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Cat Attacks

Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 10:46:32 AM EST by Cam Day

Cat Attacks - Play or Prey Behaviour?

The behaviour of cats is sometimes a wonder. Why would a peaceful, purring puss suddenly turn on its owner, biting, clawing and raking the very hand that pats it?
Aggro_Cat_Grey_200-smlContented one moment - demented the next is a good description of such behaviours. Jekyll and Hydecats is another descriptive term given to the cats that employ this deviant 'good guy-bad guy' routine. If your cat attacks you in this manner, solving the behaviour calls for a bit of cunning.

Take a close look at your cat the next time this happens. While patting him or her, watch the eyes and ears and the tail. Usually a dilation of the pupils or a 'black eyed' look heralds the change in mood when aggression is on the way.

The ears will sometimes flatten onto the back of its head, although not always, and the telltale tail will usually start swishing. You may not see all of these signs. Chances are they will happen so quickly that you're more intent on removing the embedded claws and teeth from your flesh than worrying about a detailed analysis of the cat's stereotypic communication cues!

However, if you do see these behaviours, move away from your cat or tip it off your lap if you can.

When a cat attacks when you are cuddling it, it will often wrap its front feet around your forearm, and then embed its claws and its teeth into your flesh. It may then rKIttens Playing_200Smlake your skin with its back claws, thus causing quite an injury.

While this attack may appear vicious and may be damaging, I am not convinced that this behaviour is always an aggressive behaviour. I believe that it is often an aberrant form of play behaviour as it closely resembles the way in which kittens play with each other. You will often see this 'wrap and rake' technique when kittens play, but it is not so common when adult cats attack each other.

For these Jekyll and Hyde behaviours, I usually advise my clients to use a program of  'progressive patting'. Your aim when using this therapy is to reinforce the cats friendly behaviour and to not allow the aggressive behaviour to develop.

Before we go any further, consider that aggression is damaging and dangerous. If you are unsure of your cat's behaviour then take no risks and seek professional advice first.


Cats and Dogs

Posted: Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 10:42:51 AM EST by Cam Day

The Difference Between Cats and Dogs

The friendship of a pet is unique. It provides a kind of devotion and love that can't be duplicated by another human.

Cats snugglingDogs show this type of devotion readily. They are so happy when you come home. They are so content to lie at your feet while you watch television or work in your office. Doesn't it make you burst with joy when your dog puts its big head on your lap to show it wants a hug or pat?

With cats, you have to work a little harder to get that devotion.You may share the same house, but the arrangement is totally at the cat's discretion. For me, one of the highs in life with Drape Shape would start when he sauntered casually but purposefully towards me across the lounge room. He would have that "I'll get there in my own sweet time, buddy" attitude. He would snake his way towards my chair where I waited with trembling expectation. He would stop, just out of reach. He would sit there and lick himself, teasing me mercilessly, perhaps casting a casual black eye at my lap. Then, with a calculated leap and the cutest squeak of a purr, he would jump into the waiting lap of Kathryn, my dearly beloved fellow cat worshipper. He used to tease me, control me and manipulate me and I enjoyed every moment of it. It is difficult now that he's gone.

So for a while we were cat-depleted. That was until I answered some distant calling to visit the RSPCA. There I found two fuzz-balls lying peacefully in their hammock beds. I picked them up and they purred immediately and squinted at me indicating that a lifetime of love and devotion was in the offering. I was a sucker and a victim. No mortal human can contest such underhand feline charms. A quick phone call to Kathryn and those who were cat-depleted became cat-repleted.

The dust-bunnies, as Kathryn fondly calls them, have settled in well. They are semi-long-haired dish-mops that look like a cross between a feather Girlp and Pupduster and Cousin It. They play in such an entertaining way that we are constantly giggling at their frantic antics. Roxy the Imperfect Pooch thinks they are better than cable TV and even Kitty our third puss cat thinks these fuzz-balls are reasonable, provided they keep a respectable distance.

