Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why Do Cats Do That? Teeth Chattering

Any cat owner (cat owned?) has heard/seen this: the chittering toothy noise cats make when they stare out the window at a bird.

Why do cats chatter their teeth? Answer: they want to kill.

Seriously. They want to kill that bird they're staring at. The chattering noise & movement is an imitation of the cat's kill bite. When a cat hunts, after she catches her prey and has it securely in her paws, she bites down on the critter's neck. The rapid jaw movement is how the cat severs the prey animal's spinal cord, killing it instantly. This allows the cat to eat its meal without risking injury. It's also nicer than munching on the critter while it's still alive.

That's right. That cute teeth chattering noise we all love is our cat imitating his/her kill bite. Isn't that sweet?

More Cat Antics

This one's from when Hide and Seek were kittens--maybe 5 or 6 months old. Looking back on it, it's funny, but at the time it was traumatic! I had venetian blinds in my bedroom. The kittens, of course, lo-o-o-oved batting at the cord. I tried to have it tied up out of their reach, but they managed to pull it down. I was lying in bed one night when I heard the most horrific yowling you can imagine coming from across the room. Thinking that some hairy, drooling monster was attacking, I jumped out of bed.

No, it wasn't a monster. Hide was hanging--by his tail--from the curtain cord. I don't know how he managed to get it so tangled around his tail, but there he was, dangling from the blinds like an ornament. If ornaments thrashed and shrieked.

The moral of this story? Kittens can get into trouble you think you've prevented. Oh, and DON'T leave any possibility of reachable strings!

Our next story is from a few months later. Hide and Seek were 8 months old. I was living in a new apartment. This apartment is a basement apartment in a house that's surrounded by woods. One night shortly after I moved in, I was in bed (hmmm...there's a theme here) and I heard Hide and Seek playing with a plastic bag. No surprise; I wasn't finished unpacking, and there was stuff all around for them to get into. Cats love plastic bags. So the crinkling was to be expected, right? I ignored it for a while, figuring they were just being cats. After 15 minutes or so, I got tired of listening to the racket, so I got up to take the bag away from them. That's when I discovered that it wasn't really the bag they were playing with.

No, it was the SNAKE writhing around ON the bag that they were interested in. That's right, there was a SNAKE IN MY APARTMENT. Okay, it was a small snake (probably around 18 inches, and pretty skinny), and it was a harmless garden snake, but still--it was a SNAKE IN MY APARTMENT. After a moment of freaking out (I think I was justified), I used the plastic bag as a glove and picked the snake up by the tail. Fortunately, it was tired of being batted at by the kittens, so it let me carry it to the door and toss it outside with minimal fuss. Hide and Seek were disappointed that I took away their exciting new toy, though.

Since the Snake Incident, I've found some mice, various bugs, etc. in the apartment, but no more snakes. (The snake, by the way, did not seem to be hurt when I took it outside. I don't think that the kittens knew anything about hunting; they were just batting at a fun "interactive" toy.)

Can you beat that cat story?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why Do Cats Do That? Gift Giving

We've all been there: our wonderful furry friend brings a dead mouse/bird/chipmunk/bug/lizard/other critter and leaves it for us to find. Or, worse, gives it to us alive. As humans, we find it disgusting, but to the cat, it's a gift!

Why do our cats bring us "gifts"? Answer: they think we're incompetent.

Okay, not really. Cats bring gifts of food to us because they think of us as really big cats. They want to take care of us by bringing us food--and they expect us to be impressed by their hunting prowess. In the wild, cats bring food to their family and friends. They show respect and caring by sharing their kill. Mother cats bring food to their kittens. Cats may bring food to another cat who is injured or otherwise unable to hunt for itself. Our cats bringing gifts is a sign that they think of us as one of them. That's a pretty big honor!

Of course, that sign may be that they see us as kittens (or feeble cats) who are unable to provide for themselves, but I prefer to think that they're showing love and affection. We should make sure they know we appreciate the gesture. Even if it grosses us out.

