By Julia Williams
Is there a more heartwarming activity than decorating the Christmas tree? We start with a blank “canvas,” then add shiny balls, glittery garland and precious ornaments. When the transformation is complete, there’s that satisfying “ahhhh” moment.
A beautifully bedecked tree is, for many, a Christmas must. For others – cat owners for instance – the urge to have a tree is tempered by memories of Christmases past, when they spent the holiday season trying to keep the cat out of the Christmas tree. The first time you see your kitty’s cute face peering out at you from inside the tree makes you laugh. But mirth quickly fades as you try in vain to make your feline friend understand that the tree was not, in fact, placed there for their climbing pleasure.
There is no denying that cats are the biggest Christmas tree ornament you will ever have. Nearly all cat owners have a story to tell about waking up to find the Christmas tree in shambles. One friend even joked about starting a 12-step support group for people whose cats wreck the Christmas tree.
I can relate. I’ve had my share of knocked over trees and shattered ornaments. But here’s the thing: expecting a cat not to be infatuated with your Christmas tree just isn’t realistic. You can’t change any creature’s instincts, let alone one whose middle name is “mischief.” Simply put, cats love to climb trees. All of those shiny things dangling from the branches of your Noble Fir or Blue Spruce just make it all the more enticing to a tree-loving feline.
By Linda Cole
Over the years, I’ve had plenty of conversations with non-pet owners telling me why dogs and cats aren’t intelligent. I’d love to know where they get their facts from, because there have been many times I’ve racked my brain trying to outsmart a pet. We may be smarter, but there are times when a pet’s intelligence – or their persistence – presents us with a challenge.
The Window Screen Incident
I love the smells of spring, and when nighttime temperatures stay in the upper 60′s, I leave my screened windows open day and night. It’s not clear why my cat Bailey waged war on my bedroom window screens, but it quickly became a challenge to stop her. Bailey is persistent like any feline, but she takes it to a whole new level. She had already destroyed one screen in the middle of the night. I caught her as she was going through it, and begrudgingly closed the bedroom window. I opened the other window since an inspection of the screen found no holes or defects. Problem solved? Nope! Bailey started in on that screen. So I closed the window just enough to keep her out, or so I thought. She managed to squeeze in behind it and got trapped between the window and screen.
Accepting the challenge of outsmarting my cat, I was determined that this window was going to stay open, and she wasn’t going to destroy it. However, she got around all of my fixes. I finally built a barrier out of wood and wire that sat in front of the screen, and was confident I had won. Yeah, in my dreams! She could climb on top of the barrier and slip behind it, which left her pushed up against the screen. I added a block of wood on top of the barrier to stop her from climbing over it, but she found a gap to wiggle through. An old slipper wedged in the gap finally did the trick!
By Julia Williams
Sometimes “Meow” doesn’t quite get the point across. At least, that’s the premise behind I Could Pee On This (and Other Poems by Cats), a delightful book that I am totally in love with.
If we buy into the notion that cats can write – and why shouldn’t we? Scads of cat blogs and cat memoirs already exist, which suggests that felines have found a way around the whole “lack of opposable thumbs” thing – then it’s not such a stretch to believe that cats can also pen poetry. Not just any poetry, however; witty, wise, laugh-out-loud poems that claim to “reveal the true artistic and neurotic genius that every feline possesses.”
Indeed. I Could Pee On This does that and so much more. The 64 short poems delve into the reasons behind funny feline behaviors, explore hilarious eccentricities and even include some existential musings. All from the cat’s point of view, of course.
At approximately 5” x 6” and 112 pages, I Could Pee On This is a tiny little thing. Nevertheless, every page is a gem, each poem one that will elicit a knowing smile from every cat lover. Because clearly, these poems have captured the very essence of what makes felines so enticing to us.
