Category: cat care

It’s Actually Really Easy To Teach Your Cat To High Five

My cousin thought I was joking when I told him my cat would come when called, sit when told and give me some love with a high five.

“Get outta here,” he said as we watched an NBA playoff game.

“Okay then,” I said. “Hey Bud!”

Buddy popped up from wherever he’d been lounging with a “Mrrrrrrrrppp!” He regarded me quizzically with his parakeet green eyes, knowing there was probably a treat in it for him as he padded toward me.

“Sit,” I said, gesturing for him to park his behind about two feet away from me. He sat.

“High five!” I said as Buddy leaned forward and slapped his paw against my palm.

I tossed him a treat for a job well done. If it were up to Bud, we’d high-five another 10 times.

There are a lot of misconceptions about cats, and one of them is the idea that felines aren’t amenable to training. It’s why people use the phrase “trying to herd cats” to describe an impossible task.

People don’t expect to see a cat complying, and they definitely don’t expect to see our feline friends pulling off tricks, which makes it more fun to defy expectations.

It’s easy to train your cat to pull off simple tricks — so easy that I almost couldn’t believe it when Bud was reliably high fiving me within a week.

Cat High Five
It makes for a good party trick and a way to bond with your feline friend.

Teaching a cat to sit is a prerequisite for high fives. It’s a straightforward and easy process.

After that, it’s really just a matter of building trust with your cat so she’ll allow you first to touch her paw, then to gently take it in your hand and raise it. The first few sessions, all you need to do is touch or hold your cat’s paw. On the second day, start to raise it slightly.

Cats don’t do well with long training sessions anyway, so the time commitment is minimal. One or two sessions a day, 10 to 15 minutes each.

Every time you touch kitty’s paw, bring it a little bit higher than the last time, rewarding your cat with encouragement and a treat. After a few sessions, your cat will anticipate this new ritual you’ve got going and will raise her paw as soon as you start.

The last step is holding kitty’s paw against your outstretched palm for just a second or two, then rewarding her with a treat.

That’s it. You’re done.

Run through the trick a few times a day after your cat’s got it down, to reinforce good high fiving form and whichever affirmations you choose. (I chose to say “Good boy!” each time Bud pulled it off rather than use a clicker.) Either method works, since the important things are consistency and positive reinforcement immediately after your cat does well. You want to make sure you click or say “Good boy!” right away so your cat knows the praise is triggered by a successful high five. (Or an intermediary paw raise if you’re still working on the trick.)

For a more detailed breakdown of how to do it, check out this video from CatManToo, a professional dog trainer who adjusted his methods for cats. This is the method I used to train Bud. Again, you don’t actually need a clicker, just a consistent method of feedback to signal that your cat is doing well:

Someone Has To Rescue This Poor Cat

A real estate agent in Texas was filming video for his TikTok channel, sarcastically providing a voice-over in which he promises a “look at the beauty of rental houses when the tenants move out.”

As the agent, who goes by the name Felix Jaimes on TikTok, showed broken blinds, inexplicably removed wood floor panels, a cracked mirror, dirty bathroom and garbage left everywhere. Then he heard noise coming from another room.

“Honestly I got scared, I thought someone was in there because the house was pretty much empty,” Jaimes explained later in the comments.

But he didn’t find a burglar — just a terrified, depressed-looking cat huddling in the corner of a closet.

“He was obviously scared,” Jaimes wrote. “My heart broke” for him.

“Immediately I thought they left their cat behind. What kind of people do that,” Jaimes asked. “I thought they had just abandoned the place since they destroyed it.”

After calling and sending text messages to the tenant, she called Jaimes back and said she wasn’t finished moving out.

“When I came back, the cat was gone,” Jaimes said.

The video was posted on Dec. 7. It’s not clear from Jaimes’ profile exactly where he is — or where the home is located — in Texas, but perhaps some sharp-eyed Texan will be able to tell from the exterior shots at the beginning of the video.

Regardless, the video is distressing. It seems to me that organizations like county-level SPCAs — which employ animal welfare officers with law enforcement jurisdiction when it comes to animal abuse and welfare investigations — are made to handle cases like this, not just the “saving 50 cats from a hoarding situation” stories we hear all the time.

At the very least, the SPCA’s law enforcement division should locate the owner, interview her, check on the cat and have him brought in for a veterinary exam. If they don’t like what they see, they should confiscate the cat and take extra care to place him with people who know how to treat cats and will give him the love he deserves.

Maybe everything really is on the up-and-up and just looks bad, but someone who really knows cats — and loves them — would never leave their kitty in an empty apartment, cowering in a closet and believing he’s been abandoned. That’s why it should be investigated. Better safe than sorry.

Reason #22 To Keep Your Cats Indoors: Bubonic Plague!

A cat in Colorado has tested positive for the Bubonic Plague.