Sometimes--if we're lucky--our cats will leave "dead" toys instead of the real thing. I often find mousies in my bed (and sometimes the bathtub, but I'm not sure if there's a message in that). Hide and Seek are trying to show me that they love me. Or that they feel sorry for me for my lack of hunting skills. Whichever.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many ailments, but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia."  ~Joseph Wood Krutch

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cat Antics

What are some of the sillier things your cat(s) has/have done? Hide and Seek are only two, so they still have lots of energy and get into lot of trouble.

One morning recently, I woke up to see Seek dangling from the door frame in my bedroom. Just hanging there, holding on with his front claws. Why? No idea. My guess is that he was chasing a bug, but still! That was pretty silly.

Another recent Seek story: I woke up (hmm. There seems to be a trend of Seek waking me up...) to a funny noise. Seek had knocked a box of tissues to the floor and was pulling them, one by one, out of the box. Maybe he had a runny nose?

Hide gets into plenty of trouble, too. He recently figured out how to open the front door of my apartment. It's a sliding door, so he just lies on his side, grabs the bottom corner, and pulls. This usually isn't a problem, because the door is locked. BUT, if I leave it unlocked while I run to my car to get something, or if I don't lock it the instant I'm inside when I get home, he's out. I also think he's onto the lock--I've seen him staring intently up at it--but hasn't figured out how to work it without thumbs yet. I was leaving for work one day recently and discovered that the deadbolt thingy was turned just a bit from vertical. Did I not lock it all the way, or did my cat figure out how to unlock it? You decide. (Fortunately, he wasn't able to unlock it all the way!)

Like all cats, Hide and Seek like to climb. They especially like to jump up onto the fridge and, from there, onto the kitchen cabinets. They particularly like chasing bugs up there. I'm worried that they'll knock over my liquor bottles one of these days! (Now that would be a real tragedy!)

So, what are some of your cat antics stories? Share in the comments!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The cat could very well be man's best friend but would never stoop to admitting it."  ~Doug Larson

Sunday, June 5, 2011

An Oldie, But a Goodie

I love this video! It's been around for a while, but I decided to watch it again recently. Who doesn't love a good cat video? ;)

Quote of the Day

 "The cat is domestic only as far as suits its own ends." ~Saki

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose."  ~Garrison Keillor

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cats in the News

Check out numbers 3, 4, and 32. Okay, 32 is a panda--but who doesn't love pandas?

Washington Post Animal Views

Quote of the Day

"Cats can work out mathematically the exact place to sit that will cause most inconvenience."  ~Pam Brown

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.  ~Terry Pratchett

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


One of my all time favorite poems, by Rosalie Moore:


Cats sleep fat and walk thin.
Cats, when they sleep, slump; When they walk, pull in--
And where the plump's been, there's skin.
Cats walk thin.

Cats wait in a lump. Jump in a streak.
Cats, when they jump, are sleek
As a grape slipping its skin--They have technique.
Oh, cats don't creak. They sneak.
Cats sleep fat.
They spread comfort beneath them Like a good mat,
As if they picked the place And then sat.
You walk around one As if he were the City Hall after that.

If male, A cat is apt to sing upon a major scale:
This concert is for everybody, this Is wholesale.
For a baton, he wields a tail.
(He is also found, When happy, to resound
With an enclosed and private sound.)
A cat condenses.
He pulls in his tail to go under bridges,
And himself to go under fences. Cats fit in any size box or kit;
And if a large pumpkin grew under one, He could arch over it.
  When everyone else is just ready to go out,
The cat is just ready to come in.
He's not where he's been.
Cats sleep fat and walk thin.

Quote of the Day

"The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer."  ~Paula Poundstone

Monday, May 30, 2011

New Feature: Cat Advice Column

Dear Fellow Cat Fans,

We all have questions, observations, and comments about cats and their behavior. Starting now, Cat Lady Kate will feature a weekly Cat Advice Column.

Please send your questions about anything and everything cat related to Cat Lady Kate. I will help you untangle those feline mysteries! Post your questions in the comments or send them via email at the "Contact Us" link on this page.

Here's to cats!

