Cat Care

Tools For Success With Your Feline Friends

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Every cat is different, but most share the ability to learn given the right circumstances. No matter what you’re trying to achieve with your cat, there are some basic tools that you’ll need for success. Don’t worry - these aren’t expensive tools. In fact, we expect that you have them in your tool kit already, whether you know it or not. If you’d like to succeed with training your kitty, these 10 handy tools will give you a great head start.

TOOL #1 - PATIENCE

No cat will make big changes overnight. It takes consistency for them to grow and change their behavior. Give each cat the time she needs to adapt and learn.

TOOL #2 - CALM DETACHMENT

If you’re upset or distracted, your cat will know it. He may not visibly react to it, but he’ll know it. You get the most mileage out of your interactions with cats if you maintain a calm demeanor. Accept what they give you in each training session as the gift that it is and praise every tiny step forward.

TOOL #3 - UNDERSTANDING

Try to look at things through your feline friend’s eyes. Yes, that does mean getting down on the floor to see the world from their point of view. It’s quite a bit different from yours, isn’t it? Now remember that your home is the entire world to your cat. You may be her only friend and playmate in the whole world. It’s no wonder she sometimes seeks your attention at times when it’s least convenient. The better you can empathize with your cat, the better you’ll be at tools 1 and 2.

TOOL #4 - TIME

In order to make progress with your cat, you need to spend time with him. Bonding begins with feedings and lap times but it’s also reinforced by casual encounters and acknowledgements. If you walk into a room and see your cat looking at you, that look is an invitation for interaction. Just a smile or a nice word in passing lets them know that they’re truly a member of the family. The more time you spend petting, talking to, or smiling at your cat, the easier the training sessions will be. And those sessions will also require time. It’s best to set aside a little time each day for training. Even if it’s just five minutes at a time. Consistency wins.

TOOL #5 - KINDNESS

Even when your cat does something that displeases you, isn’t she still just doing what cats do? Most cats do not respond well to punishment. Negative reinforcement will usually train a cat to avoid you. They simply will not associate your actions with their own behavior. They’ll see it as mistreatment and they’ll quickly learn to give you a wide berth. Positive reinforcement will render the best results. Most of the things that we silly humans label as “misbehavior” are simply a cats way of showing what they need. If they are too rambunctious at bedtime, they probably need better scheduling. If they attack everything that moves (including your feet), they probably need more play time. It’s important to remember that cats never act out of malice.

TOOL #6 - REWARDS

Cats are most often motivated by food (especially treats), but they can also be motivated by praise and affection. Utilize their favorite treats when the hard core training is taking place and you’ll go farther, faster. Never give out treats indiscriminately or they’ll lose some of their value in training. The rarity of the special treats will make your feline friend even more motivated to learn. Just don’t be stingy with them when training. Whenever your cat makes an effort to comply with your wishes, reward him!

TOOL #7 - JOURNAL

Keeping some sort of a record of your successes with your cat will help to keep you motivated and remind you of how far you’ve come together. This can be a mental list, a Google Doc, photos, videos, or just a scrap of paper. It’s great to look back on early entries on those days when you feel that your cat isn’t progressing. You’ll quickly see that she’s made great leaps, even though she may have plateaued for the moment. These notes can also be a reminder to switch up your training activities. Boredom is a big enemy to effective training sessions, for both humans and cats.

TOOL #8 - COMMUNICATION

Be consistent in the words and the tone of voice you use in your cat’s training. Cats hear your words as simple sounds without meaning at first. As you repeat them, they gradually learn to associate your human sounds with actions or objects. The more consistently you can reproduce a sound, the easier it will be for your cat to learn it. At the same time, listen carefully to the sounds your cat makes. In the wild, cats rarely vocalize to other adults, but our feline friends have learned that vocalizing get the attention of us humans. They will develop a private vocabulary just for you and if you’re attentive, you’ll soon be able to learn what many of their cat words mean.

TOOL #9 - ATTENTION

Cats ask for things with their eyes more often than they do with vocalizations. Take note of what your cat is looking at, especially when he’s looking directly at you for more than a second or two. A slow eye blink will reassure him as will a quick scratch under the chin. Let him know that you’re understanding his attempts at communication, most of which are silent.

