An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cat Leaves Home on Purpose: Sinbad's Tale

Dear Greyce,

I am a neutered, two-year-old male Siamese-cross with a problem: I no longer like living at home.

It all started when I was about a year old. When my humans were away at work, I missed them a lot. So I took advantage of my cat door and went exploring. That's when I found the humans and the two cats next door. And I've begun living there for more and more of my time.

Those two cats are older and tolerate me and I'm careful only to eat from their bowls after they have had enough. Their humans are home for about half the day so they provide company, too. And I like to sleep at the end of their bed. There is a cat door so I have access to the outside world.

But let me get back to the situation at my original home.

I am a human-oriented cat with a particular attachment to Herself. I'm okay with the rest of the family (Himself and the children) .The children are pre-teen (plus one baby, more about that later) and are good with me. I used to love to play with them and sleep on their beds.

I live(d) in a three-floor house. My food is in the basement washroom. My cat door is in the basement. And when Themselves confine me (in an effort to keep me at home), there are two litter boxes in the basement far from the feeding area.

I have free access throughout the house except for the children's bedrooms when they are asleep. My favourite napping spots have been on the beds of the various human occupants, as well as in a lovely enclosed basket high on a shelf which I loved to hide in until Bella started to use it. Now I'm no longer interested. ("Bella?" you ask - more about this pest later.)

I am allowed on all furnishings except for the kitchen surfaces. I have a scratching tree I seldom use.

As an indoor-outdoor cat my schedule was more like my wild counterparts': active in the mornings and evenings with plenty of time for naps in between. I'm a skilled hunter of birds and mice. I prefurr to stay inside during the winter, although I live in an area where the climate is mild enough year round.

Indoors I like to play with a mouse on a string. I am fed wet food twice a day and kibble is always available - in both houses. If I do eat at home, I do it late at night now.

Problem #1: An Intruder: Because I used to cry when I was left alone, Themselves got a female kitten (now spayed) called Bella. She is affectionate and we'd play together. But now she really annoys me. She hides and waits to pounce. Sometimes I like this game but it puts me on edge when I'm not expecting it. Themselves put a bell on her collar so I get a warning when she is up to no good. But I really just want to stay away from her.

To make matters worse, she barges into the feeding area to eat first!

Is there anything called being too affectionate? Because that is what Bella is to both me and Themselves. She never gives me space! She goes wherever I go, just like my shadow. She is even worse with Herself and wants to sleep with her under the duvet!  In fact, Bella is all over my humans.

In other words, Greyce, what was supposed to be a companion has turned into an intruder!

Problem #2: Changes to My Territory: To make matters worse,  Themselves had renovations done on the house. The builders made lots of noise for a very long time. They moved the location of my cat door several times. Thank goodness they have now left for good (yippee!). In the last few days I've popped in for some food but I don't stay long.

Problem #3: Human Invasion: Wait for it Greyce . . .  six months ago They had a baby! The good news is that Herself is now at home - with the baby, of course. Luckily the baby is happy and doesn't cry a lot but when it does I am curious and go and see what is wrong. But mostly, I just stay out of its way.

With all this commotion, do you blame me for moving out?

Themselves miss me very much. Herself is home with the baby so there is always the chance for human companionship but I am less interested now. When I occasionally return home, I am very nervous - even with Herself.

They have tried to entice me back in the following ways:
1. They used Feliway to give me a sense of comfort. No deal.

2. They confined me at home (by locking my cat door). I usually go to the bathroom outside. But when confined I have two litter boxes in the basement (well away from my feeding area). Still I poop on the floor.

3. When I'm confined, they give me a bit more space and do not pick me up. A good effort but not enough.

4. They tried to leave Bella outside so I can roam about the house in peace but she sat at the door and cried so much that they gave up on this. Too bad for me. When I'm confined inside the house, I keep my distance from Bella but never fight with her.

5. When I come home they give me a treat. So what.

6. They called me for every meal even if I didn't come home. Now they don't bother.

7. They asked the neighbours to discourage me from living with them, as that is the only place I go.

So Greyce, we have a problem. I'm happy living elsewhere with short, occasional visits to the old homestead. But the humans are not.

How can we make this a win-win situation?


Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Greetings

Dear Readers,

As you may know, I'm still recovering from serious illness. I'm well on my way but am still being monitored. This means that Herself keeps close count of my eating, drinking (and vomiting) habits, as well as what is coming out the other end. Coupled with holiday preparations, Herself isn't getting much beauty sleep and is noticeably grumpy.

And being under the weather has meant a significant slow-down in my ability to post entries and reply to inquiries. I hope to rectify this by the new year.

In the meantime, the Modern Cat  website has some stunning cat shelter ideas from architects in New York. And while I'm not sure how street-safe these are - or how practical - they ARE very inspiring. I suggest you not only click on the link, but also click on the Architects For Animals link mentioned in the article - because it provides a slideshow of the various shelter ideas. Besides maybe a new garbage can home is just what you need (take care to put a protective wide tape around the opening) - have a look at the photo on that site!

Here's to a warm and protected home for all felines this holiday season and throughout the year.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cat Stalks Humans: Tux's Trials

Dear Greyce,

I am a handsome black and white neutered male cat - a teenager really at 1.75 years old. I am curious, active and aloof, meaning that I'm not very cuddly though I prefurr to be around my purrsons whenever they are home and I do follow them from room to room. I'm left alone during the day and mostly sleep then.

The problem isn't with me, it's with Them and most particularly with Herself. For example, she was watching TV and I came up behind her, put my paws on either side of her head and bit it. No blood just a nip. But I was confined to my kennel!

After a time, I was let out and she picked me up (!) and so I bit her arm several times. How was I to know she was about to feed me dinner?

There has been a least one other incident. And now, since I'm stalking Her even more frequently, she says she is creeped out when she sits on the couch and I come around and stare her down very intently. According to her, I don't give any warning before I do the pounce-and-bite routine.

Now I've always been a bit on the nippy side but the last few months this has escalated. Sometimes I just sit very alert, not moving, but crouched low with my back arched. What gives with that?

And just in case you need to know, I live in a one-bedroom condo that has a kitchen, living room and dining room (all open into each other), an office, and a bedroom and bathroom. I'm not allowed in the bedroom when Themselves are sleeping. Ditto the bathroom. Other than that I have free rein.

I have a cat tree the overlooks the living room and a fair number of toys: a stuffed hippo, wiggly worm, small balls, twist ties/ribbons, mouse on a string. Themselves also use a laser pointer and finger gloves when they play with me - about 15 minutes a day. Though they do admit to lapses.

What's a guy to do Greyce?


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Entries WILL Come!

Dear Readers,

I have been away from my desk for quite some time because I have been ill. You don't need the details but it was very serious. Themselves are rejoicing because they are finally getting a full night's sleep!

I am almost fully recovered (still one medication remaining - but that should be over SOON). And then I will put dainty paws to keyboard and offer my thoughts once again. Definitely before the holiday season, for I have many gift suggestions pending. In preparation, I suggest you get out your charge cards.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cat Stops Pooping in Box

Dear Greyce,

I am 18 months old and live in a home that already has a cat (female) my age and a dog. I am happy and playful and love sitting on purrsons. Lately I've become skittish - for no apparent reason that anyone can discern. However I have stopped using the litter box as a place in which to poop.
Can you help me?

The Mystery Pooper

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Aggression Between Cats: Update on Ziggy & Pearl

Dear Greyce,

We have tried two of your suggestions already.

First, Herself now intervenes within the first 30 seconds of my staring and Pearl and hey . . . I think I'm getting it now. I understand that she is NOT pleased when I do that. I really want to keep doing it, but I'm trying to behave. So I only stared at Pearl twice last night which is a record. Because in the last couple of months I average five or more times a night.

Second, Herself is spending longer periods of individual time with Pearl, as you also suggested. I'm not happy about that, but Pearl certainly is. And she seems a little less stressed.

So it seems like we've started the road back to a more peaceable kingdom - like we used to have.

How We Used To Be
 Now I have a question for you. You suggested a cat apartment (wire dog crate) for Pearl. How about me?

Themselves were wondering if we could have one each. That way, we could be in the same general vicinity at times, without Pearl stressing out. It would also make it easier to switch us between the bedroom and living room, without having to catch us first.

And also, do we have to stay in the cages all day and all night?

Let me know your thoughts,


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Aggression Between Cats Who Used to Get Along: Ziggy & Pearl

Dear Greyce,

I am writing on behalf of my sister, Pearl, and myself, both age 7 and a half.

Pearl is a spayed female who has fluffy grey, mottled fur. She is intelligent, very curious and also shy - or shall I say, purrhaps lacks confidence? For example, when we first arrived here (almost 7 years ago) it took 6 months before she let anyone pet her. Now she enjoys being petted but when it gets to be too much, will walk away. Pearl is a cat's cat; that is, she prefurrs the company of a cat to the company of a human.I was her number one being in her life.

I am a spayed male with short fur in a stunning black and grey, tiger-striped pattern. I'm intelligent and can listen to commands - though I do play dumb when I don't want to cooperate. I'm a people-oriented cat. I adore my folks and like to have them around me; I also love to cuddle with them.

When we were adopted (at 6 months of age), Pearl and I were inseparable. As we felt more secure in our home, we'd spend some time together and some apart. Pearl has always wanted to spend more time with me than I do with her.

