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With a child's toothbrush, a finger brush or a special cat toothbrush, brush your feline's teeth with cat toothpaste on a regular basis. Start slowly and very gently, offering tasty treats to discourage squirming, before attempting to increase brushing times.

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Are Cats Loners?

By Kim Boatman

Are Cats Loners?

The stereotype that cats are aloof loners who care more about their food and warm sleeping spots than they do about their humans has been around for years. If such comforts came without you and your companionship, your cat would be out the door, right? Not quite, believe it or not. Plenty of cat owners -- maybe even you -- with friendly, attention-needy felines serve as proof.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to start playing a vital role in your cat’s life. These simple steps can help create a great relationship with your beloved feline.

Cats Are Social
“Dogs, humans and almost all the other species we come in contact with are pack species,” says Dr. Tony Buffington, DVM, Ph.D., director of Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Indoor Cat Initiative. “Cats are solitary hunters,” he adds. “A lot of people misinterpret that to mean they are asocial. That’s not really what it means.”

Feral cats hunt alone, but they live in colonies, notes Ingrid Johnson, a Marietta, Ga., cat behaviorist. Supporting this more family-oriented view is a 2006 Harris Interactive survey that found that eight out of 10 veterinarians believe feral cats are in fact social by nature.

Signs of Cat Loneliness
Cats can’t pipe up and tell us they need more face-to-whisker time, but there are warning signs. Take note of the following behaviors, which can indicate your pet’s unhappiness:

  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive meowing
  • Overeating or not eating
  • Coughing up hairballs because of the over-grooming
  • A decrease in activity and interaction

Curing Feline Distress
If you detect any of the indicators for loneliness, you can take steps to make sure your cat is not an unhappy feline. Here are some tips:

  • Visit your veterinarian first Since the symptoms of loneliness can mimic illness, it’s best to have your veterinarian examine your kitty. You’ll want to rule out physical causes, such as thyroid issues, infections or other health problems, which could be causing your cat’s distress.
  • Think pairs If possible, plan to have a cat “family.” For example, Johnson recommends adopting two cats at a time. “I always, always recommend adopting two cats,” she says. “I do not adopt out single cats unless they were raised as a single cat.” She further advises, “Don’t get one little kitten and make them an only child. I do not adopt out kittens unless they are in pairs.”
  • Choose companions wisely If you’re attempting to introduce a new kitty to be a companion for your cat, be cautious, say the experts. “If a cat is having problems, getting another cat is like taking a married couple that is having problems and saying, ‘You just need to have children,’” Dr. Buffington says, explaining that such introductions could even backfire, since you’d be adding yet another source of stress to an already maxed-out cat. She also instructs that you consider your cat’s energy level when bringing another cat into your home. As an example, if your kitty is a sedate 10-year-old, a frisky kitten might not make the best companion. “Don’t get a kitten (in this case). Get a pair of kittens so your 10-year-old doesn’t have to wrestle or rough and tumble,” advises Johnson.
  • Enrich your cat’s environment Your cat is certain to live a safer, healthier life as an indoor cat. But, like zoo animals, indoor cats are cut off from the more dangerous, yet stimulating, outside environment, says Dr. Buffington. “They are always at risk for loneliness in that situation.” It’s up to you to provide a rich, stimulating environment that engages your cat and prevents its loneliness. You’ll want to make sure your cat has places to climb and scratch, as well as toys that provide mental challenges and let your kitty act out its instinct to pursue prey. “People sometimes think cats will create their environment for themselves,” Dr. Buffington says, pointing out that’s false.
  • Be creative about play Too often, we buy cute cat toys on impulse at the pet store, then toss them in a basket. Instead, rotate toys in circulation so your cat doesn’t get bored. Grab a handful of toy mice, or other small toys, and toss them in a catnip marinade in a plastic bag before turning them over to your cat, says Johnson. Feline foraging toys, such as Play-N-Treat balls and the SlimCat, make your cat work for its dry food, since kitties must roll the balls and bat at the containers to get the pellets to dispense. Johnson feeds her cats dry food solely through such foraging toys. Working for the food is “positive frustration. It’s like a little Mensa toy for cats,” she says.

