CAN CATS BE TRAINED TO WEAR A HARNESS?

By feline behaviour consultant Anita Kelsey

The answer is absolutely!

How do I know?

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Zaza on holiday with us at Wasdale, Lake District

Because I have trained my two cats to go out with me on a harness.

I won’t say it’s easy but with patience, perseverance and lots of understanding you can train a kitten to become accustomed to wearing a harness. I would say the older the cat is the harder to achieve so always try to start as young as possible. It took me 6/8 weeks to slowly introduce the process.

Obviously cats have different personalities so if you feel your cat would hate to go out on a harness or if your cat shows any signs of major distress  STOP – AND LISTEN. This is not about you .. it’s about what’s best for your cat.

Now… here’s how to do it:

  • Buy a kitten/cat harness from your local pet shop
  • Throw in with kitty’s toys so that they familiarise themselves with it. Play with them and the harnesses everyday for at least two weeks.

Now comes the hard part! Without putting the main lead in, try putting the harness on the kitten before his/her main meal time. Always associate this with meal times or treats so that the kitten associates putting on the harness with something nice. At first there will be a struggle but the motto here is try try try again. Never give up!

Walking in all weathers. Norwegian Forest cats have thick water proof coats and fur tufts between the pads on their paws so they are well protected against the snow

Walking in all weathers. Norwegian Forest cats have thick waterproof coats and fur tufts between the pads on their paws so they are well protected against the snow

Start with 5 minutes a day congratulating them and reassuring them every step of the way. They will soon realise that the harness leads to treats and cuddles and all good things. This part of the training takes the longest so be very patient. As you see your kitten getting more comfortable with wearing the harness extend the time that it is on. Soon they will be playing totally unaware that they are strapped up in a strange gizmo and you can give yourself a pat on the back that the hardest part has been conquered!

  • Make sure you leave enough space around the neck of the harness so that it is comfortable and not too tight. Test this by putting 2 fingers between the neck of your kitten and the harness. This applies to the body of the harness too. NEVER EVER leave your kitten unattended wearing the harness as it could get caught up on anything during playtime and lead to strangulation!
  • Once you can see that your kitten has adapted to this strange looking thing around it’s body then you are ready for the next step, attaching the lead. Do this process slowly. Remember small steps will eventually lead to major leaps! Let your kitten walk along at it’s leisure with the lead dragging along. Don’t attempt to lead the walk, as it will never work! Even when you get to the stage where you go out with your kitten on a harness you will never be leading, they will!

Kiki and Zaza, as kittens, playing with their harness

Kiki and Zaza, as kittens, playing with their harness

  • My kittens tended to play with each others leads and not much walking was done so I tried to separate them first which they didn’t really like so I quickly had to jump onto the next stage, taking them out, so that they understood what the lead was for. It’s difficult to know where to go that is A: quiet and B: dog free. One great place I have found is my local cemetery which says no dogs allowed. Doesn’t say cats!!! ;-). It helps if your road is quiet but if it’s a busy road try taking them out at night.
  • Make sure the harness is on secure. Be patient and always offer words of encouragement and reassurance. Make sure you attach the lead BEFORE they take their first steps out into the big world. My kittens made my job easier at this stage as they really enjoyed being outside and, although nervous at first, they soon had a ball sniffing the grass, chasing butterflies and climbing trees! If your kitten does go to climb a tree that’s great but don’t let them go to high. Always be in control and hold that lead TIGHT!

    This is a retractable lead which attaches easily to a harness. It gives more freedom on walks and is the best lead for your cat

    This is a retractable lead which attaches easily to a harness. It gives more freedom on walks and is the best lead for your cat

    When you are both relaxed at this you can buy a small puppy extendable lead which will give kitty more freedom to run along and chase things. It is never going to be like walking a dog. They go where they want to and when they want to so you just have to let them be cats and enjoy watching them lead YOU all over the place.

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    Me with both cats in Lake District. The loved the mountains and watching sheep at a distance

Please be aware of dogs and foxes in your surroundings!

Most dog owners have sense and will cross the road with their dog when they see you have a kitten/cat on a lead. Don’t panic as this just strikes fear into your cat. Be observant and if you feel uncomfortable about a particular breed of dog, not on a lead, pick your cat up and turn your back on the approaching dog.

My cat Kiki at Wastwater, Wasdale, Lake District.

Happy walking folks.

Please let me know how you get on.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza. Her debut booked is published by John Blake and is called Claws, Confessions Of A Cat Groomer.

Please contact info@catbehaviourist.com should you wish to book a home cat behaviour consultation.

To subscribe to Anita’s new monthly newsletter on cat news and mog tips please visit:  http://www.catbehaviourist.com/subscribe/

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‘How does your cat love you back? – How To Ensure you and your cat create a lovely bond.’

