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Feisty Felines

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2012 at 10:04:12 AM EST by Cam Day

Living with the nightmare of brawling cats

intercat_aggression-home200Why are cats aggressive to each other? Often its because you have brought a new kitten into the household and the status quo has been unsettled. Sometimes it occurs when a young cat matures and feels the need to declare its territory inside the house.

A behaviour known as transferred aggression often occurs too. A house cat can be angered by sensing another invading cat travelling through its garden. The resident cat becomes over-aroused and will take out its anger on its house mate - or even its owners!

Kittens can also cause problems for themselves. Some are too active for their own good. It is common for a super-active playful kitten to push a serene, established house-cat too far. The peaceful, older puss-cat may not want to play all day long and most of the night too. The kitten's playful prowling and challenging may greatly offend the resident cat and can make it very nervous and anxious.

Aggression between cats can sometimes start instantaneously. However, having been 'released', can then take a long time to resolve. Sometimes it doesn't resolve at all.

Three levels of assimilation with cats.

Level 1 Assimilation

In level 1, the feuding felines shake paws and become bosom buddies again, playing and sleeping together in puss-cat harmony for life.

Level 2 Assimilation

The second is that the pair agree to disagree and share the house without sharing affection. They sleep in separate areas and lead separate but parallel lifestyles. There may be an occasional hiss and spit, but mostly things are tolerable. Indeed, one cat couldn't give a hoot if the other fell of the face of the earth! This is the most common level of assimilation with cats.

Level 3 Assimilation

The third scenario is puss-cat purgatory. The cats hate each other and cannot be in the same room or house or even the garden together. They will aggressively fight and brawl and injuries are common. The best way to manage such cats, at least initially, is to keep them separate from each other.

Aggression between cats in a household can be dangerous. Injuries can occur, including cat fight abscesses, claw and bite wounds, and the stress can result in spraying behaviour too.

So what can you do to resolve such a problem?

The first step is to separate the cats for a few days. This will prevent any further aggression and thereby stop what is called self-reinforcement of this unwanted behaviour. It gives the cats a chance to calm down, to become peaceful, and to forget the animosity they have for each other.

When they are re-introduced the aggression may not show again. Sometimes this is enough to solve the problem. Often it's not. Cat looking out window

If aggression is still a problem, then the re-introduction should be done progressively over a few days or even a few weeks. For this you should use a process called successive approximation. The introduction of the cats is broken down into small, manageable parcels. This can be tediously slow so you need to be patient.

Firstly, you should allow the cats to see each other but not to smell or touch each other. This is best done through a window or glass partition.

Observe the progress and if the cats settle down and don't show any fear, anxiety or aggression then you are making progress.

Then second step is to allow the cats to smell each other but not to see each other.

This is easily done using the Feline Facial Towelling Technique. Heat a slightly damp towel, such as a hand towel, in the microwave until it is a comfortable warmth.

Rub this warm towel over the body and especially around the face and cheeks of the least aggressive cat first. Then immediately take the towel to the more aggressive cat and do the same. This should be done in a soothing, gentle and caressing manner.

It is often useful to create a happy mood in the aggressive cat before you do this by feeding it a special 'therapy only' food treat. Select a glorious food treat that the cat will walk over water to receive but that it gets at no other time.

The last step is to take the towel back to the least aggressive cat and finish by giving it a rub once more. In this manner you are sharing the scents of the two cats and especially their personal 'pheromones'. Pheromones are personal chemicals of communication. They have a very powerful effect on the behaviour of many animals. (They are very important in the insect world.)

The Feline Facial Towelling Technique is a gentle method of getting the cats used to each others' smell without them needing to cope with the added complications of seeing each other.

Now for the third step. Try introducing the cats to each other through a mesh security door, a fly screen window or by placing each beastie in a cat cage.

This allows the cats to see, smell and hear each other but, if there are fireworks, no danger is involved.

