. Sizzle is lying on my feet. And Soda and Boots are sitting beside my desk watching me and looking grouchy. They could care less about my blog. They just want to eat. So that’s what we’ll do. And tomorrow night, technology willing, I’ll stop work a couple of hours earlier so we can get the year off to a good start by having dinner on time. But first, we’ll go for a walk. I’m looking forward to that. 

Happy New Year to all of our friends. My cats and I hope 2017 will be a very good year for all of you. 

Today’s Recommendation
We love this 2017 Gary
​Paterson calendar

Christmas Scents Can Be Toxic To Cats

Many of the scents of Christmas can be toxic to cats© Caroline Henri Dreamstime.com

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas. While the scents of baking cookies and a freshly cut tree may be almost as enjoyable to your cats as they are to you, some of the scents of Christmas can be toxic to cats.​

Candle, Candle Burning Bright
Those scented candles we humans love so much may be the most likely to cause problems for our cats.

First, think about the scent itself. While a peppermint-, gingerbread- or pine-scented room smells wonderful to us, it can be overwhelming to an animal who’s much smaller than we are and has a much more acute sense of smell. And a burning candle can disguise the familiar scents that make a cat’s house feel like home.

But discomfort isn’t the only problem cats can have with scented candles. Many candles contain essential oils, which can be toxic to cats. Since their skin is much thinner than ours is, these concentrated substances are absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly. And since cats can’t efficiently metabolize the compounds in most essential oils, they can cause toxic build-up in the cats’ bodies. 


The holiday scents that are most toxic to cats include:

  • Peppermint
  • Clove
  • Citrus
  • Lavender
  • Cinnamon
  • Wintergreen
  • Pine
  • Spruce

Tea tree oil is also toxic to cats.

The ASPCA Poison Control Center discourages using essential oils in the rooms you share with your cats. Inhaling the oils can cause aspiration pneumonia and asthma attacks, the Poison Control website says. Ingesting essential oils can lead to gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and liver damage.

Potpourri
Liquid Potpourri also contains essential oils. But just as dangerous are the cationic detergents that allow the oils and water to come together. Cationic detergents can cause skin and eye burns, intestinal ulcers, difficulty breathing and neurological problems.

Air Fresheners
Many air fresheners also contain essential oils to make them smell good. But what makes them even more dangerous is the volatile organic compounds that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature due to a low boiling point. This causes them to evaporate from a solid to liquid form in the air. The same volatility that makes your room smell like holiday peppermint or pine also occurs in paint, fossil fuels, formaldehyde, refrigerants, aerosol propulsion, cigarette smoke and other products you probably wouldn’t want to breathe. They can cause asthma and cancer, and can affect the respiratory and nervous systems, as well as the blood, brain, heart, liver, kidneys and skin of both humans and animals.

Cleaning Products 
The safest way to get your house ready for the holidays is to use vinegar and water. Like other household cleaning products, vinegar has antimicrobial properties, but it’s a lot less expensive. And most important, it’s nontoxic to humans and animals. Just don’t use it on your marble or granite counters. It could etch the stone.

Many household cleaning products contain ingredients that are harmful to cats, so read the labels carefully. Be on the lookout for 

  • Phenols (the product probably has “sol” in its name. Think Pinesol)
  • Phthalates
  • Formaldehyde
  • Bleach
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Perchloroethylene (this is often found in rug and carpet shampoos)

Even if your cat doesn’t ingest or inhale these substances, the residue can land on their coats and noses and in their eyes and throats. It can settle on their food and in their water, too.

​This can cause all kinds of symptoms from sneezing and coughing to seizures and death. The residue can also cause kidney and liver failure and cancer, veterinarian Patrick Mahaney writes on The Daily Vet blog.

Read more about cats and Christmas:
Cats and Christmas Trees Can Coexist
Giving Cats As Christmas Gifts

Remembering The Kittens On National Feral Cat Day

Feral kittens are happiest outside.

Feral Cat Day has come and gone for this year. But I’m still thinking about the kittens… the tiny wild ones who will be “rescued” and taken to shelters where they will be killed, or tamed and socialized and adopted to homes, where most of them will live out their lives in fear.

