Bengal Articles

Quote from Jean Mill

Jean Mill"We humans draw life and breath from sharing the struggle toward goals. From Thomas Jefferson to Bill Gates to Martin Luther King to the Wright brothers, it was not the money, nor the acclaim, nor the 'place in history' that drove them, but rather the dream of giving something new and immeasurably valuable to the world. The most successful took others into their dream and then built it together, sharing the thrills and spills. So long as we Bengal breeders share our vision and successes with one another without envy or selfishness or distrust, the breed will continue to improve and flourish, for we are sharing joy and delight in the creativity which ebbs and flows from person to person. Who would want to do it alone?"

 


So What Is An Asian Leopard Cat?
by Pamela Knowles (Reprinted from The Bengal Bulletin, March 1995)

Bengal BulletinAs part of a US team of wildlife biologists sent to Asia to train wildlife managers, I often wandered the streets of the various cities. I didn't know it at the time, but my first introduction to what would become a passion began during one of those wanderings in Bangkok, Thailand. There I stumbled on a back street market selling odds and ends, with one of the odds being a basket of leopard cat kittens. I lost my heart to their beauty and broke my heart over their plight. However, it wasn't until several years later that I actually heard about, met, and fell head over heels for, the Bengal.

Now, like most of you reading this, I can't imagine life without Bengals in my house. To combine my love for wild cats as a wildlife biologist specializing in predator ecology with my love of house cats as pets, well, it's just sheer heaven. And, like most breeders, I'm excited about the challenge of trying to breed for a house cat that looks like a leopard cat. However, to do this successfully I think it's necessary for breeders to know something about the species which we are trying to emulate. To this end, I'm hoping I can share some of the biological information that I've accumulated about the wild leopard cat in my professional life.

There are 37 species of wild cats in the world, 30 of which are considered small wild cats, with some of the more well-known species including the bobcat, lynx, margay, ocelot, and the wild cat (Felis sylvestris which is probably the ancestor of our house cat, Felis catus). There are also numerous species not so well known including the sand cat, fishing cat, pampas cat, Geoffrey's cat, Pallas' cat, etc.

In 1974, an agreement called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates international trade of numerous species of plants and animals, was enacted and nearly 100 countres currently subscribe to it. Because of the massive fur trade in cat skins, all cats were placed on the CITES Appendix I (species are endangered and ordinary commercial trade is not permitted) or Appenndix ll (species are not currently endangered but could become so of trade is not regulated). The leopard cat has been placed on Appendix ll, with the exception of one subspecies which is on Appendix I. Of the small cats, the leopard cat (felis bengalensis) is probably one of the most common and widespread, occurring throughout much of southern and easterm Asia, including the Philippines and Indonesia (for years China alone has been able to sustain killing about 150,000 leopard cats annually for their skins) Most authorities do not consider the leopard cat in imminent danger of extinction but the destruction of habitat by rapidly expanding human population, forest clearcutting, slash and burn, farming, and soil erision, remains a constant threat to wild cats as they are forced into smaller and smaller areas in which to live. In the US, there are appriximately 27 leopard cats in zoos and an unknown number owned by private citizens.

The scientific literature describes leopard cats as "house cat size with somewhat longer legs" although size varies depending on the subspecies. Those in the Philippines weigh only 5 lbs, while in the northern part of their range the leopard cat weighs up to 15 lbs. Although they do not appear to be heavier in the wild than weights commonly attained in house cats, some leopard cats are much longer than house cats if measured from head to tail. The background color of the coat is highly variable depending on where the cat is from, and ranges from bright reddish to gray, golden, or tawny brown. The underparts are spotted on a white background, and the tail is ringed toward the tip. There are usually four longitudinal bands running from the forehead or inner eye corners to behind the neck that break into short bands and elongated spots over the shoulders, although sometimes one stripe runs the length of the body. The spots are rosetted in some of the cats, solid in others. The head is relatively small with a narrow muzzle and the ears are described in the literature as moderately long and narrow with rounded tips. There is a white spot on the back of the ear typical of spotted cat species. The eyes are large and amber to grey in color. Two narrow black cheek stripes run from the comers of the eye, enclosing a white area on the cheek.

