While it’s understandable why so many of us give in to the temptation of introducing another feline friend into the home, it’s also important to be cautious of the potential onset of cat behavioral issues such as aggressive behavior i.e. hissing, growling, or chasing as a result of doing so, and to consider if the dynamic of a multi cat household would work for you and your family. However, if you do decide to take the plunge, here are some tips on how you can try and keep the peace.
Plenty of Exercise
Providing your cats with plenty of exercise will help to keep them at a healthy weight and keep them stimulated. Both are important for all cat owners, even those who only have one cat. However, for cats who live amongst other cats, keeping active can aid with avoiding a potential build up of excess energy, which can sometimes manifest itself as aggression towards other cats in the household.
One way to help keep your cats exercised is through play, which will also help to strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend. A great way of exercising your pets is to invest in acat tree. Cats love climbing and scratching, so a cat tree is one sure way to encourage this and keep them entertained.
Use Pheromone Diffusers
Pheromone diffusers are an odorless plug-in product that works by producing pheromones, or chemical substances, that your cat naturally releases when they either rub against surfaces, scratch at items, bump heads with humans or other cats, or spray. Pheromone products mimic how pheromones would naturally send messages between cats, meaning that they can help in multi cat households to have your cats to feel more relaxed, and reduce their stress levels.
Multiple Litter Boxes
It’s important that your cats have their own litter box when they live with other cats. This is because of their territorial nature, which often means that cats like to ‘claim’ where they go to the bathroom and do not like this area to be shared. If cats feel as though their territory is under threat, this can lead to aggressive behavior such as fighting.
Furthermore, most cats will refuse to use a dirty litter box, which will likely happen should you only provide a single litter box for several cats, as of course, their waste will accumulate more quickly than if your cats were to have their own. The general rule of thumb is that you should have one litter box per cat, plus one spare to have placed out in your home.
Separate Feeding Stations
Cats like to be alone when they’re eating, meaning that if you have multiple cats, they will require separate feeding stations at mealtimes. When cats are forced to share the same area for feeding time with another cat, it can take away from their predatory instinct to hunt and eat by themselves, which inevitably can induce anxiety and aggressive behavior. In a multiple cat home, cats may see a shared feeding area as an opportunity to compete for food, which could result in you having a ‘food bully’ on your hands. As well as providing your cats with their own food bowls, give them each a designated space in the home to eat any from any other cats.
Furthermore, creating this divide will help your cats to stay healthy by having them fed equally, or in accordance to their own specific dietary needs, as it ensures one cat cannot access the other’s food. For example, factors such as the age, weight, or medical condition of your cat/s may mean that they have to be fed different diets. Therefore, it’s fundamental that you leave each cat’s bowl out of reach from any potential cat food thieves!
By nature, many cats need their own personal space, even when they’re not eating. It’s a good idea to have an area in the home that they can go to escape to by themselves, away from both humans and other animals. If you have the room, it’s advisable that each of your pets have at least one of their own private areas in the home that they can go to without being disturbed and becoming overwhelmed. This may even be a cardboard box if you’re limited for space, but be sure this is away from the hustle and bustle of the home or outside.
Introducing a new cat can be a difficult time for you and your already existing pet, but fortunately, it’s not impossible to make multi cat households work. So after a bit of advice, hopefully the transition period will be a lot easier. However, should you notice any signs of aggression between your cats, it’s important to seek help from a veterinarian before these issues get out of control.
Whether in our backyards or in our homes, plants not only enhance the overall appearance of a space, but they can also help boost moods, increase creativity and reduce stress. Although we don’t always consider the dangerous side of plants, it’s important to know that some plants can be toxic to your cat if ingested. If you decide to add a touch of greenery to your home, make sure you pay particular attention to the choice of plants and ensure they’re safe for your feline friend.
In order to help you decide which plant will sit proudly on your coffee table, we’ve compiled a list of 10 plants that you can add to your home without hesitation.
Why is the choice of plant important for your pet?
Cats tend to eat plants. This behavior is quite common in cats for a number of different reasons such as boredom, enjoying the texture, the need for certain fibers, and more.
By ingesting certain plants into his/her body, your cat may also try to eliminate and get rid of the hairballs swallowed during his daily grooming by vomiting.
It is therefore essential to choose suitable plants, and if you do not want your cat to touch some of your decorative plants, why not dedicate a corner just for them?
10 non-toxic plants for cats
Whether it’s wheat, oats, barley or rye, grasses are not toxic to your cat. It is safe to approach them. Your cat can therefore play with Deschampsia cespitosa, Briza media, Pennisetum villosum or Stipa tenuifolia.
If you observe cats in the wild, you can see that they easily go for natural grasses.
You can leave your thyme, sage, lemon balm or valerian lying around without worrying about your cat’s health. Valerian is often prescribed by vets for stressed cats. However, if you want to keep them for cooking in the evening for your lunch, don’t leave them lying around for too long, you might find them in your pet’s tummy. You can, however, have fun hiding them in your cat’s toys to stimulate your furry friend’s senses.
Don’t forget mint, which you can place in your cat’s litter box to reduce odors.
Catnip / Cartaire
This plant has different names but it is the same plant: Catnip (Nepeta cataria). This plant has a euphoric effect on cats due to the smell it gives off. In the presence of this plant, cats tend to rub it, roll around in it… If they meow, purr, lick it, it’s perfectly normal! No need to worry yet, as this is still a plant that is harmless to your pet despite the effects it has on him. 2 out of 3 cats are attracted to this irresistible plant.
As well as decorating your home, papyrus is a plant that will entertain and amuse your cat with its drooping leaves. It is also extremely effective in cleansing your cat’s body.
Contrary to what some people think, heather is not a harmful plant for cats.
Lavender is a plant that tends to calm your cat. In addition to smelling good and being able to mask odors (especially litter), lavender is said to have soothing properties.
Germander is a very popular plant with our cats. They tend to chew and rub themselves on it.
This plant is harmless to cats. If cats do eat it, don’t worry, it is full of nutrients. Callisia turtle is rich in minerals and calcium.
Similar to humans, chamomile is recommended for managing your pet’s stress. It can therefore be interesting to give your cat chamomile when traveling by car or train, which can be very stressful for your cat. The various properties of chamomile will soothe, relax and calm your cat.
Used as a disinfectant for wounds and other sores, goldenseal is an interesting plant to have on hand to treat everyday ailments. It is known for its soothing, disinfecting and healing properties. Moreover, it is not toxic for your pet.
Plants to avoid for your cat
There are many plants that are toxic to animals and therefore to cats. If you have a cat in your home, you should be aware of which plants are toxic to furry friend.
Indoor and outdoor plants to avoid are dieffenbachia, lily of the valley, lily, ficus, azalea, anthurium, daffodil, oleander, holly and mistletoe, poinsettia, yuccas, amaryllis… This list is not exhaustive and if you have any doubts before buying a plant do not hesitate to search on the internet, ask your vet for advice or ask the seller.
If your cat ingests or comes into contact with any of these plants, do not hesitate to call or take your cat directly to the vet. The consequences can be severe.
Some animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, are herbivores. Others, like hamsters, are omnivorous. Finally, there are also carnivores like cats that cannot survive without meat.
All animals need to have their nutritional needs satisfied. However, this does not mean you can’t have a vegan dog. Vegan cats, though, are a lot trickier.
Can my dog have a vegan diet?
If you were to meet a species of animal for the first time and had to make an accurate guess about its diet, you would get lots of clues by looking at its teeth. The teeth of a dog, like the teeth of a bear, proclaim loud and clear that this animal is an omnivore – that is, one that eats both meat and vegetables. If you think of your dog as a domesticated wolf, you get a good idea of its natural diet.
However, as the panda proves, a supposed meat-eater can sometimes get by perfectly well on a vegan diet. A panda’s teeth are similar to any other bear’s – long canines for meat-eating and molars for grinding vegetation. And yet pandas don’t eat anything other than bamboo. So, if a bear can be vegan, does that mean you can have a vegan dog?
The answer is yes – but it’s a yes with lots of small print! A dog requires a diet that contains the fats and proteins it would get from meat. It is dangerous to ignore this basic need and simply feed your pet with whatever you please. Some dogs have delicate stomachs. Also, a low-fat/high-fibre diet can cause potentially life-threatening problems. A diet that excludes meat should never be fed to a dog without the advice of a professional pet dietician.
The collagen, elastin and keratin found in meat diets are not easily replaced by veggie equivalents. Your dog will also need the ‘long chain’ omega-3 fats found in animal products such as egg, fish and some meats. Vegan omega-3 fats are not the same as animal-derived ones.
All of which presents a headache for the vegan dog owner. There are, however, products available that claim to let your dog live a healthy, meat-free life. Before you take the plunge, it is essential to seek professional, scientific advice and guidance. Compromise is usually the best choice here – a vegan diet supplemented by some of the animal-derived essentials. Crickets, for example, can provide lots of the amino acids and keratin a vegan diet lacks, and they’re 65% protein.
Can my cat have a vegan diet?
The compromise approach is even more important for cats. These are amongst the planet’s true carnivores, obtaining all their dietary requirements from other animals.
