Cats: Some Cat Secrets and Tips for Understanding Your Cat
All Sorts of Stuff You Never Knew About Cats!!!
Cat Signals and even Cat Love
.I have had a LOT of cats...:
......just to name a few....
I do not know how many times I have been somewhere like WalMart, and I come to the cat aisle, only to see someone looking at a toy or medicine or whatever, with puzzlement in their faces and confusion in their minds. I always ask, almost compulsively, "Can I help you? I know about cats..." and then I find myself giving a mini-lecture about cats right there, in the aisle, to the relief of my audience....When I educate people about cats. they are always amazed to find that cats are as understandable as dogs. You just need to know what to look for, and how subtle a cat's signals are to people.
For example, did you know that cats have scent glands on their faces? Well, they do- on the corners of their mouths, and also just below the front of their ears, where their hair is a bit sparse. You can make a cat blissfully happy by stroking those places, and the cat already has undoubtedly stroked you already with those scent glands, marking you as their very own special human, literally an accepted member of the pride. When they are rubbing against your legs, and you are being annoyed because it seems that the cat is trying to trip you- this is what the cat is saying to you: "I love you. I want to mark you as my human, part of my pride. I also am doing this because when I do, you tend to use your handy extra digits to open those funny metal containers and feed me..." You think that the cat is asking for food...perhaps. But it is also saying in cat language that it loves you very much.
Another signal: when a cat looks at you with his or her eyes half shut, this is a cat's way of signaling, "I love you. I am totally relaxed in your company, and I really am feeling quite comfortable and loving." This is NOT the same as drowsiness, They are deliberately holding their eyes half shut to signal love. When you see this, it is time to praise the cat, snuggle up to it, and give it a stroke or two, reciprocating the message that has been given to you. Because, whether you knew it or not, a message was sent to you, and the cat is waiting for you to answer....
Cool, I think.
CAT LOVE AND HUMAN LOVE: IT CAN BE MUTUAL!
Believe it or not, cats and humans share about 94% of the same genetic coding....it's true! That's why cats get some of the same diseases we do- like Kitty AIDS and Kitty Leukemia...they even use human insulin on cats when they develop diabetes. I know this because I have had a couple of cats with diabetes, and gave them their insulin (Humalog) right straight from my very human pharmacy. So, knowing this, perhaps we can use this knowledge to really get inside our kitties' heads. Although dogs are much more "understandable" than cats because dogs have social relationships like humans, this does not mean we cannot come to understand our cats. The first rule is to stop expecting them to behave like dogs! Because they are NOT AT ALL LIKE DOGS!!!
Cats love. They love passionately and deeply. Their feelings get hurt. And they do have very complex feelings...which people never can quite understand. People tend to miss the little signals that say to us that our kitty loves us. I mentioned above about some of the signals that cats give to say, "I love you!" Let me tell you about my dearest pal, Max, who died suddenly, eyes open, when he was only ten. Though it has been a number of years since his passing, I still miss Max. Why? Because Max, in his mind at least, considered me his mate!
Max was a Maine Coon, with thick, rich brown-and silver, tabby-marked fur and a striking "M" on his forehead. (I had to name him something that started with an "M", and he was "Maximum Cat"- once we quite suddenly figured out that he was not female....(it was kind of hard to tell when he was a kitten...all that fur...)) Max was what I call a "home-grown tomato". These are cats that are born to one of the cats you already own, and decide to keep. For some reason, all the kittens I have raised from birth have turned out to be extraordinary cats. Just like the home-grown tomato beats the store-bought variety, so does the home-grown cat. I do not mean to say that an adopted cat cannot be as extraordinary- not at all. But those first weeks of life are vital to the development of the kitten, and when he or she gets to stay with the mother beyond the normal six or eight week period, the cat seems to profit in many ways.
