Does Cat Behavior Change With the Seasons?

All mammals are affected by changes in the environment. For example, have you ever felt sleepy during rainy days? The lower light levels tend to lull us into a more relaxed mood.

Such changes happen minute by minute, day to day, and week to week. Temperature, light levels, colors, odors and everything else that stimulate our senses are often not static. Seasonal changes are therefore more pronounced, so it’s true that your cat’s behavior is likely to change with the seasons.

Dennis Turner, author of The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour, reports that feral cats are particularly active during the spring and summer months. These cats, which have to fend for themselves, are out and about for one-third of the day and three-quarters of the night, only resting at dawn and dusk.

Domesticity, along with spaying and neutering, can affect those behaviors, which are driven, in large part, by hormones. I’ve noticed, however, that even spayed and neutered cats can still have some mating and hunting drives. Both females and males may therefore be a bit more active during the spring and summer.

Warm spring or summer days, however, can counter hormonally induced mating-related activity. On a hot day, you are likely to find your cat sleeping on a cool, comfy spot, and for good reason. In the wild, remaining active in such weather could deplete valuable water intake and lead to overheating.

We all have internal body clocks that help us adjust to gradual changes, along with the more major ones that we associate with different seasons. Consider keeping a cat diary noting your pet’s activity levels at certain times, and what your cat is doing. You will probably start to see predictable patterns over time.

Easy Exercises for Your Cat

If you think our distant human ancestors were extremely active back in the day, imagine what life was like for your cat’s relatives before they enjoyed provided food, cozy laps and other care. Physical activity was survival -- not just exercise.

Most healthy cats need to maintain a certain level of activity for basic physical fitness. Their bodies evolved to handle this -- not a couch potato lifestyle. While it’s difficult to tone individual cat muscles, you can encourage your cat to get sufficient exercise for overall body toning.

The ASPCA offers the following tips for making exercise interesting and enjoyable for your cat:

Stay engaged. Cats don’t usually like when you plunk a toy in front of them and then walk away. They are far more interested in spending time with you, so set aside time each day to encourage your cat to play.

Try leash training. Teaching your cat to walk on a leash is a tremendous health investment. The sights and smells will get your cat excited about walking, and this gives you an incentive to walk more as well.

Invest in climbing objects. Enclosed outdoor areas with cat trees and other objects for climbing can also help to get cats interested in physical activity while staying safe. Consider adding one to your home, if possible.

Determine your cat’s preferred method of play. Some cats like to jump. Some are more inclined to run. Some are stalkers. Purchase cat toys with these preferences in mind. The old adage about how kids prefer to play with the box instead of the toy may hold true for cats. Old Ping-Pong balls, cardboard boxes, paper shopping bags, and packing paper can all be toys to a cat with a little coaxing. Usually if you are interested in an object, your cat will be too.

Is Water From a Christmas Tree Stand Harmful to Cats?

Back in the day, Christmas trees were usually just sold with a basic wooden base nailed to the bottom. You’d haul the tree home, stick it in a corner and then watch the needles dry out as the days went on. By Christmas, the tree would often be more than ready for recycling.

Now, many of us opt for a base that permits the addition of liquids. As Charla Dawson, owner of Dapper Dog and Classy Cat, points out, “The water itself is not poisonous, but if a fertilizer was added to the water, it may be poisonous. This fertilizer may cause the pet to suffer with diarrhea and vomiting.” (Tree preservatives may also be added to the water, helping to keep the tree fresh.) Dawson therefore advises that you cover the base.

A quick and easy remedy is to just put some well-secured foil or plastic wrap over the water in the base. However, some crafty types take this task to another decorative level. One impressive example is a pretty cover made out of burlap, as seen on the DIY Showoff blog. With some imagination, you can probably come up with other clever solutions.

Even if you just put plain water in the stand, I would advise covering the exposed base. The tree, which may have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals, will leach compounds into the water. It’s better to be ultra-safe than sorry when it comes to the holidays and your cat.

Go Green With Your Cat

We often hear about the need to reduce our human footprint on the global ecosystem, but you are right to be concerned about your cat’s environmental paw print too. As owners, we control this paw print with the products we buy and the actions we take. Many pet stores are at last acknowledging the green movement. Here are some products you might watch out for:

Biodegradable Cat Litter Many new cat litters look like conventional products and they clump in the same way, but they are flushable and biodegradable. Manufacturers often use natural materials, such as wheat and corn, to create such litters. Wheat, corn and related materials come from renewable resources. They are also safer for your cat, since cats sometimes lick off excess litter and may breathe in litter dust.