We both enjoy play. When alone, we both like small mice and balls. With the folks, we love Da Bird (a fishing-pole type toy with feathers at the end) or reasonable facsimile thereof. Pearl especially likes cat-to-cat play, but I prefur to play with the folks. Sometimes I'd have to give her a look to get her to back off, because she was getting annoying. But all in all, we got along quite well.

And then . . . I went to the dreaded vet . . . alone! And since then, life as we knew it has never been the same.

When I came home I immediately ran to the bedroom for safety and hid. When I encountered Pearl later that afternoon, we had a fight. Our folks broke it up.

We were at it again in the early hours of the morning. They tried wiping us with each other's scents to give us a sense of belonging but it didn't work. Our vet had us try Valium and later Paxil. Neither was effective.

So here is the problem: I stare Pearl down, stalk her and run up to her. Need I say that she is fearful? She'll hiss if I get too close, linger too long nearby, or try to invade her safe places. Playing together is a thing of the past.

Our folks do a pretty good job of intervening before things get out of paw. When Herself sees any signs of aggression, she will say, "No," or "Stop" and I usually do. Himself distracts me with a toy if he catches me engaging in a staring match.

Some days I behave well and others, not so much. It's the staring that Themselves have difficulty with because they don't always catch it when it starts to happen. 

This has been going on for two months and the situation is NOT improving! To keep Pearl safe, we have been separated while the folks go to work.

I know you like details Greyce, so before I meow pitifully for help, I'll fill you in on our home and routine.

We live in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo. We have a cat tree and many scratching posts. And we both enjoy looking out of windows. One bedroom is off-limits but other than that, we have the run of the place. The other bedroom is prime space because that is where we both liked to sleep with our folks every night - until the dreaded incident. And it remains my prime space.

I want access to the bedroom 24/7! It's where I spend most of my time and I'd prefur my folks with me there, thank you very much. I even try to herd them in there when I can. If I'm shut out of that room, I just take it out on Pearl when I get the chance. That's why the bedroom is MINE!

Since I love suitcases, there is now one for me in the living room on which I like to rest.

Now, Pearl likes to be under the skirted chairs in the dining room - under which she can hide; and she likes to be on or under the sofa table.

The most important aspects of our daily routine are as follows:

Our folks work outside the home.

After Herself leaves for the day, we are on our own for about 9 to 10 hours. I'm confined to the bedroom (yippee!) and Pearl has the rest of the place.

When Herself returns, we get fed and them I'm allowed to leave the bedroom. We have play time.

And when it is bedtime, we are separated again.

I should mention that there is more than one problem here. Apart from the obvious, our folks have cancelled several trips away for fear of what might happen in their absence.

They do have relatives who can check in on us, but we fear strangers and will hide from them. Our folks are okay. The vet is tolerated. But that's about all.

The folks are scared that I'll want to get out of the bedroom when someone comes to check on me. And it would be next to impossible to get me back in. And then what would happen to Pearl?

Meanwhile, some of Themselves' friends have suggested getting rid of one of us felines. Themselves are insulted. More importantly, they are very worried.

We need help, Greyce.

Meowing pitifully,


Monday, September 26, 2011

Interactive Play - Suggestions for Jade & Spook

Dear Jade,

Following on my previous advice, I want to tell you about the marvels of interactive play. Interactive play requires human interaction. It is an excellent way to disperse excess energy, give you physical challenge AND build a stronger bond with the humans in your world.

Interactive means that you play with your purrson. Your purrson controls an interactive toy (more about that later) but in a manner that simulates prey behaviour. This gets you interested. And the hunt is on. So now to the details.

Toys of Choice

String Games - These are especially good for the shy cat who may be intimidated by play or the elderly or arthritic cat who can't leap or run much.

The worm - that is, any long, thin thing that can be pulled along the ground. I have several models. Check out this thick, long shoelace (the kind that is for hiking boots) with the aiglets cut off and the ends made into knots. Mine is about 60" long (long enough for Herself to keep the end far enough away from me that I won't pounce on her by mistake).

The fishing pole - basically a long string attached to a pole (to keep the human our of harm's way while you play. Herself made mine using a 30" strand of fleece (from the remnant section of a fabric store) attached to a 30" piece of fake bamboo (sold in the garden section of our local hardware store) with some electrical tape (sometimes, she has used duct tape instead).
The fat fleece which is a fatter, store-bought version of my home-made fishing pole toy and has detachable feathers at the end, to add interest. Pole is kitten-sized (17") but the length of the fleece (40" + 7" feathers) makes up for it. While it is similar to many such toys, it's strong point is that it is well-made and will not easily come apart (except for the feather bit - but even without the feathers I find it quite entertaining). I bought this from the local pet supply store using my catnip allowance.

To use these toys, have your purrson drag them along the floor. You can watch and then pounce. But it gets more interesting if your purrson drags it behind her as she walks through your home. I like when it goes around the corner into another room, or behind a piece of furniture. And it is very entertaining when it starts to crawl up on the sofa and over the cushions.

Bug Games - These are for those of us who prefurr to hunt small bugs, rather than long thin things.

Cat Dancer While there is nothing like a fresh grasshopper to give you some get up and go, Herself prefurrs to use the Cat Dancer (available from pet supply stores for around $4.00 Canadian). It is very simple: a coiled wire with some cardboard bits on the end. In fact it looks so simple that many people are not impressed by it in the package. But in action, it is another matter.

Herself holds the wire and it goes erratically in the air. Sometimes she gets the bug to go into an open paper bag (or my brand new cat tent) so I can hunt for it there. Sometimes the bug goes between layers of tissue paper on the floor and rustles about to attract my interest.

Recently I acquired a dragonfly by Nekochan (click on this for a video demonstration) and it has become a favourite, especially in winter.

Bird Games - Ah, the flash of feathers! While I had tried several feather toys on poles, my very favourite is called Da Bird.
It has been rated as one of the best cat toys ever, for many years. Herself couldn't understand what all the fuss is about because it looks so much like every other fishing pole toy. But the proof is in the action! It is a long pole ( 3' to keep the human from getting hurt when I pounce), a three-foot piece of string on which the toy dangles, and a clump of feathers that resemble the size and profile of the real thing; those feathers are attached in such a way that they whir through the air, just like a real bird!

Just watch the cat below for a real demonstration.

Herself makes it go through the room in the air and I watch it intently. When she lets it land that really gets me interested. From time to time, she lets the feathers rest on the sofa or the ground. She is patient enough to let them rest for some time, and then I get into my special crouch position and wait for the right moment before I rush up to it and pounce. Once I've released my prey, she sends it up in the air for another round. I am grateful that the manufacturers of this particular toy sell replacement feathers, because I'm sure mine will get a good workout.

Laser Pointer - I used to love a good workout with a laser pointer which is every humans' dream because it requires so little work on their part. They just sit, turn it on and point. The only thing they have to make sure is NOT TO POINT IT IN YOUR EYES because the light is intense and could cause blindness.

Herself went all out and bought one from a stationery and office supply store (about $20!) because she wanted one that would take inexpensive replacement batteries. But I know you can also get them from a dollar store (sometimes for $1.00 and sometimes for $2.00 Canadian); just know that when the batteries wear out, you'll need to get a new pointer because the replacement batteries will cost more than the toy itself.

I have particularly enjoyed watching and then chasing the red point up and down the stairs. And I have friends who literally can climb the walls after it!

But beware, many of us get bored with this - because we can NEVER catch it! And that's how I feel about it now.

The Wand - I love my three-foot feather wand. In fact I loved it to death, so Herself had to go out and purchase several more. (Here I am with the new one on the left and the old one on the right.) A wand costs about $5.00.

Every night before my folks get into bed, we have a special game. I hop on the bed and Herself messes up the duvet and spreads the pillows around to make an interesting hunting ground. Then the wand comes out.

It goes in the air, hits the bed and flops about. It hides under the folds of the duvet. No matter where it is, I watch carefully and pounce. From time to time the feathers fly off. After a while, either I start to lose interest or the toy starts to move more and more slowly, like I've actually maimed it.

And after a final pounce, it's dead. And then Herself puts it away for the night. I'm then ready for a snack.

The Rules of the Game

People make the mistake of thinking that games are purely for entertainment. They don't realize that they are a necessary part of our daily predatory cycle without which we can become quite anxious and uptight. We are hunters; so we need to stalk, chase, pounce and kill several times a day. That is why I recommend two, 15-minute interactive play sessions. Your purrson controls the toy in a manner that simulates prey behaviour. This gets you interested. And the hunt is on.

Here are the details your purrson needs to know, in order to follow the rules of the game.

Prey never come out when you are in the open. You need to be at least somewhat hidden from them (or they from you). Unfortunately many people think you should play in the middle of the room where there is no cover. Now how many hunters go out in the open rather than hiding under a bush or behind a tree?

No I'm not suggesting that your purrson bring in some dirt and a ten-foot tree to add some realism. However a cardboard box with cutouts can serve as an excellent blind (think duck hunter here). A cushion on the floor can be a barrier (or something behind which prey can hide). A tablecloth or low bench can serve to partially hide you while in hunting pose.

Prey never just walk right up to you. They may wander across your line of vision. They will go away from you. But no prey invites himself to be your dinner.

