Get used to the new term ‘Caturday’

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Cats sat stoically in the grass on Boston Common Sunday morning, allowing themselves to be admired and photographed. Some people squealed “Kitty!” as if they’d never seen a cat before.

“This is the best day ever,” said Erin Curtin, 20, of Natick. “It is a beautiful morning and everybody is gathering as a community to pet cats. This is the epitome of positive experiences.”

It was Boston’s first “Caturday,” a popular cat meet-up that’s already arrived in other major cities, creating a communal space for feline aficionados. On Facebook, the event was called “a day to reclaim the glory of the outdoors for our feline friends.”

Beverly resident and local organizer Kristin Leigh Porcello, 24, said she plans to continue holding Caturdays on the first Saturday of each month on the Common.

“It really was a wonderful turnout,” Porcello said.

Leashes prevented run-ins with squirrels, while dog walkers did double takes as scores of people surrounded feline faces peeking out from carriers and purses. Gizmo the cat, just shy of 30 pounds, wore a tiny sparkling hat.

His owners were bemused at the attention.

“We went and bought one of these cat strollers,” said Kristin Mills, 18, from Bedford. “People are all over him. He’s a little different. He’s super, super obese.”

Lulu the cat was hiding in her owner’s armpit. Brighton residents Charlie, 28, and Jayda, 27, Siegler named her after the restaurant in the hotel where they stayed on their honeymoon.

Lulu, the couple said, acts more like a dog than a cat.

“I’m just trying to make sure she’s having a good time,” Charlie Siegler said.

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Interesting: The hidden environmental costs of #dog and #cat food

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Gregory Okin is quick to point out that he does not hate dogs and cats. Although he shares his home with neither — he is allergic, so his pets are fish — he thinks it is fine if you do. But if you do, he would like you to consider what their meat-heavy kibble and canned food are doing to the planet.

Okin, a geographer at UCLA, recently did that, and the numbers he crunched led to some astonishing conclusions. America’s 180 million or so Rovers and Fluffies gulp down about 25 percent of all the animal-derived calories consumed in the United States each year, according to Okin’s calculations. If these pets established a sovereign nation, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption.

Needless to say, producing that meat  — which requires more land, water and energy and pollutes more than plant-based food  — creates a lot of greenhouse gases: as many as 64 million tons annually, or about the equivalent of driving more than 12 million cars around for a year. That doesn’t mean pet-keeping must be eschewed for the sake of the planet, but “neither is it an unalloyed good,” Okin wrote in a study published this week in PLOS One.

“If you are worried about the environment, then in the same way you might consider what kind of car you buy … this is something that might be on your radar,” Okin said in an interview. “But it’s not necessarily something you want to feel terrible about. ”

This research was a departure for Okin, who typically travels the globe to study deserts — things such as wind erosion, dust production and plant-soil interactions. But he said the backyard chicken trend in Los Angeles got him thinking about “how cool it is” that pet chickens make protein, while dogs and cats eat protein. And he discovered that even as interest grows in the environmental impact of our own meat consumption, there has been almost no effort to quantify the part our most common pets play.

To do that, Okin turned to dog and cat population estimates from the pet industry, average animal weights, and ingredient lists in popular pet foods. The country’s dogs and cats, he determined, consume about 19 percent as many calories as the human population, or about as much as 62 million American people. But because their diets are higher in protein, the pets’ total animal-derived calorie intake amounts to about 33 percent of that of humans.

Okin’s numbers are estimates, but they do “a good job of giving us some numbers that we can talk about,” said Cailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who has written about the environmental impact of pet food. “They bring up a really interesting discussion.”

Okin warns that the situation isn’t likely to improve any time soon. Pet ownership is on the rise in developing countries such as China, which means the demand for meaty pet food is, too. And in the United States, the growing idea of pets as furry children has led to an expanding market of expensive, gourmet foods that sound like Blue Apron meals. That means not just kale and sweet potato in the ingredient list, but grain-free and “human-grade” concoctions that emphasize their use of high-quality meat rather than the leftover “byproducts” that have traditionally made up much of our pets’ food.

“The trend is that people will be looking for more good cuts of meat for their animals and more high-protein foods for their animals,” Okin said.

What to do about this? That’s the hard part. Heinze said one place to start is by passing on the high-protein or human-grade foods. Dogs and cats do need protein — and cats, which are obligate carnivores, really do need meat, she said. But the idea that they should dine on the equivalent of prime rib and lots of it comes from what she calls “the pet food fake news machine.” There’s no need to be turned off by some plant-based proteins in a food’s ingredients, she said, and dog owners in particular can look for foods with lower percentages of protein.

The term human-grade implies that a product is using protein that humans could eat, she added. Meat byproducts — all the organs and other animal parts that don’t end up at the supermarket — are perfectly fine, she said.