Cat Lady Kate

Quote of the Day

"As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat."  ~Ellen Perry Berkeley

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cat Health: Nutrition

We all know that it's important to feed our feline friends good food to keep them healthy, right? I'd like to take a look at what cats' nutrition needs are and why they are that way. Today I'll focus on wet food.

First, cats are obligate carnivores. That means that they evolved such that their bodies can't process nutrients from plants. They can't, for example, eat carrots and turn the beta carotene into vitamin A like humans can. Cats' can only get plant nutrients from their prey. They need the prey's body to process the nutrients into forms that they, the cats, can use. That's why cat advice books (columns, articles, websites, etc.) always say not to feed your cat a vegetarian diet. The easiest way to be sure that your cat is getting the nutrients she needs is to feed her an AAFCO-approved commercial food.

There are some problems with commercial foods, though. First, we don't know what conditions the animals used in the food live under. As an animal lover, I want to be sure my cats get the right nutrients, but I don't want to do that at the expense of cruelty to other animals! A second problem is that AAFCO allows pet-food manufacturers to use ingredients that might not be wholesome for our cats. As I mentioned above, cats are obligate carnivores. They don't need (nor can their bodies use) grains. Grains (corn and wheat, primarily) are typically the second or third ingredient in cat foods. These grains are fillers. They bulk up the food so it costs less to manufacture (and in turn costs less for us to buy). Corn costs much less than meat, after all!

Another problem with most manufactured cat foods (and many dog foods) is that they contain animal by-products. "By-products" aren't necessarily evil, but they don't include muscle meat, and are therefore not high quality proteins. Another name for animal by-products or by-product meal is "animal digest".

A final problem with commercial food: remember the pet food recalls of 2007 (and several times since)? Many beloved pets died because of contaminated food. None of us want to face that!

So, what can you do if you want to avoid these problems? Well, there are a couple of options. First, you can buy a high-quality cat food. This will mean reading the label, learning about the company, and doing some research. There are a number of pet food brands that use no animal by-products or grains. If you learn about the company and check product reviews, recall news, etc. frequently, you can be comfortable that your pet food is safe and healthy. Simply googling the name of the food will typically get you plenty of information. Check the company's website as well as consumer reviews and FDA recall lists. You should be able to find out where a food is made, who owns the company, what's in it, whether there are any recalls, etc. I've had good experiences with Taste of the Wild, Instinct, Harmony Farms, and Blue Buffalo, among others. (Please note: I am not in any way affiliated with these companies, and I receive no compensation for mentioning them. As far as I know, they don't even know I exist.)

The problem? Higher-quality pet food costs more! How I've solved this (I'm way too cheap to pay for the expensive pet food!) is to make my own. I use a recipe by Dr. Michael Fox, a veterinarian who writes syndicated pet-care columns in a bunch of newspapers. It's not difficult to make, and one batch lasts about a month for my two cats. Click here for the recipe. I feed Hide and Seek about a tablespoon a piece two to three times a day. One batch usually lasts me at least a month, so it's worth the time & effort to make it. I also give them high quality dry food (usually Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Venison formula. Again, no affiliation.) to "graze" on throughout the day.

It can also be difficult to find the higher quality foods; I get my high quality stuff at a small local pet store called Whole Pet; I haven't been able to find most of them in regular pet stores. I have found some (Harmony Farms, for example) at the grocery store.

Between the home-made wet food and the store-bought dry food, I think I spend about $30 a month on cat food. I do occasionally supplement Hide & Seek's wet food with a little bit of canned food (see the brands I listed above) as a treat. I add a little bit of the canned food to their regular portion of home made food, and they love it!

What to do if you can't afford the high-quality manufactured stuff, but don't have the time to make your own? Compromise, of course! Try making a batch of cat food (it takes about the same amount of time & effort as a batch of chicken soup) and mixing that with your kitty's regular canned food. Try buying some of the high-quality stuff and mix that with the regular food. Find coupons & sales. Partner up with a friend & split the cost & effort.

If none of that works, just feel good about the fact that you love your cat.

