When I go for my daily walks in my suburban neighborhood this time of year, not a day goes by that someone hasn’t just fertilized their lawn. I can see the granules on the sidewalk, and sometimes, I can even smell the chemicals. I am strongly opposed to the use of chemical fertilizers, and I don’t understand the obsession with flawless green lawns. But mostly, I worry about the effect lawn chemicals have on the cats who come in contact with them – and that can happen even if your cats never leave the house.
Keeping cats indoors can be a controversial topic. Some cat lovers believe that it’s not natural to keep cats indoors, and that they should have the freedom to go outdoors. However, the fact is that indoor cats live longer and healthier lives, and contrary to what outdoor cat proponents believe, indoor cats can be perfectly happy as long as cat guardians provide a stimulating environment for them.
The following seven reasons are strong arguments for keeping cats indoors:Continue Reading
There’s no question that indoor cats live longer, healthier lives. It is imperative that cat guardians provide a stimulating environment for indoor cats. Cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy has coined the term “catification,” which means creating a cat-friendly environment that provides outlets for a cat’s natural instincts to hunt, catch, kill and eat his prey, followed by grooming and sleeping.Continue Reading
For the past week, the mainstream press has widely reported on a paper in which professional wildlife biologists associated with the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claim that domesticated cats kill as many as 3.7 billion birds and more than 15 billion small mammals each year in the United States. The authors of the paper tried to assess the behavior of “owned” and “un-owned” cats, which would include feral, free roaming and indoor/outdoor cats.
This paper was authored by researchers with an anti-cat track record, who arrived at their conclusions by picking and choosing data that supported their point of view. To make matters worse, they cite a researcher who was convicted for trying to poison cats.Continue Reading
Last week, a friend experienced every cat guardian’s nightmare: a family member was careless about leaving the door open, and her two young kittens got out.
My friend had left to run some errands. She had asked that the kittens be closely watched while she was gone. When she returned home, she called the kittens. They didn’t respond. She went from room to room searching. No sight of the kittens. She went outside and walked all around her large property, shaking a treat bag, and calling for them. Becoming increasinly hysterical, she got into her car and started slowly driving down the road, all the while calling their names. She found them about a quarter of a mile down the highway, huddled together on the front stoop of an auto repair shop.
My friend’s story had a happy ending. The kittens returned from their adventure safe and unharmed. My friend’s nerves may take a little longer to recover. But not all stories of indoor cats running out the door end this well.
The following tips and safety precautions can help keep your indoor cat safe inside, where she belongs.Continue Reading
Allegra was never supposed to be an only cat. When I adopted the then 7-month-old kitten last April, the plan was for Amber, who was 12 at the time, to show her the ropes, and for the two of them to become playmates and best friends.
Less than five weeks after Allegra’s arrival, Amber passed away after a sudden, brief illness. I was devastated, and in addition to coping with my grief, which took up almost all the energy I had, I now had a sweet, but rambunctious, slightly juvenile delinquent kitten on my hands.
I knew if I wanted Allegra to be happy, and address some of her behavioral challenges at the same time (she chewed on everything from picture frames to books to the edges of my bedroom dresser, and she was slightly play aggressive), I needed to keep her entertained. Ideally, I should have gotten her a companion of similar temperament, but I wasn’t emotionally ready for that yet (and I’m still not quite ready). So it was up to me to keep her active, stimulated and challenged.
All my cats always have been, and always will be, indoor cats. I thought my home was kitty paradise already. There are lots of windows with views of trees, birds and squirrels. There are window perches in two bedrooms for the cats’ viewing pleasure and for naps in the sun. There are cat toys everywhere.
But it was kitty paradise for older cats, not for a young, energetic kitten. So I worked on what behaviorists call environmental enrichment. I created hiding spaces for Allegra. Cardboard boxes work just fine, as do grocery bags with the handles cut off. Cat igloos and crinkly tunnels are fun, too. I bought extra scratching posts. I added vertical space. There are numerous ways to do this: cat trees, cat condos, shelves or window perches. I got puzzle toys for her; they’re a great way to keep a young cat entertained. I set up treasure hunts to keep her busy, hiding treats throughout the house and letting her find them.
All of this environmental enrichment was designed to keep Allegra entertained when I couldn’t play with her, but it was never meant to be a substitute for regular playtime. I use a lot of interactive, fishing pole type toys to play with her. These toys are designed to imitate prey behavior and they help wake the hunting instinct in cats. Tossing balls or other small toys for her sends her racing through the house. I haven’t managed to teach her to retrieve, although cats can learn how to do this. I have a laser pointer toy, but rarely use it. Even though Allegra goes nuts chasing after the red dot, it’s a very unsatisfactory way to play for her. Cats’ play mimics hunting behavior, and it’s no fun for them if they can never catch their prey.
With young cats like Allegra, burning off excess energy is important. We established regular play sessions of 10-15 minute each, at least twice a day, sometimes more frequently. Playing before meals, or just before bedtime, works best. Once we had these regular play sessions in place, a lot of Allegra’s behavior issues disappeared because she was no longer bored.
Eventually we’ll add another cat to our family. For now, Allegra is very happy to be the only cat in her environmentally enriched home.