Cat cages are a useful way of doing this. The cages can gradually be brought closer and closer to each other while the cats' happy moods are maintained.

If the cats are happy to sniff each other through the mesh without friction, then you are progressing well. Allow them to sniff each other for a few minutes each day and if they appear happy you are ready for the big step - putting them together.

While you can throw them into the same room and run away, there are more sensitive ways of proceeding. The easiest is to place the more subordinate cat in a cat cage and allow the other cat to roam free in the same room. If all goes well, the roles can be reversed with the tough guy in the cage and the other free. Again you may need to test the water like this for a few days.

At some stage you are going to have to allow the cats to be free in the same room together. Do this in a 'neutral' room - one that has no special significance for either cat. Be ready with a large towel or net and a water pistol. If either cat goes to attack the other, spray it briefly with the water pistol.

Foreign Territories

For complicated cases of aggression between cats, it is often useful to get the cats out of the home territory and put them in a foreign location where neither has territorial rights. This is usually done in a cattery or a veterinary surgery. The cats can be placed in separate cages, visible to each other, for a while. The next step is for the cattery manager to place the cats into the same cage. As they are in neutral territory, this is often successful. For safety, one can be placed into a transport cage for a while until their reactions are assessed.

Synthetic Feline Pheromones

Feliway and BoypsThe spray Feliway is sometimes helpful to reduce cat aggression. Feliway is a synthetic equivalent of the pheromones that cats have in their facial glands. They are 'happy pheromones' and often have an effect similar to that attributed to catnip. To help make the cats more accepting of the cages in the cattery or of each other in the home, Feliway can be sprayed onto prominent surfaces in each location.

Feliway is also available now in a plug-in diffuser that is even easier to use. For supplies of this product, please contact my office.

Further information on pheromones is linked through the menu of this site or use the search function.

Medications for Monstrous Moggies

Processes such as the above are often effective, but in some cases, the feuding felines will not accept each other, no matter what us mere humans throw at them. However there is one trick we haven't used - medication.

There are new anti-anxiety medications on the market which are often effective for these types of problems. The goal is to use such medications for a month or more to make the cat more tranquil and relaxed and to allow them to accept each other's presence. When the medication is stopped, the peace and serenity is often maintained. Please contact me for further advice on such medication or for other relevant techniques.


For more information on how to solve inter-cat aggression, have a look at the Aggressive Cat Pet Pick.

Feline Frolics

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 9:42:00 AM EST by Cam Day

Eleven Magic Methods to Amuse Your Manic Moggie

You all know about curiosity and the cat. While many a cat is a lazy Couch Slouch, others are active, curious party animals. When they are out and about, the Party Animal Puss Cats are looking  for a good time. These rascals are set for a night on the tiles, travelling like roaming Romeos looking for mischief in all the wrong places and sticking their noses into other peoples' business.

Cool Cat SmallestEven within the home, some cats are devils on four furred feet. Owners regularly report that, as they walk through the house,  their cat will ambush them and will spring like a caged leopard to attack their legs. These cats then run off to hide, their black eyes shining with evil intent.

If your cat fits into the 'party animal' category, giving it things to do apart from ripping living human flesh from passing legs will be of immense benefit.

The Feline Frolics techniques described below will allow you to play with your cat without being attacked. It will also give your cat lots of other things to do in a day to enrich its lifestyle and to blast away boredom. Even for normal, friendly cats, playing games with them and providing a variety of toys and stimuli will give additional richness to their lifestyle. And, if you have decided to confine your Party Animal Puss Cat to the house and/or a garden cattery, the techniques below will compensate for the fact that you feline fiend can't get 'out and about'.


The Feline Frolics List:

1.  Fan Fare

If you have an overhead fan in your house, then providing fun for your cat is easy. Attach a length of elastic with a piece of  folded paper, or a cork with feathers glued to it, to the hub of your fan. Turn it on to a slow speed and let your cat chase the 'clattering paper mouse' as it flies around the room. Remove any delicate china first! As the cat learns the game, move the elastic further out along the blade of the fan so that it moves faster. Just be sure to monitor the game for safety.

