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How to help shy cats come out of their shells

Just like people, cats come in all different personalities: silly, grumpy, playful, and of course, shy. If your cat is on the timid side, never fear! With a little patience and time, you can help your cat come out of its shell.

Establish a reliable routine

All kitties are sensitive to changes in their environment and routine. If you have a shy kitty, it’s important to keep a regular schedule. Feeding them on a consistent timetable and scooping their box daily will let them build trust and feel comfortable. Make a point to socialize with them daily. If your cat is play motivated, schedule regular play sessions, which will build their confidence.

Let them make the first move

When socializing with a shy cat, let them approach you on their own terms. You can start simply by sitting in the same room and gently talking. As our sitter, Andrea Pearlstein explains, “I find that it helps, at each visit, to always speak softly — or sing softly! — to kitty, even if she’s in hiding.” This alone may pique your kitty’s curiosity. And that’s great! If they approach, offer a hand to sniff. If they still seem interested and don’t back away, try gently petting around their heard and ears.

Don’t force interactions

However, if your kitty stays hidden, don’t force them out. Let them stay put. Never pull them from a hiding spot or hold them against their will. Instead, continue to work with them. Our sitter, Julie Prince, found that music and reading out loud were her best tools for a cat who refused to budge. “I simply sat…and read to her. And, I brought her music to listen to. A few months later, when I was booked again, altho’ she was still very testy, she came out, walked around, and went and sat…on her scratching post glaring at me. I still read to her since she clearly did not want to be touched. Great progress!”

The most important step is to be patient: all cats warm up at their own speed. As Julie says, “Cats will come around on their own time schedule not yours. It’s that wonderful independent streak that makes them so special.”

Is your kitty particularly shy? Our pet sitters will take time to make sure your cat feels safe and comfortable. Call today!

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by PublicDomainPictures on pixabay.

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How to prevent one cat from stealing food from the other

Some cats are food motivated, eagerly polishing their plate after every meal. Others may be less motivated, eating more slowly or even leaving food behind. So what do you do when your kitty who is more food motivated tries to steal food from the kitty who is less so?

Try feeding them multiple times a day

If one kitty leaves food behind that the other finishes, it may be a sign that the first cat’s portion is too large. Commercial pet foods usually list a feeding chart based on your cat’s ideal weight. Once you’ve determined that you are feeding the correct amount, you should also consider if you may be overfeeding your cat per sitting. Breaking the meal into two or three servings per day will encourage your cat to eat the entire smaller meal before another opportunistic kitty does.

However, if you know that one of your cats will always leave a certain amount of food behind, you can take this into account when feeding both of your cats together. You would simply lower the other portion so that by the time that cat finishes off one plate, the addition of other plate’s leftovers will comprise one complete serving for that kitty. It just takes a little arithmetic.

Try feeding them separately

Feeding your kitties separately is another easy solution. You can feed them on either side of a bathroom or bedroom door by placing the eager kitty’s food down first. Then, once he or she has darted inside and started munching away, you would gently close the door and place the other serving on the opposite side of the door.

The separation doesn’t have to be a physical barrier, though. You could also feed them out of each other’s line of sight or simply sit between them. When it comes to giving treats, the separation can be as simple as tossing treats for the food motivated kitty to chase after while discreetly placing a pile of treats for for the less motivated kitty to eat at a slower speed.

Try making them work for their food

Puzzle feeders work by rewarding your cat with food every time they solve a puzzle. They can be more or less complicated depending on your cat’s skill level and motivation. If your hungrier kitty is also the clever one, giving him or her the puzzle will slow him or her down long enough to let your more casual diner finish his or her meal. Alternatively, if the slower cat is the “brain” of the bunch, a puzzle feeder can make his or her meal inaccessible to the other cat who cannot solve the puzzle.

Try a tastier food

Sometimes, the cat with a less voracious appetite is the one who needs a little encouragement. Experiment with more palatable foods to see if new textures or flavors will motivate him or her to eat more quickly. Sometimes, rotating the flavors from day to day is all that is needed to keep kitty interested in eating.

Are you worried about maintaining the feeding routine for your hungry bunch while you’re out of town? Hire one of our friendly pet sitters! We make every effort to follow your feeding instructions to the letter. You can even show us in person when we come for a meet and greet before your trip!

