Sunday, August 14, 2011


No, it's not that Helpful Buckeye isn't fond of cats...although our cat-loving readers may have concluded that from the lead-in line above.  Really, when you stop to think about it, even cat lovers will admit that their cats act in peculiar ways a lot of the time.  That's why there are more jokes and snide comments about unusual cat behavior.  Of course, that doesn't mean that cats don't find good homes, even with these peculiarities.  Anyone who follows the news can tell you that there are more pet cats in the USA than there are pet dogs.

Helpful Buckeye will present several items this week that illustrate some of the ridiculous, silly, wacky, and sometimes, undesirable things that cats are known for.  Even you dog owners should enjoy this presentation because it might help you better understand your friends who have cats when they tell you about some of their frustrating experiences.

Let's let Darlene Arden, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, lead off with some general trivia about cats:

10 Things You Don't Know About Your Favorite Feline

After spending years with your cat, you may think you know everything there is to know about her. But here are 10 things that your favorite feline may not have gotten around to sharing with you.

1. A domestic cat can run about 31 mph. Running fast is something usually attributed to wild cats, gazelles and greyhounds, but your house kitty is pretty speedy.
2. It is possible for every kitten in a litter to have a different father. Hopefully, she is spayed so there's no risk of an unexpected pregnancy.
3. Cats walk on their toes, which probably accounts for their graceful movements. In ballet there is a step called pas de chat -- the cat step. It's a little jump to the side, but in truth nearly every move your cat makes is lovely.
4. A cat's collarbone isn't connected to his other bones; it's buried in the muscles, which is how kitty can fit through small places. He's not boneless -- even though it looks that way sometimes -- but he is adaptable. A cat actually has more bones than a human.
5. Your cat will respond only to catnip (an herb in the mint family) if she has the catnip gene. Not every cat is born with this gene, and it doesn't show up right away, so don't expect a young kitty to respond to catnip the way an older one will.
6. Thirty-two muscles control a cat's outer ear, and he can rotate it 10 times faster than a dog. In fact, kitty can rotate each ear 180 degrees.
7. Cats have scent glands in their cheeks, so if your cat rubs against you she is "marking" you as hers. She really does love you. She'll also mark furniture and clothing this way. Everything she likes is hers. It's also her way of leaving her "mark" to say that she was there.
8. Cats can move their jaws only up and down; they can't move them side to side like a dog or human.
9. Cats whiskers are extremely sensitive. They not only help the cat locate where she is in the dark, but how the cat moves them is an indicator of the cat's feelings at any given time. The top two rows of whiskers can move independently of the bottom two rows.
10. Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they must eat meat. So even if you're a vegetarian, you need to come to grips with the fact that your cat can't be. He will get very sick and die without meat in his diet.

As you probably already know, spending time learning more about your cat is time well spent. In fact, these cat facts are just the tip of the iceberg. Your cat has much more to tell you if you pay attention, watch and learn. As the late Ernest Hemingway said, "A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not."
Cats aren't exactly as mysterious as they are purported to be, but there is enough that isn't widely known about them to make that seem true. Your cat really wouldn't mind you knowing more about felines, and would welcome the extra interest.
Here are 10 more facts about your cat that you may not know.