By London cat behaviourist Anita Kelsey

The cat has travelled a long way and endured many ups and downs to win the hearts of the nation. According to the recent BBC Documentary ‘Cat Wars’, our cheeky fur bods are now the most popular companion animals in the Western World. Originating from the big cats of Africa, domesticated and idolised in Egypt, vilified throughout Medieval Europe and presently enjoying a devotional status by millions of cat lovers in the western world. It is only right that we try to give them the best care and attention; this can be achieved by understanding how they communicate with us. Cats have paid a high price to remain in our favour so what can we do to understand them better?

How do cats show us they love us?

Cats communicate slightly differently with us, compared with how they communicate with other cats. For instance, a cat has learnt to vocalise to get food or attention and this vocalisation we recognise as the much loved meow. An example of this is when the clock is showing it’s time for dinner, but we’re engrossed in our favourite TV programme. Cats do not vocalise in the same way to other cats. A cat will vocalise as a threat to warn another cat not to come closer, or vocalise during fighting or sexual activities. It’s easy to adopt an anthropomorphic view of animals but let us learn the language of cat and look at some tell-tale signs your cat may give out.

Coming home to a happy cat

A happy cat will greet us with its tail high in the air, which may shake in excitement. A cat will rub against us, depositing its scent and may weave in and out of our legs, making it impossible to walk. Confident, outgoing, relaxed cats will greet visitors in the same way. They love attention and being stroked. Cats with this personality usually don’t mind being handled or picked up and are generally lap or beside-the-lap.

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However, many cat guardians obtain cats with the opposite personality. They are shy of strangers, do not appreciate the feeling of confinement in a human’s arms and may lash out when stroked for longer than they wish. This doesn’t mean this type of cat cannot be affectionate and a great companion. Their contentment is merely shown in more subtle ways and at a time THEY choose to express it.

A cat that keeps its tail close down to the body or tucked under it is usually feeling insecure and on guard. Its body may be crouched to the floor in a hidden spot that’s hard to get to. This type of cat needs to be given space in a safe area and not constantly bothered. A cat usually comes out in its own time and, with patience and gentle encouragement, such as a slow blink from a human, a cat (especially a new cat) will eventually begin to settle. The slow blink shows the cat you are a friend and not a threat. Cats communicate to other cats in this way as a greeting and to show them they’re not a threat. A cat that blinks back at you is giving a positive sign. It means the cat has understood and communications are on the right track. Using healthy treats, such as Thrive frieze dried meat or fish snacks, are a great way to encourage shy nervous cats to relax. A hunting wand toy can also be a good barrier to getting a cat to deflect from its habitual fear responses.

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As much as humans love holding their cats like babies and stroking them to the point of baldness, this may not be as enjoyable to your cat as you would like to think.

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This is a demonstration

A cat’s tummy is a vulnerable area that should be respected when a human is shown it. A cat that lies on the floor in front of their owner, displaying the tummy area, means they feel relaxed and unthreatened. This doesn’t mean they are inviting you to suddenly start stroking them there. Many cat owners have been given a warning nip or scratch when they try to stroke this area. A cat being held like a baby, with its stomach on full view, will feel in a vulnerable position and many cats get very cross and frustrated with being held this way. It’s hardly the most comfortable position.

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If you wish to show your cat just how much you love and respect him, then hold him with the tummy against you, with your arms supporting the back legs and around the body area. It’s also important to note that a cat will go into the ultimate defensive posture when feeling threatened, so it can protect itself by all means necessary using all 18 claws and teeth. That posture is on it’s back. It would be a very brave animal indeed to take on a cat in this position. This is one of the main reasons a human will get scratched when holding a cat on their back. If your cat loves a good old tummy rub that’s fine, but if they don’t, then you may need to stop trying to convince your cat that its good for him!

Newsflash!

Cats do not sleep all day long. OK, so cats do sleep for long hours during the day and night, especially if they are exclusively indoor cats, but cats will also sleep out of boredom. Many people make the mistake of assuming their cats do not play when in their adult years. They assume that their cats just sleep because that’s what cats do. I visit them with a car full of hunting toys and suddenly their cat is jumping in the air and doing back flips to catch the toy. Depression and boredom in a cat can manifest itself in many ways from over-grooming, constant vocalisation and eliminating outside of the litter tray, through to sleeping all the time. Some cats will display unwanted behaviours because they know attention will be forthcoming. Cats require stimulation. It’s no good coming home, patting your cat on the head and then proceeding to watch a barrage of soaps on ‘Catch Up’. Your cat will have been looking forward to the precise moment you walk through the door.

Now its kitty time and you’d better be prepared to put aside anything you had planned to give kitty at least 15-20 minutes of focused playtime and cuddles – and that’s AFTER dinner has been served! Cats get bored quickly so 15-20 minutes should do the trick before they wander off, or settle down to take another well-earned rest. If you’re lucky, they might just choose your lap to settle down on.

