The Catvocate™ blog

The latest scientific and veterinary feline research to educate cat lovers on how we can best take care of our feline friends. Written by Dr. Liz Bales, VMD.

Open Letter to Cat Dads

 

Dear Cat Dads,

 

No one likes to be ignored, and you guys have been flying under the radar.

 

I want you to know that I know you are out there, and I am listening.

 

The stereotype of “the cat owner” is strong.  I don’t need to reinforce it here.  And, as stereotypes go, this one is wrong too.  Very wrong. 

 

The cat parent is everyone, from millennials to Gen-X’ers to Baby Boomers.  And, I don’t have to tell you gentlemen, but a lot of cat parents are men.  In fact, almost ½ of all millennial cat parents are men. 

 

It is time to celebrate the Cat Dad! Your cat means a lot to you!  As a veterinarian, writer and speaker on cat care, I want to curate the best information I can to help strengthen the bond between you and your cat, from the basics in cat care to cutting edge science.

 

So, tell me, you unsung heroes of the feline/human family, what is important to you?  What do you want to know more about?  What do you want to say about being a Cat Dad?  It’s time to step out of the shadows and be heard!

 

I’m listening……

 

It is official.  A new report was released last week. Cat obesity is an epidemic.  https://www.banfield.com/state-of-pet-health/obesity

Without meaning to, are you putting your cat at risk?  Here are the top 3 ways cats are getting fat.

1 – The All Day Buffet packs on the pounds!

Do you fill up the bowl once or twice a day?  Stop feeding giant portions of food at one time.   Did you know that your cat’s stomach is the size of a ping pong ball? Think about how much of a meal a mouse would make. Feeding dry food?  Your cat should eat small portions of food (1-2 TBSP) about 5 times a day.  Feeding wet?  Put out small portions throughout the day and evening.

2- Your cat is a couch potato!

Just like the rest of us, cats need exercise.  Sleeping, laying around and eating all day are a big part of the problem.  The best way to get your cat moving is by engaging their natural instinct to hunt.  Take those 5 portions of food and turn them into your cat’s natural exercise. Hide them!  Your cat will instinctively hunt around your house. This will activate her mind and body at meal time…just like nature intended. The weight will gradually melt away and the result is a happy, healthy cat.

3- You are an automatic treat dispenser.

If you are like most of us, your cat has you well trained to give him treat after treat on demand.  A few meows and an impossibly cute stare, and you are wrist deep in a bag of cat treats. The next time your cat comes looking for treats, grab his favorite toy and play a game.  Finish your play session with just one treat.  Exercise.  Bonding time.  Love….  Mission accomplished.

Follow these three tips and your cat will be defying the statistics in no time.  Bonus – your cat will live a longer, healthier, happier life and you will have fewer vet bills!

 

To many Catvocates, Cats are like potato chips - you can't have just one without going back for more.  Adding one of these irresistible cuties to your current household can be absolute bliss for your solo cat, the added cat company might be exactly what they were secretly wishing for. Other cat pairings are not exactly matches made in heaven.

Cats have an endlessly fascinating social structure.  In nature, they can live alone or in groups, but they always hunt alone.  Experts call them solitary hunters.  Since cats don't depend on each other for food, they can be choosey about the company that they keep. How can you tell if your cats are getting along?  There are 5 key signs that your cat household is zen:

1 -  Bonded cats rub their bodies and faces on each other.  Cats have glands that contain pheromones on their faces and rubbing their faces together co-mingles these pheromones and creates contentment between bonded cats. 

2 - Cats that enjoy each others company will stand next to each other and intertwine their tails.  This may be another way of co-mingling pheromones. 

3 - Let sleeping cats lie. Cats that feel safe and comfortable with one another will rest or sleep cuddled up together.  So nice for them, and so adorable for us to watch.

4 - Cat friends that know each other well can romp and roughhouse without taking things too far.  This sort of play between cats is great for exercise as well as for bonding.

5 - Allogrooming.  Allo-what?  Cats that are bonded will lick and groom each other. Friends that groom together, stick together.

Here's wishing peace and togetherness for all of your multicat households.  If things are not going so well, stay tuned for some help.

 

 

You plan to give your kitten the best of everything.  But, there is one more step to give your kitten the best chance for a healthy life and a strong bond with you.

