... and the other side of de-


Owning a declawed cat does require some extra care and caution, but most people who choose declawing claim it is more than compensated for by the absence of shredded furniture.

Incidentally, many vets refuse to perform declawing on the back paws. Cats use their back claws to scratch themselves, and those back claws can help the cat climb a tree if he is being pursued by another animal.

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To declaw, or not to declaw?

people who love their cats but who want to preserve their upholstery, drapes, and the like, declawing seems like the ideal solution to the age-old masalah of clawing.

You take your cat to the vet, and when you bring him home in a couple of days, no more shredded furniture. The cat never understands that he is missing his claws, and owners get a kick out of seeing the pet go through the motions of clawing a chair or drape when in fact no damage is being done.

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The itch to scratch

attention (definitely!), and scratching may just be a way of releasing built-up energy.

Whatever the reason for it, scratching is one of the least attractive cat habits, and the best solution (other than declawing) is to make a scratching post available to the cat. Some cats use them, others never do, but the best way to ensure that the post gets used is to introduce it while a cat is still a kitten.

Also, a kitten that has seen his mother use a scratching post is likely to use one, too. It’s worth noting that a scratching post needs to be in the center of things, not tucked away in a corner, since cats definitely prefer that their “graffiti” be easily seen.

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The ketone “No”

The Hartz Mountain Corporation is a major marketer of pet products, and one of their products has the catchy brand name No. It is essentially an aerosol spray containing chemical compounds known as ketones.

The human nose can barely smell ketones, and we find the smell to be slightly sweet. But to the extremely sensitive snoots of both cats and dogs, ketones are highly offensive. No can be sprayed on furniture, rugs or anything else that an owner wants the pet to avoid.

Incidentally, ketones are present in the breath of people who are in the advanced stages of diabetes, which explains why it was observed long ago that cats seem to avoid people who are seriously sick from diabetes.

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The squirt gun technique

water in a convenient place in your home, and when you catch the cat doing something he shouldn’t be doing, give him a squirt of water.

It seems more effective than physically hitting the cat with your hand, since the cat doesn’t seem to associate the squirt of water with you. He only knows that when he does a certain thing—urinate on the rug, bite your heels, claw the drapes—he gets spritzed with water, which he doesn’t like. It doesn’t work with all cats in every situation, but it is worth a try.

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Blow equals hiss

good way to get him to back off. Why, since a puff of air is harmless? Apparently cats associate blowing with hissing—their own sign to the world that a serious threat is near.

If you are close to a hissing cat, you will experience not only the distinctive sound, but also a jet of air being expelled from the cat. So, when you blow air at your cat, you are (so the cat believes) hissing at him, and he will respond accordingly.

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“Shut up!” just doesn’t work

sound. By telling a meowing cat, “Stop!” or “Shut up!” you are making sure that the “conversation” continues.

The only way to silence him is give him what he wants—food, water, attention or an open door. (On the other hand, if it’s a female cat caterwauling because she is in heat, you won’t be able to give her what she wants.)

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Sampling the vegetation

vegetable food, and yet they will occasionally chew on plants. People watched his cat roam in the yard, which contains several poisonous plants, including dieffenbachia and allamanda. Happily, his cat has sniffed at these but never bitten into them.

In fact, outdoor cats very rarely chew on poisonous plants, but sometimes bored indoor cats do bite into houseplants, and some of the common ones—dieffenbachia and philodendron, for example—are poisonous. While few cats are ever poisoned this way, it might give you peace of mind to ask your vet for a list of poisonous shrubs and houseplants, plus information on emergency treatment.

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The three marking methods

methods, one related to sight, the others related to smell. To provide visual evidence of “This is mine!” cats scratch. (And you thought they were just sharpening their claws.)

To provide olfactory evidence, they rub objects with their muzzles, leaving glandular secretions that humans can’t smell but that are picked up by other cats. And even more noticeable olfactory evidence results from spraying urine—unneutered toms are the worst (and most malodorous) perpetrators.