Now, this is where it becomes tricky. Your cat has settled down, he appears happy, has been fed his favourite mouse flavoured pie and is purring like he’s the luckiest cat in the world, showing you signs he wants stroking and BAM! You get a warning bite out of nowhere. This can be very frustrating and can leave any well-meaning cat owner utterly confused and a little hurt. This type of behaviour is fairly common in cats that become overly stimulated or annoyed at being stroked for too long. Not all cats like being stroked all the time and they will very happily let us know when we have overstepped the line. The warning signs can be subtle so try to look out for them. You may find your cat’s back start to ripple when touching him in that specific area or his ears going slightly flatter to his head or the tail starting to twitch or even lightly thrash up and down. These are all signs that it’s time to stop touching them. If you know your cat has a low tolerance level to stroking or touching, keep the stroking to a minimum. They will love you just as much and even more so because you are respecting them and understanding what they do or don’t like. Holding back is hard because we all want a lap cat that loves cuddles and strokes and these actions are for the benefit of us as well as the cat. For owners whose cats will bite without warning, when stroked for longer than they appreciate, I would suggest that the cat is left to make all the moves. For example, let your cat rub and head butt you and leave the stroking to an absolute minimum.

So, how else can we show our cats just how much we love them?

MEAT!

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A cat would be more than happy being presented with a mouse or two a day on a silver plate but ethics and common sense prevent us from going down this extreme route! However, seeing as cats are obligate carnivores who need meat to survive, we really should be giving them just that. The dry vs wet diet is a controversial subject, with camps on both sides vigorously sticking to their guns. I am in the latter camp so forgive me as I march forth with the wet meat banner in the hope I can change some cats’ diets to a more natural one.

A cat’s teeth are designed to rip meat from bones and not for chewing kibble. In fact a cat’s jaws cannot perform the action of chewing. A cats digestive system is designed for eating and digesting meat, so your cat’s main staple diet (if they like meat or do not have any medical reason not to eat meat) should reflect what it was designed to eat in the wild. Kibble is designed for the convenience of humans and can be a very boring and un-stimulating diet, especially for an indoor cat left to free graze all day.

Brands like Lily’s Kitchen and Thrive Complete are high-end wet foods that have all of the nutrients needed, without using unnecessary fillers such as grains, cereals, wheat and additives. A complete food is the one all cat owners should be buying. The ‘Complementary’ label means not all nutrients are present and some complementary foods, such as gourmet dinners, can be extremely high in calorific content. Make sure, if you’re going to think about switching kitty’s food from dry to wet, that you choose a variety of good quality brands. Always read the label and introduce any new foods gradually. Of course, if your cat likes biscuits, and you feel guilty not giving them any, then place a small amount in a fun puzzle feed ball that they will enjoy batting around. Again, go for quality kibble that has no cereal or grains added. Brands like Orijen and Purizon are excellent. Some cat owners feed their cat a raw diet, which, if your cat approves, is a very healthy alternative. The raw pet food industry has really grown over the past few years. There are some great UK companies supplying frozen raw meat packs such as Purrform and Nature’s Menu. Not all cats like a raw diet. My two Norwegian Forest cats didn’t take to it, but many others do, so it’s really a case of trial and error to see what your cat and its tummy prefers. Another positive attribute of a wet food diet is the high water content, which helps keep a cat hydrated and wards off illnesses connected to exclusively dry diets.

If you do decide to try your cat on wet food, please note that leaving one full pouch of wet alongside a full bowl of dry food is too much for one sitting and will most likely result in your cat becoming overweight. It’s best to have one or the other per feed/sitting and hopefully, after reading this, the bowl will be mainly full of flesh!

So, we have stopped dragging kitty out from under the bed, stopped holding him like a baby, stopped stroking him to death, stopped leaving him mountains of dry biscuits and stopped ignoring him because he doesn’t play and generally sleeps 24 hours a day….

CONGRATULATIONS! You have just become the perfect cat owner. Expect a furry Valentines card from your cat on Feb 14th!

This article was originally featured in Your Cat magazine.


About The Author

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour & Psychology and runs a vet referral practice in Notting Hill dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also an expert cat groomer specialising in working with timid, aggressive or elderly cats in their own homes. Anita is a full member of The Canine and Feline Behaviour Association. To contact email please email info@catbehaviourist.com.

Review of Frolicat® by PetSafe® cat teaser toys with Zaza and Kiki

Frolicat® by PetSafe® cat teaser toys review by Anita Kelsey 

As a feline behaviour consultant I am always on the look out for new cat toys to recommend to clients and what better way to try out various toys than to use my own two beautiful Norwegian Forest Cats Kiki and Zaza.

FroliCat cat teaser toys review
FroliCat toy testers – Kiki and Zaza

Predation (a relationship between two species of animal in a community, in which one (the predator) hunts, kills, and eats the other (the prey) is highly instinctive in cats. With this in mind cat toy creators are focusing in on hunting style toys and our cats just can’t et enough of them.