TOOL #10 - LOVE

It may go without saying, but it’s important to remember why you’re doing this. Hopefully, it’s because you love your little feline friend and want to get the most out of your time together. Cats can be fast friends and steadfast companions when cared for and given the love they need. Some people think of cats as aloof creatures who don’t need us at all. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cats certainly do need social interactions, and training can help them to feel accomplishment. Training is especially important for indoor-only cats who often need more challenge in their lives. Challenge them with love and you’ll see them grow and become even closer to you.

If you dust off these tools from your kit and put them to work, we guarantee that you’ll have a much easier time getting your feline friend to cooperate with your wishes. As always, please let us know if we can help!

How Many Rabies Vaccinations Are Enough?

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As I write this, I am wrestling with living in a municipality where an annual rabies vaccination is required for all cats registered in the area. My question is, why is this the law when we know that an initial rabies vaccination followed by a booster when the cat is just a kitten will pretty much insure lifelong immunity? Even if it doesn’t, an antibody test or titer every few years will certainly show that a re-vaccination may be needed.

I briefly answered a question on this subject here, but wanted to take a moment to dig deeper and present the case that many of the laws governing vaccination requirements for pets need to be changed. Let me start by stating unequivocally that I believe that all cats need to be vaccinated. I am not some silly anti-vaxxer who thinks that vaccines are evil. Quite the contrary, I know that vaccines are an important component of the general well-being of our pets. Without rabies vaccines, the disease would be much a more prevalent problem than it actually is in most parts of the world.

Unfortunately, all the lawmakers really know about it is that the vaccine works under current laws. But when we take a look at the science behind the rabies vaccine, we see some good news and some bad news.

The good news is, as stated above, the vaccines work. We do not have major outbreaks of rabid pets in urban areas across the country. In fact, we have very few reported incidents of rabies at all among domesticated animals.

Wildlife has accounted for > 90% of all rabid animals reported in the United States since the 1980s.
— Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association

You can read the full report, which focuses on the 2017 calendar year, HERE. It states that in 2017, “Of the 4,454 cases of animal rabies, 4,055 (91.0%) involved wildlife species.” Of the 399 cases of domesticated animals reported with rabies, 276 were cats and 62 were dogs. With >99% of human deaths from rabies worldwide coming from human contact with rabid dogs, it’s safe to say that we’re well protected from the disease in the US. The major cause of concern here is the transfer of the disease from wildlife to our pets, but that clearly isn’t happening frequently. I would hypothesize that most of the cats and dogs who contracted the disease did so because they were not vaccinated at all.

The bad news is that the success we’ve had in minimizing the impact of rabies has come largely from a policy of over-vaccination of pets in a large hammer approach. While this has truly been effective, we’ve seen some negative consequences among the cat population. Potential side effects include injection site tumors (sarcomas), persistent vomiting, diarrhea, hives, swelling, breathing difficulty, and collapse.

Cats are especially susceptible to injection site sarcomas. These are cancerous tumors that develop at the location of the injection (usually between the shoulder blades) and which can develop weeks, months, or even years after the injection (ref. AVMA). Cat-friendly veterinarians can choose to use vaccines such as Purevax without an adjuvant to help minimize this problem. They may also keep track of injection locations and rotate locations frequently, keeping to the extremities in case a tumor were to develop.

The problem is that current rabies vaccination laws were mostly written during the 1970s. When the laws were written, they were VERY effective at curbing a problem that presented great risk to an exploding population of pets and their caregivers. At that point, most municipalities closed the book on this particular set of laws and have not addressed them since, taking a “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” attitude. Well, many veterinarians and researchers like Dr. Ronald Schultz, disagree and recommend change.

Dr. Schultz is the head of the pathobiological sciences department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine. His specialty is veterinary immunology, and he states that the core vaccines needed by cats are feline panleukopenia, feline calicivirus, feline herpes virus, and rabies” (ref. YouTube interview). He states that every cat should receive these as a kitten. The remaining vaccines are considered non-core or optional.

