Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Everybody Loves a Little T.L.C.

We've been reading new studies about the role of stress on the health of our cats.  External stress may contribute to feline idiopathic cystitis which often leads to urinating out of the box.  A cat-friendly home may be even more important than ever.

What makes a house a cat-friendly home?  Sometimes it's not other cats.  We all love all of our cats.  Some of our cats might not be so fond of each other.  We like to think our cats see each other like brothers or sisters.  I've come to think of it as more like a roommate situation.  In the college dorm lottery, you got who you got.  Hopefully, it was a life-time kindred spirit.  If not, well, at least you only had to tolerate each other for a year.  Since our cats are together for a lifetime, we need to help them cohabitate in peace.

Cats practice a sort of 'zoning defense' when it comes to resources.  This is why two cats who can crowd up cheek-to-cheek on your warm lap in the wintertime will avoid each other at all other times.  Warm laps, food, litter boxes, high perches, and safe sleeping spots are all important resources for our cats.  Why do we recommend a litter box on every level of the house?  So that one cat can't restrict access by lurking around a corner to pounce or by casually sitting on the top basement step and blocking access to the all important litter box area.  This is sort of like a grade-school bully leaning up against the bathroom door.  Either you hold it or you find somewhere else to go.  If you have more than one litter box area, a less confident cat can use a different litter box rather than look for a 'safer' area (like the quiet, out-of-the-way dining room).

If one cat (perhaps a young, active whippersnapper) spends a lot of time harassing an older housemate, we can enrich both of their lives in a few simple ways.  The young cat is brimming with energy and looking for anything and everything that can be a toy.  While an older housemate who runs away, hides under the table and hisses is very entertaining, we can come up with better toys.  Kong toys are virtually indestructible and can be filled with bits of kibble so a cat has to work for his treats.  Rotating toys is always a great idea.  If twenty toys are always out, they're boring.  If a toy goes away for  few days and then reappears, it's new and exciting!  If he starts crouching and wriggling in anticipation of a good pounce on you or another cat, give him a squirt with a water pistol and toss a small toy to redirect his energy.

As for the older cat(s), make sure he/she has a safe area that the younger cat thinks is boring.  This area should have access to food, water, a litter, box and good sleeping spots.  The simple addition of some blankets or beds on high spots can make everyone happy.  A cat tree with multiple perches can help several cats hang out in close proximity.  Last but not least, consider a breakaway collar with a bell for a younger cat.  The 'ding-a-ling' approaching lets everyone know to get out of the way!

Is you house a cat-friendly home?  E-mail us a picture for our web-page at

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