By STEVE DALE
Tribune Content Agency
TORONTO, CANADA – These cat questions are answered by three board members of the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation who were in Toronto for the foundation’s annual symposium July 2. Chiming in are: Dr. Drew Weigner, of Atlanta, Ga., Dr. Brian Holub, of Boston, Mass., Chief Medical Officer of VetCor veterinary clinics; and board president Dr. Glenn Olah, of Albuquerque, N.M.
Winn Feline Foundation supports cat health studies. Much of what’s now known about cat health – from how to treat most illnesses to vaccines, and even care at shelters – was once funded by Winn. Learn more at www.winnfelinefoundation.org.
Q: About the time my cat turned a year old, he stopped sleeping with me in favor of the screened porch or the kitchen floor. He made the switch about the time the weather turned especially warm here in Florida. Does he want to be more independent as he gets older, or is this change related to temperature? Also, though my cat head bunts me and rubs against me all the time, he no longer enjoys sitting in my lap. Is there any way to make him more cuddly? – C.C., via cyberspace
A: Dr. Weigner suggests the change in your cat’s preferred places to nap is more about temperature than about you.
“As the thermometer drops in winter, you might find your cat in bed with you again,” he notes.
“Some cats just aren’t lap cats,” says Olah. “The good news is, it sounds like your cat is expressing affection by those head bunts.”
Holub suggests there may be a communication issue at play. You want the cat in your lap, and place him there. For a time, he’s OK with that, or not. In any case, he doesn’t want to spend the afternoon there. He may be telling you this, using cat body language you’re not be picking up on or are ignoring.
Holub suggests making your lap more enticing. Spray your lap with Feliway, a copy of a calming pheromone. Also take a clean washcloth, rub it gently along your cat’s head and place it in your lap. Now, you’re awash with soothing pheromones. You won’t smell a thing, but your cat may suddenly act as if your lap is filled with $100 bills.
Let the cat make the choice to settle in your lap. Assuming he does, let him rub his head against you. Avoid petting his back end, which some cats dislike. Finally, gently get up, leaving your cat thinking, “Hey, what happened, I want more of that!”
Q: Why does one of my cats bring her mouse toy into the bedroom each night, vocalizing all the while? We say “thank you,” she drops the toy, and we all go to bed. During the day, she doesn’t play with this toy at all. I’m guessing she’s offering us a gift to demonstrate that she’s a skilled hunter. – G.C.M., Pahrump, Nevada
A: “It might be that for whatever reason, the cat delivered the toy, and you offered attention,” says Holub. “Our cats do all sorts of things for attention, and you’ve reinforced the behavior.”
Olah adds, “I think you may be right; the cat just loves you and wants to give you a gift. Or the cat is very confused. Mother cats bring live prey back to their kittens to kill. Perhaps, the cat thinks you’re a kitten.”
“Well, maybe not,” says Holub, who laughs.
“Clearly, your cat is offering a gift, reinforced or by choice,” Weigner says. “It means you’re loved.”
Q: My daughter adopted Bob the cat. Thinking Bob was lonely and needed company, she then adopted Ted, another neutered male cat, who’s very gentle. Unfortunately, Bob has now turned into a monster, attacking, bullying and biting Ted whenever he can. My daughter has tried to reassure Bob that he’s No. 1. We thought these two would be pals, but they can’t be trusted in the same room without supervision. What’s going on? – H K., Kirkland, Quebec, Canada
A: Reassuring Bob that he’s Top Cat may not be communicating the message your daughter intended.
The problem may have originated with the way the cats were introduced. Without a very gradual introduction and lots of positive associations, cats may not get off on the right paw. “And once negative associations are established, over time, it’s more common for the relationship to continue to disintegrate,” says Holub.
Here are a few tricks of the trade: You could try putting a collar with a bell around Bob’s neck, which would give Ted a heads up that Bob’s on the way. Also, since cats live by their noses, dabbing some baking soda on both cats so their scents become the same might help smooth out their relationship.
At this point, it’s likely both cats are anxious. Olah suggests asking your veterinarian about three stress-busters which could do no harm: Zylkene (a nutritional supplement that contains a natural product, derived from casein, a protein in milk known to promote the relaxation), Anxitane (L-Theamine, a nutritional supplement to lower anxiety) and/or Feliway spray (a copy of a calming pheromone).
Enriching the cats’ environment might help. For starters, offer Bob and Ted more vertical space where they can get away from each other. Provide activities to distract both cats, especially Bob. For example, offer treats and/or kibble in food-dispensing balls and puzzle toys.
“For times when the cats are playing or acting appropriately, reinforce (this behavior) with praise and treats,” Olah says. Another option: Keep Bob and Ted separated for a week or more, then bring them together only for brief encounters accompanied by great treats, like bits of tuna or salmon. Hopefully, with time, each will associate these amazing goodies with the presence of the other cat.
If these methods fail, ask your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated “Steve Dale’s Pet World” and “The Pet Minute.” He’s also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.
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