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4 reasons why you should play with your cat right now

Cats have a reputation for being low-maintenance, easy-care pets. They don’t need much space, daily walks or access to outdoors (although many cats would like that) or regular baths. Some even contribute to the household with their hunting prowess, should an unlucky mouse appear indoors.

Because cats are easy-to-keep pets, many people assume cats don’t need as much attention as dogs do. But as any cat owner knows, that’s simply not true. Cats benefit from consistent interactive play and activity as much as dogs and people do.

Why your cat needs exercise — disguised as play — too.

Playing with your cat, or interactive play, is a great way to get your kitty moving every day. Especially if they are an indoor-only pet, your cat will benefit both physically and mentally, from kittenhood all the way through their golden years. While kittens and young adult cats tend to spontaneously play and entertain themselves, older and overweight cats may need you to help find their inner kitten.

According to Petcoach.com, cats benefit from consistent, interactive play in many ways:

  • Exercise — Play encourages your cat to be active, helps maintain a healthy body weight and keeps muscles toned and strong. Activities that let your cat express their natural hunting instincts also help keep their mind alert and active.
  • Stress relief — Stress and anxiety are as harmful to our feline friends as they are to us. Stressed cats are more likely to develop behavioral problems, such as aggression, urine spraying or obsessive-compulsive disorders. One of the best ways to counteract kitty stress? Regular playtime with you (and it just may lower your stress level, too).
  • Break from boredom — Cats are naturally curious and need some type of challenge or entertainment every day. If they aren’t entertained or challenged, cats can become bored, lethargic and depressed. Interactive playtime, along with other toys or entertainment while you’re away from home, can help avoid kitty boredom and mischief.
  • Enhance bonding — Playing with your cat is an excellent way to increase the bond that you share with your cat.

How much playtime does your cat need?

Pam Johnson-Bennett, a certified cat behavior consultant and best-selling author, says cats need the consistency of scheduled interactive playtime. She recommends scheduling playtime once or twice daily, with about 15 minutes per session. Other cat health and behavior experts offer similar recommendations, with the total amount of playtime ranging from 20 to 60 minutes daily. Playtime should be split into multiple 10- to 15-minute segments as cats are naturally active in short bursts.

How much time you spend playing with your cat will depend on several factors, including age, weight and the presence of health issues such as arthritis, heart disease or high blood pressure (hypertension).

Kittens or young cats, who tend to be easily amused, will often take the initiative in playing with you and will want to continue playing for a longer period of time. In contrast, older cats may be a bit tougher to get moving. These feline friends may not have the stamina or interest in extended playtimes, so you’ll want to limit playtime to only a couple of minutes two to three times a day when starting out. Depending on how your cat responds, you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend playing together.

How to play with your cat.

Cats need a variety of toys, including those they can play with on their own and those that you use to play with them. You’ll also want to provide items for your cat to explore, such as cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags, packing paper and toys that encourage them to investigate various holes with their paws.

Cats are natural hunters, so it makes sense that the best way to get your cat moving and playing is to stimulate their predatory instincts. Small, motorized, remote-controlled and battery-powered mice are great for capturing your cat’s attention and then getting them to stalk, pounce and chase. Feather toys, which are often attached to the end of a wand or string, are good bird replicas for your feline friend to stalk and even snatch from the air. Yet another favorite is the laser pointer, which can imitate a bug for your cat to hunt and chase. Just be sure to avoid pointing the light directly into your cat’s eyes.

For those times when you’re not home, you’ll want to have toys that your cat can throw around, such as small mice (with or without catnip), or swat, such as crinkle and rattle balls. Interactive toy puzzles that challenge cats to get to treats through different openings can keep your kitty entertained and mentally stimulated.

Remember to introduce new toys, or at least alternate toys, occasionally to keep your cat from becoming bored. And you also need to let them catch the “prey” from time to time. Both of these practices will keep playtime interesting for your kitty.

A quick word about playtime for cats with health issues.

If you have a tubby tabby, introduce exercise gently and gradually to avoid injury. Overweight and obese cats can damage their joints if they do too much too fast. Plus, these cats may not have enough stamina for even 10 minutes of playtime, so start gradually. And hold off on stair running and jumping until your cat has lost some weight.

If your cat has heart disease or high blood pressure, you’ll want to monitor them closely for labored breathing (e.g., panting, shallow breaths) or rapid tiring. If you feel your cat is overdoing it, slow things down or take a short break.