And as for the purrs and the devotion promised so faithfully at the RSPCA? Forget it! That was just a feline feint, a puss-cat ploy utilised to secure adoption. These dust-bunnies are party animals. They have places to go and people to meet, toys to tease and food to eat. We love these fur-balls and I think that they think we are OK too. Maybe we should call them Dust-buddies.

So friendships are important, but especially those we strike with our pets.

Why I Like Pets

Why do I think pets provide such an enhancement to my lifestyle? Because they show affection for no reason other than to be friendly. Because they are so 'up front' when they want something and so manipulative to ensure they succeed. Because they provide entertainment by doing things that humans can't. Because they are small enough to pick up and cuddle or at least to give a darn good hug. Because they feel so nice when you do hug them. Because their fur is so soft, their bodies so firm and touchable. Because I can talk to them and they seem to listen and even understand what I am saying. Because they enjoy the simple things in life like having their tummies rubbed, having hugs and playing with toys. Because they don't criticise, complain or make unreasonable demands. Because they don't send bills in the post.

What the Scientists Say

Puppy PreSchoolThe White Coats, the scientists-who-know-such-things, tell us that pets are good for our health. They tell us that people who own pets tend to visit the doctor less often. I'll tell you that's because pet owners haven't time to go to the doctors. Once you've finished feeding your pets, cleaning up their mess, repairing the fence, filling in the holes that your dog has mined and ringing the upholstery firm to get your cat-clawed lounge suite recovered, you have rightfully collapsed in bed.

The White Coats tell us that pet owners have lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Pet owners don't have time to eat - that's why their cholesterol is lower and the reduction in blood pressure is a natural follow-on from the shock that occurs after you discover your dog has made a huge mess in your house.

Pet owners recover more quickly from illness and surgery they say. With your dog tugging at the sheets saying 'Walkies' and your cat sitting on your chest with a claw in your nostril saying 'Feed Now!' you daren't spend time in bed worrying about your own health problems.

And lastly the White Coats say pet owners deal better with stressful situations and are less likely to feel lonely. Naturally we deal better with stressful situations because, being pet owners, we have had heaps more practice at it than those who lead boring lives without pets. And with a pet around, who has time to be lonely?

For me, pets are perfect buddies - and that's all that matters!

Keeping Pets Safe from household chemicals

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 11:57:30 AM EST by Cam Day

Household Poisons That Can Kill Your Cat

Curiosity killed the cat they say!

A wise sage probably coined this cliché to describe the sensitivity of cats to poisons around the home. Cats are much more susceptible to poisons than are dogs so this article contains some timely warnings about cats and poisons that affect them.

Pain Killers - A Feline's Foe

The common painkillers Paracetamol and Aspirin are wonderful drugs for your own pain and discomfort,  but when it comes your cat, they are extremely dangerous.

Kitten_BurmeseThese drugs are all too commonly given to cats by their owners.  They are incorrectly used as a home remedy for many feline illnesses. This is an extremely dangerous practice and can result in the death of the pet.

Paracetamol causes extreme breathlessness by dangerously altering the red blood cells. It changes the red pigment of the blood (haemoglobin) into a compound known as methaemoglobin. This substance does not carry oxygen and results in the animal's gums and lips turning blue. Fluid-like swelling occurs around the face and the cat is lethargic and gasping for breath.

Aspirin is also a danger. It causes intense irritation of the intestines and a lose of appetite, vomiting and depression. The cat is not able to balance or stand. Its head may be wobbling or swaying from side to side.

These drugs are dangerous and you should not give them to your cat - unless your veterinarian advises that you do so.  

Other human medications that you should keep away from your cat include any containing phenylbutazone, indomethacin, ibuprofen, naproxen, acetominophen and codeine

Household Horrors

Many household substances can seriously affect cats too.

Any tar derivatives such as Creosote and some tar-based shampoos are dangerous.  Creosote is extremely corrosive and is toxic to cats. By  being absorbed through its skin, a cat easily takes creosote into its body. A cat may also try to lick creosote from its body, thus ingesting the tar through its mouth.

