21 January 2009

Cat and Kitten Information

Cat Facts
  • ALL kittens have blue eyes until they are 3 weeks old
  • The reason cat's eyes "glow" is because a membrane (tapetum licidum) coats the eyes and acts as a reflector of light.
  • Eating a steady diet of dog food can cause your cat to go blind. Dog food lacks taurine, an essential nutrient for cats that helps maintain their vision.
  • Cats have excellent hearing and can recognize their owner's footsteps from hundreds of feet away.
  • Cats are so stealthy because they walk on their toes, not their whole foot. This helps them sneak up on their prey.
  • Cats bring you dead mice and other animals as a teaching aid, not a gift. Your cat is trying to teach you how to hunt. Often the first mouse they bring will be dead. Mouse number two will be injured so your cat can show you how to kill it. Mouse three is alive so you can learn how to hunt and kill it.
  • In one year, the average cat will eat 20 times their weight in food.
  • When cats drink, their tongues scoop the liquid up backwards.
  • Cats were first tamed by the ancient Egyptians.
  • Cats were first introduced to North America by the Pilgrims.
  • When naming your cat, remember they respond best to names that end in an "ee" sound.
  • In the United States, cat owners spend, on average, $2.15 billion on cat food and $295 million on cat litter.
  • Cats have 236 bones. Humans have 206.
  • Cats "imprint" shapes in their mouth to help them know what to eat. That's why most cat food has points: triangles, diamonds, squares.

New Cat and Kitten Information

Congratulations! You have decided to welcome a kitten into your home.

The first thing you should do is get a cat carrier so the trip home in the family truckster is safe and comfortable. Once you get your new kitten home, establish a quiet, secure area as "home base" for your new companion. This area should have an appropriate sized litter box, food and water dishes and a comfortable resting place. Make sure any dangerous items are removed and look around for small areas that might look like a great place to run and hide.

With supervision, your kitten can be allowed to explore the new environment. Be aware that in a large area your kitten may not be able to return to the litter box in time to avoid an "accident." There should also be times where the kitten is isolated in the safe harbor room to use the litter box in peace. When you are not at home, your kitten can remain in the home base area for safety and easy access to the litter box.

Basic Kitten Training

Appropriate human-kitten interactions and bonding should be encouraged and supported right from the start. This can and should include rewards from coming when called, attention for calm, quiet behavior and response to the kitten's name. Owners should also be encouraged to reward good litter box usage and keep the litter box clean and in a private area. There are some really neat disguises for litter boxes now, so even if your space is limited there should be a private location for the litter box. Handle your kitten so it gets acclimated to having all parts of the body touched, brushed and held. You can teach the kitten to accept all types of handling by using tasty food treats as rewards. The food treats can also help the kitten learn to accept things from your hands in case you need to give medicine at a later point. Finally, remember to introduce your kitten to new or unusual things in a calm, non threatening manner and always remember to reward for good behavior.

Kitten Discipline
If you use appropriate training and supervision, the need to reprimand your kitten will be minimal. The use of physical reprimands can cause fear, defensive aggression and owner avoidance, all of which do not promote a bonding experience for you and your kitten. When kittens behave inappropriately, loud noises can be used to startle them away from the location. If the behavior is directed at you, "hissing" sounds work pretty well to deter the undesirable behaviors. If your kitten becomes overly agitated, the best response is to take the kitten to the safe harbor and let them spend some quiet time alone.

Common Behavior Problems
Marking and Scratching with Claws
Using the claws to leave a visual mark is a normal and natural feline behavior. Cats will pick a prominent location and prefer material that will easily shred and tear. Cats will often engage in marking/scratching behaviors when waking up from a nap and when they are mildly excited. This is where you become a behavioral expert. Get a scratching post or scratching box and keep it near where the cat naps and plays. This will encourage your kitten to use an appropriate outlet rather than your expensive furniture. The material on your scratching fixture should tear, shred and rip. It should be sturdy so it doesn't fall over and scare or hurt your kitten, and it should be long enough for your adult cat to get in a good stretch. You can entice your kitten to use the post by giving food rewards for scratching the appropriate place and eventually you can add catnip to entice your cat to continue using the post or box as an outlet.

Playful Aggression
Play is an key element in a kitten's behavior, and sometimes it can get out of hand. To prevent playful aggression, you should play with your kitten using appropriate toys. You also need to provide opportunities for your kitten to play on your terms. You can schedule playtimes to be certain your kitten gets plenty of aerobic exercise. Your playtimes should include toys that are light and movable, but not too small that your kitten can accidentally ingest them. For some kittens it helps to rotate toys, boxes and bags every few days to keep things fun and entertaining.