You read that right. The same bacterial infection that was called the Plague of Justinian back in the 6th century BC, killed one out of every four people living in the Mediterranean, then flared up occasionally every century or two before returning with a vengeance in 14th century Europe, where it was called the Black Death and killed a third of the population on the continent.

That plague.

The kitty ranges near a public park and likely caught the infection from a rat, local health authorities told KUSA, an NBC news affiliate.

Like many infections, it was never completely eradicated, and WHO statistics show about 100 people die annually of plague.

“While plague is a serious disease, and cases of animal-borne disease in household pets is never something we like to see, it is normal and expected for some animals to contract plague in Jefferson County each year,” said Jim Rada, director of Environmental Health Services for the county. “The good news is that modern antibiotics are effective against plague, and as long as it is treated promptly, severe complications, illness or death can be avoided.”

When we think of outdoor dangers to cats, we tend to think of abusive humans, vehicle traffic or poisons, but this is a reminder that nature can be lethal as well.

The Cat Houses of Istanbul: ‘Everybody Accepts Cats Must Have Their Own Life Spaces In The City’

We’ve written quite a bit about Turkey and how it serves as a model for co-existence and fondness between humans and cats, as well as other animals.

In Turkey — and especially in ancient Istanbul, the most populous city in Europe — cats are fed, welcomed into homes and shops, and taken care of by the entire community. Pets are still a thing there, but Istanbul’s stray population is the best cared-for in the world. They have their own parks, they’re protected by the people, and they’re even given miniature shelters which famously dot the city of 15 million.

“The whimsical structures — more like miniature apartment buildings than single-kitty houses — can be found in parks, outside shops and cafes, abutting private homes, and on university campuses, providing shelter for the city’s estimated 125,000 strays,” Reason to Be Cheerful’s staff wrote.

Cat house Turkey
A custom-built wooden cat house in Turkey.

The practice of creating shelters for strays and ferals began in 2008, when a young architect named Didem Gokgoz would pass strays in Istanbul’s Mistik Park as she walked to and from work every day.

“Every day I passed the park and saw them looking for a place to get some warmth during the winter, and I felt desperate,” Gokgoz said.

At first she began making small shelters from recyclable materials, but the compact structures weren’t always tolerated in parks and other places where people felt they were an eyesore, so after meeting with the city’s mayor, Gokgoz engaged in an experiment: She built larger, more aesthetically acceptable permanent structures in the park, including one that looks like a large catio with a sloping, house-like roof, draped in greenery and nondescript among the park’s other features.

Mistik Park cat house
The Mistik Park cat houses are protected by a catio-like structure. Only volunteers can use the human-size door, while small cat-size openings allow felines access. Credit: Transitions.

The project was a success, and soon she found herself with requests to build more. But they aren’t just built and installed: Each cat house is run by about a dozen volunteers who keep track of the local cats, feed them, get them spayed/neutered and see to their other needs.

Almost 14 years later, cat houses have become a permanent fixture not only in Istanbul, but in other Turkish cities as well.

“It became something normal; individuals make requests for cat houses,” Gokgoz told the Turkish journalism site Transitions. “That was our main goal, and we’ve reached it. Today, everybody accepts that cats must have their own life spaces in the city.”

Istanbul cat houses
Credit: Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

Buddy ‘Declaws’ Himself

Despite having real scratchers, including the biggest-available tower scratcher sturdy enough for him to stretch out completely, Buddy likes to scratch anything and everything he can get his paws on.

The couch, area carpets, the screen door leading to the balcony, even my brand new La Z Boy desk chair.

Without fail he gets his claws stuck on things he’s not supposed to scratch, and then he mews pitifully in his kitten voice until I find him and gently lift him up to get him unstuck.

After I free him he gets all affectionate, and then he forgets all about it until the next time he decides it’s a good idea to scratch on things he’s been snagged on before.

Today the little dude was having another go at the new desk chair and got his claws stuck on the protective cover that’s there to stop him from clawing the chair in the first place.

I stood up to help him and he yanked on the cover, pulling his paw loose but dislodging something in the process.

Sure enough, when I looked on the floor, this is what I found:

PXL_20210613_222141784.PORTRAIT

PXL_20210613_221950049.PORTRAIT

As you can see, he tore off his entire claw.

I’m surprised he didn’t give any outward indication of pain. He’s been walking around just fine without a limp. I know his instinct will be to hide the pain, like all other cats, but he doesn’t seem very good at that: Just last night he was crying for a few minutes because of an upset stomach, after he’d regurgitated his dinner. (I sat with him and scratched his head. He felt better within 10 minutes.)

I’m pretty sure the claw came from his right paw, but I haven’t had the chance to examine him yet. I’ll have to wait until he’s in a chill mood to handle his paw and take a closer look.

I don’t see anything to indicate the quick was ripped or dislodged in any way. Still, I can’t imagine it’s not bothering him.

Have any of you guys dealt with anything like this before? Is there any reason to worry?