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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm upset about the new kitten. Should I be?


Hello George,
Whicky is a friend of mine and he advised me I to speak to you about my problem.The problem is my new kitten brother, Alfie. He arrived last weekend (from cat rescue aged 12 weeks) and Mom is trying to settle him in with me. I am 8 months old and a bit of a spoilt only boy until now.I've been a bit hissy and growly - and because I am so much bigger and stronger than Alfie, Mom is nervous about leaving us unattended. She introduced us behind a glass door (one either side) and I was very hissy & growly!Then gradually over the weekend she fed us at the same time (one each side of the door) and now I am comfortable near my little brother. BUT Mom closely supervises and I show interest and sniff - and then give a hefty swipe. My claws are usually in ... but sometimes I forget myself.Mom is scared that if she puts Alfie down that I might attack and hurt Alfie. I don't mean to be like this ... I can't help myself.Mom is giving me lots of reassurance but she wonders if
you could advise further. Is there anyhting else she should be doing, or not doing? Thank you.
Love Milo

Dear Milo,
Unlike many of us, you seem to have a sensible human. You must have educated her well in the ways of cats. Or perhaps she was already socialised to cats when she was a human kitten. Either way she is being patient and kind. (Not very common among in this pathetic species. We can wait for hours at mouseholes. They want it all now.)
The difficulty for our humans is that they are primarily social animals but we are not. We don't live in packs like dogs do (which is one reason why they fit into human life so well). We weren't designed to do cooperative hunting, like both wolves (dogs) and
humans. We hunt alone. We go out alone and we kill mice. Mice are not big enough to share so we don't share our food with others - unless we are mother cats bringing back food for kittens.
That's not to say that we cats are all loners. Some of us are. Some of us will always be unhappy sharing a house. But, if we were in the wild, many of us would live in colonies of related females. The toms would come and go but females would live closely together. The sisters and neices might even help each other raise kittens, share nursing duties, and baby sit.
Where does that leave us house cats? Well humans like more than one cat and they will often bring home a new cat. For us cats this is upsetting. This new cat will not be a relative. It will smell different to us and we identify friends and foe by scent. Any cat that isn't familiar is a foe until it becomes familiar. And even if it is a kitten, well, some of us don't care for kittens much. This all adds up to a period of between 3 to 6 months while we come to terms with the new arrival
What we need is time to accept the change. Next we need the smell to come right. We need the new cat to start smelling of our family - ie smelling of us, and our humans. Swapping bedding form one cat bed to another, installing Feliway, and getting the human to stroke first one cat and then the other will help. We like a nice mixed scent that all the family share. Feliway is always soothing.
A crate for the kitten to be in - large enough for bedding, food and litter tray - is a help. Means you can't swipe at him but you can go close and take a good look. (Crates are useful for sick cats too or for if you take your cat travelling or on visits. I love my crate.).
Finally we need space and resources. We will probably never want to get too close to another unrelated cat. We will live happily in the same house while making sure we are about three metres away at all times. So ask her to help you and the new kitten to avoid each other. That is what we cats do to make social life bearable. You need at least one litter box per cat and at least two different litter locations. It will also help if you are not forced to eat side by side. So two feeding locations will help too.
Keeping our distance is how we cats cope. Your human is being helpful in this. She's obviously a relatively enlightened individual of an otherwise dumb species. She seems to realise that cats are not human - some humans never do.
George.
PS. She's written yet another book under my guidance. See above. Order it for Xmas at www.amazon.co.uk

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What does it mean on the cat food label?