Always remember that your cat does need your interaction, concludes Johnson. “They have independent features and they don’t have that neediness of a dog, so we tend to forget about them,” she says. “But the idea of the loner cat is just folklore.”

Kim Boatman is a journalist and frequent contributor to The Daily Catbased in Northern California whose work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals and shares her home with three cats.

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Posted on October 25, 2009

helen says: my cat scratches herself raw .vet after vet nothing but putting out more $$. what can i do to stop the scratching!!!!

Posted on August 28, 2009

Rebecca Hoffman says: would my declawed cat still benefit from a scratching post, simply as a means of something to do?

Posted on August 28, 2009

Rebecca Hoffman says: I just adopted a cat a few weeks ago. Lately he has been throwing up hairballs almost everyday, usually when I"m at work or asleep. I try to give him as much attention as I can when I'm home and play with him but I'm finding it hard to find toys he's interested in, especially toys that he can play with on his own while I'm asleep or at work.

Posted on July 7, 2009


Posted on July 6, 2009

jamie debellis says: i have a 1 year old tabby. he hates to be picked up. when i try to pet him he runs away. is this normal?

Posted on July 4, 2009

Kristine Patti says: We recently lost our 16 year old domestic tiger and I am concerned about our 6 year old Maine Coon who is accustomed to having another cat around. We are contemplating getting him a playmate. Do you recommend this and if so are there any preferences for male and male versus male/female pairing? Also what about age differences? The Maine Coon is an indoor only cat and the cat we lost was indoor/outdoor, I want to do the right think for our Maine Coon, he seems sad. Looking forward to your advice. Thank you

Posted on July 2, 2009

Mario says: my cat is very affectionate and she is great she is still kind of young and likes to suckle on my shirts and other clothing while i'm relaxing and leaves huge wet spots on my clothes lol. when will she stop doing this?

Posted on June 23, 2009

casey gibson says: i have a 8 month cat the only problem i have with her is she just dont seem to interact with my grandkids she will hiss at them claw at them i am a single man and she is the love of my life will let me play with her she even sleeps with me' i am gone most of the day and she greets me at the door.. would hate to get rid of her but on the other hand i do not want my grand kids to get bitten or scratched bye the way my grand kids do nothing to provke her behavor please help

Posted on June 17, 2009

Bettie says: Bites for no reason. not in play.

Posted on June 18, 2009

butterflygrandma says: The only thing our 1 1/2 yr. old male Ragdoll likes to play is Hide and Seek....He "hides" and when I "find" him, he runs to another hiding spot....he is a big boy so is always in plain sight! He doesn't like to play with toys...he also doesn't like catnip..We had difficulty with him jumping and biting during until about 5 months ago. The vet had put him on a "antidepressant"l: it helped calm him down, but I took him off it because he seemed to become responsive to "Good Boy" and he was told "no" and removed from the person he would be jumping on.

Posted on June 9, 2009

Hazel Petrovich says: I have a two year old rescued cat. When I play the stero or whistle along with a song he cries. Am I hurting his ears or is he singing along???

Posted on June 8, 2009

karen Frystak says: The way you make up with your cat after you yelled at her is just leave her alone and she"ll come around usualy when she wants affection. Just give her time

Posted on May 31, 2009

jane bates says: My cat is 5yr old male and I got him from a vets office when he was 3 months old. He is beautiful! He has gall stones so I have to be careful about his food because he was constantly throwing up. it is a fight to get him in a carrier ending up being stessful for both of us. I have purchased this little boy almost every toy in the city and things to climb on and over and he loves them for a day or two and that is it. I invent games and after a few weeks no more. He plays hide and seek and we have a morning routine of feeding, and brushing and playing a game and after that he is done. He weighs 18lbs and the vet put him on a diet this week. Suggestion on how to keep him active

Posted on May 29, 2009

Sandy Kingston says: Weadopted Sophie 2 years ago from the shelter- she was just a baby - we love her to pieces- but she doesn't like to be held- will have nothing to do with my husband. she at times will show affection to me but will not sit in my lap. My grandchildren try to play with her- they are very gentle- she has nothing to do with my grandson- she will hiss at him if he gets too close. This does not seem to be getting better- is there something I should be doing? Someone said shes an unhappy cat.. I play with her daily- any suggestions? Thank-You

Posted on May 20, 2009

kathy says: have a 10 month old cat thought she could use companionship. we brought home another female kitten. thought we had adjustted fine. she has tought kitten to not use litter box. i have yelled at her lost my temper. now she wont come near me.. how do i make up with her and let her know i wont hurt her.this is older cat. thank u.