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by PublicDomainPictures on pixabay.

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What kind of cat carrier is best?

Whether it’s a trip to the vet or a move to a new home, every now and then we need to pack our little furry friends into a carrier to ensure their safe passage from point A to point B. There are many kinds of cat carries available, and depending on what you need them for, there are many choices for the job.

For carry-on cats

For both cats traveling in the main cabin or in the cargo hold, you’ll need a carrier that is large enough for your kitty to be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down without touching any sides of the carrier. Soft-sided carriers can provide a little more comfort for your cat while in transit and are easier to fit under the seats where they must be stowed during the flight. Many soft-sided carriers come with extra zipper compartments for treats and travel documents.

For checked cats

If you need to travel with your cat in the cargo hold, you’ll have to select a carrier that is made of rigid plastic, metal, or wood. The door to the kennel should be made of a welded or cast metal, and the kennel itself needs to be constructed with bolts or screws.

Since fitting your cat under the seat in front of you will not be an issue, you can have a carrier that’s a little bigger for added comfort during the flight. Depending on if you have a domestic, international, or extended flight, the guidelines are a little different, so be sure to check in with your airline.

For car travel

How your cat behaves for car trips should influence your purchasing decision. Many soft sided carriers come with extra straps that you can thread a seat belt through, and would be less harsh surface if your kitty bumps against the sides of a carrier during a sudden stop. However, skittish cats can easily soil the carrier, which are hard to clean. A nervous kitty may also claw at or chew the mesh of the carrier, damaging it beyond usefulness.

Hard sided carriers can offer more security then, as they are easier to clean and harder to damage. If they do not come with a location to attach a seatbelt, you can place the carrier one of the passenger footwells to keep it from moving. If you have a nervous cat, try not to get a larger carrier than necessary because smaller spaces help kitties to feel more secure and in control.

For emergencies

In the case of an emergency where evacuation is required, it’s best to have a carrier that is lightweight and easy to take with you, or one that is easy to roll on wheels. If your cat is fairly small, backpack carriers may be a good option for you. Try to opt for a carrier that opens both on the top and on the side, which can be easier to use if your cat is panicking.

A carrier that has extra compartments can be useful for preparing a cat evacuation kit, which can include food, medications, and documentation in case you find yourself away from home for a long time. You should leave the carrier in an easy to access area like at the foot of your closet.

It’s also good idea to leave your carrier out in the open while you’re out of town. That way, it’s easy to access and your cat will be acclimated to its presence, which can make it easier to stow your kitty in an urgent situation. Be sure to show your pet sitter where the carrier is, too, because we like to be prepared for anything and everything.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by Rob Marquardt on Flickr.

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Does your cat have dandruff?

It’s itchy, dry, and flaky. Dandruff is more than a nuisance for your kitty, it can be the first symptom of a more serious illness. Here’s what you need to know about dandruff in cats.

What is dandruff?

Your kitty’s skin and coat are among the first body systems to respond to changes in your cat’s health. Dander is produced naturally in the process of shedding dead skin, and it can be seen as small white particles throughout your cat’s fur. Dandruff, however, is larger and often accompanied by scaly looking skin. It’s most often found near the base of the tail and persists even after grooming.

What causes it?

Just like in humans, dandruff can form as a result of not getting the proper balance of nutrients and not consuming enough water. Environmental changes, like excessive dry heat, can also be to blame. Other causes of dandruff can be more serious, though. Your cat could be having an allergic reaction to his or her food or household chemicals. Parasites such as fleas, mites, and worms can also irritate your cat’s skin to the point of flaking. Such parasites can lead to even worse health problems if they aren’t removed quickly.

Worse still, dandruff one of the more visible symptoms of diabetes. If your cat is also experiencing increased urination, weight loss, lethargy, increased appetite, and frequent urinary tract infections in addition to dandruff, diabetes could be the cause of it all.

How can it be treated?

First, you should start with the changes that are easy to make. Adding more pet fountains to encourage your cat to drink water and switching to a higher quality wet cat food will not only keep your cat hydrated and full of healthful nutrition, but it’ll also improve your cat’s quality of life. Establishing a grooming routine can also sooth the problem if your cat is older or unable to clean his or her fur properly. Don’t forget to take a trip to the vet to find out if the source of the dandruff is something more serious.