The main challenge with minimizing the meat in a cat’s diet is that, unlike many mammals (including dogs), cats cannot produce certain proteins. They have to absorb these from the meat and fish in their diet. Amino acids are another issue – cats deficient in the animal-derived amino acid taurine, for example, usually succumb to a specific type of heart problem.
Even a fortified vegan cat food cannot be confidently recommended. Turn the situation on its head, and try to imagine weaning a rabbit onto a meat-only diet, and you will get some idea of the challenge – and the ethics – involved.
There are some lab-grown ‘meat’ products in development, with vegan and vegetarian cat owners in mind. However, whether these will arrive – and remain – on the market any time soon is hard to guess.
For many vegan pet owners, there is a huge ethical issue involved in feeding the animals they share a space with. Ethics, however, include the animal’s needs too, and it’s an almost impossible issue to resolve when it comes to cats. If you are able to reduce but not eliminate the meat in your cat’s diet, that’s the safer option.
Top 10 pets for vegan households
There are, of course, plenty of other pets that don’t eat meat, or that eat some meat but can still thrive on a meat-free diet. Here are our ten favorites.
1. Rabbits. No problems here – rabbits are happy vegans, with diets based on hay and vegetables. You could argue that the soft pellets they eject and then eat are animal products of a sort, but they are simply semi-digested vegetation.
2. Guinea pigs. Like rabbits, these wonderful little characters thrive on a 100% vegan diet.
3. Hamsters. Most hamster owners give them store food, you don’t always know what’s in it. However, hamsters, like rats and mice, can do without meat.
4. Gerbils. Like hamsters, gerbils are omnivorous. They have sensitive stomachs and need a quality pellet mixture. Too much fresh produce can harm their digestive system.
5. Mice. Although they will eat pretty much anything in the wild, mice can thrive on vegan diets; but it is still best to use a food mix prepared specifically for them. This ensures that they will not be deficient in any of the vitamins and minerals they need.
6. Rats. These are the most omnivorous of rodents, but as long as you feed them a vegan mix that has been fortified with all the nutrients they need, they will thrive. Be careful, rats who eat too much animal fat tend to become fat and die prematurely.
7. Chickens. If you watch a free-range hen, it soon becomes clear that she will eat anything – grass, beetles, worms, and everything in your vegetable patch if you’re not careful! Most chicken feed emulates this mix of plant and animal products. However, it is possible to buy vegan chicken feed, and circumstantial evidence suggests that hens can thrive on it. However, they are likely to produce fewer eggs, and you will not be able to stop them scratching for worms and bugs, no matter how vegan the layers pellets are!
8. Parakeets and parrots. Vegans will have no obstacles to face with budgies and parrots, unless the birds are being bred. Egg-brooding female birds need a protein boost, normally delivered via an egg-based food or cooked meat. Vegan alternatives are available, though.
9. Finches. Many finch species enjoy bugs and mealworms as treats, but these are not an essential part of an adult finch’s diet. These birds thrive on a mixture of seeds and fresh vegetables.
10. One for reptile fans. When you think of pet snakes and lizards, you probably have an image of dead mice or doomed crickets. However, there are a few commonly kept pet reptiles that eat a 100% vegan diet, the most popular being the Green iguana. Getting the balance of vegetables just right is very important for the animal’s health, but meat is certainly something you won’t have to worry about.
There is no shortage of choice when it comes to vegan pets. Keeping a vegan cat or dog is a much trickier proposition, though. And with all these animals, a balanced diet that matches the pet’s nutritional requirements should be your primary goal.
Bhim Solomon is Omlet’s junior guest writer, currently exploring fun activities to try with her two kittens Moonpie and Shadow Weaver, and introducing easy tricks you can try with your feline friends! In this article, Bhim talks through the simple steps to training a kitten to walk on a leash and the benefits of safe outdoor adventures for cats.
My kittens are 11 weeks old. They are Scottish Folds and their names are Moonpie and Shadow-Weaver. Moonpie is a girl and Shadow is a boy, they are brother and sister. They live indoors because they are quite small still but we want them to know what the outside world is like so we decided to buy a harness and leash for them so we could take them for walks.
Not many people know that you can take your cat for a walk, just like a dog, but one day I was in London in the Conran Shop and I spotted a beautiful, big soft grey cat on a leash! I asked the lady on the other end of the leash if I could stroke it. She was very friendly and said of course, she told me his name was Moonpie. Then she said would you like to see a trick? She got some treats out and said “paw” Moonpie lifted his paw into her hand, it was so cool. Then, the owner said “Hi Five” and Moonpie did a Hi Five! I’d wanted a kitten since I was 4 and now I knew I wanted a Scottish Fold and I decided to call my kitten Moonpie too.
I couldn’t get the kittens straight away but little did I know that as a surprise for my 10th birthday my parents gave me two little Scottish folds. When I first got them they were eight weeks old, my brother wanted to call the boy Shadow-Weaver because half his face is grey and the other is a kind of apricot color. At the beginning, they both slept a lot and we kept them in one room so that they could get used to us little by little. Then one day we let them adventure around the house, then the next day they wanted to go outside. I asked my dad if we could get a leash and harness for them. He agreed and we got two for the kittens. I thought it would be good to get them used to being on a leash when they are young. I thought I would write a description about how to put it on, and use the harness to take your cat\kitten for walks to help other people who would like to take their indoor cats outside safely.
How to Fit a Harness
First, you adjust your strap so it fits your kitten.
After you have adjusted your strap, you do up one of the side clips. Slip the front over their head, put one foot in the gap that’s shown in the photo and do up the other clip.
Check that the harness isn’t too tight and all the clips are done up, you might have to adjust the size a bit now, you should be able to get a finger under comfortably but if it’s too loose your cat might slip out by accident. If your kitten is still too small for the harness to adjust small enough then you can get them used to wearing it in the house as if they slip out it won’t matter too much.
Once you are satisfied that the harness fits securely and your cat is happy then all that is left is to clip the leash on the hook and take them for a walk.
Your kitten is now ready!
First, to make sure Moonpie was happy with walking and running in her new leash I took her for a walk around the house which she was used to, with the back door shut. I did this for three days in a row before we went outside.
I chose a nice sunny day for taking her outside on the lead. As I took her outside she was a little bit unsure and stayed still for a moment. Suddenly she went to some catmint that we have close to the door and put her whiskers in it.
Then she ran across the lawn at maximum speed, I had to sprint to keep up! She wanted to explore an old small tree. Moonpie can run really fast! Moonpie climbed up onto the tree and stayed still so she could balance. She was having lots and lots of fun exploring!
Next she started to explore the concrete part of the garden and looked behind the metal bucket, she inspected the wheelbarrow wheel and legs (she hadn’t seen one before).
Then I think she knew where the house was as she ran back towards it.
We had stayed outside for about ten minutes and as she ran towards the house I guessed she was tired, she went straight to the back door and as I let her into the house she went to the ‘Kitten Room.’ As I looked she got into her bed and after she had licked herself clean she went straight to sleep, a little fluffy ball.
I really like taking the kittens for walks because you get your exercise and have lots of fun seeing what the kittens like best in the garden. I think the kittens really like it because they get to smell fresh air and see the wildlife including our chickens. I try to take them into the garden when it is nice weather, so about twice a week after school and on the weekends. After school every day I try to put them on the harness so they can get really used to it.
As they get bigger and bigger we will take the kittens on longer walks. It’s a really safe and fun way for them to explore the world around them. If you live in the city and you want your cat to have fresh air, exercise and to stimulate their senses but are worried about your cat then you can take them out on a leash and they can safely explore outside with your supervision, they can even learn to take the bus or the train!
This article is a part of our Pride of Omlet series, a collection of amazing stories which shine the spotlight on extraordinary pets and share their selflessness, bravery, talent and compassion with the world.
-Written by Anneliese Paul
When you’ve grown up with animals, a home isn’t a home without a pet. Bringing Harry home was life-changing for both him and his humans, Sarah and daughter Sophia. Harry has a special gift. Harry has a unique epilepsy monitor, and he’s saved Sophia’s life countless times.
In March 2017, Harry, a beautiful black kitten, was only a few months old and was trapped in a cupboard, clinging to life. He wasn’t allowed out. He was overfed, caked in dirt, attacked by a dog and discarded as ‘the runt of the litter’.
Sarah heard about the cat in the cupboard through a colleague at work and couldn’t let a kitten suffer. She approached his owner via Facebook and asked, “Can I have him, please.” Harry’s neglectful owner gladly gave him up, and Harry began his recovery.
At first, he would cower in corners. The sound of footsteps petrified him. However, within a week, he was a different cat, running to greet his humans at the door. “The first time he purred with us, he looked around in a panic, thinking, What’s this? but he blossomed from there.”
It’s four years later, 3 pm on a Monday and Harry’s sitting on the window sill of his loving home waiting for his human, Sophia.
Sophia has autism and epilepsy, and Harry’s unique talent has saved her life more times than Sarah, her mom, can tell me.
Before getting Harry, every aspect of Sophia’s life was about cats. She loved going to the shops and looking at things for cats, researching about them online and looking at pictures of cats. So when Harry came into her life, Sophia was overjoyed.Harry became Sophia’s shadow instantly. He follows her wherever she goes in the house. When she eats, he sits next to her. If she’s in bed, he’s sleeping with her. When Sophia gets home from school, Harrys always there, watching, waiting on the windowsill for her. He never wants to be separated from her for too long.
