My owners started reading your column a few months ago, and now they keep me locked in the house every long, lingering moment of every day. Worse than that, they cut my balls off. Thanks a lot, pal. I had a good thing going. I used to climb trees, eat mice and spray my next door neighbor’s stupid Smart car. All the girl kitties in the neighborhood used to sigh when I strutted past.
Now, life in this prison is as exciting as watching stalactites grow. There’s nothing to do in this prison but shred the couch, and my humans sure howl when they see me do that! They even squeal when I attack their ankles. What a bunch of babies! Maybe if I make them mad enough, they’ll throw me outside again. And when that happens, look out! I’m going to come over to your office and kick your tail.
Baldwin the Sphynx
I sense some hostility here.
Your problem isn’t that you’re stuck inside, but that you’re stuck inside with nothing more to do than stick your face in a bowl. To relive boredom, you scratch furniture, attack ankles and mark the place with your own special yellow spray paint.
According to Margie Scherk, DVM, ABVP, a natural cat who hunts for his food spends much of his waking time running, jumping and climbing trees. To fuel that activity he has to kill five to 10 mice a day. (Chasing mice to eat gives new meaning to the term “fast food, doesn’t it?”) Dr. Scherk says that kitties are designed to eat a lot of little meals, not feast from a trough.
Another smart vet, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, who happens to be the director of the behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says when humans exercise for 20 minutes a day, they’re healthier and happier. We kitties are, too.
“Exercise increases seratonin in both humans and cats,” he says. “Seratonin is found in Prozac. Low seratonin in our furry friends produces irritability, increases aggression and causes depression. Higher seratonin levels promote feelings of well-being and self-confidence.
“When you (humans) go to the gym, you feel good. So does your cat. A tired cat is a good cat.”
Since few kitties voluntarily hop on a treadmill, cat-isthenics take the form of old-fashioned playtime.
Baldwin, I can hear your humans whine, “He’s got lots of toys.” Deep six the boring cat balls and dead fur mousies. Interactive toys on a string or stick will make you jump around and give you the feeling of hunting again. Opposable digits become essential in playing active games like Catch the Birdie, Chase the Laser Pointer, and Kill the Pheasant Feather. I play with those with my human until I’m too tired to move.
As with humans, 20 minutes a day keeps the blues away. Kitties are sprinters, not marathon runners, so break the 20 minutes into two 10-minute sessions. Play therapy, as those hoity-toity behaviorists call it, gives you an outlet to tap off some of that predatory energy, as well as defuse tensions among other pets, stop destructive behaviors and puts the cabash on the need to bite and scratch hands. It also helps cut down on your need to anoint the walls.
But living as a natural cat is more than displaying a buff bod. It’s also about environment. Humans tend to look at their surroundings one-dimensionally—at ground level. Cats live in a tree-dimensional environment. Feral felines scale trees to escape larger, more powerful predators. Tree climbing helps kitties survey their surroundings. As a housebound tabby, you may not have to worry about coyotes, but you may have genuine concerns about the family terrier or a toddler. Height also signifies status; the dominant cat usually occupies the highest vantage point in the room.
If your humans haven’t provided you with a high perching place, you’re most likely going to pick your own spot. It’s doubtful your bipeds are going to be enthusiastic about your climbing the drapes and watching the world from the curtain rod. Humans on a budget can provide their companions an acceptable view by clearing off a bookshelf or placing a towel on the top of the refrigerator.
Your humans need to invest in a window perch that get you up close and almost personal to the outdoor action—so close you can taste those birdies and squirrels. Maybe they can put a bird feeder right outside the window so you can see and hear the great outdoors.
You know what they say, “Birds gotta swim, fish gotta fly. Kitties gotta scratch.” It’s part of being a cat. We need something heavy and sturdy that we can sink our nails into. People misunderstand the scratching thing. They think we’re just being bad. We’re not. It’s a lot of stuff all in one. It’s kind of a feline yoga thing, it’s a communication thing, and it’s a sharpening thing. When we scratch on a tree outside, we’re stretching our muscles and getting some exercise too. We’re marking that tree with our own scent that tells other animals, “That’s my tree.” And of course, we’re conditioning our claws.
For scratching purposes a light or short post just won’t do. If it moves when the human pushes it with a finger, you’ll never use it. A cheap option is to bring a log in the house—bark and all—or buy an angled cardboard scratching pad.
I hope your people will take a little more of my advice. Not only will it make your life more pleasant, I won’t have to watch behind my tail.
About the Author (Author Profile)
communications. She also serves as vice president of the Cat Writer’s
Association. With 25 years of animal rescue under her collar, Dusty has
rescued or fostered over 1000 cats. She’s author of Kittens for Dummies
and Cat Wrangling Made Easy.
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