Kitty questions of a miscellaneous variety
January 21, 2008 3:04 PM   Subscribe

A couple of kitty questions...about microchips, tail behavior, table scraps, bonito flakes, and catnip.

I've asked a few questions about Coal before. Now I just have some tiny concerns that I think could be easily addressed.

Microchip: Coal is microchipped. However, I used to be able to feel the little cylindrical chip underneath his skin between his shoulder blades. No more. Should I be concerned that it has somehow moved out of place or been lost, or is this normal?

Tail: Coal seems not to know that his extremely long tail is attached to him. He chases it, bites it, scratches it, etc. - and then he yelps or screeches when he realizes that it hurts. Is this normal?

Table scraps: How much is OK? I mean, I certainly don't feed him table scraps every day, but every once in awhile I give him a little yogurt off the back of my spoon, or a little fish from my plate (as long as there's no onions), etc. - but how much is too much? Sometimes I get the feeling he could eat my whole plate full!

Bonito flakes: How do I feed these to him?

Catnip: He doesn't respond. He's 6 months old on Friday...shouldn't he be responding by now?

Ok, thanks for indulging me. I appreciate it!
posted by MeetMegan to Pets & Animals (22 answers total)
Table Scraps: I bet that the Proper Thing is not to feed your cat human food--I bet that this would ultimately reduce the begging to a minimum. However, all my life I've had a strict "When I finished eating, I'll gladly put my plate on the floor for you to do with as you like" policy, and that's worked perfectly well. Just remember that Coal won't necessarily understand that your guests might be squeamish about feeding him from their yogurt spoon...

Catnip: According to wikipedia:
Approximately two thirds of cats are susceptible to the behavioral effects of catnip. The phenomenon is hereditary; for example, most cats in Australia are not susceptible to catnip, since Australian cats are drawn from a relatively closed genetic pool. That it elicits such a response in only some cats—and that it is such a dramatic response—suggests that a genetic element is involved that is enriched in domesticated breeds.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 3:13 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

on the 'nip: "Approximately two thirds of cats are susceptible to the behavioral effects of catnip. The phenomenon is hereditary; for example, most cats in Australia are not susceptible to catnip, since Australian cats are drawn from a relatively closed genetic pool." (Wikipedia)

on scraps: I have no idea, how much is too much, but a little taste every once in a while should be ok. I guess it depends on how much begging you are willing to put up with, from 'cat hangs out in kitchen when cooking' to 'cat is actively involved in all aspects of food preparation & consumption'.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 3:13 PM on January 21, 2008

1) I've never been able to find the chip in my cat. Still works though, when the vet scans it.
2) My 10 year old cat apparently has no idea that the long swishy thing is attached to him. When he does discover it, in about 15 seconds, he's forgotten and will attack it again quite happily. Doesn't seem to bother him, so I don't worry about it.
3) A few bits every once in a while won't do any harm. Just don't make a habit of it, or you'll get beggars.
4) Don't even know what they are, so can't help you here.
5) Neither of my two cats particularly care about catnip. A few desultory nibbles is about all you'll get. Some cats are just like that.
posted by madajb at 3:15 PM on January 21, 2008

1. Microchip: It's possible for microchips to migrate, but I can't feel my cats' chips either. Why don't you call your vet so you can feel better about it -- they'll probably say it's fine.
2. Tail: I think this is normal -- even though my cats are older, even one of them chases and bites her tail from time to time. I bet this behavior will decrease as he gets older, but I'd suggest distracting him with a cat toy when he does this.
3. Table scraps: I would feed zero table scraps -- this is what we do. It's healthier, we don't have to worry about giving them something toxic to cats, and they won't learn to beg while we're eating.
4. Bonito flakes: ?
5. Catnip: My cats are about 2 and 3 years old. One of them gets a whiff of a catnip toy and then paws the floor, and other will lick a catnip toy over and over til we take it away from her (but only if she's in the mood). Neither of them show any of the typical "crazy cat" catnip response I've heard about.
posted by trillian at 3:25 PM on January 21, 2008

I use bonito mixed with nutritional yeast to bribe my cranky old cat to eat on days when she's just not into it. Most of the time it works.
posted by answergrape at 3:25 PM on January 21, 2008

Table scraps are fine for a non-obese healthy cat as long as they are a) cat-appropriate and b) not making up more than 10% or so of his diet. Begging is only repeated if it's rewarded, if you don't want begging, don't reward it, put the scraps in his bowl. My dogs don't beg and my dogs always get table scraps, they don't beg because they know that they only get the scraps if they behave politely. It's basic animal training 101 and I find it odd that so many people don't seem to realize that it's not the table scraps that cause the begging, it's rewarding the begging by feeding the animal when it begs that causes the begging to be repeated.

