Pet talk

By Maneka Gandhi

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka explains about pampering cats, the behavioural changes they undergo and many other cat-facts.

How to make your cat like being held and picked up?

Some cats don’t like to be held or picked up. Adopted cats might also not like being touched, as they do not trust you yet, but may learn to do so in time.

But it is possible to make your cat like being held if it starts associating it with positive experience. Start by sitting on the floor so that you are on the same level as them. Invite them to your lap by either keeping food with you or let them chase a toy to your lap. When they are around you, do not make any sudden movements.

Once they are comfortable around you, slowly outstretch your hand and let them smell you. Start by stroking their face, scratch their ears and do long strokes all the way from neck to the tail. Let them rub their face in your hand. Reward this positive experience with some treat. After the cat has no qualms about being in your lap, gently lift it up on a lower level and keep it down again. The idea is to slowly but incrementally lift in small steps. Keep rewarding and gently praising for each positive result. Once you get the cat all the way up, show her around to keep it distracted. If at any time, you sense the cat is getting uncomfortable, or wants to get out, put it down gently and try again sometime later.

Is it normal for a cat to lose whiskers?

Like fur, cats are known to shed their whiskers one or two at a time. Although whiskers grow and shed from time to time, you should never trim them. Whiskers are very sensitive. Trimming them can disorient the cat and make them dizzy and frightened.

Why do cats find it difficult to descend from tall trees when they can easily climb up?

Cats are natural climbers and use their claws curved backwards to get up the tree. Descending the tree is not impossible for the cats, but they would need to get down backwards, tail first. When the cats attempt to descend head first, the claws are curved upwards and will not hold them securely. Most cats can’t figure this out and when they come down the normal way, they fall and then will not do it again. So they get stuck.

Is it true that cats are loners?

A common misconception around cats is that they are loners. But studies done on cats claim that cats are social and do better in the company of others. It depends on how the cat is raised. If a cat has always been around other cats and people, it will learn how to communicate. If the cat was snatched early on from its litter, or has not been around people, it will become a loner. A feline companion can help a cat be more confident and happy around humans and other cats.

Why has my cat stopped covering its excrement?

Covering and hiding its waste is a natural instinct in wild cats to hide the trail from predators. Dominant cats, such as lions and tigers, do not cover their waste as a way to mark their territory. If your cat has stopped covering its faeces, it could mean that the cat feels safe and dominant in its territory (including you).

Is it dangerous if my cat/dog eats paper?

A small, one time, ingestion of newspaper or tissues by your pet is not to be worried about. It will naturally pass through the digestive tract. Lack of toys or boredom can lead your pet to make do with anything easily available to them.

However, ingestion of a large amount of paper can cause a serious blockage or upset stomach and will need veterinary intervention. Newspaper ink is dangerous.

What behavioural changes should you expect to see in your cat as it gets older?

As cats age, they undergo many behavioural changes and may also experience a decline in cognitive functioning. Here are some changes you can expect to see in your cat:

1) Inappropriate elimination: Eliminating outside the litter box is the most common problem in older cats. Identifying the underlying cause can help resolve this issue. Medical conditions, such as colitis, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, liver and kidney disease, arthritis, feline urinary tract disease, or even loss of vision, can cause pain in urinating or defecating or making it difficult for the cat to get in and out of the litter box, resulting in improper elimination. Treating the medical conditions, keeping the litter box in the area the cat spends most time in, or increasing the number of litter boxes, can help solve the issue.

2) Aggression: With age, cats may start getting aggressive towards people or other animals in the house. This may also be caused by medical problems causing pain, or loss of vision, or hearing, or diseases directly affecting the nervous system, causing the cat to easily get startled. Be gentle and calm around the cat and seek veterinary help if the problem persists.

3) Fear and anxiety: Like aggression, fear and anxiety can be caused by loss of hearing/ vision, or by stress and pain. The cat has lost its confidence and knows that it wouldn’t be able to fend for itself. Pheromone or drug therapy may help your cat feel less anxious. The vet may even prescribe anti-anxiety medications for the cat.

4) Change in activity pattern: Unlike young cats, older cats are not very active and may keep snoozing all throughout the day. It may also become more talkative. This may be a way of communicating the pain it’s experiencing due to a medical condition, such as arthritis, or maybe is demanding more attention from you.