Category Archives: scratching post

Why Do Cats Shed Their Claws?

By Julia Williams

Cat owners are accustomed to discovering tufts of fur around their home. We will also find whiskers now and then, and some weird humans will even save those whiskers and tape them to the fridge as a sort of oddball kitty collage…ahem…no one I know does that, of course. But I digress.

If you have a cat, though, sooner or later you will find “the claw.” There it is, one of kitty’s claws stuck to the carpet or the scratching post. If you have multiple cats and they tend to scuffle, you might even find a claw jutting out from one of their foreheads, like a little “kitty unicorn horn” or a victory badge left behind by the cat who won. (Don’t laugh, that has happened to two of my cats!).

No matter where you find the claw, the first time it happens you might freak out a bit because you think something awful happened to your cat. “Oh no! Fluffy’s claw fell off!” you exclaim. “Is she sick or injured? Should I take her to the vet?” You might even examine her paws only to see all of the claws intact. Well, if Fluffy still has all of her claws, then what IS that thing you found?

Relax. It is a claw…sort of. Your cat still has all of her claws, but what you found is the nail sheath, which is the older, outer layer of the claw that “sheds” to expose a newer, sharper claw. This is perfectly natural and no cause for alarm.

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Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

By Ruthie Bently

Here in Minnesota, catnip grows wild in some areas. When I first moved to my present residence there was a catnip plant that was over six feet tall growing in one of the flower beds on the property. Since then, the original plant has died off because it was too sheltered, but it spread its progeny to my garden. I don’t mind at all, because my cats love catnip – even most of the ones that shouldn’t be attracted to it yet, as they are a bit young. So what is catnip exactly, and is it safe for your cat?

Catnip is an herb in the mint family, and the main attractant for our cats is the essential oil in its blossoms, leaves and stems. Cat may roll in it, chew on it or rub against plants, to release this oil that is pleasing to them. Some cats will even eat it, but scientists claim they are reacting to the odor of the plant, not the taste.

The active ingredient in catnip that attracts them is nepetalactone. One variety of Nepeta cataria (catnip) grows wild in many U.S. states; it was imported from Eurasia and the rest is history. The Ojibwa Indians used it for making a tea that had a pleasing taste and was supposed to bring down fevers. In fact humans have been using catnip for centuries for its healing properties.

The catnip plant is a perennial that grows about two to three feet high. It has leaves a bit larger than peppermint leaves, which feel fuzzy to the touch. I have seen its flowers in both a purplish-pink and white, though there are propagated varieties that have a more blue color. Many domestic cats are attracted to catnip and it also attracts their wilder “cousins” like leopards, bobcats, tigers and lions.

The attraction to catnip actually comes from a gene; while many cats have it, not all do. Younger cats do not always respond to catnip and may not until they are about six months old. Scientists believe that the trigger for catnip is the same that triggers sexual activity, hence the reasons that younger kittens may not like catnip.

If your cat is attracted to catnip, it’s interesting to note that two very different reactions can occur. Catnip usually acts as a stimulant when a cat sniffs it, and as a natural sedative if they eat it. Because of its calming effects, many cat owners use it when they have to transport their cat and don’t want to use a sedative from the vet. Catnip is also a great way to teach your cat to use a scratching post. Simply sprinkle some liberally over the post and watch them go wild!

Cats cannot become addicted to catnip, and it is also not harmful to your cat if they eat it. As with anything else, if you have questions, consult your local veterinarian. My cats love catnip and I love watching their antics in my garden where it grows, or when offered a catnip toy. We all get joy from the occasion.

Photo courtesy of Rose at Angelcat Haven, a non-profit feline rescue organization dedicated to helping homeless and stray cats in Plainville, MA and surrounding towns. Angelcat Haven also sells colorful handmade catnip mats on their website, with all proceeds going toward the care of their rescued kitties.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How to Keep an Indoor Cat Happy

By Julia Williams

Until recently, I didn’t believe an indoor cat could be happy. I thought that “depriving” a cat of the outdoors would surely make them depressed, lethargic and overweight. I saw how much my own country kitties enjoyed climbing trees, fences and trellises, lounging in the garden, and hunting the ever-prolific gophers on our five acre field.

Then we moved back to the small town of my childhood, and my cats became primarily indoor cats. They were scared at first, and hid in the bedroom closet for a week. I wasn’t going to let them go out for at least a month anyway. When they finally did come out of the closet, my California born-and-raised cats took one sniff of the cool Montana air and must’ve decided then and there that being indoors suited them just fine. And when the snow came, it pretty much sealed the deal.

I worried that they’d hate being inside and cease to be the joyful kitties I knew and loved, but soon realized that my concerns were unwarranted. In fact, to my surprise they now show little interest in going outside, even when offered the opportunity. I did make some adjustments to their indoor environment however, to make it as kitty-hospitable as possible. The key to keeping an indoor cat happy, it seems, is providing them with plenty of stimulation and attention, along with an enriched environment.

So what does that entail, exactly? I keep my indoor kitties stimulated by having lots of different cat toys for them to play with. I bring home a huge bag of Christmas clearance cat toys from my local pet store every January, and rarely spend more than $10. Some of those toys have a holiday theme of course, but the cats don’t know the difference or care, and neither do I.

