Shedding and the indoor cat

Our roving (within the confines of his loving home) feline reporter, Isaac Newton gives us his purrspective on shedding and the indoor cat.

This is part one of a four part study about how to being indoors all of the time can be healthier and more in sync with nature. And this isn’t just for your cats, but for you too! This week we talk about feline shedding. Stay tuned for next three newsletters when we talk about Circadian Rhythm, light and lighting, and intermittent fasting. This could be the healthiest year for your cats and you yet!


Newton’s Purrspective – Living the Indoor Life

The outdoors can be a scary place for a cat. Sure, it seems like fun running around (in nice weather) living the ancestral dream of being a Saber Toothed Tiger. Housecats have retained the predatory instinct but, I have to admit, we’re a lot smaller than those tigers. This limits our prey to rodents, birds, small reptiles and insects. Natural foods provide nutrients that are often not found in commercial diets and catching our own food provides good exercise as well as entertainment.




Isaac Newton

But let’s look at the importance of keeping kitty safe. Although some outdoor cats live long lives (perhaps using up all 9 of them), in general “indoor only” cats live 3-4 times longer. Outdoor cats have a much higher risk of disease and parasites. They are also at the mercy of the environment, particularly predators and cars. Cats just don’t understand that they could become prey themselves.

A kitten kept inside from day one easily adapts to the indoors, especially if the environment is enriched with Cat Faeries toys and lots of places to explore and hide. Catios are also becoming popular as a safe way to let kitty have a bit of fresh air without worry.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to living totally indoors. Some indoor cats don’t get enough exercise and can become dangerously overweight. Measuring food and having a playmate can help. I have 3 siblings (the oldest is 12 and the youngest 9) and we all still play like kittens.

Living inside can lead to another problem. The controlled environment (constant temperature and artificial light beyond normal daylight hours) could disrupt would should be a natural shedding cycle. Instead of seasonal shedding we are in CONSTANT fur dispersal mode. And it doesn’t just end up on your furniture!

Cats are “self-cleaning” so we ingest a lot of this fur when grooming. Those little barbs on a cat’s tongue face backwards, so once the fur attaches we have no choice but to swallow it. In small amounts the fur passes through the digestive system without problems. However, when a lot of fur is present in the stomach it rolls up into a ball which we cough back up – voila – the “hairball”.

What can be done to prevent excess fur in the tummy?

  1. Brush or comb kitty daily*
  2. Make it easier for the ingested hair to pass through freely
    • Make fiber available – Cats are obligate carnivores so they are unlikely to crave a salad. However, they do tend to nibble on plant material if they are experiencing hairball problems. Having something safe like wheatgrass accessible could help.
    • Increase hydration – Drinking adequate water is important for proper functioning of the digestive system and is also good for kidney health. Always provide clean fresh water, preferably in a glass bowl. Believe it or not, some ceramic bowls still contain lead. Yikes! Many cats prefer running water, so a cat fountain could also be helpful.
    • Add a fish oil supplement such as ProNova Fish Oil, which is free of mercury and other toxic metals. In addition to aiding digestion it can reduce flaky skin and brittle fur.

Anyone who shares their home with a cat knows that felines actively seek out the sunny spots – all the better if it happens to be in a favorite chair or a comfy Cat Faerie bed. We don’t know if cats suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the dark months. However, full spectrum lighting (which mimics natural sunlight) is known to decrease cortisol (a stress hormone), increase serotonin (a mood stabilizer), and regulate circadian rhythms (the sleep cycle). Its effect on shedding is not known, but providing full spectrum lighting can make kitty, and you, more relaxed and happy.

* I would be remiss if I failed to mention that brushing a cat is far more challenging than brushing a dog. We tend to be very sensitive and although brushing may feel good initially it can lead to over stimulation. Everything seems fine until suddenly we are in touch with our inner tiger. So start slowly and learn how much kitty can tolerate. Several short sessions may be the best option. Grooming is also a bonding ritual between cats. Why not use it to show kitty how much you care and strengthen your bond?

 
 
 
 

How to De-Skunk a Cat (or You) with Anti Icky Poo

Recently a customer wrote to ask if Anti Icky Poo would remove skunk musk from her cat’s fur. The cat probably wasn’t actually sprayed by the skunk, instead kitty probably rubbed up against a plant or bush that the skunk sprayed during a mating ritual to mark territory (sound familiar?) or to appear sexy. We at Cat Faeries adore skunks, in particular we love Skunkie who lives below ground in our front garden! And as you might expect every night we leave food and water for our gorgeous fluffy friend – did you know they are fond of cat food? Skunks are not particularly fussy eaters (cats, take note and learn from this!) however our dear Skunkie does not like rice but enjoys everything else we set out. We often see Skunkie and an outside cat sitting near each other in complete harmony. More on that below.