Posted on May 20, 2009

ginny meacham says: we have been taking care of cats for 5 years.....kitten at first, have routine shots or what ever is needed for them, the problem is they all need homes we are doing the best we can plus we have a 8yr old bassett that just learn how to walk after a year,, with surgery, and rebillation x 3 -4 AYS A WEEK, BUT NOW WALKING

Posted on April 28, 2009

inese says: My cat is one years old and from day one has like to watch and try to play with my hands I do not like that and he wants to bite them. Also he does not like to be picked up and squirms out of my arms. is this normal.

Posted on May 6, 2009

C HURLEY says: Why does my 10 month old kitten drop her toys in the water bowl?

Posted on April 14, 2009

Lisa says: I recently went away for a week & boarded my 3 & half yr old feline tabby. After she got home she keeps crying & looking around & follows me everywhere constantly & wants to be near me & sleeps on top of me. Is she afraid i will leave her again ? Does she need to get readjusted to her home after being away for a week ?

Posted on April 19, 2009

Stephany says: I have a manx, and he doesn't like to be held. He sometimes meowes in the meddle of a room and just sits there. I pet him and he bites me. He loves to watch birds because he is an inside cat. He also sometimes makes a weird clicking noise when we try to pick him up. If we don't let him go he bites us through. We hoped getting him spayed would help, but it did nothing to stop him. He is very active and plays with anything. When we open a door he dashes behind it and shoves his whole arm in that little space between the door, and the wall. He never did any of this when we first got him. How do we help him, and get him to not bite us?

Posted on April 11, 2009

Michelle Faltisko says: My 8 yr old female himmy Lilly I know def. misses her companion her companion Frasier who died 2.5 yrs. ago. He was her baby, she still wants to go cry in the bsmt. where we found him dying. She meows and spins her hear around alot, sometimes looks like she looking right thru me. Hooks her right paw when she walks, more than the past few years. Vet thinks it's neurological, she crys alot more now. Not sure if she is in pain or lonely, we got a now 2 yr, old himmy to replace the other as a kitty. she tolerates him, does she still miss the other or is she sick. she eats, plays, drinks, normal. Sleeps more, crys alots, help

Posted on April 9, 2009

Ann Churchill says: My mixed breed feral cat has long legs, a small head, a very long tail and large chest. She talks a lot, jumps to high places. My concern is her food. her stools are strong and acrid. What should I be feeding her or not feeling her?

Posted on March 24, 2009

Kelly says: Where the heck do I find a SlimCat (Feline Foraging Toy)? I know my cat would love it because he's greedy anyway and it will keep him from being bored. I cannot find this thing anywhere? Any suggestions.

Posted on March 26, 2009

Catherine says: won't ever use it - only will go to pee outside-she's now 4 yrs old-can she learn about litter box?

Posted on April 3, 2009

Carol Schroeder says: How do we interact with other posts? Or, see what you recommend? Help! I see lots of topics I would like answered, but do not know how to interact with others.

Posted on March 23, 2009

Jeanise says: My male cat is probably about 6 or 7 months old and in heat, but not spayed yet. I have been letting him stay outside during the daytime, but I like to keep him in at night. I named him Whiskers and he has answered to his name when I called him. And he has almost always been around somewhere close. But he has been dying to get out at night. Last night, he meowed so much that I felt so sorry for him and felt I had to let him out. I tried to find him about an hour later and there was no sign of him. It is now almost 24 hours later and there is still no sign of him. I have searched the neighborhood and can't find him. Do you think I have lost him forever? I know that cats often leave for sometimes months at a time and then return. But I have only had him for about 2 months.

