Archive for the ‘Cat behaviour’ Category

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Mythicbells’ feline Pampers solves cat pee problems

18 February, 2011

Despite the zookeepers' efforts, Leo just wouldn't keep his nappies on ... (photo from http://www.theblogofrecord.com/tag/lion-spray-warning-at-the-san-diego-zoo/)

When my queen was in heat she had this delightful habit of announcing her availability by spraying the house with her cat pee. 

A breeder I know told me how her queens had spray that could reach 4 feet high.  She found out when she heard her daughter’s screams and found out that a dress she had hung up on had been annointed.

Research indicates that an average 10 lb cat will produce approximately 3.5 oz – 6.5 oz of urine in a 24 hr period.   That’s a lot of disaster potential for furniture and furnishings.  And a lot of cleaning.

So what’s the solution? 

Isolating the cat is one.  Most breeders who have stud cats have dedicated quarters for them.   But if you want to allow your cat to roam, a far better solution is to use cat diapers (aka stud pants).

Yes, that’s right, now you can give your cat the equivalent of feline Pampers so that it can roam the house and socialise with the family and other cats.

Mythicbells Stud Pants and Princess Panties

Stud pants are not a new invention. Versions already exist for dogs. The ones for cats tend to be based on a human diaper model, with standard sizes and velcro to hold it on.  While the intention was good, cats are not engineered like humans:  Picture yourself holding down a cat with one hand.  With the other hand, you’re trying trying to work a pair of panties in the wrong direction up its tail. Picture the cat squirming.  Now see yourself repeating this twice to three times a day.  See the velcro get balled up with fur.  Yes, quite.

These issues led Molly Barr of Mythicbells Persians to hunt for a better type of stud pants.  She found a photo of a pair on the internet that used a harness instead of velcro to hold the pants on.  However, because they were no longer being made she designed her own.  And because they worked so well, she was asked to share them by other cat owners.

Demo of putting on Mythicbells Stud Pants

Mythicbells stud pants are easier to put on because they have a buckle that fastens with a snap.  The waist is adjustable via a slider.  The pants can be lined with human incontinence pads or panty liners.  They are also made-to-order by a professional seamstress in snazzy material.  They are machine washable.

Photo from Mythicbells Persians

Please note that the effectiveness of stud pants will depend on the individual cat.  If your cat is a heavy hoser, than you may wish to consult Molly about whether these pants will work.  And if your cat doesn’t use the litter box to poo, then you’ll need the cat diaper version that fastens around the tail.

If you have any questions, Molly will be happy to answer them (persians@mythicbells.com).  Please also check out her page on stud pants.

This is a labour of love!  Any money from the sales of the stud pants will go towards covering the expense of producing them, and any leftover is donated to the cat charity The Cat House on the Kings.

[NB – stud pants are available only in domestic cat size!!!]

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Woof! Hiss! (How to get kittens used to dogs)

8 February, 2011

Joining a new home can be a stressful time for kittens, especially if there’s a resident dog or a dog in the neighbourhood.  Here’s how to make settling in easier for your little kitten.

CAT BREEDERS:

1.  If you’re thinking of getting a dog to join your menagerie, then Dessie or Warrior Cats (one of this blog’s readers) has some great advice:

“If you want to get a dog to socialize cats, I recommend a younger and smaller breed of dog from an animal shelter because shelter dogs seem to really appreciate what they have.  If you get younger dogs they don’t have all habits set yet so a puppy can grow along side cats/kittens and it helps a lot.

Also ask the shelter about dogs that have already been socialized with cats so you could be sure right away you would be able to get a companion that isn’t aggessive. “

2.  If you can’t get a dog to socialise the kittens, get a tape of environmental sounds and play it to the kittens as they grow up.  Sound Therapy 4 Pets have a Sounds Sociable CD of has 37 different tracks which are aimed at habituating puppies and kittens to a whole variety of environmental noises, including dogs barking. 

DOG OWNERS:

If you have a dog and thinking about getting a kitten, here’s what will make life easier for the dog and the kitten to get used to each other:

1.  Try to find a cat breeder who already has a dog.  I know a Maine Coon breeder who brings up her kittens with a soppy female Alsatian.  The Alsatian spends most of her day licking the kittens and carrying them round in her mouth.  Result:  bomb-proof kittens who love dogs.

2.  If your neighbour has a dog, I would recommend holding it in your lap indoors or in a safe area, or giving it a toy or treat so it can hear the dog but it’s not within sight.

3.  Ask the cat breeder for some of the kitten’s bedding before you bring the kitten home to accustom your dog to the kitten’s scent.