A little history is in order here. Callie was Max's mother. She was a determined and half-wild, difficult-to-read cat when she came to us. When she had her first heat, she was quite clever (she thought). She unzipped a steel-reinforced screen, and escaped for a night of romance and misadventure. We found her the next morning, shivering, high up in an elm tree, obviously terrified for her life. It did not take much coaxing for me to get her to come down into my arms. Sure enough, 63 days later, she was bulging and ready to deliver. She was a tiny female, and as it turned out, her kittens were huge. They did NOT pop out one, two, three. I sat on the kitchen floor, next to the cabinet where she decided to have her babies, for hours. First came Sophy. Hours later, she delivered Gingie with my help, just in time for my daughter Katie, a kindergartner, to witness the birth. Callie was madly in love with Sophy. She did not understand that she now had two kittens to care for; I had to massage Gingie, get him breathing, and even cut his cord, as Callie would have none of him- at first....It took a bit of ingenuity on my part to figure out what to do to get her to understand that Gingie was her responsibility, too. I finally took Sophy, and rubbed this fragile mite against Gingie, hoping the scent of Sophy would rub off on her brother. It worked! Callie snatched Gingie away, and I sighed a breath of relief. But I knew she wasn't done...the hours ticked away...Where was the rest of her litter??? I finally said a prayer, and went to bed. My rear end ached from sitting on the tile floor all those hours, waiting for the kittens.
In the middle of the night, I was awakened by one of my other cats, Skeeter. This was odd. Skeeter stared fixedly in my face, and this was odd, too. I put it all together, and went to check on Callie. She was out of the cabinet, with a huge kitten half-emerged from her bottom. She was in trouble. I delivered Max at three in the morning, and this time, Callie knew what to do. She snatched Max from my hand, and took care of him herself. Success! Somehow, I knew she was done....The rest, as they say, is history.
My sister, Carolyn, picked out Sophy from the litter, and adopted her. By that point, we were as crazy about the other two kittens as we could be. It felt as though we could feel the future, for they both turned out to be really, really great cats, cats of a lifetime cats. Gingie was everybody's cat, and although he was male, there was something gentle and almost feminine about him, and his female name stuck. But Max, as he grew up, was totally different. He figured out who was the dominant female of the pride (Me) and promptly made it clear that I was his person. He came to me at night, when my husband and I were reading before sleep, and would knead me almost frantically, while staring at John with a nasty glare in his eyes. I figured it out.
Max was jealous of my husband, John, and wanted me all to himself.
Max was in love.
Max was neutered, of course. But it did NOT shut off his testosterone a bit. Max began a campaign. He started to pee, very selectively, on John's stuff. One night, after the kneading ritual, Max was beside himself. He walked right over to John, and peed on John's head....
John was literally pissed....
What was I to do? How did I get this male cat to accept his position in the pride? He was NOT EVER going to be the top Male of the family- that was my husband's position.
(TIME OUT: A NOTE: Are you seeing how much like a human Max was behaving? But he was also acting like a top lion in a pride...he was trying to drive out his competition...domestic cats are very much like lions and tigers in this respect.)
I read about tigers and lions, and finally decided on a course of action. I instructed John to dominate Max...and this proved to be more difficult than it sounds. But it had to be done. I told John to turn Max on his back, and to growl at him. John felt ridiculous, and made comments about my sanity and the fact that he hated cats and Max in particular...I explained the logic of the situation. So John tried and tried to get Max to flip on his back, and Max refused to sublimate himself to John. He scratched and growled and clawed, but finally, Max was made to see that John was dominant in our "pride" and that Max was going to have to accept it, or go.
I slept without Max for a number of nights. His feelings were hurt. His romance was destroyed. He thought I was refusing his love, and that I was telling him that I only would accept John. Cats think very linearly. But humans do not. Humans have room in their hearts for more than one special "friend".
So I had to court Max, and re-invite him into the bedroom, and back into my life.
I used bribery....my secret weapon, saved for only very special times...
I sprinkled it onto an old T-shirt, right where he liked to knead (my bosom, in other words). I plopped him down onto my chest, with John right next to me. I cooed. I petted all his scent glands on his face. I massaged his forepaws, where other scent glands are located. (I will explain this, and why cats claw furniture, in another chapter...) I kept pressure on his rear, and he finally settled down. Now, my clue that all was well again would be if Max would groom himself, even a little. You see, cats groom before sleep because they have to be scent-free if they are to sleep deeply. If a cat is going to sleep, and you pet him while he or she is grooming, you will see that the cat immediately re-washes where you messed him or her all up with your scent...
