Pet Connection

Happy Cat Habitat

What makes your cat happy? We share the secrets

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Smokey loves sunny spots for cat-napping. Chester chooses chicken. Summer likes to wear dresses and hang out in airports.

OK, Summer’s a little unusual, but her preference is just an example of the many different things that make cats happy. From snuggling with their favorite humans to swirling around our legs at mealtime to chatting with us about their day, cats express happiness in a variety of ways.

“Every cat is an individual, so it’s going to vary from cat to cat,” says behavior expert Debra Horwitz, DVM. “Some cats like when you spend time with them. If they’re cuddle kitties, they like to sit on your lap. If they’re playful cats, they like if you engage them in interactive games.”

While there’s no doubt that cats love their food, many of them will choose human companionship over a meal or treat, according to a study by the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at Oregon State University. For both pet and shelter cats taking part in the 2016 study, social interaction with humans was the preferred stimulus category for the majority of cats, with food taking second place.

Happy cats snuggle close, purr, bump heads with us -- known as bunting -- and give slow blinks, communicating affection and trust.

Sofiya and Mollie follow owner Sally Bahner around the house. Sofiya “meeps” when Bahner comes into the room. Her cat Tekla hops onto the counter so they can have a conversation. Mollie reaches out and “combs” Bahner’s hair.

At their Florida home, Frank and Relina Sockman’s cats R.J. and Abby enjoy happy hour with the couple. “We all go to the lanai to kick back,” Frank says.

Janiss Garza’s Abyssinian cat Summer makes therapy visits and is a blog star who frequently travels with Garza to conferences. Summer loves strutting her stuff, whether it’s in a hospital, airport or convention center.

Cats play favorites when it comes to letting us know who makes them happy. Sandra Toney is the one who does everything for her cat Angel, but Toney’s husband Ray is the apple of Angel’s eye: “All her love goes to him. She lays across his legs every time he sits in his recliner and has a look that says, ‘He belongs to me.’”

As Angel demonstrates, being in touch with their people -- literally -- is an important part of feline happiness. Brigitte Cowell Moyne’s Savannah cat, Zari, sleeps in bed with her, sprawling on top of one arm to keep her in place. Teo, a Peterbald who loves Moyne’s daughter, sleeps curled around Lola’s head.

Purple sleeps next to Alison Taub, purring as she pets his head, the back of his neck and his throat. Purple is normally high-strung, Taub says, so when he relaxes and snuggles, purrs and “talks” to her, she knows he’s a happy cat.

Routine also makes cats happy. Liz Moe’s Miss Kitty enjoys watching her litter box being cleaned. That makes sense, Dr. Horwitz says. She believes cats are happy when their life is predictable. And that includes knowing when the litter box will be clean. It’s not unusual for cats to wait for their box to be scooped and then immediately jump in to use it.

People, food and routine are important to cat happiness, no doubt, but here are a few more of their favorite things: boxes to sit in, batting at a small ball or wadded-up piece of paper, special toys. Gail Parker’s cats Leo and Athena enjoy loving on their dog buddy Daisy.

But Kim Hundley may have the real answer to what makes cats happy: “Doing whatever they want.”

Q&A

Does cat need

to wear ID?

Q: My new cat will be indoor-only. Does she still need a collar and tag or a microchip?

A: The one thing we know for sure about cats is that they do things their way, and they have ways of getting around our plans for them. No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance that your cat could slip out an open door or window without anyone noticing. When that happens, wearing an identification tag and being microchipped can be his key to getting back inside.

A collar with an identification tag is the most obvious way to alert someone that your cat has a home with people who love her. Tags are visible and can be engraved with multiple phone numbers: landline (if you still have one), cellphone and your veterinarian’s number. Choose a breakaway collar that will release under pressure in case your cat gets hung up on something.

Of course, collars and tags can come off. Cats are notoriously Houdini-like when it comes to getting out of collars. And collars can be removed by others. Keep a couple of extra collars and tags on hand in case you need to make replacements.

And have a second line of defense to help ensure your cat’s return: a microchip. This permanent form of identification cannot be removed, but of course it’s invisible to the naked eye. Veterinarians and shelters have scanners that can read microchips. Be sure your cat’s microchip is registered with an organization that will provide 24-hour notification that your cat has been found. You can attach the tag with the registry’s phone number to the collar with your cat’s ID tag. Keep your phone number and address up to date with the registry so you can be easily contacted. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

Anti-allergy vaccine

may help cat fans

-- From special foods to immunotherapy, researchers are racing to find ways to relieve the sniffling, sneezing and eye watering of people who love cats but are allergic to them. A Swiss company called HypoPet is among the latest to promise a potential breakthrough: a vaccine for cats that neutralizes the protein Fel d 1 -- produced by feline skin, saliva and sebaceous glands -- which causes allergic reactions in humans. The company published a study of 54 cats in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, reporting that all the cats tolerated the vaccine with no ill effects. The vaccine must undergo further testing and receive approval before being brought to market.

-- On any given day, a quick survey of eBay turns up nearly 4,000 items depicting pugs. The devoted pug collector might find such items as brass or ceramic figurines, vintage photographs, silver lockets, teacups, engravings, trading cards and advertising featuring pugs. All of these items are the continuation of a long history of pugs depicted in paintings and statuary. Pugs are a timeless subject for artists. Unlike many breeds, pugs have been around for several centuries. They were included in many 17th- to 19th-century paintings of wealthy people, especially in the Netherlands, where they were favorites of the royal family.

-- The most serious tick-borne disease in cats has a real tongue-twister of a name -- cytauxzoonosis -- more familiarly known as bobcat fever. The serious and often fatal disease is caused by a protozoa called Cytauxzoon felis, carried by the Dermacentor variabilis tick. Ticks that carry cytauxzoonosis are found primarily in southeastern and south-central states such as Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas. Cats with cytauxzoonosis develop a high fever, become depressed or lethargic, and lose their appetite. The disease is most likely to strike between March and September, when the incidence of ticks is at its highest. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.

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