Since we are FOS (friends of skunks) we wanted to give our customer and you the best answer and solutions to this smelly problem.

But before we tell you how to de-skunk cat fur, dog fur, or you and you clothes let us tell you a few things about skunks. They are shy and very passive, and like cats, they are curious. They don’t seek to spray anyone and only do so when provoked or frightened – this is truly a last resort and if they fear they might be killed. They are solitary animals who would prefer peacefully keeping your garden free of small rodents, and harmful insects, worms and grub worms which might be in your soil eating away your greens and vegetables. Skunks are a healthy garden’s friend who come out to visit and hunt at dawn and dusk. If you are lucky you might see a mama skunk with babies in Spring. After the baby skunks are grown they leave their mother to strike out on their own, again, as solitary animals. Baby skunks are called kits… baby cats are called kittens… the similarities continue!

So far it seems that skunks and cats are compatible, or least they can co-exist well. We are told that skunks and outside cats will share a food bowl! We’ve observed Skunkie and a lovely pastel tortoiseshell cat sitting about 7 feet apart in the evening. Here’s a video of a cat and skunk caught on surveillance camera with infra-red. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFz7Na_G9Pw

Skunks are most active at dusk and dawn. Is it coincidence that your cat wants to eat at dusk and dawn too and run around like a crazy person?

How do you know if you are about to be “skunked?” Simultaneously the skunk’s back will be towards you and his head turned looking over his shoulder so he can see you (for good aim!) You might see red anal scent glands depending upon how light it is. With excellent aim and propulsion of up to 10 feet – BAM! – you’ve been skunked!

Here is how to de-skunk using Anti Icky Poo:

1) DO NOT PRE RINSE THE CAT! This spreads the oily skunk spray. Tomato juice will not work… you’ll have a cat that smells of tomatoes and skunk spray

2) Soak a large rag with Anti Icky Poo so that it’s very wet. Wipe down the cat (or dog) and allow to dry. Of you could take the cat’s brush which you’ve soaked in Anti Icky Poo then brush it through the fur. With either method you’ll re-apply in 2 hours. This should take care of it, if not, apply a third time. Rinse with another water soaked rag or a fresh brush to finish the treatment. Discard the rags and brushes. Please only use the unscented version as the fragrance can be irritating to skin, lungs, and eyes.

3) If it’s you who got skunked, soak your clothes in the washing machine with ½ cup of Anti Icky Poo and cold or warm water for a few hours or overnight. After you soak and rinse, wash the clothes with clothe soap and ¼ cup more of Anti Icky Poo. You could even wash your hair with Anti Icky Poo if you wish.

Here you can see a mama skunk and her adorable progeny approaching a man who stopped his bicycle to watch and video them. He’s perfectly respectful and quiet therefore there is no spraying of skunk musk proving that skunks would rather not spray. Also, aren’t their squeaks beyond cute? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WINFNvPjbG4

 
 
 

Your cat’s sensitive whiskers and “whisker stress”

A food bowl that’s too small for a cat’s face to fit in could be breaking off whiskers or causing facial discomfort. Before you dismiss this as nutty consider the millions of women who sleep on silk pillowcases which they feel protects their hair from breakage which cotton or flannel pillowcases could cause.

The authors of this story point out that if we notice our cats scooping their food from the bowl on to the floor to eat it’s because the bowl is too small to comfortably accommodate whiskers. The sensation of feline whiskers against a small bowl could be very unpleasant and lead to stress, and maybe even fighting among cats. Isn’t this interesting!

http://consciouscompanion2012.com/2013/01/10/whisker-stress/

Yes, Madame Cat Faerie has a silk pillowcase! If we’ve tickled your curiosity about them here’s where she bought hers:

https://www.energeticnutrition.com/silk-lady/organic-silk-pillowcase.html

Scientists Prove Sitting in Boxes Calms Cats

Cats and boxes. Has your cat ever met a box it didn’t like (other than a teeny tiny box that a fabulous piece of jewelry came in)? Cats love boxes. Even boxes that appear to be too small for them, somehow your cat will squeeze into it and be blissful.