“Dogs and cats happily eat organ meat,” Heinze said. “Americans do not.”

Okin has some thoughts about that. The argument that pet foods’ use of byproducts is an “efficiency” in meat production is based on the premise that offal and organs are gross, he says. (Look no further than the collective gag over a finely textured beef product known as “pink slime.”) But if we would reconsider that, his study found, about one-quarter of all the animal-derived calories in pet food would be sufficient for all the people of Colorado.

“I’ve traveled around the world and I’m cognizant that what is considered human edible is culture-specific,” he said. “Maybe we need to have a conversation about what we will eat.”

In the meantime, Okin suggests that people thinking about getting a dog might consider a smaller one — a terrier rather than a Great Dane, say. Or, if you think a hamster might fulfill your pet desires, go that route.

Heinze, for her part, sometimes offers the same counsel to vegetarian or vegan clients who want their pets to go meat-free. They are typically motivated by animal welfare concerns, not environmental ones, she said, but such diets are not always best for dogs, and they never are for cats. read more…

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Tips for calming your #cat’s aggressive behavior

Dealing with feline aggression can be a challenge for any cat owner and one that can be painful as well as frustrating. Aggression can be caused by seizures or illness, including heart disease, so be sure to talk with your veterinarian first to see if your cat’s behavior could be managed with medication and/or additional training.

 

According to the Pet Behavior Clinic, there are various types of feline aggressions, including:

 

Aggression while playing: Kittens normally replace most of their social behavior with aggressive play at about 12 weeks of age and again around 8 months. Aggression at these ages is believed to be a part of learning to hunt and defend territory.

To prevent this problem, don’t encourage kittens to play with your hands or feet. Instead, direct their attempts to play to appropriate toys (such as balls on a string, crinkly tunnels, motorized toys, climbing posts and so on). If your pet insists on playing with you and ignores the toys, get up and walk away so that the behavior is not rewarded with your attention.

(Note: Laser beam toys are not appropriate. Kittens and cats need to be successful at some point in catching their “prey,” so these types of toys only result in frustrated, unhappy cats that may take it out on you.

 

Hormonal aggression: Un-neutered male cats and female cats in heat may exhibit aggressive behavior due to hormonal triggers. Having your cat spayed or neutered not only reduces the overpopulation of unwanted kittens who statistically have a low chance for long-term survival, but also reduces the cat’s tendency to have aggressive episodes.

 

Aggressive exercise: Your domestic cat is not that much different from large cats in the wild in that they are predators and their natural activities are suited for catching the food they need to survive. In homes, food is provided and cats sleep a good part of the day. If your cat does not go outside where they can catch mice and climb trees to work off their energy, they may need you to help provide ways for them to burn off that energy through play.

A climbing post near a window where they can watch birds and squirrels is excellent stimulation for a cat. Also, catnip toys can provide hours of great fun. Placing a ping pong ball in a dry bathtub or an empty medium-sized box on the floor, hanging things from a scratching post or even teaching your cat to fetch are all good ideas.

If your cat is stalking or chasing your feet, keep a spray bottle of water handy and spray when they attack (avoid the eyes). This also works well if they are attacking other cats in the home. Tossing a small bean bag at your cat right before they pounce can also be an effective distraction.

 

Over-stimulation: If your cat’s aggressions comes on suddenly while they are being petted, it may be caused by an abnormal sensitivity, especially noticeable a the base of the tail. If stroking your cat leads to them kneading with front paws and even drooling, they could be getting over-stimulated causing a sudden burst of aggression. Try just scratching behind the ears or under the chin.

Aggressive while restrained: If your cat is aggressive to you when you are giving medication or clipping nails, you should wrap them in a towel to do these things. To prevent your cat from fearing the towel, you can wrap them in a towel for about 10 seconds a few times each week. If necessary, a professional groomer or veterinary technician can trim nails for you. read more…

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Choosing #CatFood for Even the Most Finicky #Cats

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Imagine your food choice being limited to a bowl of cereal with milk at every meal for the rest of your life. Doesn’t sound very savory, does it? Yet, that is the fate for millions of indoor cats who eat the same cat food at each and every meal.

Which begs these questions: Are cats truly finicky and prefer one diet, or do they crave the opportunity to expand their palates? And, will varying their diets boost their health or make them prone to food allergies and digestive upsets?

For answers, Catster turned to a pair of top feline experts: Elizabeth Colleran, D.V.M., the former president of the American Academy of Feline Practitioners who operates cat-only practices in Chico, California, and Portland, Oregon, and Jessica Vogelsang, D.V.M., a San Diego, California-based veterinarian, best-selling author and creator of the award-winning Paw Curious website.

