April 19, 2012

What Type of Music Do Pets Prefer?

Filed under: Cat behavior,dog toys — Tags: , — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:35 am

dog listening to music Elvis sang about hound dogs and the Baha Men asked “Who Let the Dogs Out,” not that your dog cares; according to researchers, Fido would rather listen to pet music than humans singing about dogs or any other subject matter. Cats care even less. What is music to our ears is screeching and wailing to theirs. At best most pets are uninterested in human music, and at worse your pet may become distressed with your love of gangster rap. But while your dog, cat, or pet goldfish may never appreciate your favorite CD they might tune in if you play specialized pet music with tones and tempos made to suit their species.

According to Discovery News, Animal Psychologist Charles Snowdon has studied animal reactions to music and created songs based on a species’ frequency range and heart rate. On a music recording for animals, a lower frequency would lead to a lower pitch and tone, while reduced heart rates mean slower tempos. A cat’s vocal range and heart rate is higher than a human, making for pet music that sounds awful to us but like classical music to them. On the Music For Cats website, Snowden has teamed up with Music Composer David Teie to compile a series of “authentic music for cats.”

On the other hand, man’s best friend has proven harder to please with dedicated pet music. Discovery News notes that differences in dog breeds mean differences in frequency and heart beats per minute. This means that the vocal range and resting heart rate of a Chihuahua is different from that of a Bull Mastiff, and one size may not fit all when it comes to dog tunes. However, there are some songs for dogs available and if your dog doesn’t like your first selection, try to get a little more breed specific with the second one. Larger dogs, like Labradors, may even prefer human music, so don’t rule out your music collection for them yet.

And what about pet owners looking for the perfect little fish melody for your goldfish? Pet music for fish has yet to be researched, but fish heart rates vary widely and they communicate with both audible sounds and body movements. Since we tend to think of fish as relaxed quiet animals, classical music might be the answer for those looking for the best goldfish songs. Or perhaps the low, steady beats of reggae music would enhance their quality of life?

September 3, 2010

Understanding the Basics of Cat Behavior

Filed under: Cat behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:57 am

After spending enough time with your cat it is pretty easy to see them as miniature humans who prefer not to talk.  Indeed, pet cats are our beloved friends, but unlike humans they have their own instincts and evolved behaviors.  Felines have natural hunting instincts that make them considerably different from humans, dogs, and other mammals.  Understanding cat behavior can help you to be a more patient and loving cat owner.

One of the first things to remember is that cats are active, curious, and highly athletic creatures that have evolved from a long line of hunters.  Kittens require a lot of active play with people, other cats, and/or interactive toys as well as a safe area to climb and explore.  It is always best to keep kittens (and even adult cats) indoors so they are not exposed to predators or other dangers.

Problem behaviors such as aggression, scratching, or inappropriate toileting can arise with pet cats but there are usually very good reasons for this.  Aggressive behavior is often a sign of anxiety so you should try to understand what is causing your cat to feel stress.  Alternatively, scratching is a very natural cat behavior that helps them to maintain their claws, so a professional clipping may help to deter this behavior.  Otherwise, you should provide your cat with an appropriate place to scratch.  Finally, cats are very clean creatures and they do not like a dirty litter box.  In most cases of inappropriate toileting the cat has either not been properly trained or their litter box has not been properly cleaned.

Generally speaking, behavioral problems are rare in pet cats.  If you observe sudden or unexplained behavioral problems in an adult cat, you should visit the veterinarian immediately to rule out a more serious medical problem.

August 20, 2010

Deciphering Meows: What Is My Cat Trying to Say?

Filed under: Cat behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:44 am

feline stressWhile humans obviously rely on language to communicate, other members of the animal kingdom use a range of calls that help them to communicate.  This is also true for your cat.  While you may think that a “meow” is a meaningless sound, there are a range of different meows that cats use to communicate.  In fact, if you take the time to learn them by listening very carefully to your cat, you may be able to understand exactly what your cat is trying to say.

Cats clearly communicate with each other using meows and other subtle methods of communication.  Relying mostly on body language, cats can understand messages about danger, rank, mating, and aggression.  Indeed, your cat may use a combination of posture, tail movement, eye contact, and even smells to communicate a variety of ideas.  The very astute observer may have already considered how rare it is to see cats meow at each other except in very specific circumstances.

cat meowing soundNevertheless, when attempting to communicate with humans, cats seem to exclusively use the meow in combination with certain body positions.  Depending on the tone, pitch, volume, and rhythm of the meow, your cat may be trying to tell you something different.  Over time, many cat owners become familiar with particular meows, like the one that tells you they are hungry, for example.  But here is a list of different cat vocalizations and the possible meanings associated with them.

  • The standard meow may simply be a way for your cat to get your attention and say hello.
  • Low-pitched grumble indicates danger or a perceived threat.
  • Purr or warble is used to show affection.
  • Low-pitched howl combined with purring is a sign of distress, discomfort, fear, or pain.
  • Howls denote sadness, pain, fear, or stress.

July 30, 2010

Cats Are Hunters

Filed under: Cat behavior — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:27 am

All felines, even house cats, have evolved from a long line of predatory animals.  Indeed, many of your cat’s most famous attributes like soft, silent paws, sharp teeth, and superior night vision have evolved to make them better hunters.  As such, the natural instinct to hunt is incredibly difficult for a cat to shake.  Even more interesting, is the fact that the feline hunting abilities are what encouraged the Egyptians to domesticate them in the first place.  Cats were even used on sailing vessels from Europe and bound for the Americas for their ability to hunt and kill pesky mice.