Max laid down, but would not groom. He just glared at me, and occasionally looked at John, quite unsure what to do. I knew what he was thinking, and the battle that must have been going on in his mind..I have a choice...either I get my "mate" back, and accept that she also loves that other guy, or I live my life without her and all alone....
I let him think. I stroked his face a bit, and talked mushy-mush to him. He finally surrendered...
Max began to purr.
Then, with a deep sigh, he washed his paws. Just his paws. But it was a start. He did not leave. He did not pee on John ever again, and never peed on John's stuff again.
Over the years, Max made it clear that he thought of himself as my cat husband. We developed a close bond. Max knew everything I was going to do by just the tiniest of changes in my behavior. I do not know how he knew-maybe it was my breathing-but when I awoke in the morning, even before I opened my eyes, he would start to purr, even in his sleep.
As I said, we found him dead at the age of ten, as if he died so suddenly that he never even had a chance to close his eyes....
I was devastated, and very mad at God for a while.
Max was only ten years old. His brother, Gingie, lived to fourteen, and died in my arms.
The vet said that Max had had a stroke, a massive hemorrhage. He must have been silently suffering with some sort of slow kidney disease which had been raising his blood pressure very gradually over the years. He never showed any signs of ill-health, and was Maximum Cat to the last. He was the head cat of our pride of cats, and kept everyone in line. Max stopped fights, and when he died, it took years for my remaining cats to re-arrange themselves into a new order. What I needed was a new dominant male. I did not know that God was going to arrange that for me in the future...
I know, i know...you must think I am crazy!!! But I swear to you, this is all true. It is all part of really UNDERSTANDING CATS.
INDOOR CATS, CAT BOXES, AND WHEN CATS "SPRAY": MORE INSIGHTS
I have always kept my cats totally indoors. This is my choice, and I have good reasons for not ever letting them outside. This has been hard at times, because if they decide to "mark" their "territory" ( my house), they spray and that spray really, really smells bad...
Spraying is a prime reason why many cats are doomed to being kicked outside, taken to animal shelters, and even being put to sleep. I have had problems with cat spraying. It has taken me a long time, and many cats, to figure out what to do about spraying.
But first, let me explain why I keep my cats indoors.
The life span of a cat who is kept inside is double that of outdoor cats.That is one reason I keep my cats inside. The reasons are obvious, of course. There are no cars for them to dodge. There are no other cats for them to fight- and when they fight outside, it is ferocious, and sometimes goes to the death. I do not have to worry about my cats bringing home AIDS or leukemia; in my area of South Mississippi, both diseases are epidemic in outdoor cats. These diseases, as in people, are sneaky, and can lie dormant for a while before they attack. By then, if you have other cats, they have all been exposed. Trust me, you do not want to watch your cat die of these illnesses. Rabies is another hazard, but at least everybody knows about that deadly disease.
I do understand why some people let their cats go outside- they do not want the hassle of litter boxes, and they do not want the cat marking indoors. But indoor/outdoor cats will and do spray indoors if they are triggered to do so. Some people have tremendous success with their indoor/outdoor cats; some kitties will stay in their yard, learn not to wander, and ask to come in as soon as they have done whatever they wanted to do outside....But I just do not like worrying about my kitties while they are outside. Living where I do, I also have the added problem of cat haters who use kitties for target practice; think cats are vermin, and belong outside; also, here, where I live, there are a lot of people who hate cats, teach their children to hate cats, and approve of various forms of torture because they simply hate cats. I know about this from experience.