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Love that wool

Burmese and Siamese cats: the cat will chew on cloth, sometimes creating large holes. They seem to prefer wool, which is why vets refer to “wool chewing” and “wool sucking,” but some cats will chew on other fabrics as well.

No one knows exactly why they do it, though it might be related to a craving for fiber in the diet. It isn’t easily solved, though some people work around it by giving the cat an old wool sock or glove to chew on.

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Shedding, molting, whatever

molting, but owners usually just speak of shedding, and it’s one of the less pleasant aspects of cat ownership. Cats living in the wild molt hair in the spring, leaving them with a shorter (and cooler) coat for the summer.

But most house cats live in an environment that is artificially lit, heated, and cooled, so your cat is most likely to shed to some extent year round. (An analogy: a cat in the wild is like a deciduous tree, dropping old leaves at one time in the fall, but your house pet is like an evergreen, dropping leaves or needles a few at a time no matter the season.)

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Drinking from the toilet

dogs, but cats love to do it, too. Why, especially if the cat has a perfectly good water dish available? No one knows for sure, except that we can assume these very independent creatures like to seek out their own watering places, just as they would in the wild.

A cat will drink not only from your toilet but from a birdbath, a fish bowl, a gutter or anything else with water in it, and cats aren’t fussy about whether the water is fresh or stagnant. The toilet-drinking habit seems disgusting, but remind yourself that your cat would not drink from the toilet if it contained anything besides water.

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Yes, cats do it too

fact they are, though less showy about it than dogs are.

Two cats new to each other will, assuming they don’t fight, at some point get around to sniffing each other around the anal region, probably cautiously circling a few times before the actual sniffing takes place. (We can be thankful that some of these behaviors are not practiced by their human owners.)

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Ah, the taste of urine

tomcats. The flip side of this habit is that cats habitually sniff about to determine if another cat has urinated in the vicinity.

When another cat’s urine has been detected by smell, the cat will then lick up the urine, then move the tip of the tongue against the upper palate. Yes, it does sound disgusting, but the reason he does this is that above the hard palate is the vomeronasal organ, a sense organ that (probably) can tell the cat the sex of the cat who produced the urine. Some scientists consider this organ to be the source of a cat’s sixth sense.

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Snow as prey

prey to play with before “killing.”

Most cats seem to like snow (or at least a few minutes of it), and as long as it isn’t too terribly cold an outdoor cat will go about its normal business with snow on the ground. Some find their usual outdoor “latrines” covered with snow, forcing them to go elsewhere temporarily, but some cats will forge right on through snow, insisting on using the same old spot even if it does have an inch of snow over it.

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The sound of the sack

Almost all cats are fascinated by the sound of a paper bag, and every cat owner has probably witnessed the familiar scene of bringing home something from the store and watching the cat turn the bag into a toy.

The featherweight plastic sacks that have now largely replaced paper bags don’t seem to be quite as much fun for cats, but, whether paper or plastic, bags that make some kind of rustling or crackling noise do hold some fascination. (Aside from the sound, bags are fun places to hide in.) For owners who want to keep their pet supplied with a noisy sack at all times, there is the Krinkle Sack, a machine-washable item that provides the right sound and lasts much longer than the usual throwaway store sack.

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All-natural extermination

business of pest control companies, plus the huge sales of traps and poisons.

Rodents were around before humans were, and though we live in a high-tech world, low-tech rodents are still a serious problem. Homes and businesses too might be wise to “go natural” and fall back on the original pest-control system, cats. In fact, factories and other businesses find that traps and poisons aren’t always the best solutions, since rodents can learn to avoid them.

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Mice aren’t stupid

It has been estimated that a young healthy cat could easily kill a thousand mice in a year. Most homeowners will be happy to know that their own houses are unlikely to have a thousand mice in a year, or in ten years.

So in short, if you do own a cat, you probably won’t have mice around, or not for long. Rodents are not stupid, and they will tend to avoid a house where a cat lives. Unlike the cartoons, where the wily mice always get the better of the cat, in real life rodents either get eaten or move on to a catless home.