I know those “tamed, socialized” and adopted kittens. I know them well. Many of my pet sitting cats began life as feral kittens. Today, they live strictly indoors as terrified adults.

They’re the cats who run for the nearest hiding place when the doorbell rings. They’re the ones who cower under a bed or in the deepest, darkest corner of a closet when a stranger is in the house. That stranger could be the cat sitter who has been visiting them for years, but they still hide.

I’ve found frightened cats in box springs and behind washers and dryers. I discovered Holly, who was adopted from my rescue and had known me for years, hiding behind the speakers of her family’s stereo system. Frosty somehow managed to get inside an armoir, where she was safe from the invader who was there to give her food. Meanwhile, her brother, who’s not the smallest cat I’ve ever known, took refuge underneath a treadmill.

In time, many of these hidey cats become my friends. But others never do. And some find a new hiding place the second I discover the first one.


The Changing World Of Feral Cats

A lot has changed for feral cats since I began rescuing more than 30 years ago. Today, we do trap/neuter/return, instead of trap/neuter/relocate or trap/neuter/adopt. Today, we think of feral cats as community cats and realize that even if they have just one feeder, their welfare is the entire community’s responsibility.

But that idea has yet to trickle down to the kittens. Much to my dismay, many rescuers still take the kittens out of colonies, “tame and socialize them” and adopt them out to homes where they’re never completely comfortable and never feel completely safe. There are exceptions, of course, but I know very few of them. 

Some Thoughts On Trap/Adopt

When would-be rescuers ask me, I beg them to not trap/adopt. Maybe the most compelling reason is that the shelters are overflowing with kittens. They’re tame kittens who would appreciate a good home if they were lucky enough to find one. And since their lives are at stake, they’e in urgent, desperate need. Meanwhile, the feral kittens already have homes, in our woods, our parking lots, our alleys and our backyards.

Maybe they’re not the kinds of homes we want for them. But when we rescue, we have to think about what the cats want, not what we want for them. What the cats want is to stay outside with their families and friends. 

The other reason, that’s almost as compelling to me, is that feral kittens can be very difficult to tame. Socializing them so they’re comfortable with all humans, not just the person who tamed them, is even more difficult, and very few people succeed.

So those lovingly “tamed” kittens grow up to be fearful adults who hide at the first sign of a stranger entering their homes. No cat should have to live in constant fear. ​

How To Tame Feral Kittens

 I give this advice reluctantly because I really want you to get those feral kittens you found neutered/spayed, vaccinated, ear tipped and microchipped and put them back outside. With daily meals and a shelter so they can get out of the cold and rain, chances are they’ll live long and happy lives.

But if you just can’t resist the urge to try to make those wild but beautiful and just too cute babies into house cats, this is the way to tame feral kittens. Sometimes it works; sometimes it does not.

Before you start, set a time limit. If the little ones are still hissing and wild after, say a month or so, realize that they are not going to turn and put them back outside after they’ve been neutered/spayed. They’ll thank you for giving them their freedom and letting them live their lifestyle of choice.

Something else to keep in mind is that all kittens need to get used to being handled by humans when they’re very young if they’re going to become comfortable with people. If your kittens are over six weeks old, it’s probably too late. 

The first step is to bring all the kittens, not just the one you want to keep, inside and set them up in a huge dog crate. Bring the mother in, too. Kittens need to be with their mothers, not just for nourishment, but to learn how to be cats. Get the mother spayed and put her back out when the kittens are about eight weeks old. 

The crate needs to be large enough for food and water bowls, a litter box, and a box or cat bed for hiding. Cover part of the top of the crate with a sheet so the cats won’t feel so vulnerable. Then…

  • Put a radio tuned to a quiet and polite talk station (NPR) or a television in their room so they can get used to the sounds of different human voices. The best TV stations for cats are the Golf and shopping channels. Animal Planet can be too violent and gruesome.
  • Play with them with an interactive wand or fishing pole toy. That’s a good way for them to associate something fun with you without having to get too close. 
  • Touch the kittens as much as possible. 
  • Invite friends over to visit your new kittens. They need to get used to the company of many humans, not just you. 
  • When the kittens are touchable, let them out of the crate, but keep them confined in a room. You don’t want them to disappear someplace in your house!
  • Get down to their level by sitting or lying on the floor. Read or watch TV, but don’t make eye contact with them. Make a trail of treats from them to you. That’s a way to get them to come close. 
  • Don’t forget your playtime with the wand or fishing pole toy!