A common mistake most people make with interactive play is to just dangle the toy in front of you, so you stand on your haunches and box. This is a defensive move and does NOT simulate hunting. It entertains the human but has zippo value to you.

No prey would behave so stupidly; so no wonder you are NOT amused.

Prey follow a path of some sort, either on the ground (in and around things too) or in the air. And from time to time they stop and rest. For example while birds fly a lot, they also walk on the ground (looking for worms and bugs) and this is the more likely time when they are caught by hunting cats. And after prey has been caught, it will try to get away. Over time of course, it will get more and more tired and become more and more still. Still prey is dead prey - of not much interest.

Some people make another common mistake: To make the toy go off in a dozen different directions at top speed so that you exhaust yourself chasing it and NEVER catch it! Again, this may be human entertainment but only serves to frustrate you. So you need to insist that they mimic proper prey behaviour.

Prey eventually get caught and die. The game should not continue at a high speed on and on or your 15 minutes will be up and you'll be wound up tighter than a drum!

To help you wind down, the prey needs to get exhausted during the last few minutes of the game, getting slower and slower, and finally be dispatched for the very last time.

Then follow up with a snack. After all, in the wild you would eat your prey after it has been killed.

Some things humans should NEVER do.

Shine a laser pointer in your eyes (it can blind you).

Use their hands (even gloved! even those gloves with toys dangling from the fingers!) instead of a toy. This is dangerous to them because your will pounce, swat, claw and bite them by accident. And it is dangerous for you, because they will think you are vicious when you decide to bite their hand when they put it under the sheets at night, thinking it's another game.

Leave these toys out when the human has gone. Cats have been known to strangle themselves or bite and swallow the strings, when unsupervised. Such toys should be kept in a drawer or closet when not in use. Besides they are more interesting if saved for special occasions.

Do let me know how this works for Spook and yourself. And need I say, given Spook's dominance you would be better off having individual play sessions. Don't forget to close the door so he doesn't barge in and take over!

Let the games begin!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

When One Cat Bullies Another: Jade and Spook

Dear Greyce,

I am an 8-year old spayed female who was adopted into a loving home about 6 months ago, along with my 5-year old, declawed, neutered room mate Spook.

It has taken a while for me to adjust to my new surroundings because I am wary of strangers. I had been traumatized as a kitten by a so-called friend of my previous family who would flick a lighter in my face; and so I became very vicious with strangers; and so I was declawed at age 3.

In short: Strangers beware! I will growl if strange people approach. I will not permit patting unless I initiate it. And I growl and bat with my paws if startled.

The good news is that Spook and I have adjusted well to our new home. I have become more relaxed and let my folks stroke me all the way down my back to my tail and along my sides. I like to sit on laps, too, although I do get restless and will jump off to check out noises I hear from outside.

The not-so-hot news is that Spook has become a bully.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When Constipation Looks Like a Cat Behaviour Problem: A Senior Cat in Trouble

My friend Ben is a very handsome, black-furred senior - all of 14 years old. He's famous for being  the Delta Society's first certified therapy cat in Canada. Cats-in-the-know enjoyed the chapter about him called "Take One Cat, as Needed, for Pain" in the book More Great Cat Stories: Incredible Tales About Exceptional Cats. Now retired, he has settled down to a life a relative ease.

Purrhaps this has contributed to his most recent problem: constipation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Changes in the Eating Behaviour of Senior Cats

 The first installment of a series I plan to write about the behavioural needs of senior cats.

September is back-to-school time for many humans and Herself is no exception. She has now enrolled for cognitive enrichment course called Brain Fitness. I favour cognitive enrichment for humans because they need all the help they can get. Compared to we felines - the superior species - they have a way to go.

"Now what has this to do with cats?" you might ask.

Simply this: Like Herself, I, too, am getting on in years.  I am now in the 11+ category that marks me as senior. Indeed Herself and I are about the same age in human years, except I have a trimmer figure and am more agile. In these ways I have become her role model, though I doubt she'll resort to eating cat food and balancing on railings anytime soon.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cat Food Matters: Eating Too Fast

 Dear Readers,

A few of you have written about an eating problem that is sometimes behavioural and sometimes not. The query usual goes something like this: While my folks were away, my hired slave noticed that I would, from time to time, wolf down my food. Some 10 minutes later, I would throw it back up. Somehow she didn't appreciate undigested matter on the counter top or the floor. What's with that?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A New Look

I decided to renovate my blog and give it a new look to celebrate having mastered the feature whereby I can insert videos into the entries. Okay, truth be told, I chose this new look because I think the lilac background sets off my pawtrait rather nicely.

I've also added a feature called "Follow By E-mail" so you can have this blog delivered to your e-mail instead of having to search for it.

Scroll to the bottom for some photos of colleagues and cats mentioned in entries. I hope to change these from time to time, so you can acquaint yourself with the stunning looks of my vast array of clients.

And I will expand my behavioural coverage to include said videos as well as notices about books or products I deem worthy. Note that I do NOT get compensated in any way for anything I mention; I prefurr my independence. But it something is worthwhile, I will let you know.

Friday, August 26, 2011

New Entries to Come

I have had a LONG vacation under the juniper bushes in the backyard. There have been voles to hunt, birds to chase, and dragonflies . . . lots of dragonflies. However I have been very remiss about blog entries. And I vow to do better. Stay tuned for new entries in the coming week.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Progress for Cat Who Pees Along Periphery of Rooms

Dear Greyce,

I am doing much better now, having followed your advice. Here is what you suggested and the progress I have made:

  • Keeping separated from Misty (who hates me) and very much later attempting a very much slower re-introduction. Misty and I now time-share space so we don't get into one another's whiskers. This has made a BIG difference. I am much more relaxed.

  • Educating my folks about cat communication. Not much to report here, yet.

  • Getting more play and stimulation. I'm getting more play. I really, really like one fishing pole toy in particular.

  • Using Feliway on my spray spots. I'm using it on all pee spots. And I'm peeing outside the box less. I used to pee about 2 or 3 times a day. Now I'm down to about once every 2 or 3 days.

  • Doing something about my relationship with Indy - but later. We'll deal with that when you give me advice - later.

Where I still like to pee
Now, I need more advice. I still have one favourite area in which I like to pee, as shown on the accompanying layout. Can you help me stop peeing there?


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cat Boredom Busters: Book on Toys & Environmental Enrichment

Wake Up Fellow Felines!

Time to get up from your nap and drop the following book on your purrsons lap: Nikki Moustaki's, Boredom Busters for Cats: 40 Whisker-Twitching Games and Adventures. (Bowtie Press, 2010).

You can probably get it from your local library or bookstore (or even over the Net).

It is a small book, filled with easy-to-read sections of great tips, and lots of photos of our magnificent species.

If this doesn't convince your purrson to get you a decent variety of toys and some valued cat furnishings, nothing will!

I give it 4 paws up!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cat Pees along Periphery of Rooms

Dear Greyce,

I am a 2 year old, spayed, declawed female with a tabby coat and yellow eyes. For the past year I've taken to peeing in fairly large amounts around the periphery of rooms in the house (except for the kitchen and the laundry room). And now it is on the increase. I've had my urine tested and it is fine.

When I urinate outside the box, Themselves take me back to where I've urinated and then to the basement for 15 or 20 minutes. They also clean the spots and then spray them. And they move my food bowl to where I have urinated. (Ha, ha! I just eat the food!)

Usually they don't see me in action. But just this morning, I did it right in front of Herself. And now I'm adding spraying to my repertoire.

I live in a multi-pet household and I think there is a problem here. My colleagues include two dogs: a) Sam (a 3 year old Cocker Spaniel spayed female) whom I adore and who adores everyone. I wash her, we play fight and we sometimes snuggle and sleep together; b) and Indy, a  5 year old, neutered male Chihuahua who is very affectionate with and protective of Herself and who likes to play with Sam. Indy is afraid of me and hides from me in his little house (to the delight of the adult children in the household).

There are two other cats as well: a) Ozzie is a 19 year old, neutered black male who is very affectionate and a little playful; but he moves slowly and is deaf; b) Misty is an 11-year old spayed female with soft, gray colours. She is vocal and affectionate with her favourites. And her very favourite purrson is Himself. She likes to play and loves being petted. She likes everyone but me!

In addition there are four humans: Themselves (male and female) and their adult children (male and female - one of whom has allergies so has minimal contact with us, and the other of whom we hardly see at all). My main purrson is Herself.

I think part (or all) of the problem is another cat in the house, Misty.

My problem started about a year ago when two things happened. First, Themselves' daughter had a bad allergic reaction and pet hair was suspected. So she would not pet or play with any of us. 

Misty really took this to heart because she had been closely bonded to her. Can you imagine what it must be like to go from being the only-beloved of a purrson and then suddenly being banned from any further contact with her? 

Second Misty got very sick and required extensive hospitalization. She had surgery but the vet could not find anything physically wrong with her.

When she returned home from the vet hospital, Ozzie and I growled and tried to attack her. So Misty was given her own room because the vet advised that her stress be reduced. She is now super-attached to Himself.

Now Ozzie and I have the run of the house during the day, while Misty stays in her room. Then at night, we retire to the basement and Misty takes over.

