Cat Behaviour: January 2009 Archives

The Keesling family of New Castle, Indiana is alive today because of their heroic cat, Winnie, who meowed loudly and paced up and down the bed to wake her humans when she detected a deadly gas leak.

03F956EE-2A9A-4E2F-BD96-91F4B6BAA231.jpgRead the report of the events of that night and about the reward given to Winnie for saving her family.

What I find interesting is that the cat, Winnie detected an odorless gas. According to the reports, Winnie detected it and then worked really hard to wake everyone up, even after the mom, Cathy repeatedly fainted as she made her way to the phone to call 911. I know cats noses are more sensitive than a human's sense of smell, but I really don't think Winnie was able to detect the gas.

What I think happened is Winnie detected changes in her human's behavior and breathing and got alarmed. One report even said that the 14 year old son had gone into the bathroom and passed out on the way back to his bedroom. His fall would have scared Winnie and she would have gone to wake up Cathy, the mom.

Every time I am sick or something unusual happens, Neo gets all freaked out and walks around meowing. That seems to be the kind of thing that cats do, they are really good at detecting differences in human behavior and are really good and knowing when people are in distress. So I think Winnie was looking out for her humans and did the right thing even if she wasn't able to detect the gas.

Does anyone have any stories of cats who can sense moods or distress in their humans? Please comment below.

maddy_scratch_post.jpgAnyone that says that cats aren't complicated or incredibly intelligent probably doesn't know what they are talking about. I learned a valuable lesson from my cat and I'm going to pass it on to you.

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My cat Maddy (pictured) loves to scratch her cardboard disk. For those of you who may not know what that is, I took a picture of Maddy sitting on her scratching disk. Some manufacturers call it a cardboard disk and others may call it a turbo scratching post. Either way, the premise is fairly simple. The toy consists of a replaceable cardboard disk and a ball that rotates around the perimeter of the toy. Some cats like playing with the ball more than they like scratching the post. Generally, Maddy doesn't play with the ball but she does scratch the cardboard several times a day.

About two weeks ago I scolded Maddy for scratching my great room chair. I really found this strange because Maddy rarely scratches the furniture. As a matter of fact, I have to really think hard to remember the last time she's done this. Anyhow, I didn't make to big of a deal of it. Unfortunately, it happened again within two days. At that point, I realized something wasn't right. I was even considering taking her to the vet. Then it hit me, I hadn't replaced the cardboard insert on her toy in months and it was worn out. You can tell it's worn out because the cardboard is all pushed down. The nice think about the circular cardboard disks is that they can be replaced and even flipped so that your cat can make use of both sides before you replace the insert. To me this is great value.

If your normally well behaved cat is scratching your furniture, he's probably doing it for a reason. More than likely, one of the choices that you have deemed acceptable for him to scratch are not working the way they used to. Remember that if you want to protect your furniture, you have to examine your cat's scratching choices frequently. I can't get mad at Maddy for scratching the furniture if I haven't provided the necessary scratching resources for her. While I have various scratching posts in the house, Maddy prefers the cardboard insert by far; I'm assuming it's because of the rough texture of the cardboard. I'll be keeping an eye on that cardboard insert a bit more carefully now.

So if your normally well mannered cat is scratching your favorite chair, examine his scratching post or other scratching choices and make sure they are still functioning for him. Generally, any scratching choice that is worn out won't provide the proper friction that your cat needs to maintain his claws. If your acceptable scratching choices are no longer working, your cat is naturally going to find choices that you may not like.

If you have a related story to share, I'd love to read your comments below.

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As a follow up to a previous post about recession proof cat toys, I found this article that gives some great advice for keeping kitty happy without spending money, and how to play with these make at home toys. No matter what your cat likes to do, he'll appreciate the quality time with you.

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pictures_cat_snow.jpegWhether your cat is an indoor cat or goes outside he will probably find that these long winter months can lead to a lot of ho-hum napping and, perhaps, some misbehaving.

Here are some tips to keep Suzy, and Zip, and Lucky happy:

First of all realize that cats (like all of us) pay most attention to something new in their environment. The best toy from yesterday will often be ignored today. They are on the prowl for the latest and greatest new object to attend to.

The trick, therefore, (this works well with kids, too) is to "rotate the stock." Keep a few toys out at all times (preferably in different areas of the house to keep them interesting--try putting a favorite toy in the bathtub) but switch them out every couple of days.

You know your cat better than anyone. When choosing toys (or making them-more on that later) don't try something your cat has never played with. If she doesn't like to chase things don't buy a mechanical mouse.

If she likes to play with your hanging clothes as you carrying them up the stairs then she will probably like "dangly toys."

We all know that cats have different types of play that assist them developmentally. This includes play fighting, hunting, and "flinging" where they pick up an object and throw it up into the air. You may want to try these activities with your cat and determine what they enjoy the most.

Many cats like rituals just like people (remember Mr. Rogers coming in, changing his sweater and shoes...) It may be jumping on its human's back every time he sits at the computer, pulling herself along the under side of a couch or chair, hanging upside down off a favorite step, or rolling on the sidewalk when his humans come home. We once had a very intelligent little female who loved this trick. If we left a glass of water on a table-and were too far away to grab it-she would wait until she got our attention and stare us in the eye as she casually knocked the glass over. These rituals are a great insight as to what cats like to do: pounce, climb, bat, wrestle, etc.

Pictures_of_Birman_breed_of_ cats_kitten.jpgPurchasing toys is great but I think its fun to give your cat a variety of options by putting together home made toys.

• A great flinging toy: take the crinkly wrapper off a package (the heavier is often better), string your cat's favorite toys (the ring around the milk lid, a large button, a large rubber band, etc.) and then tie the string around the middle of the cellophane like a bowtie. With just the slightest touch it jumps and crinkles.Make certain it is all very secure to avoid any choking hazard.

• If your cat loves to climb into boxes or bags this is a great activity when the kids and the cat are bored. Take a nice sized box, pierce one side, hang any toys or objects he enjoys inside, turn it sideways. Cut 2" holes on the sides, hang (on the outside) small objects in the center of the holes. Add-or expose-the rippled, corrugated cardboard for an instant scratching station. This should give lots of hours of play and hiding time. Don't leave it out too long, though. Put it away for more fun in a few weeks.

• For the smart, energetic cat I would recommend a bouncy ball from a toy store. Warrant Eckstein in his book, How to Get Your Cat to Do What You Want, describes his consultation with Lily Tomlin's cat. The cat seemed to have no interest in anything Eckstein could offer. He found a ball in a toy store that bounced very high and in unpredictable arcs. The cat loved it-the unpredictability being something that most cats are wild about!

• You may not realize it, especially in a single cat environment, that your little guy enjoys wrestling. Place a work glove or a hand puppet on your hand and tickle his belly (with, of course, an appropriate growl and argh thrown in.) You may be surprised at his excited and energetic response. This can be a fun time for both of you and can become a ritual.

The key to keeping our furry friends entertained (and decrease unwanted behavior) is to keep things changing. If your cat shows no interest in your new efforts be flexible and try something else. Rotate toys frequently and pay attention to what they already enjoy.

Pat Gilbers, from TwoPennyCat - is a lifetime cat lover as well as being an entrepreneur, non profit specialist (visit for information on raising money), and free lance writer. Please enjoy her new cat site, for wonderful photos, funny videos, interesting articles, and a unique collection of cat products.

Click here for our past posts, our archives have hundreds of helpful cat information posts for cat lovers.  Please subscribe to our RSS feed if you're a cat person that likes cat related information, cat care advice and news.


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