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There was a kitten to went to a home whose neighbour had a dog.  One sunny day, the kitten was out in the garden.  The neighbour’s dog ran up to the fence and barked at it.  Terrified, the kitten headfirst into a wall.  This post is dedicated to that little kitten, little T.  Run wild, run free … .

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Hiss! Spat! (10 steps to introduce a new cat to your current cat)

31 January, 2011

I received this e-mail today from a woman who was having problems with a new kitten and a 6-month old kitten:

“… the initial problem was how we introduced the new 3-month-old kitten to the resident 6-month-old.

The new kitten was introduced to her as soon as she was brought home instead of letting the resident kitten get used to the scent etc and gradually introducing them. 

I am now trying something which I found on the internet [Feliway].  The new kitten is kept in a separate room with the resident still getting free rein of the house apart from this one room.

 The last couple of evenings I have been putting the new kitten into a carrier and taking her into a different room letting the resident investigate.

Obviously working full time I can only do this for a couple of hours a day. The hissing has already stopped, the resident is now inquisitive rather than angry. The info given is that this could take up to 3 weeks.

Is there anything else you could recommend??”

I know … I know … like me, you’ve read Anita Frazer who talks about the best gift you can give your cat … a companion.

So you decide to buy a kitten to keep your cat company.  If you recognise yourself in this e-mail, don’t worry – you’re in good company. 

I myself made the same mistake many years ago when I bought in Maya (Bengal – 12 weeks’ old) when Ananda (Maine Coon) was just 16 weeks’ old.  Ananda had been with us for a month and thought of herself as the only cat.  Oh, the expression of surprise and horror on her face when the basket opened and out popped a brash and very confident and very self-centred Bengal.

It’s testimony to Ananda’s very sweet and laid-back Maine Coon nature that she grew to accept Maya without too much fuss.  Unfortunately as they grew older they fell out (but that’s another story and a warning never to mix Maine Coons and Bengals).

Cats are territorial creatures and unless in a feral colony, can have issues with multiple-cat households.  They’re also creatures of habit and hate change.  A new kitten counts as a MAJOR change.

What’s praiseworthy about the e-mail is that at least the owner acknowledges the mistakes she made in introducing the new kitten to the resident kitten and is taking steps to helping them integrate.

In some cases nothing happens after such a hasty introduction apart from a few initial hiss-spats.  However, in most cases the resident cat has come to view home as it’s territory.  It will naturally see the new cat as an invader and try to get rid of it.

So what can you do to minimise such hisstrionics? 

1.  Before the new kitten joins your home, ask the breeder to let you have some of the kitten’s bedding.  This will allow your existing cat to get used to the scent of the new kitten before it arrives.  You could try asking the breeder if you could swap bedding, but it’s a rare breeder that will agree to this as breeders are wary of anything that could spread cat germs.

2.  Do not just open the basket and let the new kitten introduce itself to the resident cat.  Or you could do that and risk WWIII.

3.  Instead, prepare a room for the kitten.  It should contain a litter tray, and food and water bowls (placed some distance from the tray).  This will be the kitten’s home for the next 7 days.

4.  Allow the resident cat to sniff at the door to the kitten’s room.  Better still, feed the resident cat next to the door of the kitten’s room.  This helps it to associate the kitten’s smell with nice things.  You can also swap bedding so they get used to each other’s scent.

5.  After about a week, you can start to introduce the kitten to the resident cat. 

6.  Place kitten in basket.  Place basket in room with resident cat.  Give resident cat something nice, like a cat treat.  Let resident cat get used to sight of kitten in basket.  If the resident cat reacts badly, put kitten back in its room.

7.  Repeat no. 6 on subsequent days, until reaction is restrained.  What do I mean by “reaction is restrained”?  Well, like less hissing.   Sorry I can’t be more precise.  Only you know your cat and will know if it’s being less upset or not.

8.  OK.  Time to open kitten basket.  Make sure that you don’t shut the basket door so that the kitten has something to run into.  Also make sure you have something high for the kitten to jump onto in case it gets thumped or chased.

9.  Be PATIENT.  Don’t shoo the kitten out of the basket.  Let it take its time.  Chances are it’s curious about the resident cat and vice versa.  Have a treat or a cat wand toy nearby so that they can both be distracted.  Not catnip.  Catnip will make them hyper.  It will also help if you play with with both cats together so they see each other’s company as being fun.

Praise both cats if they behave, making extra fuss of the resident cat.

10.  If all goes well, allow kitten the run of the house.  However, you may wish to maintain separate sleeping quarters for the kitten just so that it has something to go back to if it feels threatened by the resident cat.  

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Please note that this process is especially important if you have a multiple-cat household. 

