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The tiger lay languidly on the strong bough of the tree, worn almost smooth by the repeated rubbing of feline pelt on the burnished bark. He stretched his front legs out lazily, long sleek muscles rippling, and dug his razor sharp claws into the timber before dragging them back towards him, simultaneously sharpening them further while practising for the disembowelment of his next meal. Satisfied with the result, he hopped nimbly to the dry jungle floor where he continued his wake-up routine.

More stretching ensued, so that muscular blood flow was increased. A thorough clean of each and every working part was meticulously, painstakingly and laboriously carried out. Bladder and bowel were emptied casually in appropriate places; again dual achievements of obligatory organ function and necessary territory marking were accomplished. Only then did he stroll off, shoulders hunched, head low, his eyes scanning the horizon for an antelope or zebra that had strayed a little too far from the herd. When in hunting mode, his peripheral vision was diminished; there was no-one, after all, that was going to attack him.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the problem with your average house cat. In his head, he is that majestic, tiger hunting the plains. In reality he is confined to an environment that sometimes can’t provide his basic behavioural needs, never mind enrichment and stimulation. The result is almost inevitable.

Damage to precious property is common. The sofa, the bed and the table leg can all become surrogate scratching posts. Pretty soon, clawing them is as addictive as over-grooming. With nothing to hunt, that clean up becomes an obsession, until the hair is pulled out and the skin is raw. Inappropriate elimination (peeing and pooing in the wrong place!) is also likely. You can hardly blame them, when the litter tray is right next to the food bowl. Who would want to go there? And so it goes on. Normal hunting behaviour is replaced by pouncing on your ankles or climbing the curtains, both of which end in tears.

But all is not lost! With a little bit of thought, much can be done to help. Remember the bough of the tree that he likes to bask on? Make one! It should be up high, so he can survey his kingdom, and the route to it should satisfy his need to climb. Start grooming him a little, as a social interaction. Hunting play is crucial. A toy mouse or a laser pen can help. Go for it, tiger!

Neil McIntosh BVM&S MRCVS Abbey Veterinary Group, Paisley and Greenock

 

Five Good Reasons for Having Your Cat Neutered

  • Reduces fighting, injury and noise
  • Reduces spraying and smelling
  • Much less likely to wander and get lost
  • Safer from diseases like feline AIDS, mammary tumours and feline leukaemia
  • Reduces the number of unwanted kittens