1. Generally, a cat's purr is healing, not just for the cat but for anyone the cat is near--which means it's helping you as well.
2. On the flip side, purring doesn't always mean something good; it can mean that the cat is in pain or is terrified of something or someone.
3. A cat has more bones than a human. A human has 206 bones, while a cat has either 230, 240, or 245 (though some fuse together as the cat ages). The number is different for each cat because it depends upon how many bones are in a cat's tail.
4. The declawing procedure is painful for your cat. Even if a veterinarian uses a laser and the cat can walk sooner, your cat can't really be comfortable with part of its toes missing, especially since cats walk on their toes first. This means that your cat is in pain and has to walk differently, rather than in its normal manner.
5. Cats are extremely stoic and do not usually show illness. The owner must be aware of what's normal and what isn't, and be sure to locate the cat if it hides or stops eating. Chances are it is very sick or has a toothache.
6. Cats are taught by their mothers to hunt and kill. If a kitten hasn't been taught these skills by its mother, chances are that it will never hunt or kill prey.
7. Cats were so well regarded in Egypt 4,000 years ago that the death penalty was given to anyone who killed a cat.
8. A group of cats is called a clowder, while a group of kittens is called a kindle.
9. Cat urine will glow under ultra violet light (black light), so you can always find the place where your cat has been thinking (or tinkling) outside the box.
10. Cats don't kill their prey with their claws. The claws are used to hold the prey while the cat uses its teeth to kill the prey.

Adapted from her book, The Complete Cat's Meow, at: and

You can buy The Complete Cat's Meow on Amazon at:  for $7.65...brand new!

Be thinking about some of these trivial facts about cats as we move on into experiences with unusual cat behavior.  These facts may help you have a better understanding of why cats do some of the things they do...or not.

What can you tell from a cat by just watching the cat for a few minutes?  Well, quite a lot according to Amy Shojai, also a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant:

Understanding Felinese

We love our cats but don't always understand cat communication. Our feline friends use a combination of vocalizations, body language and smells to talk with each other and their special people. Here are 12 ways cats communicate.

1. Meows: These are rarely aimed at other cats. Instead meows are requests pointed at humans. For example, cats meow to be petted, for you to open the door or for you to wake up and fill their bowls. The more demanding Kitty becomes, the lower the pitch of the meow.
2. Purrs: These vocalizations signal nonthreat. A cat's purr has been described as a feline smile, and cats purr in the presence of other pets and humans. Purrs often express happiness.
3. Hisses: Keep your distance if you hear a hiss. Cats hiss at other pets and people. Hisses can be defensive or offensive, and arise from frightened or hostile felines.
4. Growls: This is a serious warning from a cat that an attack may be coming. Hisses that don't succeed turn to growls when the cat can't escape.
5. Chattering: This odd sound indicates frustration. Cats that watch critters through the window may chatter when unable to reach the evil squirrels.
6. Spit: This not-so-pleasant communication is the equivalent of a feline gasp of surprise.
7. Body Position: These movements indicate attitude. Confident cats face forward, while fearful cats stand sideways with arched backs to look larger than they really are. Defensive or submissive cats want to look small and nonthreatening, so they crouch low, with feet tucked, and ears and tail held close to the body. Cats show trust by placing themselves in vulnerable postures such as rolling.
8. Fur Position: The hair on a cat can telegraph emotional state. Fur is smooth in relaxed cats. Any kind of arousal -- fear, aggression, happiness, stress -- may prompt fluffed fur that stands straight off the body. For instance, you'll see a bottle brush tail when kitty becomes excited.
9. Ear Position: The ears of relaxed and interested cats face forward. Ears turn sideways in uneasy cats. Fearful kitties hold ears sideways like airplane wings. Ears that flicker back and forth very quickly indicate great agitation. The cat slicks his ears tight to the head in preparation for attack. Cats with one ear forward and one sideways aren't clear how they feel.
10. Eye Reactions: They dilate suddenly (pupils go from slits to round) any time the cat feels sudden excitement. That arousal might be anything from the sight of a dog to a bowl of favorite food or a feather toy. Cat stares indicate a challenge. Squinting shows strong emotion and possibly impending attack. But a slow eye-blink to other cats or people signals nonthreat and is known as a "kitty kiss" when aimed at people.
11. Tail Position: While these vary somewhat between cats, a tail held straight up, with just the end tipped over, is a feline "howdy" that signals to other cats and people a friendly greeting -- it means kitty wants to interact with you. Relaxed cat tails are held in a gentle U, and the greater his interest, the higher the cat holds his tail. Tails tucked between the legs or wrapped around the crouched body show fear. The end of the tail flicking back and forth indicates frustration that may progress to tail-thumping wags that warn of imminent attack. A bottle-brush tail held straight up or behind the cat shows aggression, but if it's held in an inverted U it is a defensive posture.
12. Rubbing/Scratching Behavior: When cats rub against you or scratch objects they are leaving the equivalent of scented Post-It notes. Scent glands in the forehead, cheeks, paw pads and tail leave behind the kitty's signature scent. Cats rub or scratch to mark territory as owned -- including scent-marking a beloved human with cheek rubs.
Understanding cat vocabulary can help you become more attuned to what your cat has to say. But every cat is different, so pay attention to what your favorite feline does. Some cats develop their own way of communicating -- a particular meow, for example -- the same way people who speak the same language may have different regional accents. Watch your own kitty to learn the way he or she talks.

