Cat Games for Correcting Bad Behavior

Even though we love our cats more than anything in the world, it's hard not to get annoyed with occasional displays of bad behavior.  Some cats jump onto the kitchen table. Others bite when you pet them.  Or run and hide when you come into the room.

While most of us turn the other whisker to such kitty crimes, experts say that doing so can make matters worse. And did you know that simply playing with your cat is often the most effective way to teach new social skills.

"A lot of bad behavior can be corrected with play training," says Joel Norton, a professional animal trainer and zoologist in Hollywood, California. "Playing gives cats an outlet for the excess energy that often contributes to bad behavior."

So the next time your cat's conduct is less than fancy, try these recreational remedies that are both fun and effective.

Kitty Crime: Your cat jumps on the table during dinner.
Doing the (play)time: Before sitting down at the table for a meal, Norton recommends spending about five minutes playing with your cat. Play until your cat is worn out. Then, when you sit down to eat your dinner, it's time to do some behavior training.  "Hold a cat treat just above the cat's head, out of its reach, and say 'sit,'" Norton says. "The cat will look up at the treat. Hold the treat slightly toward the back of the cat's head so that its rear naturally goes down. Reward with the treat. If your cat tries to jump on the table, place it back on the floor and repeat this training exercise. Gradually increase the amount of time between when your cat sits, and when you give the reward -- first one minute, then five, then ten." The first couple of times you try this, you might feel as if you are spending your entire meal dispensing cat treats instead of eating. But don't get discouraged. Within a few days, your cat should get the message that if it sits and waits for you to finish your meal, it will receive a well-deserved treat.

Kitty Crime: Your cat hides from you.
Doing the (play)time:  For a cat that hides, building confidence is the goal. You want to change the cat's negative associations so it's no longer afraid of people, scary noises, sudden movements, or other pets. "Stand in a place your cat is forced to pass when it travels from its litter box to its hiding place," says Norton. With a bag of treats in hand, say your cat's name. If your cat comes out, reward with a treat while praising verbally. If the cat remains in hiding, wait until you hear it using the litter box.  When the cat exits the box and walks past you, hold the treat between your thumb and forefinger, and verbally praise. "Talk softly and sweetly, and say how good your cat is," says Norton. "Next time, bring a toy along with the treat, and encourage the cat to play." If you reward your cat's demonstrations of confidence and trust, in a few months it will develop a new interest in socializing. Soon, your cat will come out and play anytime!

Kitty Crime: Your cat bites.
Doing the (play)time: When it comes to biting, the trick is to engage your cat in games that burn off its excess energy through less offensive (and less painful) ways. Start with twice-daily, five-minute play routines that focus on your cat's paws, not its mouth. Crinkle balls are great for this because the sound is appealing and cats love batting at the ball. Get your cat excited about a crinkle ball by flicking so it stops a few inches from your cat. If your cat is unresponsive, toss the ball right at its paws. "Praise your cat verbally for playing," Norton says. "After you're done playing for five minutes, try to pet your cat, but be on the lookout for a possible bite. If you sense a bite coming, this is your cue to reduce the amount of time spent on the game. For example, stop at three minutes and reward with a treat for not biting. Then praise verbally." Repeat this routine and slowly increase the time with the crinkle ball. Soon, you will no longer have to reward your cat for not treating you like a human chew toy.

For the Cat that Has Everything

Cats are entitled to be treated like royalty -- at least they seem to think so. We just exist merely to serve their every wish and whim. So give your cats the royal treatment they deserve (and you're all too happy to give) with these regal products, designed to pamper your furry little prince or princess.

Cat Condo
What cat could possibly resist the posh comfort of the stately Cat Condo from Hollywood Kitty Co? Touted as the "cat's meow," this kitty condo provides a place for your royal highness to play, lounge, climb, hide, and scratch. (The front post is covered in sisal, a durable plant fiber that, when woven, resembles a heavy coiled rope.) Great for cats of all ages and abilities.

Chateaneuf du Chat -- Herb du Catnip
Literally translated, its name means "Wine of the Cat," and perhaps rightly so. Let your cat roll in some catnip from this wine-shaped bottle, and it'll behave just like a drunken princess at the ball. Ooh-la-la!

KittyWalk Stroller
For those pampered pusses that have never put their paws to the pavement, we suggest riding in style in the KittyWalk Stroller. This upscale "kitty SUV" allows your cat to experience the great outdoors from the safety of an enclosed space. Made for housecats that love the fresh air, but don't enjoy being led around on a commoner's leash.

