I have a new kitty. Her name is Hannah. She was born to a feral mother in one of my client’s yards. She was a wild, little thing when I first met her, but with the care and socialization of my clinic team, she has learned to trust and love people. She’s 7 months old now, and I took her home at the beginning of February. Hannah still has a wild streak and startles easily with unfamiliar noises or situations, but she is doing very well as a house cat. She is extremely active and mischievous, always looking for ways to get attention. I am fortunate that, although she can make a mess, she doesn’t eat things or scratch things that she shouldn’t. I learned a good trick from my veterinary associate, Dr. Amanda Page, who also has a young cat that began life feral. Cats are calmer and more easily controlled when they wear a harness. She told me about the Kitty Holster, (kittyholster.com) and I ordered one for Hannah. Hannah wears the harness, or a variety of dresses that have been hand-sewn by one of my technicians, whenever she has free run of my house or comes to my clinic. I haven’t yet trained her to walk on a leash, but I have restrained her where I am working or hanging out by using a leash and limiting her radius. She tolerates the harness and clothing extremely well and accepts getting dressed as part of her routine. Using pressure to control anxiety is not a new idea, and a company called Thunderworks (thundershirt.com) has created products called Thundershirts for dogs and cats that are commercially available as calming devices. My observations with Hannah are that she does not run around as much or avoid handling as much when she wears her harness. I suspect this is also due to pressure. I have been experimenting with toys to see what stimulates her and tires her out since she is interested in playing every waking moment. I’ve yet to completely tire her out but have been using a variety of toys available from Pet Safe (store.petsafe.net/pet-care/toys/cat-toys). At first when I saw some of the products at a veterinary trade show, I was doubtful as to their usefulness, but since Hannah has nonstop energy and I don’t have enough time to constantly play with her, I see the need for them. The first toy we tried was the Froli Cat Pounce. This device is an electronic mouse that runs around a track and hides out in some nooks with holes that cats can stick their paws into. There are variable speeds and Hannah loves chasing the mouse every time I turn it on. The next toy we tried was the Froli Cat Flik. This device has a string that looks like a tail that flicks out and around from a plastic disk. It is a teaser toy that will capture Hannah’s attention for several minutes as she hunts down the “tail.” I think she prefers the Pounce toy to the Flik. Many cats like chasing laser lights, but often it is hard to play as long as your cat wants to. Froli Cat has several electronic laser light toys that randomly move the laser point around and really engage cats. We tried the Froli Cat Bolt, and I have to get some new batteries since she cannot get enough of this toy. The last toy we’ve tried is the FunKitty Twist N Treat Teaser. This is a “food puzzle” activity toy. I sell a product called the Slim Cat Ball at my practice to get lazy cats to work for their food. These items work on similar principles. Cats have to bat at the ball to get their food kibble to fall out of it, so it provides exercise and mental stimulation. The Twist N Treat Teaser has a compartment to hold food or treats and then has an enticing feather toy on top. The toy has a weight in it so that it wobbles. A cat can play with the feather and get the food or treats dispensed depending on the size of the opening you set and how actively the kitty bats the toy. Hannah’s still fairly small, but I laughed when I saw her try to drag the feather toy up the stairs on a recent night. I think she was trying to show off her “prey” to me. Cats and kittens have a wide range of personalities and activity levels, so you need to have tools to keep them stimulated and under control. As Hannah matures I will keep you updated on my observations and discoveries. It has been 17 years since I’ve had a kitten in my home, so keeping her positively occupied and social is an evolving process.
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