As the bond between Harry and Sophia grew, so did Harry’s voice. Generally a calm cat, he became quite vocal, meowing to be let in or out. Bizarrely he also started to meow at the loft hatch. It can go on for 20 minutes or more. Sarah’s taken him up to have a look, but it’s still something that spooks him. Harry’s sensitive nature and vocal talents became the gift that saved Sophia’s life.
Six months after Harry came to live with them, Sophia started having epileptic seizures. They became more and more severe and frequent. At the same time, Harry began screaming in the night. Sarah went running and found that Sophia was having a seizure in her sleep.
There’s no monitor for the kind of epilepsy Sophia has, nothing you can put on your wrist or bed to sound an alert when a seizure happens. For Sophia, SUDEP (sudden unexpected death of someone with epilepsy) is a real threat. For her parent, Sarah, it’s the worst nightmare she has to live with twenty fours hours a day.
Harry began calling the alert, not just at night but in the daytime too. It’s different from a normal caterwaul, Sarah says. It’s a panicked alert call – a scream mixed with a howl. Whenever Sophia’s up in her room and starts having a seizure, Harry howls and screams until Sarah gets there, he sits, often on her chest, nudging her, rubbing his face on her, trying to get her to wake up.
Before Harry came into their lives, Sophia couldn’t have any independence. She needed to be with Sarah all the time, in case a seizure happened. But now Sophia and Sarah can have more time for themselves, knowing that if somethings wrong, Harry will call.
Harry was the missing member of Sarah and Sophia’s family. With Harry at home, Sophia and Sarah feel safe. “He’s a sweetheart. A lifesaver. A sense of security that very few people can appreciate,” says Sarah. “He means the world to me. I love him,” says Sophia.
We all know that cats have excellent hearing and fantastic night vision. But there are many other senses at work in your pet cat too, including taste, touch, smell, internal clock, and an incredible sense of balance.
1. The Cat’s Sense of Sight
To see why cats have such fantastic eyesight, look no further than their larger and more dangerous cousins. Many big cats choose to hunt at night, and the average pet cat is prepared to pursue prey at any time of day, whether noon or the dead of night. It has even been suggested that cats can see in wavelengths of light that we cannot, giving them an enhanced ability to detect even the smallest motions. This allows cats to stay one jump ahead of their prey.
Cats also have a slightly wider field of visions than humans, meaning they can keep an eye on more of their territory from one spot. Cats’ vision, however, is not actually better than ours overall, and their peripheral vision is less focused than a human’s. This feline form of ‘tunnel vision’ allows them to better track fast-moving targets.
2. The Cat’s Sense of Taste
Taste is one of the cat’s weaker senses, due to its relatively small number of taste buds compared to other mammals. Cats also miss out on whole types of taste, lacking the tongue proteins required to taste sweet foods. It’s not just our pet cats that lack a sweet tooth – all cats lack the ability to produce these proteins. It’s thought that this could be a by-product of their largely carnivorous, ‘savory’ diet, as evolution has led cats to hunt for nutrient-rich meat instead of foraging for sweet fruits or berries.
It’s not all bad news for the cat’s dinner plate, though, as it’s also been revealed that cats have taste receptors that can detect chemicals and bacteria in meat. This could be a form of protection against potential food poisoning from meat that’s just starting to turn a bit green at the edges.
3. The Cat’s Sense of Hearing
Did you know cats not only have better hearing than humans, but also dogs? They can hear a very wide bandwidth of sound frequencies, and their hearing sensitivity is high too, allowing them to listen from a much greater distance. Cats’ ears are full of clever and fascinating mechanisms, such as the ability to clean themselves. Cats also avoid ear infections in the first weeks of their life by being born with sealed ear canals.
Although cats’ hearing appears to be such an important part of their lives, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if a cat is deaf. This is due to their other senses being so sensitive. A deaf cat can live a life very similar to a cat with full hearing, simply by relying heavily on the other senses.
If you have a pet cat, you will have seen their wonderfully clever ability to rotate their outer ears independently from each other – almost like a satellite dish turning for a better signal!
4. The Cat’s Sense of Balance
They say a cat always lands on its feet, and while this is technically not true, they do have a couple of tricks up their furry sleeves when it comes to landing gracefully. Cats have an inbuilt instinct called the righting reflex – they rotate their body in mid-air by detecting their orientation with their inner ear, performing a swift, complex series of motions in order to land on their feet.
The cat’s balance, fast reflexes and unique physiology allow it to pull off this famous and intriguing feat. Cats have even been known to use the righting reflex to survive falls of more than nine stories! They develop this amazing sense of balance at just four weeks old – and as soon as they do, they like to seek out high places to put it to the test.
5. The Cat’s Sense of Touch
Cats have more organs for touch than humans don’t have. Whiskers are most famous for giving cats a regal and sophisticated look, but they are in fact a secret weapon that gives them a highly enhanced sense of touch.
Cats actually have whiskers on many parts of their body, including their front legs, jaw and ears. Cats’ whiskers allow them to touch objects and understand texture without the danger of directly touching it with their skin. This is a sophisticated way of avoiding obstacles at any time of day while simultaneously safeguarding themselves from sharp objects or other animals.
Cats also use touch to find their place in the social hierarchy. Cats will often gently rub noses with each other when first meeting, and it’s thought that their noses have an enhanced sense of touch for this very reason.
6. The Cat’s Sense of Smell
In a cat’s social life, smell is perhaps the most crucial sense. Smell allows a cat to identify the territories of other local cats, and to recognize whether they are in heat. Cats can even use their sense of smell to identify the emotional state of other animals, and they can ‘smell’ the chemicals produced by human sweat.
Cats each produce a unique scent using at least seven different scent glands across their body. They will obsessively mark their home and owners with these glands by rubbing against them. It is not known whether this is a way of making themselves feel more comfortable, or whether they are asserting some kind of ownership on people and place. Most of us just look at it as a sweet sign of affection!
7. The Cat’s Internal Clock
Just like people, cats have a highly intuitive internal clock that guarantees they always know if it’s time to rest, play or hunt. Cats are infamous for waking up their owners at the same time every day, sometimes much earlier than you might like! This could be due to their natural behavior of having an active morning, followed by an afternoon nap (the famous ‘cat nap’) and a hunting session at dusk.
You may also see your cats’ internal clocks in action through their uncanny ability to tell when it’s food time. Most cats are fed twice a day, and studies have shown that cats start producing digestive chemicals shortly before their regular meal-time.
Other studies have shown that a cat’s sense of time is largely governed by light and the sun, as cats who are subjected to constant darkness or constant light begin to lose their routines and become more erratic.
All in all, cats are creatures endowed with a super selection of senses. They may look impassive and chilled on the outside, but on the inside they’re receiving all kinds of signals from the busy world around them.
When considering whether or not to keep chickens, it’s important to take into account the pets you already have around your home. The most obvious examples are cats and dogs, who sometimes let their chase instincts get the better of them. However, all your pets can get along just fine, as long as you lay down a few ground rules.
Keeping chickens with dogs
If you’re a dog owner, the first thing to consider is the temperament of your pet. Does it often chase rabbits or deer when out on a walk? How does your dog react to birds in the garden? If your hound tends to lose control in these situations, this behavior is likely to carry over into their relationship with chickens. Equally, if your dog is of a more relaxed temperament, they may show little if any interest in your coop.
The likeliest scenario falls somewhere between the two extremes, in which case you’ll see your dog taking an interest in the chickens, and spending plenty of time watching and attempting to play with them, but not moving in ‘for the kill’. What’s important here is that your dog needs to understand that the chickens are part of the pack, and not something to be hunted. It’s also important that your dog understands that chickens are fragile, and that dog-style rough play is out of the question.
Teaching dogs to get along with chickens
You can teach your dogs that the chickens are part of the family by letting them watch you spending time in the coop – initially keeping them separated with chicken wire or fencing. Many breeds of dog are naturally cautious around small animals and will be protective of your chickens once they consider them a part of the pack. The behavior you want to see is your dog cautiously sniffing at the chicken, as opposed to adopting the head-down-bottom-up ‘let’s play’ stance.
One of the most important considerations when it comes to dogs and chickens is the temperament of the dog breed. Hunting dogs such as greyhounds and beagles will cave in to their hunting instincts if the hens begin to flap around, and they should never be allowed to mingle with the chickens. In contrast, farm dogs such as sheepdogs have protective and herding instincts, and they will be less likely to harm your chickens.
There is no sure-fire way to guarantee your dogs and chickens will get along, but spending plenty of time introducing them goes a long way. As with all dog training, this can be an extended process, so be prepared to spend a few weeks introducing your chickens to your dogs with a barrier before you let them meet face to face. When you do introduce them, it’s a good idea to keep the dog on a short leash at first, just in case.
Keeping chickens with cats
Cats are a completely different story to dogs – they are harder to predict and less susceptible to training. However, they are unlikely to view a big fat hen as potential prey. Many farmers concur that their farm cats have no interest in hunting poultry, and are much more interested in the rats and mice that are inevitably attracted by birds. When keeping chickens, the occasional rat is standard, and having a cat around can greatly reduce their numbers.
