Friday, February 26, 2016

Have You Heard of Clipnosis?

Have you ever heard of clipnosis for cats? It's sort of like hypnosis - but with a binder clip. It's a humane and simple method of holdings cat still so that you have both hands free.

Genghis Khan the binder clip. You'll see it again next nail clipping time.

Sounds crazy. Sounds cruel. Actually, veterinarians at the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine tested the technique of using binder clips on the scruff of a cat's neck to get them to relax. They found in their examination that 30 out of 31 cats responded favorably to the clip technique than to other kinds of restraints. In fact, some cats would lie down and purr when they saw the clips coming!

The idea is simple: the vets took a two inch binder clip, the same kind found around any home or office, and placed it on the scruff of the cat's neck. It's the same spot where a mother cat would hold her kittens to carry them.

The vets speculate that the clip induces the same limp, totally relaxed state in adult cats overcomes kittens when Mom cat grabs them by the scruff. It's a simple automatic reflex that can save a kitten's life when the mother cat needs to move her babies out of harm's way. The same reflect can be harnessed in adult cats to simplify veterinary procedures or even help cats relax while their nails are clipped.

I actually do "scruff" my cats during nail clipping. I place the cat on our bed, and grasp the scruff firmly but gently while John uses nail clippers to trim all of the nails on all four feet. It only takes a few seconds, but the person doing the clipping has to have a very steady hand. Once kitty is done, he's released. All of our cats scream and growl while we clip their nails, but it's all bluff. Once scruffed, they're calm as can be.

It's good to know that my scruffing technique on the cats works with clipnosis!

Here's a video showing a vet using a binder clip. Neat, isn't it?

Cats are amazing!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Cats' Instinctive Behavior

Cats' instinctive behaviors are fascinating. Why do some cats climb trees while others hide when they're frightened? Why do some run away and others stay? Watching my six cats has given me insights into what cats do...but I'd still love to know why.

This morning around 6:30 we were awakened by the rumble of the propane delivery truck. I had called the company on Thursday for a delivery and told it would be made "Monday or Tuesday morning." Okay...but that's not necessarily 6:30 a.m. on Monday.

Normally when we get deliveries of any kind, we get all of our outdoor kitties in. We have three boys, brothers, who live outside most of the year. They only come in when it's cold, snowy or icy. I don't like them outside when we get propane deliveries because these two shown in the picture above love to investigate delivery trucks. The plumber called us outside once to show us Groucho sitting in the driver's seat of his truck, paws up on the steering wheel as if he wanted to drive away. The plumber had left the window open on his pickup truck open. We've had both of them jump on top of visiting cars and trucks, and my nightmare situation is to have one of them hide inside a delivery van and disappear forever.


This morning's delivery truck woke us up, so there wasn't time to get the cats into the house. But I knew exactly where they would go.

  • Groucho would dash up a tree, climbing perhaps 20-30 feet, and wait until the coast was clear, then carefully back his way down.
  • Shy Boy would hide, probably under the porch steps. He'd be the last to come out.
  • Whitey would run as far as he could, then crouch low behind a tree or a rock. He'd be the first one back.

It continues to puzzle me why my cats behave as they do. Groucho has always been our tree climber. My first glimpse of his little face was up a tree. We were walking the dog, and she started barking into the woods. There was new trash in the cutout lane as if someone had just been there. We saw movement and there was a kitten climbing a tree. Groucho. His brother Whitey peeked out from the woods. We coaxed them all out, tucking them into jacket pockets, then turned to walk home. We almost left Shy Boy because he was the last to come out of hiding, finally mewing plaintively and running to catch up with us. They've been this way since birth - one climbs trees, one runs and hides, the other just hunkers down to hide wherever he is and stays put until he's satisfied all danger is past.

Inside the house, my three indoor boys also exhibit their own unique behavior patterns. When the vacuum cleaned comes out, Pierre goes insane. He hates it. He runs in circles. He jumps onto a shelf in the closet and hides. He won't come out for hours. 

Genghis Khan is much, much bolder. He will wait until the vacuum cleaner is right by the chair where he's sitting. Only when it comes within one to two feet will he dash away. He'll be back out from his hiding spot as soon as he's convinced the evil vacuum cleaner has moved away.

Rocky, on the other hand, looks disdainfully at the vacuum cleaner and refuses to budge. I've yet to find out what frightens this cat other than a hug (he hates being confined.) You can vacuum right under his chair and he just stares at you as if he's simply pissed off that you woke him up.

Genghis loves to perch on the back of chairs so he's higher than the other cats. 

Cats and Behavior: Tree Dweller or Bush Dweller?
I finally found what I think is the answer to my cats' behavior from cat psychologist Jackson Galaxy. He calls tree climbers "tree dwellers" and others "bush dwellers."

Tree dwellers, or those who prefer heights like my Groucho and Genghis, feel safer when they are up high. They climb. They perch. Genghis is definitely one of these cats. Even though he's an indoor only boy, he loves to be up, up, and up, as high in the room as he can be. Rocky likes that too. The tree climbers in my cat family are Genghis, Groucho and Rocky, and each seems to move vertically when frightened. 

