CatBlog: Ouch Stop Biting My Hand!

Why Does My Cat Bite My Hand?

If your cat grabs and bites your hands when all you want to do is pet your cat, maybe you aren’t giving your cat what he or she wants…

By Julie Mignery

My cat Mr. Whiskers wants attention but then scratches or bites. Why? –Betsy Lawrence

I think the problem is that while you’ve determined that Mr. Whiskers wants your attention you haven’t yet figured out exactly how to give it to him. I absolutely understand how you could be misinterpreting his demands. When my cat meows at me while I’m busy working and looks at me with her big green eyes I always want to pick her up and make her sit on my lap all day. I’ve learned, however, that after a dozen or so ears-to-tail pets she’d rather relax on the couch, on the fluffy gray rug in the bedroom or in whatever spot is currently catching the most sun rays. Sometimes she gives in and sits on my lap for a few minutes while I type, but most of the time she doesn’t. Next time your cat asks for attention:

•    Give it to him, but scale it back. Use a lighter touch when you pet him or scratch his head just once instead of the multiple times you might want to.
•    Watch his reaction. Does he try to scratch or bite only when you pet a particular part of him? Maybe he likes back scratches but would prefer you leave his tail or ears alone. Stop giving him attention the moment he reacts negatively. Get up and walk away. Maybe make a loud noise to let him know aggression is not allowed.
•    Consider that you might be interpreting his attention demands all wrong. Maybe he’s nudging your hand with his head NOT because he wants you to scratch him but because he’d like you to throw him a catnip toy. Maybe he’s meowing NOT because he wants you to pick him up but because he wants more food.
•    Trim his nails to limit the damage.

CatBlog: Nutrients your cat needs!

Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies or instructions from your vet, your pets should be able to get all the nutrients they need from high-quality food from PetSaver Superstore, which are often formulated with these special standards in mind. If you would like to learn about what your pet’s body needs, and why, here are the six essential classes of nutrients fundamental for healthy living:

  1. Water is the most important nutrient. Essential to life, water accounts for between 60 to 70 percent of an adult pet’s body weight. While food may help meet some of your pet’s water needs (dry food has up to 10 percent moisture, while canned food has up to 78 percent moisture), pets need to have fresh clean water available to them at all times. A deficiency of water may have serious repercussions for pets: a 10-percent decrease in body water can cause serious illness, while a 15-percent loss can result in death.
  2. Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. Proteins can be obtained from a number of sources. Animal-based proteins such as chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish and egg have complete amino acid profiles. (Please note: Do not give your pet raw eggs. Raw egg white contains avidin, an anti-vitamin that interferes with the metabolism of fats, glucose, amino acids and energy.) Protein is also found in vegetables, cereals and soy, but these are considered incomplete proteins.Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and are divided into essential and non-essential amino acids:
    – Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the animal in sufficient quantities and MUST be supplied in the diet. Essential amino acids include arginine, methionine, histidine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, threonine, leucine, tryptophan, lysine, valine and taurine*.
    – Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by your pet and are not needed in the diet.*The essential amino acid taurine is required for companion cats. Unlike dogs, cats cannot synthesize enough taurine to meet their needs. Taurine is required for the prevention of eye and heart disease, as well as reproduction, fetal growth and survival. This essential amino acid is only found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, eggs and fish.
  3. Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your pet with more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates. Fats are essential in the structure of cells and are needed for the production of some hormones. They are required for absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats provide the body insulation and protection for internal organs. Essential fatty acids must be provided in a pet’s diet because they cannot be synthesized by a cat in sufficient amounts. A deficiency of essential fatty acids may result in reduced growth or increased skin problems. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid for cats. Arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, is also essential for cats for the maintenance of the skin and coat, for kidney function and for reproduction.
    Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in healing inflammation. Replacing some omega-6 with omega-3 fatty acids can lessen an inflammatory reaction—whether it is in the skin (due to allergies), the joints (from arthritis), the intestines (from inflammatory bowel disease) or even in the kidneys (from progressive renal failure).Please note: It is impossible to accurately determine the fatty acid ratio of a diet if the owner prepares home-cooked foods.
  4. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body’s tissues, play a vital role in the health of the intestine, and are likely to be important for reproduction. While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs (i.e. the brain). Fibers are kinds of carbohydrates that modify the mix of the bacterial population in the small intestine, which can help manage chronic diarrhea. For cats to obtain the most benefit from fiber, the fiber source must be moderately fermentable. Fiber sources that have low fermentability (e.g. cellulose) result in poor development and less surface area of the intestinal mucosa. Highly fermentable fibers can produce gases and by-products that can lead to flatulence and excess mucus. Moderately fermentable fibers—including beet pulp, which is commonly used in cat foods—are best, as they promote a healthy gut while avoiding the undesirable side effects. Other examples of moderately fermentable fibers include brans (corn, rice and wheat) and wheat middlings. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for cats with high energy requirements, such as those who are young and growing.
  5. Vitamins are catalysts for enzyme reactions. Tiny amounts of vitamins are essential to cats for normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential in the diet.
    -When feeding a complete and balanced diet, it is unnecessary to give a vitamin supplement unless a specific vitamin deficiency is diagnosed by a veterinarian. Due to the practice of over supplementation, hypervitaminosis—poisoning due to excess vitamins—is more common these days than hypovitaminosis, or vitamin deficiency! Excess vitamin A may result in bone and joint pain, brittle bones and dry skin. Excess vitamin D may result in very dense bones, soft tissue calcification and joint calcification.
  6. Minerals are inorganic compounds that are not metabolized and yield no energy. These nutrients cannot be synthesized by animals and must be provided in the diet. In general, minerals are most important as structural constituents of bones and teeth, for maintaining fluid balance and for their involvement in many metabolic reactions.