In the past three months Misty has been allowed out more often. Ozzie just ignores her but I hunt her and fight with her. At first she would fight back but now she just howls and will either run away or go back up to her room. I will sneak up on Misty when she is asleep and attack her. If I'm caught, Themselves put me in the basement for 15 or 20 minutes.

In the last two months we have all shared the space for short, supervised visits. These visits are now increasing in length and Themselves are supervising them less - unless we start to fight.

I know you want background information Greyce, so here goes:

I was a farm cat who was adopted at the age of 5 or 6 weeks. I was confined to the master bedroom for a week and then met Sam (the cocker spaniel) who is absolutely delightful. We are great pals. Then I met the other two cats, Ozzie and Misty. Ozzie was fine from the start. Misty refused to have anything to do with me!

Then I met the other dog, Indy, who was scared of me and kept his distance. He still does - for good reason, because I can be aggressive.

About 3 to 4 weeks later I was let out of the room with one pet at a time, until we all became accustomed to one another. 

As for me: I prefurr to be largely on my own (except for Sam) for I am not a lap cat. The only human contact I truly desire involves playing games with string or toy mice. I'm strictly indoors but enjoy looking out the windows and meowing at the birds. When I hear or see something that is strange to me I run and hide in the basement.

My daily routine is as follows: 6 a.m. breakfast. While Themselves get ready to leave, I chase after treats in the bathroom. This is followed by a nap and/or playing with my toys (with human assistance). 

I have 2 purrsonal toys -  a very favourite piece of string and a toy mouse, along with a box of shared ones. I prefurr to chase toys and throw them up in the air. I also like to hunt for toys under a blanket or towel. I am a mighty hunter.

While Themselves are at work, I have the run of the upstairs with the rest of the gang (except Misty). At 6 p.m. I am given dinner and everyone returns from work. Since I am fed twice daily and there are household issues, I am served in my exclusive food dish either in the dining room or the upstairs bathroom. After dinner, I have treats for dessert.

After supper I have playtime with a human again. Around 10 p.m. I get more treats (about 10 to 15 in a day) and then I and my colleague, Ozzie, go to the basement for the night. We are confined to the basement because I would want to play in the middle of the night and for some reason all the humans wanted to do is sleep! Misty used to join us until she took sick.

While my food dish is exclusively mine, I share various water bowls and a water fountain with assorted pets. The cats in the household share three litter boxes: 2 open ones in the basement and 1 covered one in the laundry room. Misty has an additional box in the spare room which is her exclusive retreat. All boxes have unscented, non-clumping litter in them and are cleaned weekly.

I have access to all parts of the house (when we are not time-sharing) except for the adult childrens' bedrooms and the bathrooms (because I have urinated there). 

There are no cat trees or scratching posts in my home, largely I think because we are all declawed.

That's all I can think of Greyce. I do hope you can help me.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Cat Introductions: Cat Enters Homes of Existing Cat

Dear Greyce,

You just wrote about my licking problem (Cat Continues to Lick Herself Bald) but said you would also give me advice about Elliot. He is another cat who may come to live in my house for a while starting sometime next month. Please let me know how to proceed.



Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cat Continues to Lick Herself Bald

Dear Greyce,

I am a distinguished feline of 11 years who for the past 3, has had a licking problem. Simply put, I lick my belly and hindquarters bald! It started around the time my companion cat was dying.

I have tried a number of remedies. First Himself read that food allergies could be the cause and switched my food to a gluten-free brand. That is now my dry food mainstay (which I free feed). I do, however, insist on a spoonful of my adored canned food, three times a day.

Then Himself took me to the vet where I was tested for fleas and mites; there were none to be found. I was given a cortisone shot which helped for a short time. The second vet I saw took some blood, did some tests (the results of which were normal) and said, "some cats just do that sometimes." Then I went to a holistic vet who gave me mixtures to put in my food and water and to spray on my fur, as well as Feliway. He also tried acupuncture but I let him know what I thought of that: I scratched his assistant!

So far, NOTHING has worked for me.

I have no known medical problems. However when Himself touches my fur, my skin ripples.

When I lick, Himself puts a paper plate around my neck (as per the photo) and says, "Don't lick." When I stop, he removes it. I still get that stuff in my water and sprayed on my fur. And the Feliway diffuser is still plugged in. But . . . I'm still licking.

To put this in context: I live with Himself in a small, quiet home with lots of windows. I am a pretty relaxed cat, friendly, calm and loving. The only things I can't stand are thunder and loud noises. I get lots of interaction from Himself and have lots of toys to play with.

By the way, Himself's adult daughter will start to live with us soon and stay until she finds another place to live. Her cat, Elliot, might join us in mid-July.

Can you help me?


Dear Urs,

I assume that you have written me because you think your problem is behavioural. As you may know, I am NOT a veterinarian and thus am not qualified to deal with conditions for which there is a medical basis. From time to time I encounter a cat such as yourself, where the situation is not clear cut: Your issue could be medical; it could also be behavioural. And so for your benefit (as well as that of other readers) I'm going to write about the possibilities - even though most will require you to work with your veterinarian.

From what you have told me, I think you can look at one or both of the following options.
Option One: The potential for an elimination diet to determine if food allergies are the culprit.
Option Two: The possibility that boredom or inadvertent reward is contributing to your problem.
Option Three: Medication to either alleviate anxiety or deal with your compulsion to lick.

I will describe these options and what they could entail. Options One and Three will require further discussion with your veterinarian before you proceed.

Option One: Elimination Diet for Food Allergies

Some of us are sensitive to certain foods and others of us have allergies to them. If you were sensitive, it would be likely that you would show this by having a runny or smelly stool or gas; vomiting is also a possible symptom. But since the compulsion to lick is your only symptom I would think that food sensitivity is an unlikely issue for you. A food allergy could be a possibility, however.

I am quite surprised that you have never tried an elimination diet in your case - which either means that it got overlooked somehow or that there is something about your situation that made the all three vets look elsewhere (and of which I am not aware).In any case, this is worthy of discussion with your veterinarian - if only to clear up why such a diet has not been tried.

From what you have written, you have had many tests. However to the best of my knowledge, there are no definitive tests for food allergies other than an elimination diet. Yes you are on a gluten-free, organic food of high quality. And yes, you adore a very popular canned food three times a day. But that does not mean that you could not be allergic to something in at least one of them.

So let's look at the foods that are most often implicated in cat allergies: beef, lamb, seafood, corn, soy, dairy products, wheat gluten. While your dry food is gluten-free, I have every reason to believe that both your dry and wet foods have some of these ingredients. And that MAY mean that you have an allergy to at least one of those ingredients.

The only way to find out is to go on what is called an elimination diet. Here you have three choices:

Choice A: Try a  food with a novel protein and novel carbohydrate source (one you have never tried before), consistently for 12 weeks; examples of novel proteins include rabbit, venison, and duck; and novel carbohydrate might be peas. Such foods are available from your veterinarian and from some pet supply stores.

Choice B: Try a "limited antigen" or "hydrolyzed protein" food such as Hills z/d (in which case the proteins and carbohydrates have been broken down to such a small molecular size that they no longer cause an allergic reaction). This food is only available from your veterinarian.

Choice C: Try a customized diet involving Himself preparing your food from scratch according to a veterinary recipe. (Resist the urge to just download something off the Internet. This is really a case where getting a proper recipe from your veterinarian is very important. And if you need more reasons that this from me, just ask.) I don't recommend this option at this point. It is time-consuming and requires that Himself commitment to ongoing preparation of your food from scratch, using great care to ensure that it is done properly. And that is a lot to ask.

For more information about food allergies in cats, have a look at Food Allergies in Cats.

If you do decide to try an elimination diet, make sure Himself understands that we cats detest having a food changed suddenly. To get us to accept it, he MUST grade the new food in slowly. This helps us get used to the taste and also minimizes the chances of tummy upset as we adapt to the new food.

Here is one way to grade the new food in:
Step One: 1 part new kibble mixed with 9 parts regular. If you accept this, then eat this proportion for a few days. Then you are ready for Step Two.
Step Two: 2 parts new kibble mixed with 8 parts regular. Again, if you are fine with this combination, eat it for a few days and go to Step Three.
Step Three: 3 parts new kibble mixed with 7 parts regular
and so on until
Step Ten: all new kibble; no regular.
At any point, if you are NOT fine with the new proportion, go back a step or two and eat that for up to a week; then proceed with the next step and so on.

NOTE: Himself MUST do the same for that lovely canned food you adore. Since you eat such a small amount of this every day (but really, really enjoy it), I suggest he mix up the proper combination and store it in a very clean, glass jar in the fridge. He will need to throw out any un-used, open wet food within a week (or check with your veterinarian about food safety in this regard).

Urs, many vets will suggest a quicker grading-in process. The one I suggest is slower but that is because you are older, and because Himself and you have been through so much that I want to give you the greatest chance of success. If Himself and you are willing, then a faster grading-in process would be to start with 25% new and 75% old, then 50% of each, then 75% new and 25% old, and then 100% new  - all done within a period of two weeks (that means switching proportions every 3 to 4 days). It is quicker but it MAY be more difficult for you to except.