In terms of understanding some of our Bengal's behaviors, it behooves us to look at the habitat of the leopard cat and some of its associated behaviors. Leopard cats are extremely variable in the types of areas in which they can live. They are found in a variety of forested habitats at both high and low elevations, as well as scrub, semidesert, and agricultural areas. Very few scientific studies have been conducted on this relatively common Asian cat, but it is believed to be highly arboreal in its jungle home (who hasn't had a Bengal leaping to the highest point in the house to peer down at the world below). Their hunting habits include catching rodents (as my children's hamster found, to his dismay), birds, reptiles, fish (which may explain the penchant of our Bengals for aquariums, open toilet bowls and bathtubs!), and insects (my Bengals can catch a fly out of the air with one paw and are dead serious about grasshoppers).

Probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of the leopard cat's behavior is it's reputation for ferocity and it's inability to be domesticated. As a wildlife biologist, I take exception to humans labeling species of animals that don't domesticate easily as "mean". The leopard cat has evolved as an efficient little predator that occupies a special niche wherein it lives and reproduces in what is often a hostile world. Just because it doesn't settle easily into our tame and domesticated world should not be a criteria with which we judge an animal "mean". That aside, there are in fact, examples of leopard cats living with and around humans in comparative peace.

In Asia, some villagers are reported as keeping leopard cats around to hunt mice, and a wildlife biologist friend of mine reports seeing house cat/leopard cat hybrids in the streets of Bangkok. A leopard cat, kept by a biologist of the American Museum of Natural History, was reportedly very friendly and followed him everywhere. Dr. Petzsch of the Halle Zoo reportedly states that leopard cats can become as tame as domestic cats. However, there are certainly enough stories of leopard cats, bottle raised from birth, that revert to their wild and shy temperament upon maturity, to realize that they are not an easily domesticated animal. And perhaps that is as it should be.

Most people have neither the temperament nor the facilities to keep wild cats and most of these cats are better off in their wild homes. I believe that the Bengal is the perfect answer to satisfy the need in many of us to live with exotic spotted cats. And, for me an important extra, the Bengal is a perfect platform from which to teach the public about the fact that there are many other cat species in the world besides lions and tigers and house cats, many of them on the brink of extinction. Unfortunately, wild cats have become one of our world's most threatened major group of land animals. Although understanding the leopard cat and it's behavior may go a long way to helping us understand our Bengals, maybe the reverse is also true. Perhaps in living with and understanding our Bengals, we will come to appreciate and care about the future of the leopard cat and it's kind who are relying on our good will for their very survival in the lands they inhabit.

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History of "Bengal Glitter"

The originator of the Bengal breed, Jean Mill, found a cat running free around the rhinoceroses in a zoo in India. This male had very short hair and a distinctive rufoused color. Jean took him home and named it "Millwood Tory of Delhi." This cat had a particular genetic variation that created a hollow airshaft. Bubbles encased the in shaft of hair reflect light. The glitter color is defined by the color of the cat.

Jean used this "Millwood Tory of Delhi" as a foundation cat and it passed its genes along only to a certain selected portion of today's Bengals. Some people prefer to trace the genetics of glitter back to both the Asian Leopard Cats and the Margay which were used in foundation cats.

Glitter resembles golden or silvery and sometimes copper sparkles. It reminds me of the mica dust that is in so many of the highly glittered make-up products. In Fact, when glittered Bengals were first shown some judges tried to rub the glitter off with a cloth; convinced that the breeder to make their cat stand out applied it!

There are basically two different types of glitters:

Mica (Gold-Tipped): This glitter affects the tips of the hairs only and produces its effect in reflective hair-tips. If you look at this under a microscope, you'll see that embedded right inside the very tip of each Bengal hair are what you would swear are tiny flecks of a reflective silicate crystal called mica.

Satin (Hollow-Air): It looks just like mica, but in this case it affects the whole hair shaft, refracting light and giving the coat a pearly effect which is also known as "oyster." Satin hair shafts contain many little pockets of air along their length which not only refract light all the way through but also give the coat a smooth, soft silkiness unlike any other cat fur you've ever touched. These air pockets can become elongated which makes the fur even softer and silkier.