Frolicat® by PetSafe® are masters at hunting style cat toys and the three toys Kiki and Zaza were sent to review were The FroliCat Dart, The FroliCat Pounce and the FroliCat Flik. Very appropriate names if the actions of my cats were anything to go by.

So.. lets take a closer look.

The FroliCat DART

FroliCat cat teaser toys review

DART is an automatic rotating laser light that provides hours of fun for your feline and canine friends. Place DART on the floor, turn it on, and watch the chase begin! The laser moves in a circle that jumps around and randomly switches directions. It’s perfect for pets who will spin in a circle to catch the laser. 4 speeds and 4 timer settings offer 16 exciting play combinations.

FroliCat cat teaser toys review

Zaza feedback: Zaza loved the Dart and chased it at high speed around my living room. It meant I could get on with answering important emails whilst she had a ball. I always set these type of toys for 5 mins and the timer settings really helps with this. After 5 minutes I gave another toy to Zaza to catch and ‘kill’ and finished off with a nice meaty treats. Job done!

FroliCat POUNCE

FroliCat cat teaser toys review

The POUNCE is an automatic, rotating, hide-and-seek cat toy. Marshal Maus™ electronic mouse zips around the circular path, zooming forward, reversing direction, hiding under obstacles, and occasionally twitching back and forth. The unpredictable (although it became a tad predictable!!) movement stimulates your cat’s natural instinct to hunt, chase, and pounce on prey.

frolicat-cat

Kiki feedback: This one was Kiki’s favourite and you can see just how much here on You Tube:

Last but not least we had the…

FroliCat FLIK

FroliCat cat teaser toys review

FLIK is an automatic teaser that throws then hides a string to entice your cat to play. Simply turn it on and watch your curious cat stalk FLIK and try to capture the string before it pops back into the toy. Cats can’t resist trying to grab the “tail” flicking back and forth, just like a wild cat stalking hidden prey. No cat has ever had this much fun with an ordinary string before!

Both cats review: Both Kiki and Zaza really loved this toy and were intrigued by the spinning ‘tail’.

Here they are on You Tube demonstrating how much fun a cat can have:

I have a few pointers to share. First is the sound. A nervous cat or kitty may found the sound of a battery operated toy a little scary but I would say most cats would get over this fairly quickly once their natural instincts kick in. The other pointer is the movement. Sometimes it would be nice if the movement stopped altogether. My cats were equally excited when I turned the toy off and the movement stopped. Then they were really curious. Some real life prey would do just that. Stop dead in their tracks and play ‘dead’ or hide and be quite and still. Others would run like hell 😉

The toys provide fun for the cats and some light relief for cat owners who need to get other things done whilst at the same time being nagged by their cat(s0 to play with them! With these toys cat and owner benefit.

All products look easy to clean and seem robust for different sized cats and cat paws!! Great for the big paws of my Norwegian Forest Cats.

Frolicat® by PetSafe® seem dedicated to providing toys that cats will actually play with. They work with an extraordinary collection of pet trainers and pet-loving people devoted to creating pet-friendly solutions. Together, they worked to develop new products that solve problems for pet owners. Before bringing a product to market,Frolicat® by PetSafe®conduct in-home tests with actual pets and their owners. This real-world testing provides the feedback that ensures we have created a toy that will stand up to even the toughest dogs and deliver a safe, rewarding playtime experience.

Kiki, Zaza and myself giveFrolicat® by PetSafe® 5 stars. Highly recommended to bring out the hunter in your cat!

For more information visit: http://www.frolicat.com/ or purchase them at http://petsafe.net/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats.  Middlesex University also awarded Anita the Gerry Fowler Prize for achievement in recognition of her work and final result.
Anita is also a specialist mobile cat groomer who works closely with vets on aggressive or phobic cats. She writes for Your Cat magazine and is on their experts panel for cat grooming. Visit http://www.catbehaviourist.com or email info@catbehaviourist.com

Advice For Cat Owners Of Lost Cats

By Anita Kelsey – London’s leading cat behaviour councillor (featured photo by ProtectaPet)

It’s a cat owners worst nightmare when their cat goes missing. Panic sets in and we feel that our little fur babies will just curl up and die without us. Well, the first thing we need to know is that cats are VERY good at surviving and will go into survival mode if lost. They will hunt for food and find a warm place to hunker down in. They may be MORE hungry when they are found and slimmer, ahem, but they will not be starving.

There are different things to consider when our mogs go walkies. Were they street savvy? Did they know the area? Are they male or female, Spayed, Neutered? Are they friendly or very nervous? All of these things matter and can determine how our lost cats will ACT. Sometimes a cat isn’t even lost. It has just gone exploring its territory. This can especially happen when a cat has moved in a new area and is finally let outside (after getting used to his main core territory within the home).