Posted on March 19, 2009

phyllis says: Rusty appeared at my door in my country house. He ran in as soon as I opened the door. His front paws are declawed. He was very clean-no fleas and smelled clean, too. He doesn't try to go outside when door is opened. Rusty eats kibble but has difficulty eating moist food. He tries to chew it. It just ends up spread all over the bowl. He can't meow like a normal cat. He sort of growls softly. The vet said he's about 7-11 years old. His fur is very dry and does not look too pretty. He is an orange American shorthair. Why might he be unable to eat moist food? Vet said his teeth look OK. Why can't he meow? What can I do for his fur? Vet sold me stuff to put into his food but when I do, he won;t eat. I think that perhaps his owner put him out because he would not go out by himself. Also, it looks as though he used to wear some kind of collar - the fur separated around his neck.. I really don't want a cat but I don;t want him to be euthenized so here I am with Rusty who, by now, I love very much, I have him since Nov. "08. HELP!

Posted on March 10, 2009

steph says: i have one female cat, two years old who is a maine coon grooms constantly so she throws up hairballs all the time , is she lonely?

Posted on March 19, 2009

Rosemarie says: my cat is coughing and vomiting. cough is dry.

Posted on March 2, 2009

Anne says: My cat goes to my neighbors house through her cat door. He eats sleeps and plays with her 2 cats and she does not mind. I was thinking maybe he craves the company of another cat and maybe I should adopt another one??

Posted on February 22, 2009

Carol Schroeder says: Lucy came to us (a feral cat) a year after we got a rescue kitty. That was 9 years ago. The rescue died 6 mos.ago. Lucy seems quiet and lonesome, even tho Molly totally dictated her existence. Should we get another companion? Or, instead of finding a kitty sitter for 3 mos in the summer when we are gone on our sailboat, should we take Lucy along. She came with us one weekend and got sick, so we worried that she would not make it for a longer period of time. Help, she is such a sweet kitty.

Posted on February 17, 2009

bill M says: She was an abused cat & I have had trouble getting her to eat and drink water. She has not eaten in 2 days. She lets me pet her, but won't react to me. She is an orange tabby.

Posted on February 13, 2009

Robin says: I know my question is crazy but does cat's smile?

Posted on January 10, 2009

Judy Rosenblatt says: Ihave numerous scratch posts, furniture, lots of attention..but they still use couch, furniture when playing and disregard posts

Posted on January 17, 2009

Diana Winter says: I will be going away for 3 months & am anxious about boarding my kitty, He will be a year old in the spring. Will he remember me when I return & will he be mad at me?

Posted on January 17, 2009

kathy says: I have two cats. I am going out of town for 4 weeks and leaving them at home with my son who has promised to take care of them. I am just so worried to how they will react to my being gone. Any answers?

Posted on January 7, 2009

sam says: Richard is 2 1/2 years old black & white looks like a bank robber. Fasination with water constantly in the sink, I made him a boat for the pool, he loves it . He rather stay inside. He likes trucks, but if I get a pizza and evey time he sprays it. He does NOT like my youngest son and I am always the looser. This is the forth time I got bit, always my left hand and it looks like I got bit by king cobra hand swells like baseball glove. I know he's just going after the first thing he sees, then he is very sorry. Im home now from no work, but when working, he puts his hands around my ankles and get dragged to the door. He follows me everywhere, constantly, I blocked him from watching animal planet cause he attacked the TV upon seeing a snake. Tell him once, "bed time" and in my bed he goes till he taps me on the head at 5AM on the dot. So he's good 98% of the time So I ask, my big thing is the biting and its quick. also he does not purr, but he does always signal with a throatal sound. & he doesnt purr beacause he cant do it correctly cause I used to yell at him while trying to sleep . Other kittens would put me to sleep purring in rythem. This guy has no rythem. Thanks for letting me vent a little. Sam

Posted on December 30, 2008

Linda Forrest says: Is it possible to take an outside cat to a different location for 5 months and keep him inside? We are unable to leave him behind, and when he does go to camp with us, he hides under the trailer all day. I really want him to stay in, or how can I aclimate him to the two locations, so it is not so traumatic for him?

Posted on December 22, 2008

ruth szumigala says: how long will this last and can i get her spayed while she is in heat?

Posted on December 27, 2008

nicole says: we recently put down one of our special cats.does the remaining cat know the other one is missing?is she sad?