Lulu's Garden Retreat Pet Bed
This bed is purrfect for kitties that love to catnap in complete comfort. Lulu's Garden Retreat pet bed is fashioned out of wrought iron and is decorated with carved flowers, braided posts, and a lovely crystal finial fit for a queen. Four feline-friendly pillows are available for surrounding comfort.

A Jeweled Cat Collar
No royal ensemble would be complete without a sparkling accessory. A jeweled cat collar are made of imported leather and adorned with genuine Rhinestones and crystals, each individually set for added beauty and security. They vary in sizes and several eye-catching colors.

Hagen Living World Pet Spa
All princesses relish a day at the spa, and their feline counterparts are no different. The Hagen Living World Pet Spa boasts a multitude of textures and activities that will keep even the fussiest cat interested for hours. The flat surfaces feature accupressure pads that feel wonderful underneath a cat's paws; the center surface is a Ripple Massager topped by a Gum Stimulator for healthy chewing. There are also three Body Stroke Groomers for self-grooming and massage.

Outdoor Bungalow Cat House
Her royal highness can't be expected to stay cramped in one royal residence all year-round! The Outdoor Bungalow Cat House (or, as we like to call it, "The Country House") lets your cat venture outdoors, yet provides a cozy shelter when the wind is howling. Each house comes with three windows, allowing the sun to shine in and your kitty to peer out. And here's a bonus: It's easy on the eyes and unobtrusively blends in with all environments. Add-ons such as a breezeway, a sun deck, a back door, and a second story are up to you and your kitty.

Mink Cape
Sure, your cat already has a fur coat, but even kitties need to make a fashion statement on special occasions. So, why not treat kitty to a luxurious mink cape (faux, of course) that will warm its coat, along with its heart. This is Kitty Couture at its finest!

Litter Box Solutions for All Cats

When you brought your cat into your home, you committed to providing love and care forever. But one thing you didn't promise is to sacrifice your aesthetic sensibility and keep a drab plastic box in your kitchen until the end of time. And now you don't have to. These days, there are a slew of attractive alternatives to the standard litter box. Finding the right one for your home is simply a matter of your taste -- and your cat's.

Uncovered Boxes
Portland, Oregon-based feline behavioral consultant Mieshelle Nagelschneider says 70 percent of cats prefer uncovered boxes. "Covered boxes tend to trap odors and keep the litter moist longer, and both of these are a big deterrent for cats," she explains. "Escape potential is also important to them, especially once they reach social maturity, and a covered box doesn't allow for an easy out." Most litter box solutions do come in the form of covered boxes. If your cat insists on an uncovered box (and it will make its preference known), you can get creative and decorate your own box, or try something like Sittin' Pretty Cat Products' litter basket -- an acrylic-lined willow basket that can be stained or painted to suit your style.

Flummoxed about what to do with her own cat's unsightly litter, Boston cat owner Lindsay Potter bought an all-purpose tub at a hardware store, and a large piece of canvas from an art supplier. "I painted the canvas to contrast nicely with my bathroom. I used a staple gun to attach it to the tub. It looks a lot nicer, and the tub has high walls, perfect for my male cat."

Faux Furniture
One innovative and attractive type of covered litter box looks more like a cabinet than a restroom for kitty. The Refined Feline, for example, offers a closed wooden cabinet with a hidden side-door. Another option comes from Felinerina, featuring a white bathroom cabinet with wainscoting panels, shelf space and towel bars -- the litter box goes inside, your cat enters through a space carved from the front of the cabinet. And another style, made by Pet's Best Products, hides the litter box in a faux plant pot, complete with the fake plant of your choice sprouting from the top.

"Some cats will use a box no matter what its design, and that kind of cat would do well with a box that falls into this innovative category," says Nagelschneider. "If you choose this design, make sure it's roomy and kept clean. Also, bear in mind that it may be better tolerated by felines in single-cat homes."

Kitty Cabanas
You don't have to buy an entire piece of furniture to hide an unsightly box. The most common (and least expensive) type of litter concealer is simply a cover placed over the box. NYC Dog & Cat suggests that you hide your cat's litter box under a high gloss laminate design (a palazzo, a country manor, an antique bookcase, or a plain damask cover). Petaroo offers simple basket-weave covers that blend into any space. Top-loading boxes, available at most pet supply stores, come with their own covers (with openings in the top for your cat's entry), and are good for male cats that aim high.