Much like the Snow or Marble Bengal gene, glitter was at first concluded to be a recessive gene. More recent evidence seems to point to the possibility that glitter is actually an accumulative gene. An accumulative gene is a very precious asset to the breeder, since if you breed two kitties that are well glittered, then the offspring will have even more glitter than their parents! Glitter is a highly sought-after feature as the glitter gene can also help to produce the clearer coats with less ticking in new generations which breeders strive for.

SierraGold Bright Promise

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Poisonous Plants

Below is a list of common houseplants that can be harmful or fatal depending on the quantity swallowed. Also, remember that cats who chew plants are exposed to any chemical pesticides or fertilizers that may have been applied directly to the plants or through the soil.

You can prevent your cat from chewing on plants by misting the leaves then sprinkling them with cayenne pepper. You might also want to consider planting a container of grass (regular grass, not the drug) for your cat. If your cats are digging in your pots, go to your local hobby/craft store and buy a few pieces of plastic needlepoint canvas. Trim it to the shape of the pot, cut a slit in it and then a hole in the center for the plant. Rest it on top of the soil and your cat will be unable to dig.

Note that any plant that looks like a variation of grass is likely going to be considered food to a cat, so it's best to keep them in hanging pots well out of reach.

Symptoms of poisoning will range from seizures and foaming at the mouth to vomiting and coma. Immediate medical attention as soon as you see the cat has eaten a toxic substance (don't wait for symptoms to appear) is necessary. The ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center is a 24-hour emergency service with phones manned by licensed veterinarians and toxicologists (these are not free calls; have your credit card handy): You can call 24 hours a day from anywhere in the U.S. 1-888-426-4435

Aloe
Amaryllis
Andromeda Japonica
Asian Lily (Liliaceae)
Asparagus Fern
Australian Nut
Autumn Crocus
Avocado
Azalea
Bird of Paradise
American Bittersweet
European Bittersweet
Branching Ivy
Buckeye
Buddist Pine
Caladium
Calla Lily
Castor Bean
Charming Diffenbachia
Chinaberry Tree
Chinese Evergreen
Christmas Rose
Clematis
Cordatum
Corn (or Cornstalk) Plant
Cutleaf Philodendron
Cycads
Cyclamen
Daffodil
Day Lily
Devil's Ivy
Dumb Cane
Deadly Nightshade
Easter Lily
Elephant Ears
Emerald Feather or Fern
English Ivy
Fiddle-Leaf Philodendron
Flamingo Plant
Florida Beauty
Foxglove
Fruit Salad Plant
Glacier Ivy
Gladiolas
Glory Lily
Gold Dieffenbachia
Gold Dust Dracaena
Golden Pothos
Green Gold Nephthysis
Hahn's self branching English Ivy
Heartleaf Philodendron
Heavenly Bamboo
Holly
Horsehead Philodendron
Hurricane Plant
Hyacinth
Hydrangea
Iris
Japanese Show Lily
Japanese Yew
Jerusalem Cherry
Kalanchoe
Lace Fern
Lacy Tree
Lily of the Valley
Macadamia Nut
Madagascar Dragon Tree
Marble Queen
Marijuana
Mauna Loa Peace Lily
Mexican Breadfruit
Mistletoe "American"
Morning Glory
Mother-in-Law
Narcissus
Needlepoint Ivy
Nephthytis
Nightshade
Oleander
Onion
Orange Day Lily
Panda
Peace Lily
Philodendron Pertusum
Plumosa Fern
Precatory Bean
Queensland Nut
Red Emerald
Red Lily
Red-Margined Dracaena
Red Princess
Rhododendron
Ribbon Plant (Dracaena sanderiana)
Rubrum Lily
Saddle Leaf Philodendron
Sago Palm
Satin Pothos
Schefflera
Spotted Dumb Cane
Stargazer Lily
Striped Dracaena
Sweetheart Ivy
Swiss Cheese Plant
Taro Vine
Tiger Lily
Tomato Plant
Tree Philodendron
Tropic Snow Dumbcane
Tulip
Variable Dieffenbachia
Variegated Philodendron
Warneckei Dracaena
Wood Lily
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
Yew

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Plants that are OK for your cats!