We do a lot of vaccinating and sometimes don’t do very much immunizing.”
— Dr. Ronald Schultz

Dr. Schultz recommends that a kitten receive core vaccinations at 8, 12, and 16 weeks. Then, two or more weeks later, the kitten should be tested with an antibody titer to make sure that the vaccinations have induced an immune response to panleukopenia in particular. This can weed out non-responders and establish protective immunity. Those pets are now protected for life. There is no reason to continue boosting vaccines because it doesn’t improve the immune response. He only recommends re-vaccinating every three years if a titer isn’t performed.

“If you don’t do that antibody titer two or more weeks after the last…shot, then we’re recommending that you re-vaccinate in a year…and then after that, what we recommend is three years or longer, which means not more often than three years. Now, that’s a very conservative number in that most of those animals will be protected for life, so giving the vaccine every three years may not be necessary…Some clients…will go with titers to actually determine whether or not they need a so-called booster.” He goes on to explain that there are various methods of titering and that the numerical results given “don’t mean anything as long as they’re positive.”

In regards to the rabies vaccine, Dr. Schultz says that in the 1980s, it was suggested that the modified live rabies vaccines used back then be administered annually because no one really knew how long the immunity lasted. When some kittens contracted rabies from the modified live vaccine, there was a shift to the non-infectious, inactivated rabies vaccines. He states, “We never did change the vaccination program. We changed the vaccine, but not the program.”

His department at the University of Wisconsin is currently conducting a study to extend the legal length of time between re-vaccination from a maximum of three years to a maximum of seven. The fact is that in most animals, immunity will last a lifetime, but the current need is for proof that our pets’ immunity lasts much longer than was previously believed. The difficulty with conducting these studies is that their duration has to be at least as long as the term being studied. They settled on a study length of seven years to reap the benefits sooner rather than later. If a study of feline immunity were to cover a cat’s lifetime, it could last 20 years or more and be of little benefit in changing the laws in the short term.

For this reason, it’s imperative that the laws get changed to require antibody testing instead of requiring vaccinations. Municipalities need to accept titer test results in lieu of re-vaccination. The Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has come up with a screening test to determine if patients need vaccine “boosters”. The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association is supporting them in their effort, and we must as well.

The requirements that cats be registered and vaccinated according to current laws means that many cats will never receive their very necessary vaccines when they’re kittens. The law’s very existence even dissuades some people from visiting a veterinarian on a regular basis.

Dr. Schultz said, “The animal that’s not getting vaccinated, whether the requirement is annual or every three years, won’t get vaccinated. It’s just a penalty for the compliant…owner and they’re actually potentially causing harm to their pet because they’re willing to follow the law, whereas the rest of the people who are not vaccinating at all are creating the problem and they’re not going to follow the law whether it’s one year, two years, or three years.”

Please reach out to your lawmakers and let them know your concerns about the current laws governing local vaccination requirements for your pets. It’s important to approach them in a calm and businesslike manner and to address them properly in order to be more persuasive, but you should also be firm with a clear expression of what you’d like to see happen. I’ve prepared a sample letter here that you can download to copy and edit to your liking.

You can find the contact information for your local legislators at USA.gov. I recommend that you print and mail your letter the old fashioned way in order to get more attention. It’s just too easy for lawmakers to ignore emails or dismiss them. Paper letters are difficult to ignore, especially if they start stacking up.

The Rabies Challenge Fund is currently supporting Dr. Schultz and his ongoing immunity study. I encourage you to support them in their stated goal of determining the duration of immunity conveyed by rabies vaccines in order to influence future changes to animal vaccination laws.

-Tom

The Biological Value of Cat Food Ingredients

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Every time we write a post about cat foods, we get a handful of people who react with disdain. “My Mr. Boots was fed nothing but cat chow since the day he was born and he lived to the ripe old age of 27!” While these sorts of outliers do exist, it’s important that we recommend the best course of action for all cat guardians, not just for a select few who’ve encountered cats that are particularly adaptable when it comes to food. We’re looking to help cats to thrive, not just to survive. A human could survive on Captain Crunch alone, but it’s unlikely that would make them happy and healthy. The fact is that all cat foods are not created equal. Most commercial foods contain lots of cost-cutting ingredients in order to maximize profits for the companies making them. How do we know that for sure? Science.