Tar derivatives cause a violent gastroenteritis in cats, with severe abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.  Tar is a therapeutic agent used in some dog shampoos. Ensure any shampoo used on your cat is 'feline friendly' - read the label!

Household chemicals such as turpentine, kerosene and petrol can make a cat very ill.  These products are still sometimes incorrectly  used as a bushie's remedy for ticks and fleas. This is dangerous and you should keep these products away from your cat.woman_with_cat_200

Even if you wash it off, your cat will still readily absorb turpentine through its skin. It causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and nervous signs, such as restlessness and hyperexcitability.

Use Insecticides with Caution

Be careful when washing cats in insecticide.  Many insecticides on the market that are designed to kill fleas and ticks are quite safe when used on dogs but are deadly to cats. Insecticides containing organo-phosphate chemicals such as dichlorvos, diazinon and coumaphos are still available as dog washes but they are lethal for cats. The labels contain warnings against their use in cats, but many people forget to read the instructions!

The use of these types of insecticides is reducing in favour of the newer and kinder insecticides that are now commonly available through your veterinarian and pet shop.

Chlorinated hydrocarbons such as aldrin, DDT, dieldrin and lindane are especially dangerous in cats. These compounds are seldom used nowadays, but, while they are well controlled, some rural properties still have such preparations in storage.

Accidental poisoning with any of these insecticides can produce vomiting, diarrhoea, salivation, muscle   tremors and convulsions.

Caution When Renovating

With many glorious Colonial and Queenslander houses being restored nowadays, poisoning from lead-based paint is still a problem. The main difficulty occurs when you sand the lead paint. The lead dust on the ground is picked up on your cat's feet or fur and your cat could ingest enough to make it sick.

Lead causes extreme hyperexcitability. Your cat will hysterically rush around the house in an uncoordinated fashion. It will show paralysis or muscle weakness and convulsions are common. You may also notice gastrointestinal signs such as  loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea or constipation.

If you suspect your cat has been poisoned, your best remedy is an emergency visit to your veterinarian. Be careful because a cat that is in convulsions or that is fitting is very dangerous and difficult to handle. It will not recognize you as its owner and you are likely to get bitten or scratched severely. Place your cat in a cardboard box or cat carry cage, ring your veterinarian and proceed with cautious haste. If you know what substance poisoned your cat, take a sample of it to your veterinarian.

Sharpening Claws

Posted: Friday, June 1, 2012 at 11:26:44 AM EST by Cam Day

Scratching the Surface

Why do cats sharpen their claws on furniture?

Nothing riles a cat owner more than when their manic moggie uses the family lounge suite as a claw-honing tool but the solutions are as sneaky as the behaviour of the culprit cat itself.

catoncouch200Cats practice claw sharpening for many reasons.

Partly it is a manicuring behaviour. By drawing their claws across fabric they are stripping away the dead and damaged claw tips just like we humans clip our long nails when they are annoying us.

However, cats also claw trees and, similarly, household furniture, to mark their territory. The marking occurs in two ways. The obvious tattiness of a tree trunk after being scratched by a cat is a visual marker, analogous to a news headline in the morning paper. The headline-scratching attracts other cats who approach the area to determine the fine print details left by the animal author.

The second territorial marker then comes into play by way of the scents released from the cat's paws as it scratches. This scent provides a territorial marking function and identifies the cat that made its mark.

Lastly, some house cats claw furniture because they relish the effect their errant ways have on their owners whose rantings and ravings are just the stimulation a bored puss-cat needs.

Solving the Problem

The solutions to claw sharpening are borne from the reasons it occurs in the first place.

Trim your cat's claws.

By trimming your cats claws regularly, you are likely to reduce the behaviour if the main reason is one of pur-sonal grooming! However, a cat's claws become sharp again very quickly so weekly trimming is needed.

Cover the Tattiness.

