Think like a cat

I share my home with two cats, both grey with black stripes or ‘tabby’. Julian is a long and lean skinny cat who walks seductively. The other, is a not-so-long-and-lean-skinny cat who always looks surprised.  Princeton has very large eyes for his head, a short nose, tiny ears and is round as a globe. The vet refers to him as a British short hair, which looks like a short haired version of the Persian. I adopted them both at the SPCA about two years ago.


One of the most remarkable differences is not their body shape, but their personalities. Julian is very affectionate, always head-butting (called bunting) the family members and resting on my legs when I am on the couch or in bed. Princeton will come over for some head scratches and then leave, as if I am not worthy enough for his attention. When a lot of visitors are over, it is a different story. Julian is hiding under a bed and Princeton is swaggering through the crowd to get to the couch – unfazed by the guests.


“Think Like a Cat: How to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss” by Pam Johnson-Bennett published by Penguin is a 416 page, updated and extended version of the 2000 book “Think Like a Cat.” I found it funny, reliable and easy to understand. It also offered some insight on why my cats act differently.

The book offered a handful of options to help my social anxious cat, Julian. Introducing changes in my cat’s life gradually, offering extra hiding places, and using gentle interactive playtime or treats as a distraction were some of the ways I could get my cat to come out when multiple guests are over. This way the visitors will be certain I have two cats and not just cat toys around the house being used as décor.  There was also an interesting explanation on why some cats love to approach guests who hate them.

Johnson-Bennett explains that cats are territorial and most cat lovers will usually approach a new cat head on and try to interact with them by petting or picking them up. This is a behavior that most cats do not appreciate. People who dislike cats, generally ignore the cat by not touching them and not looking at them. Because of this behavior, the cat is comfortable approaching the new person, sniffing their clothes and may jump up on the furniture to conduct an even closer inspection. The cat feels really secure because of the lack of eye contact.

The book is laid out like a user’s manual, where you can skip to the activities you are most interested in. Catwise Clue’s are small abridged boxes placed throughout each chapter to give you immediate suggestions on your cat’s behavior.

One of the Catwise Clue’s in ‘The Doctor Is In’ chapter mentions that many medicine tablets can be purchased as liquids. This can be very helpful if your cat handles liquids better than pills. An added bonus is that many of these liquid medicines can also be flavored, making it even easier for your pets to take their meds.

There is a chapter titled “Litter Box Survival Guide” which I was pleased to see because litter box mistakes are often the basis of relinquishing a cat.  Johnson-Bennett mentions that covered litter boxes may not be the appealing and practical solutions that are marketed to us. Covered litter boxes contain the smell, by keeping the odor trapped inside the box and may cause the cat to feel trapped inside if you have a multicat household. Three to five inches of litter is recommended and if you have multiple cats, more boxes are needed, not more litter.

I knew I was going to like this book as soon as I got to the enrichment sections. “Puzzle feeders are an outstanding way for your cat to engage in normal hunting behavior and be rewarded for her efforts,” Johnson-Bennett writes.  She offers nine reasons why your kitten needs interactive play and fifteen reasons for your adult cat. One of the most fun interactive games to play with your cat, she mentions, are with bubbles and lasers. Some bubbles are now catnip scented.  Both of these games can be done with the comfort of you sitting in your chair watching TV.

Speaking of relaxing, “When you buy a cat bed, keep in mind that cats generally prefer elevated places for sleeping and lounging. If you put a cat bed on the floor in the corner, it may be doomed to being forever unused, or used only by your dog.”

Reducing noisy nightly adventures and paw prints on the counter are also discussed.  This book offers a complete guide into cat care.  I found the section on the fifteen different vocal calls a cat makes very interesting. They make much more than just the classic meow. So until next week, mew-meow-mew.

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