The biological value of each ingredient can be measured and given a number on a scale of 0-100 for a given species. A “food” with a feline biological value rating of 0 is something of absolutely no nutritional value to cats while one with a feline biological value of 100 is a food that a cat’s biology can make 100% use of. The big pet food companies are banking on the fact that you are not aware of this. That’s why we’re sharing the information with you now. Not to chastise you or to tell you that you’ve been feeding your feline friends incorrectly - far from it. We want you to know the facts so that, regardless of your budget, you can still choose the best possible options for your cat.

Let’s start with that most important of feline nutrients, protein, as our example. There are lots of different types of protein molecules, but they all exist only in living things. They are one of the building blocks of life on this planet and may indeed turn out to be the FIRST building block on which all life that we know of was subsequently built.

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids, many of which humans, cats and other animals cannot synthesize. These essential amino acids must be present in the animal’s food in order for them to survive. There are big differences in the amino acids that are present in various proteins. While they are all proteins, their quality is determined by how useful they are to an animal’s biology - their biological value. For cats, chicken eggs represent the highest end of the protein scale scoring a 100. Wheat scores a paltry 50.

Dogs and cats digest animal proteins better than those from plants, but products of low-quality animal origin are poorly digested, including skin, feathers, and connective tissue.
— Linda P. Case, Leighann Daristotle, Michael G. Hayek, Melody Foess Raasch, Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals, 3rd edition 2010

This quote tells us a lot about pet foods. Most of the big pet food manufacturers include poorly digested proteins near the top of their ingredients lists under names like meat by-products and wheat gluten. Neither of these ingredients is of a high feline biological value, yet they occur in many of the commercial cat foods available today. Why? Because they’re cheap.

As recently as the 1980s, cats were going blind and dying from taurine deficiencies in commercial cat foods. The people in charge of designing those diets had been instructed to replace meat with plant products where possible in order to boost profits. The end result was that the diets lacked taurine, a key amino acid that cats cannot synthesize on their own. Of course, no one realized that fact until the research was done to determine the cause of the problems.

Humans are not very knowledgeable about nutrition in general. We can’t even say for sure whether many foods are good for us or bad for us - just take a look at articles about wine or coffee written over the last ten years. The popular “food pyramid”, a dumbing down of human nutrition to help it make sense to everyone, has since been shown to have missed the mark by a significant margin. If we can’t determine what our own diets should be, how will we ever know enough about a species that has been rarely studied? We have to base their diets entirely on the types of foods that we can observe them eating in the wild. Which brings us back to those ingredients lists.

The pet food companies began to include wheat gluten as a primary ingredient in order to boost the overall protein levels of the foods they were making. Wheat gluten levels have crept up slowly and whole meat levels have dropped. Very few consumers have even noticed. Most consumers are mostly persuaded by the the pictures of human food and happy animals on the packages and never really notice what’s in the actual food behind the label.

Which brings us to our suggestion that the foods you feed your feline friends be made primarily of whole meat ingredients. Yes, a raw “prey” diet would be best, but we know that most of our readers live in the real world of deadlines and budgets and it’s not always an easy feat to pull off. Companies like Darwins are doing a great job making it easier to feed raw, but they’re also in the crosshairs of the establishment.

The big pet food companies companies have been so effective at getting their costs down that well-made cat foods can now seem absolutely pricey in comparison. We know that not everyone can afford to feed the best foods, but we encourage you to feed the best that you can afford. Look at the labels and think about what the feline biological values of some of the main ingredients are. If ingredients fall further down the list, it’s okay to let a few things slide by, especially if you’re on a budget, but those top three to five ingredients should always be whole meats with the highest biological value for cats.