ONLY WHEN YOU ARE ON 100% NEW FOOD can you actually start the 12 week elimination diet period, to evaluate whether or not this is working. And if you try, for example, a food with duck and it doesn't work for you, the vet might suggest that you try rabbit, etc. Whatever you do, you MUST stick to the same food for the 12-week period UNLESS it is making your situation worse! This will be the only way you can find out if allergies are the culprit. It takes time, possibly some guesswork if you need to switch, and costs more than regular food.

So if you think that food allergies could be involved (or just need to clear up why an elimination diet has not been tried with you), consult your veterinarian.

Option Two: The possibility that boredom or inadvertent reward is contributing to your problem.

 Some cats start or continue to lick because they are bored, and licking is one way to alleviate their boredom - especially if they are indoor cats because the indoor environment can lack the necessary stimulation.

I know that you have toys and interaction with Himself. But it is important that you have interactive toys and that Himself gives you regular workouts (twice daily). 

Since I have written about this issue before, I suggest that you look to the labels column to the right of this blog entry. Then click on Play/Predation.You will get a list of articles; click on On On My Terms; don't worry that the cat has a different problem. The advice on toys and playtime can apply to you, too.

Have a look at your environment. You MIGHT benefit from having a new box to explore (just a carton from the store) if you are a box-investigating kind of cat. Or purrhaps you need a cat tree on which to perch and look out the window. Consider having a look at the article, A Cat Tree for Every Cat (2/7/10); just go the that label column again and click on Cat Tree and look for that entry.

Also humans whose cats have licking problems get upset when they see the licking and try to stop it. For example, they may ask you to stop or try to distract you. Unfortunately this might end up being the way you really get attention. If that is the case, the best thing that can be done (in addition to the other measures I've mentioned above) is to ignore you when you start to lick. That way you don't get any attention reward for it.

Option Three: Medication to deal with your compulsion to lick.

For some of us with compulsive licking, a solution is medication. You have mentioned a cortisone shot which helped you for a short time. You have also mentioned a number of non-pharmaceutical,anti-anxiety mixtures as well as the use of a Feliway diffuser. None of them has seemed to work for you.

Since you do not believe they are of any benefit, consider stopping their use - in consultation with your veterinarian. I suggest consulting your veterinarian just to make sure that any of the things that are being added to your food or water require a weaning-off process.

You can stop the Feliway right now. Just unplug the diffuser. No weaning-off process is needed.And if the Feliway is really doing you some good, it should become apparent once it is discontinued (and then it can be plugged in again).But save that Feliway because it will come in handy for another use I will mention it in another blog entry, related to the arrival of Elliot - that other cat.

You have also mentioned rippling skin. Have you brought this to the attention of your veterinarian? I ask because it could be part of  feline hysperesthesia syndrome. Cats whose skin ripples sometimes get quick jumpy and start to lick as a way to calm down. Should this be the case, medication (such as those listed below) may be considered.

Medication can also be considered if general anxiety is an issue - even though you say you are a relaxed cat.
Anti-anxiety pharmaceutical such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or chlomipramine can be tried. Of course, this can only be done under veterinary supervision.

Most are now available as a topical gel (if you specify this prefurrence) which means it can be gently rubbed on your ear flap for absorption rather than being given in pill form. This can be a great advantage for many of us. (I hate being pilled, so I opt for gel whenever I can.

So these are the options I think you have Urs.

Meanwhile you have mentioned another matter, the possible arrival of Elliot. I will address this in another blog entry because it is quite important too.

Do let me know what option(s) you try and how it works for you.

Best wishes,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Response to Cat Over-aroused During Play: Dash Tells All

Hi Greyce,

I'm getting back to you as soon as I can - which is pretty fast since my polydactyl paws allow me to reach more keys. You asked me a lot of questions, so be prepared for a lot of answers.

At present, I don't have a bite-type toy. Themselves try to distract me with a toy mouse or my fleece-feather pull toy. The latter is quite wonderful - a long piece of fleeces with feathers at the end, attached to a plastic stick. It can be dragged along the floor or dangled in the air or over the stairs. I LOVE this toy and have destroyed more than a dozen copies by chewing on the feathers and fleece.

Herself takes the fleece toy into the spare bedroom with me for a private play session (while Himself plays elsewhere with Skeeter). She drags it across the bed and the floor. I jump on the bed to get it, and she pulls it away. When I show that I have LOTS of energy, she will drag it from the floor to the bed and vice-versa. We keep this up for as long as I'm engaged (15 to 30 minutes usually). Sometimes our play is so intense that I'm totally tired out; I've fallen asleep on the bed with the feathers in my mouth!

We do this in the morning before Themselves go to work and then again in the evening. (I get one or two play sessions every evening.) 

A quiet moment with Skeeter
Sometimes I only get this particular game only once a day - but that is when Himself has had another kind of play session with me. He takes the feather toy and runs it along the stairs for me to chase. Or he will bring a toy mouse for me to hunt and chase on the stairs.

In the winter (usually), Themselves take me into the basement and put a treat at the very top of the cat tower. I jump to get it and then run to the other side of the basement (for another treat) and then back to the tower. Himself gives me a treat after a play session. Sometimes Herself will dole out a treat in the evening, too. Other than that, I'm not really food motivated and don't like to eat food directly off the floor. So I doubt that food puzzles are the thing for me.

From time to time, I like to chase the laser pointer. But I can outsmart it, so I get bored with it too.

Most of the time the toys work and I calm down. But sometimes I need a sudden clap of the hands or a spray from the water bottle to break my pattern.

By the way, if I'm sleeping on my back and someone pats me gently, I will wake up wanting to play fight.

I hope this information helps.



Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cat over-aroused during play: Dash's update

Dear Greyce,

Here is a long overdue update on the progress my companion, Skeeter, and I have been making in adjusting to our new home. You recall that Skeeter and I were adopted at the same time, although we had not lived together before. Themselves thought it would be a good idea for me (a special needs cat who is anxious) to have a feline companion. (Interested readers can follow my story by viewing the blog entries listed at the end of this blog entry.)

Snuggles are always in order
I'm pleased to say that my relationship with Skeeter is a positive one - even though we have had and continue to have our moments of disagreement. Now Skeeter feels comfortable snuggling with me during naps, as you can see from the photo.

You may remember that I, in particular, was having problems: I was traumatized by that strange noise machine (I think it is called a treadmill), have difficulties with aggression (toward Skeeter and Themselves) from over-arousal, and from time to time took to peeing outside the litter box.

While all of these problems have not been fully resolved, I must say that I'm doing much better. Themselves are very conscious about exercising me (to help me reduce my arousal level) and ensuring that we all stick to a set routine and schedule, as much as possible, because I don't do change well. So you see, we HAVE been following your advice.

About that treadmill and my fear of unusual noises: I continue to take Star of Bethlehem drops (a flower remedy for past trauma) twice a day and my temperament has been very positive and even. No growling or hissing. Herself did run that noise machine in the basement while I stayed upstairs with the basement door closed. I was curious about the noise but handled the situation very well. Not like the very first time when I'd freaked out so badly.

Now about my peeing: I did pee on the stairwell recently - the first such incident in a couple of months. So even with respect to this, I believe I'm doing quite well.

As for my over-arousal and aggression: I still get over-aroused from time to time and will pester Skeeter; but when this happens, Themselves re-focus my attention with play.

I really come alive in the evening. Sometimes I've been so wound up that I have jumped on Herself and bit her leg - but only when I'm really aroused with play or I've been scared by a sudden, unexpected noise. When Himself has tried to separate Skeeter and I during an intense play session, I continue to jump and play on his arm.

As for what the future holds: The Feliway diffusers are not in use now, though I heard that Themselves may start them again. And Themselves have mentioned that we may try a weekend at the cottage, soon.

I'm not purrfect, Greyce: I still jump on counters and the dining room table - but that's another matter. I am also trying to learn to use a small toy in the kitchen to help keep my claws away from the furniture upstairs.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Low Petting Tolerance; Distorted Gait from Declawing: Two Cats Adjust to a New Home

Dear Greyce,

I am an eight-year old female who along with my companion, Spook, have recently been adopted by a new family.

We have been taking it easy getting used to our new home. We are confined to the upstairs for now but have enjoyed some time out on the deck (which is completely enclosed for our safety). There is a Feliway diffuser in the bedroom and in the living room. And Herself sprays a bottle with Rescue Remedy, Walnut and Star of Bethlehem around the house. Spook will let her rub this into his fur but she doesn't dare try it with me.

All is going quite well, though I do have some questions:

1. Is there anything else I should encourage my new purrsons to do, to help us adapt to our new surroundings?

2. How can I learn to tolerate being petted a bit more?

3. What can be done for Spook's gait?

Let me give you the background.

I am very aggressive with strangers because I was traumatized as a kitten by someone associated with my previous home who flicked a BBQ lighter in my face. As a results, strangers and I do NOT mix. Because of this, I was declawed when I was three years old. Still I am wary and will growl if approached by someone I don't know; I have been known to bit. I also don't like people trying to pet me (unless I ask for it) or getting too close.

At my new home the people are very kind. They extend a hand to me when they would like me to approach. For the most part, they don't initiate interaction unless I appear willing; and they stop as soon as I seem the least bit uncomfortable. They also don't make eye contact with me.

Knowing my propensity to growl, they behave in ways that keep me calm. For example, I feel it is a bit too close if I am sitting on the back of the couch and they want to sit down on it. So they slink into their spot and sit quietly, rather than making any fuss.

