Can I teach my cat to be held?

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can I teach my cat to be held?

can my cat learn to be held photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Shelter kitten likes to be held
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Ever gone to a shelter and picked up a cat, and the cat instantly relaxes? Some do, but not all cats will – some just don’t like it. They don’t like being picked up, and certainly don’t want to be held.

What if your cat doesn’t like being held?

Have you said to yourself (and your cat) Can I teach my cat to be held? 

My cat use to hate being held. I’d scoop her up, and she’d immediately start squirming. Sometimes she’d unintenitionally scratch me as she jumped out of my arms. Her name is Marnie, and she’s a rescue. She was three when she joined our family. I don’t know how she was treated by her previous family, but she definitely was neglected: she was skittish and emaciated. And if I were to venture a guess, she may never have been held as a sign of affection. It’s likely she’s been grabbed, swatted at, but held with love? Probably not. I wondered: can I teach my cat to be held? So I thought about how to let Marnie feel comfortable being picked up and held.

can my cat learn to be held?

Can my cat learn to be held?
photo by s.dunaif ©2017

cat learning to be held

Marnie learning to be being held
photo by s.dunaif ©2017

So I started very gradually.

  • I’d simply pick her up and release her – immediately. It was important to let Marnie get use to being picked up.

I wanted her to associate being picked up as non threatening. After a few weeks, she seemed to be less nervous when I picked her up. She was ready for the next step.

 

  • I’d keep her in my arms for a few seconds, then let her go – before she became squirmy

This was to help her gain trust while being in my grasp; we did that for a few weeks. Then, once Marnie was ready to be held a little longer, we added more time.

  • I held her, releasing her as soon as she got fidgety.

This was to let Marnie feel in control of how long she wanted to be held.

Finally, she let me hold her and purrs.

  • Marnie was relaxed enough to enjoy being held – most of the time!

 

cat learns to be held - and likes it

Marnie learned to be held – and likes it
photo by s. dunaif©2017

 

 

 

After nearly 18 months, Marnie knows she is loved.

 

 

 

What my cat’s meow means

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A cat meows for lots of reasons

Like everybody everywhere, some cats are quite chatty, while others not so much, but at one time or another, your cat will look at you and meow. And? Chances are, your cat wants or needs something. What my cat’s meow means? Often it’s food or attention.

cat eats

Toby eats
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Or, maybe they’re trying to tell you something else. One morning my cat Toby, a cat of few words, leapt onto the bed I hadn’t gotten out of yet and looked at me while he was meowing. He had food, so it must be something else. I petted him behind his ear, which he loves – makes him smile. But not this time, no he looked me in the eye and meowed again. Toby had never done this before. Maybe he was saying something about the litter boxes.
I always clean their boxes every morning and if necessary, at night too. But he needed to use the litter box, and someone else had used both boxes and he wanted his litter cleaned NOW!

why cats meow

“Scratch my ears. Please.”
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

 

 

Other times, Toby meows because he does want his ear scratched. I love seeing Toby smile.

 

Or when you get home from work or taking care of errands, or whatever happens beyond your cat’s world – which is irrelevant and insignificant to your cat, you are back. Maybe, your cat greets you with a happy Meow!
Our wonderful and talkative cat Little Bear (we miss her so much) would meow every time we’d sneeze. Every time – I sneeze a lot because I’m allergic to cats, it was like she was saying “I know you love me!”

Introvert or extrovert, cats certainly communicate. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’ve heard that cats only meow to their human companions. Either way, cats do meow as one of several ways they communicate with us.

♥     ♥     ♥

what is a polydactyl cat?

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is my cat polydactyl?

The typical domestic cat has 5 toes on their front paws, and 4 toes on their hind paws. That is, unless they have more. In which case, it is a Polydactyl cat: a cat with more than the normal amount of toes. What is a polydactyl cat?

what is a polydactyl cat

polydactyl cat

 

Polydactyl cats are not a particular breed, and the trait can appear in any breed: Calicos, Tabbies, white, black, etc. So what is a polydactyl cat?

what is a polydactyl cat

mitten paws

 

 

 

 

A version of polydactyl is “mitten paws,” it occurs when the extra toes are attached on the medial side, the “thumb” side of the paw. These polydactyl cats look like they have opposable thumbs, and some act like they do. With increased dexterity, they are enable to open clasps and windows.

snowshoe paws

 

Cats that have multiple toes that aren’t “mitten paws” just appear to have big feet, which are called “snowshoe paws” or “pancake feet.”

canadian lynx

Canadian lyxn

 

 

 

 

 

These type of polydactyl paws are similar to the Canadian lynx, who have very large paws, enabling them to walk on top of snow.

