Cats are celebrated for their independence, intelligence, and quiet companionship. With those qualities also come traits such as aloofness and entitlement. Given the stereotypical "catitude" we have come to love about our finicky felines, it seems humorous to think we should have a list of expected behaviors for them to uphold. However, I am willing to make a few suggestions that may greatly improve our relationship with our cats at home. As promised last month, here are five things every good cat should know!
1. Every good cat should be comfortable being placed and transported in an appropriate carrier or crate. Cats do not enjoy surprises. So, if you are waiting until it's time to leave for your vet appointment to drag the carrier out of the garage and shove your unsuspecting cat into it, then you will fail in that effort! Instead, introduce the carrier during kittenhood or from day one of your cat joining your family. The carrier can be used as a safe zone for naps, etc. Remove the door or leave the door open at all times and provide cozy blankets, treats and loveys in the carrier. Consider using pheromone wipes when the carrier is taken in the car or moved from its regular location. These efforts will help your cat to feel safe and secure, much more willing to participate in your plans.
2. Every good cat should be taught to respect mealtime. This means scheduled feedings, measured amounts of food, consistently. Yes, it can be done! Why make the effort? Kitties on scheduled feedings will more reliably eat, are less likely to experience obesity, and can be fed special diets away from other cat friends if the need arises. As parents, we are also more in tune with our cat's habits and health when we can monitor their food intake. To start, feed one-third of a daily portion first thing in the morning. Allow your cat up to 20 minutes to eat, and then remove any leftovers. Repeat the feeding midday (or after work), then again near bedtime. After a few short days of this schedule, your cat will realize that meals occur at specific times. Will they try to talk you into feeding them during non-meal times? Yes, especially if this is a new concept for them. Once they are able to predict the new schedule, they will likely comply better than you think.
3. Every good cat should learn appropriate scratching behavior. Scratching is a very normal behavior for cats. It serves functions, such as removing dead nail tissue, marking territory, and stretching. It is perfectly understandable that we humans do not want our furniture and curtains destroyed. Therefore, it is our responsibility to provide our cat's preferred scratching objects to deter them from our treasures. If you are not sure of your cat's preferences, start by offering a variety of scratching objects (rope, cardboard, wood) in a variety of locations. Place both horizontal and vertical options. Use treats, toys, or catnip to attract your cat to the area.
4. Every good cat should allow medication to be administered. Easier said than done? Maybe. Again, do not wait until your cat requires medication to teach them how to behave during treatment time. They will meet you with a fight! Find your cat's favorite all-time treat, and reserve it for medication. Items, such as tuna or cream cheese are popular, for example. Teach your cat to be comfortable while wrapped in a towel or blanket, and practice safe restraint, handling of the face, ears, mouth, and feet. These efforts during stress-free, non-medication times will pay off when the actions are necessary for your cat's health.
5. Every good cat should be comfortable with general grooming care. Yes, cats groom themselves regularly. Brushing is still necessary to remove loose hair (think fewer hairballs) and properly care for longer coats. Trimming of the nails, attention to dental hygiene, and regularly evaluating the skin and ears at home are important in maintaining your cat's high standards. As mentioned more than once in this article, it is not advisable to surprise your cat with a hairbrush or nail clippers. Working patiently with them from your first day together will give you the best chance of reaching a level of cooperation. Food rewards while brushing, short grooming sessions, and then gradually building up will introduce grooming in a positive way for your cat.
Cats are amazing animals, and they make wonderful pets. Don't let them fool you; they are capable of learning the house rules and being trained for desirable behavior. Consistent, positive reinforcement is the way to their hearts. Avoid negative interactions that will only cause your cat to avoid you. With patience, love, and effort, you can reach an understanding and enjoy life with a "good" cat!