Source: www.diamondpet.com

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Help your cat to adjust to a new home

Adjusting to a new home can be a tense and frightening experience for a cat. Your patience and understanding during his initial adjustment period can do a lot to help your new cat feel at home.

The ride home

Riding in a car can be traumatic for cats. Your cat or kitten should be confined to a carrier during the ride home as well as during subsequent trips to the veterinarian. Do not let your new cat loose in a moving car or allow children to excite him. Do not leave the cat unattended in the car or stop to visit friends, shop, etc. Keep your cat in his carrier until you are safely inside your home.

The new home

Consider your companion’s past experiences. Your kitten may have been recently separated from his mother and litter mates. The kitten or cat has had to cope with the transition of a shelter and the stress of surgery. The adult cat may have been separated from a familiar home and forced to break a bond with human companions or other animals. Now he must adjust again to totally new surroundings.

Allow your cat several weeks to adapt. During this period, the cat or kitten should be carefully confined indoors. He needs to get used to you as the provider of love, shelter and food. Be sure that all windows and doors are kept closed and that all screens are secure. A scared cat can easily get out of a high open window.

It’s not uncommon for cats to display behavior problems during the first days in a new home, but these usually disappear over time. New cats and kittens often bolt under furniture. Some may spend hours or even days hiding. Sit and talk quietly to the cat. If you must take the cat out of his hiding place, carry him gently to a quiet protected area where he will feel secure. Be sure food, water and litter box are nearby.

The first day

Introduce your cat to his new home gradually, restricting him to one room at first.

Isolate other animals from your new cat during this time. Supervise children, advising them to always be gentle with the cat. Have the litter box ready when you remove the cat from the carrier. Show him the location of the litter box. Offer a bowl of water but do not provide food for an hour. Your cat may be bewildered, fearful or curious. Do not overwhelm him with attention or demands.

Try to spend several hours with your new cat as he becomes accustomed to your home. Your sensitive handling of the initial transition can ease the trauma and set the stage for a happy settling-in.

Sleeping arrangements

Most cats choose several favorite sleeping spots where they can be comfortable, warm, and free from drafts. Providing a bed for your cat may discourage him from sleeping on furniture. Cats especially love bowl shaped beds such as hanging mats which are used on furniture legs, cat cocoons. Also a cozy box or basket lined with soft, washable bedding and placed in a quiet corner makes a suitable cat bed.

Some cats enjoy continually picking new (and sometimes surprising) sleeping spots. If you allow your cat to sleep on furniture, a washable cover can be placed over favorite spots. A cat’s sleeping spot should be respected as his own. Don’t allow children to disturb your cat when he is resting. Cats need solitude and quiet time.

Introduction to other animals

The ability of animals to get along together in the same household depends on their individual personalities. There will always be one who dominates. A new cat will often upset the existing pecking order or the old cat or dog may feel it necessary to establish dominance immediately. Wise handling of the “getting acquainted” period is an important factor in the successful introduction of a new cat. The first week or two may be hectic, frustrating and time consuming. Be patient. The adjustment will take time.

New cat to resident dog

Keep your dog confined until the cat feels secure in his new home. Introduce them indoors with the dog under control on a leash. Do not allow the dog to chase or corner the cat, even out of playfulness or curiosity. Supervise them carefully and don’t tolerate any aggressive behavior from your dog. The cat should have a safe retreat, either up high or in a room inaccessible to the dog.

An adult cat may swat a dog to set limits. Allow your animals to accept one another in their own time and don’t leave them alone together until this is accomplished. Never force interaction. Many cats and dogs become companions and playmates while others simply tolerate each other. Be sure to give your dog lots of extra attention to avoid jealous reactions.

New cat to resident cat

Spayed or neutered cats are generally more accepting of other cats. Adult cats are generally more accepting of kittens than of other adults. Two altered adult cats often become friends in the same home. Read more about introducing your new cat to your resident cat.

New cat to other resident animals

Birds, rodents, and fish should be adequately protected from possible harassment by the new cat. These animals are the natural prey of cats and may be subjected to stress merely by the presence of a cat. Cats and rabbits generally live harmoniously together, with the rabbit often assuming a dominant role. However, watch early interactions closely in case your cat should manifest a prey reaction and never leave them unsupervised together until their relationship is clearly friendly.

Source: www.paws.org