Read More

 

 

 

The multi-cat household can be challenging.  How do you create harmony for all of your beloved cats?  Veterinary behavioral science is in hot pursuit of the answer.  We know that adding environmental enrichment, and multiple and separate resources is the key to happiness in the multicat household.  And cat lovers everywhere want to know more!  A fantastic new study has just come out discussing the impact of adding vertical space to cats’ living space.  


Dr. Sara Ellis, feline behavior specialist with iCatCare does a thorough review of the study here.

https://icatcare.org/icatcare-talks-science-does-shelving-provide-environmental-enrichment-indoor-group-housed-cats


In summary, having places to climb improved relationships between cats, except at mealtimes.  For these cats, meals were fed in bowls.


Dr. Ellis reports “The study has highlighted that arousal may be high around feeding time in cats fed twice a day, leading to increased agonistic interactions. This finding has especially important implications for multi-cat households, and highlights the importance of a cat’s feeding regimen on their behaviour and welfare. Cats are naturally solitary hunters, just like their wild ancestor. Since they hunt alone, their prey are generally small in size, such as small rodents. The average mouse only contains about 30 kilocalories, meaning cats must hunt, kill and eat around ten mice a day in order to meet their daily energy and nutrient requirements. Therefore, cats have adapted to eat multiple small meals over the course of a 24-hour period; this includes eating during the night, when their nocturnal prey are active. Thus feeding cats just twice a day, and out of a bowl which requires no expression of hunting behaviours to acquire their food, may be causing frustration and boredom. In order to mimic the cat’s natural feeding habit of eating little and often, owners should divide their cats’ daily food ration into several portions (iCatCare recommends a minimum of five), which should be fed throughout the 24-hour period. Feeding during the night can be achieved by using puzzle feeders. Puzzle feeders are objects that hold food and must be manipulated in different ways to release this food. These can be filled and left for cats overnight, as well as during the day if the owner is away at work. Puzzle feeders also encourage mental and physical stimulation of cats during feeding, and allow them to express some of their natural hunting behaviour.”


Like all of us, cats need to feel safe in their homes. To best understand what makes a cat feel safe, we look at the life of a cats in nature. In the wild, may cats prefer to live in familiar social groups, but they hunt and eat alone.  When cats feel threatened by another cat, a predator, or other threat, they climb and hide to avoid these perceived dangers.  Fighting is the last resort when all other avoidance techniques have failed.  

Having a safe place to climb and hide is integral to a cat’s well being. Cats like to go vertical.  Height gives cats the ability to survey the area for potential danger and makes them feel secure. If there is more than one cat in the home, there are some extra measures required to provide a safe space. Cats may use the physical space to assert status. As I said, cats prefer hiding and avoidance to conflict.  Conflict between cats intensifies around food, water, litter boxes, and cherished resting places.  And mealtime from a bowl in a multicat household, as highlighted in this study, is a major source of conflict.

Understanding the way that our cats see their world and how they feel safe in it, is the first step to successful cat ownership.  With a few simple additions to our homes, we can create a world where our cats natural instincts are met.  


For more information on feeding the multicat household, click here https://nobowlcat.com/pages/multicat-households

We have a very exciting announcement!  The NoBowl Feeding System is helping cats around the globe live healthier happier lives, but we want to do more.  We are partnering with Winn Feline Foundation, to help advance feline research.  Simply use the coupon code CATSWINN at checkout and we will donate 10% of your purchase to Winn Feline Foundation to help cats everywhere. Read More

Well, I have some bad news for you.  Being woken up from a sound sleep in the night or early morning hours by a hungry, nudgy and active cat is less than desirable for a human.  Unfortunately, this undesirable behavior is purrrfectly normal for a cat.  I will tell you why and explain to you what you can do about it.

Let’s start with normal cat behavior.  If your cat lived outdoors, it would need to catch somewhere between 8-13 mice or birds a day to stay fed.  To keep up with this need, your cat would hunt both during the day and night, with lots of recharging naps in between.  Many of your cat’s favorite meals would be most active and available during the night and the early morning hours. So, your clever cat is programed to be alert and in hunting mode at these times…which is precisely when you would like to be hard at work on your REM sleep!

To make matters worse, your schedule likely reinforces this.  Most of our cats have little to no stimulation during the day.  You are at work, the house is quiet, and your cat has nothing to do but sleep.  For your cat, the active day begins when you get home from work and your home springs to life.