Dear George

Thank you for the earlier information about what is in pet food, particularly what is in cat food. But what's on the label. How do we know what is inside the tin, or the packet?
Hesper

Dear Hesper,
Regulations vary from country to country, but in the UK you will find a list of ingredients. Reading the label is an art form. Start with the main bit of the label which will say either "complementary" or "complete." This is very important indeed. Anything labelled "complementary" is not designed to have all the ingredients you need. It is probably a treat food. Eat it in that way. "Complete" on the other hand is what is says on the tin - ie if your human feeds only that you will get all you need.
Next stage is to look at the list of ingredients. If you are thinking of cost (you have a poor or a mean human) look for the percentage of water. Dry food looks more expensive but if you do some complicated maths (which I can't do) then you may discover dry food is no more expensive than wet food. Dry food is easiest to leave down so you can snack through the day - the way of feeding that we cats prefer. On the other hand, some of us need wet food - cats who have a history of cystitis, for instance.
In the UK, the list of ingredients are listed in order of how much there is in the tin. That may well mean that cereals comes before meat and meat derivatives. As I said an earlier blog, carbs are cheap even though we do not need carbs. Meat in catfood in the UK comes from sources fit for human consumption and does not contain horse meat or whale meat. This might be different elsewhere. Then there are oils and fats, minerals, various sugars. Sugars, which can be table sugar, fructose or glucose, can be used as a preservative or flavour enhancer. We cats don't taste sugar so the latter is more likely to be a reason for use in dog food.

Next comes an analysis of protein, ash, fibre. Ash is particularly disconcerting.What it means is the amount of ash left if the food was burned. Why it is there, I do not know and would welcome information on this. It does not mean that the food contains ash. You can get a download with a bit more information for your human from www.pfma.org.uk
If a pet food is described as "containing" chicken and rabbit, then the minimum amount of these meats must be 4% of the contents of the tin and this minimum must be stated on the label. But the actual amount of the chicken and rabbit inside your can might be more than 4%. If it just says "chicken flavour", there may be no chicken at all!
Additives in pet food are those in human food but that's not saying much. In the UK there is a movement to ban E-numbers tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), ponceau 4R (E124) and allura red (E129). If these are not good for humans why hsould we feed them to our cats. So, on the whole, my advice would be NOT to let your human buy any cat food which is highly coloured - yellow or red or green. Only a human would be stupid enough to be attracted by bright colours in food! Poor dears. We need to keep them under constant surveillance.

George
PS I am experimenting with LOLs. Watch this space - http://mine.icanhascheezburger.com/view.aspx?ciid=2693271

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why does cat food contain junk?



Dear George,
Why does does cat food contain cereals? Obligate carnivores do not need wheat. Why soya protein - and just what benefit does this give to cats? filling up any mammal (but especially neutered mammals) with phyto-oestrogens is insane. Look at the problems it causes in humans! (Human males growing breasts etc) Why do the prescription diets sold only at inflated prices by
vets STILL contain the same trash that the foods on supermarket shelves contain. And why this rubbish about "healthy vegetables for cats" Humans may find pretty pictures of peas, carrots and asparagus appealing, but we cats are not going to benefit from this? Oily fish, there is huge concern that oily sea fish have significant amounts of dreadful stuff like PCBs backed up in their muscle and fat. As humans consume more oily fish (for health reasons ho ho) there are more waste by-products from processing going into cat foods - Look at the supermarket shelves laden with salmon, tuna, mackeral, sardine "flavoured" cat food! - the rise in cat food containing this stuff has been linked to the rise in hyperthyroidism in cats (since the 80's ?) Herbs - just no, no, no, no, no and NO. Cats are not herbivores. Time and time again my human sees brands of cat food purporting to be "natural" or " a better way to feed your cat" - on examination, it's just another attempt to plug into the 21st century guilt driven, human desire to return to nature and imbue sham spiritual goodness into every aspect of life by filling up cats with inappropriate food. Essential oils - yeah, just poison us, let us die a horrible thrashing agonising death, because "tea tree oil balances the immune system" why not, it's natural after all!
Whicky Wuudler of http://everycat.blogspot.com