Try covering the damaged furniture to hide the visual marks. Covering with aluminium foil or black plastic is useful but for the obsessive scratchers, covering the corners of the furniture temporarily with suitable sized lengths and widths of plastic drain pipe is useful. Cut the pipe lengthwise to create two hemispheres. Each hemisphere can then easily be placed over the corner of the furniture to protect it and to cover the telltale markers.

Yes - that's a really ugly addition to your decor but it's only a temporary measure and is combined with what follows. At least it's a good conversation starter.

Remove the Scent.

The scent left by the cat's paws persists for some time and continues to confirm to the cat that it is a marking spot. Removing the scent reduces this message. Try cleaning the area with an enzymatic laundry detergent such as Bio Attack or with the product Bac to Nature. This product is an animal odour eliminator and is available from veterinary surgeons, pet shops and in our online shop.

Transfer the Behaviour.

Provide a scratching pole but place it adjacent to the damaged furniture once this has been covered and deodorised. As the cat can't scratch the catclimbingframe200furniture because of the attractive adornments you have added, it is likely to scratch the pole instead.

Enhance this by making the scratching post more attractive by 'scruffing up' its surface with a wire brush. Also scent the pole by rubbing the cat's paws over the brushed area or try cat nip or cat mint. You can also purchase a specialised pheromone spray called Feliway here. Feliway is a synthetic analogue of the pheromone scents present in specialised glands in cats' cheeks. Many cats adore the smell.

Some cats are attracted by the odour of Vegemite, Nutrigel, liverwurst or other foods. So as not to make a mess, spread these scents onto matchbox-sized patches of plastic sheet and secure these to the scratching pole using Blue Tac or double-sided sticky tape.

Focus the cat's joys in life around the scratching post. Dangle toys on elastic from the scratching post and play games around the post that stimulate the cat to spike and climb it.

Moving the Scratching Post

Now move the scratching post, one metre per day, towards its final location but as you move away from the victimized piece of furniture, barricade that area with cardboard boxes so the cat keeps its interest in the pole and not the furniture.

Make the Furniture 'Unpleasant'

Go a step further by making the furniture hit back at the cat whenever it goes close! Place a loaded mouse trap, upside down, under a sheet of newspaper near the lounge suite. When puss places a purposeful paw on the newspaper, the trap will spring safely into action making the moggie have kittens!

Unpleasant scents such as citronella, Vick's Vapour Rub or naphthalene placed onto cotton balls or smeared onto a patch of plastic which is then placed strategically on the furniture may also help to repel your cat.

A Garden Play Gym

It is my experience that those cats confined to a house or unit are more likely to claw-sharpen on furniture. The lack of a garden environment and the 'sameness' and sterility of the house is the likely cause. Providing these cats with an environment that is totally different to the house is ideal. An enclosed garden play gym with scratching poles, climbing frames and hammock beds is ideal. You can make your own or commercial varieties are readily available.

Cats are cunning creatures but they can be outwitted, mostly!

Review Questions:

1. Why do cats need to sharpen their claws?
2. What's one thing you can give your cat to replace his need for scratching furniture?
3. How can you attract your cat to acceptable areas for scratching?


Entertaining Crazy Cats

Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 8:44:12 AM EST by Cam Day

No Bored Cats

Do cats become bored?   If your cat is a Couch Slouch then boredom may not be a problem but some cats are better described as Party Animal Puss-Cats. Such cats know how to boogie and if they don't get enough brain input, their behaviour can be catastrophic.

FINAL COOL CATSome bored cats show hyperactive behaviours. The most common is that the cat will race through the house like a fur-covered lightening bolt especially at night.

Bored cats also delight in a bit of rough and tumble and if nothing else is available, will happily use your fingers and toes as a chew toys. Commonly, a bored cat will hide under furniture with its eyes as big as dinner plates. As you walk innocently past it will scoot out and latch onto your leg imbedding its claws and teeth in your calf. Just as quickly it will detach and will race down the hallway to hide once more readying itself for another encounter of the furred kind.