First things first.

Lost cat advice – MY CAT KNOWS THE TERRITORY.

Male or female? Male cats tend to roam much further than females. Females tend to stay in the garden area plus one garden but do not roam much further. Male cats, on the other hand, will roam quite far. Most cats are spayed and neutered nowadays but if your male cat is not then expect him to be roaming far and wide looking for females to impregnate and to fight off other male cats. If your male cat is neutered he will still travel much further than a female. Free roaming cats can sometimes disappear for a few weeks and saunter back in as if nothing has happened, whilst you have been tearing your hair out with worry. So, don’t always assume your cat is lost! It is also VERY common for free roaming cats to have more than one home they visit meaning more than one feeder!! Talk to neighbours if you suspect this.

Lost cat advice – PERSONALITY OF CAT.

If your cat is friendly and chats/rubs legs with any passerby then they may be visiting other peoples homes for food. These types of cats are known in the area and are stroked by every passer by. If they got lost, for whatever reason, they would surely meow outside of a home with a light inside. They know how to get what they want and are not afraid of humans. Someone in the area will be feeding this cat and may even be letting the cat inside. Some people see cats without a collar and automatically assume it’s a stray cat. The cat meows and the person thinks they are crying for help and are lost. If a cat is found without a collar always check the  National Pet Register to see if someone has lost this cat. Also, take the cat to the local vet to see if it has a microchip. If not, then register the cat found online at the national Pet register and in local shop windows etc.

Lost cat advice

Lost cat advice – TIMID CATS.

Timid cats don’t travel too far away from their home range. If they become lost they will hunker down in bushes or a shed. This type of behaviour is a survival mechanism that kicks in straight away. The same goes for a cat who does not know the territory. They will be hiding nearby where they became lost. Cats that go into survival mode become quite because they are frightened. This is why, sometimes, with owners calling out there names, they will still choose to remain silent. They will be able to hunt or scavenge but fear will keep them not roaming too far from a shed, or bin hole or any other quiet area to keep warm and hidden in.

Here’s my interview with Pet Detective Kim Freeman.

Lost cat advice
Life is good when seen from trees

Lost cat advice – DISPLACED CATS WHO DO NOT KNOW THE AREA.

This site is very helpful in highlighting how a cat will start to think when it becomes ‘displaced’ from an area it doesn’t know. It highlights the survival technique allowing cat owners to adapt how they are searching for their cat. Worst case scenarios can be lost from a vets office, home boarding or a cattery.

Lost cat advice – RECENT TRUE STORY

Titus, whilst being boarded in a home not his own, rushed for the front door in a freak accident. This was not in character for when he usually stayed. This happened October 2016. He was missing for 4 days. he didn’t know the area so hunkered down nearby. The cat boarder was out everyday at 5am searching for him. He was finally found this morning in nearby bushes. He kept quiet whilst being called for. Survival technique. He was scared. My thoughts on boarding can be read HERE.

Also read the book LOST CAT. It will give you hope. A true story and the cat was found 😉

Lost cat advice
Titus – found after 4 days

Here’s another success story from a lost kitten case that appeared hopeless. The kitten was found by the vigilant cat loving society. So, never give up. Even this little kitten was resilient ;-). Notice how the kitten was found near to the crash site where it was flung out of the car.

Lost cat advice – WORRIED ABOUT FOXES.

Don’t assume your cat is going to be attacked by foxes! Cat’s are fearsome predators too and a fox knows that too well. Read this article for some peace of mind: CATS AND FOXES

Lost cat advice – EXPENSIVE CAT BREED.

It’s rare for a cat to be stolen but it can happen. This is why cat’s should be micro-chipped whether they go outdoors or not. This way, anyone who obtains your cat, whether knowingly or not, will be detected when they go to a vets. Also check places like Gumtree Cats and Kittens For Sale on a daily basis. We cannot hide the fact their are some horrible people out there who will steal an expensive breed of pet for their own means. May sure you use Gumtree’s Lost and Missing Pets section to highlight your cat is missing.

Lost cat advice – DECEASED CAT.

If you are unlucky enough to find a deceased cat you must report it to the council or call your local vet. A vet, if the cat is close by, will come and collect the pet to scan it for a microchip. An owner will be worried sick about their cat and will appreciate being told what has happened to it, even if the news is extremely sad. The local council can also be rang to see if anyone reported a deceased cat to be collected.

Lost cat advice – IMPORTANT STEPS FOR CAT OWNERS.

** Many thanks to Catchat for their invaluable advice.

Continue reading “Advice For Cat Owners Of Lost Cats”

Seeing Matts And Pelts From A Cat’s Perspective

“Great article, I will certainly be using some of the points in this in the future with clients”

Emma O’Connor, Veterinary Surgeon at Anton vets

The Facts

What is matting?

