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Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

All breed of house Cats and Kittens

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vulpini
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Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby vulpini » Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:55 am

Hello all!

So, a bit of backstory that may or may not be relevant. I have two cats. They are brother and sister, about 8 years old. Got them "for free" (you know animals are never really free :lol: ) as kittens. Father was a free roaming half stray, mother was an outside pet, from what I recall. The sister is a calico American shorthair, and the brother is a grey tabby AS.

They used to live as inside/outside cats, with a "home base" in the garage but with a cat door that let them go outside whenever they wanted during the day. The cat door was locked at night when they were brought back in the garage. Since they roamed outside (with quick release collars with bells. Only caught one bird, I think) they always used to bring "presents" to the door mats or inside the garage, which I understand is normal. Pests like voles, but also lizards too.

Anyways, after we moved from that house they had to live in the (unfinished, so huge) basement of a rental house for about two years. This, obviously, wasn't ideal, but they couldn't live in the house as it was a rental and the owners did not want them in the house. They were occasionally let outside to roam around, but eventually they couldn't go out anymore because of a free-roaming neighbor's cat that would stalk across the street from "his" territory and "invade" their territory. He would come to the back basement door and antagonize our cats, who would be inside. We didn't want any more fights (we let them out once and didn't know the neighbor's cat was outside. Didn't go over very well), and since the neighbor's cat was never kept inside, there was always a danger of him attacking our cats when they were let out. So, they had to stay inside the basement.

We've since moved and they now live inside 24/7, though the female likes to go out on the screened in porch and once in a while goes outside to roam. She LOVES going outside and just munching on grass for no apparent reason. I know cats eat it sometimes to help them throw up, but I'm positive she just really, really likes eating grass. Unfortunately, they can't be let outside without supervision, because our neighbors have a Great Pyrenees and German Shepherd who broke out of their electric fence once to chase our cats when we made the mistake of letting them out without anyone watching them. We live in the country now, with no neighboring cats, so we figured they would be safe going outside.

I tell all this because it might have some relevance to my cats' behavior, what with them having been outside cats and now inside cats (they have free roam of a two story house which is plenty big for them. They have areas to climb and jump on, so they aren't depraved of activity).

One night, completely out of the blue about a year or so ago, the female cat, Ella, started meowing. It was more of a yowl, really. I had no idea what was happening, but the meowing got closer and louder, and all of a sudden she struts into the office with one of her mice toys in her mouth, meowing loudly. She looked up at me and dropped the toy, sort of mewed some more and then wandered off. That was the first time she'd ever done that. Over the next few weeks and months, this became almost a daily occurrence. It got to the point where you would hear her yowling from downstairs, hear the yowls sort of shake a bit while she ran up the stairs, and then see her bring a toy to the room where people were before dropping it, meowing, and then sort of looking for praise by making her meows into pitiful mews and begging for attention (which she is, of course, /so deprived of/ :roll: :lol: ). It escalated and she began bringing a dozen toys a day from her "spot" downstairs to anywhere upstairs. She'd drop them on the landing, in the hallways, but never super close to me or anyone else. When she ran out of toys to bring up, she'd bring socks or more toys that we'd thrown back downstairs. I praised her every time she brought something, because she would meow and come towards me as if to say "look at what I brought you! Aren't I a super good huntress because I brought something that was already dead to you?" Sometimes, though, she'll just drop it, stare at me, and then walk away, so it doesn't seem to be a constant cry for attention.

Two or so months after she started doing this, my other cat, Miles, started doing the same thing! But he YOWLS when he brings things upstairs, and I mean YOWLS. You'll hear it faint, at first, but the yowls echo in the stairs so it's "mrow....mrow...MRow....MROOOW....YOWLLLL...YOOOOOWLLLLLLL" until he brings it close, but never too close, to people, and then he drops it and wanders over to people. They'll do it if I'm downstairs with them, too--meow loudly and bring toys into the room I'm in. Sometimes Ella will drop a toy in my doorway and then walk away, and then meow and pick up the same toy only to drop it in the doorway again like she's too lazy to go catch another toy :lol: Yesterday I was on the screened in porch but I'd let Ella back inside. She meowed up the stairs, and brought a toy TO THE DOOR of the screened in porch where she dropped it and sat until I let her back on the porch.

