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

mentalfloss.com

sailblogs.com

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.

 

yawning cat and tiger

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yawning cat and tiger

Apparently, all mammals yawn, including cats. And tigers. Like this yawning cat and tiger.
Domestic cats and wild cats are related, as we all know. Our cats at home innately behave like wild cats: just watch how they play – it’s about getting prey, even when they look so cute batting a flying feather wand or toy mouse. Likewise, wild cats behave like our own cats.

Both tigers and cats like to sleep, a lot. In fact cats average fifteen hours a day, while tigers average eighteen hours a day. So they do a fair amount of yawning.

cat starts to yawn

Marnie starts to yawn
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

tiger starts to yawn

Tiger, Thailand
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

A theory about why we yawn

from thenakedscientists.com

One reason why we yawn is that we may be trying to stay alert or vigilant during the transition between the wakefulness and sleep. This happens in nearly all animals and may in part be a sensory response to muscle contractions from the yawn.

yawning cat

Marnie yawns like a tiger
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

yawning tiger

Tiger yawning like cat
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

another odd phenomenon about yawning, it’s contagious – for all of us.

The more people are susceptible to contagious yawning, the better their social competence and empathy,” Guggisberg says. “In humans it is clear that yawning has a social effect. It is probably an unconscious behavior. It is not clear what yawning communicates or what it achieves. But clearly it transmits some information that has some effect on brain networks or behavior.”

from webmd.com
So this social aspect may effect cats. I think it does.

What declawing does to cats

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I know someone, a big time cat lover with multiple cats, including a new rescue. The rescue cat had been abanonded, then brought to a kill shelter, a big, handsome older male cat. But he scratched and attacked everyone in his new home: the other cats and the people. Instead of giving him up, they decided to declaw him. So that got me wondering

what declawing does to cats

I realized I didn’t really know. I mean, I assumed declawing a cat was like a radical nail clipping.

But it’s more than that.

All cat owners, even people who have never owned a cat know that cats scratch. It’s instinctive, they need to do it and they like doing it. It’s a way they leave their mark, and it’s how they defend themselves. Cats also scratch to keep their claws healthy: it’s how they shed the outer sheath of the nail. So they need somewhere to scratch – your upholstery, rugs and curtains are perfect. But we humans disagree.

What the surgery does

Declawing, or the technical term onychectomy, is the cutting off of part of the toe. Since a cat’s claw grows out of bone, declawing requires cutting off the entire first joint of each of a cat’s toes – basically, it’s an amputation. The human equivalent would be amputating the first joint of a finger.

human equivalent t cat declawing

PETA shows the human equivalent to declawing

 

before and after declawed cat     The surgery removes not only the claw, but bones, nerves, the joint capsule, collateral ligaments, and the flexor tendons. Declawing also severs tendons, causing them to contract and pull the toes back. This changes the angle at which the foot connects with the ground.

 

It’s problematic for a cat, because cats walk on their toes. Normally, they carry 60 percent of their body weight on their front paws ‐ If the front paws become damaged, even temporarily, the effects are felt all the way through the cat’s wrist, elbow, and shoulder, down the spine to the tail. A declawed cat is forced to shift her weight backwards (the back paws are rarely declawed) which can lead to stress on the ankles, which can be very painful.
.what declawing does to cats

Here’s another problem with declawing… when a small piece of bone is purposely left in, a painful regrowth can occur, even as much as 15 years later. Declawing can lead to additional complications such as chronic small bone arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and neuralgia.

Cat’s behavior after declawing

Although most cats appear normal and may resume playing, climbing and jumping after being declawed, it isn’t normal because their physiology has been altered. Studies have been done about what declawing does to a cat: a 2001 study (published in a prominent veterinary journal) reported that 80 percent of declawed cats had at least one medical complication following surgery and one-third developed behavior problems, such as biting or urinating outside their litter box.

Following the surgery, owners have reported that their cat became morose, withdrawn, irritable, and even aggressive. Others describe their cat as nervous, fearful and again, aggressive. The aggression might be accounted for by the cat’s sudden loss of their primary defense, relying solely on their remaining defense, which is biting.

Another observation concerns high perches. Although many cats like high perches, declawed cats end up spending more of their time on top of fridges, or high shelves – even if they had been confident on the ground before they were declawed.

Urination outside of the litter box has also been noted. Some declawed cats, once they discover they can’t mark their territory with their claws, begin to urinate around the house instead. This can result in long-term inappropriate elimination problems.

 from avma.org

Onychectomy is an amputation and should be regarded as a major surgery. The decision to declaw a cat should be made by the owners in consultation with their veterinarian. Declawing of domestic cats should be considered only after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its clawing presents an above normal health risk for its owner(s).

    • Declawed cats should be housed indoors and allowed outside only under direct supervision.
    • Scientific data do indicate that cats that have destructive scratching behavior are more likely to be euthanatized, or more readily relinquished, released, or abandoned, thereby contributing to the homeless cat population. Where scratching behavior is an issue as to whether or not a particular cat can remain as an acceptable household pet in a particular home, surgical onychectomy may be considered.

Yet surprisingly, the AVMA (American Veternarian Medical Association) states

      • There is no scientific evidence that declawing leads to behavioral abnormalities when the behavior of declawed cats is compared with that of cats in control groups.
An opposing opinion

oocities.org is a site presenting an opposing view: that the declawing surgery isn’t so bad, and could be a good option for scratching issues. The site suggests declawing cats before cats are 2 years old.