Is brushing and grooming a part of your cat care routine? Our sitters are happy to brush your cat as often as you do during our visits. Drop us a line to be paired with one of our attentive sitters today.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by rihaij on pixabay.

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How to prevent hairballs

There’s nothing like walking through the house barefoot when suddenly you feel a wet, soggy squish underfoot. When your cat coughs up hairballs, it’s no fun for you or for kitty. Thankfully, hairballs are fairly easy to treat and prevent.

How do hairballs form?

Cats are very meticulous self-groomers. It’s a survival strategy that helps keep their scent to a minimum, meaning their presence is less obvious to both their prey and their predators. Cats will groom themselves several times a day, especially after meal time. The hooks on their tongues clear away both food debris and hair.

Even though the hair is indigestible, it usually passes through your cat’s gastrointestinal tract without a problem. However, when an excess of hair builds up in your kitty’s stomach, your cat will sometimes need to vomit out the mass to remove it.

Are hairballs a serious problem?

Hairballs that cannot be passed either through the stool or by vomiting can form very serious intestinal blockages. If you observe your cat retching and hacking without bringing anything up, experiencing constipation or diarrhea, or becoming lethargic and losing his or her appetite, an intestinal blockage may be to blame. You should bring your cat to the vet right away.

How can they be prevented?

Commercial diets are available to help relieve kitties with frequent hairball problems. They usually contain more fiber to help push the hair through your cat’s gastrointestinal tract, along with other ingredients that improve coat quality and discourage shedding. Other popular hairball remedies are essentially palatable, mild laxatives, such as Laxatone. Yet, one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to prevent hairballs from forming is to brush your cat.

Do you have a kitty who loves to be brushed? Don’t forget to show your pet sitter where to find all of your cat’s favorite and essential items, such as brushes, toys, and more! Our pet sitters love to give as much attention as your kitty desires. Call us today!

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by Mariamichelle on pixabay.

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Where did domestic cats come from?

The African wild cat looks almost exactly like a domestic cat.

Here on the blog, we often talk about ways to improve your cats’ life by satisfying the instincts passed down from their ancestors, the African wild cat. But just how did they go from being desert-dwelling predators to being the purring lap cats that we know today?

How are domestic cats different from wild cats?

For the 12,000 years that cats have been the friends of humankind, their genes haven’t changed much. Unlike other domestic animals like pigs, sheep, or cattle who have major morphological differences, the primary difference between modern cats and their wild cat ancestors is their markings (and their fondness for a certain fur-less two-legged creature). In fact, domestic cats’ coat patterns were indistinguishable from wild cats until the Middle Ages.

How did domestication take place?

Cat parents often joke that cats domesticated us, and some scientists agree. A popular theory is that as humans began to settle down into agricultural societies, their grain stores would attract pests like mice. Since they are the favorite prey of cats, the mice in turn would attract cats. The cats were then likely encouraged to stick around by being rewarded with treats of meat and ear rubs.

Coming to America

For similar reasons, cats were very popular with seafaring communities as mousers aboard ships. Since subspecies of the African wild cat are also found in Europe and Asia, but not in the Americas, scientists believe they arrived by boat. Indeed, a cat arrived here on the Mayflower. However, new studies suggest that cats may have come to the New World much sooner than that, tagging along with the vikings.

Wherever cats may have come from, one thing is for certain — cats seem to love people as much as we love them.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by Sonelle on Wikimedia Commons.

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Is meal feeding right for your cat?

Maybe we have a snack here and there, but for the most part, we tend to sit down and eat in meals. It’s practically human nature, but should our feline friends eat in meals, too? Let’s take a closer look to figure out if meal feeding is best for your cat.

How is meal feeding different from free feeding?

“Meal feeding,” as its name suggests, is when you feed your cat in portioned, timed quantities throughout the day. Meal feeding usually works best with a wet food diet because such foods cannot be left out for prolonged periods without spoiling, but any type of food can be meal fed.

“Free feeding” is when your kitty has access to food throughout the day. It may or may not be in a measured portion. Free feeding is also sometimes referred to as “grazing.” Usually, dry food works best for this method, but some cats will come back to nibble on wet food throughout the day.

What are the benefits of meal feeding?