I am now freely jumping into their laps, especially if invited to do so. But I still don't like being petting much and just prefer being allowed to site. I don't like having my back stroked much and can go ballistic if they pet my face a lot. For me it is best to have limited pets, restricted to my face and between my ears.

Our purrsons have even bough us a toy called Da Bird and I understand we may get more things to play with. This is a BIG deal for us as we did not come to our new home with toys.

Spook has settled in well and has been quite affectionate. He did get noisy at night (coming into the bedroom and jumping around); but they now keep us out at night and he has settled down.
Like me, Spook is declawed. However he has a funny gait, almost a limp. He is a bit chubby, too. Can you suggest anything to help him?


Friday, May 6, 2011

Re-integration After Disaster: Old and Young Cats

Dear Greyce,
I am recovering quite nicely now (see Newcomer Hampers Sick Cat's Recovery 4/4/11) although I have become a picky eater. Themselves have been most kind - keeping that so-called companion (a.k.a.The Pest), Gracie, sequestered. I have my basement retreat all to myself. However rumour has it that Herself has bonded to Gracie and wants to keep her around. And I'm far from impressed. I've taken to hissing when I pass the bedroom door (when she is inside) or at Herself after she has spent time with her. What should I do?
Ready to be distressed again!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Moving Food Bowls & Litter Boxes to Different Locations

Dear Greyce,

Now that we are back to being friends, (see Cat Companions are Back to Being Friends  4/27/11) we need more help. Precisely, how do we return to using our regular food bowls and regular litter boxes, now that we no longer have to time-share space? For some reason, Themselves are not pleased with the thought of permanent installations in the master bedroom.

In the olden days, we used two litter boxes: 1) upstairs in the hallway bathroom and 2) in the main floor bathroom. The first box was moved to the bathroom in the master bedroom when we were time-sharing (since we both needed toilet access at all times). Our litter box on the main floor never moved.

In case you need to know, we have a spare box which is use in rotation, so Themselves have the chance to clean one of our soiled boxes and let it dry without disturbing us too much.
Let us know what you think.

Yoshi and Taro

Friday, April 29, 2011

Reduced Aggression in Multi-Cat Household: Suzi's Good News

Suzi & Her Brother, Koko
Dear Greyce,

I haven't written for a long time. (See most recent entry: Suzi is Stressed 6/27/10) But I just wanted to tell you how are things with me, Sissi and our foster cat Jack. You remember how they both made my life so miserable that I was reduced to hiding on top of the kitchen cupboards all day? Even if I tried to use the litter box they would jump me! Well the situation has changed for the better.

Finally with all of Herself's work, Sissi changed her attitude towards me. We are not best friends for sure but we eat next to each other on the counter without hissing.

I wish I could say the same for Jack. Even though he attacks me less, I am not confident enough when I know he is out there somewhere. So Herself confines him to the bedroom for a few  hours in the evening and I can really relax.

We are still hoping that he will get adopted.

Meanwhile, we are now sharing our space with a dog, Arven who is a very calm and likes cats. Herself followed your advice on cat-dog introductions and all is well. We rarely pay attention to each other, which is fine with me.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Your friend,

Dear Suzi,
It is so lovely to hear such good news from you. Your life has become so much better.

It is difficult when you live in the home of someone who rescues animals. Your Herself's heart is so big and the need is so great that sometimes, the sheer number of animals in a home and their catsonalities can put stress on the whole household.

It sounds like things have settled for the better - even if you live with a dog now!

As for Jack: he is still a young guy and with his problems, it may take time to find the proper home for him. I will purr my wishes to him for a safe and loving new home.

In the meantime, purrs of good wishes to all of you,


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cat Companions are Back to Being Friends: Re-integrating Yoshi & Taro

Dear Greyce,

Remember us, your dear friends Yoshi and Taro whose friendship had soured after a trip to the groomer? (see Friendship Gone Sour 8/26/10).

Well we followed your advice on getting re-introduced (See Using Harnesses to Re-introduce Companion Cats 12/20/10). We had been doing pretty much what you suggested. Our humans were good about stopping our re-introduction sessions before any anxiety or aggression would start to escalate. And over time, we got more and more used to each other. And so the intervals between which they had to stop the sessions got longer and longer. 

And now things are pretty much back to the way they were - before that dreaded incident caused havoc in our household! 

For the past few days, the bedroom door has been wide open all night so we can have unrestricted access to each other while our purrsons sleep. From time to time, we'd chase each other and wrestle. And we both take turns initiating play. But most of the time we each do our own thing and are not too preoccupied with what the other is doing. 

And the greatest new of all is that Taro is no longer obsessed with following and stalking me!

Our purrsons now have a new complaint. The became used to quiet nights with one cat sleeping next to them in the bedroom. Now we keep them awake as we run through the house. Neither of us is interested in night-time cuddles. Ha! Ha!

With thanks from Yoshi (and Taro, too)

Congratulations Boys!
This is a job well done. Time to have a catnip party in celebration.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Socializing Stray, Deaf Cat

Dear Greyce,

I’m a neutered male around two years old, with long white hair and blue eyes. Like all white-haired blue-eyed cats, I’m deaf. And I’m having problems adjusting to my new home.

I was abandoned on the street. Fortunately, some people found me. They took me to the vet and had me neutered.

 Now I have been placed in a foster home. I’ve settled in the kitchen, where I have what I need: dry and soft food, access to water and my litter box. From time to time, the purrsons use the kitchen, too.

 The first day, I hid under the sofa. When I saw that they did not want to hurt me, I came out.
 It is now my 6th day in my foster home. I sleep. Sometimes I go for a walk. I stay on the sofa when they are in the room. When they look me in the eyes, I hiss.


 I’m a very scared cat. And it is difficult for me to trust people again. But I would like to live in a home and not out on the street. Please help me become a trusting cat again.


Angora Angel in Bulgaria

Dear Angora Angel,

You didn’t leave your name, so I chose this one for you - at least for our correspondence.

Congratulations on being rescued! I, too, was abandoned and on my own during the winter (if you can imagine) for almost a month before Herself found me. And I’m very grateful to have a home.

Dealing with Deafness

The worst thing for a deaf cat is to be taken by surprise. This can happen when someone comes up behind you (so you are unable to see them) or touches you when you are sleeping, because you will not know they are there.

So when they enter your area, have them stamp their foot on the floor or rap their knuckles on the floor (if they are kneeling down) so you can sense the vibration. That gentle vibration will be your signal that they are near. And if you are asleep and appear not to notice AND they need to wake you for some reason, have them gently fan a piece of paper near you. You will sense the change in air currents and know they are around.

Of course, there will also be times when you will notice them by sight. However, tell them NOT to stare at you directly because they are being very rude. Only aggressive cats stare directly and that means they are up to no good. Unfortunately, many humans do not know this and then wonder why we cats get defensive. So tell them that they can look in your direction, purrhaps at a point just past you, but that they should NEVER look into your eyes because it is very intimidating.

Settling In

What will help you is having a routine you can depend on. I assume you are living with kind people would have a regular routine. Most people do, because they have to go to work and they come home a certain times and usually do tasks at certain times. Sometimes it varies if they have a day off, but mostly you can predict what they will do, when. And this will give you a sense of certainty.

If they have visitors, ask them to put you in a safe place away from them. It is too soon for you to be around a lot of strange people.

Stimulation to Keep Life Interesting

Every cat needs some stimulation – for physical exercise and to keep the mind sharp.

While you are alone, it would be helpful to have some things to play with and snuggle against: a small toy mouse, a soft, small ball (or a ping pong ball), or the cardboard from an empty toilet paper roll. Each of us has different likes and dislikes when it comes to toys, so they might have to try a few to see what interests you. (I like a small pouch of catnip which I bat around the room.)

If you enjoy your dry food, suggest that your purrsons make a food puzzle for you – using the cardboard from an empty toilet paper roll.

I really like my scratch pillow. It is a piece of material shaped like a long cylinder and stuffed with soft fabric and a bit of catnip. I cuddle with it and scratch along it with my hind paws.

You might like a hiding box – just an empty carton on the floor, put near but not in a corner and near a wall. You can sit in the box and watch the world go by. Such a box is best if it has two exits – a hole or large opening to go in and another one to go out. We cats don’t like single-entrance boxes just in case we get trapped.

You might also like to explore a large paper bag (no plastic, no handles). I have Herself roll up the rim a little to make it sturdy. She cuts off the handles so I don’t get caught in them. I she cuts a small peep hole in the back so I can see out the back and well as the front.

For toy ideas that your people can make for you, consult the following videos:
Make Homemade Cat Toys - actually a series of 15 different videos with lots of toy ideas.
Sock Toy
Home Made Puzzle Box
Food Puzzles

Getting Used to Interacting with People

Of course your purrsons will want to get you used to people again. Here are some suggestions:

Consult my entry, Only On My Terms – The Aloof Cat and the Cuddly Human (December 20, 2009) for tips on interactive play toys and suitable ways to use them. This is an important way to have fun and to relax.

From time to time, they can offer you a dry food treat. It should be either a pet treat or a dry food you don’t get to eat everyday, so that it is something special. They can start by putting a few pieces about a half-metre away (1.5 feet American) from you and see if you will come and take them. (They should stand back away from the treat by at least a metre - one yard in American - and make no move toward you at this time.)

