Friday, 26 October 2007

October 26th – The same old play thing!

After all these years of learning, observing and getting educating all the time about cats and their behaviour I still found some black holes in my knowledge as all that experience and learning can't seem to help me figure out their playing or rather their toys preferences.
As a dedicated cat carer who wants only what is best for the physical and psychological well being of my cats I'm not only trying to find them things which they can use to play but also things that they can keep them entertain and stimulate them. After all you want your cats to be happy and entertained and at the same time to save the birds and some of the small mammals they are visiting your garden. As two of my cats they were born and stayed permanently indoors cats (while the third has shown his own a preference for the indoor life) they were always have being happy to play with toy mice and birds and they've never showed any incline to chase the real thing (although they like watching them from the window and some times they do get a bit excited, they are not that much bothered though as chasing a real bird would actually involved a lot of energy which my cats can't be asked to use for something that small...). But it is a hard and in some cases expensive work trying to find toys that your cats would like and they will play with them for a few days. As every cat carer would know cats do get bored with their toys very quickly and they tend to lose interest after a few days even if the toy is still in one piece. But that would have being fine if at least they showed some interest for the toy you've just got them and you spent hours on the internet trying to find and spend double the actual toy's price in delivery charges and charged 'accidentally' twice for the same silly thing.
But of course your cats (and it is even worse when you have more than one with different and peculiar preferences) don't see things the same way as you do and their preferences in toys always seems to be totally different to your own. Even when you think that after all these years you know what they like they seem somehow to be able to surprise you!
So you look for something interactive and more expensive of course that it will move and therefore will provoke some interest from your cats or something that other cat owners are raving about that their cats can't stop playing with or something that it has good reviews. So when you finally pick something and it eventually arrives (after a week of delays in getting to you the just out of stock item because of its popularity and the failed efforts from the delivery company in finding your house) you discover that it looks totally different to what you were expecting it to be and that your cats either don't seem to be interested in it or for some strange reason (smell perhaps?) they are scared of it. What a disappointment once again!
Then when you finally start accepting the idea that once again you wasted your money (twice) in something that your cat is never going to play with and you are getting ready to stack it up in the attic or spare room, or in the cupboard, in the box with the many other cat toys that your cats don't like or want to play with (even when you are showing them occasionally hoping for some small interest perhaps and not wanting to give up that easily or accepting the fact that these toys where not really tested on real cats, perhaps on their owners only) you find out that your cat loves the box that the toy came in instead and she can't stop chewing or sitting in it or that she has just discovered the freebie that came along and loves it ( a very cheap plastic horribly blue ball)!!!
If only you knew what they would have liked instead you would have saved all that money and time trying to find them something that you thought they would like to play with...but then again even if you did know you would still have spent that money after all as you want to keep your cats' happy and you'd rather deep down seem to enjoy spending money on your cats, makes you feel better, and it shows that you do care a lot about your fur babies and you don't mind spending a lot of money as they worth every penny! Now of course this could easily lead to another subject of how we actually see our pets, as a different species than us or as small humans and treat them as such...??

Monday, 22 October 2007

October 22nd – The 'hard to get me' game

OK, it is true, very true. Cats are clever and some might even say perhaps too clever! Sometimes I just wonder if they like and enjoy wind us up! They probably think: 'Those stupid humans, who think they are, believing that they know everything, well, we'll show them then, who is the intelligent species here!'
It is true though. After years and years of looking after your cats and thinking after you have observed them day after day and nights that you know them pretty well, they do something completely new and unfamiliar and they will shatter all your theories of how cats usually behave in certain circumstances.
The worst case scenario is when they pretend to hate each other and then to unexpectedly find out that when you are not really watching they are not really the worst enemies after all, on the contrary the best of friends more likely. They simply do not follow their own rules.
My two females cats always acted with pure dislike and contempt towards our male one, who used to be a stray and they only tolerate him and they never wanted to get too close, play or sit and sleep next to him.
Their attitude always has been: 'You sit over there while I sit over here and you won't come near me!' But at the same time they do love to tease him by exposing their belly (especially Sheng Chi) who will sitting really close to him, almost at a touching distance but who at the same time will not allow him to come closer despite the fact that she will be exposing blatantly her belly and she will allow me to rub her belly but not allowing Choo Choo to come a bit closer. If then Choo Choo tries to be friendly too and comes a bit closer while he is exposing his belly too he will then more than likely get 'biffed' on the head for not sticking to the rules of keeping a certain distance between them. Yeah right!
Not fooled anymore as all these are just a good act, just for the shake of us humans as when they are on their own they tend to sit a lot more closer to each other, even touch and sniff noses and even share the same bed for sleeping and showing exposed bellies to each other! It is only when they know that we are watching that they start 'behaving aggressively' towards each other.
Well, if they think that they are fooling us then they are very much mistaken. Now we know that they are only acting after all!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

October 11th – It is a sleeping thing!