Adapted from: and Amy's book, Complete Kitten Care, which is also available on Amazon at:

Now, take those 12 "communication" categories and read how the Humane Society of the United States goes into an even more descriptive portrayal of what a cat can show you:

Cat Chat: Understanding Feline Language

Body language, behavior, and vocalizations are keys to understanding the feline mind.

You and your cat might speak different languages, but you can still communicate with each other.

Indicators such as the look in your cat's eyes, the tone of her voice, the position of her ears, and the motion of her tail can provide important clues that reveal her feelings and intentions. You can learn to "read" these signals so you’ll get a good idea of what's on your cat's mind.

Vocalizing: Something to talk about

You'll learn a lot from your cat's wide vocabulary of chirps and meows. You'll know when it's time to get up (at least in your cat's opinion), when your cat's feeling affectionate, or when your cat's feeling threatened or is in pain.

Meow is an all-purpose word. This can be a greeting ("Hey, how ya doin'?), a command ("I want up, I want down, More food now"), an objection ("Touch me at your own risk"), an announcement ("Here's your mouse"). Some cats even walk around the house meowing to themselves.

Chirps and trills are how a mother cat tells her kittens to follow her. Kitty wants you to follow him, usually to his food bowl. If you have more than one cat, they will often converse with each other this way.

The purr is a sign of contentment. Cats purr whenever they're happy, even while they’re eating. Sometimes, however, a cat may purr when he's anxious or sick, using the purr as a way to comfort himself, like a child sucking his thumb.

Growling, hissing, and spitting indicates a cat who is annoyed, frightened, angry or aggressive. Leave this cat alone.

The yowl or howl is a loud, drawn-out meow. Your cat is in some kind of distress—stuck in a closet, looking for you, in pain. In unneutered and unspayed cats, it's part of the mating behavior (and very annoying). Elderly cats sometimes suffer from cognitive disorder (dementia) and may howl because they're disoriented. Screaming means your cat is in terrible pain.

Chattering, chittering, twittering is the strange noise your cat makes when he's sitting in the window watching birds or squirrels. Some experts think that this is an exaggeration of the "killing bite," when a cat grabs his prey by the neck and works his teeth through the bones to snap them.

Body language

A cat gets her whole body into the act when she's communicating.

Does your cat's back arch up to meet your hand when you pet her? This means she's enjoying this contact with you. Does she shrink away under your slightest touch? Save the petting for later: she's not interested right now.

Pay attention to her eyes, ears, body and tail—they're all part of the story.


Forward: alert, interested, happy
Backward, sideways, flat ("airplane ears"): irritable, angry, frightened

Swiveling: attentive, listening to every little sound


Pupils constricted: offensively aggressive; content

Pupils dilated: nervous, submissive (somewhat dilated); defensively aggressive (fully dilated); playful


Erect, fur flat: alert, inquisitive, happy

Fur standing on end: angry, frightened

Held very low or tucked between legs: insecure, anxious

Thrashing back and forth: agitated. The faster the tail, the madder the cat

Straight up, quivering: excited, really happy. If your cat is not neutered, he or she could be getting ready to spray something!