Below is a list of common houseplants that are acceptable for your cat to munch on. Note that there are conflicting reports about the aloe vera plant and I am not putting it on this "approved" list.

Note: that if you want to provide a plant that your cat can eat (so hopefully he will leave your plants alone), you can purchase small containers of oat grass.

African violet (Saintpaulia)
Aluminum plant
Any of the true ferns (Boston fern, maidenhair, etc.)
Cacti (but make sure they are real cacti, not just a succulent)
Catnip
Coleus
Gloxinia (Sinningia)
Goldfish plant (Hypoestes)
Grape ivy (Cissus)
Hanging African Violet (Episcia)
Lipstick vine (Aeschynanthus)
Miniature roses
Pepperomia
Prayer plant (Maranta)
Shrimp plant (Beleperone guttata)
Spider plant (Chlorophytum)
Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus)
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea)
Variegated philodendron leaf peperomia
Wandering jew (Zebrina)
Wax begonias (Begonia semperflorens)

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Substances That Are Hazardous to Your Cat

Acetaminophen/aspirin
Antifreeze
Bleach
Boric acid
Brake fluid
Cleaning fluid and solutions
Deodorants
Deodorizers
Detergents
Disinfectants
Drano (and the like)
Dye
Floor wax
Fungicides
Furniture Polish
Gasoline
Gypsum board (sheetrock) dust
Herbicides
Insecticides
Laxatives
Lysol
Metal Polish
Mineral Spirits
Mothballs
Nail Polish Remover
Paint
Paint Remover
Photographic Developer
Rat/Ant Poison
Rubbing Alcohol
Shoe Polish
Snail/Slug Bait
Suntan Lotion
SuperGlue and its variants
Tar
Windshield Washer Fluid
Wood Preservatives

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Early Spay and Neuter
by Brigitte McMinn  (with her permission)

The concept of early spay and neuter (prior to the animal being sexually mature) is not a new one. This philosophy has been around since the early 1900's. Angel Memorial Hospital, in conjunction with the Mass. SPCA, has been doing early alter surgeries with a follow-up for 15 years.

Studies on early spay and neuter done by the University of Florida funded by the Winn Feline Foundation in conjunction with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVAM), were monitored closely and very seriously, concluding that the spaying or neutering of an animal, before it has reached sexual maturity, has NO ill side effects. On the contrary, research has found that early spaying or neutering of your kittens can aid in the recovery process, giving your kittens a speedy and virtually painless recovery. These studies were conducted on kittens from 7 weeks old to 12 months old.

Controlled studies until recently were sadly lacking. In one recent study, kittens were divided into three groups: Group 1 kittens were neutered/spayed at 7 weeks of age, Group 2 kittens were neutered/spayed at 7 months of age, Group 3 were not neutered or spayed until after sexual maturity was reached.

The Group 1 kittens were straightforward and uncomplicated, kittens recovered more quickly than those in Group 2 and Group 3. The major concerns in pediatric surgery are preventing hypothermia, utilizing the proper doses of anesthetic agents (isoflorane is choice), and maintaining the proper blood glucose. Kittens are not fasted as long as the older adult patients, and small amounts of dextrose or Karo syrup is administered prior to induction of anesthesia as a precautionary measure. The general rule of thumb is that the kittens are healthy!

Critics have claimed several possible detrimental side effects from early altering.

  • stunting of normal growth
  • development of the urinary tract leading to an increased incidence of cystitis or urinary obstruction
  • behavior
  • food consumption; dietary requirements/obesity

The results of the controlled study of Group 1, 2 and 3 kittens showed that Group 1 (altered at 7 weeks) and Group 2 (altered at 7 mos.) in regards to the composition of body fat were identical and that those in Group 3 (altered at sexual maturity) were slightly leaner. Experts point out that those in Group 3 were already sexually mature and demonstrating some of the characteristic loss of weight of a breeding animal. It is also noted that in further studies the differences between Groups 1, 2 and 3 are becoming less and less apparent.

There was generally no difference in food consumption other than the difference that normally occurred between males and females. Increased long bone length was noted in both Groups 1 and 2. Growth may be prolonged if the procedure is performed prior to sexual maturity or the animal's first heat. However, this can be a benefit for the pet owner who has an unusually small pet and would like for it to become a little larger.