Microchips can move a bit and still be perfectly readable. Ask your vet to scan it next time you're in.

The tail chasing may be a problem if your cat is doing it to the point he is hurting/injuring himself. Tail chasing can be a fun play behaviour, or it can be a compulsive behaviour in cats, and I would definitely discuss it with your vet if the cat is hurting himself.
posted by biscotti at 3:29 PM on January 21, 2008

I'm betting that the microchip was able to be felt before at least partially due to the scarring and healing flesh around it as well as the chip itself. I'm sure you were feeling the chip too, but as the flesh has fully repaired it has subsided and gotten smaller so you can't feel it any longer. I wouldn't worry as long as it still reads.

The tail thing I think is partially due to the personality of the cat and partially gets better as they get older. Most cats go through a similar stage as kitten, their reflexes and coordination haven't fully developed yet and they don't always seem aware of where all their bits are, and most cats will grow out of it. Coal may or may not get better over time with his tail, but as long as he's not breaking the skin or actually hurting himself it will be fine either way.

Scraps aren't a problem as long as they are just an extra treat and not forming a substantial part of his food intake. You don't want him to be getting fat from scraps or eating them preferentially to his nutritionally balanced cat food. What you've described is fine though and it sounds like you have a handle of not giving him toxic stuff (re the onions). We have a very strict 'only in the food bowl' policy where nothing ever gets feed from the plate or a spoon or in any other room of the house. It does mean a stampede to the cat bowl when we take our plate out to the kitchen but that beats having a cat launch itself at your dinner while you're eating.

Bonito flakes are those little fishy things right? We just throw a pinch or two into the food bowl when we want to treat the cats, or sometimes onto their food. Ours aren't so overly keen on fish though (and I hate the smell) so we tend to stick to Vitapets love hearts. These live in a little glass jar and the older cat will come running from seeming miles away if she hears even a hint of a rattle. We're just as strict with the food bowl only rule with treats as with scraps, makes to a lot easier to bribe them in for dinner or whatever and contains the begging to one place.

And yeah, catnip is genetic. If he's not responding now you might as well give up.
posted by shelleycat at 3:31 PM on January 21, 2008

I thought that bonito flakes was dried and shaved flakes of tuna (katsuo-bushi) that's used in Japanese food..

I don't know if it's actually fed to cats, but my parents used to talk about cold steamed rice with bonito flakes sprinkled on top (sometimes with miso soup poured over it) as "neko-manma" or cat food. Google tells me that there are disagreements about whether it should include the flakes or the soup, but apparently it's fed to cats in Japan sometimes.
posted by mariokrat at 4:06 PM on January 21, 2008

I can only speak to Coal's tail. Our cat is very puzzled by his tail as well. He often follows us into the bathroom and sits on the edge of the tub, then is extremely puzzled (after several minutes) to discover that his tail is 6" into the water. Whereupon he runs off and is upset until his tail dries off.
posted by arnicae at 4:21 PM on January 21, 2008

Bonito flakes: I give it to my cats as a snack. Just sprinkle some into a bowl.

Catnip: Some cats do not respond to it.
posted by hooray at 4:56 PM on January 21, 2008

My dogs don't beg and my dogs always get table scraps

And they deliver truly awesome cupboard-love. At least the older one does. He is the master of sitting down a polite distance away, lying down with his head on your foot, and beaming a terawatt of transparently insincere adoration right into your eyes. The little one is his padawan learner.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:02 PM on January 21, 2008

Aw, Coal is a handsome little guy! I love his big bat ears!

My Smoke is 12, and still attacks her own tail. (I especially love it when she's trying to nap, and the tip of her tail keeps wiggling, and she glares at it before giving it a firm smack with a paw. It's hilarious.)

She's not microchipped, but she does have a collar and tag, and is strictly an indoor cat.

The thing to remember is, all cats are weird in their own way. Smoke has no interest at all in bonita flakes, or any kind of cat treat. She ignores them completely. She used to go absolutely nuts for canned mushrooms, until one day she just decided she hated them. We don't give her much in the way of people food, but when we have fish or chicken we often give her a couple of small bites -- but that's only if she doesn't go bonkers with the begging. If she waits, and doesn't try to climb into our plates, she gets a treat. If not, she gets nothing.