Another kitten favorite entails hiding under a bed or around a corner and then leaping out and attacking people as they walk past. The easiest way to overcome this kitten game is to know where your kitten is hiding. Once you know the ambush locations, you can carry toys to toss out and redirect your kitten's bad behavior to an appropriate toy. You can also place a collar (quick release or elastic are best) with a bell on your kitten. The bell will alert you to where your kitten is lurking and should help circumvent the attacks. This is a good place for noise deterrents too if the kitten doesn't want to move to an appropriate toy.

Finicky Cats and Kittens
Most cats are not finicky eaters, they just have their own standards of feline palatability.

Temperature: Cats prefer foods served at room temperature. Food that is too cold or hot is often ignored and may appear later -- regurgitated on your expensive oriental rugs! Thinking about cats you know, do any of them really like the canned food when it comes out of the refrigerator?

Smell: Cats have an excellent sense of smell which stimulates their appetite. This is why liver and fish, which are quite odoriferous, are widely used ingredients in cat foods.

Moisture: Odor release is directly related to moisture. The more moisture in the food, the more fragrant the food will be. Canned food has an average water content of 72-78%, that is the amount found naturally in the ingredients, plus the moisture needed for processing. Semi-moist foods contain 25-34% water and dry foods a mere 8-10%. That is why most cats prefer canned food.

Fat: Fat content is another measure of palatability. The more fat, the tastier the food. Again, many canned foods rate high because they contain high quantities of meat. Dry foods contain about 8-22% fat, and semi-moist foods have a fat content from 5-10%. The down side to fat is that it can break down and turn rancid.

Freshness: Cats are very particular about freshness, and usually won't eat spoiled food. Both the dry and semi-moist foods are preserved to prevent spoiling resulting from exposure to oxygen in the air. Canned foods do not require preservatives as they are vacuum sealed. If left unopened, canned food keeps almost indefinitely. Opened cans allowed to stand for more than a few hours at room temperature will spoil and should be disposed.

Texture: Cats are particular about texture. Some prefer the crunchy feel of dry food to the chewiness of semi-moist food or the softness of canned foods, and vice versa. Many cats "imprint" a texture or shape to their palate and will only eat similar forms. This is why most dry cat foods come in shapes with pointy edges like "x's" and triangles.

Super Premiums: Super premium foods are the highest in palatability and cats eat less of these foods than their grocery counterparts. When reading a Super Premium or Premium label, make sure they contain a higher percentage of meat than regular cat foods. Remind your cat clients to measure out portions for free-feeding so their pets don't get obese from consuming too many calories.

Cat Whiskers
Most people know that a cat's whiskers are as wide as their body so they can judge whether or not they will fit through a space. Cats can also tell you how they are feeling emotionally through their whisker position.

  • Straight out to the side. This is a content and happy cat.
  • Spread out and angled. This cat is probably angry and ready to bite. Be careful of this cat.
  • Flattened against the face. This is a fear signal and the cat is acting defensively. Be careful here too.

Cat Show Terminology

  • Benching. This is the arrangement of the cat cages in rows so the judges can identify individual cats and call them to the ring.
  • Show curtains. Every cage had a curtain for both privacy and health reasons. You will notice at a cat chow that most of the cages will be decorated beyond the basic curtain. Some cages will even have furniture and multiple levels.
  • Cat hoisting. Lifting the cat in the air while in the ring to get a better idea of the cat's proportion and structure. Judges will stretch a cat to its full length for the same reason.
  • Breed standards. Developed by committees within the various cat associations, these are used as the ideals to judge each cat against.
  • HHP. Household pets are often welcome to enter the show. They are judged on personality, aesthetics and good health. (Check with your local cat club to learn more about entering and showing your cat.)

Fat Cats
It is estimated that up to 40% of all cats are overweight. As we know with people, slimmer and fitter are healthier and the same is true of our companions. Health complications can be severe in cats that are 15% or more overweight. Some factors that contribute to obesity:

  • Food Intake
  • Diet Composition
  • Activity
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Reproductive Status
  • Hormonal Abnormalities
  • Genetics
  • Palatability

Some of the dangers of obesity in cats

  • Circulatory Disease
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Fatty Liver Disease
  • Obese cats are not as healthy as cats of ideal weight and are less resistant to disease and more susceptible to health problems.
Photo: "Beva" who did lots of advertising shoots and represented numerous products. She was a star.

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