A Little Digression: How we ended up with Spot and Daisy
Right after we moved to Mississippi, we lived in a semi-rural area with many, many stray cats. Two boys were given kittens by a woman with a farm that had zillions of cats.The boys had plans for those kittens: They decided to see what would happen if they stuck the kittens in a black metal mailbox for a couple of hours on a hot summer day. My daughter, Katie, caught them (luckily), but not quite fast enough. Both kittens had burns on their feet, and were seriously dehydrated from being "cooked" in the mailbox. I had to take them to the vet to treat their burns, and of course, by then, Katie had decided that the kittens were "ours". I do not know if Spot and Daisy were brother and sister, cousins, or what. There were so many kittens on that farm that anything was possible.
(Perhaps you saw that recent news story about the woman in England who deliberately put a cat into a dumpster...The uproar was world-wide. What she did not know was a security camera recorded what she had done, and she got caught. They had to put armed guards around her house, just in case somebody decided to put her into a dumpster... Google it if you don't believe me...)
To make a long story short, I just think that I'd rather deal with litter boxes than worry about my cats....
WHAT PREVENTS CATS FROM SPRAYING IN THE HOUSE?
1. Spay or neuter your cats when they are young. Spraying is mostly an adult cat behavior, and unfixed cats will spray if they are triggered to do so.
2. Be aware of the things that will trigger your cat to spray- some examples:
a. changing the location of the litter box
b. changing your brand of cat litter- some litters have such a strong smell that the cat will protest and refuse the new litter.
c. if you have stray cats in your neck of the woods, your cats may smell them, and spray on your doormats as a signal to the outside cats that your home is THEIR territory...this is a difficult problem to overcome!!!
d. you may track a weird smell into your house on your shoes, and the cat may spray to "cover up" the strange smell- which is usually urine from some other animal living outside
3. Your cat may be sick. Males are prone to urinary troubles, and if the odor of their urine smells "off", the cat may start refusing his box, and begin piddling in corners or worse. Before you freak out, be sure you get your cat checked for a urinary tract infection or disease.
4. Too many cats in too small a space....Believe it or not, two cats may actually be too much for one average apartment. You can estimate about 750 square feet per cat for ideal cat space. You may not have known anything about this at all...but when cats feel "squished" in their territory, they may start spraying just so that each cat knows what areas belong to whom. Unfortunately, some kitties are "only" cats, and will spray if there are any other cats in the house at all. So I recommend that if you want two cats, get two kittens at the same time, and neuter or spay them as soon as they are ready. If you already have a cat, and are tempted to get a new kitten, you may need to think about the first cat and whether he or she will "freak out" if you bring another cat into "his or her" territory. Some people have absolutely no problems- others go through all sorts of trials trying to get their cats to stop spraying for territory.
5. Once the cat(s) start to spray, then war has been declared...try to figure the problem out logically. As a BTW, my cats will be tempted beyond endurance if I leave a plastic grocery bag on the floor...those bags are just too wonderfully crackly, and to the cat, those bags, and also many other substances like newspaper, feel just like leaves in a forest...the rest is "pisstory" (Bad Pun, I know...)
6. My Mom had a cat that began to spray after Mom had her declawed when she was an older cat. You just can't do this- declawing a cat that has grown up with claws devastates the cat. My Mom ended up getting rid of the poor cat...so be sure that you do such life-changing things to your cat while it is very little.
7. Remember that spraying is BOTH a territorial behavior and ALSO may be an indicator that SOMETHING HAS GONE WRONG. Pay attention to the problem asap.
8.. Feel free to email me if you know of any other things that triggered your indoor cat to spray- I'll write it up; I may have forgotten something....
HOW TO CLEAN UP CAT SPRAY
You'll need to go to a chain pet store. They sell big bottles of an enzyme that will deodorize your home from the cat spray...the gallon bottle costs a LOT, but it is worth every penny....Follow the directions, and ALSO correct the cause or the cats will just spray again!!! If you have wood flooring, be prepared for the fact that this enzyme is liquid and needs to sit on the spot for a while.
I will write more about cats in a new hub soon, so stay tuned! Bookmark my hub if you want to come back for more info. Feel free to email or ask me questions about your cat(s). If I do not know the answer, I'll find out for you...I'd rather you asked for help than just got rid of your cat out of sheer frustration...
Purrfect blessings to you,