My Last Cat Syndrome

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There is no more sincere form of flattery than stealing ideas, so today I’m stealing from a wonderful dog trainer, Michael Baugh who recently posted about My Last Dog Syndrome, or MLDS. I was so touched by his post that I wanted to do more than share it. I wanted to explain how there is also a My Last Cat syndrome that many of us go through after we lose one of our favorite cats.

You see, My Last Cat Syndrome, or MLCS, is a very real malady that affects just about everyone who has lost a favorite feline in the past. We constantly compare My New Cat with My Last Cat. We tend to see our former cat companions as perfect in so many ways. We even see their more irritating qualities as endearing. If only we could extend that graciousness to our current feline friends. They are here now, in our lives, ready to give their all to us and they deserve better.

Cats are especially prone to unique personality quirks that we need to accept before attempting any kind of training. I have one feline friend who needs a hug before each meal and even then may not eat until she’s absolutely sure she’s safe. I have one who behaves like a Looney Tunes character and wolfs down every morsel like a dog. Each of these cats is wonderful in her own way, and the greatest gift I can give each of them is acceptance.

Acceptance is the greatest training tool in our arsenal. When offering training guidelines, it’s important to factor in the things each cat wants to do. This helps to pave the road to success. We need to make sure we aren’t forcing something on them that they neither want nor enjoy. We need to adapt our expectations to the raw material we’re given. If a kitten is prone to biting noses, we can help them to succeed by replacing our nose with a ball that they can bite instead. We can also help them by never placing our nose within reach. Tempting them with our nose only sets them up to fail and we want them to succeed. We can help them by acknowledging who they are, not just what we want them to be.

If you were asked to paint a picture of the sky but were only given red and orange paints, what kind of sky do you think you’d paint? Probably a sunrise or sunset. You would become very frustrated and unhappy if you set your heart on painting a crystal clear blue sky or a rainy sky before the paints were revealed, but that’s what some cat caregivers do when they get a new cat. They immediately get infected with My Last Cat Syndrome.

“My last cat sat on my lap all the time. How do I get my new cat to do that?” is a frequent refrain. My New Cat is a young, fiery sunset full of energy and My Last Cat was a sedate, goth girl. How can they ever be expected to behave in similar ways? They are as different as a palette of red paints and a palette of blues. Both are palettes of paint, to be sure, but they both do well at very different things. The sooner we acknowledge that reds can be wonderful too, the sooner we’ll find our way with My New Cat.

And if I truly want My New Cat to have a personality like that of My Last Cat, my best option is to adopt an adult. Most folks go straight for the kittens because, let’s face it, they’re irresistible, but older cats need homes too, and you can get a better idea of their personalities before you choose who you’d like to adopt. In addition, an adult cat will presumably already be spayed or neutered and be current on all his or her shots. It really can be a win-win.

Dental Care for Cats Is a Necessity

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Dental care for cats is on my mind lately because one of our precious feline friends has a heart condition. What does that have to do with her dental care? Read on.

Mina, the black cat you see in many of our posts, is a 12 year old rescue cat with a pronounced heart murmur. Due to her heart defect, most vets refuse to offer her nonessential treatment (i.e. - treatment for anything that's not life threatening) if the treatment requires she be put under general anesthesia. The trouble with anesthetizing her is that it affects her blood pressure in unpredictable ways and the anesthesia could actually result in her death. Due to this, she's lived for over 12 years with only the routine, at-home dental treatments we could get her to accept from us.

Recently, she began exhibiting some excessive drooling as well as bad breath - classic symptoms of dental issues. She didn't seem to be in pain, but cats are very good at hiding physical discomfort. Her teeth were a mess, with many of her issues hidden under tartar buildup. It was clear that she was going to need extractions in addition to other dental procedures in order to live a happier life.

We consulted a verterinary cardiologist who administered an echo-cardiogram and prescribed a beta blocker to help manage Mina's heart health. Only then did he accept the risk of putting her under for the dental work she so desperately needed.

We had to wait for three weeks to get an appointment with the vet we wanted to do the work, and during that time, the vet researched her options for Mina's oral surgery. She chose to create an anesthetic protocol specifically for cats with heart problems like Mina's.