Boredom is most common in confined cats and this is a problem because confining cats to the home is becoming much more commonplace  and for many good reasons.

However, inside the house is a sterile environment compared to the joys of wandering freely through the suburbs. The more a cat roams, the more it becomes stimulated by the refreshing newness of its territory and each new joy that the cat discovers is its own reward, stimulating more exploration.

So, how do you cater for the needs of a bored cat?

Provide an Outside Play Gym

Firstly, confined cats are much happier if they are given a semi-outside play gym that they can access via a cat door.

You can make your own enclosure by simply confining a veranda or construct a purpose-built play gym in your garden.

There are also commercial cat enclosures available. One is made from strong netting that, being flexible, enables many variations in design and another system is made from modular cages.

The play gym should include areas for feeding, resting, toileting and exploration but change the 'furniture' regularly to ensure your cat maintains its interest in the cattery.

Cats don't need aerobic exercise to the same extent as dogs and exercise more by stretching, jumping and climbing rather than running long distances. Therefore, in the play gym, elevation is more important than floor space. Cater for this by providing hammock beds and a thick bark-encrusted tree that goes to the roof.

Promote exploration

Because cats need to explore, cater for this need inside your house or in the play gym.

kitten in bucket exploring

For instance, make a maze from some old cardboard boxes. Have some 'poke and peep' holes in each box. Poke pencils through the holes or pull a piece of string with a paper mouse on the end through the maze. Your cat is likely to chase the mouse, attack pencils placed through the holes and generally have fun exploring. Put some food titbits in the maze to stimulate exploration.

Paper bags scattered around the house also make ideal hidey-holes for a bored cat.

Don't forget a cat scratching post and one with hidey-holes in that too.

On the matter of feeding, why do you bother putting your cat's biscuits into a boring bowl? Instead put them in half-a-dozen cake patty pans of the type used for making cup cakes. Add a flavoured treat like a 'cherry on the cake' inside each patty pan and then hide these in various locations around the house.  Much more sensible!

You can also get timer-activated food bowls, with spring-operated lids, from selected pet stores. Set the food bowl to open in the middle of the day when you are at work but put a bell on the lid. When it springs open the Pavlov's Bell will tell the cat that food is available.

Be devious and place your cat's dry food inside a plastic milk carton with one or two plum-sized holes in it. Let the frantic feline work out how to get its food!

To be even more devious, try putting a rubber band from the base of the carton through to the cap. Place a paddle pop stick or in the rubber band. The paddle pop stick should be long enough to just catch the edge of the milk carton. Wind up the rubber band and when Puss puts is paw in the hole to get the food the paddle pop stick will move a few times. Puss will be fascinated.

Playing Unfair

Play games with your fur-ball but be

Paper Mouse Mauling is the old, but effective, standard cat game. Attach a paper 'mouse' to a piece of string and drag it through the house. However, some creative folk attach these to a radio-controlled car and drive the mouse around the house and their cat around the bend.

If you have an over-head fan in your house, then providing fun for your cat is easy. Use Blue Tack to attach a length of elastic to the hub of your fan. Place a cork with feathers glued to it on the end of the elastic. Turn the fan onto a slow speed and let your cat chase the cork as it flies around the room. Remove any delicate china first!

A laser pointer will also entertain many a cat and they jump for joy attempting to chase the red dot. However, a word of caution, make sure you don't shine the laser directly at the cat's eyes as that can be dangerous.

If that doesn't satisfy your Puss Cat, visit your local pet shop. You will find a range of cat toys designed to satisfy the most fastidious and fanatic of fractious felines.

Click to go to Aggressive Cat Pet Pick


Marauding Moggies

Posted: Monday, April 30, 2012 at 11:29:06 AM EST by Cam Day

Curious Cats

They are a free spirit and masters of their own destiny. Being curious creatures, cats will roam wherever they please. But, the roaming of cats is one trait that can certainly cause problems for the owners of the cat, the neighbours of the cat, and the cat itself.