The Cat's Meow

The meow is, of course, a cat's best-known communication tool. How many meows does your cat use? Among Hide and Seek's regulars are:

-The "feed me!"  meow
-The "pet me" meow
-The "hug me" meow
-The "there's something wrong in my world, and I expect you to fix it" meow
-The "hey! You interrupted me!" meow
-The "midnight crazies" meow

What about your cat(s)?

Quote of the Day

"I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult.  It's not.  Mine had me trained in two days."  ~Bill Dana

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Meet Hide and Seek

As I mentioned in my first post here, I have two cats; brothers named Hide and Seek. I'd like for you to get to know them, so here are the introductions!

Hide is a gray tabby. His favorite activities are sleeping, pouncing on Seek, attacking anything that moves, and tearing anything tear-able to shreds. He has a fabulously loud purr!

Seek is a gray-and-white tuxedo. He loves sleeping, chasing the laser, wrestling with Hide (usually after Hide has pounced on him), and staring out the window. He also has a wonderful purr, but it's much quieter than Hide's. Seek is very talkative!

I got Hide and Seek as four-month-old kittens. I started out fostering them, but quickly fell in love. These two are rescue cats. A woman (Sarah) living in a townhouse neighborhood discovered that a neighbor had abandoned their cat. The neighbor put the cat out in their shed (!) when they discovered that she was pregnant. They stopped providing any food and/or veterinary care. (How can humans be so horrible?) When Sarah realized that the mama cat was foraging in neighborhood trash cans to feed her kittens--and that she was teaching her kittens to forage in the garbage, too--she (Sarah) started putting out cat food for them. Sarah wasn't able to take the mother & babies into her own home, as she already had two cats and a dog. To be sure that they found loving homes, Sarah sent out an email to her coworkers. The email was forwarded to a friend of my sister Kara's, who forwarded it to Kara, who in turn forwarded it to me. I immediately arranged to take the kittens. (Sarah had managed to find a home for the mama cat by the time I contacted her.)

Less than a week later, I brought the two tiny, frightened kittens into my home. They were terrified and skittish. It took them several days to get confident enough to let me see them. A few days after that, they would let me pet them, and even pick them up sometimes! With the help of the SPCA of Northern Virginia and Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, I got Hide and Seek examined, vaccinated, tested, and neutered. The rest is, as they say, history!

How did you meet your furry friend(s)? How many do you have?

Crazy Cat Lady?

You'll notice that I call myself a "cat lady" in this blog. I want to talk about Cat Lady-ism briefly. First, yes--I'm crazy about cats (I'm actually crazy about all animals, but cats in particular). However, I am NOT a cat hoarder, and I don't approve of hoarding cats. In fact, I believe that cat hoarding is bad for the cats and humans involved. It is a sickness and needs serious treatment. If you know anyone who hoards cats, please try to get them help! Here's some info on pet hoarding, the psychology behind it, and how to help.

So, I am a crazy cat lady, but I'm not a cat hoarder!

Hello and Welcome!

Hello and welcome! Thank you for stopping by Cat Lady Kate's blog. I'd like to introduce myself and tell you why this blog is a great resource.

My name is Kate. I live in Northern Virginia, and I have two cats. Their names are Hide and Seek. Hide and Seek are brothers; they started out as my foster kittens when they were four months old. Despite my best intentions to just be a foster, I quickly fell in love with these two and realized I couldn't part with them. They became my cats (or maybe I became their human). They're now two years old, and they consistently entertain me and make my life more enjoyable.

My family has had pets since before I was born. Dogs, cats, fish, hamsters--you name it, they've been part of our lives! We got our first cat when I was 6, and I've been hooked ever since. I currently pet sit professionally. I've studied cats, their behavior, their needs, and their health extensively. I spend a great deal of time making sure that all the animals in my life--from Hide and Seek to my pet sitting clients--get my absolute best. I'm constantly researching and reading to stay on top of all things cat. 

In this blog, I'll share information, tips, facts, ideas, questions, and stories about cats. Please leave your comments and questions in the comments section after each post.

Will you introduce your fuzzy friends in the comments?