Book shows how to keep fe­lines safe by cat­i­fy­ing your home

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Contents - By Leanne Italie As­so­ci­ated Press

TAK­ING on a cat is one thing. Cat­i­fy­ing your home to rise to true Cat Per­son sta­tus is an­other.

Choos­ing just the right gear and tweak­ing your home can keep fe­lines safe, sane and stim­u­lated, said Kate Ben­jamin, a “cat style ex­pert” who has ap­peared on An­i­mal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell.”

She has teamed with the show’s host, cat be­hav­ior­ist Jackson Galaxy, on a new DIY-fo­cused book, “Cat­ify to Sat­isfy.” It’s a fol­low-up to their 2014 best-seller, “Cat­i­fi­ca­tion,” with both offering tips from cat own­ers on what they’ve ac­com­plished with home en­hance­ments.

Most hu­man-cat re­la­tion­ships can be im­proved by clear­ing up one ba­sic mis­un­der­stand­ing, Galaxy said in a re­cent in­ter­view from Los An­ge­les:

“Cats are not dogs. Cats care not at all about pleas­ing you. That’s not why they’re here. You have to get your ego out of the way when it comes to hav­ing a good re­la­tion­ship with a cat. You have to com­pro­mise to live suc­cess­fully with them.”

Ben­jamin writes a “Cat­i­fi­ca­tion” col­umn at Jack­sonGalaxy.com on cat de­sign and sells a line of her own cat prod­ucts at her site, Haus­pan­ther.com.

She and her fi­ancé live with 11 cats in a condo of about 1,100 square feet, plus a large en­closed “catio,” in Phoenix. Two more cats live in her de­sign stu­dio.

Some terms and ideas for a cat-friendly home:

BASE CAMP: CAV­ING VS. CO­COON­ING

Cav­ing is the thing cats do when look­ing to hide deeply away out of fear. Co­coon­ing is when they go to a move­able, semi-en­closed haven to help bring their stress level down.

Ben­jamin and Galaxy ad­vo­cate cre­at­ing a “base camp” for a new cat, mean­ing a de­fined room or space where ter­ri­tory can be es­tab­lished. Po­ten­tial cav­ing ar­eas, such as un­der a bed or at the top of a closet, should be blocked off.

A co­coon can be any­thing from a pa­per bag to a card­board box to a cat car­rier. It should slowly be moved out of base camp as so­cial­iza­tion pro­gresses.

“Cat­i­fi­ca­tion is a lot of DIY,” Ben­jamin said. “You don’t have to buy any­thing. You can look at what you al­ready have and do a lit­tle re­ar­rang­ing.”

The time it takes to move be­yond base camp varies. You should be able to tell when a cat is ready by body lan­guage and be­hav­ior.

OB­SERVE, OB­SERVE, OB­SERVE

Be­fore you make changes to your home, understand ba­sic be­hav­iors. Start by sim­ply watch­ing your cat.

“We really do an­thro­po­mor­phize cats a lot more than we should,” Ben­jamin said. “You really have to understand their true na­ture, their in­stincts and their needs.”

Some ba­sic per­son­al­ity archetypes: the Mo­jito Cat, who is so­cial, out­go­ing and con­fi­dent of her ter­ri­tory; the Wallflower Cat, who lacks such con­fi­dence and slinks around on the pe­riph­ery to avoid con­fronta­tion; and the Napoleon Cat, who sprays, bul­lies and oth­er­wise pos­tures ag­gres­sively.

Many cats are a mix of the three.

SCENT MARK­ING

Mark­ing and claim­ing ter­ri­tory has ev­ery­thing to do with scent. Cats love to mix their scents with yours.

“Peo­ple won­der, ‘Why does my cat al­ways come and sit on my sweaters?’ Be­cause it has your scent on it. They ask, ‘Why do they want to be in the bed­room? ...’ They want to be in your bed­room be­cause that’s where the scent is strong­est,” Ben­jamin said.

Pro­vide plen­ti­ful “scent soak­ers.” They can be soft toys, beds, blan­kets, car­peted sur­faces and scratch­ers placed in a cat’s ter­ri­tory to be marked by him. If you’re look­ing to keep kitty off your sweaters or key­board, set up a scent-soaked sta­tion nearby, such as a no-slip shelf or ta­ble top as a perch.

“You want to give them things that are ac­cept­able to scratch and rub on rather than con­stantly yelling at them for do­ing those things on ob­jects you don’t want them on,” Ben­jamin said. “I have a num­ber of perches around my desk.”

SCRATCH­ERS

Cats like to scratch on dif­fer­ent sur­faces and at dif­fer­ent slants. Try var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als — card­board, car­pet, thick sisal, tighter sisal, wood and cork, for in­stance — and see what they like. Ben­jamin dis­cov­ered that yoga mats are great scratch­ers. Con­sider swatches.

Some cats are hor­i­zon­tal, ver­ti­cal or in­cline scratch­ers.

“You have to get in there and really pay at­ten­tion,” Ben­jamin said.

One rea­son your cat likes to scratch your sofa, for ex­am­ple, is to mix your scent with hers. But the sofa might also be made of a de­li­ciously scratch­able ma­te­rial. And it’s sturdy as the cat ex­er­cises its up­per body. That tells you what type of ma­te­rial, in­cline and en­vi­ron­ment to pro­vide as an al­ter­na­tive.

Lo­ca­tion is ev­ery­thing when it comes to scratch­ers. If your cat con­stantly plays with the door jamb in your bed­room, you’d be a fool not to match that slant and place a scratcher nearby.

SU­PER­HIGH­WAYS & CATIOS

If you’re now an ex­treme — or ex­tremely handy — cat owner, you might build one of those mega-climb­ing routes along a wall. For ex­tra stim­u­la­tion, build more than one path­way and type of perch. Pro­vide no-slip sur­faces and ma­te­ri­als that ab­sorb scent. In­cor­po­rate boxy hidey-holes, bas­kets or beds.

In gen­eral, cat own­ers should do more with ver­ti­cal space, Galaxy said.

“We forget that when cat walks into a room, cat is tak­ing the en­tire square footage, mean­ing not just the floor, not just couch level, but the ceil­ing as well,” he said. “When you add shelv­ing around a room, or when you cre­ate a cat su­per­high­way ... you’ve just in­creased that ter­ri­to­rial mojo in a way that noth­ing else can.”

Cat own­ers with out­door space can con­nect an in­te­rior su­per­high­way with a catio us­ing tun­nels or flaps. Catios can be en­closed with wire mesh and built into ex­ist­ing spa­ces, such as un­der an out­door stair­case.

No space? How about Cat TV, mean­ing the place­ment of a bird feeder just out­side a win­dow.

AP PHOTO)

LITTER BOX. A cre­ative litter box so­lu­tion. Whether it’s a new kit­ten, an older res­cue or an ad­di­tion to your cat fam­ily, choos­ing just the right gear and tweak­ing your home is key to keep­ing fe­lines safe, sane and stim­u­lated.(

(AP PHOTO)

STAIR­WAY. A cat stair­way can pro­vide on and off ramps for a cat su­per­high­way.

(AP PHOTO)

CAT SPACE. Dash the kit­ten who has a space to him­self, away from the home’s three dogs.

(AP PHOTO)

STOR­AGE. Cus­tom-built boxes pro­vide both stor­age and ver­ti­cal space.

(AP PHOTO)

CAT BOOK. The cover of the book, “Cat­ify to Sat­isfy: Sim­ple So­lu­tions for Cre­at­ing a Cat­Friendly Home by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Ben­jamin.

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