How cats choose what cat food they like to eat

“Cats are drawn to certain foods by three factors: mouth feel, odor and taste,” Dr. Colleran said. “They learn [food] preferences from even before birth, so some of what they like is beyond anyone’s control. Some variety is helpful, but it is important to look at all factors that can affect appetite, including surroundings, stress, other cats and health issues.”

Dr. Vogelsang added, “There are some cats who have strong preferences for flavors, textures and temperatures. For these cats, it can be more challenging to change or expand their diets. But if they learn early on that the food they receive will rotate, they will not have as great a chance to develop bad habits.”

What cats need to eat

What is crystal clear is that cats are obligate carnivores, which means their bodies need high-quality protein to operate efficiently. They need a diet containing at least 40 percent protein to maintain lean body condition. Too many carbohydrates and too little protein in their diets can result in muscle loss, dull or itchy skin coats and even obesity.

“Muscle loss over the spine of the back, top of the head or rear limbs is the most important sign that the cat’s diet is inadequate,” Dr. Colleran pointed out.

How to introduce new cat food into your cat’s diet

If you plan to introduce a “rotation diet” to your cat, introduce new quality commercial foods slowly. Dr. Colleran recommended following this formula:

For the first few days: Serve your cat a mixture containing about 75 percent of his current food with 25 percent of the new food.

For the next few days: Dish up a meal consisting of 50 percent current food and 50 percent new food.

After about a week: Provide your cat with meals containing 75 percent new food and 25 percent current food. At each transition, pay close attention to your cat’s actions and attitudes.

“Abrupt dietary changes can cause GI upset, diarrhea or loss of appetite,” she said. “People should never try serving large varieties of food if a cat suddenly stops liking her food. There is a reflex learning that occurs when a cat eats something and then feels badly. She learns to never want that food again even if that food had nothing to do with why she feels badly.”

Dealing with food allergies and cats

Dr. Vogelsang’s former cat, Apollo, shared a fate far too common in older cats: He developed food allergies around age 9. His hair fell out, and he had stomach issues. So, she gradually switched him from his chicken- and fish-based food to a novel protein — duck — and his health and appetite improved.

“Blood tests can’t identify food allergies,” Dr. Vogelsang said, “An elimination diet is the only way to determine if a cat has developed a food allergy. That requires working with your veterinarian and exposing your cat to one protein and one carbohydrate source at a time to identify the allergen.” 

Handling a picky-eater cat

Her current cat, Penelope, is pickier about food choices than Apollo and prefers the crunch of dry food over the moisture of canned food. “She is a texture cat — she likes the texture of kibble,” Dr. Vogelsang said. “I can put out the same formulation in canned and dry, and she always goes for the dry food.”

How to add variety to your cat’s diet

If you wish to add variety to your cat’s diet, Dr. Colleran offered these parting tips about cat food:

  • Choose food made from companies with doctorate-level nutritionists on their staff.
  • Avoid companies that do not publish complete nutrition information on their websites.
  • Recognize that the term ‘gluten- free’ may not mean carb-free, but simply may mean that the company adds carbohydrates in a different form, such as potatoes.
  • Understand that cats cannot go days without eating, so don’t be stubborn and insist they eat a new food. If they don’t eat the new food, within a few days they could develop a fatal liver disease known as feline hepatic lipidosis.  Read more…

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Cat & Catio – a great idea

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On a recent Wednesday in Bucksport, the midday breeze was just right. Birds were singing and the sound of distant chimes carried on the swaying grass.

It was a splendid day to be outside.

Perched like a king behind Bonnie Brennan’s home was Titus, her six-year-old long-haired cat. With feline immunodeficiency virus, Titus isn’t able to enjoy the life of a traditional outdoor cat. The risk of infecting another cat through a bite, paired with the stress that exploring the outdoors would put on his immune system, has confined Titus to a life indoors.

But last summer that all changed thanks to some mesh screening, a few pieces of lumber and a touch of handy work from Brennan. Now, on these nice summer days, you can find Titus lounging in a window box that juts out from Brennan’s first floor bathroom, where he can enjoy the breeze and nap in his own sanctuary.

“He loves it. It’s a way for him to be closer to nature and it’s kind of like his little space,” Brennan said.

Among feline enthusiasts, these screen window boxes, and in some cases large-scale outdoor enclosures, have been dubbed “catios.” Brennan said she first saw the idea for a catio online and was inspired to make her own. Premade catios can be pricey, and Brennan figured all the do-it-yourself lessons she learned from her brothers growing up would pay off in this instance.

The six foot-by-two foot catio box that Brennan constructed is mounted to the exterior of her home so Titus can access the space from the open bathroom window as he pleases. Because the walls of the catio are made with screen, Titus is kept inside while bugs and pests are kept out.

