Mum's current favourite source of information is her idol Vicky Halls. She is a behaviourist from the UK who has a really level headed, basic approach to dealing with different behavioural problems. In learning about how she has dealt with problems in the past, mum hopes she can be better prepared to prevent problems in the future. She has read Vicky's book Cat Detective , and is just starting Cat Counsellor . Another good resource is Housecat: How to Keep Your Indoor Cat Happy and Safe Inside by Christine Church.
So we thought we might write some posts about some of the big issues that come up in the books, and from what we learned at the shelter. We are by no means experts, but thought it might prompt thought and further research if people are interested. Would you be interested in reading that?
For our first post, there are some basics that everyone seems in agreement on as to what will help a kitty be comfortable inside. They are play, privacy, a place to scratch, greenery and mental stimulation.
Play: The key is to try and enable natural instincts and behaviours to be expressed. Wand toys are fabulous for this purpose, as in addition to letting a cat express natural hunting behaviours, they also facilitate bonding between kitty and human. We both love the Cat Dancer that the Poupounette kits and Tommy sent us, which looks like a little bug flying around. We go into the same hunting mode we are in when we see a fly. We are also particularly fond of toys that move and shake around on their own, so we can feel like we're really hunting real live prey! Our Rockin' Mouse is a major favourite. Mum got us a Wiggler Ball today, so she will be interested to see if we have the same reaction to that. We also really like the inner tubes from paper towels, which roll around when we whack them. They make a fun sound, too! It is a good idea to test out a variety of toys with kitties. While we know most kitties go wild for the laser toy, we both look at mum like she is a weirdo when she tries to get us to use one. Fui occasionally uses the Catit Play Circuit very daintily, while Suey goes bananas for it, whapping the life out of the ball, stalking it's movements and generally going nuts. Fui has a preference for toys with feathers, while Suey is less discriminating. We both have lots of fun with paper bags. The big ones you can get from Ikea are the best things ever!
Privacy: While we both like each other and our parents, we also like our quiet time. Fui is happy to hang out and nap on the end of the bed, while Suey prefers hiding up high. In our old house, Suey liked the top level of the wardrobe. So when we moved in here, mum and dad set up a spot in the wardrobe with a couple of beds and cushions, and a tent ontop of the tall cupboard. When Suey is in the cupboard, mum leaves her on her own, and Fui likes to have a couple of hours each afternoon of 'Moimoi time', when she leaves him too. It is good to know we can go and chill out on our own when we want.
A Place to Scratch: Scratching is a natural cat behaviour. It has several purposes- it sharpens the nails and sloughs off the older outer layers of nail, allows the cat to stretch out the muscles and tendons through the whole body, and is a way of leaving scent markers. We were actually a little surprised that the lady at the Cat Protection Society was advocating small posts that can be hidden away. From what we have read, the best posts have a wide base and are heavy, that feel stable for a cat scratching against it. When Fui outgrew his kitten post, he stopped using it quite quickly. We both love our Smartcat Ultimate Scratching Post , which is tall enough for even Fui to get a full stretch going on and sturdy enough that it wont wobble. We are also increasingly happy with our Purrfect Angle. We then have a cat tree, with carpet and sisal rope. Our post is made from a sisal weave while our angle has a cardboard scratching pad. Having a variety of surfaces available for scratching is a good way to get your cat scratching where you want, as different cats can prefer different surfaces. Having the posts in a thoroughfare will encourage a cat to use it, as they like to leave their scent in such areas. We have our angle in a corner at the top of the stairs, the post by the entrance to the kitchen, and our tree in between the kitchen and living room.
While we were initially taught to scratch by being moved to our post whenever we looked like we wanted to scratch, we were introduced to our new post using a technique Vicky Halls promotes, which we found very effective. Mum also used it with a lot of success with our foster kittens. Mum uses a wand toy to encourage us to play around the base of the post. She then pulls it up the sides of the post, encouraging us to swipe at it and jump at it. In doing this, we were hitting the post and getting used to the feel of it. She would also dangle the toy up the top of the post to encourage us to climb up after it. It taught us that it was ok for us to claw at the post.
Greenery: We love our greenery. The lady at the Cat Protection Society was very keen on catnip, both fresh and dried, though we have no reaction to fresh. It is our understanding that most Australian cats don't tend to react. Apparently we are more reactive to Valerian. We have fresh cat grass, catnip and cat mint in pots. They are currently outside being rehabilitated after we kind of destroyed them. Mum thinks it would have been better to let them get more established before unleashing us on them. While we kitties are obligate carnivores, it is good for us to get a bit of green in us too. It can help settle tummies, and is good for a bit of a buzz. Suey went absolutely crazy the other night, running about making kookaburra noises, and the next morning mum realised the cat mint had been chewed almost completely out. Coincidence..? We don't often react to dried catnip, but mum has found that occasionally something triggers us. The smell of the shrews that Goldie sent us drives us wild, while Suey likes the nip that came with our Angle. So again, it seems to be about testing what you like the most.
Catnip sprays can be bought to freshen up toys that are losing their smell. The Cat Protection lady gave one tip we thought was good, to put dried catnip in a ziplock bag with a toy to reimpregnate it. If you are going to have plants inside, we recommend having them on tile or lino flooring with a mat underneath to stop marking. We have decorated both the bathroom and dining area with dirt when we attacked plants that hadn't had a chance to grow roots yet. Mum was just glad she didn't have to try and get it out of the carpet!
Mental stimulation: This one is probably pretty obvious. It comes in many forms- from crazy play sessions with a wand toy, to having cuddle time, to talking to your kitty while you're getting dressed for the day. Making sure to rotate toys is a good way to keep cats interested. If you put one away for a few weeks, it will seem brand new all over again when you bring it back out again. Lots of indoor cats enjoy having a position to look out the window at the world outside. Fui likes to sit in his ham-mick in front of the window overlooking the entry to our complex, so he can watch people come and go. When our favourite little baby bean Lily came over to our house in Townsville, Fui used to like watching the Disney movies we'd put on. Suey watches the tv very intently when there are kittens on Animal Cops (she is less interested in the woofies, and ignores the snakes). We have not tried the various kitty sitter dvds, but can understand how some cats would like them a lot. Vicky Halls is a great fan of getting cats to work for their food. This can be done by using a treat ball, or by hiding small amounts of dry food around a room inside things like toilet paper tubes. We weren't keen on our treat ball last time mum tried it, but we were young and silly then. Maybe it's worth another try!
We hope there was something there that you found interesting, and if not, here is us snuggling together last night.This is mum's new mobile phone wallpaper. She was super excited to get us both!:)