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In Association with
Feline Secrets

Secrets Your Cat Wants You to Know


by Paulette Cooper & Paul Noble

They may do it more than other animals, but do they enjoy it more? Well, for a start, the male cat's penis is only about 3/4 of an inch long. Furthermore, penetration only lasts for a couple of seconds. (Cats definitely get the short end of the "stick" here since dogs may stay connected as long as 15 minutes.)
But for cats, there is no foreplay before, no afterplay, no cuddling, no cigarette before, no cocktails afterwards. It's just a slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am affair and when it's over, the male doesn't even hang around long enough to get her phone number for a second date.
Still, the female cat obviously likes it. REALLY likes it. Although she may start slower, she's usually the one with the most sexual stamina. After she has copulated with the male cat a few times, if her totally exhausted mate wants to stop, tough. She may push him to do another round or even six.
Some females will wait until the male is ready to start again, while others don't pussyfoot around. If her man isn't interested in another roll in the hay, the lady may just go and find someone else to service her. (Sometimes, while two male cats are fighting over one female, she goes off with someone else.)
Indeed, she may mate up to 15 times in a session, with a half a dozen different males during one cycle, and sex can go on for hours or even days.

There was once a company that made cosmetics, body lotions and shampoos containing catnip to encourage cats to get close to those who applied it. But here are better ways to get your little love to be more of a lap cat. After all, you want your cat to come to you and love you for yourself, not for your catnip.
If your cat doesn't want to let you touch her, buy a toy you two can play together that keeps her near without any direct physical contact. For example, a toy attached to string. Then, keep shortening the string so your cat becomes increasingly more comfortable as she is closer to you.
Talk to her gently and softly as you put down her food and stay with her while she eats so she associates you with her favorite activity--eating. Be close enough that she can see you, but not so close that she won't eat.
Keep reinforcing her. If a cat will generally spend one minute on your lap before bolting, after about 30 seconds, offer her a small food reward. Then, each time she sits in your lap, extend the reward a few seconds, reinforcing her at 40, 50, 60, 70 seconds, etc. Eventually, she may sit still for a while on your lap without having to be constantly reinforced.
Let her come to you when she's ready; rather than your coming to her when you are. "Don't love your cat when you want to. Take your cue from her. She'll be more attentive to you if the attention is not forced," says Dr. Margaret Muns, a staff veterinarian in a pet forum at CompuServe.
Ignore her. Some say not looking at her or having anything to do with her when you first get her--other than feeding her, of course--will lead the cat to come to you.
Don't use negative reinforcement. Don't scold her and don't ever hit her. Not only doesn't it work, but with one loud scream or slap, you can undo all the other things above that were working so well for you.

Should your cat become part of the Prozac Nation? "I give cats Prozac for a number of reasons," says Dr. Steven Melman, sometimes jocularly called "The Pied Piper of Prozac for Pets."
He explained that cats are most often given Prozac for "obsessive-compulsive disorders, like when they pull their hair out for non-allergy reasons. With Prozac they often get better," says this veterinary dermatologist/behaviorist.
Cats, like people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, may have a need to do something several times in a row or in a certain way. But unlike people, they can't check a door five times after they go out to if it's locked.
But Prozac {fluoxetine} has been known to help cats' obsessive-compulsive behavior, such as biting themselves repeatedly in one spot, or related nipple, flank, or paw sucking.
Prozac also works for certain types of aggression as well as depression. "Cats become upset for various reasons. Say their families are breaking up, or their owner has a new boyfriend or girlfriend, is moving or whatever," says Melman, of the Animal Dermatology and Behavior Clinic in Maryland.
Since a cat can't directly tell you he's upset over these things, he may inappropriately urinate, defecate, or howl. "And Prozac may help with all of these," Dr. Melman stated.
Incidentally, if your cat is displaying these symptoms, and you're on Prozac, don't give your cat your medicine because the dosages are different. And if you're having a Prozac moment, don't take your cat's pill for the same reason.

Some cats will attack not the hand that feeds them but the one that pets them. It's often hard to tell whether they really will attack or whether they're just posturing. But the following are signs indicating that they're not just fooling around.

A change in mood: Cats ready for combat show a significant mood change, for example, they'll suddenly appear to be angry or frightened. Spitting and arching: Cats often spit when they want something, or want someone to stay away. But if they also arch their backs or their fur rises while they're spitting, it means they're going to attack.
A quick flick of the tongue over their lips may show they're becoming agitated.
Ears forward means they're on the offense. Backwards means defense.
Whiskers forward and possibly bristling is also a sign.
A twitching tail or rippling body can show that they want whatever is going on to stop and that they might do something to insure it. The general rule is: the faster the tail is moving, the more agitated they are.
Raised or curled lip. Although this is usually associated with dogs about to attack, it's something to watch out for in cats as well.

