These cat questions were answered by Winn Feline Foundation board members attending the 36th Annual Winn Feline Foundation Symposium in New Orleans in June. The foundation is a nonprofit that supports funding for cat health studies.
Much of what veterinarians know today about feline health, from understanding myriad feline diseases to even what most people feed their cats, was funded by grants from Winn. The symposium featured experts speaking about feline infectious peritonitis (a typically fatal disease) and heart disease. Learn more at www.winnfelinehealth.org.
Q: Why does my cat love to lick magazines? While sometimes she ignores them, at other times she’ll lick until we hide the magazines. – J T., Cyberspace
A: Is this Cat Fancy magazine? That would explain the problem; any smart cat wants to read this publication.
“More likely, it’s the coating on the magazine,” says Dr. Vicki Thayer, of Lebanon, Ore., executive director of the Winn Feline Foundation. “Or who knows? Some cats just like certain textures for reasons only they know.”
It’s also possible someone in the household has given the kitty attention for licking. For example, someone is benignly reading a magazine and the cat begins to lick the pages. The response might be to pet the cat, but even if the response is scolding, attention is attention.
In any case, as long as your cat is merely licking and not ingesting magazines, there’s no harm, Thayer says.
Q: Our 6-year-old Korat cat has aggressive tendencies and will bite even without provocation. Other times, he’s adorable and sweet. Can you help? – C.A., Milwaukee, Wisc.
A: “Some cats you can pet forever, for hours at a time and they love it. Others become overstimulated very quickly without very much petting at all,” says Winn Feline Foundation Board President Dr. Glenn Olah, of Albuquerque, N.M.
For these jumpy cats, the idea is to predict the biting before it occurs. Cats usually offer warning signs that their patience with petting is running out, which typically include one or more of the following: their ears become erect, their eyes dilate, the hair stands up on their backs, rippling skin, a lashing tail, vocalizing (such as a soft, low growl). Translated from cat language, they’re saying: “Enough!” Sometimes we don’t know what the cats are trying to tell us, or we don’t pay attention.
The idea is to quit petting before any of these cues occurs, even if that means you only stroke your cat for 15 seconds. Some cats end up asking for more attention (cats are, after all, control freaks).
“Other cats just don’t want to be petted all that much,” says Olah. “But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be with you.”
Now, if you’re talking about the cat “attacking” when people are merely walking down a hallway, that’s normal kitten behavior.
“Except that you need to redirect that play to a toy,” says Olah. Make certain your cat gets a few play sessions daily with an interactive toy, such as a fishing pole-type toy with feathers or fabric. You may even toss toys in one direction pre-emptively, so the kitten attacks those instead of you.
“Never punish the cat;, it may seriously harm the relationship family members have with the him,” says Olah.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, city and state.