Observations of urinary tract development gave no evidence to show that early altering increased the incidence of cystitis or urinary obstruction.

The main difference reported was the occurrence of the secondary sex characteristics. Males were examined for differences in development and it was found that Group 1 kittens never developed penile spines, Group 2 kittens they were smaller than normal and in Group 3 they were normal. Female kittens in Groups 1 and 2 showed that the vulvas were more immature and in Group 3, fully developed . None of these findings had any impact on catheterizing. The concern that development of the urinary tract is hindered or impaired by early altering has been proven to be unsupported.

The synopsis of the study thus far: The differences between kittens altered at 7 weeks or 7 months are insignificant. Early altering is not detrimental to overall health.

Quoting Dr. Susan Dixon, DVM, "I do endorse early altering wholeheartedly and have done hundreds of baby kittens for a local adoption program. The surgery is EASY and the kittens heal so fast...I can't say enough positive things regarding pediatric neutering." A healthy pet is a happy pet and the earlier your pet is spayed or neutered the less likely they are to remember the procedure and the more likely they are to have a speedy recovery. Ask your veterinarian about concerns you may have about early spay/neuter.

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Facts About Declawing & Alternatives
by Jennifer Dougherty (Originally featured by the Partnership for Animal Welfare)

It's major surgery. It's very painful. Countless people consider it a form of mutilation. It's illegal in fourteen countries. It has serious side effects, and it's not even necessary. Yet, 31% of all cat owners in the United States have their cats declawed. If you are considering the same fate for your cat, allow Fluffy five minutes of your time, and make sure you have all the facts.

Does your favorite couch or armchair look like it has armrests made out of shredded wheat? Can you see the wood through the carpeting at the bottom of your stairs? Does the sunlight escape through little holes in your drapes from kitty's last climbing escapade? It's hard to believe all of the destruction came from your tiny eight-pound furball. Maybe you are thinking that one sure way to stop the destruction is to have your cat's claws removed. Declawing is not only unfair to your furry friend, but it is also cruel. If your new puppy scratched grooves in your front door trying to escape, would you have his claws removed? If your child began the bad habit of biting his or her nails, would you have the child's fingertips amputated? Of course not! You'd teach them to change their behavior. Likewise, you can teach your cat to use his or her claws in a non-destructive manner.

 

WHY DO CATS CLAW?

Clawing is not a behavioral problem -- it is a necessity and a natural thing for a cat to do. Cats need their claws for several reasons. Grooming is necessary to maintain health and cleanliness. Scratching and licking prevents the fur from tangling, removes dead skin and hair, and helps to waterproof their coat. Because cats require a lot of sleep, it is also necessary for them to stretch and exercise their muscles. Notice how a cat will always stretch after waking from a nap. Clawing is often part of their stretching ritual to exercise the muscles in their toes. Cats also need to scratch to help shed away the dead outer layer of the nail to expose the healthy nail underneath. At the same time, scratch marks are visual and olfactory territorial markers. The act of scratching deposits the cat's scent from glands in their feet (Eckstein 110). However, the most important function of a cat's claws is for protection. A cat will use the front claws against an enemy before using any other natural weapon. When that weapon is taken away, the cat would be in danger if it were let outside.

 

THE SURGERY

Many cat owners find out only too late the seriousness of declawing. Therefore, it may help to know what is involved in the surgical procedure. The procedure (referred to as an onychectomy) requires the amputation of the entire last joint of the toe (Marder). For a human, declawing a cat is equivalent to having the tips of the fingers cut off at the first joint below the fingernail. The amputation could be performed in one of two ways: using a "guillotine-type nail trimmer which cuts the joint between the last two bones of the toe," or with "a scalpel blade to dissect between the two bones" (Marder). The wounds on each toe are filled will surgical glue and held closed for several seconds to promote bonding. Several layers of bandages are applied while the cat recovers from anesthesia. The bandages are removed before the cat goes home, but unfortunately, several toes usually need to be cleaned and reglued which is extremely painful to the cat who is no longer under anesthesia (lisaviolet.com). Once the cat goes home, he or she will have trouble walking for several days, and the caregiver must use a special litter made out of recycled newspaper to avoid infection. The surgery is considered to be moderately to severely painful (Geller). One vet described, "cats bouncing off the walls of the recovery cage because of excruciating pain. Cats that are more stoic huddle in the corner of the recovery cage, immobilized in a state of helplessness, presumably by the overwhelming pain" (Dodman).