"When I pet my cat near her tail, it immediately shoots up." Although it's been jokingly referred to as a "tail erection," the reason cats do this is that when they were kittens and their mothers cleaned them, they raised their tails so she could "inspect" the area. (Incidentally, if your cat puts her tail or bottom near your face, it means she's accepting you as the dominant person in the relationship.)
"My male cats mount each other." This is not uncommon, especially if there are no female cats around. Yes, they could be displaying sexual interest. But mounting between any sexes can also be a of dominance, or sometimes even just plain old boredom. (The same is probably true for people, too!)
"My cat sneers when he sees an opposite sex cat." That look of contempt is actually "flehming." The cat takes an odor and intensifies it by sending it up to another sense organ in his head. Almost all male cats "flehm" when they investigate the genitals of a female cat, and some female cats do it also.
"When my male cat sees a female one, his jaws start chattering." Cats sometimes do this in anticipation of something delicious. Like when they see potential prey, such as a bird. So it could be a sign of a hunger other than sexual.

O sole me-ow. Music may prevent two cats from fighting! What kind works best?
One woman with two constantly bickering cats kept classical music on for them all day while she was away and found it was the only thing that stopped them from fighting.
Another cat owner, who also found that music diminished her cat's aggressiveness, found that classical harp music worked the best.
Here are some more off-beat facts about music and your cat.
A certain key may make kittens defecate and older cats become sexually aroused. (We'll tell you the note if you promise not to test it out for yourself: It's E in the fourth octave. Don't write us about the results. We don't want to know.)
Cats may respond to some music, for example, becoming happy when they hear the theme song of a TV show. (Some cats are also attracted to mice who sing offkey. Bet you didn't even know that they sang on key.)
And if you start singing off key, your cat may meow in distress. (As will other people around you.)

First, it's not a bad idea to leave a radio on for your cat during the day while you're away. What type of program would your cat like best? One that has s-CAT-alogical humor like Howard Stern? Will he RUSH for Limbaugh? Does Imus give him morning sickness?
Whatever the person says, talk show stations are probably best, since human voices will give your cat the feeling that people are around, even if he can't see them.
Secondly, we've heard of people who call their cat on the phone during the day and leave a message the answering machine so the cat hears their voice while they're gone. We think this would confuse as many cats as it would comfort, ("I hear Mommy but I don't see her") but we don't know, because so far we can't find anyone who admits to doing it. Stay tuned.
Third, leave your cat something that smells of you (hey, we're not implying anything). One man wore a T-shirt to bed each night so he could give it to his cat the next day when he went out. He called it "baking" the shirt. But anything you've worn, slept on (or sat on!) would probably work well, without your having to cook up anything special for your cat.
And, incidentally, if you're going to be gone for a while, say on vacation, Dr. Michael Fox suggests you send your cat a "smell" letter. That's a piece of paper you've rubbed on your forehead, hands, arm, and lightly under your armpits.
What should this "smell letter" say? It depends on whether your cat can read.

You know your cat has a drinking problem when he won't drink out of his water bowl unless there's an olive in it! Actually, cats who are party animals generally prefer beer, and beer swilling among cats may be so prevalent -- although rarely discussed -- that for many years, there's been a law on the books in Natchez, Mississippi, forbidding cats from drinking beer!
"There's evidence that some animals have the urge to be intoxicated. Humans are not the only ones," says Dr. Mike Richards, formerly the head of AOL's Pet Care Forum and now co-owner of Mathews Veterinary Services in Cobbs Creek, Virginia.
"I always thought if animals had access to alcohol, there would be a lot more problems than there are," says Richards.
Still, you don't find many cats going to the Betty Ford clinic for treatment -- although they might need it. Alcohol is harder on cats than it is on dogs or people. Felines are not good at breaking alcohol down, and even a moderate dose may start a cat vomiting; more could cause them to collapse or go into a coma.
So, if your cat starts begging for some beer, treat her like an underage drinker, tell her she's acting like a mad catter, and that the bar is closed.

Do you hold your nose when you pass the litterbox -- or worse still when you enter the house?
Get rid of liners since they wrinkle, and they can catch and hold the waste.
Try recycled newspaper kitty litter or litter made of wheat or alfalfa pellets which may reduce the odor.
Try a new type of food, especially a better one, like a high quality premium cat food.
Buy a commercial product specifically for this problem. It contains enzymes that you mix with their food which help your cat break nutrients down better.
(And the obvious one) Dump the dump more frequently and keep the box cleaner.

The age of that kitty in the window is very important. Some pet stores put kittens out to sell at around 7-8 weeks because they're smaller and cuter then. But if you want what arrives on little cat's feet to grow up to be a friendly healthy cat, your kitten should remain with her mother until she's close to 3 months old.
Still, she should be around people when young. The critical socialization period for kittens is between two to five weeks of age, at which time it's important that they have positive human interaction.
Of course it isn't just those three weeks that matter. Kittens handled from birth develop into warmer, cuddlier, almost dog-like creatures, while kittens lacking this human contact are more likely to become skittish and aloof.

From 277 Secrets Your Cat Wants You to Know by Paulette Cooper and Paul Noble. Copyright 1997 Paulette Cooper. Excerpted by arrangement with Ten Speed Press. $8.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800-841-BOOK or click here.

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