2.  Patty Pan Party

Hide titbits of tasty food in and around the house so that the cat has to hunt for them. This appeals to their hunting instinct, stimulates exploration and fortifies the notion that the house is a fun area to be in.

Do this by securing half a dozen paper cake patty pans in various high and low locations around your house. Place a blob of blue-tac under each patty pan so that they don't move.

Now place a small quantity of your cat's normal dry food in each and a 'cherry' on the cake by also including a flavoured dry food treat such as a Whiskas Craver or similar. There are lots of taste varieties 

As the cat mooches around for the food, he or she will find a different reward for their exploratory exploits each time it unearths a new patty pan.

3.  Kong Toys               

Kong Toys are wonderful. They are rubber, cone-shaped 'balls' that resemble the Michelin Man without his arms and legs. Due to their shape, they roll around the floor and bounce unpredictably. Cats find that stimulating. The Kong also has a hole in the middle. This can be packed with food rewards such as dried liver treats or dried fish or you can smear Anchovette Paste or Liverwurst in the hole. The cat's job is to work out how to get the food out.

4.  Magic Milk Carton  

A milk carton can mimic a Kong Toy. Cut the bottom off a plastic 2 litre milk carton. Open the cap and smear Liverwurst or Anchovette paste inside the lid.

catfoodreward200

Replace the lid and watch the cat attempt to lick and find the food treat by jumping head first into the milk carton. You can also cut a paw-sized hole or two in the side of a milk carton and place food treats inside. The cat will roll the carton around trying to work out how to get the food out. Try putting a rubber band from the base of the carton through to the cap. Place a paddle pop stick or a feather or two in

the rubber band. The paddle pop stick should be long enough to just catch the edge of the milk carton. Wind it 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.

5.  Frozen Cows

Next time they are on special, buy several lactose-free milk packs from the pet section of your supermarket. Throw them in your freezer. As you leave for work, cut a large slash in the carton and leave it in the cat's food dish. The milk will slowly melt into the dish and provide a delayed release reward for the cat.

6.  The Food Sprinkler

From your pet shop, purchase a Cat Mate automatic pet feeder. There are several similar products, and they all operate on the same principle. They contain a food tray which is sealed with a flap. The flap is controlled by a timer that will open the flap and give access to the food at the time you set. That's interesting for a bored Puss Cat. However there is a deluxe version. Use velcro to fasten the unit upside down under a table or on a beam inside your house. Now place a rubber door mat (the type with big holes in it) under the unit. Why Because when the flap opens some hours after you leave, the food will drop to the mat and sink into the holes. Puss will be delighted with the challenge that you have presented!

7.  Carton maze

Make a maze from some old shoe boxes or other 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 mice, attack pencils placed through the holes and generally have fun exploring. Put some food titbits in the maze to stimulate exploration.

8.  Paper Bag Park

Scatter a selection of paper bags around the house. Have holes in them for 'peeping and poking'.

9.  Laser Light Leaping

If you have access to a laser pointer, flash this around the walls to get your cat to chase it. Commercial versions of this are now available for cats. Just be sure not to shine the laser into the cat's eyes.

10.  Weasel Whumping

If you can find one, purchase a wiggly Weasel Ball. These act like a 'virtual-mouse' for your cats. The weasel is attached, by its nose,  to a ball containing a battery, and when turned on, the ball rotates and rolls around the house with the weasel attached, looking like it is being chased. They are made by Dah Yang Toy Industrial Co., Ltd  and are identified with the code number 8038H.

11. Paper Mouse Mauling

This is the old, but effective, standard cat game. Attach a paper 'mouse' to a piece of string and drag it through the house. Some creative folk attach these to a radio-controlled car and drive the mouse around the house. Feathers on corks are also much loved.