Eco-conscious Toys Look for toys made out of recycled plastics, fabrics or other repurposed goods. Safe, natural vegetable dyes and other nontoxic materials are also important to watch out for.

Sisal and Sea Grass Scratchers Did you know that sisal comes from an agave plant? Agave sisalana yields stiff, tough fibers that are used to make everything from agricultural twines to kitty scratching posts. It’s a renewable, fast-growing material, like sea grass. Both of these products are therefore ideal for scratching posts, cat toys and other pet products.

Zeolite Cat Litter Deodorizer Traditional cat litter deodorizers used to be made out of questionable chemicals, but some natural products contain zeolite. This is a natural microporous material that serves as an adsorbent. Zeolite can form in nature when volcanic rocks and ash react with alkaline groundwater.

Natural Cat Foods From a legal standpoint, foods labeled as “natural” must not contain any artificial ingredients, coloring agents or chemical preservatives. Meat and poultry must be minimally processed. Look for the word “natural” on your cat’s food labels.

As you can see from the above, green products are not only good for the environment, but also better for you and your cat. It’s a triple-win trend that must, and hopefully will, continue to grow in future.

‘Adopt a Cat Month’ Needs Your Help

A furry and enthusiastic crowd greets Kristine Mayberry when she comes home each evening. Mayberry, the president of Second Chance Pet Adoptions in Raleigh, N.C., hopes others will also enjoy the rich rewards of pet adoption, even if they don’t take in a collection quite as large as her eight cats and elderly dog. “I get much more from them than I give to them,” she says. “There’s nothing like having someone to greet me with unconditional love when I’ve had a really bad day.”

A Great Time for Cat Adoption

This month is the perfect time to consider adopting a cat or help out with the adoption effort, says Mayberry. Shelters and organizations across the country celebrate June as Adopt a Cat Month. With the arrival of spring and summer comes a flood of kittens each year, and heightened awareness of cat adoption helps shelters deal with this influx.

Opening your heart and home to another cat is important even if your local shelter doesn’t euthanize animals, says Betsy Saul, co-founder of Petfinder.com, which maintains a database of 124,000 cats available for adoption. “Cats tend to do fairly poorly in the shelter compared to dogs,” she says. “Some shelters have cats housed across the aisle from dogs, and that can be incredibly stressful. You’ll see them sitting with really squeezed eyes, which is a sign of stress.”

Help Reduce Shelter Populations

Make sure your own cat is spayed or neutered. Supporting organizations that spay and neuter strays will also help control the cat population. Female cats as young as four months can get pregnant, and a female cat can produce up to five litters a year.

Cat owners can take a couple of other steps to reduce shelter populations. First, make sure your pal is microchipped or wears some other form of identification. Even indoor kitties occasionally escape, so it’s important that all cats can be traced to their owners. Second, make sure you and your cat are a good fit. Poor matches between cats and owners can result in cats being returned to shelters.

Find Your Match

Ready to celebrate Adopt a Cat Month? Consider these tips before you adopt:

  • Adopt from a shelter. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals celebrates Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, and adopting a shelter cat does offer benefits, says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president for the ASPCA’s Adoptions Center in New York. “One of the most valuable things about adopting from a shelter is getting to make an informed decision,” she says.

Many shelters will attempt to match you with a cat whose personality suits your needs and lifestyle. Shelters also have already evaluated a cat’s health and can save you some money. For instance, the ASPCA Adoptions Center charges no adoption fee for cats ages 3 and older, yet each cat is spayed or neutered, microchipped and up to date on its vaccines. The center charges $75 to adopt cats that are between 1 and 3 years old, and $125 for kittens.

  • Don’t focus on appearance. People often pick cats based on appearance rather than personality. You’ll be happier if you focus on observed behaviors, such as whether or not the cat is a lap kitty or an adventurous pouncer.

  • Take two. Cats do well when adopted in pairs, says Mayberry. If you’re not going to be home all day, it can get lonesome for a single cat. If you already have two cats, consider adopting another. Cats can grieve if they lose their best pal, and a third cat can ease the loss, Mayberry advises.

How to Aid the Cause
Volunteer to help socialize cats at your local shelter simply by petting them, says Buchwald. Make catnip toys or crochet washable cat beds at home, then donate to a local cat adoption organization.

You can use Petfinder’s iPhone application on Facebook to post photos of adoptable cats. Promote individual cats at your local shelter, posting notices with photos in prominent locations around your community.