We found an article on Wired.com about fascinating scientists who have researched why cats love boxes so much, and from one in particular you’ll learn why boxes are a good thing. Claudia Vinke, a Dutch Ethologist* worked with cats in a Dutch shelter. She provided boxes for a newly arrived group of cats while not giving boxes to another group. She found a significant difference in stress levels between cats that had the boxes and those that didn’t. The cats with boxes got used to their new surroundings faster, were far less stressed early on, and were more interested in interacting with humans.

The article on Wired.com has more fascinating scientifically proven reasons for why cats love boxes – and actually need boxes. This has us thinking about our recent article about cats, stress, over grooming and the benefits of wearing a jacket or sweater for purposes of calming. We at Cat Faeries wonder: would cats who are self-barbering or over grooming not just benefit from a sweater, but also from having several boxes in the home to hang out in? It’s certainly an experiment that’s virtually free of cost, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and your cat could love it and be happier. What do you think?

Here’s the article about cats and boxes at Wired: http://www.wired.com/2015/02/whats-up-with-cats-and-boxes/

Here’s a link to our our story about cats and sweaters written by Cat Faeries’ friend, Newton, a cat who knows everything – http://www.catfaeries.com/blog/newtons-purr-spective-when-grooming-gets-out-of-control/

* Ethology is the scientific and objective study of animal behavior, usually with a focus on behavior under natural conditions. Behaviorism is a term that also describes the scientific and objective study of animal behavior, but it usually refers to the study of trained behavioral responses in a laboratory context.

Newton’s Purr-spective – When grooming gets out of control

One of the most frustrating feline medical conditions is when our cats over groom, or self-barber. This means they are licking or biting at their fur until bald spots form, and in severe cases bleeding. We’ve tried, and failed at, creating a flower essence formula that would work for all cats who do this. Veterinarians give out drugs but from what customers tell us, they don’t work and in some cases can make it worse. And most people don’t like giving their cats drugs like this, which we understand completely.

We once had a bunny who did this. It was when we gave her less freedom and confined her to her cage more than letting her roam with the other rabbits, she stopped barbering and her fur started to grow back. I’ve never forgotten that and wondered how something like this could help cats.

Recently we received a photo from someone who wanted us to post her cat to Facebook and Pinterest. The cat was wearing a shirt and the person who submitted it said the cat wears it to help with his anxiety.

From Kelly: “This is Roger. You will usually find him wearing some sort of shirt every day. It helps him a little bit with his anxiety issues. Roger found me when he was about a year old. He was living in my neighbor’s back yard. He is now almost 9 years old.”

We assumed that the snugness of made the cat feel secure much like Holly the bunny felt so secure being in her cage rather than being free ranging and thus the self-barbering could stop.

Snugness. There are therapies for children and adults with blankets and hugging that help a variety of emotional conditions, so why not a sweater or a jacket for a cat!

This was such a fascinating theory and solution that we asked our feline friend Newton (who knows everything) to investigate. And this is what he discovered – including a jacket that you can purchase for a cat who’s going overboard with grooming.



Fellow cats: Have you ever heard your person say, “I was so upset I was pulling my hair out”? Hmmm. It sounds rather painful and I can’t imagine it would solve any problems. But people do say strange things when they are angry or stressed. Although we don’t have the pressure of bringing home a paycheck cats get stressed too. By nature we are curious and enjoy intellectual stimulation, but we do value the comfort of basic routines in our daily lives. Change that persists longer than a visit to the vet can really upset our emotional balance.

Examples of stressful situations range from a change in kitty litter to moving across country. A new addition to the family (animal or person) or loss of a beloved companion also increase stress and anxiety.

When we are kittens our birth mom licks and cleans us and makes us feel safe. As adults we find our daily cleaning ritual soothing. It stands to reason that under stress we would groom ourselves to ease anxiety. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing can lead to hair loss as the follicles break. Licking the unprotected skin can then cause sores and infections. Since licking is our natural response to heal a wound a vicious circle starts and continues until the stress is alleviated. http://cats.about.com/od/behaviortraining/a/catover-grooming.htm

The pet parent is generally unaware of the damage Fluffy is doing to herself until it is painfully obvious. Stressed cats often hide and do their excessive grooming in private. This is one reason to do regular exams on all your cats to detect problems in their early stages. What should be done if hair loss is discovered?