By Linda Cole
Cats need to play, and they enjoy it just as much as dogs do. Outside cats have nature provided “toys” like dried leaves blowing around on the ground and bugs crawling through the grass. Inside kitties depend on their owners to find interesting and exciting toys to play with – when they aren’t napping in a sun puddle, that is. However, not any old toy will do, from a cat’s point of view, and there are specific toys cats really like to play with.
Because felines are true carnivores and hunters, every aspect of the hunt is important to all kitties whether they live inside or outside. If you’ve ever observed a cat watching a bird sitting on a tree limb, you can see her excitement level grow as she sizes up her prey. The tail twitches back and forth, her intense eyes are focused, the whiskers are pulled forward, and her body is taut with anticipation. The intricate process of stalking prey is a cat’s ultimate toy.
The best toys for cats are those that allow them to use their predatory skills. It’s the act of hunting that entertains them. Toys that allow them to stalk, pounce on, bite, claw, grab and hug against their body, and simulate a bite to the neck of their pretend prey is a good toy. When you watch a cat play, everything about how they entertain themselves is connected to hunting. This is true even in cats that have never been taught to hunt.
When cats play, it’s how they practice and hone their skills as the perfect hunter. Once she detects movement, her instincts take over as she watches her “opponent” and waits for the right time to pounce, which is usually spot on. Toys that mimic the movements of natural prey, even if they don’t look like a mouse or bird, are ones cats find intriguing. A piece of string wiggling along the floor or held up and dangled in front of a cat will get her attention – as long as it keeps moving. Once it stops, however, a cat will quickly grow tired of it. Their brain is hardwired to detect the slightest movement of a mouse, and movement is what draws their interest to a toy.
By Julia Williams
Statistically, about 90% of humans are right-handed and 10% are left-handed. Very few people are naturally ambidextrous, i.e., adept at using both hands. Last year, I was not able to use my right hand for a few weeks and discovered just how difficult it can be to use your non-dominant hand. Simple everyday tasks like brushing my teeth and cutting up vegetables became almost an exercise in futility. They could be done, but not easily.
So when I read recently that studies suggest dogs and cats also have a “dominant paw” (or paw preference) for certain tasks, I was intrigued. The research indicated that the left paw/right paw division is more evenly distributed than with humans – a dog’s paw preference was split fifty-fifty while cats were 50% right-pawed, 40% left-pawed and 10% ambidextrous.
Moreover, there’s even a DIY test developed by Dr. Stefanie Schwartz of the Veterinary Neurology Center in California, which you can do yourself to determine if your pet is right or left pawed! The catch is that you have to repeat the test 100 times. For me personally, this means that although I am curious about the paw preferences of my three cats, I’ve not taken the time to test any of them. Maybe someday when I don’t have to do things like work, eat and sleep, I will. Oh, and I’d also need to have a great deal more patience, which I’d surely need to test three willful felines who typically won’t do anything I ask them to. However, if you really want to figure out the paw preference of your own dog or cat, read on.
By Langley Cornwell
My husband and I share our home with two dogs and a cat, and most of the time it’s completely harmonious. We got one of the dogs and the cat at the same time, so that introduction was easy for everyone involved. Because we rescued those two animals together, they were getting accustomed to us, our home and each other at the same time. It worked out seamlessly.
When we decided it was time to add another dog to our family, we were a bit concerned about how the potential new dog would get along with our cat. This dog needed a home immediately and he had never been exposed to cats. We decided to take the plunge, and made the introductions slowly. And of course, we followed the instructions I wrote about in this article: Tips for Introducing a New Dog to a Household with Cats. We were fortunate that after a few misunderstandings, it all worked out.
Many families have at least one cat and one dog, and I’ve heard too many stories about serious fights breaking out between the two. It’s not always the dog picking on the cat, either. Plenty of cat breeds are feisty, and some felines take pleasure in tormenting the family dog. Alternatively, a dog may want to play when a cat isn’t in the mood. If the uninitiated dog doesn’t read the cat’s hissing, swatting or growling signs, a full-on fight can erupt.