Also, don’t expect “and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after” to happen overnight.  Be prepared for fights as the cats sort out hierarchy.  As long as there’s no blood, don’t panic.  Don’t get upset if the resident cat’s position gets trumped by the new cat.

My personal experience is that the Oriental breeds and short-haired cats tend to have more dominant personalities.

Does having two cats of different sexes make it easier?  Not really.  There are cases of two female cats who get on beautifully, or two males.  Or a female and a male pairing.  Or an older cat and a younger cat.  There’ve been cases of mother cat and kitten not getting on after the kitten grows up. 

It all depends on the personality of the cats, which as we know is a mystery.  However, by following the steps above, you can make life easier on your resident cat and the new kitten.

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Why a Bengal is not a cat …

26 September, 2010

 Readers of this blog will know that I am owned by a Bengal cat, Maya.  She is both a delight and a pain.  She’s got a larger-than-life personality and is also fiercely boss cat.  She hates other cats, but she loves humans.  She’s also highly-intelligent, and un-cat-like, as this post will show.

The other night I popped over to my neighbours for a quick chat.

I got to my neighbour’s and rang the doorbell. Because I don’t know them very well I had to give a spiel about why I was there. In the end I was invited indoors.

While I was chatting to them, there was a series of very loud and piercing meows. Meows on an increasing pitch of enquiry and urgency. I recognised those meows only too well. My heart sank. Maya had only followed me to the house and was standing outside the house and calling for me!

I told the neighbour to ignore her, but the wife was curious and opened the door.

“Oh,” she said “she’s waiting for you.”

And then she added “oh, c’mon then,” and Maya proceeded to sashay into the house as if she had issued the invitation and not the other way round. She then ran in and out of the house before wandering around the rooms downstairs, all big eyes and puffy whisker pads.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Maya looking at the staircase. Before I could open my mouth and shout at her, she went upstairs.

Suddenly I heard a little lost “mew”.

“Er … I think my cat has gone upstairs,” I mumbled wishing she had never been born.

“Oh no, I think she’s gone out,” the neighbour said, but she sent her daughter upstairs just in case.

Next thing her daughter shouted that she’d found the cat. Before I could warn her, she was coming downstairs with Maya in her arms! You should have seen the expression on Maya’s face, a mixture of shock and horror. She was so surprised that she didn’t fight against being carried as she normally would.

I told the neighbour that Maya would normally not allow herself to be picked up by a stranger and the neighbour said that all children and animals loved her daughter.

Well, it looks as if Maya’s got herself a fan. And I have a horrible suspicion that she was casing the joint and the neighbour might be seeing more of Maya in the future!

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How to get cats to photograph themselves and other secrets: the magic of Tetsu Yamazaki

6 September, 2010

Tetsu and Hiroki Yamazaki

For all of us who’ve tried to take a photograph of a cat, we all know how impossible it is to capture the perfect pose because cats are constantly in action!  I have stacks of photos of cats with missing heads, tails or who are mere blurs.  So I’m always filled with envy when I look at cat books and see row-upon-row of perfectly-posed cats.  Just how do these professional cat photographers do it? Here’s how Tetsu Yamazaki, one of the world’s top cat photographers demonstrates his magic.

Tetsu Yamazaki is famous for the book “Legacy of the Cat“.  The book is considered the definitive classic not only because it is filled with expert information on the 37 breeds of cat represented in cat shows, it’s illustrated with beautiful photos which capture the magic of each of these breeds.I was thrilled to meet Tetsu and his wife, Hiroki, at a recent cat show – UK CoonTICA’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.  Tetsu’s presence highlighted the significance of the show as it the first TICA Western European regional show.For someone with such a prestigious reputation, Tetsu and his wife were unassuming, warm and open.  They happily chatted to me about his life and work as a cat photographer.

 Q:  Why did he become a cat photograph?
A:  He fell into it by accident.  34 years ago, the photographic industry
was going through a bit of a lull and he was at a loose end.  A friend had
been commissioned to do a cat photography book and insisted that he take
the photos.  So he did.  At the end of that the publisher decided that he
was a good cat photographer.  And so did the people who bought the book.   So he didn’t make a conscious decision to become a cat photographer – it was almost an act of fate that saw him become one.

He’s recently done a new edition of his book “Legacy of the Cat” because
when he photographed the first edition 20 years ago, many breeds of cat we
have today were still not available, for example, the Bengal was a new
breed then, and there were no Munchkins.

Q:  Has his style changed much over the 20 years?
A:  Not really because a lot of what people want to see in their cat photos is the same.  However, his photographs try to capture the cat in its natural pose. 