Back arched, fur standing on end: frightened, angry

Back arched, fur flat: welcoming your touch

Lying on back, purring: very relaxed, may be asking for a tummy rub

Lying on back, growling, upset, ready to strike


When your cat rubs her chin and body against you, she's telling you she loves you, right? Well, sort of. What she's really doing is marking her territory. You'll notice that she also rubs the chair, the door, her toys, everything in sight. She's telling everyone that this is her stuff, including you. But she does love you, too.


In the cat world, this is called "making biscuits," because the cat works her paws on a soft surface as if it she's kneading bread dough. This is a holdover from kittenhood, when a nursing kitten massaged her mother's teats to make milk flow. When your cat does this, she is really happy.

The Flehman response

You've surely noticed times when your cat, while sniffing your shoe perhaps, lifts his head, opens his mouth slightly, curls back his lips, and squints his eyes. He's not making a statement about how your shoe smells, he's gathering more information.

Your cat's sense of smell is so important to him that he actually has an extra olfactory organ that very few other creatures have—the Jacobson's organ. It's located on the roof of his mouth behind his front teeth and is connected to the nasal cavity.

When your cat gets a whiff of something really fascinating, he opens his mouth and inhales so that the scent molecules flow over the Jacobson's organ. This intensifies the odor and provides more information about the object he's sniffing. What he does with that information, well, we'll never know.

In the mood

Is your cat playing, meditating, or having a bad day? Here's how you can tell:

Content: Sitting or lying down, eyes half-closed, narrow pupils, tail mostly still, ears forward, purring. A really happy cat will often knead on a soft surface.

Playful: Ears forward, tail up, whiskers forward, pupils somewhat dilated. Playing is hunting behavior; your cat may stalk his prey (a toy, a housemate, you), then crouch down with his rear end slightly raised. A little wiggle of the butt, then … pounce! Kitty grabs his prey, bites it, wrestles it the floor, and kicks it with his hind feet. His toy is now dead.

Irritated, over-stimulated: Pupils dilating, ears turning back, tail twitching or waving. The cat may growl or put her teeth on you as a warning to cease and desist. Intense play can quickly turn to overstimulation in some cats, resulting in biting and scratching.

Nervous, anxious: Ears sideways or back, pupils dilating, tail low or tucked between legs. The cat may slink through the house close to the floor, looking for somewhere to hide. He may turn his face to the wall to shut the world out.

Frightened, startled: Think Halloween cat. Ears back and flat against head, whiskers back, back arched, fur standing on end, tail erect or low. May yowl, growl, hiss, and spit.

Defensive: Crouched position, ears flattened, whiskers back, tail between legs or wrapped around body, pupils dilated. May meow loudly, growl, hiss, and spit.

Angry, aggressive: Ears back, pupils very constricted, tail up or down with fur standing on end. An aggressive cat will stare down the other cat and growl or yowl until the other cat gives way. Cats don't really want to fight; they prefer standoffs, but this can progress to fighting if one of the cats doesn't back down.

Adapted from the Humane Society of the United States at:

The final portion of this week's installment on understanding what your cat is trying to tell you comes from a veterinarian's cat.  This cat, known as Christopher Cat, is featured in the Reading Eagle, from Reading, PA and answers readers questions about their pets.  The question in this column illustrates just how easy it is to misinterpret a cat's body language:

Dear Christopher Cat: My cats, Scarlett and Rhett, are picky eaters, and I need your advice. I've tried many brands of dry food, but they nibble only a little at a time and then walk away. During the day, they often rub up against me, telling me they're hungry, so I have to interrupt what I'm doing to give them a bit of canned food. Can you help?

Christopher responds: Rubbing behavior is often misunderstood.