Nevertheless, in the past hundred years or so, cats have gone from being prized as hunters to being loveable house pets.  As you can see, our expectations of cats have changed considerably.  Yet, while we hope to have cute, cuddly, and cherished companions our cats are still hard wired to hunt.  An obvious example of this deeply ingrained characteristic can be seen in the way your cat plays.  In many cases, hunting behavior and play behavior in cats cannot be distinguished.  Stalking, pouncing, scratching, and biting are all natural hunting behaviors.

Have you ever wondered why your cat is insistent upon delivering unwanted gifts to your door?  Just about the last thing any cat owner wants to see is a dead mouse or bird at their doorstep, but even this behavior is a clear indication that your cat is a predator.  Cats will capture and deliver dead animals for a number of reasons.  Some researchers believe it is because they are aware of our inferior hunting skills and that they’re treating us like kittens by delivering our food.  Most cat experts believe that capturing and delivering animals is simply an expression of your cat’s innate drive to hunt and kill prey and that scolding your cat for these efforts is futile.

June 21, 2010

Cat Aggression During Playtime

Filed under: cat aggressive behaviour,Cat behavior,Kitten Care — Dr. Amber Reed @ 5:39 pm

Anybody who has had a kitten can tell you that their play can be aggressive.  In fact, you may be able to spot a new kitten owner by the scratch marks on their hands and arms.  While some owners can withstand the sort of aggressive attacks that leave marks on the skin, as kittens become cats the scratching becomes more serious (not to mention more painful).  At this point, you want to teach your cat to play without the aggression so as to avoid injury to friends, family, and children.

cat aggression while playingFirst of all, you need to understand that kittens playing aggressively are only acting out on natural instincts.  As hunters, kittens need to develop and hone their skills so that they can feed themselves, or at least this is how cats have evolved.  One of the best ways to prevent this behavior is to direct aggressive play to another target like a toy, or maybe another kitten.  String toys are great for interactive play and they allow kittens to practice pouncing and attacking without damaging your skin.  Also, use a variety of toys to keep your cat stimulated and make sure you can always keep your hands well clear of the toy.

Sometimes during play your kitten, and even cats, may bite you.  While they may not break the skin, they can become overly excited and may even hold on to your hand for an extended period.  Your hand is like their prey and they want to keep control.  Do not try to pull your hand away forcefully as kittens will instinctively try to hold on more tightly.  Instead, relax your hand and attempt to distract your cat with another toy.  Otherwise, you can also try to distract your cat with your free hand by scratching or tapping some furniture.  Your cat should release its grip.

Most importantly, when you’re trying to teach your kitten not to be aggressive, you must be consistent and patient.

May 31, 2010

Preventing Behavior Problems in Cats

Filed under: cat aggressive behaviour,Cat behavior,cat stress — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:01 pm

feline stress Do cats feel stress? This is a valid question, one that many people believe they know the answer to. How could a cat feel stress when they have no responsibilities in life? The fact is, stress is a normal coping behavior for all animals, human or not, and as such your cat does indeed feel stress from time to time. One particular instance that can cause a great amount of stress for your cat is when you leave her home alone. Moreover, when you have multiple cats, leaving them alone in a confined space (your home) can also be extremely stressful. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to prevent stress and the subsequent behavioral problems that cats may demonstrate.

The easiest way to help your cat with stress is through playtime. Even just five minutes of play every day is enough mental stimulation and exercise to prevent stress in your cat. And, if you have multiple cats, you may want to play with them separately. When cats sleep and groom together they are demonstrating that they have a good relationship and it’s ok to do group play. However, when cats are distant from each other, they may view other cats as a threat and you’ll want to separate play time.cat behavior problems

By engaging your cat, you prevent many potential behavioral problems like aggression and you even contribute to their overall health. Daily play provides exercise so that your cat is less likely to become overweight or obese. Plus, play time is a great way to demonstrate appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Make sure your cat knows that scratching and biting are unacceptable behaviors and remember that it’s easy for cats to misinterpret your behaviors as play so be patient.

May 7, 2010

Understanding Kitten Development

Filed under: Cat behavior,cat training,training your kitten — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:18 am

kitten developmentThe first 6 months of your kitten’s life will mark several important developmental milestones.  From being dependent on their mother for food and protection to becoming friendly, independent companions, kittens learn a lot in the first few months of life.  As a cat owner, it is important to understand these developmental stages so that you can ensure the best care for your kitten and so that your kitten grows to be a healthy and well-socialized cat.

The neonatal period of development is generally defined as the first two weeks of life.  During this time, kittens learn to orient to sounds and their eyes are not completely open until the end of the second week. At this point, litter mates begin competing for rank and territory but separating kittens from their mother can lead to poor socialization. In fact, kittens should never be removed from their mother too early as this often leads them to be aggressive and even anxiety-prone.feline stress

During the next 4 weeks or so your kitten will be in the socialization phase of development.  By 4 weeks of age, their sense of smell and hearing is well developed and they’re able to see moderately well.  At this point, you’ll notice that kittens interact much more with litter mates. They are walking around and they are starting to get teeth.  By the end of this phase you can see the makings of an adult cat with regular sleeping patterns, refined motor skills, and more social interaction.

From weeks 7 to 14 kittens are most active and really love to play.  Using toys and playing with your kitten helps them to develop coordination as well as social skills.  Ideally, kittens should still be observing their mother at this point so that they can learn a range of beneficial behaviors including grooming.

Finally, the ranking stage lasts from about 3 months to 6 months of age.  Kittens are greatly influenced by their litter and they start to recognize friends of other species like dogs and humans.  In addition, they begin to rank dominant and submissive members of their group, including their human owners.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.