CatBlog: My Cat Seems “Sooo Bored”

1. Provide opportunities for exploration. Cats love discovering new places and objects. Take advantage of this trait by leaving out things your kitty can explore. Paper shopping bags (with the handles snipped off) and cardboard boxes are simple, everyday things you can use. You might want to also invest in a cat condo or a few well-placed scratching posts for her.

2. Make sure she has access to “cat TV.” You might like watching television for entertainment, but your cat probably prefers seeing the great outdoors. Her can’t-miss programming includes viewing the family of wrens in your cherry tree, or the next-door neighbor who walks her Corgi every day at 3 p.m., so give her unobstructed access to windows in your home — adding perches, where necessary. If possible, hang bird and squirrel feeders outside of the windows your cat frequents most.

Don’t forget indoor viewing: Many cats are fascinated with fish aquariums. Even mechanical aquariums, with fake fish traveling across a screen, can appeal to your kitty. And though she may not enjoy television as much as you, your cat might take to specialty cat videos that feature close-up footage of birds and rodents.

3. Set up opportunities for your cat to “hunt” for food. Rather than letting her graze on her food all day, which the ASPCA notes can lead to your cat overeating allow your cat to work (or hunt) for a portion of it. You can do this by hiding food throughout the house or placing it in food-dispensing toys. Even a timed food dispenser for her meals will help keep your cat on her toes.

4. Allow supervised time outside. The great outdoors can be a dangerous place for your cat. (Learn about outdoor cat myths.) But if she’s allowed outside in a controlled manner, it can be a delightful time for her. One way to do this is to teach your cat how to walk on a leash. Believe it or not, it can be done! Another way to allow her outdoors is to create or purchase an enclosed room, crate or tunnel. Such areas allow cats to experience the sights, sounds and scents of the outside world, without allowing them to roam free. Just make sure your cat’s on heartworm preventative and up to date on her vaccinations before venturing outside with her.