As my cat soulmate Sonya (who was also there) reminded me, his wife Hiroki showed us a special Japanese edition of a cat magazine which featured the work of several cat photographers.  Hiroki turned to the pages of Persian cats – she explained that two (or three ?) other photographers had contributed photos on that breed.  Most of the cats were in static poses and she pointed to each in turn saying “other photographer, other photographer, other photographer..” – until the last photo, where the Persian cat was standing on its hind legs waving its paws in the air – “Tetsu photo!”

Japanese cat magazine featuring Tetsu's photos

Q:  What’s the main secret of cat photography?
A:  Play with the cat.  Engage with the cat.  Bring out the playfulness of
the cat.  Some cats are more walking cats.  Some look better when turning.  So he tries to suit his style of play to the cat.  In that way the cat will almost take the photograph itself!  There was something almost Zen in the way he described his method, but it makes sense – why force the cat to do something it doesn’t feel comfortable with?  Better to play to its strengths and natural movements.Q:  Which cats are the easiest and which the hardest breeds of cats to photograph?
A:  It’s not breed-specific.  It all depends on the personality and
temperament of the cat.  And also the desires of the cat owners.  For
example, owners of Persian cats have often trained their cats to adopt very
passive and still positions, to preserve their beautiful coats.  So that’s
what the photo will consist of:  a beautiful cat sitting still!  He finds that playful cats are easy to photograph as they will engage with the photographer.

Tetsu's travelling studio set-up

Q:  What kind of studio setup does he use?

A:  Because his work involves a lot of travelling to different cat shows, his studio has to be portable, and simple to setup and transport.  For example, at the CoonTICA show, the room that was allocated to him was a classroom.  On one side, he taped a plain white background to the wall, which overhung a table.  The cat to be photographed was placed on the table.  Directly overhead was a light with an umbrella diffuser and opposite the table at a diagonal was another.   

Q:  So no light box?  [this is a 3-sided box made of translucent material in which the cat is placed.  I’ve seen this at a lot of UK cat shows and assumed that it was the norm as it means the cat has nowhere to escape and can be easily controlled. ]A:  No, he doesn’t use a light box.  (I’m not a technical person, but my understanding of his explanation was that to shoot with a light box means he would have to stand closer to get at arm’s length to the cat and that would mean using a camera with a wide-angle lens or if he stood back, he would need a telephoto lens which would make for a heavy camera.  He prefers to shoot single-handed (for reasons which are explained later).   

He also prefers using a table because it allows the cat to move naturally and pose itself.  Q:  But what if the cat jumps off the table and tries to run away?
A:  If the cat jumps off the table as sometimes happens, it usually jumps
back up because it knows that Tetsu would play with it on the table.

Q:  What sort of toys did he use to play with the cats?

A:  At most of the UK cat shows I’ve been to, all the cat photographers use cat wands to get the cat’s attention and direct the gaze – these are standard shop-bought wands of about 2 feet long with a lure at the end.

Tetsu's cat wands

 Tetsu had customised his own wands.  He had taken 3 Japanese fishing rods made of bamboo of approximately six feet.  At the end of each rod was a lure.  One had some sparkly bits, the second a long feather, and the third a piece of paper.  Their extra long length allowed him to stand well back from the table and hold it up very high to pulll the cat’s gaze upwards.   And because the rods were telescopic, they retracted to about a foot long and could be easily packed for travel.  

The fishing rods were very thin and whippy so that when he flicked his wrist sharply, the feather made a sound that was very like the clap of a bird’s wing taking off.  I was very impressed – this was a cat magician in action! 

Close-up of the lures on Tetsu's cat wands

 Q:  So did his assistant hold the rods while Tetsu took the photos?

A:  No, Tetsu held the rod in his left hand. In is right hand he held his camera.  He was both cat wrangler and photographer.  Again, this was very different from a lot of cat photographers I’ve observed where they depend on having an assistant to direct the cat while the photographer composed the picture.  It made sense though – rather than rely on an assistant, by doing both, Tetsu was able to play and direct the cat into poses he wanted.  It gave him more control over the subject and the photo. 

(Later, I read that this method of photographing a cat by holding the camera in the right hand is recognised as Tetsu’s trademark – “to photograph Tetsu-style” it’s called!)  Q:  What sort of camera does he use? A:  Because of his technique of being both wrangler and photographer, he needs a camera that is light enough to be held in his right hand.  The camera he currently uses is a Canon EOS 50D. When he first started out in cat photography 34 years ago (and remember this was before digital photography had been invented) his camera was a roll-film camera, the Bronica. The Bronica was like a Hasselblad, with an overhead viewfinder, so that the user could hold the camera at waist height and still be able to see the subject on the screen. Tetsu actually preferred this old-style camera as it meant that he could film a cat on a table while standing up, whereas with modern-day cameras with viewfinders on the back, he sometimes has to kneel to get on the same level as the cat.  ********

What struck me throughout the interview was Tetsu’s joy in his work, and sense of going with the flow.  He prefers to play with the cat and let it express itself naturally.  There was no straining for effect.  This was a kind of Zen magician of cat photography. 