Taming feral kittens can be rewarding and fun. But making sure your kittens are well-socialized is just as important as taming them if they’re going to live in homes in close proximity to people. And if you do adopt them out, adopt them in pairs. Kittens need to grow up with other kittens to be happy, healthy and well-socialized. 

Know The Facts Before You Rescue Feral Kittens

The feral kittens you found are adorable, and you want them to live long, happy, healthy lives. But they can, and most likely will, if you leave them outside. Unless they’re in a very dangerous location, they don’t need to be rescued.

Before you trap/adopt, it’s important to separate the facts from fiction about feral cats. 
Fiction: Feral cats live short, miserable lives.
Fact: Writing for The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, veterinarians Julie K. Levy and Cynda Crawford say studies show that feral cats in managed (trapped/neutered/returned) colonies often live as long as house cats and die of the same diseases of old age, cancer and kidney failure. Some friends and I feed a colony of cats who are about 13 years old.
Fiction: Feral cats are diseased.
Fact: Sterilized feral cats who have regular meals and cold weather shelters are generally as healthy as house cats, and may be even healthier. In their article, Levy and Crawford discuss a study that found feral cats brought in to spay/neuter clinics were “generally in good health, and the incidence of disease in feral cat colonies is no higher than among owned cats.”
Fiction: Feral cats are prone to feline leukemia, FIV and rabies.
Fact: In an interview with Maddie’s Fund, Levy said “feral cats have about the same very small incidence of feline leukemia and FIV as domestic cats. Feral cats in managed colonies are vaccinated and can’t get or transmit rabies.
Fiction: It’s too cold for cats to be outside in the winter. They’ll be uncomfortable and freeze to death.
Fact: Cats are very good at keeping warm, even in the coldest weather. Give your cats heavily insulated cold weather shelters and they’ll be cozy and warm all winter. Just be sure to keep the snow away from the entrances so they don’t get trapped inside. 
Fiction: Feral cats fight constantly.
Fact: Most cats avoid fights at all costs, and sterilized cats rarely fight.
Fiction: Feral cats use flowerbeds as litter boxes and annoy the neighbors.
Fact: This can be true, but there are deterrents to discourage cats from using flowerbeds as litter boxes and sitting on cars.  

When Feral Kittens Grow Up

Feral cats can be wonderful friendsTank

It’s been a long time since I shared my life with feral kittens. Charlie and Tank, the feral cats in my life, are wise, wonderful adults. Although I can’t touch them, I love the time I spend with them in the woods. Charlie meets me on the path every day, and we walk together to their feeding station. Then we talk for a few minutes before I fix their food and leave them to their meal.

They’re healthy and happy. And for those few minutes before they begin to eat, they invite me into their peaceful, more rational world where all the stress of an otherwise stressful life fades away.

Many of the once feral pet sitting cats share their other world with me, too. I might have to visit them in their hiding places, and I know I’ll never be able to touch them. But for just a few minutes, when I lie on the floor and put some treats under the bed where they’re hiding, we connect in love and friendship. These are special moments for me, and I cherish every one of them.


Can You Afford A Cat?

We welcome Boots to our family, although I worry about whether I can afford another cat. Boots

As I’m typing, our newest family member is curled up in my lap. Boots came from my rescue’s shelter as a foster. That’s how most of my cats got here! Like many of the others, I brought him here because he was sick, and he wouldn’t get the care he needed (eye drops three times a day) in the shelter.

It took just a couple of days for me to realize that Boots was going to be yet another foster fail. He’s the sweetest, most loving little guy. He sleeps next to me stretched out on his back with his head on my shoulder. He follows me everywhere. And he sits on my lap and helps me type. He’s a great editor! Oh, and he gets along with the other cats. They love him, and he loves them.