Tell them to try different distances to find out the one that is most comfortable for you. And then, each day, they should lengthen the distance just a little bit (a few centimeters – think inches if you are American) so that you have to walk a little more to get the treat AND come a little closer to where they are.

If you are still comfortable, you will take the treat. If not, they need to make the distance a little greater again. The key is to shorten the distance between you and them very slowly, over the period of many, many days. Eventually you will get to the point of being able to come nearer to them for a treat. And then they can start offering a treat from their hand.

I hope I am making myself clear and if not, please let me know and I will try another explanation. And do remind them that one dry treat is the same as one cookie for a small child.


I suspect you may be wary of being touched and handled by humans.

Are you okay with being groomed?

Some of us will allow grooming but really don’t want to be petted.

To start with, have them approach you slowly and extend a hand out to you, about 30 centimetres (about a foot American) from you. IF and ONLY IF you approach the hand and give it a sniff, then they can gently stroke your cheeks a few times with a couple of fingers or the back of the hand. If you do not approach the hand, they should just withdraw and try again another time.

Again, they need to proceed slowly, never forcing you to do something you don’t want to. And over a period of many days, you may get to enjoy having your cheeks stroked. If you do, then they can proceed to gentle pets around your neck and the back of your head.

Let me know which of these suggestions work for you.
I wish you the very best,


Monday, April 4, 2011

Newcomer Hampers Sick Cat's Recovery

Dear Greyce,

I am in trouble – BIG trouble.

For the past two weeks I have been very ill with Irritable Bowel Disease. So ill in fact that I have had to stay in the hospital, have lots of tests and medicines, and specialist attention. I’m home now but am having problems recovering.

Yes Greyce, I know you don’t give medical advice BUT it all started with the arrival of a new kitten.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cat Now Poops Inside Litter Box!

Dear Greyce,

I have been using my litter box as the destination for my poop for a month, now. Okay, so I had one 'accident'. Not bad.

My purrsons are very happy and proud of me. So is my sister, Ebony.

Of course, she had to show it by posing for a photo as well. As least it is with me!

Ebony & Tigress

I still don't know what came over me (see blog entries: Cat Still Poops Beside the Box of 2/27/11 and Tigress Poops Beside the Box of 2/9/11). But I am pleased with myself for correcting the problem. I give myself two paws up.

By the way, I have passed your blog address to my Vet. She was very interested because she felt that it would be useful information to have for other clients.

Thank you for all your help.


Dear Tigress,

You deserve all the praise you can get!

We may never know exactly what turned you off using the box in the first place BUT we do know that you must never have a box on a carpetted surface.

For you, that is about as tempting as putting a box of high-quality chocolates in front of Herself. Both of you are faced with a temptation that is extremely difficult to resist.

But do celebrate in your own special way. You've done a great job!



Monday, March 28, 2011

Predatory Aggression: Cat Stalks, Pounces, Bites People

Dear Greyce,

I am a 3.5 year old neutered male (shorthaired brown tabby) and have been told that I have a lovely purrsonality – bright and curious. And I’m in good health. For the past 18 months I have become aggressive towards Himself and Himself only. I don’t bother the rest of the family. It’s become a problem.

Knowing you, you will want the details. So here goes.

First – About My Life

Here is my daily routine. I greet Himself in the morning and sometimes ask for a tummy rub. He feeds me a soft food breakfast. I graze on kibble throughout the day.

I explore the house and then watch Himself get read to leave. Herself awakes and pets me. We chat a bit and she gives me a treat. I follow her around while she makes the bed and starts her day.

I like a trickle of water from the bath tub faucet. Then I settle on the back of the chair for a short nap.

Upon awakening, we play and then I follow her around while she does her chores. I run up and down the stairs. And then I settle down on Themselves’ bed for a morning nap.

I can see the birds out the window.

The afternoon routine is much the same.

In the summer, I go with them into the backyard on a 20-foot leash.

I like to be in the kitchen when Herself is making supper. I sit beside the table when they eat.

I have playtime in the evening – love those stairs. Herself and I play with the feather, the cat tent, the cat tunnel and the throw toys. I have two baskets full of toys (wand/feather toys, soft toys and twist ties to chase and run after). And I have two scratching posts, a cat condo and a cat bed. Himself is kind to me but doesn’t’ play much since I’ve become aggressive toward him. And we all spend the evening together.

I like pets from Herself – and a few others. Sometimes from Himself, depending upon how I feel. I’m not a lap cat but I love when Herself carries me on her shoulder.

I don’t get to sleep with them at night because Herself has allergies.

What can I say, Greyce? It’s a good life.

Now For My Problem

I stalk, pounce, swipe and sometime bite Himself. And only him.

I started when I was about two years old, just after being picked up from a 10-day stay at the cat kennel. We’d had visitors just before that, too.

And then ‘it’ started. Himself would be walking and I would chase after him and paw his legs as if to trip him up. Initially he ignored me. Now it can happen if I walk past him or he walks past me. I like to chase him and sometimes bite him in the leg.

Also I go after him when he is sitting on the couch. I stalk him slowly – sometimes from behind so that he doesn’t see me. I jump up from behind and swipe his head with my paw (claws in).

Or sometimes I slowly walk to the side of him, stare, jump up and bite. Either way, it is very entertaining because he jumps up (as if surprised) and lets out a squeal.

The only time Himself feels safe is first thing in the morning, because he feeds me soft food. I am not aggressive in the mornings. And there are many times of the day when I am most loving and happy to be in his company.

What They Have Tried

The vet told him to play with me more, but it didn’t help.

They spray me with a water bottle.

They try distraction: Shaking a jar of coins or throwing a toy in another direction, if they catch it before it happens.

They remove me from the scene of the crime. They lift me to another room for 5 minutes or so. I curl up on a cosy bench. When they come to open the door, I’m very relaxed.

I have a Feliway diffuser (as the vet advised), but it doesn’t make any difference.

Frankly Greyce, this situation is not a problem for me. But it really seems to bother them. And since I do care about them in my own, wonderful way, I would like to help.

So Greyce, what do you advise?



Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chloe the Fussy Cat Shows How to Determine Toy and Play Preferences

Dear Greyce,

 I am a petite, adorable calico with a piercing meow and demanding nature. I like attention. A lot of attention. And I tend to be on the anxious side.

My purrsons decided to go away on holidays. This was my first time as a home-alone cat, for my long-term feline companion left her physical form in December.

You can imagine how I might feel, being left in the dead of winter with only the furnace for company!

But it wasn’t all that bad. I had thrice daily visits (of at least an hour each) from two cat-loving servants whose job it was to attend to my every need. One in particular took it upon herself to entertain me – a bit of a challenge because I’m not really ‘into’ toys.

Somehow, she found things I liked.

I understand she was trained by you.

Could you pass along your entertainment tips? I'm curious.

With thanks,


Thursday, March 3, 2011

No More Urine Spraying! Moby's Update

Dear Greyce,  

When I lasted contacted you (Moby's News - 7/6/10) I had stopped my medications and had started to consistently use my litter box. In other words, I had really turned a corner.

So I thought you might like an update.

I use my litter box faithfully and no longer spray.

Finally I've come to terms with my feline companion, Mick. He has his issues but I stay out of his way and so we 'live and let live'.

I adore my purrsons and they treat me like a king.

So life is good . . . VERY good!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Pee Fest Has Stopped: Smooshie's Update

Dear Greyce,

Just touching base to let you know of my progress (see Smooshie's Pee fest - 2/9/11). Now that the Feliway diffuser and spray are being used as suggested I have consistently used my litter boxes. I'm especially enjoying my second box (downstairs) because a woman really does like choice. And I am getting more play time!


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cat Still Poops Beside the Box: An New Action Plan for Tigress

Dear Greyce,

I contacted you recently about preferring to poop near but definitely not in my litter boxes. I tried many of the suggestions you gave me but they do not work (entry: Tigress Poops Beside the Box - 2/9/11). My folks and I are VERY FRUSTRATED. Please give me ideas that will work for me.

I need your help!

Dear Tigress-in-Distress,

Fear not. Detective Greyce is on the trail!

While not all litter box issues are easy to solve - as you have just shown – I’m not ready to give up yet.

For the benefit of other readers, as well as for you, let’s review the progress that has been made on this case. Be patient, Tigress. I’m doing this so other cats with similar problems can benefit as much as possible from the information – and then I will get to your purrsonal action plan.

We know the following clues about your situation and this has helped narrow the problem down.

1. You and your cat companion, Ebony, get along very well. So social issues between the two of you are neither a source of anxiety to you nor a contributor to your problem. (Can you believe that some of us live with other cats who, for example, guard the litter box and don’t allow us to use it?)

2. Ebony has no litter box issues, so the problem rests with you alone.

3. Your poop is a combination of cigar shapes and puddles. You have no history of digestive or poop-related problems (like constipation or diarrhea). This means that there is no medical problem which causes you pain or strain that you might associate with using your box (and thus seek to avoid by doing your business elsewhere) – either in the past or at present.