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 - but meanwhile, don't forget to hug your pet.


Click here to go to the Aggressive Cat Pet Pick

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.

READ MORE HERE

Lions and tigers and panthers... oh my!

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2012 at 5:25:19 PM EST by Cam Day

The Family Cat

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Many of us share our lives with teeth-endowed, flesh-eating, nocturnal, carnivorous predators and think nothing of it. These lethal killing machines prowl through our suburbs, steal through our houses after dark and, aghast, all too regularly launch ferociously onto our beds at night. There they snuggle under the sheets and purr contentedly.

The family cat is our domesticated member of the Cat Family and Tiddles is closely related to tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards and many other fascinating felines such as the lesser-known kodkod and the margay cat. 

So what's the difference between these species?  Do you know the difference between a leopard, a panther and a jaguar for instance? 

Australasia and Antarctica are the only continents that do not have a natural population of cats in some form. This is a shame. I would love to have a black panther patrolling my backyard.

Those animals we commonly refer to as the 'big cats' are the tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard.

Do you know the difference between a leopard, a panther and a jaguar?

The tiger, with its striking tricolour coat of chestnut, black and white is the largest of the big cats A Siberian tiger  is the largest representative of the cat family and can weigh more than 300kg with the Indian tiger being smaller but about the same size as a big lion at 250kg.  The Siberian tiger has been hunted to near extinction as, in the past, its body parts were used for medicinal purposes and for cooking.  

ocelot200

Tigers are solitary hunters but they are not very efficient with only ten percent of their rushes resulting in a kill. They should learn from one of my big cats - 100% of his rushes to the food bowl are effective. 

The lion, also referred to as the king of the beasts, was once found in Africa, Europe Iran and India, but is now almost exclusively limited to Africa due to the movement of humans into savannah lands. Lions weigh up to 250kg and are unusual in the cat family as they exist in groups (prides) containing up to thirty members.  Most cats lead a more solitary existence. The characteristic mane of an adult lion is well known and many modern domestic cats have been bred with manes to mimic the lion. One of our cats has a very attractive ruff or mane and a lion's demeanour to go with it!! 

The jaguar and the leopard are closely related and look quite similar but they live in different parts of the world. Both species evolved from a common ancestor but the jaguar (Panthera onca) is now only found in the American continent and the leopard (Panthera pardus) is found throughout Africa, India, and southern Asia .  

The jaguar, weighing up to a maximum of 150kg, is somewhat larger than the leopard that weighs up to 90 kg but their size depends on the habitat they are occupying.

Their coats show subtle differences. The coats of both are well known for their attractive 'spots' or rosettes but the jaguar's rosettes are larger and have a black central spot that is not present in the leopard. Jaguars are also stockier with shorter legs.

The term black panther generally refers to a leopard that is black in colour.  In a litter of leopards, some will be of normal appearance but occasionally some are black. Colouring of this type is called melanism and it does occur in jaguars, but less commonly.  Black jaguars are also referred to as black panthers but further confusion occurs because the puma is also sometimes called a panther. There is something magical and mysterious about the black panther that appeals to many folk and is the reason that black cats are so popular as pets and are the subjects of much mystique.  

Bengal_Green_eyes-200w-SMLThe leopard has occasionally earned a fearsome reputation as a man-eater. There is a famous portrayal by author Jim Corbett of an infamous man-eating Indian leopard. He describes his campaign to hunt the fearsome Rudraprayag leopard of northwest India that acquired a taste for human flesh, even killing a man in his own house and carrying him four miles through dense scrub. This leopard killed 125 humans from 1918 to 1926 before Corbett finally hunted him down. 

The Cheetah is generally similar in coat appearance to the leopard and jaguar but is a lot smaller, weighing up to 60 kg. It is easy to recognise due to its long legs and black 'tear tracks' below its eyes. The tear tracks are sad metaphors because the cheetah has the lowest genetic diversity of any mammal and is thus endangered. If given a tissue graft, the graft is usually universally accepted without rejection because of the similarity of genetic material.  This lack of genetic diversity makes the remaining cheetah population extremely vulnerable to disease and environmental changes. 