Roaming cats cause community disharmony. They are at risk themselves from injury, both accidental and malicious, and from diseases that they can both catch and spread. They can also harm wildlife such as marsupials, birds and reptiles. On the other hand, they do help to control rodents.

Why do Cats Roam?

cathunting200Cats roam because they can. What's happening in their neck of the woods is discovered during their reconnaissance missions and they find out what other cats are up to as well. Cats that are not desexed do roam more than their responsibly desexed cousins. The romance-deprived hormones of 'entire' male and female cats will make the moody moggies roam for kilometres looking for a 'like-minded' suitor.

If your cat roams, then having it desexed will keep it at home more.

Cats use their territories in a special way too. They have what is best described as a 'timesharing' arrangement for their overlapping territories. If an overlapping territory is in your back yard, then brawls, noisy caterwauling and the acrid odour of cat urine sprayed around the garden are likely to be common and annoying problems.

What Can Happen if a Cat Roams?

When cats are claiming their land rights, they will fight. This is where injuries and the spread of disease occur.

Due to the stiletto-like shape of a cat's canine teeth and the dangerous bacteria that live in and around the cat's teeth and gums, a bite wound will often intercat_aggression-home200result in a Cat Fight Abscess. As they bite, they force bacteria from their teeth under the skin. Pus is produced in the wound and this usually erupts from the bite wound like a volcano when the wound has 'matured' for a few days.

Cat Fight Abscesses are painful for the cat and when they burst, the smell is awful.

Veterinary treatment is essential. A course of antibiotics will usually clear the infection quickly but your cat may need an anaesthetic or surgery.

When it fights, an infected cat will also spread Feline AIDS, an auto-immune disease similar in many ways to human AIDS. Feline AIDS is only transmitted by saliva and, therefore, by the bite of a cat. It is not spread by sexual contact. Because they are more aggressive, entire male cats are much more likely to carry the Feline AIDS virus. The virus is also often found in desexed cats allowed to roam extensively.

If your cat is the victim of another that is roaming, the injuries and the visits to the vet have probably frustrated you. The danger of disease is another worry and the visiting cat is likely to spray urine around your house in its attempts to declare your house and garden as its territory. Even your own cat may be house-soiling or spraying in response to the challenges left by the visiting cat. By soiling inside the house, your cat is attempting to declare your house as its own territory. This makes it feel better and we presume your cat is hoping that the smell will frighten off the other cat.

However, your own cat's reaction to the visiting cat can be extreme. High level anxiety is a common problem and if you have more than one cat, you may find the more anxious cat is transferring its aggression to others that it lives with.

A third problem caused by roaming cats it the effect on non-cat owners. They get justifiably angry about their garden being used as a 'no-man's-land' - an arena used by the neighbourhood moggies for their calamitous clashes. The noise, the odour around the garden beds that the cats may be using as a latrine and the stench of urine spray are intolerable for most non-cat owners.

What can be Done to Prevent a Cat Roaming?

Nowadays, responsible cat owners are doing all they can to control their cat's roaming. Desexing cats when they are young is important but, in addition, many cat owners are deciding to confine their cats inside their homes, either at night or continuously, to prevent roaming.

catlookingoutwindow200Some are successful in confining their cats to a room or two inside the house while others choose to allow their cats to roam the whole house but do not allow them outside. However, most cats will be happier if their housing includes a Fun Park on an enclosed balcony or veranda, or a purpose built enclosure in the back yard.

What your cat really wants is a semi-outside area where, via a cat door, it can come inside for kisses, cuddles and food and go outside to satisfy its need for exploration and exercise.

New products on the market make the construction of such an enclosure even easier. One product I have seen is a soft, pre-stretched polyethylene netting that is flexible enough to enclose anything from verandas to whole garden areas, including the trees! The netting is such that it is almost invisible when installed and therefore it doesn't make the house and yard look like a prison.

Cats love to explore - it's in their nature. Our job as responsible pet owners is to ensure that both our pets and the wildlife outside remain safe and free from harm.

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