Matting is when a cat’s fur becomes knotted and entwined. Matts can occur when the cat’s undercoat  sheds (moults) and gets trapped under the top layer of fur. A build up of dirty fur or oily skin, affecting the condition of the fur, can also result in matting. The fur bunches together if left uncombed.

Without proper and regular grooming a cats matting can very quickly become pelted.

Most owners concentrate on the top layer of fur, when they brush their cat, leaving the undercoat without attention. This can be the start of matting. A matt or knot can sometimes be teased out with the fingers or gently combed out if held at the root. If a comb can be slid between the matt and skin then it is safe to carefully cut the matt out using the combs teeth as a barrier so as not to cut and hurt the cat. This should not be done on a cat that is moving around. Extreme caution and the cats wellbeing is the number one priority when removing a small knot with scissors or by teasing out with fingers.

What is a pelt?

pelt cat 1IMG_7779

A pelt is a hardened matt or knotting that is tight against the skin. Pelts are formed when matting starts to join together, over a long period of time over various parts of the body. More loose fur, dirt, debris and even faeces, gets stuck in the already formed pelts making them larger. Pelts cannot be combed out and always need to be shaved.

The above photo’s are extreme examples of cat pelts but pelting can be equally bad on the underside of the cat where they are hidden from view. Pelting can occur out of view on the arms pits, chest, tummy, under the chin and the nether regions even when the top coat appears fine.

What would a pelt feel like on a cat?

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Imagine our hair without being brushed or washed for months. It would start to matt very quickly and, in time, would become a clump all over. This would tighten to our scalp and become very itchy and make us irritable and hot. Imagine this clump over our bodies connecting skin from different areas as the matts become more entwined. The matting from under our arm pits has joined matting on our chest drawing the two bits of skin closer together. It feels way too tight for comfort. We are hot, we itch and sores are gathering under the matting.

Without being able to communicate our frustration and misery would we then try to rip the hair off of our bodies in desperation? Some cats do just that!!!

Would you be comfortable or would you be suffering? 

hairy human

Cats put up with alot. They suffer in silence because:

A: They are very good at hiding and showing little reaction to discomfort, illness or pain.  vetinfo.com  confirm:

cats often don’t show their pain. Pain tolerance varies from one animal to the next; most cats have developed a high tolerance for pain out of evolutionary necessity. The best way to recognise feline pain is to know your cat’s routines, behaviour and personality. Often, cats show their pain through changes in behaviour, personality and routine

B: They cannot tell us what they are feeling.

Cat owners often ask me:

Well, how do cats maintain their coats in the wild?

lion-grooming

The majority of wild cats do not have long fur. Also, wild cats have larger tongues with large barbs on them to get out unwanted bits and pieces caught in the fur. Lions groom one another. But, if you go and see a lion’s mane up close (NOT ADVISABLE ;-)) it will be matted in places!!

pelted cat 3

pelted cat 4

Cat groomers get upset when they see a pelted cat. They know how uncomfortable the cat must have been for a considerable time and yet some cat owners do not seem to think much of it. They ask the groomer to shave their cat and all is good again until the next time it occurs.

thinkTHINK!

Why leave your cat to matt in such a way as to cause suffering? We all know how much people love their cats but common sense goes out of the window whenever it comes to grooming.

Lion cuts

Pelted cats have to have a lion cut which is the removal of most of the hair apart from the head, mane, arms and legs. In the worst cases even the cheeks, arms and legs of a cat need to be shaved.

lioncut3

Hair on a long haired cat, after a lion cut, takes between 4-6 months to grow to its natural length. This does not mean that a year should go by before contacting a groomer again.

A quick fix?

Shaving is the only humane option when a cat is pelted or badly matted but it should not be seen as a quick fix until the cat’s fur ends up in the same condition. It takes time, concentration and skill to shave a cat and, if the cat is aggressive, frightened or elderly, it can be a dangerous *  and stressful process.

* Cats, especially elderly ones,  can die of stress instantly on a grooming table. A groomer knows this and has to weigh up what is best. Elderly cats cannot be sedated. However, they cannot be left pelted either. For the groomer, this situation is highly stressful.

Groomers do not want to see a cat matted again and again!!

Owners should be combing their cats everyday and checking areas that matt easily such as the armpits, under the chin and around the bum area. Small amounts of combing everyday can make a big difference. A professional groomer should be used every 6-8 weeks to keep your cat’s coat in good condition.

It is a cost to be factored in when getting a cat with a high maintenance coat. Think of this cost like we do when getting our hair tidied or cut every few months.

If a cat has had a lion cut the groomer can be called in to maintain the fur once it has grown to a length that can be combed. In the meantime the remaining fur still needs attention.

If you own a cat whose fur is high maintenance why not ask a groomer for a lesson in how to comb your cat in between regular visits or to check your grooming tools. A joint effort between cat owner and professional groomer will ensure that matting and pelts are a thing of the past.