Although most chickens are too large for a cat to hunt, this largely depends on the breed of chicken and the size of your cat. If you find that your cat is beginning to stalk your chickens, a sturdy and secure coop and run that your cat can’t access will deter trouble. This is good practice either way, as even if your cat is friendly with your chickens, your neighbor’s cat might not be! The ideal answer here is the Eglu, which is super-secure and comes with its own attached chicken run.
Keeping chickens with guinea pigs
You may already have a guinea pig hutch or run in your backyard or garden, and while this won’t be a problem for your chickens, it is not recommended for chickens and guinea pigs to share living quarters. This is for several reasons, one being that rats will be further attracted to your pets’ food, and they may attack your guinea pigs. Another reason is that when establishing a pecking order, your chickens will peck at each other and any other animal they live with. This can cause serious harm to guinea pigs, who do not have thick feathers to protect them.
Keeping chickens with rabbits
Rabbits can be great companions for your chickens if you introduce them to each other when they are all very young. You will also need to ensure that you care for their different needs within the same run, in terms of food and equipment.
Rabbits, for example, like to have a clean space to sleep in, so you may need to muck out your coop and run more regularly than you would if the chickens were alone. You will also need to ensure that the chickens and rabbits all have a safe space within the coop where they can have privacy and space. You can achieve this by separating your run into three areas, one to house the roosting chickens, another for your rabbits, and a communal space.
Having a large and secure run/enclosure will make your chickens feel safer in general, and plenty of space will maximize the chance of the hens getting along with each other and their rabbit and guinea pig neighbors.
Chickens and other pets
Chickens can also mix happily with goats, and with female ducks (males will tends to bully them). Ironically, they do not mix with birds in an aviary. They will eat anything that falls to the aviary floor, but they will also happily peck the other birds whenever they can and may attract rats and mice, which will cause problems for the smaller birds.
Small mammal pets such as hamsters and gerbils should never be kept in the same enclosure as chickens. The rodents will be pecked and killed.
By following these few ground rules, you will be able to keep the various members of your pet family happy!
Cats meow for various reasons. The cries that greet you when you arrive home – a barrage of short meows – are perhaps the most satisfying for a cat owner.
Cats also meow to get your attention – usually because they want some human contact, but also when they are feeling unwell. The meowing of a cat who wants feeding is another familiar variation on the theme! Cats may also meow if something in their environment is stressing them. It is also common for older cats with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome to start meowing in confusion, often at night.
Some cats are more vocal than others, and although this is partly to do with the individual cat’s personality, the type of breed plays a role too. The cat breeds famous for their vocal behavior include the Birman, Maine Coon, Oriental Shorthair and Siamese.
Siamese cats are perhaps the loudest when it comes to meows. The Maine Coon has a variation on the standard cat meow, making a lovely chirping sound when they feel playful – which is most of the time!
Are there cats that don’t meow?
At the other end of the scale, some of the quietest cat breeds are said to be the Chartreux, Cornish Rex, Persian, Ragdoll and Russian Blue. There will always be cats that defy the meowing stereotypes, though, which is why you may well see the Bengal cat in online lists of the quietest cat breeds and the loudest cat breeds!
Why do cats stop meowing?
There are various reasons why a previously loud cat has gone quiet. These are some of the commonest reasons for a cat to lose its meow.
1. Change in surroundings. If you move home, introduce new furniture or bring strangers home, your cat may go quiet. In these situations they are weighing up the situation, deciding whether or not it’s safe to have ‘business as usual’. This is not actually a bad thing, as a cat who is genuinely anxious or afraid is more likely to meow and cry loudly rather than fall silent.
2. Temporary loss of voice. Cats that have been making a lot of noise – after spending all night fighting off intruders in the backyard, for example – may have a hoarse voice or lose their voices altogether. This is the equivalent of you losing your voice the morning after a party where you had to shout all evening to make yourself heard. The cat’s meow will soon return.
3. Upper respiratory infection. This is uncommon, but if it strikes it is likely to stop your cat meowing. Feline herpes, colds, and calicivirus are common causes, leading to laryngitis. These ailments will come with other symptoms, including runny or gummy eyes, wheezing, panting and breathlessness, coughing and sneezing, lethargy, loss of appetite, or discharge from nose. Any cat displaying these symptoms needs to be taken to the vet.
4. Allergies. These can produce symptoms in a cat similar to respiratory infections, including wheezing and sneezing. These will often stop the cat from meowing. It is important to find the cause of the allergy, and if it isn’t obvious, a vet can advise you on the best course of action.
5. Laryngeal Paralysis. This is a dysfunction of the cat’s larynx (voice box). It is linked to old age, which is why very old cats tend to be quiet. Degeneration of the vocal cords means that the cat is no longer able to produce a sound. There is no discomfort involved, however, and a silent cat will still be a happy cat.
6. Tumors. Cats can be prone to various tumors, growths, polyps and cancers. If these affect the cat’s vocal chords, throat, or mouth it will lose its meow or change the sound drastically.
7. Nerve damage. If a cat has managed to get items such as grass blades or twigs stuck in its throat, it may damage the nerves that control the voice box. A blow to the throat region can produce the same effect, and this sometimes occurs if a cat has fallen or been attacked by another animal.
8. Recent surgery. A cat that has undergone surgery involving anesthesia will have undergone intubation – i.e., had a tube inserted into its air passages. This can lead to internal inflammation that makes the cat unable to produce sound for anything from a few days to two weeks.
Less common reasons for a cat losing its meow include hyperthyroidism and rabies.
In all situations, your cat will need a little time to recover. Medical or age-related conditions can silence the meow, but in most cases the cat will be back to its normal meow in a few days. Give your cat lots of attention and reassurance, and it will soon be back to its old habits!
In Britain, the fact that black cats are considered unlucky is a complete reversal of the original belief that black cats were actually lucky. It is white cats that were considered unlucky.
The cause of this drastic reversal of fortune, and the fact that black is the new white, is transatlantic exchange. In America, which in its early days was obsessed with witches and witchcraft, black cats – the classic pet of the witch – were demonized, and that superstition has been imported along with all the other traditions of Halloween. What Halloween goody bag is complete without something related to pumpkins, bats and black cats?
Are black cats a sign of bad luck?
The American blacklisting of black cats is linked to the days when British settlers were founding colonies in New England. These founding fathers were Christian fundamentalists, hounding out anything they perceived as witchcraft. Witches and their pet cats were viewed with fear and hatred, and a black cat was thought to be particularly demonic. They are featured regularly in witch trials of the period.
This classic US symbol of bad luck began to overturn the black-cat-good-white-cat-bad superstitions of pre-20th century Britain after the appearance of the 1934 movie The Black Cat, starring Bela Legosi and Boris Karloff (more famous for their Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster roles in that same decade). The film was based on a short story by American horror writer Edgar Allen Poe, which was first published in 1843. The commercialisation of Halloween in the last few decades has set in stone these superstitions of the black cat as a scary beast.
Why are black cats sometimes said to be lucky?
The reason why black cats hadn’t been demonized in Britain was that witches and their cats had always been there, originally as part of everyday life. And there was nothing sinister about keeping a cat – they were the only means of controlling the mouse and rat population. The so-called witches were the herbalists and healers of the villages, the Middle Ages version of the GP.
Black cats used to be thought lucky on board ships, not only keeping the rodent population under control, but helping to keep storms away too. Fishermen’s wives sometimes kept black cats at home to ensure their husbands were safe at sea. However, if the cat ran away, or if a random black cat hopped on board and then off again, it meant the ship was in danger of sinking.
In Scotland, the arrival of a black cat in a house was said to be a sign of good fortune. In general, a black cat taking up temporary residence in a porch was said to be a good omen. This is an echo of superstitious ages gone by, when felines (and not just black cats) symbolized domestic happiness. In Ancient Egypt, for example, the cat-shaped goddess Bastet was a symbol of domestic bliss and good fortune.
Gladstone – the black cat of Whitehall
The tradition of black cats as bringers of good luck still survives at the heart of the British government. Whitehall has adopted several cats from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home over the years, for the traditional role of mouse hunter. Many of them have been black cats, including the current holder of the post, Gladstone, who began his official government work in 2016.
Gladstone the black cat is a social media star, not surprisingly. His popular Instagram page makes him one of the most famous black cats around today.
What is the superstition about a black cat crossing your path?
In some parts of the world, including Britain a few centuries ago, the direction of travel of a black cat crossing the road was important. If the cat crosses your path left to right, it means good luck; if it goes the other way, it means bad luck. Similarly, if the cat walks towards you, it brings good luck, but if it runs away from you, it takes the good luck with it. For this reason, chasing a black cat from your property is said to bring misfortune.
The ultimate symbol of a black cat running away is when it dies. In the 1640s, King Charles I was reported to have said that he owed his good fortune to his pet black cat, and that he dreaded the day its nine lives were used up. Shortly after the cat’s death, Charles – having been on the losing side in the English Civil War – was arrested and eventually beheaded.
Where do black cats originate from?
In folklore, the witches’ black cat has very deep roots indeed. In Greek mythology, Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft had a black cat that had originally been Galinthias, a servant of Hera (wife of the god Zeus). She had turned him into a black cat as punishment for trying to prevent the birth of Hercules. Shakespeare’s witchcraft-colored play Macbeth features Hecate (although her black cat is not mentioned).
