Friday, April 18, 2008

Chipmunks and Squirrels and Birds, Oh my!

I've been hearing about this video for years--back when it was a videotape. Now it's a DVD. The image at left is from the Cat TV website.

Finally I decided to see if my cats would go for it. I was particularly hoping my senior male, El Nino, would find it something to stand up and paw about. He's a huge, long-haired black cat, who is part Maine Coon Cat. He's the alpha male by virtue of having a two-inch longer paw reach than any of the others. He's a benevolent ruler, probably the mellowest cat I've ever known. But he's gotten less active with age and size, so any opportunity for exercise is good.

The DVD directions suggested removing everything breakable from around and on top of the television set, and not playing it on a set with a screen that could be damaged if the cat(s) pawed at it, or that had a broken or easily detachable back.

When I first started the DVD, the only cat who showed interest was a younger, super-active female, Tigerlily, and she was hypnotized in front of the screen, following the birds in particular and occasionally patting the screen. Merlin, who is the most athletic cat, came around soon and started watching it intently, paw at it with both paws, and climb on top to see if he could get the birds out.

Nino listened to the bird songs, but didn't bother to look at the screen. His eyes are affected by cataracts and I was afraid he couldn't see it. Maybe that was the case until Day 2, when he happened to be in front of the set and looked right at it. Then his ears swiveled forward, his tail started lashing, and he came closer and closer. The close-ups of birds hopping around chirping were clear enough for him to put together with the chirping. Pretty soon he was climbing up the front of the set and pawing at the more irresistible birds.

Great stuff. I'll have to figure out the optimum times to play it so they don't get bored with it. But I understand there's a sequel.....hmmm.....

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Unknown Mysteries that Lie Within the Bag

Are Cats Psychic?

Most people who coexist with cats will report that they have what seem like uncanny ways of knowing what we humans will do next. However, the jury is out on whether cats have psychic powers. It’s hard to get solid proof because of cats' perverse (and to my mind wonderful) refusal to cooperate in the kind of experiments that might give us a clue.

Giving us a clue is simply not on the feline agenda. Nonetheless, as predators, cats are very tuned in to small details and always closely observing little things we may not even notice. Whether or not they have powers beyond the senses, all experts agree that the everyday senses cats have are far more acute than human senses.

Those hypnotic cat's eyes are designed to allow the cat to use small amounts of light, so that while they cannot see in total darkness, they can hunt at night. The large ears that swivel to catch tiny, mousey sounds can hear sounds three times higher than humans can hear. The sense of smell is very important to cats. They will narrow their eyes and back away from smells they dislike (including sharp smells such as citrus). When they encounter a particularly interesting smell and want more information they will open their mouths slightly and inhale in what looks like a sneer, but is actually the opposite! This reflex opens a special set of sensory organs in the roof of their mouths so that they can find out as much as possible and analyze what they're smelling.

Then there are the cat's famous whiskers! Called vibrissae, cat whiskers are twice as thick as ordinary cat hairs, with deeper roots and more nerve structures. The whiskers seem to help a cat function in dim light, and a cat can fan its whiskers out as wide as its body so it can judge whether it will fit in an opening before going through.

This does not explain why one of my cats repeatedly tries to climb into a small paper bag that won't even allow his entire head to fit in it. Maybe all bets are off when it comes to irresistible paper bags! Experts point out, and I can testify from observation, that when a cat eats out of a small food bowl the whiskers contact the sides of the bowl and it distracts the cat, so low flat bowls are preferred.

Part of their predatory heritage is a cat’s well-developed sense of time and the recurring habits of humans. Whether a cat is reading your mind or your body language doesn't seem to make a lot of difference to the cat or the human. Those who may worry about their cat knowing their thoughts should not worry. Most human thoughts don't interest cats in the slightest.

On the other hand, your cat is intensely interested in when his or her next meal is arriving This is why when you feed your cat breakfast at a certain time every morning you will never need an alarm clock.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

This space is my space, that space is my space....

Cat Space - some ways to create more of it

Cat Space always makes me think of Space Cat, the first kitten my husband and I adopted. The pale beige tabby did look a bit like an astronaut...with green eyes and that usual deranged kitten look. He also frequently was airborne, although never in earth orbit.

But before I get too nostalgically side tracked, let's talk about Cat Space, a very important issue to the cats involved.

Those of us who have multiple cats may sometimes find ourselves in the middle of territorial issues. There are several strategies to bring harmony to a multi-cat household so our territorial kitties don't have turf disputes.

Think hideaway. Creating privacy zones for the shyer cats helps. This can be as simple as a box or a towel or blanket draped around a chair to turn it into a lair for a cool kitty. I always make sure that there is more than one entrance/exit, because an already shy cat will not want to be backed into a corner with no back or side exit if a more aggressive cat blocks the front entrance.

Think vertical. Cat perches are also extremely popular, and any kind of perch put near a window will instantly become more alluring. Cats love to climb to high ground, and a couple of different levels can make for happy cats. If those wonderful cat perches you see at pet supply places are out of your budget range, here's an inexpensive way to do it.

A woman who does cat rescue and provides an elder sanctuary for several cats came up with a brilliant idea to give her elderly cats a space to climb and lounge. She set up a 6 foot step ladder (which cost about $25 and might be less if purchased used) and put a chair under it. She put a blanket on the chair. Voila. Instant cat perch.

She reported that her cats love to sit on the steps of the ladder and the cat on the top of the ladder is always rather smug about being up there.