We all want happy cats.

Pelts and matting = very unhappy cats.

pelt 6

cat pelts 9

Regular grooming = happy cats

happy-cat

= happy groomers!!!!

mobile cat grooming

For more information on grooming your cat please contact info@catbehaviourist.com. Further information can also be found on www.catnips.co.uk.

I hope ‘seeing matting and pelts from a cat’s perspective’ has helped change yours.

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A visit to Paris’s Café des Chats

Cafe Des Chats menu

My visit to Paris was all planned out. The house and gardens of Monet, Palace of Versailles, The Avenue des Champs-Élysées…. and then I spoke to Marc, founder of Katzenworld, who mentioned the first cat cafe in Paris and that was that!

My husband groaned as yet another cat related event intruded on our break. He really should be used to it by now…being married to a cat lover 🙂

And so it was! Our first day in Paris getting lost around the narrow back streets of the Marais district in search of the Cafe des Chats! I had expected there to be a waiting list but, to my surprise, I managed to get a reservation, via an email request, for the following day. Walking for an hour we finally stumbled into a street with a fair amount of women looking into a shop window.

“That’s it” I said, instinctively knowing that a group of woman would be intensively interested in only one thing. CATS! (Unless it was a shoe shop of course!!)

passers by - photo 3

My instinct was correct.

The Paris cat cafe was the brain child of Margaux Gandelon. I emailed her for an interview but sadly never heard back. The cafe is a small dark intimate but relaxing space with a scattering of tables, chairs and sofas and dotted with several cat climbers and countless cat beds. Numerous cat rod toys can be found around the cafe. About 15 cats permanently live their, adopted from various local rescue centres. The cafe was mostly filled with woman and children, as well as my weary husband and the cats enjoyed being doted on. The same policy exists here as in London’s first cat cafe: “Don’t wake them, don’t bother them, don’t feed them, don’t give them water”.

cafe cat photo 2

We took this on board and decided to move to a less appealing table away from the window as a kitty was asleep on one of the chairs. However, to my surprise, another customer walked straight in and lifted the cat off to take the best seat.

The food was great quality and both myself and my husband enjoyed a hearty, not too pricey lunch, surrounded by our favourite animals. Whilst waiting for the food to arrive I had a wander around the cafe to take some pictures. It was very different from the London Cafe, in that not many high up areas had been specially designed for the cats to climb, walk across and lie on. There were a few standard cat trees but not as much ‘catification’ as I would have liked to have seen. It would be ideal if cat cafes had secure outside space for the cats to get some fresh air but, as many are in major cities, that probably is a tall order and not a practical one.

Cat looking out of window - photo 4

As I returned to my table two Australian woman were playing with several cats. I began chatting to them about the cafe and its concept. It transpired that one of them worked for an environmental government department in Australia. It just so happened that her colleague is the person responsible for reducing the feral cat population in Australia. A very hot subject matter in cat-loving circles! Intrigued by her arguments for euthanising feral cats, rather than the trap neuter and release programs many other countries have adopted, we swapped emails with the intention of her introducing me to her colleague for an interview. She was keen for me to understand the reasons why they were against feral cats, to protect their native wildlife, but at the same time we knew the subject could be too controversial over a light lunch playing with Parisian cats.

We agreed to chat further in the future, so that I could gather facts and figures for a truly informed debate. The subject matter was quickly changed!

So back to the cafe.

I watched about 5 of the cats sitting by the glass front of the cafe, enjoying the sun shining through the glass as they watched people and dogs pass by. I wondered why the cafe couldn’t just be a stop gap before they were adopted to possibly live a life with hope of a garden or some form of outside access. This made me think about my stance on the whole cat cafe phenomenon. I realised I am in two minds. The cats here, as well as in the London cafe, look relaxed, seem to get on well with each other and are lavished with affection which they seem to enjoy. On the other hand I feel uncomfortable with the fact that they cannot escape from other cats or human attention if they wanted too and are confined to life in one or two small rooms as indoors cats. No natural hunting, no natural roaming, no natural light. Of course, we hope there are mutual benefits to be had and, after an in-depth chat with the founder of Lady Dinah’s Cafe, Lauren Pears, I was glad to hear that intervention is swift (from her team at least) if a cat shows signs of not wanting to live in their cafe environment. Lets hope it is the same for the ever expanding cat cafe’s around the world

The world’s first cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998 and quickly caught on in Japan. As I was surfing the net I came across the first cat cafe closure due to worries about the cat’s health and welfare. The Guardian reported this here. I was surprised, because the concept arose from peoples’ intense love of cats, the lack of space in many city apartments, coupled with the fact that many landlords forbid tenants to have animals. If you think about cats and space it seems ironic that cat cafes, many of them small, house many cats together to supposedly combat this very issue. In fact, according to The Guardian, Japanese customers can go to different cafes for pet animals as diverse as hedgehogs, horses, rabbits and owls. It’s a growing trend that I’m uncomfortable with.

cats in the window photo 6

The world has become obsessed with cats and it seems we just cannot get enough of them. I risked divorce to visit this cafe on my first day in Paris!!! That’s how crazy we have all become over these fur bods.