Putting all superstition about cats aside, a black cat is simply a cat with the maximum amount of melanin, which turns the fur black. Pure black cats are rare in cross-breed cats, and it is thought that only 22 of the recognized cat breeds can have completely black varieties.
The superstitions about black cats may all sound like simple good fun, but there are definitely downsides. Stray cats and kittens with black fur are harder to re-locate, and there are stories of black cats being abused by some trouble makers during Halloween. So, even though we may dismiss the superstition about unlucky black cats as harmless fun, it can still cause very real problems.
The truth of the matter is that black cats, along with all other cats, are wonderful and bring nothing but good luck. The estimated 200 million cat owners worldwide will certainly vouch for that!
While all cats are different, there are certain traits common to most felines. Most cats, for example, are united in the things they dislike. Unfortunately, a lot of the things cats dislike are things that that humans do to them, often unaware how much their cats hate it.
To guide cat owners towards more feline-friendly behavior, here are the top ten things humans do that cats wish we wouldn’t.
1. Cats hate loud noises
A cat’s ear is designed to channel sound, and their hearing is much more acute than a human’s. This means that washing machines, shouting, music and phones – not to mention fireworks and family parties – are all things cats hate. Being respectful of a cat’s sensitive ears may help minimize the problem, but cats are also very good at escaping the loud noise and finding somewhere quiet. It is only when the noise is unescapable – fireworks, for example – that the cat’s stress can really increase.
2. Cats don’t like aggressive petting
While some dogs may enjoy a rough back-scratch or enthusiastic belly rub, most cats prefer a gentler approach. Heavy-handed pats, stroking and paw- or tail-handling will make cats feel in danger, and they will either run, lash out with their claws or simply become stressed. Manycats dislike being cuddled, a condition that has a name – feline hyperesthesia. This is particularly common in rescue cats, so always take care when petting your cat – watch its reactions and don’t force the issue. Dressing cats up in supposedly cute outfits falls into this category, too. Make sure everyone in the household, including the children, is aware of these kitty rules.
3. Some cats don’t like to be ignored
While not all cats crave attention, many domestic cats love it – on their terms, and when it suits them. A cat who doesn’t want to be left alone and wants you to stop doing what you’re doing and give them some attention will jump onto your lap or desk and generally get in the way of your hands. In an age of laptops and home-working, many cat owners are very aware of this feline attention seeking, and the demanding pet cat sometimes seems to be a permanent feature of the desk, computer keyboard or sofa!
4. Cats don’t like water
The fact that cats hate getting wet is such a well-known fact that it has become a cliché, but that doesn’t stop it being true! Cats avoid water, hide from the rain and simply hate being showered. As far as a cat is concerned, that all-purpose tongue is quite capable of delivering the perfect cat shower. You should only resort to cat baths or showers when absolutely necessary –to clean something toxic or oily from the fur, or to prepare a cat for a show.
5. Cats hate car rides
Felines often hide under cars when they’re afraid, but most of them do not like car rides at all, and some cats are terrified by vehicles. The combination of motion, loud noises and strange smells is stressful for a cat, and they are also prone to motion sickness. Car rides should therefore be restricted to necessities – for example, trips to the cat vet or to the cat hotel when you’re going on vacation.
6. Cats dislike other pets
Although a kitten that has been brought up with other cats, or even dogs, will tolerate their company, cats need their own territory, and they are also natural loners. Unlike humans – and unlike many breeds of dog – cats do not need a significant other in their lives. You only have to watch how cats react to other cats in their territory – in the backyard, for example – to see how true this is.
7. Cats hate taking medication
You can fool a dog by wrapping a slice of ham around its tablet or mixing its medicine into the food bowl. Cats are more resistant to our efforts to make them feel better, though. Giving a cat tablets involves a coating of butter and some gentle throat massage.
8. Cats won’t use dirty litter boxes
Cats are very clean animals, and will not use a dirty litter box. Regular cleaning of the tray is therefore essential, and fresh kitty litter needs adding regularly to keep everything smelling nice and fresh. People often ask “what smells do cats hate?”, and the answer “cat pee and cat poop” is high on the list (along with air fresheners, incense and peeled citrus fruits!)
9. Cats should never be given physical punishment
This is one that a cat is unlikely to forgive a human for. A cat should be dissuaded from unwanted behavior by making a not-too-loud noise, such as hitting your hand with a rolled up magazine or clapping (but, again, remember that they dislike loud noises too). Any physical chastisement will break the bond of trust between cat and owner.
10. Cats need their own space
A cat’s bed, favorite hideaway or quiet corner of the backyard should be areas where humans never intrude. Children need reminding of this, as their instinct may be to pluck the cat from its bed and give it a cuddle. Once again, cats have a territorial nature and need their own quiet spots and safe zones, where they can unwind.
Knowing what a cat likes and what a cat dislikes is one of the keys to avoiding pet peeves and keeping your cat happy and healthy. One of the key takeaway messages is that cats are not like humans or dogs. They are cats – unique and purr-fect.
Humans stress about work, running late for a brunch, money issues or that something is going to happen to our loved ones. In times of stress and worry, our cats are always there for us to calm us down and make us focus on something else for a moment – they know exactly how to reduce our stress. But do we as owners ever think about what might potentially make them stressed?
Stress is not an uncommon problem with cats. They are naturally anxious animals that don’t deal well with change, so there are lots of factors that might make your pet stressed. It is not always easy to spot signs of stress, or to combat them, but it is important to try, as chronic stress can lead to health and behavioral problems in felines.
What causes stress in cats?
Stress for cats is, easily explained, the perception of threat, rather than something actually harmful or risky. Often this is triggered by something changing in the cat’s daily life, as even positive change will be seen as a threat to the cat.
It is important that you manage to identify what might be the cause of your cat’s stress. We have divided the most common causes into four categories:
An illness or physical trauma that requires treatment or medication will very likely make your cat feel worried. Apart from the potential pain or discomfort, the cat might also have to take pills or wear a cone, which limits their agility and freedom. Being in heat, or being pregnant, will unsurprisingly make most female cats feel on edge, and it is very difficult to tell them what’s happening to their bodies. Apart from more medical conditions, grooming related changes like having a bath or getting a haircut can sometimes cause stress in your cat.
The big ones here are moving to a new house, or spending time away from the home, like in a kennel or on holiday. Cats prefer the safety of what they know, and will most likely not enjoy traveling anywhere.
Extreme weather and seasonal changes can make cats worried and stressed, as can a lack of stimulation in their current living space. Outdoor cats who for some reason have been limited to the house will for example often develop stress related symptoms. Another common environmental stress factor for cats is the presence of other pets, including another cat.
Anyone unfamiliar to the cat coming into the household will be seen as a threat, and can make your pet anxious, whether they are guests who are just over for dinner, or new housemates moving into the spare bedroom. A new baby in the house is also a nightmare for some cats.
Often the problem is a change in the amount of attention the cat gets. Excessive petting and playing will be just as stressful as the sudden lack of attention a newborn baby can cause.
Litter tray and diet factors
Changing brand or type of litter or food will likely make your cat stressed, unless done gradually over a longer period of time. A new litter box can also be anxiety-inducing, as can an unusually dirty tray or lack of food and water.
What can stress do to a cat?
All living things are affected by stress, cats included. Bursts of stress, fear or anxiety are normal and harmless, but prolonged, chronic stress can be dangerous. Like in humans, longer periods of stress are associated with depression and a weakened immune system. In cats, stress is also believed to cause or trigger things like asthma, allergies, liver disease and stomach problems.
Stress can also cause many behavioral problems like aggression and litter tray avoidance.
How can I tell if my cat is stressed?
First of all, it is worth pointing out that a cat that seems worried by a barking dog outside the window or the sudden noise of something dropped on the floor is completely normal. You only need to help your cat if you think they may be stressed than normal, or if they are constantly on high alert.
Physical symptoms of stress include, but are not limited to:
Vomiting and diarrhea
Excessive shedding and/or grooming
Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
And in terms of behavioral symptoms you should look out for:
Any big changes in routines or behavior
Urinating outside the litter tray and spraying on furniture
Unexpected aggression towards humans or other pets
A disinterest in things going on around them
Hiding for long periods of time
If you notice a change in your cat’s behavior or physical appearance, the first thing you should do is take them to the vet to rule out any possible medical condition that could be causing the symptoms. Stress can in itself be a symptom of some diseases and illnesses, but the vet will be able to give you some advice.
What can I do to help my cat?
The most important thing to do is to try and find the source of the stress. Have a look at the things we have listed above and try to observe your cat’s behavior in different situations to try and see if there are any triggers.
Once you think you have located the reason or the reasons your cat feels stressed, try to solve the problem. Some are easier to deal with than others, and in some cases, as with moving or introducing a baby to the family, you will just have to give it time.
Make sure your cat has a safe space they can retreat to when they feel stressed or anxious. It can be a room where you rarely go, or a cat den like the Maya Nook. It is important that everyone in the family knows not to disturb the cat when they are in their safe space, so that the cat can fully relax.
Spending time with your cat is a good way for you to keep an eye on him or her to make sure they are not struggling, and it gives the cat stimulation and social interaction, which are both great ways of dealing with stress. It can be chasing after a catnip toy or just relaxing on the sofa, let your cat decide.