"The litter box cover saved my relationship," laughs Austin, Texas cat owner Brian Nash. "My girlfriend didn't want to move in unless I could offer her a closet, but the extra closet was where I kept Paul's litter box, and I didn't want the box out and exposed in my apartment. The cover helped us both get what we wanted." With a little bit of trial and error, you and your feline friend can get what you want, too. 

Christmas Tree Needles and Your Cat Don't Mix

Tis the season. The lights are up, the tinsel is sparkling, the fridge is stocked and the mistletoe is hung. And the tree is also up, which means you've got a serious health risk ready to ruin your otherwise perfect Holiday for you and your cat. Cat are by nature curious, playful creatures, and some of them will become very mischievous if given the chance, and the little pine needles that fall off your Christmas tree over the course a few week provide a temptation they might not be able to resist. Natural Christmas trees you buys at you local church or vacant lot were most likely grown a few hundred miles away on a farm or in the woods, and are usually treated with herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals to preserve them through the Holidays. The chemicals concentrate in the boughs and the needles can become toxic. If ingested, this chemical cocktail can make your cat very sick. Symptoms range from vomiting and diarrhea to coughing and loss of appetite, which can make for an unpleasant Holiday break. Hopefully your cat will vomit up the needles and not repeat the mistake. But, in the event that the needles make it into your cat's digestive tract, the then the real problems begin. The needles can damage or even puncture the lining of you cat's stomach or intestine, and could result in a very large veterinary bill or even worse.

So, what are the best ways to minimize the risks of this kind of disaster? Here are three easy steps toward keeping your car safe:

  1. Know your cat. Understanding that your cat is prone to accidents and mischief is key.
  2. Sweep Up. If your cat is prone to get into trouble, frequent sweeping up of the needles is an easy way to lower risk.
  3. Deny Access. Keep furniture away from the tree so your cat can't get at the boughs and needles still on the tree, and you should spray the lower boughs of the tree with a pet repellent for further discouragement.

This might seem like a lot of trouble to go through, but consider the alternatives and you'll agree that it is the best gift you can give yourself and you cat this Holiday season. For information on keeping your pet dog from the Christmas tree needles, please visit here.

Having litter box issues? Here’s how to fix them.

As a cat owner, you’ve probably been there before. No matter how seasoned your cat may be at using her litter box, sometimes the inevitable just occurs -- accidents. “There are two main reasons that cats come down with litter box issues: physical or behavioral,” says Dr. Rebecca Jackson, staff veterinarian with Petplan pet insurance.

Before you can figure out which reason is causing your own cat to misbehave, consider taking him to the vet for a check-up. “Something may be irritating your kitty’s bladder, such as a urinary tract infection, or something could be causing her to drink more, such as diabetes or kidney disease,” said Dr. Jackson. “If diarrhea is present, it could indicate anything from inflammatory bowel disease to certain types of cancer. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so take your cat in for a checkup at the first sign of unusual bathroom habits.”

If the results of your vet visit come back all clear, you likely have a behavioral or situational problem on your hands. Common examples, according to Dr. Jackson, include:

  • Your cat simply may not like her litter box, or might have developed a negative association with it. Maybe she was startled there once, or maybe she had a condition that made urination painful. If this turns out to be the case, you might need to move the box, or change it altogether (start with trying a different litter, first) to remedy the situation.
  • The box may not be big enough for him (urine or feces ‘leaking’ outside of the box might be an indicator that he needs a bigger commode). The general rule is to have as many litter boxes as you do cats, plus one extra. Each of these boxes should be one and one-half times as large as your largest cat.
  • If the box is the right size, consider whether it’s clean enough. Twice-daily cleanings should be enough for even the cleanest of kitties.
  • Finally, conflicts with other cats, sudden changes in household routines or the addition of a new housemate (two- or four-legged!) might be throwing him off. Be sure to discuss any situational changes that have occurred with your vet to see if they might be the underlying cause of your cat’s litter box issues.

Behavioral litter box issues can be very frustrating and difficult for both you and your furry friend. Be sure to stay in communication with your vet about what’s working and what isn’t. Sometimes a solution can be as simple as changing litter or adding another litter box. Other times medications and/or significant behavioral modification are required. Your vet is your best source for recommendations.