I asked if he had a website or was on Facebook or Flickr, and he told me that he didn’t have any of these public presences.  I found that very refreshing in an age where people believe that if you’re not on a social media site you don’t exist!  But Tetsu explained that he preferred to keep a low profile, enjoying his life on the outskirts of Tokyo, away from the frenzy of the city and letting his jobs take him where they did, all over the world.Tetsu does have an e-mail address though and you can contact him on catography@sky.so-net.jp.  He also recently signed up with image library Animal Photography.  Please check out Tetsu’s page for some wonderful photos of cats.

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How a little love from Marmite goes a long way …

12 August, 2010

When Lindsey Davies suddenly went into labour, she was terrified  Her pregnancy had been difficult and she had suffered from the painful and life-threatening conditions of pre-eclampsia and anaemia.  With her partner hours away, she feared the worse.

Fortunately, she had help in the form of a very unusual midwife in the form of her cat, Marmite.  He sensed her fear and stayed by her side.  What’s even more amazing is that he kept comforting her for the two hours it took before her husband arrived home. 

Because of Marmite, Lindsey was able to remain relaxed and calm:  “Marmite followed me around everywhere during my pregnancy and stayed by my side like a birthing partner.  He wouldn’t leave me and kept cuddling me when he knew I was in more pain.  My husband and I both love Marmite, which is why we named him that in the first place!”

Marmite’s love has not gone unrewarded. 

Earlier this week. Marmite was crowned Most Incredible Story and Rescue Cat of the Year 2010, in recognition of his lion-hearted efforts supporting his pregnant owner when she went into labour.

And the makers of Marmite have also acknowledged his fantastic achievements, and presented the cat and his owners from Portsmouth, with a bespoke luxurious Marmite branded cat basket, Marmite ceramic drinking bowl and a life time supply of the yeasty stuff.  They also donated £1,000 to Cats Protection, who organised the awards.

One … two  … three … we LURRRRRVE Marmite!

 (photo above shows the amazing Marmite, Lindsey, husband and baby Ruby)

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The Rescue Cat Awards, organised by Cats Protection and sponsored by Purina PetCare, are designed to celebrate the real-life stories of heroism, bravery and survival in the cat world. For more information visit http://www.cats.org.uk

To view Marmite’s entry video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUkEluMFAGo

To find out more about adopting one of the 7,000 rescue cats currently in the care of Cats Protection, please contact the charity’s National Helpline on 03000 12 12 12.

For keep up to date with the latest Marmite news visit www.facebook.com/marmite 

(photos and story used by kind permission of Splendid CommunicationsI)

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You know you’re a Cat Breeder when …

6 May, 2010

… you receive a photo of a kitten in a litter tray and his owner tells you it’s the first time he’s used it properly, and instead of going “ack!” you and his owner both glow with pride and make happy noises.

This adorable little fella is Mittens who was last seen in a previous post (his mother had been waking his owner up at 4am in the morning). 

Naomi, his owner, had been informed that the mother cat would teach the kitten to use the tray.  So when accidents started happening, she asked me for tips on litter training. 

I told her that contrary to what she’d been told, some mother cats don’t consciously teach the kittens how to use the tray.   Instead, they teach by example, by using the litter tray when the kitten is around.  I, myself have observed my mother cat squat in a kitten tray that’s way too small for her and do a wee, just to show her kittens what to do.

Anyway, here’s the standard advice I sent Naomi:

  • no bedding in the box
  • don’t use bleach to clean up mistakes (because bleach contains ammonia which smells like pee)
  • confine kitten to a small space
  • don’t let kitten wander far away from a litter tray
  • encourage kitten to use tray after meals
  • praise kitten if he’s used the tray successfully.

For a few days, it looked as though nothing was working.  And I didn’t dare tell Naomi that I’d had kittens who took weeks to master the art of using a litter tray.

And then … oh, the relief of it all!  As you can see from the photo above – one clever kitten and from Naomi and myself, sighs of relief!

(fyi – this is one very smart, very clever kitten – and he was about 5 weeks’ old when this photo was taken.  It took him less than a week to figure out what the scratchy stuff was and why mom made such a fuss when he peed outside the tray.)