BARKS from the Guild March 2016

Page 48


Money in the Bank

Patience Fisher discusses the importance of providing plenty of resources in the good

© Can Stock Photo Inc./oksun70


times, so a cat is less likely to stress in the bad times

ats are such adaptable, stoic A change to the family’s routine or Providing sufficient creatures that we sometimes resources for cats the social maturation of one of the confidence assume they are doing better builds cats may be just enough to trigger unand provides a than they are. We all know those cats foundation for wanted feline behaviors that people them to handle who share one hooded litter box in will notice. stressful situations, the corner, or who trek to one in a The coping behaviors that seem having cold, dark basement, and yet have re- like to draw the attention of owners are money in the bank liable litter box habits. How come inappropriate urination, aggression, some cats are so easy while others and scratching furniture. Unfortuare so sensitive? There are so many nately, owners may not try to get at factors at play, from genetics to early the root of the problem if scratching socializing and conditioning, that it is concerns arise. Instead, they may simimpossible to answer this question. ply declaw the cat. Aside from ethical But there is one thing we do know: considerations, research about the providing ample resources now rebehavioral side-effects of declawing is duces the chance of your cat acting in limited. It would be interesting to see ways that you might consider inapif declawing reduces the self-soothing propriate when life inevitably changes effect of scratching, by comparing and stress invariably hits. It is like havchanges in serum cortical levels after ing money in the bank. scratching between clawed and dePeople often assume their cats clawed cats. After all, there is a differare fine because they are not doing ence in the “scratching” behavior anything to upset the people in the once cats are declawed as they canhome. Cats avoid broadcasting not latch onto a post and stretch. Apstress—in terms of survival, showing propriate scratching behavior in your weakness could be fatal and result in cat is to be encouraged. It is a healthy, them being preyed upon. We see this © Can Stock Photo Inc./tadija non-destructive way for cats to selfwhen medical problems remain hidsooth. Providing cats with tall, stable den for weeks as the cat quietly copes. In the same vein, cats will sisal posts and long scratch pads in many locations throughout often cope with stress caused by environmental factors. Cats in the house enables cats to mark their territory with their scent. over-crowded conditions, or with too few litter boxes, poorly This reduces anxiety, which may decrease the chances of unreliplaced litter boxes, too few hiding places or not enough vertical able litter box use. It may enable cats to cope with common space may cope for a time. They stressors, such as the family going on vacation, house guests, or Play provides physical may reliably use the litter box, seeing an unknown cat walk through the yard. and mental not be aggressive, and not upset Play is another resource that is like having money in the bank. stimulation and is a powerful the people in the house. It is a way to build confidence and decrease stress. It is mentally destressor However, this coping and physically healthy and builds positive relationships between playmates. Even if a cat is getting plenty of playtime with the may deplete their other cats, a few minutes a day of human-cat playtime is imporability to cope tant. It strengthens the human-cat bond, and can help fulfill the with addicat’s need to hunt. Additionally, as cats age, they usually lose intertional est in wrestling each other. Instead, that energy becomes more stresfocused on hunting and fulfilling the need to seek. The owner can sors. help the cat exhibit his natural prey drive and feel the satisfaction of plotting and carrying out a successful simulated hunt. Getting in the habit of playing with your cat for a few minutes a day when he is young and motivated will pay dividends later. Keeping to a play schedule in good times will help keep your cat from


BARKS from the Guild/March 2016

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