One of the things that cats know to do well and at the same to seemingly annoy humans is finding strange places to sleep and hide. Of course cats are not really doing things to annoy us but simply they do what their logic tells them to do.
But it can be annoying and sometimes really dangerous if you don't see the cat and then trip over, particularly when they decide to sleep in areas in the house that you would not normally accept them to do so.
A very good example is one of my cats, Choo Choo who was a habit almost to obsession, of insanely liking the staircase which he uses to play (it is really fun when he chased his paper ball on the steps and watches it bounce all the way down and then will bring it back up again to push it down again!!!), to sit and wait for the next victim to come down (human or cat) to attack and grab tails or legs and of course as a sleeping area. I mean the steps on the narrow staircase are not the most comfortable place to sleep but as you can see from the photo, Choo Choo thinks otherwise. Of course I had found them, all three of them in the past, sleeping in really obscure places, e.g Ripley on the top of the door! How could she balanced let alone sleep up there it is a totally mystery to me. Of course everybody knows how flexible cats can be and that they are having a good 'sense of balance' but sleeping on such a narrow space like the top of the door it is a bit extreme for my understanding...
The other thing that it can be annoying is their tendency to find secret places or hard to find for us, to hide and snooze. The times, both me and my partner, have spent wondering around the house, searching every possible corner to find a missing cat there have been plenty and even now they still manage to find such places, even when we think that we know all their hiding places. It could be anywhere; among your 'black' clothes on a shelf, inside the wardrobe, in the washing machine because it is cool then, on the top of a wardrobe or cupboard, inside the cardboard, inside a box, in the bath tub, sink, etc...the places are endless.
The other thing of course is that like with their toys they can get easily bored with their favourite sleeping areas and then they would look of course for new ones which means or us going around the house looking for them again...
Oh well I guess it is part of their charm and what makes them unique and adorable....well maybe, most of the times!

Monday, 1 October 2007

October 1st - Play behaviour and a little toy mouse

It is often suggested that kittens learn social behaviours from their mother and other siblings. This is why it is recommended that they are weaned and taken away from their cat families at least when they are eight weeks or even older for some breeds

My two female cats Sheng Chi and Ripley they were both adopted when they were very young and although I was told then that they were 7 seven weeks, they both seemed far too young physical and emotional to be away from their mother. This of course resulted as it was expected to become very attached to me as they will quickly saw me as a replacement for their mother and although this has some disadvantages as it makes them prone to separation anxiety behaviour when I'm not around at the same time it has also made them accepted me as the top cat, the one in charge who they obey and listen to.

Cats might not seem to need like dogs do an obvious and in charge alpha human to obey and follow but when they live with other cats and humans they will still soon learn that there is somebody else higher above in the hierarchy ladder if that somebody makes certain that he/she is in control and do not allow the cat to be in charge. With other words cats still need to learn discipline and to obey the rules in the house they live and that the humans are in charge in the home territory so there are no future behavioural problems developing.

But of course cats also can learn through observation, trial and error, imitation and instinct. Despite of what some seem to believe, cats often learn by imitating our own behaviour but more amazingly they also seem to learn on their own as well.
A good example, very interesting and of course entertaining to watch is my cats' behaviour and in particular Sheng Chi's play antics.
Funny enough and perhaps for their own not yet fully understood reasons cats seem to prefer some toys than others. Often we humans think that the size or smell and texture might make a cat to prefer one toy over another but more than often our judgements prove to be very wrong. The amount of money that it has been spent and the vast amount of toys that they have being passed through our home is remarkable and scary to even think about it but at the same time it seems quite necessary for the physical and psychological health of our cats.

You're experimenting with different sizes and shapes of mice looking toys but still you can't understand your cat's preferences. Some times it is a big mouse and sometimes it's a tiny mouse, none of which seems to actual resembles a real mouse.

In my case I can always justify my cats' preferences as they haven't ever seen a real mouse or play and even catch one so their preferences in they toy mice is....understandable?

Sheng Chi has found a tiny little black mouse which I picked up from a pet shop in town when I was buying cat food and which I saw and only got because it was only 35p and I thought that it looked cute (in human terms) and if they didn't like it the price was insignificant to make me feel bad about it or make my partner whinge. I really didn't have much of a hope for that mouse that any of the cats will show an interest as it was too small and 'insignificant' but of course my cats soon proved me wrong. Both the 'girls' they found it really interesting and exciting and three weeks after I brought it home they both still spend quite a lot of time playing with it.

In particular Sheng Chi seems to make the most of it by carrying it around in her mouth, throwing it away and then running (yes Sheng Chi is running...) to catch it and even hiding it (like a real mouse would perhaps do) and then trying to find it (her best hiding place is inside the what it once was a cardboard box and now it is half eaten and very flat cardboard box...)

But what I find really intriguing is the fact that she plays with that little toy mice like she would have played with a real mouse. So how did she knows how to chase a mouse? She has never seen a real one let alone catch one and she was weaned pretty young, too young to have been taught how to catch a mouse. Her behaviour becomes even more playful after she had a little catnip roll around on the carpet which it seems to