Mariners valued polydactyl cats.They were traditionally seen on sailing ships when sail boats were used for trade. Sailors saw that polydactyl cats had extraordinary climbing and hunting abilities, useful for controlling rodents. Perhaps that’s why they considered polydactyl cats good luck on a ship.

Quentin Roosevelt and Slippers

Polydactyl cats have been popular for a while. President Theodore Roosevelt brought Slippers, who’s right paw had six toes,  to the white house, around 1906. Photo is of his son Quentin, with Slippers.

Polydactyls were made even more popular by writer Ernest Hemingway. In the 1930’s, sea captain Stanley Dexter gave Hemingway a six-toed cat named Snowball. Hemingway’s home in Key West, Florida is now a museum where around sixty cats live. At least half of the cats are polydacts, most likely the decendents of Hemingway’s cat Snowball.

what is a polydactyl cat

Hemingway and polydactyl cat

 

 

 

 

 

hemingwayhome.com

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Why does my cat bite me?

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Cat guardians know that a purring cat usually indicates a content cat – love that sound – especially when you’re enjoying quality time petting your cat. But when I’m petting my cat –

why does my cat bite me?

petting a cat

petting a cat photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

The first thing to rule out is pain or sensitivity when your cat is touched in a particular place on his/her body.  A visit to your cat’s vet will determine that there is no skin condition, injury or internal disease making your cat understandably react not to pleasure but pain when being petted.

petting a cat body language

petting a cat photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

OK, so you’re cat is healthy – yay!  But still, why is my cat biting me?  We’re having a relaxing bonding moment, he’s purring, I’m petting him behind his ear, which he always likes – then suddenly chomp. We call them love bites, which takes us by surprise, but usually doesn’t really hurt; our cats aren’t trying to hurt us, and they know how to not break the skin. These love bites are just a way for them to communicate that they’ve had enough, it’s their way of saying “thanks, but stop NOW – it’s starting to annoy me.” Experts on cat behavior refer to these love bites as `petting induced aggression‘.
And that means your cat has been telling you that it’s time for you to stop. But you haven’t been paying attention.

petting a cat flattened ears

petting a cat – flattened ears photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

This is how your cat has been telling you:
here are body language indicators for aggressive behavior in cats

  • Stops purring
  • Tail lashing
  • Tail thumping
  • Skin twitching
  • Shifting body position
  • Meowing
  • Growling
  • Ears in airplane mode or even flattened against the head
why does my cat bite me?

cat looking at my hand photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

 

  • Cat looking towards your hand
  • Dilated pupils

 

 

 

 

 

So if you haven’t been listening to you cat, it’s love bite time!

why does my cat bite me?

status induced aggression photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

 

Another cat behaviorist term is `status induced aggression‘. This can happen when your cat needs to regain control of your petting session, meaning they are the ones who decide how long they want to be petted, not us.

This, we should all know by now, is typical cat behavior.
Cats rule!
Literally.

my cat likes junk food

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Am I feeding my cat junk food?

Most vets recommend not giving your cat only dry food. It is dessicated, plus most, if not all, dry cat foods have some type of starch in it, which is necessary as a binder. So wet food is better. But there are so many choices. And if your cat is like mine, well, my cat likes junk food.

Toby wonders about cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

What is cat junk food

If wet cat food is better than dry food, what makes it junk food? Some canned cat food is cheap, and the cheaper it is, the less protein it has and the more carb based it is (and other undesirable ingredients) things that are unnatural in a cat’s diet. The proportion of protein and carbs (and other fillers like ash) shifts with the more expense cat food. Ideally, your cat’s can of wet food contains high quality protein, possibly a select variety of vegetables, in small quantities, and perhaps some minimal supplements and not much else. Read labels!
and to learn about cat food labels,  read this: how to interpret cat food labels

less healthy wet cat food

less healthy wet cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif©2017

 

 

 

My cat likes junk food

So do my cats. They happen to like Fancy Feast, which is bad, but not terrible as far as cat junk food goes. But like any junk food, it’s OK sometimes, but not as a steady diet. So I bought some expensive cans of high quality protein wet cat food, in a variety of brands.
They didn’t eat it. Any if it.

I ended up tossing the rejected food just about every time.

Then I finally figured it out – my guys needed a gradual transition.

Healthy and not so healthy wet cat food
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

I started by serving dnner that was mostly Fancy Feast with a little bit of the good quality cat food mixed in. Each week, I’d change the proportions, increasing the good stuff and decreasing the junk food, very slowly.

Now they’ll dine on just the high quality wet cat food. Most of the time.

cat likes junk food

Toby sometimes eats the good stuff photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

Then I resort back to mixing the good with the junk.

My cats still like cat junk food, but now they also dine on better quality fare.