She also had no interest at all in catnip for a really long time -- she really didn't react to it at all until she was about 4 or 5 years old. Even now, she loves her catnip toys, but she doesn't go as nuts over it as the cats I've had in the past. She mostly likes to grab her catnip-stuffed toys and rub her face all over them. Sometimes she gets a case of the zips afterwards, and has to race all over the house, but usually she just likes to cuddle with the toys.

She's 12 now, and still as weird as ever! Coal's as normal as any happy cat ever is!
posted by sarcasticah at 5:11 PM on January 21, 2008

We've apparently got the same cat, right down to the really long tail he loves to chase. Mine's 1.5 years old now. No worries, all is well.
posted by desjardins at 5:23 PM on January 21, 2008

We give the bonito flakes to the one who loves them just like any regular treat. She will kill for them, too. One time, we had a tin of them on the counter because the exterminator was coming and we had to clear out the cabinets. When we got home from work, the tin had been opened somehow and there were bonito flakes strewn through the apartment.
posted by sugarfish at 6:06 PM on January 21, 2008

Just as a behavioral tip, don't feed the table scraps actually from the table while you're eating. The cat needs to know the difference between people and cats, or he'll be jumping on the table while you're eating.
posted by gjc at 6:23 PM on January 21, 2008

if a cat has a significant amount of siamese, they tend to not care about catnip.

some other breeds also, but the siamese link is pretty well established (at least in my mind and experience, if not in reality and documentation)
posted by KenManiac at 6:25 PM on January 21, 2008

Tweak the cat doesn't react one whit to catnip, but she goes nuts if I put the lid from a jar of olives on the floor for her. She rolls on it and rubs the top of her head inside it. Oh, and like Biscotti's dog, Tweak doesn't overtly beg. She's learned to sit in the doorway of a room just off our dining area, where she thinks we can't see her. She keeps a keen eye out, and as soon as we're done I have to put a little "something" (a corner of cheese off of a burger, a sauced-covered noodle from pasta) from our plates into her dish. Otherwise she'll complain loudly ("I was good, I didn't beg") and swat my ankles.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:39 PM on January 21, 2008

We have two cats that are litter mates.. one loves catnip (will eat the leaves/stems from the plant), the other pays no attention to it.
posted by jockc at 10:04 PM on January 21, 2008

Table scraps: be careful of how much you do this. I always comment how odd it is that the cats pester Mr. sfkiddo while he's eating but not me (hee).

Catnip: my cats (littermates) were not interested in it when they were young kittens. We gave it to them when they were much older (like 9-ish) and, curiously enough, they had very different reactions:

Female cat: "You know, like, when you get a thought? And then another thought? And then it's like you realize that you're thinking and all the thoughts get connected cuz it's just like one thought of the entire universe and then you can feel yourself being the universe?"

Male cat: "Arrrrrggghhhhh!! My face is melting!!!!"
posted by sfkiddo at 10:20 PM on January 21, 2008

Table scraps: I personally have a rule in my house: Chicken is required to be shared with any cats present. I go along with those that recommend sharing via their food bowl. The reason for this rule is simple: Cats go nuts for chicken, and will raid the garbage bin for the dangerous bones. Always be extra secure when disposing of chicken bones, to prevent choking cats. But anything a cat loves that much, the cat is entitled to enjoy some when having to smell it.
posted by Goofyy at 4:18 AM on January 22, 2008

Cats outgrow the tail thing...only worry if it continues after a year or two.

Please don't feed your cat table scraps! Find really good cat food that your cat loves, and feed him only that. Choose good cat snacks (bonito is good, my cats like Greenies) and use them as a treat, not as every day food. It is a drag to deal with a cat that is a fussy eater or one who gets diseases or just gets fat from eating human food. There is NO reason to feed your cat scraps except your own mind thinking that it's rude to eat something and no share it.

I think maybe you are overthinking all this; spend your time playing with them, not thinking. Cats are soooo much fun!
posted by kenzi23 at 7:29 AM on January 22, 2008

My rule for table scraps is "never". As a result, both cats completely ignore human food, and we (the humans) eat in peace.

One of our cats still chases his tail, but only when it catches him by surprise. (Tails are sneaky that way.)
posted by phliar at 4:10 PM on January 22, 2008

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