Monday, November 10, 2008

Predators in the House

From squirrel rehabber extraordinaire, Carol Vinzant, who says--
Apparently they all survived more or less ok. I got these from my friend Vicki who got them off a discussion on

(Could Mom's eyes get any wider? Also see the open mouthed shock on her part? Who says squirrels don't have facial expressions? D.B.)

Let's hear it for feisty moms!
And goodness, does that not look like a public park? And why isn't doggie on a lead instead of being allowed to molest the wildlife by his owner?

Speaking of molesting the wildlife, Pye may have been thinking about it. But honestly non--native predators, such as cats, really and truly should be kept in the house. According to the research they do very much adversely impact wildlife, particularly in the songbird area.
Pye's vocalizations are very helpful in letting me know something interesting just might be out at the feeding area at night. She alerted me to the fact that Sleek the Opossum had arrived early the other evening. She cured me that he was out there by making an unusual meow combined with a staccato vocalization.

Though as the curtain happens to be closed this evening, Pye is spending this evening snuggled in for an extended cat nap.
Which brings us to a comment left by rehab volunteer and birdwatcher, Sally of Kentucky--

What a beautiful kitty Pye is! Is she missing her jaunts outside? My parents, in their 80's God love them, recently adopted a stray from the neighborhood and this cat is insisting on being outside, pacing and meowing at the door and windows and sometimes getting agitated enough to go up to my Mom and nip her leg to say let me out!
She is not content to sit at the full-pane patio door and mew at the birds outside as my cats do. I say she will get over it if they ignore her meowing, play with her and give her lots of toys. I've told them how bad it is for both cat and wildlife to let her out but, they are insistent that she is meant to be outside.

Any suggestions? I suggest my parents are more stubborn than the cat but then I don't want them bitten either.

Well like most of us, cats originally evolved and hunted outside as there wasn't much in the way of an inside but then they hooked up with humans and adjusted in a variety of ways. And it is likely that your parent's cat may yet adjust to the comfy indoor life too, if we can come up with the proper behavior modification techniques.
First off, when kitty is working herself up about going outside, do we know the real reason?
Does kitty just want to go outside to have fun and games by going after the wildlife?
Does kitty have free feeding or is she fed twice a day and on occasion she gets a little peckish before mealtime and wouldn't mind a sparrow snack?
Or as kitty was a stray, she had a territory carved out for herself in the neighborhood and therefore if another cat happens to wander by it will make kitty hysterical to get outside and run it off?
The peckish problem can be rectified by free will feeding and a nice big bowl of cat chow. Which you remind kitty is there if kitty wants out.
Some cats just have idiosyncrasies. My daugher adopted a cat who would become hysterical, he'd pace and yowl, if he could see the bottom of his food dish. Cover the bottom and he'd be fine. He also become hysterical if you turned the bath water on and left the bathroom. Either turn it off or go back in to stay and he'd be fine.
A cat in the yard, one just has to live through, as kitty isn't going to be distracted. Unless, of course you keep the view covered and you don't allow kitty to see it in the first place. Or you're willing to chase extra kitty off yourself.
But most likely kitty wants to go outside and commit homicide for the pure fun of it. Predator's can be like that. And the meowing, pacing, and nipping have all been reinforced by eventually getting her way. So she'll keep doing it until it doesn't work anymore.
It's possible that kitty keeps up her routine if ignored until she nips, cats being marvelously self-centered, because she thinks the people in her life are a little on the dimwitted side and just don't "get it" so she has to get serious and nip them to get their attention. And it's worked.
When kitty starts in, the first thing is a "no". Then there is the pointing out of the food bowl.
When Pye asked, I distracted her with the bowl and she went, "Oh yeah, I can just eat that!" Crunch, crunch.
It's also very handy to have a stash of high quality cat nip. Pye has already learned where I keep it, and when my hand goes to the top shelf, she knows, comes hustling over, and forgets about most anything else she was thinking about previously.
Pye wasn't really all that difficult to retrain. The food is good, and it's warm inside. She's no dummy. She knows how cold Wisconsin gets at night.
Now she follows me around the house, sits either on me on beside me when I sit, and whenever I eat, I give her a little plate of whatever I'm having. A first she'd eat just about anything, now she's becoming more selective.
Why do I do that? It keeps her interested in my activities instead of what is going ON outside. And now she'll watch the outdoors and that is good enough. If she went out she might miss something.
Pye doesn't know the human/cat toys and games as yet, and to tell the truth isn't all that interested so I couldn't use that as positive reinforcement but perhaps it's a distraction option for your parent's cat as you suggested.
Does their cat have a cat box? I too once had this issue with my mom. She kept saying that cats should be able to run around outside-- they were supposed to be out there. I eventually figured out she didn't want a cat box in the house and that was the real issue.
And there is always the noise aversion system. I'm not partial to it as I prefer positive reinforcement but you roll up a newspaper and smack it against something (besides the cat) It makes a sharp noise and kitty doesn't like it. Then while kitty is distracted you give kitty a treat, remind her about the cat chow, play chase the small piece of crumpled aluminum foil or whatever works for that particular cat.
And when all else fails and they don't get to go out, they eventually get bored with trying and you're off the kitty hook.
Also remember, don't reinforce kitty's bad behavior by letting her out after she nips.

1 comment:

Sally said...

Thank you. Kitty does have a dish with crunchy food in it, and she has a box that she uses, and lots of toys and loving when she will accept such attention. She gets to lick the bowl after my Mom's cereal in the morning and gets other treats, such as those she gets for using the litter box. I will pass the suggestions on to my parents. Perhaps more cat nip in the little stuffed mouse toy will do the trick. They laugh that the cat has trained them, but I don't think in this case it is funny, if perhaps it IS true!