Another great reason to have a dog in your life!

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Woods Weekly Mews

January 19th, 2011

barney 017 2 Offsite Volunteer Yvonne Abbott and Barney on a recent retirement home visit
-bringing a wagging tail and wet nose to those in need

"Cats only pretend to be domesticated if they think there's a bowl of milk in it for them."
- Robin Williams

A cat always has a reason for why he does what he does - self preservation - and the only reason he will choose an alternative behavior is because he believes it's a better option.  So, what do you do if Fluffy is exhibiting a behavior that is unacceptable to you, such as scratching the furniture, using the corner of your living room instead of her litter box, jumping on your counters, etc.?

Did You Know?  what doesn't work?  Punishment.  With a cat, never does, never will.  Yelling, swatting, hitting will only make your cat fear and dislike you (and make you feel like a jerk).  Cats live in the moment and in just seconds after she's done something, she will not associate your anger or reaction with her behavior.  Trying to punish your cat will simply confuse and scare her, gradually eroding her sense of confidence and feeling of safety in her environment.  And it will most certainly erode the relationship between the two of you.  Aversion therapy (such as squirt guns, noisemakers, etc.) is not much better and should only be used as a last resort.  "Booby-trapping" your cat's world will only make her afraid of her environment, leading to additional problems.

So - short of giving up and deciding to scrap the whole cat idea and become a dog person, what can you do to stop Bongo from driving you nuts from whatever "bad" behavior he's exhibiting?  Well - it's up to you to understand why he is exhibiting the behavior in the first place, then offer an alternative solution that Bongo will think is better than what he's currently doing.  Stop rolling your eyes - it's not as crazy as it sounds.  This week and next week's Mews will look as some of the most common "unwanted" behaviors, how they relate back to life in the wild, and offer some suggestions for alternatives Bongo might go for.

Scratching the Furniture - In the wild, it is always necessary for a cat to have a strong, well-maintained set of claws.  Her claws are her weapons to defend herself and her cubs, they help her climb to safety if needed and help her capture food.  Scratching helps maintain those claws - it helps her shed old, outgrown claw sheaths and keeps them in top condition.  Additionally, scratching is a full body exercise, stretching and toning every muscle in her body.  And, in the wild, scratching is also a way of marking territory - a sign to another cat that says "I'm here - stay away".

Just because Gremlin is an indoor cat doesn't stop the urge - and need - to scratch.  To keep him happy and healthy, you should provide not just one, but multiple scratching posts for Gremlin to use.  Just as in the wild, indoor cats have their territory and feel the need to "mark it" by scratching.  Having multiple posts will help prevent him from marking the south end of his territory on your couch.  Cats crave routine, so if you take the time to observe Gremlin for a few days, you'll quickly recognize his patterns and be able to place his posts in strategic locations.  Also, make sure the posts are tall enough so that he can stretch his body completely, otherwise he might choose your taller recliner over his short post.

For obvious reason, it's ideal to try these tactics before Furball is in the habit of using your favorite armchair - it's much easier to prevent problems than to change them once they become habits.  However, if inappropriate scratching is already a problem, here are some suggestions:

  • Put a scratching post in front of the area that Furball is currently scratching.
  • Attach a favorite toy to, or dose the post with catnip.
  • Engage Furball in play so that she climbs or scratches around on the post - then praise, praise, praise (treats will help!).
  • Once Furball decides that it's more fun to use the post than the chair, begin to move it slowly over time to a location close by that works for both of you.

Jumping on Counters -  In the wild, settling into a high place such as a tree or tall rock serves a couple of different purposes.  It allows the cat a better viewing advantage to watch for prey and also to watch out for and hide from other predators - it offers a sense of security.  Being up higher than the surrounding environment offers a sense of security to your little domestic companion, too.  But, it's understandable that you would prefer that Blossom stay off of the kitchen counters.  And given the choice, Blossom would probably happily choose a soft perch with a view, rather than a cold, hard kitchen counter any day.

This is an easy one - create a high spot for Blossom in front of a window.  This can be a cat tree, an inexpensive "cat hammock" that fits on the window sill, or something as simple as a piece of furniture with a cushion, placed in front of a window.  Make sure Blossom knows it's her space - a few treats, again, will go a long way - and (hopefully) she will decide it's a better place to lounge.

Next week we'll look at litter box issues and kitty's hunting instincts.  And in future "Mews" we'll go into even more depth with each of these issues.  Just remember - with a cat, it's all about offering them a better choice.  Good luck...

Linda Beatson
Volunteer Captain

Something to Celebrate:
Last week's happy tails:

Feline Adoptions- Wookie, Leo, Patches, Avila and Paint

K9 Adoptions- Biscuit, Kovu, Alexandra, Duke, Cody, Cheyenne, Gorda, Kerry, Boo Boo, Tucker, Alex and B.B.
Felines to work on this week:

  • Pearl - the medium haired gray kitty in the condo in the vestibule.  She is very fearful and needs people to very quietly and gently pet her and talk to her.  She is more comfortable right now staying in the condo.  Her condo mates, Cuddles and Buster could use extra love (and wet food), too.
  • Bonnie - a black and white tuxedo in the kitten room.  She's a bit fearful and has been hissing when people approach her condo.  She responds wonderfully if you take her into a "get acquainted room" and let her play and warm up to you.  She's coming around quickly and with some extra love should be fine soon.

K9's to work on this week:

  • On-site Volunteers please work through general obedience training with Barney, Travis, McPhee and Jessie.
  • Off-site Handlers please target Cascious, Luke, and Kizzy for long walks, hikes, etc.

Thank you all for responding so well to our new K9 & Feline Weekly Focus section. Last week's off-site list shows that every dog had an opportunity to work with a volunteer out in the community.

Upcoming Outreach Events

Saturday and Sunday, January 22nd & 23rd: If you are in need of plants and/or planting materials, Sage Eco-Garden and Nursery in Los Osos is sponsoring a fundraising event for Woods 10% of all sales will be donated to Woods and we will have some of our lovable kitties on display both days.  We hope to see you there!

Saturday, January 29th: Central Coast Roller Derby at the Paso Robles Event Center. Volunteers are needed to assist with transportation and handling of our Woods dogs to and from the event. Please contact me if you are available and can lend a hand.


Make sure to assign Woods Humane Society to your club card(s) if you shop at any of the markets below. The shelter will receive a portion of your purchase every time you shop! Simply visit the websites of the markets below and click on their community contribution links. Contact me if you have any questions.

               Ralphs: # 7746187

               Scolaris: # 5139


You can also help support the shelter by using when surfing the web. Let them know you are searching for Woods Humane Society and we receive a donation every time you use goodsearch.


And don't forget that you can easily sign up for our monthly giving program by visiting our online donation form to set up an automatic donation through your checking account.


Comments (2)

Michael A. Caruso
Surterre Properties - Laguna Niguel, CA

I'm happy to say that I have 2 dogs in my life and one is a rescue. Both are spayed and they are treated like royalty. They are our spoiled furry children....haha! 

Jan 21, 2011 08:56 AM
Li Read
Sea to Sky Premier Properties (Salt Spring) - Salt Spring Island, BC
Caring expertise...knowledge for you!

Great post....will make sure I pass this along.

Jan 21, 2011 09:22 AM