Dear Whicky,
You have really said it all. We should be fed on fresh mouse, or even tinned mouse. The whole mouse, of course, with all the bones and the fur and so forth. One of the rarer cat disorders, among Siamese, is wool eating. It's thought to be a disorder of the predatory sequence - eye, stalk, pounce, kill, tear off skin or feathers, and eat. Modern cat food misses out on tearing off skin and feathers. So cats chew wool instead. If you feed them whole
mice or turkey poults (sold dead for reptiles) they stop wool chewing (see www.celiahaddon.com). Thanks to the Furry Fighter I can pass on the information that there are dried mice - as treats - available from http://www.petextras.com/pofdmo21gr.html
So why carbo
hydrates in cat food? Carbs are cheap. We cats can't tolerate too high a proportion of carbs so cat food has more protein and less carbs than dog food (message - don't feed us dog food, puurlease). Not only do we not need carbohydrates, we definitely need some of the contents of proper animal protein - taurine, vitamin A, and and arachidonic acid.
You can see the difference from looking at a picture of our innards. The digestive tract of the cat has a simple stomach and a relatively short gut - look on the left here. Compare this with the innards of a sheep (lower down on the left) - a really long gut and a complicated stomach to ferment and then digest all that plant material. That explains why we can't manage a vegetarian diet. We just can't process it. We don't have the ruminant stomach to ferment it and the long gut to retain the stuff long enough to absorb it.
We can tolerate (and can get some energy from) carbohydrate in their diet because it has been cooked and processed enough for us to digest it. And carbs are cheap. Just like milk was cheap which was why it was fed to cats - even
though it is now known that some cats can't digest it at all. Same with fish. A diet of fish was traditionally fed to us because it was cheap. The history of cat food is the history of human meanness. If it is cheap, feed it to the cat.
The answer, however, is not necessarily a home cooked diet. Most home diets consist of flesh meat without the bones and fur and stuff that we would need in the ideal tinned mouse diet. Flesh meat alone doesn't give us all we need. Some kittens have growth problems because breeders recommend feeding only chicken and rice when a good balanced tin of kitten food has better ingredients. Other cat owners feed us too much liver which is sort of junk food for us. If we eat too much we get vitamin A poisoning.
So, if you can't go out and catch your own mice, I recommend a good "complete" cat food. Mice are better. We all admit that. But at least nowadays those damn manufacturers have done the research and conventional cat food produced by reputable firms doesn't do too much harm. As you say, Whicky, ignore all that stuff about vegetables and herbs. It's just a silly marketing tool designed to appeal to humans. As we cats know only too well, humans are a basically stupid species.
I really ought to add a bit about those ridiculous cat food labels but I haven't time now.
George
P. Regular readers will be delighted, as I am, that Zealand (see last blog) has found a home. He has settled down happily and has bitten nobody - so far - probably because no longer stressed.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I bite humans. I enjoy seeing them flinch. Should I stop?


Dear George,
I bite humans. Here I am stuck in a pen waiting for somebody to adopt me. Worse still, until recently I itched and itched and itched. I felt so bad I pulled out all the fur of my belly and backside. The anti-flea stuff they gave me made me so ill I thought I was going to have a fit. Then they changed my diet- after four months of itching - and my hair is beginning to grow back. You can just seem the remains of the bald bits if you look carefully at my tummy. I used to bite humans because I felt so itchy and awful. Now I just bite them anyway. They keep wanting to touch or pet me and I just want them to keep a respectful distance. Biting works well. I bit Celia four times in ten minutes. I wonder if I should stop. I don't much like the human race.
Zealand