When your cats rub up against you, they are not telling you they're hungry. They're letting you know they value you as a member of their family.We cats rub against our feline and human - and sometimes even canine - family members to deposit our scent on them, marking them as family.
Rubbing is your cats' way of telling you they love you. You humans send the same signal when you pet us.
Unfortunately, a common cause of obesity in cats is their humans' mistaken impression that their cats want food when they rub against them. We cats graze, nibbling only a few bites 14 to 17 times per day, on average. So Scarlett and Rhett are exhibiting normal feeding behavior.
When they rub against you, don't feed them. Instead, pet them, speak to them, or get a toy and play with them.

Adapted from:

In next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye will delve into some of the more commonly seen examples of unusual cat behavior.  Be there...or be a dog!

Helpful Buckeye found this interesting news item while browsing through some articles on cats:

VANCOUVER — The northern British Columbia town of Kitimat has become a dangerous place for kitties — and residents say a family of wolverines is to blame.

As of Thursday, more than 80 cats have gone missing, while sightings of four wolverines — a male, female and two young — have been reported around town.  "They're the most vicious animals I know," Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan told the Vancouver Province. "They can kill a bear, an elk, a deer."

While there have been no reports of wolverines attacking humans, townspeople are concerned that the wolverines might attack a child next.  "It scares the crap out of me," said Monaghan.  "I'm concerned about my community, especially the kids. I can see a situation where a young child seeing their cat being attacked might try to save its pet and get attacked by the wolverine."

Monaghan said the feline disappearances began in May when two residents reported their cats missing. A resident, who lives a block away, witnessed his cat being viciously attacked by a large wolverine.  "He ran out, the wolverine dropped the cat, but the cat was already dead," said Monaghan.  The wolverine retreated to the bushes, but continued to growl while the family buried the cat in the yard.

In this small community of 8,000 where each household averages two to four cats and where wildlife lurk in the forested areas around town, the occasional missing cat isn't out of the ordinary.  "We've never, ever (had) sightings of wolverines in all my time at the shelter and I've been there 16 years," said Maryann Baumbach, manager of the local animal shelter.

Most of the missing cats are from a neighbourhood in an area of Kitimat that's surrounded by bush, with a gully running across back yards, said Baumbach, who is worried the creatures are becoming bolder.  "It's a concern. They're presenting themselves to people and doing it in the daytime. If they're being that aggressive towards people's pets, what is going to happen when a child is with a pet?"

She said conservation officers initially didn't want to do anything because wolverines are not a threat to humans. Last week, an officer arrived to set a trap, but so far it has not been successful.  Aside from two confirmed cases, there is no proof the other missing cats were eaten by wolverines.

But Monaghan said they don't need bodies to put two and two together.  "Where else would they go?"

Adapted from:

Now, you might wonder why this caught the attention of Helpful Buckeye.  Regular readers of Questions On Dogs and Cats will understand why Helpful Buckeye was asking the question, "What is the University of Michigan football team doing in northern British Columbia?"  I'll let you fill in your own answer to that one, but my answer is that they must have figured that it is easier to fight with cats than to beat up on the Buckeyes!

It sure is good to be reading about the NFL training camps and their preparations for the upcoming season.  Most football prognosticators are looking seriously at New England, NY Jets, and the Baltimore Ravens as the favorites in the American Conference.  Hopefully, that will allow the Steelers to establish themselves as a dark horse contender while others are disregarding them.


With the widespread heat wave that has been gripping the country's midsection this summer, it's pretty easy to understand this approach taken by a bulldog in Texas...hope it works for him!

Helpful Buckeye came across this quote yesterday and it applies to me in a very personal way right about now.  I have had a lot of happy moments and I do hope I can carry those memories into my older years.

"Cherish all your happy moments; they make a fine cushion for old age."
--Booth Tarkington,  American novelist and dramatist

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

1 comment:

  1. There's a chance you are qualified to receive a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.