 

POST-SURGICAL STATISTICS

Following the surgery, there is no question that the cat will experience pain for several days. Cats do not exhibit pain the same way humans do, but elevated blood pressure, an increased pulse rate, fever, and limping are evidence that pain exists. Complications such as bleeding, swelling and infection may also occur. If any of these complications arise, it means another painful and expensive trip to the vet. A Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine study on 163 cats reported that 50% of the cats experienced one or more of these complications. About 20% experienced further complications such as infection, nail regrowth and lameness (qtd. Marder). There is also speculation that behavioral problem arise in cats that undergo declaw surgery (although there is no hard evidence). For example, immediately following the surgery, it is painful for a cat to use the litter box. The cat then associates pain with using the litter box, which may result in the cat using other areas of the house for elimination. Other behavioral side effects are biting and personality changes. Because the cat no longer has its claws for protection, he or she may overcompensate for the loss by biting. The cat may also become withdrawn or stressed due to the loss of its claws (Ginsberg). The stress could be caused by many things including the inability to simply jump onto an object, like a chair or couch or bed, and hold on with its claws. Even the joy of playing will be altered because the cat will no longer be able to grasp string or other toys with its claws.

 

THE RISKS

If putting your loving cat through the anguish is not enough to dissuade you against declawing, there are significant medical reasons not to go through with it. An onychectomy is major surgery. There is a risk involved with subjecting a cat to the physical stress of anesthesia and the strain of surgery. There is also a risk that substandard surgical techniques can result in shattered bones, hemorrhaging, and regrowth of the nail in a deformed manner that is hard to treat later (Ginsberg). According to Warren Eckstein, a world-renowned pet behaviorist, "X-rays of the bone structure of Kitty's legs before and after declawing show a marked difference that's caused by his having to balance himself unnaturally. Without the nails, physical stress is placed on the legs, where it wasn't intended to be." From an emotional standpoint, the added long-term stress and frustration can cause chronic cystitis (bladder infection) or skin disorders (HDW Enterprises). If a cat experiences any or several of these side effects, the additional veterinary costs, in addition to the initial surgery, will well exceed any monetary loss due to damage in the home.

 

ALTERNATIVES

There is another procedure you may hear mentioned called a flexor tenectomy. In the flexor tenectomy surgery, the tendon that enables a cat to extend its claws is severed. The cat is then prevented from extending its claws, which dramatically decreased the amount of damage the cat can inflict, as long as the owner keeps the cat's claws trimmed. However, similar to the declaw surgery, the tendon surgery has serious side-effects. In 1998, a study conducted by the Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and VCA Newark Animal Hospital compared 38 cats that received either a declaw or a tenectomy. Twenty-five percent of the cats in both groups developed infections. In addition, many of the tenectomy cats were still able to scratch, and they developed unattractive, thick claws (Marder).

Some owners will still argue that there are valid reasons to have a cat declawed. For example, an immune-compromised member of the household could be in danger by a simple cat scratch (Maurer). Mothers with newborns or young children often feel like declawing their cat will better protect their children. Under these condition, the person should decide against owning a cat at all. Removing the cat's claws is not a guarantee against possible injury. If such a person still wants a feline companion, they should consider adopting an already declawed cat. If they already own a cat with claws, they should consider placing their cat up for adoption in exchange for one without claws. There is no good reason to declaw a cat, other than rare medical conditions involving problems with a cat's claws that require such treatment.

Most cat owners declaw their cats for convenience only. The fact is, cats will claw. Claw marks in your house, along with occasional carpet stains and hairy clothes, are a consequence of bringing an animal into your home. All potential pet owners should be aware of the ways their house will change when they obtain a pet, and weigh the options they have to coping with these environmental changes. Contrary to a popular myth, cats can be trained and are very smart. Because of the myth, many people never attempt to train their cat.