We had Mina's surgery yesterday and were consulted throughout regarding Mina's ups and downs. Seven of Mina's teeth were extracted or partially extracted and her remaining teeth were cleaned. Thanks to the diligence of Dr. Porter and the team at A Cat Clinic, Mina's surgery was successful and she's now resting at home as well as can be expected.

Dental care for our cats is necessary care. It should not be optional. Regular dental care from a qualified veterinarian will not only help them avoid future pain, it will help you to avoid the high financial cost of treatment as well as the price of watching your feline friend suffer. It can be easy to brush this need off (no pun intended) because cats hide their pain so well, but it's imperative. It isn't a veterinary sales ploy. It's a necessity for a healthy, happy cat.

Cat Food Vs. Cat Feed - What's the Difference?

Most pet "foods" on the market are really pet "feeds". What's the difference? I'm glad you asked!

A quick Google search reveals that food is defined as:

any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

The same site defines feed as:

food for domestic animals.

The truth is that feed and food are two very different things. Both provide basic sustenance, but at very different degrees of effectiveness. To get to the heart of the matter, we have to look at the usage and connotations of each word.

Food is generally thought of as something that people eat. Our concept of food is that it is delicious and nutritious. It brings to mind family meals around a table at Thanksgiving, or at a favorite restaurant. When we think of food, we usually think of the meals that sustain us.

Feed is something that we throw down for animals to keep them alive just long enough for us to get something from them. That something is usually their very bodies. Feed is cheap. It's neither delicious nor nutritious beyond the very base needs of the species that's being fed. It's basically recycled garbage left over from human food production or other industries. I recently saw a plea for citizens to bring in palm fronds downed during a storm so that they could be used as cattle feed. Feed is roadkill. Feed is diseased waste. Feed is whatever can be forced on a starving animal to keep them alive for one more day. And feed is where the pet food industry began.

Let's look at the history of that most famous of pet food brands, Purina. According to Wikipedia:

Ralston Purina traces its roots to 1894, when founder William H. Danforth established the animal feed company Purina Mills. William H. Danforth, partnered with George Robinson and William Andrews, entered the business of feeding farm animals by founding the Robinson-Danforth Commission Company. The name was changed to Ralston Purina in 1902. Its predominant brand for each animal was generally referred to as “Chow”; hence “Purina Horse Chow”, “Purina Dog Chow”, “Purina Cat Chow”, “Purina Rabbit Chow”, “Purina Pig Chow”, and even “Purina Monkey Chow”.

The fundamental difference between human food and animal feed is reinforced throughout the article, and in my opinion, throughout the culture of Purina. Of course, Purina is just one of several big companies that own many, many different brands. Most of these big companies buy up smaller brands to own marketshare, but keep the brands on the shelf in order to create the illusion of choice in the marketplace.

The marketing of all of these substandard feeds has been so successful that many cat caregivers actually believe that they're feeding their cats great food by buying these brands. All it takes is a picture of a happy cat on the package alongside images of human food and most consumers are convinced that their choice is a good one. Unfortunately, despite the pictures of real food on the outside, what's inside those packages is still animal feed because it's more profitable.

Regardless of what you think of the meat and dairy industries, you must acknowledge that meat producers are only interested in getting cattle to live long enough to be slaughtered for processing. That's a very different agenda from us cat lovers who want our feline friends to live happily for as long as they can.

I have no doubt that the pet food industry will continue their profitable practices as long as consumers keep buying. Every time you spend a dollar, you're casting a vote, and when you spend on these substandard feeds, you're voting for this garbage and harming your pet at the same time.

If you'd like to learn how to choose better nutrition for your pet, check out the excellent resources at the following links:

http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats

http://www.naturalcatcareblog.com/2010/12/the-7-best-natural-commercial-cat-foods-so-far/

https://catinfo.org/

http://truthaboutpetfood.com/

Wishing you and your feline friends all the best!

