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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.

Pheromones for Pets

Posted: Friday, September 7, 2012 at 3:40:41 PM EST by Cam Day

What are Pheromones?

contentkittiePheromones are extremely widespread in the animal kingdom. They are like hormones in some aspects. However, while hormones stay within the body of the animal that produces them and thus affect only that animal's behaviour, pheromones are released from one animal and, when detected by another animal of the same species, have a significant effect on the behaviour of that receiving animal.

Pheromones are important to many living creatures including insects and mammals. For instance, queen bees produce pheromones that inhibit other queens from developing.  In insects and animals pheromones also act as sex attractants and have many other functions.

Pheromones come in many forms. Some relate to sexual identification, some help animals to mark territory, some serve as warnings to other animals and some relate to familiarisation and attachment.

They are released from various glands of an animal's body, including those around the face and on the footpads, from sweat glands (especially on the abdomen) and from the animal's anal sacs.

In cats, three main types of pheromones have been studied - those relating to territorial marking, alarm warnings and to familiarisation with others of the same species.  

In dogs, the dog appeasing pheromone is one that has been studied extensively. This pheromone is normally produced in bitches three to five days after they have whelped. It is secreted by the skin around the bitch's mammary glands and serves to create attachment of the newborn puppies to the dam. 

A similar pheromone is also released by adult dogs from the skin around their ears. When released by pack leaders, this pheromone has a similar role, but on a wider basis, to the pheromone produced by a dam - it creates attachment of young animals to the leaders and makes the pack cohesive.

Availability in Australia

The Feliway Pheromone range.Synthetic pheromones are now available in Australia for dogs and cats.

The dog pheromone is known as the Dog Appeasing Pheromone (Adaptil) and the cat pheromones in known as Feliway.

Adaptil is available commercially in Australia as a plug-in diffuser.

Feliway is available as a plug-in diffuser and as a spray bottle.

Are pheromones suitable for your pet?

Pheromones such as the Dog Appeasing Pheromone (Adaptil) and Feliway are wonderful products because they are easy to use and side-effect free.

But they certainly are not a cure for all behavioural problems. 

If you are uncertain about purchasing pheromones for your pet, complete our Pheromone Inquiry Form and we will review your submission.

We will then respond to that by email or by telephone as needed.

Click here to inquire if pheromones are suitable for your pet's behaviour

How to Purchase Pheromones

Pheromones can be purchased from our office or, if you are certain the are correct for your pet, the can be purchased online here.

Click here to purchase pheromones


More information

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.  

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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?)
 

Why desexing your cat is important

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 12:34:28 PM EST by Cam Day

The Importance Of Desexing Cats

Cat owners beware! There are clandestine meetings being held in darkened back streets. Impetuous romantic liaisons are occurring with no thought of the consequences. Testosterone charged Toms will brawl viciously with each other while competing for the proffered favours of female cats. The result of this biological ball game is that thousands of kittens will are born in the cat breeding season in cities around the world.

Sadly, far too many of those kittens are born to die. Animal refuges around the globe are unable to cope with the huge number of irresponsibly bred kittens they receive.

The Breeding Season for Cats

Cats snugglingIn warmer climates, cats, unlike dogs, are seasonal breeders. This means that they have a relatively short breeding season. In Queensland, Australia, it starts in August as the day length increases and extends through the Spring and Summer months. Dogs, by comparison, don't have a breeding season and can be sexually active anytime in the year.

There is another major difference between the breeding habit of cats and dogs too. Cats, in the breeding season, have continual breeding cycles throughout the summer months. These cycles repeat every three weeks or so unless the cat is mated, or until the breeding season finished.

Dogs are not like that. They come into 'season' usually every six months, and they have just one cycle lasts for only three weeks and then stops, whether they are mated or not.

Cats are breeding machines. There is nothing accidental in their mating rituals. When the hormones hit, the Queens (female cats) actively seek males and they keep seeking them until mated. The males are more than willing, and they will brawl with each other to get their 'gal'.

A Cat's Behaviour when it is in Season

Your female cat is likely to show some unusual behaviour when her hormones start. She will yowl at the door to get out at night. She will roll on the Bengal_Green_eyes-200w-SMLground, become agitated and act most unusually. You are likely to think her need is a brief sojourn outside to go to the toilet and that's your mistake as she will stay out all night, to return in the morning with a happy, contented smile on her face. Nine weeks later there will be a surprise in the laundry basket when she has given birth to a litter of kittens.

What happens with male cats? These boys are going to have a hard time. Their fights over the females are bitter and vicious. Several consequences are likely. The first is an injury such as a ruptured eye ball from a claw wound. Bite wounds over the body or head are also likely. Many of these bite wounds will turn into painful abscesses which are caused by some horrible bacteria that are forcefully injected under the victim's skin by the aggressor's needle sharp teeth. There is a very good chance that the deadly disease, Feline AIDS, will be contracted. Unlike human AIDS, Feline AIDS is spread by saliva passed from one cat to another by a bite wound. AIDS is much more common in entire male cats than any other.

Because male cats roam for kilometres when looking for ladies, they also suffer a variety of accidents. They become lost, fall victim to car wheels or to cat consuming canines.

Humans are Affected by the Behaviour of Breeding Cats

 There is also the human component. Most people do not like their sleep disturbed by caterwauling felines and some can be quite cruel. Shooting and poisoning of cats often occurs at this time of year and many cats just mysteriously disappear. What happens to them? You can guess.

The answer is obvious and simple. All cats should be desexed.

Responsible breeders who know what they are doing and who don't allow their non desexed cats to roam are an obvious exception.

The Myths Relating to Cats and their Neutering

Some of you may be thinking; - 'Is it really necessary?' 'Can't I let her have just one litter?' 'She'll be so much more content after having a litter' 'They need to have one season before being desexed, don't they?'

Owners of male cats may also state, 'I can't desexed him - it's a blow to his masculinity.' 'A male cat's go to do what a male cat's supposed to do.' 'I'm not castrated, so why should I do that to my cat?'

The answer to all the above is 'poppycock'! Desexing is essential. There is no advantage in allowing Queens to have a season or a litter and Toms that are not desexed suffer continual wounds and abscesses and usually die early and often tragically.

If your cat is not desexed at this very moment, you should be nervous!!

Ring your vet immediately and make an appointment.

The surgery is routine and the cat will be away from you for only about 24 hours. It costs less to desex a female cat than to raise a litter of kittens and the cost of neutering a male cat is even less.

After surgery your cat will be back on its feet and normal again the next day (whereas wimpy humans take weeks to recover!!) and you will be a certified SNAPO (Sensitive New Age Pet Owner)!

 

Further information:

Spraying Behaviour

Pheromones

Cat Assimilation

 

 

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