Con­fes­sions of a Cat Whis­perer

Cat be­haviourist Mieshelle Nagelschnei­der re­veals mis­takes cat own­ers make – and how to fix them

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Pets - BY BRETT WALTHER

DON’T TREAT CATS LIKE DOGS

A ‘one-size-fits-all’ ap­proach to rais­ing four-legged friends can have dis­as­trous con­se­quences. “We can end up cre­at­ing cat issues by treat­ing them like dogs. Cats are not fully do­mes­ti­cated and still have many of their wild cat in­stincts.” These in­stincts ex­plain cu­ri­ous cat be­hav­iour such as perch­ing high (keep­ing an eye on po­ten­tial preda­tors) and re­fus­ing day­old wa­ter (they are hard-wired to be wary of bac­te­ria).

LIT­TER BOXES

Cats pre­fer to use more than one lit­ter box. “In na­ture, cats like to sep­a­rate uri­na­tion and defe­ca­tion be­hav­iours. In the home, hav­ing just one box can cause a cat to uri­nate out­side of the box.” Nagelschnei­der sug­gests pro­vid­ing one lit­ter box per cat, plus one more, and dis­trib­ute them through­out the house. How­ever, “multiple lo­ca­tions ac­tu­ally trump the num­ber of boxes”. An­other cat in­stinct is to bury their waste. In the wild this throws preda­tors off their scent. In the home, if they can’t mask their scent in the lit­ter box, they’ll go else­where. Fresh, clean lit­ter and reg­u­lar scoop­ing will pre­vent mess... and other con­se­quences. “A third of all cats sur­ren­dered to shel­ters are there for lit­ter box issues.”

THE CAT ROOM

Fight the urge to clus­ter your cat’s scratch­ing posts, perches and beds in one des­ig­nated room. Scat­ter­ing pet para­pher­na­lia around the house more ac­cu­rately re­flects con­di­tions in the wild and re­duces com­pe­ti­tion be­tween cats. Also, sep­a­rate the food and wa­ter bowls as cats in­stinc­tively avoid wa­ter near dead prey.

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