Another thing to think about is that our pets are highly affected by our wellbeing. If you feel stressed your cat is more likely to feel stressed, and if you are relaxed they are more likely to not see everything around them as a threat. It is obviously easier said than done to stop feeling stressed and anxious, but maybe the knowledge that you are affecting your pets’ mental health can make you find ways of making your life less stressful.
Cats that are let outside have a shorter life expectancy than indoor cats. Sure, some outdoor cats live until they are 20 years old, but on average, letting your cat roam free outside significantly increases the risk of injuries, accidents, and infections.
There are clear pros and cons for both indoor and outdoor cat, but certain factories can encourage the decision to keep your beloved pets indoors most of the time.
Cats and cars do not mix, and if you live by a busy road you might not want to run the risk of letting your cat out to roam freely. Even the cleverest of cats cannot assess speed from a moving vehicle, and you will struggle to train them not to chase a mouse over the road without first checking the coast is clear.
Some cats are just not made to go outside. Their fur might not be thick enough to handle neither sun nor rain, they are not agile enough to move around different structures and textures, might not have the street smartness to stay out of trouble, or will just never see the point of outdoor activities, like exploring and hunting.
Cats with FIV
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is a very contagious disease that significantly lowers your cat’s immune system. If your cat has been diagnosed with FIV, it is highly recommended that you keep him or her indoors to stop them from passing the virus on, but also to protect them from infections or injuries that their immune system cannot handle.
Letting your cats roam free allows them to express natural behaviors, and one of these is the strong urge to hunt. While no one really cares about the odd mouse cats kill, people can get very upset when they see your cat bringing home song birds, baby hares, or rare lizards. Wildlife fans are often great opponents of cat predation, and even if you trust your neighbors not to hurt your pet, letting your cat out might create an uncomfortable animosity between you and the rest of the neighborhood.
Cat thefts are more common than you might think, maybe not surprisingly seeing how much some popular cat breeds cost. Thieves might keep an eye on your cats comings and goings over a few days, and lure them away when no one will notice.
It is important to be aware that this does happen, and if you have an expensive cat you might not want to let it run free outside without supervision.
Illness and injuries
If your cat is sick or has hurt themselves in some sort of accident, the vet might have told you to at least temporarily keep them indoors. While this can be extremely frustrating for both cat and owner, it’s important not to hurry the healing process by letting your cat out too early.
If any of these apply to you and your cat, or if you for some other reason have decided not to let your pets roam free, you’ll be glad to know that there is a great solution that will both give your pet access to fresh air (which is highly beneficial to both their physical and mental health) and keep them safe: a cat enclosure. The Omlet Outdoor Cat Run, or Balcony Cat Run, can be customized to fit the space you have in your backyard or on your balcony. It is just over 6ft high, so you can easily go inside to spend time with your cat in the run if you want, or you can leave them to play or rest in the sunshine while you work in your backyard.
The run can be placed on most surfaces, and you can decorate it with climbing toys and scratching posts to keep your cat active and entertained. It is stable and secure, so you will not have to worry about leaving your cat unsupervised for shorter periods of time.
Not having to walk your cat on a leash will mean he or she can be outside for longer, and by adding covers to your run you can make sure they will not get rained on, or burn their skin in the sun.
In a cat run, your pet won’t get into contact with traffic or any other, potentially unfriendly cats. You will be able to limit and control how much he or she moves around to not over activate bones and muscles, and the risk of theft is greatly reduced. Not only will your cat be safer, small rodents and song birds can also live a slightly more relaxed life!
FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is a viral infection that affects cats all over the world. It’s not in itself particularly dangerous, but steadily weakens the cat’s immune system, making them more susceptible to secondary infections.
FIV can be found in 2.5-5% of all cats worldwide, but is less common in healthy, domesticated cats like our pets.
How can my cat catch it?
FIV is spread through direct contact with an infected cat, most commonly through bites and wounds, which is why unneutered male cats prone to fighting for territory are over-represented among cases. Some evidence shows that mums can pass the infection onto their kittens, but it is rare. Infection through social grooming, sharing food and water bowls, and general close contact is very rare.
FIV can’t be transmitted between species, so infected cats can live with humans and other pets, but should be kept in a single cat household to be on the safe side.
How does it affect my cat and how do I spot it?
FIV starts with a short, normally relatively manageable illness that is not always noticed by the owner. After this the cats’ immune system will start to slowly deteriorate, but it can be years before it actually affects your cat in any way.
Something that will make a vet react and test for the infection is a cat that seems to struggle to recover from minor infections and illnesses. The cat doesn’t necessarily need to be very ill, it’s more a question of how often he or she needs to see the vet, or if they seem to be constantly battling some kind of health issue.
FIV positive cats are more susceptible to certain types of tumours, serious respiratory infections, skin diseases and mouth inflammations. That being said, research shows that infected cats have a similar life expectancy to healthy cats, and will in most cases be able to live a long and happy life if kept inside and looked after by a caring owner.
Can FIV be cured?
The simple answer is no, there is no cure for FIV, but as it’s secondary diseases and infections that mainly affect the cat, there are in most cases treatments, and there is no reason that a FIV positive cat won’t make a great pet for years to come.
A vaccine against FIV has been developed, but its efficiency has been questioned, and it’s currently only being used in some places in America.
What can I do if my cat is infected?
As FIV is spread through direct contact with other cats, it’s very important that infected cats are kept indoors. Not only does this stop the cat from passing on the disease to other felines, but also reduces the risks of catching secondary infections that due to their weakened immune system can make them very ill.
If you have a cat with confirmed FIV that can’t be let outside, they will still greatly benefit from some fresh air. The Omlet Outdoor Cat Run makes it possible for your cat to be outside and interact with the world around them, without the risk of running into any other cats. Decorate the run with some toys and a climbing post and let your cat play while you potter around the garden, or put a chair inside and take the opportunity to spend some quality time with your pet in the sunshine.
Other things you can do to help your cat is to take him or her for regular check ups, and to contact your vet as soon as you notice any changes, even if minor, in your cat’s health or behaviour. Also make sure to give a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Raw food diets are not recommended for FIV positive cats as uncooked meat and eggs can be dangerous to cats with a compromised immune system.
Most cats don’t need much persuading to use a litter tray. This makes training a straightforward process, and the key detail is the tray itself.
A litter tray needs to be large enough to accommodate your cat comfortably while it’s using the facilities. It also needs to be placed in a suitable spot. Cats feel vulnerable when they’re relieving themselves, and will not use a litter tray in a busy part of the house. A quiet corner is what they need – but it should be away from the feeding area, as cats, like humans, do not like their eating and toileting activities to be in the same space!
The cat litter itself is not usually an issue. All the available brands do the job. The advantage that shop-bought products have over plain sandy soil is that they are super-absorbent, and don’t stick to the cat’s feet. It is best to avoid perfumed or deodorizing litter, unless the additives are all natural. Chemical perfumes can cause allergic reactions in some cats.
Basic Litter Training
A young kitten with a weak bladder – or a stressed rescue cat – may take time to get the hang of litter trays, but it is rare for a cat to fail this basic training course!
Make sure the tray is big enough. If in doubt, get the biggest one you can. This will accommodate the growing cat, and the tray will not seem ‘full’ after a couple of visits. If the cat thinks the litter is too soiled, it will not want to enter the tray.
If your cat is particularly shy, a covered tray is the best option, as these give more sense of privacy.
If you have more than one cat, it is recommended that you should have one tray per cat. This prevents problems if the pets fall out or decide they’re not going to poop where another cat has just pooped!
Remove the solid waste from the tray each day, and thoroughly wash it – and replace the litter completely – at least once a week. If the tray starts to smell too unpleasant, the cat will be tempted to relieve itself elsewhere else.
In the early days, timing is important. A kitten will usually need to relieve itself after playing and after eating. When a young kitten has finished eating, carry it to the litter tray. A few sniffs and a bit of litter-pawing will often stimulate the desired response. You can also play with your kitten next to the litter box, ready to lift her onto the tray when play has ended.
Lead by example. Not by actually using the tray yourself, of course, but by pawing the litter with your finger. Don’t take the cat’s paw and force it to dig, though, as this can be stressful and may even lead to litter phobia, which is definitely not what you want.
If accidents happen outside the litter tray, put the droppings in the tray as a prompt for the cat.
Be patient, never shout at the cat if it’s taking a little time to get the hang of it, lavish praise and affection on a successful litter-visit, and once your pet knows what to do, just quietly leave her to it.
Litter Training Problems
If the cat is resistant to the idea of using the tray and continues to use other parts of the house as the toilet, one effective deterrent is to move the cat food bowl to the place where the accident happened. Cats do not like mixing and matching their food and toilet, so this should help her move on to the more appropriate facilities.
If the message is still not getting through, confining the cat to a spare room may do the trick. With the litter tray at one end and the food and water bowl at the other, it would be a very perverse cat indeed who did not get the message. It may sound a little like a prison, but as long as the room isn’t too hot or cold, the cat will feel secure. You can visit for playtimes too, of course, and the need for confinement will usually be over in a couple of days.
Cats that persistently refuse to use a litter tray may be stressed by something in their environment. This could be other cats, a dog, noisy children, or the simple fact that the tray is not in a suitable location. There are occasionally health-related issues that make a cat ‘miss’ the tray, too, so that’s worth checking out if you’re not making progress with the training.