Cheetahs are renown for their speed and, at 110km/hr are the fastest of land animals. 

Some cats are rarely heard of. The kodkod is a small South American cat that weighs from two to three kilograms, about the size of a small pet cat. It has a coat that resembles a spotted tabby but has disproportionately long claws. Little else is know about this cat.  

Another rare puss-cat is the margay cat. This striking-looking cat, weighing three to five kilograms, is the same size as an average house cat. It resembles a small ocelot and has large, attractive spots with pale interiors and black edges. Its attractive coat has caused its demise as it was favoured by furriers of the past. It is a tree-dwelling cat and has the agility of a monkey and is unique in that it can rotate its back feet through an angle of 180 degrees and can even run underneath branches.  

Cats are fascinating creatures and wonderful pets - but I still want a black panther in my back yard.

Fun Fact about Cats

Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 5:00:45 PM EST by Cam Day

Ten Fun Facts about Cats

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  1. A group of cats is called a 'clowder'.
    (Ed.  I am sure that's a condensation of 'crowd', 'clawed' and 'louder'  - which fully describes the turmoils of owning a group of cats.

    A cat vet friend says 'Owning more than 4 cats means you have a mental disorder'!  We have 4 cats - am I on the edge of insanity?
    )
     
  2. In Ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as Gods, and punishment was severe for injuring a cat in any way.
    (Ed. OK so I live in Egypt because our cats are worshipped as gods. And my cats punish me if I hurt them in any way.)
     
  3. Cats' paw pads are as remarkable as their coats: the same pigments that determine the colour of a cat's coat also determines the colour of their paw pads. 
    (Ed. Really? Where did that come from? Must look at the colour of my cat's paws when I get home. So, do tortoiseshell cats have multi-coloured paws? Cat owners - inspect your cat's paws and leave a note in the Comments. I want to know if this is true!)
     Bengal_Green_eyes-200w-SML
  4. Domestic cats aren't the only purring felines. Cheetahs, Pumas, Ocelots and even Tigers purr. Lions, Panthers, Jaguars and Leopards do not purr.
    (Ed. Yeh ok. But why doesn't my cat purr when I want to hug him? Oh - of course he's a Panther, Jaguar or Leopard. Now I'm worried!)

  5. Ever notice your cat pull its lips back (without hissing) and opens its mouth slightly? That's called the 'Flehmen Response' and happens when your cat wants to examine a scent more closely.
    (This is often seen in non-desexed cats when detecting the scent of a mate. Occurs in many other animals including the Giraffe and Rhino. Occur with my cat when he is going to bite me.)
     
  6. When a cat rubs against you, it is marking you. A cat has scent glands either side of its face - the cat uses these glands to mark its territory.
    (There are several pheromones in a cat's facial rubbings. One is the main ingredient of Feliway.)
     
  7. Whiskers are very important for cats that hunt. Whiskers allow the cat to identify precisely where their prey is so they can attack more efficiently.
    (Ed. So Desmond, my Rag Devil, uses his whiskers to determine where I am so he can attack me with more precision - is that's what's happening?)
     
  8. A mother cat commonly chews her kittens' whiskers off.
    (Ed.  Who says so?  Never heard of that!  Cat breeders please advise - or is that the cat version of the 'hair of the dog that bit you'?)
     
  9. Kittens generally have 26 teeth while adult cats have 30.
    (Ed. Simple science!  Adult cats need more teeth to bite their owners. Thus it's evolution at its best. )
     
  10. A cat has between 230 - 250 bones in its body, compared to the 206 bones a human has.
    (Ed. So where are the extra 40 or so bones?  Are you sure the researcher didn't measure a cat that had just eaten a mouse?)
 
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