Posted on December 13, 2008

Linda Glass says: We are going away for a week. A friend is coming in daily to feed cat and clean litter. Will the cat be ok? He's 6 mos. old and we adopted him a month ago. Thanks.

Posted on December 19, 2008

susan says: she is one of three cats in the household. She is not spayed--recently has taken up residency at the top step of the basement--which leads to the litterbox and just sits--doesn't move unless coaxed to do so. Is not crying or displaying symptoms of agression--seems more protective of herself. Anyone have some info?

Posted on November 16, 2008

liz says: my kitten of 7 months does not like to be held too much . she either meows and sqirms out of my hands. I'm constantly hugging and kissing her. I'm very loving and spoil her with my affections. Is this normal behavior?

Posted on November 22, 2008

Beverly Rosen says: I have a great cat and I am a flight attendant and have to leave her for 3 to 4 days by herself..I leave plenty of food and toys..but still wonder if she is ok by herself..Is there a way of knowing? Thank you for your response!

Posted on November 12, 2008

Mary says: I inherited a litty about 1 year ago, who had been left after the owners moved away, he had been ill and is slowly getting back to heath. He is very afraid of my husband, although he has never been mean to him. He sprays now and then in the house, I have moved potty boxes around added more to allow for three cats etc. Don't know what to do... Is there a difference in spraying and squating to urinate? I have noticed him doing it both ways outside.

Posted on November 9, 2008

anda says: We have had our cat for 11 years. She has always gone outside and returned. When we got our 2 year old beagle last year , he chased the cat so much that once whe went outside, she wouldn't come back at all. Sometimes she was missing for weeks, but I left food out for her and we spotted her eating. I finally was able to catch her and bring her inside, but I have to keep her locked in a room where the dog can't bother her. I know she is lonely and bored and I spend time with her a couple of times a day, but my question is, is she better off going back out side and just living there but coming home to eat, or should I keep her locked away in a room. Is she too old to bring in another cat? Thank you.

Posted on October 29, 2008

Judy says: My 10 year old cat is starting to urinate on anything that's soft that's left on the floor, counter or anywhere in the house! It first started with either me or my husband going away - now it happens when we leave any bag out, any clothes being left on the floor, the laundry sink, etc. Now I find if any bag if left on the floor, or towels, blankets, he pees. He is lovable and affectionate, but seems to retaliate when we go away. Our household consists of 1 dog and 2 cats. We work all day and we dog-sit for other dogs quite often. He does this while there are other strange animals in the house or not. He seems happy, but he still will urinate in places you can't imagine. He had a clean bill of health for a vet 6 months ago. HELP!

Posted on October 25, 2008

Cheryl says: I have a kitty that wants to lick me all the time. What does this mean? The licking sometimes drives me up the wall how can I get her to slow down on this. I can't even pet her without getting a bath.

Posted on October 18, 2008

Donna says: Why does my cat bring me articles, clothes hair ties, socks and put them by my bed while I am sleeping?

Posted on October 13, 2008

Earl shepherd says: Why would our cat which we keep outside (fenced in), like to chase birds that are finding food on the grounds. We have found 5 dead birds recently, but have never seen the cat attack a bird, but we have seen her many times trying to catch them.

Posted on October 15, 2008

Amitha says: i really appreciate the info i hav got here abt cats. i hav recently got home a kitten from the street. its weak n recovering gradually. gud to hav a animal lovers like u

Posted on October 16, 2008

kimberly says: my cat is a kitten and sleeps all day and all night.Does that mean shes lonely? And i got her a scratching post but she scratches the couch,what do i do about that? Mstly she has a hudge litter box but nearly uses it. Im very worried about Milky.

Posted on April 11, 2011

K says: I am about to go on a 1 month trip without my indoor cat. I have 2 choices. To either leave him with a relative that has another female younger cat that can't seem to adjust to him or leave him with another realtive that has a miniature poodle. Although my cat and the poodle tolerate each other, my cat prefers staying outside when we're not in the house with him. This is actually our home where the other relative lives with the dog and my cat is used to the outside here. The relative is iffy at most as to whether or not they will get my cat in at night and make sure he has food and water while he's outside. What is your suggestion? The other relative will take good care of him, however they are not that much of a cat person and will not provide much petting, etc.

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