So how could I return my new best friend to the shelter? I couldn’t. But part of me wonders if I made the right decision, not for me, but for him.

Can I Afford Another Cat?
Many years ago, while one of my cats and I were waiting to see the vet, I read an article in Veterinary Practice News about the “financial worthiness” of people who adopt cats and dogs. The author’s premise was that moderate and low income people should not bring animal companions into their homes because they couldn’t afford to care for them properly. I was incensed!


But I had to admit he had a point. Cats can be expensive, and living with one (or several) is not for the financially faint of heart.

Sizzle has heart disease, and his annual rechecks with the cardiologist cost about $700. Ginger hurt her foot a couple of months ago, and her vet bill was an astonishing $500. Boots has FIV, so I can’t take a wait and see approach if he gets sick. His precious little body doesn’t have the resources it needs to fight infection on its own, so if he gets sick, he’ll need immediate medical care. 

I live in fear of a multi-thousand dollar medical emergency. Will my Care Credit card and the other credit card I save for vet bills be enough? I can only pray that they will be because choosing euthanasia for a sick cat due to lack of funds would never even be a remote possibility for me.  

Cutting Costs, Not Corners
When an emergency strikes, there’s not much you can do to avoid a vet bill so high it sends you into sticker shock. But you can try to be prepared by investing in pet insurance, starting and maintaining a medical savings account for your cats or setting aside a credit card that you’ll use only for their health care.

There are ways to save money on cat care, too. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Seek out low-cost wellness clinics for your cats’ annual exams. You don’t need to spend $100 or more per cat for your regular vet to check their weight, listen to their hearts and draw blood for those senior blood panels. 
  • Give serious thought to whether your cats really need those “annual shots.” Chances are, they don’t.
  • Avoid prescription food. You can usually achieve the same benefits by tweaking your cat’s diet. If your cat has food sensitivities, many cat food manufacturers make single-protein-source wet food that tastes better than prescription food and is less expensive. 
  •  If your cat has a chronic illness that requires daily medicine, get it at your drugstore. The medications cats take for hyperthyroidism and heart disease are human drugs that will cost less if you buy them from a pharmacy instead of your vet. A Canadian pharmacy will cost even less.  
  • Do your best to keep your cats healthy. For instance, feeding an all-wet-food diet and learning to brush your cats’ teeth will help prevent gum disease. Dentals for cats are expensive!
  • All-wet-food diets can also help you prevent obesity, and other costly health problems like diabetes and bladder stones and crystals. 
  • Avoid using air and carpet fresheners and scented candles. The essential oils in these products can be toxic to cats and can cause seizures and even asthma. Both could require expensive emergency vet visits.
  • Buy your cats’ food, litter and things like flea meds online. Online retailers are usually less expensive than the pet supply chain stores, and on most websites, the threshold for free shipping is well under $50. Compare prices from site to site, too. 
  • Remember that the least expensive isn’t always the most cost effective. Good litter makes harder clumps and lasts longer. Inexpensive dry food that’s mostly grain colored with red and yellow dye could backfire and make your cat expensively sick.  

Here’s more information on finding affordable vet care.

My Boy Boots
Boots has left my lap and is now wrapped around my neck, purring in my ear. He’s a funny, quirky cat, and after a difficult summer, I appreciate having a friend who makes me laugh.

Last month, he suddenly appeared on a patio in Burke, Va. He was skin and bones and in urgent need of a human friend. He found one on that patio, but she couldn’t keep him because her dogs hate cats. We’re still not sure why she contacted me when there are so many rescues much closer to where she lives. But sometimes, the universe steps in and introduces cats and people. So I think of Boots as a gift from the universe at a time when I really needed one.

Can I afford another cat? No, not really. But when I think about it, finances are never a reason to deny a cat a happy home, no matter what that vet said. By adopting Boots, I made room for another cat in need to come to our no-kill shelter. If only the people who are “financially worthy” adopted animal companions, imagine how many more cats and dogs would be in rescue or lose their lives in “shelters.” 

True, living with cats can be expensive. But isn’t it better for us to stretch a bit to give cats homes than to let them die in shelters? I don’t know about you, but I think it is.