One of the biggest advantages of meal feeding is the ability to portion control your kitty’s food. You would also be able to better control how quickly and frequently he or she eats. This can be helpful for kitties who are overweight or will overeat to the point of making themselves sick. Some cats are thought to graze out of boredom, which can lead to obesity and diabetes.

Meal feeding is also aligns more closely to the diet of your cat’s wild ancestors, which is thought to consist of three small animals per day. Cats are known to be most active just before they eat, so you can use this to your advantage by playing with your kitty just before meal time. Not only will your play session end with a satisfying payoff for your cat, but kitty will also sleep more soundly having burned off the excess energy.

What are the drawbacks?

While on the one hand, meal feeding is ideal for kitties who need to lose weight, on the other hand, it may not be appropriate for cats who need to gain weight. There other other medical conditions that respond better to being fed throughout the day, so always check with your vet when planning the diet that’s best for your individual kitty’s needs.

What’s more, if your cat eats two or three times a day, there may also be a concern that while you’re out of town, your cat’s feeding schedule can be interrupted. If this is the case, hiring a pet sitter to come multiple times a day can easily remedy this problem.

However, if you’d like your pet sitter to only come once a day, you can also opt for an automatic feeder to provide additional meals. Then, your pet sitter would wash, replenish, and reset the feeder for the next interval. High tech, completely autonomous feeders are also available, but they vary in reliability. Be sure to thoroughly read the reviews.

Speaking of reviews, did you know that our pet sitters come highly reviewed on Yelp? Take a peek at what our clients have to say about our services, and then give us a call to be paired with a pet sitter today!

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by sweetlouise on flickr.

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How to keep your cat from tipping over potted plants

Growing potted plants can be a joy for you and your cat, adding fresh air and comforting foliage to your home. Sometimes kitty may enjoy your plants for the wrong reasons, though, knocking them over or even pushing and breaking them intentionally! Here are a few things you can do to prevent your flower pots from falling over again.

Try museum putty

This is a neat little trick used by folks in earthquake prone areas. Museum putty is a reusable and removeable substance that can be attached to the bottom side of vases and flower pots. In the event that your kitty bumps into your potted plant, the putty will hold onto the surface where you’ve set it down. It can be removed later without damaging the surface.

Use a deterrent

Commonly used to prevent cats from scratching furniture, Sticky Paws is a double-sided tape that can also be placed around your flower pots to keep kitty from getting close enough to tip them over. Some pet parents have had success with Bitter Apple Spray, particularly if your cat has been tipping the flower pot in order to nibble at the plant.

Likewise, can also find pheromone and natural repellents that you can spray around the pot to make it smell less appealing. The Ssscat sensor is another option that blasts a loud puff of air when kitty gets within 3 feet of it.

Remove temptation

When all else fails, fall back on the old adage that works every time: if you can’t change the behavior, change the environment. Consider dedicating a room that your kitty is not allowed into for your growing plants. You can also look into suspending them from the ceiling in hanging baskets. Alternatively, try larger, heavier pots that sit low to the floor. While the low center of gravity and weight make them harder to tip over, they’ll also have a shorter distance to fall if you have a particularly persistent cat.

Are there any breakable items in your home that your cat can’t help but get into? Your pet sitter wants to know! In addition to giving your kitty love and affection, our sitters keep a lookout for unwanted behavior that needs to be corrected.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by Leo_65 on flickr.

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How to grow and store catnip

Homegrown catnip (Nepeta cataria) can be a sweet and beneficial herb for you and your kitty. Steep the leaves in hot water, and you’ll have a soothing tea for yourself. Dry the leaves and you’ll have an invigorating treat for your cat. Growing it at home couldn’t be simpler. Here’s how to do it.

Planting outdoors

Catnip plants can be grown in your garden in hardiness zones 3a-9b. A perennial native to Eurasia and a member of the mint family, the catnip plant may die off in the wintertime in your garden, but will often grown back on its own the following year. The plant grows to be about 3-4 feet tall and has beautiful spikes of lavender or white flowers that is a favorite of pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Catnip is fairly easy to take care of. It does equally well in the ground or in a window box, can tolerate a little shade, and doesn’t need much fertilizer. Let it completely dry out between waterings, though. Be sure to stake a few stalks of dried bamboo around the plant, too, to keep feral cats from rolling in it until it breaks.