So how can you use this knowledge of normal cat behavior to redirect your nudgy cat and get some sleep?!  You can solve this problem in two easy steps.

1-   Make night time hunting time!  Understanding that it is normal for cats to hunt overnight, and eat multiple small meals in the 24 hour period is all the info you need.  Give your cat the opportunity to hunt for their food overnight, instead of eating from a bowl all day!  The best way to do this is with The NoBowl Feeding System™.  Before you turn in for the night, measure your cat’s favorite dry food or treats, split them between the five NoBowls™ and hide them outside of the bedroom.  Now, your hungry cat can fulfill its natural instincts to hunt and eat overnight…and you can finally get some uninterrupted sleep.

2-   Don’t give in.  Your cat has been training you to wake up and amuse or feed him/her for some time now.  So, it might take a few days for your cat to learn this new way of life.  Stay strong! Don’t give in!  Pull the covers over your head and ride it out.  In a few days, your cat will learn that it is way more fun to hunt and eat NoBowls™ than it is to wake up his/her cranky, sleepy human.

Good night!  Sleep tight!

https://nobowlcat.com/collections/shop

 

Here’s something alarming that few cat owners know.  More than half of the cats in America are overweight. And that number has nearly doubled in the past 10 years.

Alright America….this is a wake-up call.  While a chubby kitty is adorable, that chub is making them sick.  Overweight cats face a lot of expensive and uncomfortable health struggles including..

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • urinary disease.  

And sadly, overweight cats live shorter lives than cats of a healthy weight.

How we feed our cats is just as important as what we feed our cats.  The way we are doing it now is not working. We have got to change the way we feed our cats to prevent feline obesity.

Here are 7 steps to keep your cat at a healthy weight.  

1 - Know your cat’s weight and what is a healthy weight for your cat. Studies show only 10% of us can tell if our cat is overweight.  It might be time for a trip to the vet to get an objective opinion.

2- Monitor your cat’s weight every couple of months. You see your cat every day.   It is hard to see the changes. We need some facts here to keep things on track.  

3- Know how much food your cat should be eating.  Ask your vet or calculate this based on their weight.  Measure this out in food and treats and you don’t feed more than this in a 24 hour period.

4- Stop being a human automatic treat dispenser.  

The next time you think your cat is asking for extra food or treats, grab their favorite toy and have a play session instead.  Love them with some healthy exercise...not food.

5- Get rid of the all day buffet.

Cats are hunters.  In nature they hunt and eat lots of small prey.  They need activity and multiple small meals throughout the day and night.  Here’s something you probably don’t know.  A cat’s stomach is designed to be the size of a ping-pong ball, just the right size for a mouse.  Not a heaping bowl of food.  

Just putting down a big bowl is not serving your cat’s needs.  This way of feeding is a big part of the obesity problem.  

6 - Feed multiple small portions of food a day - Feed 5 small meals a day.  Remember that measured amount?  Cats are predators.  They are programmed to hunt for their food.  In fact, in nature they spend up to 80% of their waking hours seeking and hunting their food.  For a cat, mealtime is not just about getting food, it’s also the time that your cat needs to act out the hunt. This is their built in exercise.

 

If you are feeding wet food, break the day’s portion up into 5 small meals.  And to get your cat moving, forget about feeding in the same spot in the kitchen every day.  Take the wet food dishes and put them around the house...like up on a bookcase or windowsill.  Now your cat is getting small meals and hunting for them.  

7- To best serve your cat’s dry food meals, use a hunting system, where you split the dry food into 5 portions and hide them.  Your cat has to hunt out its portion of food and play with it to dispense the food before eating it.  

Giving your cat exercise and small portions of food a least 5 times a day is the optimal way to keep your cat happy and healthy.


http://vri.cz/docs/vetmed/61-6-295.pdf


http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/7/1940S.full


http://jarvm.com/articles/Vol3Iss2/LUND.pdf


http://petobesityprevention.org/food-calories-2/




 


So, the new year's finally upon us! We hope you enjoyed the holidays as much as we did, and we wish you the very best for 2017.

Now down to some business. That's right, I'm talking New Year's Resolutions. If you already have a list, that's great! But did you consider your cat?

Read on for 3 of our favorite New Year's resolutions that benefit both you and your cat.

