ProActive Cat Care: Linus is Fickle

     First I tell you that cats don’t like change, and now I’m about to tell you they do. Will I ever make up my mind? Nah…I’m just as fickle as Linux. Actually, what I told you is that cats do not like forced change, and “forced” is the operative word. We all know that cats are very independent creatures. Generally speaking, we cannot force a cat to do what they don’t want to do, nor can we stop them from doing what they want to do. Let’s take a look at why it’s so important for us to understand the difference between forced and voluntary behavior, and why Linux’s day-to-day activity may generate a chuckle…or a screaming alarm.


     Remember that we’re always on the lookout for signs of problems…significant changes that might indicate the onset (or presence) of a medical condition. 


Things we watch for might be: Abrupt mood changes, severe change in temperament, reclusive behavior, sudden changes in appetite, aggressiveness. We covered these, and others, in a previous newsletter, and I said these may be cause for concern….repeat, may be cause for concern.


     Or…discovering Linux asleep on the phone book (instead of that $67.99 disgustingly-soft blanket you bought just for him) may be nothing more than his personality at work. Boredom. I think I’ll try something new this week. We’ve learned that Linux speaks to us in the only way he can: Moods, behavior, facial expressions, and so on. Now we need to decipher what he’s saying. Cats do like change, but only if they are calling the shots, and this is where it gets touchy for us caregivers. We have to observe these day-to-day changes with a keen eye, because he might be telling us he’s sick, or he simply may asking us to reach out and touch someone…call my friend Bernie down in Miami! I’m being silly, but only to make the point: A change in behavior could mean any number of things.


     So how on earth can we know? Well, we can. Or at least we can make a pretty good guess. Yes, I see him asleep on the phone book, my little antenna goes up, and two things happen. I ask: Have I observed anything else recently that gives me reason to think something might be wrong: Loss of appetite, maybe, or having trouble in the litter box? Remember also: everything he’s feeling will show up in his eyes and facial expressions…love, anger, pain…everything). So, do I see pain there, or anxiety, or anger? If yes, then my antenna went up higher and I’m watching him like a hawk now. Next I ask: Does Linux change his personal habits and preferences from time to time? If yes, then I exhale; Linux is just being Linux. But my antennae are still up there for a day or so….I could be wrong.


     Here’s how we learn not to go buggy over the slightest behavioral change: Watch him for a week or two; observe his normal patterns, and here’s what you’ll probably see: He’s fascinated to no end with the red stuffed mouse…for three days. Then the yellow one for a few days. He’ll sleep on the couch for a while, maybe a week, then off to Dad’s smelly work jacket that got tossed in a corner. (Lewie, for example, LOVED to sleep on my shoes! Strong cat, that one.) Most cats, as with most people, do break their routine periodically. It’s our job as caregivers to watch them, study their normal habits so that we can recognize abnormal behavior.


     An example: Let’s say I find Linux asleep behind the TV, and I’ve not seen him do this before. Immediately I think, “Hmmm!”, and right after that I try to recall if I’ve seen any other odd behavior lately. If I haven’t then I leave him alone, on the premise that he simply found that cramped space desirable. Forcing him to come out is forcing him to succumb to my behavioral ideas…not a good thing to do, and totally unnecessary. On the other hand, if I’ve seen other odd behavior recently, then I’m going to perform a little test. Linux, a generally happy cat, may give me a dirty look if I try to take him out from behind the TV, but he should be okay with it. But if he’s a snarly-hissy mess when I try, then I know I’ve got a problem. Because he just told me so. He’s a different Linux, and he’s telling me something is wrong, and I’m on the phone to the vet. Remember what I said some time back, and I apologize for being cliché, but it’s a good one: It’s better to err on the side of caution. Calling Doc unnecessarily may annoy him momentarily, but not calling could be disastrous.


     It’s true that we dote on our cats, spoil them, observe them, take the time and patience to learn, and go out of our way to accommodate them. And as for me, there’s no end to the fascination I take from watching my boy Clark behave…and even misbehave. A friend sent me a joke recently, and I’m going to pass along the punch line, because it’s so appropriate:


“Dogs have masters, cat’s have…staff”


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Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.