1. Rule out potential health issues such as skin diseases, parasites or allergies.

2. Determine the source of the stress.

3. Modify the environment to reduce or eliminate the stress.

Well known stress relievers include Feliway® http://www.catfaeries.com/feliway.html, flower essences http://www.catfaeries.com/essences.html, calming music http://www.catfaeries.com/music-for-cats.html, and environmental enrichment.

Another nonpharmaceutical therapy (for animals and people) now widely used is touch. Here are some examples I’ve been reading about.

The Tellington TTouch® has been helping animals and people with anxiety since it was developed in the 1970’s. http://www.ttouch.com/whatisTTouch.shtml

The centuries old practice of wrapping fussy infants in swaddling cloths is still practiced today. Some say the pressure simulates the comfort of being safe in the womb.

Pressure and weighted vests help relieve anxiety in autistic people.

The ThundershirtTM, now available for dogs and cats, exerts gentle pressure to the torso to relieve anxiety. The exact therapeutic mechanism is currently unknown. However, good results have been achieved. http://www.thundershirt.com/Product/ThundershirtForCats.aspx?item_guid=04a62476-dd84-4c67-ae9b-83f2fb67db81

“Wait a minute”, you say. “A shirt on my cat? I’ve been dressing Tiger up as an elf for holiday photos for years and he is definitely NOT relaxed and smiling.”

True, the idea of using pressure to calm cats is relatively new. Many veterinary clinics use a technique called the “kitty burrito”. A nervous cat is firmly wrapped in a towel for examination of a small exposed part. Clothing a cat would wear on a frequent or daily basis is harder to imagine. Actually, the term “shirt” is a bit misleading. The ThundershirtTM looks more like a thin lifevest.

Cats are more sensitive to touch than dogs. The first time wearing the shirt they may freeze or even lie still on their sides. As with any new thing Fluffy needs a gradual period of adjustment to different sensations.

No single method is guaranteed and you may find that a combination is required. Patience and experimentation with the examples I’ve given will help you to discover what works best to reduce Fluffy’s anxiety and restore her fur coat.

Do cats get depressed? They do – how you can help.


(Bizarro is one of our favorite comic strips!)

 
 

The recent suicide of comic genius Robin Williams has gotten a lot people talking about depression and keeping a closer eye on friends and relations who suffer from depression. But what about our cats, do they sometimes get depressed?

Well, they do. Generally feline depression can be overcome fairly quickly. So many things can trigger it. A death in the family (and that can be family with two feet and no tail, or four feet and a tail) is a big one. Cats can mourn anywhere from a few hours or days, to weeks into months. Any big changes to the home can be a trigger. If your cat feels neglected depression can set in.

Many years ago when we brought Torti home, our other tortoiseshell cat Tasha, let out a cry that was more like a wail a heartbreaking sound that we’d never heard before or ever heard again. It was as if she thought she was being replaced with another cat that looked like her, but was younger. It took loving work, but Tasha snapped out of it a week later and the two girls became inseparable until they both crossed The Rainbow Bridge.

Here are some of the warning signs that Kitty is depressed:

  • Not eating at all or eating much less than usual is number one.
  • Not grooming is probably the second sign that something is wrong (either depression or illness)
  • Hiding. Not engaging with you or the other cats.
  • Your cat could start to sleep noticeably more.
  • Your cat could become very quiet, not meowing, or purring.
  • On the flip side of that your cat could start to yowl which is comparable to us sobbing.
  • Walking with tail and head down, whiskers seem to droop,
  • They may become aggressive towards you or others in the home. They might hiss or bite, or swat.
  • They might stop using the litter box for either pooping or peeing, perhaps even both.
  • The cat may use the litter box but might not bury their droppings.
  • Loss of interest in toys, and affection from you.

Here is how Cat Faeries can help you to help your depressed cat.

A Ball of Twine, a calming music CD created just for cats to be played while you are not at home. The composer has studied the effects of sound on the brain, heart, and cells of the body so this music is truly medicinal.

Comfort Zone with Feliway – Diffusers can be installed in the room or rooms that this cat spends the most time in. That pheromone was intended to stop cats from peeing outside of the box but when it was created in the late 1990’s it was discovered that it calms cats and snaps them out of funks.

Catnip Mist can be sprayed on your cat’s bedding or favorite resting or hiding places. Most cats find the aroma of catnip hard to resist!

Our flower essence formulas. So many good ones to choose from: Moves and Changes, Calm and Serene, Multi Cat Household, Past Abuse, Forget Me Not (for mourning). One formula can go into the food and/or water bowl while another one is lovingly massaged on the cat’s head and ears.