1) Exercise More Often

Exercising more often is near the top of most people's list of resolutions. Exercise is great for our bodies, and we know it brings us a variety of benefits – our health improves, we have more energy, our mood lifts, we just FEEL HEALTHIER! The same goes for your cat. It's especially easy for indoor cats to become inactive and gain weight – and just as in humans – this can take a toll on their physical and mental health. The NoBowl Feeding System™ is a great way to make sure your cat gets the exercise he needs – while enjoying the thrill of the hunt.

2) Fight Boredom

When we're bored, we're less happy. The new year is a great opportunity to take up a fun new hobby, or spend more quality time with family and friends – you’re sure to feel better for it! Don’t overlook the fact that your cat can get bored, too. Just like you, they need ways to lead happier, more fulfilled lives. A boring environment can lead to problems such as anxiety, depression and destructive behaviors. The NoBowl Feeding System™ is a great way to enrich your cat's environment. You can also introduce items such as interactive toys, cat trees and tunnels … and don't forget to set aside some all-important playtime with your cat each day.

3) Eat Better

Most of us could benefit from eating better – but it can be tough to pass on our favorite treats and choose a healthy salad! We realize that our health is tied to eating better, and the new year is a great time to put some healthy eating habits in place. We all know that avoiding fatty, sugary and processed foods, and sticking to a healthy diet can prevent weight gain and health problems. And it's the same for our cats. Cats benefit from eating small, frequent, and healthy meals throughout the day, just like they would in nature. It is not natural for a cat to eat one or two large meals a day. If you're already using the NoBowl Feeding System™, you'll know the benefits include easier weight control and prevention of vomiting from gorging - "scarf and barf" - that can be a problem with bowl feeding.


Do you have a favorite New Year's resolution for cat parents we didn't mention? Let us know in the comments.

In the previous blogs, we reviewed the types of cat marking behavior as well as the four basic causes. Unfortunately, owners of house-soiling cats frequently abandon or give up their pets to shelters where many are un-adoptable and are eventually euthanized. However, there are several things that can be done to remedy cat marking behavior.

Guidelines developed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) propose two universal suggestions for the management of all cases of house-soiling. The first one is optimizing the litter box/tray. Litter boxes should be provided in multiple, low-traffic areas so that each social group has an adequate number of toileting sites in different places. You should have more more litter boxes than you do cats, and they should all be in different locations within the house...not all grouped together in one location.  The litter box should be 1 ½ times the size of the cat from the tip of its nose to the base of its tail.  Additionally, the litter box should be scooped daily and completely replace the litter into a clean box once a week to help reduce the offending scent of the “other cat.”

The second strategy is fulfilling the "five pillars" of feline environmental for your cat. These include providing a safe place for your cats to climb and hide; providing multiple and separated resources such as food, water, toileting areas (again, yes, that’s important!), play areas and resting or sleeping areas; provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior; provide positive and predictable human-cat social interactions; and provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat's sense of smell. 

Additionally, because marking is often a sign of stress or anxiety, behavioral therapy can provide additional treatment help. Your veterinarian or an animal behavior expert can evaluate your cat’s behavior problem and help you develop a treatment plan.

In households where there are multiple cats determining who’s misbehaving may be a little tricky and you may need to do some investigating before you attempt to remedy any marking behavior. Isolating one cat at a time to see if the marking behavior stops while he’s in isolation may provide some answers. This process of elimination is not guaranteed, especially if the culprit’s behavior is stress-induced. In this case, isolation is only removing him from the source of stress and the inappropriate behavior may not occur.

Your veterinarian can provide you with specific treatment suggestions for each diagnostic category, take-home instructions for cat owners, and what steps practitioners can take if the frustrated client is considering euthanasia. House-soiling and spraying is a challenging and emotionally charged issue. Effectively managing this common behavioral problem can reinforce veterinarian-client-patient relationships and ultimately help reduce the number of cats who are abandoned, sent to shelters and euthanized.

 

Sources:

  1. http://www.catvets.com/public/PDFs/ClientBrochures/HouseSoiling-B&W.pdf

  2. http://www.catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/house-soiling

  3. http://jfm.sagepub.com/content/16/7/579.full.pdf+html

  4. http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/marking_territory.html

  5. http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/urine-marking-cats

https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats/problemsolving/spraying-and-marking

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