4. You are declawed. Why is this important?

Because some declawed cats have litter box issues, largely related to substrate (whatever is used as litter inside your box). That is why immediately after being declawed, most vets recommend the use of compressed newsprint litter (such as Yesterday's News) because its smooth surfaces and lack of grainy texture are easier on the amputations. And a few cats continue to remain paw-sensitive and thus require smooth, non-grainy litter for the rest of their lives. Now, you are not one of them because you have been successfully using your litter until recently; and you continue to do so when you pee.

5. You don’t vocalize while using the box (just before, during, or just after). And this just confirms that pain and/or anxiety with the act of pooping is not a contributing factor.

6. You have confirmed that you are not anxious, either by nature or by circumstance, because everyone loves you and there have been no changes to the household. That’s good news because we don’t have any such issues to mitigate.

7. You tried leaving an area completely around each box clear (rather than up against the wall or in a corner) for you to walk around. No change. So access around the box is not an issue for you.

8. You have not tried a larger box, but once I saw the photo (and I’ll talk a LOT more about that) I knew it wouldn’t work. So don’t bother.

9. You only poop beside the boxes in the alcove. You are not interested in using the box in the laundry room and so it has been removed. This tells me that you both prefurr the alcove location. And just like in real estate, location is a critical and important factor. To you, boxes and the alcove is a match made in heaven. You like the alcove, just not the substrate.

Now here is where it gets interesting – based on a combination of what you wrote me recently AND the photo you sent. Believe me, a picture really is worth a thousand words! 

Important New Clue #1: You are pooping on carpet. I had assumed your boxes were on a smooth surface (like lino or concrete). Knowing that they are on carpet is VERY important.

You see, some cats develop a prefurrence for using carpet. It usually starts like this. They use their boxes faithfully and all seems to be well. But the substrate isn’t that great for them – Sure they use it for lack of an alternative and then, for whatever reason, they discover the softness of carpet. “This is more like it,” they say to themselves and proceed to use the carpet instead. And this tends to happen more often with poop (rather than pee) problems, because with pooping most cats tend to dig more before and after doing the deed, and moving their paws through a substrate they really don’t like encourages them to look for alternatives.

Other cats are reasonably okay with the substrate they have, even though it isn’t the greatest. But once they discover the carpet alternative, all bets are off. They can be encouraged back to using the box and may even do so from time to time. But they really, really like the carpet. In technical terms this is called mild substrate aversion with strong substrate preference and that is what I think you have, dear Tigress because of your experience with Dr. Elsey’s Cat Litter.

Important Clue #2: At my suggestion you tried Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Litter (with attractant to get you back into the box) two weeks; it worked for a while. This tells me that doing things to make the box more attractive can, at least, get you attention. It also tells me that that is not enough, because there is something else (carpet) that is attracting you more.

Important Clue #3: You approach the box from the side. You are not a big scratcher (either when you prepare your spot or cover it after use). When you pee, you put your paws on the side and do your business in the middle. I am not 100% sure what you mean by this, but the picture I get in my furry mind I have visions of you putting your paws up against the rim or the walls of the box (which would indicate that you want to avoid putting them on the litter as much as possible (i.e., that this substrate just doesn’t do it for you). But you don’t stand on the edge of the box and dig around outside it (which would be proof positive that you detested the litter). You do dig around the carpet area on which you have pooped, which would give you sensory feedback of the loveliness of the carpeted surface on your paws. In other words, this supports my thoughts from Clues #1 and #2.

Important Clue #4: When I saw your photo, it also told me that you are pooping only on the carpet – and not, for example, on the hard plastic that is nearby. So it is definitely carpet that turns you on (and possibly this kind of texture and depth of carpet in particular).

One Other Clue That MAY Be Important

From your photo I see that you use plastic, disposable litter box liners – which many purrsons like (for the convenience of clean up) and many cats detest (either because of the slick surface or it’s getting caught in their claws). Now you are declawed so the latter doesn’t apply. But you might not be that thrilled with the smooth surface.

So what do I now think? You don’t like your litter, though there are things that can be done to it that make it more tolerable (like using Dr. Elsey’s). But when push comes to shove, you believe that the alcove carpet is the best pooping surface by far.

Your Purrsonal Action Plan

To get you back to using your box for pooping, you are going to need to remove the option of carpet from under your feet.

Now before your folks have a heart attack at the thought of ripping up the carpet and replacing the flooring with a hard surface (like sheet vinyl or lino), tell them to take a deep breath and read on.

Here is what I’d like you do to:

Step 1. Go to a hardware or carpet store that sells heavy plastic carpet protector. It comes on a roll (and they just buy the size they need). It is usually about a metre or so wide, is clear, and has pointed bits on the bottom to grip the carpet so it doesn’t slide. Most people use it to cover carpeted stairs or hallways – places of heavy traffic that can damage carpet faster. The good news, is that this is a relatively inexpensive option.

Have them buy enough of the stuff that they can cut it to fit a large area of the alcove. It should go at least all the way around your boxes – except for the side of the box that is up against the wall - for a metre (or even more) so you have no carpet available when you need to poop.

(The other option is for them to get an off-cut of vinyl flooring and cut it to fit the entire alcove space. An off-cut is just a leftover piece that carpet stores offer at a deep discount. Sometimes this is cheaper – if they get an off-cut bargain – and sometimes not. The cheapest short-term solution is the way to go – until we are assured that this solution is really working well for you in the long run.)

Step 2. Clean up the pooped area with a special cleaner made to clean up pet poop – sold in pet supply and carpet stores) so that the smell is removed. This is important because the smell can re-attract you back to using that area. Besides humans don’t tend to like the smell anyway. (There are lots of decent products on the market. Just get one that is prefurrably non-scented and that has the easiest instructions to follow.)

Depending on the product, they can help it dry faster using a hair dryer - but they need to read the label and make sure this is okay. Otherwise they need to ensure that you can’t use that area for pooping. This means pushing back the plastic from that area and then covering it with a weighted box (a empty box with NO bottom and some small holes punched in it to allow air circulation) and weighted with phone books or such so you can’t move it away. This gives the area a chance to dry without you getting to poop over it.

Once that area is dry, it needs to be covered with the plastic carpet protector too.

Step 3. Along with protecting the carpet, they must return to using Dr. Elsey’s in one of your two boxes, so that at least it is a better option for you than not.

So what do I expect will happen? I hope you will go back to using the box. And if not?

If you start to poop on the plastic, then it tells me that your litter is still unacceptable to you and we will have to get more creative. While you have exhausted many of the alternatives, I would need a detailed list of each and every litter tried, before I gave up on this.  (There are a variety of soft litters to consider.) And I’d also give serious consideration to getting rid of the plastic liners. But don’t jump the gun yet. Give Steps 1 to 3 a try first.
If you start to poop on the carpet at the end of the carpet protector, then you are saying loud and clear that you are a committed carpet-pooping cat. The good news is that you are still determined to use carpet NEAR your litter boxes. So . . . we can also go the route of offering a carpet option inside one of your boxes. For this, I’d suggest using box #3 – that one from the laundry room that you no longer use now put into use in the alcove. (Don't worry, we'll get back to using only two boxes, later.) Your folks would need to buy a small bit of carpet similar in depth and texture to what is on the floor. They would still keep the regular floor covered in plastic.

Once you start to use this box for poop, they would SLOWLY (and I can provide very detailed directions about what this really means) cut back on the size of the carpet in the box and SLOWLY replace it with the litter that has proven to be the most acceptable to you. Over time, you would get used to using the box and eventually using one that has only litter and no carpet in it. BUT they would still need to keep your access to alcove carpet restricted by plastic protector (or some such).

Some cats keep prefurring the strip of carpet with either no or very little litter. Frankly, if this is what it takes after all other things are tried, so be it. It's an awful lot easier to replace a carpet scrap from time to time than to deal with poop on the floor.

Option of Last Resort: The other option (only if absolutely necessary) is to confine you in a small room (NOT CLOSET!) which has no carpet (or whose floor is completely covered in plastic protector or a vinyl off-cut. You would have no carpet option here and would likely start to use the box instead. Of course, this means having your food, water, toys, etc. here too. And possibly Ebony. And having visits from your folks. It’s my least preferred option because it takes a lot more commitment on everyone’s part and thus can be stressful. If you go this route, then once you have been re-trained to the box, they could start re-introducing to the rest of the house.

(Note: This is the option many vet clinics use to re-train cats with litter box problems. The cat is kept in a clinic cage with no option but to use the box. If she still won’t use the box, it is removed and the bottom of the cage is covered with litter instead. Slowly the amount of litter is reduced and eventually – when it gets to a box-sized area, the litter is but in a box for use.)

In any event, the rule in your house is going to be: no litter boxes on carpet EVER - even though I remain a fan of that alcove because that is the place both you cats prefurr. And if that means long-term use of plastic carpet protector or vinyl off-cut or consideration of replacing the alcove floor with a hard surface, then so be it.

And please note: lino or vinyl is a better choice than hardwood or ceramic. Some litters do a great job of wearing hardwood down and scratching its surface. And should you have an accident, the chances of leakage (and thus the difficulty of thorough clean up) is more so than on the surfaces I recommend. Ditto with ceramic tile or slate (whose surfaces, if not sealed) can be problematic in a litter box area.

But it's early days yet, Tigress. Before you start diverting your cat nip fund to the re-flooring fund, give those steps in your action plan.
So Tigress, you have some work to do. Just keep me posted on your progress.

I’ll keep my paws crossed!