It’s Merlin here for another Mondays with Merlin but you can call me professor today. With back to school around the corner it’s come my attention that some kids and adults could use some lessons in cat behavior. This is an issue that drives my mom Layla, a holistic cat behaviorist crazy. To illustrate today’s lesson may I present a funny video with a message. It’s a perfect example of how NOT to play with a cat. Pee Ess: If your name is on the detention list, please see me after class.
We see an adult and a child, probably father and son, taking turns placing their hands in front of a cat. The cat very cutely presses down on their hands. While the humans are thinking the cat is playing with them, they are mistaken. Cats are hardwired to hunt and perceive wiggly fingers and hands as prey. It’s the movement that triggers the hunting sequence. Sure the cat may play cute, but one day they will bite or scratch and once that behavior begins it’ll become a habit. It’s best to teach young children early on to never use fingers, hands or toes as toys. Always play “hunting” games with a toys that can be thrown like calls and mice or those with wand attachments like Neko Flies or da Bird for safe swiping at a distance. Have fun and play safe. Bandaids are not a cool fashion statement.
Lesson # 1 Bite me! Or how not to turn fingers into hamburger
If kitty has developed some bad habits like biting and scratching, there is no one to blame but the human, but you can reverse it by what I call: Reward the best and ignore the rest. It’s simply and consistently over time exchanging unwanted behavior with positive behavior, in this case, appropriate interactive play.
1) Obviously stop using your hands or feet to tease or play with your cat. That means everyone in the family must be in agreement.
2) Use wand toys and other interactive toys for vigorous play time, once or twice a day for about 15 minutes. this will help drain pent-up aggressive energy. Keep kitty’s claws trimmed.
3) Watch for changes in body language. A cat about to pounce, swat or bite will be hyper-alert, ready to spring into action with their head down, claws unsheathed, torso contained or flattened down, the tail swishing or twitching. Don’t wait until they strike. Re-direct by distracting them before they show signs of aggression.
4) Keep toys handy by keeping them in different areas. If you don’t have anything to distract them with i.e. a wand toy, a small pillow to throw near them, then back off and give them space. Walk out of the room. If the cat makes contact, immediate say a sharp, No! and slowly back off and leave the room for a short while. I don’t believe in using squirt bottles water as a deterrent. A purposeful hiss, like a mother cat teaching her kittens works as well.
When kitty is playing in a healthy way, reward them with what they most love: a treat, or a cuddle. It won’t be long before shredded arms are a thing of the past.