10 very useful and surprising cat tips
Tribune Opinion Columnist
CATS DIG RUNNING WATER
A pet drinking fountain is a great investment you can make for your cat’s health. Cats find cool, running water to be appealing; it’s a natural behavior, because stream water is less likely to be contaminated than a stagnant pool. Most people don’t know that cats tend to be chronically dehydrated, and drinking fountains have proven to get cats to drink more water. Many of your cats’ health problems can be aided with proper hydration.
SPAYING REDUCES ALLERGIES
First, people with life-threatening reactions are better off without a cat, but it is possible to pick a pet who might be less of a problem. If you are only slightly allergic you will likely build an immunity toward the allergy-causing saliva FelD1. And no, it’s not the fur causing your itchy eyes and runny nose. Most people will have some kind of reaction if they have not been around cats, but it’s not really an allergic reaction just your body getting used to the allergy causing protein in the cat’s saliva. Black, unneutered males are purported the worst choice for people with allergies, since they typically have higher levels in their saliva of FelD1. Some breeds of cat, most notably the Siberian, have a high number of individual animals with low levels of FelD1. If you’re choosing a kitten, choose a light-colored female, and get her spayed.
PANTING IS A PROBLEM
Dogs pant up to 300 times a minute to cool themselves, but if you see your cat panting it may be a medical emergency. While sometimes it can just be from extreme anxiety, it can also be a sign of respiratory or cardiovascular problems. Immediately call your veterinarian.
CANNED CAT FOOD IS PREFERRED
Veterinarians now recommend feeding canned cat food over kibble. Canned foods have a higher percentage of protein and fat than dry foods and are significantly higher in water content than kibble (70 percent vs. 10 percent). Also, canned foods tend to be more palatable to cats that are finicky, elderly or have dental problems. Better health for your cat can start by closing the all-day kitty kibble buffet and feeding measured amounts of a good canned food.
WANT A CAT TO LOVE YOU? LOOK AWAY
What can you do to get a cat to come to you? Avoid eye contact. Cats don’t like eye contact with strangers, so will almost always go to the person who’s not looking at them. This also is the answer to the age-old mystery of why cats always seem to go to the one person in the room who doesn’t like cats. It’s because she may be the only one not “rudely” — in the cat’s view — staring.
TALE OF THE TAIL
You can tell a cat’s mood by watching his tail. Tail upright, happy; tail moving slowly and smoothly, keep petting me; tail low, twitching erratically, I’m on the prowl; tail swishing rapidly, beware and leave me alone. If you’ve ever been surprised when a cat you’re petting suddenly grabs you angrily, you missed a tail tale: the unhappy twitch of the tail tip would have told you to stop petting, now.
SURPRISING SIGNS OF A CAT IN PAIN
Chronic pain is not uncommon in cats, especially as they age. Cat lovers miss the signs of a pet in pain because cats are good at hiding it. Any cat observed as being hesitant to jump up or climb, not using the litter box, not able to groom themselves as well, or acting more aggressive or more withdrawn need to see the veterinarian. These are classic signs of discomfort, and need to be addressed.
WHAT LITTER DO CATS REALLY PREFER?
Forget the people-pleasing scents. Forget special formulas or alternative ingredients. Your cat is more likely to prefer unscented clumping litter, according to preference tests. And if you want to keep your cat using “the bathroom,” be sure to keep it clean, place it in a quiet, cat-friendly place and don’t use any liners in the box — cats don’t like them. None of these changes will address a cat who has stopped using the box because of illness. Urinary tract infections and other health issues need to be addressed by your veterinarian before box re-training can commence.
HOW TO PREVENT A FINICKY CAT
Feed your kitten a few different foods so he or she will experience different textures and flavors of food. Cats who are only exposed to one type of food will be less likely try other brands and kinds. That can be a real problem if the favored food goes off the market, or your cat needs to eat a special food for health reasons. So mix it up on your kitten.
DON’T TOSS THAT RATTY SCRATCHING POST
When a post starts looking worn is when a cat starts liking it best. Get a new one and your cat may switch to the arm of the sofa. Instead, refresh your cat’s post by adding some coils of fresh sisal rope — it’s cheap, easy to add and cats love to dig their claws into it. When it gets to the point that the favorite scratchy post is beyond repair get a new one and leave it next to the old one for about a week so kitty will switch with ease.
Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to AskHenry@LakeTahoeHumaneSociety.org or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit http://www.Facebook.com/LakeTahoeHumaneSocietySPCA, http://www.Facebook.com/Hopeful.Henry or http://www.twitter.com/LtHumaneSociety.