One thing is for sure. Cat cafes are here to stay, as the cat overtakes every animal on the planet to become the world’s number one pet.

After we left the cafe, my husband wrote on Facebook ‘Right, now the Cafe des Chats is over with, we can get on with our holiday!!”

books in the cafe - photo 5

Le Café des Chats is situated at 16 rue Michel le comte, in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris.

Web site.

About The Author:

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London, and consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza.

To contact Anita please email info@catbehaviourist.com or visit http://www.catbehaviourist.com.

Cat Travel: Kattenstoet – Ypres Cat Festival

As Big Ben struck midnight on NYE, and people focused on their new year’s resolutions, I had but one thing on my mind and that was my long awaited trip in May to the Kattenstoet (Festival of The Cats) in Ypres, Belgium. I first stumbled across the Kattenstoet website in 2013 when researching the history of the cat in medieval times. I’d never heard of the festival before, which was unusual for me; quirky cat related events normally catch my attention sooner or later but this one had remained under my feline fixated radar. Looking through the details of the festival it dawned on me that my patience would be stretched to its limits. The event is a three yearly one and I had just missed it!

The festival is one devoted to the cat but with a sinister backdrop. Ypres was a city known for cloth making with the cloth stored in the cities tower ready for their annual fair. Cats were introduced to the tower as a solution to the sudden arrival of mice who found the cloth attractive to eat. Everything worked according to plan although one thing wasn’t factored into the equation, the procreation of the cats! Ypres was soon overrun with frisky cats breeding like rabbits that strangely led to them being thrown from the tower. Also mentioned were the usual links with cats and witchcraft that seems to be the state of affairs all over Europe during this time.

According to the Kattenstoet web site the earliest descriptions of cat throwing was found in the city chronicles for the years 1410 -1420. The Ypres chronicles often link the cat-throwing with the Ascension fair that already existed in 1127. After the fair was moved to the second week of the Lent in 1476, the cats were thrown on ‘Cats’ Wednesday’.

And so May arrived and 6 of my long suffering friends, were persuaded to travel with me on Eurostar to Brussels. On Sunday May 10th we all made our way from Bruges where we were staying to the quaint city of Ypres, to witness the only cat parade in Europe. We arrived way too early, hours before the festival was due to start, to bag a good spot to watch the procession. Of course, I was the most excited, whilst my friends embarrassingly looked around for any other humans. As each friend snuck off for coffees and snacks I guarded our bit of pavement with military precision from the invasion of erm, no one.


I did feel a tad silly refusing to budge from my spot in an otherwise empty town but as time went on and the slow drip of people with fake ears and drawn on noses started to turn into a river of frenzied cat obsessed anthropoids,guard duties became more necessary and each friend returned to map out their spot with jackets and bags, showing a united ‘don’t even attempt to push in’ front.

Even small kids trying to crawl through the knees of the crowd to find a good vantage point, were sent back with a hardened determination.

At 3pm Ypres streets were packed full of international cat lovers as well as proud local residents, some of whom had dragged their dogs out to try to regain some sense of balance and normality. Not that three dogs in a pram is normal or balanced! The sound of several brass bands resonated in the distance as the 42nd cat parade started and once again took its deserved place in history.

The procession made its way down the narrow cobbled streets through excited crowds that included a small curly haired fever-pitched woman from London with a camera lens the size and weight of a canon. The procession lasted for several hours with hundreds of fantastic colourful costumes, magnificent cat and mouse themed floats and much humour from dancers, fire throwers, actors, stilt walkers, local kids and a curiously British penny farthing cyclist with whiskers.

The fun ended with the famous cat throwing from the tower (toy cats – the festival finishes each time with the throwing of toy cats, by a court jester, to a raucous crowd below (the last living cat was thrown off the tower in 1817). It was bizarre to watch thousands of people with outstretched arms, eager to catch a cat, shouting up to the jester as he teased the crowd with pantomime style crowd-pleasing antics.

Equally bizarre was watching stuffed cats flying through the air in every direction.

As Ypres said its final farewell to its 2015 Kattenstoet, releasing lots of huge cat faces made from balloons into the sunset, I realised I was not alone in being utterly devoted to the cat and its amazing story from being vilified to becoming one of the worlds best loved and most common pets. My weary friends and husband on the other hand continue to look on in despair.

The next cat festival will be in 2018. Start the countdown!

About The Author:

Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita is based in Notting Hill, London, and consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza.

To contact Anita please email info@catbehaviourist.com or visit http://www.catbehaviourist.com.