The bush dwellers, on the other hand, like to be down low. Shy Boy and Whitey are most definitely bush dwellers, and Pierre is sort of in the middle. He feels safer up, but not too high. He'll sit on a chair in my office rather than on the floor, but he'd rather not exert himself.

If you have a tree climber, you know it. Your cat will perch on top of the refrigerator and the tallest dresser in your bedroom. Tree climbers need high perches. A big cat tower or a cat "highway" mounted in the house is an excellent way to please your tree climbers (and to keep them from climbing the drapes).

On the other hand (or paw), the bush dwellers need secure spaces below. They need warm cat beds on the floor, cat cubes, cardboard boxes with holes cut out to hide in. These are the ones who prefer those squishy cat beds and don't know what to do with a cat tower.

It's two hours after the propane delivery, and all three outdoor boys have returned for breakfast. Shy Boy was, of course, the last to emerge from the woods. I didn't see Groucho climb a tree, but he emerged from the edge of the pines on our farm, so I assume he went up rather than into the woods. I'm just happy to have all of my fur babies accounted for. They're quite happy for the propane delivery. It means we can put the gas fireplace on tonight...their favorite things!

Of course the cats are happy about the propane delivery. It means I can turn the gas fireplace on tonight!

Are you cats bush dwellers or tree climbers? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Using a Black Light to Clean Pet Accidents

Did you know that you can use an inexpensive black light to detect cat pee? If you think your cats are peeing outside the litter box, chances are good that they are. Here's how to use a black light detector.

This adorable cat is Shy Boy. His nickname is Pee Boy. Poor Shy Boy was diagnosed with urinary crystals when he was just a year old. He would pee and cry. His urine was bloody. I rushed him to the vet. He was on medication for many months, and now eats a special diet to maintain his urine's pH in a range that hopefully won't produce the crystals again. 

Unfortunately, the months leading up to the diagnosis must have been painful for my boy. He won't pee in a litter box. Actually, I'm not sure he can. He pees standing up, in small amounts, outside.

Now most of the time, that's all fine. It's when we have a cold night that I bring all of my cats inside...and that leads to accidents. With six boy cats all in one house, it gives new meaning to the word p--- ing contests. You know what I'm talking about.

Some of the accidents are easy to spot, and these can be cleaned up quickly. However, some of the cats can be quite sneaky about hiding their accidents. Often, you can't even smell them.

Black lights work for dog or cat stain detection.

A black light becomes a very useful tool for detecting pet accidents. I bought my black light at Lowe's. It's a small flashlight about six inches long that runs on 3 "AAA" batteries. It has to be used in pitch darkness. A black light produces ultraviolet light. When it strikes biological substances, it emits a glow.

To use your black light detector:

  • Purchase a black light flashlight. They're easy to find at big box stores or hardware stores.
  • They have to be used in pitch darkness. Too much light makes it hard to see the spots they detect.
  • Pet accidents and some other substances, such as grease, will glow "white" in the light.
  • Use post-it notes or painter's tape to mark the areas to clean.
  • Clean the marked spots using warm water and an enzyme-based cleaner, or white vinegar and water. I also use Lysol floor cleaner on baseboards and tile floors. The citrus scent seems to repel the cats after cleaning up an accident.

Black light will glow on pet accidents, such as urine stains on carpet or tile. It will also make grease stains in the kitchen glow too, which is useful for finding those areas you miss!

The first time I used the black light in the kitchen, I gasped because I thought the cats had actually had accidents in some very unlikely places. On closer inspection, I realized it was spatter on the splash guard behind my stove. Small particles of grease had accumulated in certain areas. Some cleanser and elbow grease later and my stove was clean again.

Other areas did indeed highlight places my cats like to "mark" in the house. Doorways, doors and similar vertical surfaces appear to be popular places. The cats tend to mark the same areas over and over again, so I've been working hard to clean them.

When cleaning up cat urine spots, do not use any produce that contains ammonia. It will make the scent stronger to your cats. Another tip is to never use steam cleaning on fabrics. Steam also makes the odor "set" into the fabric. Instead, look for cleanser with enzyme-based cleaning action that are marked for pet accidents. These destroy the scent odors in the area that give off signals to the cats that it is okay to pee there.

Please don't get the idea that my house is one giant litter box. Of course it is not. But every cat owner probably has at least one or two spots around the house that cats have marked.

Neutered boy cats and spayed females are said to have less accidents. My boys are all neutered, but some of them still seem to think it's up to them to alert every other cat in the neighborhood that they live there. It's up to me to be vigilant and clean the problem areas when they arise.

One thing to note: if you're playing carpet detective and you find that your cat is really having a lot of accidents or refusing to use the litter box, it's time to investigate. Shy Boy let me know about his urinary pain by purposely going in front of me. In the box, it was hard to distinguish the discolored spots on the clay litter I use. On the ivory colored tiles, it was easy to see that he had a serious problem and needed immediate veterinary attention. You may consider taking your cat in for an exam if he or she is having a lot of accidents!