I get this question all the time: are cats and laser pointers a good combination? Is it okay to play with cats using a laser pointer? These are great questions because when you understand a few things about cats, you’ll know the answer. And it’s always good to understand more about the tiny, adorable, carnivorous, semi-wild, predatory beastie that’s living in your home, right? So let’s find out: does The Red Dot make a good prey item for your kitty?
Even though cats are some of the most efficient predators in the world, small cats (like our “domestic” house cats) evolved behaviors specifically to avoid being eaten by someone with bigger teeth and larger claws. No matter how safe their home might be, our little kitties are programmed to avoid predation. This behavior manifests itself in several ways – it’s why cats love hiding. Many cats like to hang out in high places (so that they can see what’s around them and avoid ambush); prefer their litterboxes to be placed in corners of rooms with clear lines of sight and no corners or shelves where predators can hide; and orient their body direction towards cats or people they don’t necessarily know or trust. But in fact, the first line of defense for a cat not wishing to become someone’s dinner involves not being seen in the first place.
You know how some people say that cats can’t be trained? Well, I’ve gotta tell you – those people have got it all wrong. In fact, cats have got the whole training concept down – they are masters in the art of training! Think about it – they’ve already got YOU trained to respond to their every whim – they meow, you give them food. They jump on your lap, they get pets. They know just how to get what they want from you, because they know that you are motivated by their reward: a little bit of their precious attention! You have been trained to respond to your cat’s demands. You have been positively reinforced by your cats to do good things for them because they reward you with their affection, so you do those things again, and again, and again. But guess what? They’ve taught us a valuable lesson. We can turn the tables on them, and you can learn how to use positive reinforcement for good cat behavior. We’ve caught on to your game, felines, and now it’s our turn!
There are several reasons cats hide, and and most cats include hiding as a normal, healthy activity in their repertoire of behaviors. First, cats are both predators and prey in the wild – they are instinctually driven to hide and conceal themselves when they are sneaking up on a prospective prey item, and avoiding being prey for other predators (i.e., any carnivore that is larger than they are). Second, hiding in the home can be a stress-reducing, relaxing thing to do. Third, cats may hide when they are ill or not feeling well. If your cat all of a sudden decides to start hiding for long periods of time or changes her hiding behavior, you will want to make a trip to the veterinarian to make sure everything is ok.
Indoor cats, even though they’re safer and generally live longer lives than outdoor cats, don’t get to be, well, cats. We love cats for what they are, and that’s a result of thousands of years of evolution and development of behaviors that have allowed cats to adapt to their environment and niche as both predators and prey. What it comes down to is this: indoor cats have the potential to miss out on a lot of things that cats evolved to experience. And when indoor cats aren’t given the opportunity to act like cats, they get bored, stressed, and behavior issues can start to crop up.
Is your cat bored? Does she sleep ALL day, or does she beg for your attention? Is she mischievous, getting into things that she shouldn’t? If so, you may need to give your kitty something on which to focus her attention and energy. Even if you have toys around the house, she may be bored with them, or she might not like playing with those particular toys. Mental stimulation is essential for kitties because without it they can become bored, stressed, or even depressed…all of which can lead to behavior problems. Enrichment, which is defined as “any artificial or natural item that stimulates a pet physically, mentally, or socially”, is a necessary part of your cat’s day and is important to keep mind and body healthy. But what can you do besides give your fuzzy mice toys and a cat tree? Enter: food puzzles for cats!
Think that behavior training can only be done with dogs and birds? Think again! You’ll want to include cats in the list of “trainable critters” after reading this article, and with just a little inspiration, I’m hoping that you will use what I’m going to share with you to start on a cat-training adventure. Whaaaat??? Yes, you can train your cat! And it’s a lot easier than you might think – you just need to find out what motivates your cat and use that to reward desired behavior.
My cat Jesse recently turned 17 and, while he has slowed down in the past few years, he’s still a relatively healthy kitty and I’d say he’s doing pretty good for an older gentleman. Cats are considered “senior” between the ages of around 11 and 14, and “geriatric” by age 15. If you’re like me, you’ve noticed that your senior cat might be sleeping more and moving around a little less and that’s pretty normal. However, it’s really important that you pay special attention to your older cat and make sure his needs are met. And of course, a cat’s physical, mental, and emotional needs change over time. But if you keep a few simple things in mind, your kitty can enjoy a long and healthy life!
Catios have been all the rage lately, and if you’re not thinking about building one for your indoor kitty, she might be missing out on a great opportunity for enrichment and entertainment! And because catios are easy to build, come in many sizes and price ranges, and are completely customizeable, there’s probably a catio out there that will suit both you and your cat purrfectly.
Wait a minute, aren’t my cats supposed to entertain ME? Well, yes…that’s one of the reasons that many of us bring cats into our lives. However, we also love cats for many other reasons, including their cattitude in general. And a cat who is well-entertained is a cat who exhibits all the positive aspects of cattitude: she’s confident, well-adjusted, affectionate (in her own way), and alert. By providing her with the right kinds of entertainment, you’ll be giving your cat the gifts of mental, emotional and physical health that can lead to longevity and happiness. And when your cat is happy, YOU should be thrilled!
Dr. Marci is a certified feline behavior and training consultant, with specialized and advanced certificates in Feline Training and Behavior. She started Feline Behavior Solutions to keep cats in homes and out of shelters as the result of treatable behavior issues. She believes that the number of cats in shelters can be greatly reduced if guardians better understand cat behavior, and learn how to work with their cats to encourage desired behaviors instead of unwanted ones. Dr. Marci’s family includes her four feline companions and her very patient, understanding, and supportive husband.