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The “leave no traces” phenomenon

Dogs are lovable but klutzy, and a dog doesn’t give a thought to what he might be knocking over with a wagging tail. Not so the cat. Your cat may occasionally knock over a vase or other household item, but such events are rare because cats are fastidious about not disturbing their environments. (This doesn’t apply to prey or potential prey, obviously.)

A cat walking across a desk, for example, plants his feet carefully, so as to leave things much the way he found them. This is unnecessary behavior for house pets, of course, but it’s the instinct of their wild ancestors, always trying to keep themselves hidden from both potential prey and potential aggressors.

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Love your smell

love in the human sense has been endlessly debated. Those of us who truly love cats look at it this way: they probably love as much as they are capable, which is all we can expect of any being.

At any rate, they do seem fond of the smell of those they know well, which explains why a cat can be found sleeping on something that has your smell on it—not only the bed, but a sock, shirt, sweater, etc. Some, in fact, like sleeping on a pile of the owner’s dirty laundry. You might not be aware of your distinctive scent on the object, but your pet certainly is.

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Privacy, please

people observing. Cats are more reserved, and while they don’t object to being watched, they do object to having their litter box placed in a high-traffic area.

One way they show their displeasure with this situation is that they cease to use the box and find their own spot somewhere else in the home. A litter box, to satisfy both the cat and the owner, ought to be in a quiet, low-traffic zone in the home.

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The urine-catnip common bond

catnip has only a faint smell, but obviously cats respond to it in a flamboyant way. Curiously, cats can also get a high by sniffing a concentrated extract of tomcat urine, which humans respond to in quite a different way.

It appears that the chemical compound nepetalactone, which is the pleasure-inducing ingredient in catnip, is similar to something found in tomcat urine. (Here’s a hint: If you want to please your cat—and yourself—stick with catnip and avoid the urine extract.)

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High as a cat

general gives the impression of being in extreme ecstasy. If you’ve ever seen a female cat in heat, you know that a “catnip high” appears very similar to a “heat high.”

However, these two highs aren’t quite the same; plus, male cats respond to catnip exactly as females do. Catnip is available in stores everywhere, and lots of people grow their own. As with drugs and alcohol for humans, catnip can lose its zip if given too often to your cat.

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Allogrooming and autogrooming

Yes, we all know that cats are fanatical groomers (that is, lickers) of themselves, but every cat owner also knows that a cat will also groom his owner, and other cats as well.

Naturally there are technical terms to employ here: autogrooming refers (of course) to the cat’s grooming of himself, while allogrooming refers to licking other cats or humans. The cat spends less time and attention on you than on himself for the obvious reason: he assumes (correctly or not) that you are responsible for keeping yourself clean.

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The “I see you” call

people with whom they are familiar. This is a very short, soft “meow” uttered when, for example, you walk through a room where the cat is sitting.

The acknowledgment call isn’t urgent or pleading, and you won’t hear it if you’ve just walked into the house after being gone for two weeks. Cat owners find it to be a pleasant part of owning a cat, for it seems to be the cat’s way of communicating, “Yes, I see you,” rather than ignoring the person.

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Mad dashes

litter box, perhaps to express a sense of relief and release. Conversely, some do it right after eating.

But often the cat’s mad dash is connected to no other event. Experts in animal behavior suggest that running fits might relieve tension, but tension doesn’t seem to be much of a dilema for many cats. Perhaps the best and most satisfying explanation is that it just feels really good to run and frolic, even if it’s just for a few seconds.

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There’s a name for it: “bunting”

There’s a fabric called “bunting,” and you can “bunt” a baseball. Likewise, your cat will “bunt” you and your furniture as part of a familiar habit: rubbing the side of his head against a person or an object.

This isn’t just affection; the cat is actually leaving behind some glandular secretions from his face as a kind of “I was here” signal to himself and other cats. We can be thankful that this form of scent marking is practiced on us instead of the much more obnoxious spraying of urine.

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