Otherwise, litter training a cat is simplicity itself.
Allergy to cats is the most commonly seen of all pet allergies, almost twice as common as the dog equivalent. It’s estimated that up to 3 out of 10 people have some level of reaction to felines, but to what extent it limits peoples’ ability to spend time with cats varies greatly.
Common symptoms of cat allergy include one or several of the following symptoms after having been around a cat, or having spent time in a house where cats live:
Coughing and wheezing
Itchy and blotchy rash on the chest and face
Red and itchy eyes
More extreme allergic reactions are shortness of breath, severe swelling, and in bad cases anaphylactic shock. If the allergy is present but not as prominent people might at first be absolutely fine around cats, but over time experience neverending fatigue and a constant sore throat.
What causes these symptoms?
Opposite to many people’s belief, it’s not actually hair that causes pet allergies, but a protein produced in oil glands on the skin, and is found in cat saliva, urine and dander (dried flakes of skin often found on cat hair). This protein is called Fel d. The World Health Organisation recognizes 8 different allergens, Fel d 1-8, and out of these, Fel d 1 accounts for 60-90% of allergic reactions. Its exact biological function is still unknown, but it sure knows how to annoy humans!
People with allergies have an oversensitive immune system that mistakes harmless things, like a cat protein, for dangerous invaders and sends out a strong attack to destroy these invaders. The symptoms allergic people feel are side effects of the body’s defence against the allergen.
What is there to do?
Male cats produce higher levels of Fel d 1 than females and neutered males. The difference is however relatively small, so if you’re struggling it probably won’t matter that much.
The same goes for so-called hypo-allergenic cat breeds. While they do work for some allergic cat lovers, they still produce Fel d 1. So if you have severe reactions to some cats, getting one that produces less dander won’t make it possible for you to live with one. The only thing you can do is to spend time with the breed you’re potentially planning to buy or adopt beforehand and see how you get on.
Antihistamines can be a help to some allergic people; if taken regularly they minimize symptoms and make it possible to spend time in a house where a cat has been. They are normally best taken preventatively, making sure the body is prepared should it come across any triggering allergens. It’s however not recommended to depend on antihistamines on a daily basis to make it possible for you to get a cat. Even if it’s sad, you might have to come to terms with your allergy and that cat ownership might not be possible at the moment.
Finally, it’s worth noting that you can develop cat allergies at any time of your life, even if you’ve never shown any signs before. Allergies are not hereditary as such, but the tendency to develop allergies is sometimes passed down from parents to their children. This means that if you’re allergic to cats, it is more likely that your child will develop an allergy to something. It won’t necessarily be to cats as well, but as it’s one of the more common allergies it’s worth letting your child spend time with other peoples’ cats before getting one yourself.
If you have problems with your cat eating their food too quickly, try changing their food bowl to a larger, shallow plate. This will slow them down significantly as they have to take smaller mouthfuls, which minimizes the risk of the food coming back up again.
If you’re worried your cat doesn’t drink enough water, try putting the water bowl in a different spot to where they get fed. In the wild, cats will not drink at the same place as they eat to avoid the meat contaminating the water, and this behaviour lives on with some pet cats.
Does your cat rub against your laptop or try to sit on the keyboard as you’re trying to work from home? Bring out the best cat toy of all time, the cardboard box! Place a box on your desk and most cats will forget about you and happily play or curl up in the box.
Try freezing some of the treats you give to your cat. The unusual texture and temperature of the treat will stimulate several of the cat’s senses and encourage explorative play. This is especially good in summer when the cat will love the cooling effect even more.
If you want to keep your cat off the kitchen counter, a new sofa or an expensive side table, put some double sided tape over the surface where the cat’s sharp claws would cause damage. Cats hate the feeling of the sticky tape, and will quickly learn to avoid these spots. At that point you can remove the tape.
The best way to avoid cat hair all over the house is to get on top of grooming and brush your cat regularly, preferably daily. It doesn’t only decrease unwanted shedding, it also helps the cat groom itself and prevents matted fur and hairballs. Get a brush that suits your cat’s type of hair and make it a lovely time of the day together with your cat.
For fur that has gathered on carpets and upholstery, put on a rubber glove and run your hand over the surface to gather up pet hair. Shower squeegees can also be useful for this task!
Potted plants sometimes become alternative litter boxes, which is neither nice nor very good for the plant. To stop your cat from going in the pot, cover the soil with a layer of pine cones. These blend in nicely, but will put your feline friend off.
One of the best ways of stimulating an indoor cat is to give them a place to climb. If you haven’t got enough space for a large climbing station, put up some shelves that the cat can explore.
No matter how much you groom your cat and make sure the house is nice and clean, the cat’s bed will still be exposed to a lot of hair and dirt. Make sure you get a cat bed with a machine washable cover that can be cleaned over and over again without fading or weakening.
There is only one universal rule when it comes to good timing with a new cat. Avoid introducing the furry newcomer when there’s a big party taking place, or at a time of year associated with fireworks.
Unfortunately, this one rule is often ignored. Big parties tend to take place at Christmas and birthdays. And when do people usually receive presents, including, possibly, new cats and kittens? Exactly…
The problem is that celebrations involve lots of noise and lots of people, and a cat introduced into this environment is likely to run for cover and stay in hiding for as long as possible. It can take a nervous animal several days to recover from party trauma.
The Best Feline Times
It is far better to introduce the newcomer when all is quiet on the domestic front. That way, the cat gets an early taste of how everyday life will be with you and your loved ones.
If the new cat is a birthday or Christmas present for a child, explain to them why the kitten is arriving a day or two ‘late’. The party day itself can then be a time to make the home cat-friendly. Install the scratching post, cat bed, cat flap and litter tray. Stock up on cat food and treats, and get lots of cat toys ready to go. These can all act as surrogate birthday or Christmas presents, paving the way for the new furry arrival a day or two later. Preparing your home in this way is necessary anyway, with or without the excuse of a birthday party.
Homes need to be cat-proofed too, with toxic house plants and vulnerable ornaments removed.
The new cat arrival date should be delayed until the person looking after the pet has enough time to do just that. Cats are independent animals, once they settle in, but in the early days you need to offer reassurance, a comfortable lap, and a few sessions of litter-tray training. An older cat may have been toilet trained already, but a kitten will take a while to grasp the idea.
If the cat is going to be spending time outdoors, it’s a good idea to bring it home when it’s not too cold outside. Although good weather can never be guaranteed, the summer months have a better chance of delivering dry and sunny conditions. The cat won’t be harmed by wind, rain or snow, but if the weather is very bad, the wet pet might decide to head for shelter away from home. If it has not been a household pet for long, it may decide to take up residence in this new abode, and tracking it down won’t always be easy.
The elderly: It’s a melancholy thought, but many cats outlive their owners. This is not a reason to avoid getting a new cat if you are elderly, but all owners should digest the fact that a cat will live 15, even 20 years, and if basic cat care is going to be an issue, it needs to be discussed. If there is someone who can help out with cat food shopping and litter tray cleaning, even if the cat owner is no longer able to carry out these tasks easily, that solves the problem. Cats are, indeed, a health asset for the elderly, with scientific research suggesting that they are greatly beneficial to mental health and happiness.
Infants: At the other end of the age scale, it’s recommended to avoid bringing a new cat home if there is a baby in the house. Although incredibly rare, there have been tragic stories of babies accidentally suffocated by cats. A far commoner issue is allergies – some children can develop symptoms such as asthma and skin rashes in the proximity of cats and dogs, and until you know your child is allergy-free, it is best to avoid taking the risk. And even if a child is allergic to cats, there are hypoallergenic breeds – including the Abyssinian, the Cornish Rex and the Bengal – that do not provoke the allergic reactions.
Children: If the new cat is for a child, it is important that there is someone else who is willing to put in some cat-care hours too. No child under the age of 12 should be given full responsibility for a cat – or indeed any pet.
The Inbetweenies: Between childhood and old age, there is a time when many of us plan making a new start in new jobs and new homes. If you know this kind of change is imminent, it’s best to delay getting a new cat. Acclimatising them to a new home, and then another new home soon after, is not ideal, and the cat might leave the second home in search of the first one…
So, if you’re looking for a general rule here, it’s this: You can bring a new cat home any time – as long as it’s the right time!
A cat’s signature move is the slinky walk with an upright tail. Intriguingly, no other cat species walks like this, and it is not known exactly when pet cats first adopted the posture.
The domestic cat’s ancestor, the African wildcat, hooked up with humans more than 10,000 years ago. They probably adopted us, rather than the other way round, attracted by the surplus of rodents nibbling away at our grain stores. It seems pretty certain that the feline freeloaders soon adapted their body language – tails included – just to please us, quickly securing their place on the sofa.
The following cat-of-nine-tails facts tell you everything you need to know about your pet cat’s swishing tail.
1 – Balancing Act
Cats have fantastic balance. Their tails play a major role in this skill, acting as a counterweight when puss is ‘tightrope walking’ on narrow walls or ledges. The tail also helps cats run and change direction with great agility – and without stumbling. Next time you get the chance, watch a cat run and turn – if a human took some of those feline twists and turns at a similar pace, they would simply fall over.