Dear Zealand,
There's no ethical reason why you should stop nipping and biting humans. After all they are a different species and we cats don't owe them anything. Least of all you. Your humans gave up on you and just chucked you out into a rescue centre, where you are now. While you were itching all over, no wonder you bit. It must have been hell if you needed to pull out your own fur. No wonder you don't like humans.
Humans have this unhealthy desire to cuddle. And to touch. They must do it. They don't seem to realise that cats like you, who were probably given the wrong education as kittens, are frightened of being touched, or hugged, or cuddled or picked up. You want to be in a household where you get regular meals, somewhere nice to sleep, and you can get on with your own life - perhaps doing a bit of hunting in the garden. You are a no cuddles cat.
Celia can take it. She spent a year going into rescue centres and has been bitten by a large number and variety of cats -- frightened tabbies, neurotic pedigrees, Persians that have suffered from rough grooming, beautiful white princess pussycats terrified of the nearby noise of dogs, terrified gingers cowering in their beds, and cats like you that just bit any passing hand. The worst consisted of a bite plus a real clawing when half her hand swelled up. She doesn't enjoy it but she does understand that cats in rescue shelters are highly traumatised.
However, there is a reason for rethinking your biting policy. The more you bite, the more difficult it will be to find a home. Kittens find homes easily. Loving cuddly adult cats usually only stay about a few weeks in rescue. Somebody who wants a cat comes into the pen and picks them up and cuddles them and they purr.
But when somebody comes into the pen tries to pick up a cat and gets bitten, they often have to wait for months and months. Is there any chance you could try to be nice? Or just try not to bite till they take you home. Think about it. There are a few humans who don't mind being bitten but not many.
George

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Should I go on teasing her by making my human jealous?


Dear George,
I have found out a good way to tease my humans. My two carers are Janet and John, like the children's books of past years. Janet does everything for me. She feeds me, makes sure the litter tray is clean, trains me on the lead and in the car. John does far less. I have discovered I can really irritate Janet by showing a distinct preference for John. I join him, not her, on the bed lying at his, not her, feet. I walk out of the room if Janet gets too near me. I rush to welcome John when he comes home and ignore her when she does. It's easy peasy. John wears a sort of smug look on his face and Janet looks anxious. How far should I take this?
Jasmine. (Apologies for black and white photo)

Dear Jasmine,
I think we all enjoy teasing humans. They make it so easy for us. They are ridiculously over sensitive when it comes to feline attention. They sulk if they think they are not getting enough or just go around looking worried (like Janet). It is part of the power that we hold over them. Power that they simply don't even acknowledge.
Have you tried the visitor game? I expect you have. I enjoy it. I scan all arrivals at the house. Those that try to come towards me, or attempt to touch or pet me, I ignore. I walk away with a haughty look or, better still, rush off under the sofa. These are cat lovers and most of them are devastated by my behaviour.
Those that don't seem to like cats or that ignore me, I walk up to and rub against their ankles. Some may
even be frightened of cats. They are even more fun. I leap on to their lap at the first opportunity then crawl up their chest trying to lick their face. Their horror is good fun.
The best way to play the game is when there are both kinds of human in the house. The cat lovers are even more upset to see other humans being the recipient of my favours. The cat haters are annoyed and feel, in the presence of my own humans, that they cannot just swat me off. If you haven't tried it, do so.
As for Janet, why give her a break? She is totally co dependant about cat and adores them. So whatever your behaviour, she will keep looking after you. So my advice is to play the game as much as it amuses you. But about once a week, jump on her lap and play adoring kitty. This will keep her on the boil, so to speak. You can eavesdrop on her pathetic conversations with John about "Why won't Jasmine be like she was on Monday?".
Cats rule.
George
PS Would Whikky Wuudler like to communicate via www.celiahaddon.com with a photo so I can run the interesting question about cat food contents?

Help for cats whose humans show behaviour problems.

This blog is devoted to the study of human behaviour. We cats, who live with this sometimes unpredictable and always feeble minded species, can benefit from seeing their behaviour in its proper scientific context. The study of feline dilemmas, training problems, and difficulties with humans, can only benefit all of us. All of us train our humans - to buy the right food, for instance, but many of us do not have knowledge of how to improve our training methods. The human species is obviously not as intelligent as the cat, but nevertheless can learn quite a lot - if properly managed. Topics of interest include the use of claw and order, purring as a human reward, rubbing your human up the right way, when to bite, spraying as a method of making our wishes known, ignoring the human, human harassment, human inattention and sheer human stupidity. I welcome your questions. Photos can be sent via my secretary's website, www.celiahaddon.com This blog has been chosen as one of the top 50 feline blogs by Online VetTechprogramms.org