Equipped with a bed and a few cat toys, Titus spends much of his time on decent weather days enjoying the labors of his adoptive owner. Brennan took on Titus as a foster cat about five years ago when a friend in Florida found him being taunted by some neighborhood children. Having cats in the past, but none presently, Brennan agreed to foster Titus.

In Maine for the past five years, Titus has never been an outdoor cat, though he has escaped a handful of times, Brennan said. Knowing that Titus has a space to look at birds and feel the fresh air ― while still being safe ― gives Brennan satisfaction as a pet owner.

While Brennan has weatherized her catio with insulation and plexiglass ― which she removes during the warmer months ― so Titus can enjoy the space into November, just up the street, Chester Seidel has taken the catio concept to the next level.

Seidel and his wife have retired to a quaint white home in Bucksport, and aside from a cat statue that greets visitors by the side door, you would assume that Seidel has invested an average amount of time into caring for his indoor cats.

But if you follow him around the back of his garage, a three story catio ― equipped with carpeted ramps, multiple levels and a tree limb for maximum activity ― will show you just how lucky Seidel’s two cats, Blackie and Rascal, are to have him.

“They have the run of the house,” Seidel said. “It was their demand, I just went and did it.”

Like Brennan’s catio, Seidel also constructed his catio himself. Using two perpendicular exterior walls of his home’s attached garage, Seidel built two additional walls to make the area a perfect square using scrap wood he had on hand and chicken wire he purchased to create an enclosed square space that runs the height of the garage. His cats have two entryways into the catio from the garage, one on the ground level and one on a higher level of the catio.

While neither of Seidel’s cats have health problems that prevent them from living the life of a traditional outdoor cat, he doesn’t want to risk the cats being injured by a predator. Even in the more populated area of Bucksport where Seidel and Brennan live, coyotes and other animals that pose a threat to small pets have been spotted. By having a catio, cats are able to enjoy the experience of being outside without becoming lost or hurt.

“I think anyone that has animals, dogs or cats, should have an enclosed outdoor area for them to do what they want in,” Seidel said. read more…

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Never heard of a 35 lb #cat?

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Meet Symba, a really really – really – fat cat.

Weighing in at 35 pounds, this feline is at the Humane Rescue Alliance in D.C. and is need of a home.

Staffers of the humane rescue group posed with the 6-year-old fat cat and posted the pictures on social media.

In their post, they wrote, staff “has seen a lot – but we’ve never seen a 35 pound cat!” The cat is available for adoption at its New York Avenue location in Washington, D.C.

The Humane Rescue Alliance told Symba’s story:

The fat feline came last week to the facility. Officials said his owner moved to an assisted living center and couldn’t bring Symba with him.

The cat’s owner told the staff over the phone that Symba weighed nearly 40 pounds. The staff was surprised to hear that weight and “thought surely he must be overestimating,” they said in a blog that now tracks Symba’s life and new weight loss program.

But when Symba came to the humane rescue site, he hit the scales and weighed in at 35 pounds. (The humane rescue staff put an ! after announcing his weight.)

Staff described Symba as a “handsome fellow, with his sweet face and mellow disposition.”

Because of his obesity, Symba was given a detailed checkup, including a blood glucose test. It came back normal. But he’s about 15 pounds overweight so the alliance’s medical team said he is at an “increased risk of health complications.”

The average domestic house cat should ideally weigh between eight and 10 pounds, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Once he got settled at the shelter, the staff at the alliance got Symba on basically the cat version of “The Biggest Loser,” a TV show that tracks people’s weight loss in a contest.

“It’s difficult for him to walk at the moment, so staff are focusing on improving his diet and starting his physical activity slowly,” the staff said in its blog. read more…

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What is #Cat Tail Trying to Tell You

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Picture of black and white house cat
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark
By Liz Langley

 

 

 

Cat owners are keenly tuned in to their pets’ body language, but once in a while the felines will throw a curve. Sometimes it’s in their tails.

While watching our cat snooze, we noticed his tail was tapping away like he was enjoying a disco medley we couldn’t hear, sending quite a mixed signal.

So how do you decode a cat’s tail? (Read “Surprising Things You Never Knew About Your Cat.”) Tail Tips

You have to take the whole body into account when reading tail signals, says Carlo Siracusa, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

The napping cat with the tapping tail, for example, is “relaxed overall but paying attention to something happening around him, a sound or movement,” so he’s peaceful but hardly asleep on the job.

 

If he really is sleeping, Siracusa adds, a moving tail could mean he’s dreaming. (Related: “Do Animals Dream?”)

A whipping tale on an alert cat can mean nervousness, potential aggression, and “Do not touch!” says Siracusa.

On a calm cat a straight-up tail with a hooked tip is a friendly greeting, while an aggressive cat may just have its tail straight up. A fearful “Halloween” cat will have an arched back and “its tail up and puffed.” read more…

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