Emergency Evacuation Kit for Cats

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Most of us suffer from "it won't happen to me" syndrome. You hear it on every TV news report. "I never imagined this would happen here" or "He was such a nice cat who kept to himself." Okay, well maybe not that last one, but you get the point. After seeing wildfires jumping freeways in LA, tornadoes ripping their way across Tennessee, and hurricanes blasting Florida beaches, we're here to tell you that you're better off being prepared.

Below is the Kitty Help Desk evacuation kit - everything we think you'll need in the event you need to bug out quickly with your feline friends. We recommend that you get a plastic storage bin and have this kit ready to go at a moment's notice. You'll be glad that you did.

  • Food & Water - It may go without saying, but you need to make sure you pack at least two weeks' worth of food and water along with some stainless steel bowls. Make sure the food doesn't expire by rotating the portions you keep in your kit every few months.

  • Medications - Whatever medications you normally administer to your cats, you need to make sure you pack a two week supply in your kit. Check it frequently to make sure it doesn't expire before you use it.

  • Litter & Litter Box - While there are some small, collapsible travel litter boxes out there, we recommend bringing along a duplicate of your cat's favorite box along with the usual litter. Change will not be welcomed in the midst of the chaos of an evacuation, so anything that reminds a cat of home will be helpful in maintaining their sanity and your own. Also, don't forget a litter scoop, paper towels, and some small trash bags.

  • Carriers - You need one carrier per cat. Soft sided carriers work well and collapse so you can store them easily. Even cardboard carriers will do in a pinch.

  • Harness & Leash - This is optional, but it can be a godsend if you need to let a crying cat out of his or her carrier for a bit just to visit the litter box or blow off steam. Do harness training now and reap the rewards later.

  • Familiar Smells - Cats love their home territory and they generally dislike leaving it. Bring a little bit of home with you when you bug out by including a blanket that has familiar scents. This probably wouldn't get packed in advance, but would be something you'd grab at the last minute.

  • Nail Clippers - No matter what's going on out in the world, those cat nails will continue to grow. Make sure you're prepared to keep them trimmed.

  • Brush - All daily brushing rituals should continue. They will help to calm your cats and they'll remove excess hair that could result in hairballs.

  • Scratching Surface - Cats have to scratch in order to shed their nail sheaths. Make it easier on them (and the furniture wherever you're staying) by providing a solution. Corrugated cardboard scratchers work very well and are portable.

  • Vaccination Records - In the event you need to see a new veterinarian or have to seek refuge in an emergency shelter, you may need to provide vaccination records. Make sure you have paperwork showing your pets' most recent vaccinations and/or titers.

  • Printed Pictures - Sometimes a new situation will frighten a cat and the worst will happen - he or she will escape. Be prepared with a couple of printed pictures of your feline friends that you can show around in the event they get lost.

  • ID - Make sure every cat has a collar with a current phone number. We recommend Safe Cat collars with embroidered names and numbers. You may also want to make sure your cats are microchipped and that your own ID info is up to date.

  • Emergency Contacts - In this day of smart phones, most of us can hardly remember our own phone numbers, let alone someone else's. Be sure to print out phone numbers for your veterinarian and any other folks you might need when your phone battery dies.

These are just some ideas to get you started. You know your feline friends better than anyone. Think about what might comfort them, and you, if you had to leave your home unexpectedly. Make plans now so that when an emergency happens you don't have to cover all your bases at once. There's often a very short lead time for evacuation orders. Be ready!

Feline Personalities

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Whether you're choosing a new cat companion from the local rescue or introducing a new cat to others in your home, it can help to have a basic understanding of feline personality types. While every cat is unique, they do tend to fall into categories based on their valiance level (AKA courage) and their desire for social interaction with humans and other cats.

The ASPCA has a program that they call Feline-ality which categorizes cats into nine personality types. We've never seen a clearer, more accurate, or more helpful version of this. The program was developed to help rescues match cats with new adopters, but it can also help you to understand your cats and their interactions.

There's also a very good web page that explains their nine feline-ality types in a way that anyone can understand: ASPCA FELINEALITY PROGRAM. Be sure to check out the downloadable "poster" at the bottom of the page.

We don't always agree with the things the ASPCA chooses to do, but the Feline-ality program is a real winner!