Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tips to Keep Your Cat Off Your Counters

My kitten, Attila, is OBSESSED with my kitchen counter.  And who could blame him?  I live in a small one bedroom  apartment with not a lot of space for him to jump, climb, and play, so it's only natural he find this to be an excellent spot for exploration.  Unfortunately, I eat off those counters and rather prefer to not find cat hair in my food.  As such, I've been doing some research to try to find solutions to these problems.  Here is an excerpt from an article I found helpful:

"Cats jumping up on counters or tables in the kitchen can be a nuisance, plus very dangerous for the cat if he happens to jump on a hot stove versus a counter. Cats love to jump.  It is in their nature.  They love being in high places and they are also naturally curious about the unknown.  This is a common behavior problem that many cat owners seem to face.  Fortunately, there are some things you can try to help rid your cat of this undesirable behavior.  

One of the first things you can use to deter your cat is noise.  It is important however, that you disassociate yourself from the noise so the cat doesn't know it is coming from you.  If the cat cannot determine where the noise is coming from, it should quickly learn to stay away from the area whether the owner is present or not. Cats do not like loud noises and will associate the noise with the behavior and avoid it. Throwing or shaking a metal can full of pennies or popping a balloon are two of the most common noise deterrents used.
Another method you can try (that doesn't require you to be there to catch your cat in the act) is to place various items on the counter or table that your cat will dislike.  You can place double sided tape along the edges of the counter.  Cats hate the feeling of sticky tape, and will be discouraged after one or two tries.  You can also place aluminum foil along your countertops.  Not only do cats dislike the feeling of the aluminum but they also hate the noise as well.     

You can also try a combination of the two methods.  This is done by popping a balloon if front of your cat a couple of times.  Your cat will soon learn that he dislikes balloons a lot.  Then you can tape some filled balloons along your countertop.  The cat will associate the balloons with the noise they heard previously and will want to avoid them.  There may be other items your cat does not like because of the sound they make. Placing several of these on the counter within visual range of the cat, may also persuade your cat to stop jumping up.
It is also important to try to redirect your cat's attention away from the areas by giving him areas he is aloud to jump on.  You may want to invest in a climbing tree or cat tower to help satisfy your cat's urge to jump and climb.  Make the tree more desirable by placing toys on it or rubbing catnip on the posts.  Window seats may also help deter your cat by allowing them to jump up to the window and being able to explore what is outside.  Make sure to praise your cat when he uses the designated jumping areas.

There are also several commercial products specifically designed for this type of behavior problem.  One type of product is motion detectors, these products detect your cats movements and emit an alarm.  There is also a product called X-mat which  has hundreds of raised bumps, creating passive discomfort that teaches your cat to steer clear of kitchen counters without the use of alarms or electricity."

(The above was taken from this website: http://www.best-cat-tips.com/catbehaviorproblems.htm.  There are plenty of other helpful tips that can be found their as well.)

In addition to what's mentioned above, there are a couple of other products I've read about that might be worth trying if you have this problem - I have not yet tried either so I can only share with you what I've read from customer reviews.

Two Products to Keep Cat's Off Counters:

1. Ssscram - This is a motion sensor that detects when your cat is in range and emits a puff of odorless, colorless, and completely harmless gas in the cats direction that scares them so they leave the area.  All the customer reviews I've read say that it works.  The downside is, you have to keep replacing the cartridges and they're expensive.

2.  CatScram - This device also has a motion sensor and supposedly emits a sound that cats don't like, but that is inaudible to humans.  About 50% of the reviews I read said it worked, the others said it was bogus.  I like the idea that the only thing you need to replace are the batteries, but it's $35 on amazon.com and I'm not confident that it actually works - seems like it depends on the cat.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tips to Train Your Aggressive Kitten

My aptly named kitten, Attila (after the Attila the Hun - the warrior/conqueror) is the light of my life.  He loves to cuddle and to come sit up on my lap, purr and play.  However, I have had some struggles with him, starting from when I got him at 6 weeks old, regarding his aggressive behavior.  He often comes up wanting to play, with his claws out in all their glory, and the result is deep scratches and bites covering the arms and legs of whichever human he's set his sights on.  He also sometimes gets angry, if you push him away, not wanting to play, and at that point will go straight into attack mode, not stopping his pursuit until I either squirt him with a water bottle, or put a door between us.  Given the situation, I've done some research on what to do in these situations and what I have learned has really helped temper Attila's behavior.  He's only a year old at this point, and not yet perfect, but he's certainly come a long way from where he started.

1.  Training your kitten - Hands are Not Cat Toys

Scratching and biting by kittens is commonly caused by poor play habits early on. It is very important that you do not "roughhouse" with your kitten in the manner you might use with a dog. Playing rough with your kitten will teach him that hands are toys - a lesson that will be harder to break later on. 

* This was something, had I known, I would have stressed to my boyfriend, who loved to watch baby Attila "rooster kick" his little feet and sink his tiny teeth into my boyfriend's hand - cute when he's 6 weeks old - not so cute at 3 months.

2. Trim his claws

Hey, Rome wasn't built in a night, and it will take some time to retrain your cat. Meanwhile, you might as well protect yourself from damage. Claw trimming should be done regularly, anyway. There is no need ever to declaw a cat because of scratching behavior. Here is a detailed step-by-step instruction for trimming your cat's claws.