Growing indoors

You can also can also grow catnip in a flower pot indoors. Place your catnip plant on a sunny windowsill or under a standard fluorescent light. Special grow lights can be used if you want fuller, hardier plants. You can also turn a fan on your seedlings for 2 hours a day to create more compact stalks with fuller leaves.

If you do grow your catnip indoors, you may want to keep it somewhere kitty can’t access it, like a sunny bathroom or guest room where the door is usually kept closed. Otherwise, you may come home to an excited kitty and a plant that’s been chewed down to its roots!

Harvesting and storing catnip

The catnip plant will be at its fullest potency after it flowers. Cut full sprigs off of the plant, as it will quickly regenerate a full stalk much faster than individually picked leaves. If you planted it outside, harvesting in the afternoon, after the morning dew has dried from its leaves, can help to prevent mold.

To dry the catnip, spread the stems on a drying rack in a cool, dry place. You can also tie them in a bunch and suspend them upside-down. You’ll be able to tell when the catnip is dry enough for storage because the leaves will crumple between your fingertips. After this has happened, crumple the leaves, discarding the stems, and store it in an airtight container like a mason jar or zip lock bag. It’ll keep for several months if you keep it in a cool, dry place.

Don’t forget to show your pet sitter where you keep the catnip and other treats! We love to spoil your kitty just as much as you do. Drop us a line to be paired with a friendly pet sitter.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by “T”eresa on flickr.

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What is “raw” cat food?

You may have heard about the “raw diet” for humans, but did you also know that there is also a raw diet for cats? The guiding principle behind raw food for cats is that it more closely resembles the diet that your kitty would eat in the wild. However, like all cat foods, it has its advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what you need to know about raw cat food.

How is it different from other cat foods?

Traditionally, the ingredients in canned and kibble foods for cats have been cooked. This causes some loss of nutrients, which are then added back in order to meet AAFCO standards. Any cat food that doesn’t meet these standards is usually labeled for supplemental feeding only.

Therefore, the largest difference is that the ingredients are kept in their raw state. However, since most of these foods must be processed frozen, freeze-dried, or ground, they also suffer from nutrient degradation. Just like other wet and dry foods, they must be supplemented with certain nutrients in order to be a complete and healthful meal for your cat.

What is raw cat food made out of?

There are a large variety of raw cat foods. The kind of you see in the pet store are usually kept in the refrigerator to stay frozen. The main ingredients in these foods are typically the same as you’d see in other cat food, such as chicken, duck, turkey, pork, beef, venison, and fish. Similar raw foods come freeze-dried to keep them shelf stable.

Additionally, the term “raw cat food” can be used to describe feeding your cat whole meats. Under supervision, cats can eat certain raw meaty bones, such as chicken backs and goose necks. This is because in their uncooked form, small bones are edible for cats and are quite nutritious. Some pet parents also give their cats whole prey food, such as whole day old chicks and mice. Likewise, specialty shops and butchers can sell hearts, gizzards, livers, and heads that cats can eat.

What are the risks?

One of the biggests risks of feeding a raw diet to your cat is nutritional imbalance. While the raw cat food that is available at the pet store is usually supplemented to be a balanced diet, some pet parents choose to make their raw cat food at home. The appeal is that it can be made from meats that you don’t usually see in commercial cat foods, such as mouse, pheasant, bison, goat, and alpaca. The drawback is that these foods must be supplemented by the pet parent. Sometimes, the information available on how to do this is rather unclear, inconsistent, or difficult to find.

The second biggest drawback comes from improper food handling. Just like raw meat for humans, raw cat food carries the risk of certain pathogens that can make cats and people sick. As predators, cats have evolved with a digestive system that can handle most of the bacteria in their raw prey, but food that hasn’t been stored or handled properly can carry an increased risk for immune deficient cats and people. Safe food handling practices are a must for raw cat food.

What are the benefits?

Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether or not raw cat foods are better than traditional wet or dry foods. That’s because there have been no peer reviewed, long term studies published on that subject. However, anecdotal evidence from pet parents claim overall improvements in their cats health, particularly oral and gastrointestinal health. According to the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, “Typically raw meats (but not other uncooked foods like grains or starches) are slightly more digestible than cooked meat.” When in doubt, always speak with your vet about the best diet for your cat.

Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.

Photo by alsen on Pixabay.

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