When it comes to caring for our beloved pets, I trust that we do the best that we can with the knowledge we have at the time. If you’re like me, you tend to feel guilty when you learn something new that’s contrary to the way you’ve always done it.
I had a couple of those eye-opening moments when I attended a Greenies-sponsored Feline Influencer Summit in Nashville, Tenn., where long-time, influential cats-only veterinarian Margie Scherk shared her insights about cats. I’m still trying to process all the information, but I’ll share a couple of epiphanies.
- First, picking up an adult cat by the scruff of the neck likely does not calm the cat. In nature, cats are picked up by their scruffs as kittens by their mothers, or as adults during sexual mounting, or when they’re being dominated by another cat. Rather than calming the cat, picking up an adult cat by the scruff, might have the opposite effect and frighten the cat.
- Second, a cat that’s hissing, spitting, yowling and in the “Halloween” posture isn’t aggressive or about to attack. That cat is frightened and doing everything possible to avoid a physical confrontation, and needs to be reassured that he’s safe. Speaking in a soft voice, squatting to the cat’s eye level and, if possible, removing the source of his fear from the room will go a long way to relax even the most seemingly aggressive cat.
Cats are intelligent, complex creatures who are often misunderstood and, sadly, those misunderstandings sometimes render them homeless. This issue endeavors to solve the biggest problems that cause cats to lose their homes and, too often, their lives: litterbox avoidance, scratching, aggression and counter surfing. Understanding these behaviors from the cat’s perspective is key to solving problems and living in harmony.