Declawing seems like an extreme solution only for extreme situations. If the complaint is about scratching upholstery, then reconsider alternative solutions: scratching options, keeping your cat’s nails clipped, and protecting upholstery. As for the male rescue cat, he is at least as aggressive if not more so, since the surgery.

declawing.com
vetstreet.com
peta.org

Kedi cats of Istanbul movie

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Kedi cats of Istanbul

While visiting friends George and Judy in Miami recently, they surprised us with movie tickets: we were going to see Kedi cats of Istanbul movie flyerKedi cats of Istanbul, a documentary which I’d never heard of, but hey…it’s about cats!

 

 

 

This description of the movie is from rottentomatos.com

KEDi is not a documentary about house cats or the strays you occasionally see in your back yard. KEDi is a film about the hundreds of thousands of cats who have roamed the metropolis of Istanbul freely for thousands of years, wandering in and out of people’s lives, impacting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can.

Kedi cats of Instanbul

still from Kedi cats of Istanbul

All four of us loved the movie. Yes, we are also all admitted cat people, and the movie delivered cats, lots of cats. All of them feral cats, and like every cat, they have their various personalities, temperments and breeds. But Kedi cats of Istanbul is even more than that (as if that’s not enough!) it’s about how these cats and people interact, and how those relationships are mutually beneficial; those connections between people and cats profound. Our introduction to each of the cats also reveals a fascinating view of Istanbul itself as we visit numerous neighborhoods. The movie is beautifully shot and well edited – it was the right length (runtime). It’s sweet without being cloying, endearing without being cutsie. This is a wonderful experience for kids and adults alike who love cats and love being reminded about the universal compassion people have – for cats.

Kedi cats of Istanbul

still from Kedi cats of Istanbul

Kedi cats of Istanbul directed by Ceyda Torun, who said

I grew up in Istanbul and I believe my childhood was infinitely less lonesome than it would have been if it werenʼt for cats – and I wouldnʼt be the person I am today. They were my friends and confidants and I missed their presence in all the other cities I ever lived in. This film is, in many ways, a love letter to those cats and the city, both of which are changing in ways that are unpredictable.

read more Kedifilm.com

Miami Beach Cinemateque

Entrance to Miami Beach Cinemateque
photo by shari smith dunaif ©2017

 

 

The screening was at the fabulous Miami Beach Cinemateque, a wonderful small theater in South Beach

Miami Beach Cinematheque

Miami Beach Cinematheque
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2017

Kedi cats of Istanbul was released in US theaters Feb 10, 2017 Limited screenings
Runtime: 79 minutes
Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

available to download Kedi cats of Istanbul

Most popular cat names of 2016

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what are the most popular cat names?

When we got our three year old rescue cat, we had to change her name. Glad we did. Cats can learn their new name – she responds when we call her. Here are the most popular cat names of 2016, some classic, some unusual. Is your cat’s name on this list? Or, for your new cat or kitten, here are some suggestions:

Top 10 names for girl cats 2016

  1. Luna
  2. Bella
  3. Lucy
  4. Chloe
  5. Lily
  6. Mia
  7. Sophie
  8. Lola
  9. Nala
  10. Daisy
popular cat names

what is your cat’s name?

Top 10 names for guy cats

  1. Oliver
  2. Max
  3. Milo
  4. Simba
  5. Leo
  6. Charlie
  7. Jack
  8. Loki
  9. Smokey
  10. Jasper

See what changed in popularity from 2015

kitten birthdays

naming kittens

Top names for girl cats,

  1. Luna
  2. Chloe
  3. Bella
  4. Lucy
  5. Lilly
  6. Sophie
  7. Lola
  8. Zoe
  9. Cleo
  10. Nala

 

For guy cats, some are classic names, and a few unusual ones

  1. Oliver
  2. Leo
  3. Charlie
  4. Milo
  5. Max
  6. Jack
  7. George
  8. Simon
  9. Loki
  10. Simba

 

iheartcats.com

Hello Kitty store Taiwan Hello Kitty originated

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Hello Kitty in Taiwan

At the Hello Kitty store Taiwan (airport), Hello Kitty is big business. In fact, the popularity of Hello Kitty has become worldwide. Although Hello Kitty originated in London for the Japanese company Sanrio in 1974.

Hello Kitty store Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport

front of Hello Kitty store at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

Hello Kitty is a gijinka, an anthropomorphism or personification of an animal –

white Japanese Bobtail ca

in this case a white Japanese Bobtail cat,

 

 

 

 

with a red bow.

Hello Kitty Travell sign Hello Kitty originated

Hello Kitty with red bow
photo by shari smith dunaif © 2016

 

In 1962, Shintaro Tsuji, founder of Sanrio, began selling rubber sandals with flowers painted on them. He noted that by adding cute designs on the sandals, they sold even better, so he hired illustraters to design Kawaii (a Japanese marketing approach that permeates cuteness into Japanese consumer culture). Sanrio wanted to add to it’s early characters of a dog, a bear and a strawberry (???) for Sanrio’s new product: coin purses. The result was Hello Kitty, designed in 1974 by Yuko Shimizu.

Hello Kitty designer Yuko Shimizu

Yuko Shimizu, original designer of Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty purses and coin purses, Taiwan Hello Kitty store photo by shari smith dunaif @2016

Hello Kitty’s first appearance on a product, was in Japan on the vinyl coin purse:  she was pictured sitting between a bottle of milk and a goldfish bowl.

She first appeared in the United States in 1976.