 

CREATING A SCRATCH-FRIENDLY HOME

There are many solutions cat owners can utilize to create a safe, happy, scratch-friendly home for their cats. A scratch-friendly home begins with the proper scratching tools. There are many wonderful scratching devices on the market today. There are scratching posts, trees, condos, toys, and even boxes covered in carpet to hide the litter box. Most cats prefer scratchers made out of corrugated cardboard or sisal. The corrugated cardboard scratchers look like rectangular boxes or floor mats several inches thick filled with cardboard. Fortunately, these types of scratchers are very inexpensive so you can buy several.

Teaching Kitty to Use the Scratching Tools

More important than picking the right type of scratching tool is the quantity and location of those tools. If you only provide one scratching post, it isn't going to work. You can't expect the cat to travel to where the scratching post is located when the urge hits it. If your favorite chair, couch or rug is closer, that is what the cat will use. Therefore, place the scratching devices near any vertical object you think the cat will scratch. Place one near the bottom of the stairs (if carpeted), next to any vulnerable furniture item where the cat and the family spend a significant amount of time, and place one near the cat's favorite napping place. Next, you need to show your cat what to do with the scratching devices by using it yourself. That's right! Scratch your own nails loudly on the scratching device to attract the curiosity of the cat. When your cat investigates to see what you are doing, praise him or her with kind words and a rub in their favorite place. You can also rub catnip on each scratching post to increase the attraction, but consistent praise is the most important ingredient. Don't grab the cat's paws and force them on the scratching device. Most cats don't like to have their paws grabbed, which can cause the cat to avoid the scratching device. Admonish kitty when he or she scratches on anything that is off limits. All furniture should be considered off limits to eliminate confusion. Even furniture specifically designated for the cat should be a no scratching zone (lisaviolet.com).

Proper Corrections

Never use hitting as a form of correction. Hitting has proven to cause more problems than it solves. The kitty will also associate the hitting correction with you, and will continue to scratch where he or she please when you are not around. Instead, use a firm tone in your voice, "No," to let kitty know what is inappropriate behavior. Even better, you can use a squirt bottle to squirt the cat with water or a can filled with pennies to make a loud noise. This method is not only cheap, but the cat won't know where the water or noise came from and will be fearful of the correction when you aren't around. When the kitty scratches in the proper places, go out of your way to praise him or her. Even if you are in another room, go to your kitty to let it know it has done well. Consistency is the key. Within the first week, you will notice progress in your cat's behavior.

Scratching Deterrents

During the learning period, it may help to utilize scratching deterrents on the areas your kitty likes to scratch. You can use double-sided sticky tape, aluminum foil, or the prickly side of a plastic carpet runner. There are also sprays you can use to deter cats away from the area or place inflated balloon on the areas where you don't want kitty to scratch. These deterrents are all temporary until the learning process is complete.

Nail Trimming

Trimming your cat's nails is also a very important step in maintaining a scratch-friendly environment. Even if you don't have help, there are methods to nail trimming you can learn from your vet to make it easy for both you and your cat. The first time you trim the nails, only cut the tip. There is a vein that runs through the nail and it's important you don't cut that, but it's very easy to see. Two weeks later, cut the tips of the nails again. After two or three pedicure sessions, the vein will recede on its own which will allow you to cut a little more nail each time (Eckstein). As long as the vein is easy to see, you should have no problem giving your kitty pedicures. If you repeat these pedicures every two weeks, it will minimize any scratching damage kitty may cause.

Soft Paws®

If you just don't have the time to spend on consistent training, you can apply Soft Paws nail caps to your cat's nails. SoftPaws are plastic nail caps that are glued to the end of your cat's nails and they last about one month. Your veterinarian can show you how to apply the nail caps the first time, and then you can buy the do-it-yourself kit thereafter from the pet store or a pet magazine.

It may seem like a lot of work at first, but the process is an interesting and fun experiment in your ability to train your cat. You will also find that you can use some of the techniques to teach your cat other useful lessons. In the end you will have a scratch-friendly safe environment for your cat where he or she will be able to enjoy the use of its claws.

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