3. Use Soft Claws

(Or Soft Paws - the same product as sold by veterinarians.) Soft Claws are plastic "Nail Caps" for cats, which take the sting out of scratching and minimize damage to furniture.

4. Give Him "Time-Out."

You can either leave the room or take him to a small quiet room and leave him there with the door closed. He may just be overstimulated and in need of some quiet recovery. Open the door after 15 minutes. If he is asleep, which is often the case, leave him alone for awhile. If he is awake, he may be needing some loving attention. Forget the play for now - just pet him and tell him how loved he is.  

*This one works really well in my experience.

5.  Yell "Ouch."

Don't scream it, but say "Ouch" loudly and clearly. While you have your cat's attention, slowly remove your hand from his clutches. Don't yank it away or he'll think play is on, and he'll grab it again. Instead, gently push your hand against the cat, then pull your hand away.

6. Redirect His Attention

If your kitten is focused on you as the play toy, it usually helps to give him something else to focus on.  I have a lot of stuffed cat toys (and Q-tips, which he loves) laying around the apartment, so when he does jump at my hand or foot to attack, I will quickly remove myself, and put a toy in his mouth.  He almost always then redirects his attention to the toy and I'm able to walk away.  He also learns that toys are for chewing on, and human hands are not.

7.  Curing your kitten's boredom

Often playful biting of hands or feet occurs simply because your cat is bored, and is looking for a play object. A few things that helped for me:
  • I got him a playmate.  When I originally got Attila, I adopted him by himself.  A couple of months later, due to his over-active behavior, I adopted a second kitten, Maya, from A Tail at a Time.  Now he often chooses her as his playmate instead of my hands and feet. As a note, this is one the reasons A Tail at a Time will not let you adopt only one young kitten - two kittens are really about the same amount of work as one, but they amuse each other, instead of driving you crazy looking for entertainment.
  • I try to play with him with an interactive toy every day.  He loves Da Bird, which is a bird that flies around the room on string and the feathers move like a real bird.  I also just got him a laser-beam, which is great for me, because when I'm feeling lazy, I can just sit on the couch and he can chase it all around the room.
  • Cat trees, scratching posts, hanging things that dangle around the apartment - anything that your kitten can climb on or bat at, will help him expend his energy.
 8.  Feliway

I haven't had a chance to personally try this product yet, but it's been recommended to me.  It is supposedly affective at calming cats down so they are less likely to scratch you and your furniture, bite, etc.  Here is the website: http://www.feliway.com/us

Acknowledgments:  Many of the above tips were taken from 's article in the About.com Guide.  You can find the original article here: http://cats.about.com/od/faqsbehavior/f/scratchbitekit.htm

Monday, October 4, 2010

Missing Cat Returns Home After 5 Months Thanks to Microchip

 I love stories with a happy ending so I wanted to share this one with all of you.  In addition to being a heart-warming tale, it also highlights the value of getting your pets microchipped.  When you adopt from A Tail at a Time, microchips for your new pet are always included in the modest adoption fee (along with spay/neutering, vaccinations, etc.).

The following artcile was written by Sarah Scott for the Sunday Sun.  The original posting can be found here: http://www.sundaysun.co.uk/news/north-east-news/2010/10/03/missing-cat-home-after-five-months-79310-27387067/

Missing cat returns home after five months

Olivia Hatcher with pet cat Pheonix
MOVING from one end of the country to another can be traumatic enough without losing a beloved pet on the way.

But that’s exactly what happened to Olivia Hatcher when her pet cat made a dash for freedom while being put into the back of a car for the big move up North.

But, five months later, the missing moggy and owner have been happily reunited . . . thanks to a microchip.
The cat – whose name is deliberately misspelt Pheonix – was taken to a vet who scanned him to reveal Olivia’s contact details.

Husband Andy made a 10-hour round trip to collect Pheonix after they heard the news.
Olivia said: “Pheonix spent the first night back with me sleeping on my pillow. It was wonderful.
“I know I am just so lucky to have him back. Thank goodness I had him microchipped or we never would have been reunited.

“I don’t know where he has been but he looks like someone has been looking after him,” she said.
The 34-year-old was making the move from Farnborough in Hampshire to Middlesbrough, Teesside, for a new job with the RSPCA when Pheonix made his escape.

He burst out of the car and made a run for it in the direction of the high-speed railway.
Olivia’s husband Andy, also 34, ended up staying down in Hampshire for several weeks, trying to find Pheonix, while his wife set up home in Middlesbrough with their other cats Mishka, Bobo and Nermal.
She said: “We decided we just couldn’t live apart anymore so we had to give up.

“A lot of people would say it’s just a cat but he is part of the family. I have had him 10 years and it was not his fault he ran away, he just got scared.”

Olivia, who is now working as deputy manager at the RSPCA Great Ayton Animal Centre in Middlesbrough, rehoused Pheonix and his sister Mishka more than 10 years ago after they were found abandoned on an old building site.

The RSPCA encourages owners to have their pets microchipped as it believes it is the most reliable way of finding them if lost or stolen. Around half a million animals have been microchipped in the last five years alone.
The quick procedure places a small chip, the size of a grain of rice, under the animal’s skin.  The owner’s details and a code are stored on the chip and can be revealed by a special scanner used by RSPCA inspectors and branch staff.