The important thing to remember about cat toys is that every kitty is different; for example, mine go crazy for furry mice but get bored with balls in a nanosecond. If I buy assortments that have balls in them I give those to my sister, whose cats love to bat balls. Soon enough you’ll discover which types of toys your cat likes best, and you can get more of those.

Another other thing to keep in mind is that you need to rotate your cat toys frequently. Once a week I swap out all the toys with others that I keep in the “cat toy drawer.” In a feline’s world, this is like getting brand new toys to play with every week.

I also buy them toys that require human participation – like mice-on-a-stick, lasers, and cat “fishing” poles – which accomplishes both the stimulation and attention aspect. I also try to give each of my three cats my undivided attention every day, no matter how busy I am. I brought these cats into my family because I wanted to give them love and a good home, and I owe it to them to pay attention to them. Now that they’re primarily indoor cats, they are a bit needier and they crave more attention than they did before, so I adjusted to accommodate them.

Besides playing with them, you can also give your cats attention by having petting sessions, lap time, and grooming time. As with the toys, you need to discover what your cat likes the most, and do more of that. Annabelle loves to be brushed and combed (that’s an understatement), so this is what I do for her time. Mickey loves to sit on my lap, so I let him, even if it means I have to sit two feet away from my keyboard. Rocky prefers plain vanilla petting, so he gets that.

The third aspect to keeping an indoor kitty content is an enriched environment. In other words, you need to provide things besides toys that make them happy. My cats like to lie on the back of the sofa and watch the birds, so I placed a comfy sheepskin kitty mat there to contain the cat hair. You can also buy window perches that accomplish the same thing. You might want to get them a cozy cat bed or cat “donut” to sleep in, too. If your kitty likes to nibble on grass, it’s easy to grow special cat greens for them.

Cat towers and cat condos are a great way to provide your cat with a place to nap, scratch, climb, play and perch, all in one day! It’s also a good idea to provide your indoor cat with various scratching surfaces— I have several styles of corrugated cardboard scratchers, as well as a carpeted scratching post. I’ve learned that when it comes to cats, you really can’t have too many scratching posts!

My cats are probably not as happy indoors as they were outdoors, but they are happy enough. Given that indoor cats live longer and are typically healthier, that is good enough for me.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

How to Train Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post

I share my home with three felines, and am continually reminded of the old saying, “Patience is a virtue.” Don’t get me wrong – I adore my cats and love having them in my home. But cats are stubborn creatures that can test the patience of a saint. My cat Rocky decided early on that my wall-to-wall carpet was his own personal, giant-sized scratching post. As you can imagine, that didn’t work for me, and I made it my personal mission to put an end to his carpet scratching ways.
To successfully train your cat to use a scratching post in lieu of your carpet or furniture, you need to first understand why they scratch. Most people believe a cat scratches to sharpen its claws, which is true in that scratching removes the outer portion of the claw to reveal a sharp new tip. But cats also scratch to claim territory and mark their turf, both with visible signs of claw marks and the scent glands on their paws. They also scratch for exercise and stress relief, like a feline version of Yoga or Pilates. Lastly, cats scratch because it’s a natural behavior that feels good.
As you can see, there’s no point in trying to get your cat to stop scratching, because it won’t. Instead, you can re-direct its impulse to scratch to a more appropriate place, aka, the cat scratching post or scratching pad. Nowadays, there’s a large variety of scratching post materials and styles available, from carpet to sisal to corrugated card board. The most important thing you should know is that you might need to try several different kinds before you find the scratching surface your cat prefers.
Also keep in mind that some cats favor vertical scratching surfaces, some prefer horizontal surfaces, and some will use either. My own battle with Rocky’s inappropriate scratching was prolonged because I tried to force him to become a vertical scratcher. Secondly, I thought that getting a carpeted scratching post would discourage him from scratching my carpet. After much trial and error, I realized I was wrong on both counts. He now uses his carpeted scratching post, but only because I turned it sideways so he could scratch horizontally.
There are several tricks you can use when training your cat to use a scratching post. First, resist the urge to put the post in a little-used corner of your home. Your cat wants to mark his territory where he spends most of his time, which isn’t (usually) the bedroom closet or the laundry room. You can gradually move the scratching post to a less visible location once it’s been accepted by your cat as his territory. Ideally, you should set up posts in several different locations, so that when the urge to scratch strikes, there is one handy.
Encourage your cat to check out the scratching post by offering him treats near it. Hold the treat up near the post or put it on the post so that your cat’s paws touch the surface of the post to get the treat. Toys that dangle from a string are another great way to train your cat to use a scratching post. Play with your cat near the post and move the toy around the post so that when it tries to get its toy, it invariably climbs up the post. If your feline loves catnip, sprinkle some liberally all over the surface of the post and it will go bonkers rubbing it, kneading it and eventually, scratching it.
Training your cat to use a scratching post takes time, patience and perseverance. Keep in mind that cats are creatures of habit. Use that to your advantage by taking them over to their post when you get up in the morning, and whenever you come home from being away. I did that consistently for several months, and now all my cats run to their scratching posts at those times, usually without my urging. Yes, even my notorious carpet scratcher uses his post multiple times every day – which is something of a minor miracle!

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.