5. Playtime with you. The best kind of play is interactive play. During daily play sessions with you, your cat can enjoy a greater degree of intellectual stimulation and aerobic activity. In particular, consider activities that allow your cat to exercise her hunting instincts. Toys that resemble prey, such as rodents, are popular with cats. You can move these toys toward and away from her so that she has to catch them. Wand toys offer another way for you to tempt your cat into hunting-style play — all while keeping her mind and body active. (Learn how to properly play with your cat.)

There are many other activities and games you can share with your cat. You might even decide to advance both of your skills and teach your cat a few tricks, like high five. You’ll be surprised at how creative both you and your kitty can get! Regardless of what you choose, it’s most important that you give your cat things to do that will keep her happy, healthy and content.

Catblog: The origins of the Cat

The origins of our canine companions are often debated among academics and dog lovers alike. But although there is still much to know about how the first dogs came to be, the introduction of cats into the human world seems better established. Cats became part of our lives 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, after people had already begun to live in permanent communities. Apparently attracted to rodents who came to feed on stored grain, the ancestor of today’s cat, the African wildcat, became a frequent and welcome visitor. The cat, as we know her, played an important part in Egyptian culture and lore. It was also at this time that felines and humans began a curious relationship that has proven to be both good and bad for the cat.

The Cultured Cat

The Egyptians thought so highly of cats that the goddess Bastet was depicted as one. Strict limits were placed on taking cats outside of Egypt, and families actively mourned the deaths of beloved household felines. Their mummies have been found in huge numbers. Egypt was at the crossroads of great trading enterprises, and cats soon found their way both east and west. Short-haired cats arrived in Italy 2,100 years ago and moved across Europe quickly, finally reaching England some 1,900 years ago.

Almost everywhere they went, cats were welcomed for their ability to control rodent populations. In many places, they were also appreciated for their companionship. Their darkest hour probably came during the Middle Ages in Europe. Christian religious leaders linked cats with the practice of witchcraft, and sanctioned their wholesale slaughter. This is a particular irony, as cats likely played an important role in helping to protect Europe from even greater devastation during the Black Plague, by killing the rats that carried infected fleas from home to home. The Renaissance, which brought new light to many areas of human endeavor, benefited cats, too. They began to appear in paintings and literature as objects of affection. Later, settlement of the New World brought cats across the Atlantic, and they followed the colonists as they spread across the continent.

The Cat as Companion

It was the development of the middle class that profoundly changed the role of felines in our society and homes. Cats were no longer relegated to the role of rodent wrangler, and came more and more to fill that of companion. Their appeal is such that over the past ten years, they have supplanted dogs as the most common companion animal in the United States. Yet as a continued reflection of our mixed appreciation of cats, research shows that we are less likely to take cats to the veterinarian, provide proper identification or keep them indoors where they will be safe. A variety of sources suggest that there may be as many cats living homeless, as strays and ferals, as there are in homes. A good reason to consider adopting a pet, check out these great local rescue groups!

Unlike our friend the dog, the cat’s evolution took place largely without the assistance or presence of a human partner. They did not undergo the long-term genetic selection that produced specialized canine breeds for hunting, herding or guarding. As a result, domestic cats have retained many aspects of their original feline behaviors. This may further the mistaken impression that cats can do fine on their own and require limited attention from human caretakers.

Cats have avoided many of the problems that dogs have faced due to selection for exaggerated physical characteristics. There have been just a handful of unusual physical traits fixed as breed characteristics. The shortened muzzle of the Persian family, the ears of the Scottish Fold, and the tailless Manx are among the few examples. It may be important to stay vigilant in this area, however, since the ever-growing popularity of cats may stimulate an expanded desire for “new and different” breeds and varieties, such as the Munchkins and Twisty Cats of recent years.

Much like dogs, cats have adapted to our lives independent of a need we may have for them to work for us. Instead of mice, they now capture our imagination and affection. And while the world may forever remain divided into dedicated dog people and cat lovers, many of us revel in the fun and complexity of having both dogs and cats in our homes. If nothing else, we may want to heed the old Irish proverb that warns, “Beware of people who dislike cats.”

This article was written by Stephen L. Zawistowski, ASPCA Science Advisor.