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Is your cat happy at home? Tips on creating a 'cat-friendly' home from the AVMA

Podcast on how to make a safe home for your cat
Podcast on how to make a safe home for your cat
Photo credit: Konstantinos Papakonstantinou on Flickr (cc)

“If you put a cat and a bunch of broken bones in the same room, the bones will heal,” an old veterinary adage says. From helping Alzheimer, heart attack and AIDS patients, to lowering blood pressure, helping cope with depression and with purrs at 40-120Hz that can heal our bones; cats from antiquity have helped us cope with stressful situations and improve our lives. Though they give us so much in terms of companionship and healing, our homes may not be all that “cat-friendly” or support their needs for a happy life.

In a press release on May 12, 2014 from the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Tony Buffington, a professor at the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, announces the latest Animal Tracks podcast that will help pet owners create a cat friendly home and inform pet owners of cats needs

"What the cat sees, is, 'Well, I'm confined to this house, I have no choice what to eat or drink, I've only got one tiny place that I can eliminate in and I just have to hope that somehow magically it gets clean because I can't do it'," Buffington said, adding that many natural behaviors, like climbing and scratching, can lead to cats being punished or even relinquished.

"If they're living in a threatening enough environment, their stress response system, their sympathetic nervous system, their hormonal system and their immune system can all be activated searching for the threat," Buffington said.

"And if the threat never goes away, those systems can be activated all the time. After a while, they start damaging organs in the body, and we start seeing clinical signs. I spent most of my career studying lower urinary tract disease in cats, and it turns out that the disease in many cases is a consequence of this chronic activation of the stress response system."

Providing some of a cat’s basic needs will help ensure your cat's long-term health and welfare. Some start- up pointers from the Ohio State University, College of Veterinary Medicine indoor pet initiative website:

Cats do not respond to force

“Reprimands only work if you catch your cat "in the act". Punishment that follows an action by more than a few seconds won't stop him from doing it again, and may even cause him to be afraid of you or the surroundings. If you do catch you cat making a mistake, it is better for both of you to create a distraction by making a loud noise or throwing something (not at the cat!) that will attract its attention, but not toward you.”

Cats need a room to call their own

“A space in the house complete with food and water, a bed (a cat carrier with a soft pad inside is a good choice), a litter box, a scratching/climbing post, a window to look out of, and some toys.”

Cats need some privacy

“Place food and the litter boxes away from appliances and air ducts that could come on unexpectedly. Locate them such that another animal (or human!) cannot sneak up on the cat while she uses them. To keep them appealing to the cat, food and water should be fresh, and the litter box "scooped" every day.”

Cats need to scratch

“Give her something to scratch on to ensure that she can "do her thing" without damaging your things. Praise her profusely when you see her use it to let her know that this is hers to use.”

Cats need to climb

"Provide places to climb and look out of windows to help keep your indoor cat(s) healthy and happy."

Cats need to feel in control

“Cats seem to prefer to feel like they are "in control" of their surroundings, and to choose the changes they want to make. When you make changes (food, litter, toys, etc.), offer them in a separate container next to the familiar one so your cat can decide whether or not to change.”

In the podcast, Buffington also provides tips for cat owners on how to avoid problems: such as scratching furniture, spraying and going to the bathroom outside of the litter box. In addition, he provides tips on playing with your cat, feeding your cat and trimming your cat's nails.

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