I have both cats and dogs living in my house, and the cats are my biggest challenge when it comes to food and surprisingly equal in behavioral issues to their canine siblings. We do everything we can to ensure everyone is happy and healthy but it has taken years of observation to make happy cats. Living with multiple species together has its own unique challenges, but this month’s article is about keeping our two cats in a peaceful and happy state.
I currently have two cats, a female named Chicken and a Male named Buster. Chicken turned 9 this year, and she is pretty inactive, aloof in behavior and very sweet to a few select people. We adopted her when she was young and she has always lived with another cat or two. She is typically low man on the totem pole, she eats and greets after the other cats are finished, but once our alpha cat passed two summers ago she found herself wanting to be top cat around the house. Then there is Buster (we call him Mr. Pudding), we have no idea how old he is, but it has to be at least 12 years or more. He is the current low man on the totem pole and happy to be here. He has very few food or behavioral challenges, but he required hours of grooming each week, and survived a brutal attack before we got him so he has some serious health issues. Here are the biggest challenges we have found, and our solutions. Hopefully they give you some insight into how you can make your cat happier.
Picky eater: Chicken will not under any circumstances be logical about eating she goes from loving wet food to burying it like a poop. She also prefers the worst type of food, kibble! We have tried over 10 brands of wet food and multiple types of raw food to keep her happy, and although she prefers fish formulas, if we give her the same food two meals in a row she will not eat it. We have also incorporated a freeze dried raw diet that can have water added to give her the variety she requires and the moisture she needs. Although we choose a high quality, low filler grain free cat kibble, we want her to eat as much wet food as possible. Why so much wet food? Simply because she is a bad drinker, and does not take in nearly enough water, and like most cats she chronically dehydrated. Wet food is more biologically appropriate for cats over dry so we know this is the best option when it comes to her nutrition. If we give her a good variety of canned, freeze dried and kibble she stays interested in her food and is willing to eat. Since she is so inactive we don’t mind that she goes without a meal here and there in protest. She is a healthy weight and doesn’t have any medical problems. We also found that to control how much kibble she is eating we can put her dinner in a treat ball, it’s designed to keep her active and “hunt” for her meal. That way she is more active, and still gets the food she prefers.
Aloof/Unfriendly behavior: Chicken is a pill sometimes, and she can be down-right unfriendly. We have found that she is pretty unsure of herself, so we have changed the way our house is designed so she can participate in what we are doing by being close, but not in the “middle” of everything. We have some high perches around our dining room, and have cleared out many of our window ledges in the living room, so she can hang around the perimeter of the action. She is an observer and by giving her many places to perch (up high), she feels included without much contact. That saves hands as well, she has been known to swipe at people who want to pet her and are unfamiliar. We also give her a “high path” in the house so she can move from place to place without having to get down on the ground. She is not that fond of the dogs and if she can avoid them she will. This prevents crossing too close and keeps the dogs from getting swiped. We have also noticed that when they do have ground contact with each other, it is less intense because the cat has the alternative “high path” so she can get away if things get intense. All of this has made her a much friendlier animal, and given her more confidence to be part of what is going on instead of staying away or worse acting out.
Grooming: Our biggest challenge with our male cat Buster is grooming. He is a long haired cat, and had some oral deformities due to his injuries. His mouth doesn’t close properly and he is not able to open his mouth very wide to get to those hard to reach spots for grooming. The solution by his previous owners was to shave him bi-annually but as he is much older now we don’t want the risks of anesthesia. Because he was feral he was not used to being touched and it took us time to get him used to being brush. We started with soft brushes, short grooming sessions and light touch. A few minutes here and a few minutes there got him used to being groomed. Each session got longer and longer and we would introduce new tools when he was in a good mood and happy about the grooming. It took us a full year before we could give him a full body groom and every now and then he just doesn’t have the patience but normally we can get him to a fluffy and beautiful state each and every week. We use a slicker brush to start, a mat remover on the mats and a steel comb to finish him and make him nice and fluffy. We also found a silicone coat conditioner call “The Stuff” that helps get through the current mats, and helps prevent them in the future, it has made a huge difference in his coat. We also know that feeding him a grain free wet food diet has helped with coat quality because he is getting a proper amount of omega fatty acids that keep his coat smooth and shiny.
Our motto at the BARKery has become – Live better with your pets!