2 – Tails Tell Tales
Cats communicate with their tails, sending out subtle signals. The most familiar signal is the upright tail, a sign of a happy cat. In moments of great pleasure, the upright tail will quiver at the tip. This is not to be confused with the twitching tail of a resting cat, which means she’s irritated. Once the cat is on her feet and the tail is swinging from side to side, she’s switched from annoyance to anger, so watch out!
3 – Let us Prey
When they’re stalking prey, cats tend to keep their tails low and still, but they may still flick and twitch in excitement as the moment of pouncing draws near. If the hunt is unsuccessful, the tail will twitch restlessly in irritation.
4 – No Tail to Tell
Some breeds, including the Manx, are born without tails, due to a dominant gene. Two tailless Manx cats should never be allowed to breed, however, as a combination of the two dominant genes brings severe health problems to the kittens. The curly tail of the Bobtail breeds doesn’t come with the same potential health problems as the Manx cat gene. Both the Manx and the Bobtails seem to have learnt to balance pretty well without a classic cat tail.
5 – When the TailGoes Cold
A cat that has lost its tail in an accident, or has injured it in a door or traffic accident, is definitely handicapped. It will not be able to balance as well as before or send out those tail-twitching signals. It is still capable of leading happy life, though – owners just have to look for other body language details to read their pet’s mood.
6 – Inside Story
Cat’s tails have between 19 and 23 vertebrae, depending on the breed (and not counting the tailless Manx!) This represents around 10% of the total number of bones in the cat’s body. These vertebrae give the tail its whiplash flexibility, held together with complex muscles, tendons and ligaments.
7 – Ailing Tails
If your cat is feeling unwell, you can usually see the signs in its tail. It won’t be held upright or twitching excitedly like before. If you notice that the behaviour of your pet’s tail has changed, take it as a sign that she needs a health check. Some cats are prone to dermatitis, sometimes brought on by fleas. This can often be seen in inflamed areas in the region where the tail joins the rump. Some hormonal problems can result in inflammation in the tail too.
8 – Upstanding Felines
The ability to walk with an upright tail is actually unique to domestic cats. All other members of the cat family walk with the tail down, horizontal, or tucked safely between the legs.
9 – Tail End
Cats raise their tails to tell us they’re happy and relaxed, but when prowling amongst other cats the raised tail signal is an invite to come and investigate. Other cats will sniff a cat whose tail is in the air.
It is widely thought that purring is something cats invented just for us – and perhaps that upright happy tail is another one of the ways they won a place in our hearts and homes.
Watch a cat stalking through the grass or simply relaxing in the sunshine, and it’s clear that they love being outside. If you live in the countryside, this isn’t much of an issue, and all country cats mix and match the great outdoors and the great indoors. In towns, however, owners may be less keen to let their cat spend a night on the tiles.
Town cats have shorter lifespans than country cats, on average. This is not due to the benefits of fresh air – it’s simply because most premature deaths in the cat population are caused by road accidents, and a town the cat has far more chances of quickly shedding its nine lives.
Why do cats like being outdoors?
Do you like spending time in the sunshine, with the fresh air in your lungs and a gentle breeze on your face? Cats are exactly the same. Like you, they get a buzz from life beyond the four walls. They are stimulated by movement, sounds and scents, and even the humblest garden has these in abundance. Cats will investigate whatever the world has to offer, and this gives them both mental and physical stimulation, a combination that results in a happy and healthy cat.
Research has shown that certain sounds, including the squeaks of rodents and the twittering of birds, is particularly stimulating for cats. They find these things satisfying and engaging on an instinctive level, and all animals need to keep their instincts happy.
If given the chance, cats will make full use of the possibilities of life in the fresh air – not just the immediate vicinity, but the much wider local area, sometimes prowling a territory with a radius of one mile from their home. They will form all kinds of relationships in this territory, some friendly and some not, but all part of the rich tapestry of cat life.
What this means is that access to the outdoors is a great stress reliever, giving a cat many of the things it needs in order to stay alert and content, and to allow it to chill in its natural habitat.
However, owners who want to keep their pets indoors should not be put off by this. They can still provide their pet with most of the benefits of the outdoor life.
How to bring the outdoors indoors
Breed – and therefore personality – plays a big part in a cat’s contentment. Some breeds – including the Burmese, the Siamese, the Korat, the Oriental and the Abyssinian – need the outdoors in the same way as a piano player needs a piano, and they will not be happy if denied access to nature. Others – including the Persian, the Russian Blue and the Ragdoll – seem to have been bred for a life on the sofa, and will not miss being outdoors one little bit. Most crossbreed cats like to enjoy the best of both worlds, so if your cat is going to live indoors, you will need to make the domestic space a bit more ‘wild’.
Providing stimulation with toys, including ones filled with catnip, is half the battle. You should also open your windows wide enough to let the fresh air and the scents and sounds indoors, without giving an escape route for the cat. Failing that, opening the door to the garden while closing off the inner doors will allow the fresh air to circulate.
If space allows, a cat run is a great option. This can be linked to the house via a cat flap on the door, allowing your pet to spend as much time outdoors as it wants. If the cat run is not connected to the house, you can let the cat spend time on the run while you’re out in the garden as well. Or, if you start early, you may be able to train your cat to walk on a lead. This needs careful planning, though, as avoiding dogs out on their walks is an important detail!
Even if you live in a flat it’s possible to allow your cat some fresh air, providing you have a balcony. Omlet’s Cat Balcony Enclosure fits most balconies, and will give your cat a safe space to feel the wind in their fur.
The main takeaways from this are that cats need fresh air, and all the things it represents. But at the same time, town cats who are happy with a life on the sofa can enjoy most of the fun and stimulation of the outdoors by staying indoors.
The closest ancestors of the domestic cats were solitary wildcat species that didn’t have to, and in most cases didn’t want to, draw attention to how they were feeling. Showing weakness would potentially expose you as an easier target for predators or competing cats. This is still present in cats today; in most cases they will try to hide what they are feeling from you.
With that being said, they do of course communicate. With other felines, and with us. They use scents and vocalisations, but also a lot of visual cues in the form of body language.
When you’re trying to analyse and understand your cat’s body language it’s important to use the context of the whole situation rather than just looking at one thing. Check the surroundings and try to work out what factors might affect your cat. Is there anything that might make the cat stressed, angry or worried? This might make it easier to understand the cat’s, not always crystal clear, signals.
There are five things to focus on when trying to read your cat’s body language. Eyes, ears, face, body and tail!
Slow blinking – Eyes that blink slowly or are half closed indicate that your cat is really relaxed and trusts that the situation is not threatening. Try blinking back in the same slow way to mimic the cat’s behaviour. This is a great bonding exercise for the two of you.
Dilated pupils – Given it’s not extremely dark in the room, large pupils indicate that your cat is feeling surprised, or scared and anxious. Normally the eyes will also be open wide, and the cat will not blink.
Constricted pupils – If the pupils on the other hand are very small and constricted, your cat will most likely feel tense, possibly bordering on aggressive.
Staring – If your pet locks their eyes on something or something, it is likely to be a challenge. If it’s you the cat is staring at – best not to approach!
Pointing slightly up and forward – A content and relaxed cat will keep its ears held upright and pointing forward. This is the default ear position, and the ears will probably move somewhat as the cat follows familiar sounds in the room.
Pointing straight up – This is a sign of a cat who is alert and ready to go. They might have heard something they want to investigate, but will first listen out a bit longer.
Pointing in different directions – If one ear is angled to the side and the other one points backwards it is possible that the cat is nervous and trying to assess the situation to get as much information as possible.
Pointing back, lying flat against the head – This is a sign of an annoyed, angry and potentially aggressive cat who is ready to pounce. It’s best to leave them alone.
A relaxed and happy cat will have relaxed whiskers pointing going out from the face. Many cats also have a relaxed facial expression that resembles a smile.
An anxious or scared cat will pull its whiskers back along the side of the face to take up as little space as possible and not seem like a threat. Or if they are on high alert, the whiskers will point forwards.
If the whiskers stand erect pointing away from the face, or forwards, it’s a sign that the cat is angry. He or she might show their teeth and hiss or growl.
The neutral body stance for a cat is relaxed and even, with no tension. If they are lying down, they will be stretched out or curled up into a ball with their paws tucked in under the body. Often this might be followed by purring, a sign that the cat is content and relaxed.
An anxious or scared cat will in most cases just run away and hide somewhere away from what is frightening them, but if it’s not possible they will crouch very still on the ground with their head held low.
An angry cat will try to make itself look as big as possible, with the fur pointing away from the body, straightened front legs and an arched back.
It’s worth noting that a cat that’s lying on its back might not want a belly rub. Just as dogs they are trying to show submission, but would in most cases prefer just to be left alone.
Held upright – This is a sign of a happy cat that wants attention and company. The tail can also be relaxed, but normally doesn’t move.
Held straight down – This should be a sign that the cat is scared or upset. A scared cat can also hold its tail under its body.
Wagging – A wagging tail does not mean the same for cats as it does for dogs. If the tail is moving quickly from side to side, the cat is likely annoyed and would like to be left alone. If the cat instead wags the tail slowly, they are trying to assess the situation and deciding what to do. The cat might be a bit worried, so if you can, try to reassure him or her.
Big, bushy tail held out straight from the body – Do not approach! This is an angry cat that is trying to look as scary as possible to potential threats.