Anyways, I'm wondering if anyone has every experienced this with other cats. They get constant attention and are played with on a regular basis. They used to leave presents for us when they would hunt outdoors, but they wouldn't bring more than one or two a day. Now it's half a dozen or more a day! Miles does it less often than Ella, but they're both super vocal cats so they like to ANNOUNCE when they bring us gifts.

Does anyone have any explanation for this? I was so confused because Ella started doing it out of nowhere. The meows are so loud with the toys in her mouth you can hear her coming from downstairs while you're upstairs watching a LOUD movie! They get yearly vet checkups and they're healthy and very loved and content. I just can't figure it out! It's not annoying--just puzzling!
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby Vata Raven » Tue Sep 13, 2016 1:29 pm

Just going off basic knowledge of animals in general, I would say your cats are just bored and want something new in their lives to entertain them. Yes, you might play with them everyday and they have toys to play with, but if the actives are the same daily, they'll get bored with it and want something new.

Think it from a human POV. A person has a daily routine they follow, but after a while that person will get tired of it and want some change in their life. Animals are the same way.

Look up animal enrichment ideas and go from there.
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby TamanduaGirl » Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:00 pm

My old cat started yowling for attention when my dog died but just at night. At first she just did it till I brought her upstairs with me(not like she couldn't climb the stairs herself) but then she started running back down the stairs to cry again till I came to get her again. I finally started ignoring her and eventually she quit. You may have inadvertently trained them to do this by giving them attention and praise when they do it.

But have you ever tried playing with them with the toy after they brought it to you? Maybe that's what they want. I might try that just to see if that's what they want but if you really want them to stop start ignoring them when they do it, though I know a yowling cat is very annoying, especially at night like mine did. Then at the same time give them attention when they are not yowling, especially if they come quietly into the room. Give them more stuff to do, new toys, new games, look into some enrichment ideas for cats.

Also can you make them an outside cat yard? There are lots of examples online to help you make one. Then they could go out safely and just being outside is very enriching with all the sites and smells and sounds even if they can't go explore it all.
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby minervasden » Tue Sep 13, 2016 2:52 pm

How did you respond when they were outside and caught prey and left it at the door or presented it to you? If it was positive they may be looking for that response. If she looks at you like she's expecting praise maybe give her some she did make a 'kill' after all. As mentioned she may want to play with you as well so try throwing for fetch.

The carrying toys around while yowling is a common cat behavior. I would say in your case it is adapting hunting behavior to the indoor situation. Try a remote control toy or a laser pointer to make a more challenging hunt but be sure to toss an actual toy or treat to them at the end. Leave some treat balls for them to hunt down.
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby vulpini » Tue Sep 13, 2016 8:22 pm

Thank you so much for the responses! I'll definitely look into more enrichment ideas and into building an outdoor enclosure. I'll also try playing with them when they bring a toy. I don't know why I never thought of or tried that before, but that could definitely be what they want.

Before, when they brought dead animals, we found them after the cats had left them alone, so we never really got a chance to praise them for that behavior. But I see where praising them for bringing the toys reinforces the behavior. Really, I have no problem with them doing it, I was just curious as to what it meant.

As for the toys--I have a laser that they love to chase. I let them run after it without treats for a few minutes and then hide treats around the room and put the laser dot on them so they think they actually "killed" something :lol:

I can see how this would be them expressing boredom, and I hope the enrichment ideas will solve that.

As a side note on the topic of enrichment:

I've been wanting to get some of those PetSmart crickets and put them in a shower or something and let the cats catch them. Since they used to hunt and now they kill/eat crickets in the house I would think they would enjoy this. They're always going after moths and bugs that get in. I feel bad for the crickets, but they'll be bought for gecko food regardless. Do you guys think this would be a good idea?
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby TamanduaGirl » Tue Sep 13, 2016 10:00 pm

I think any cat I ever had would freak out if I put them in the bath tub but if they don't mind then it sounds like a fine idea.

Stopping the dot on a treat is a great idea. Jake gets frustrated pretty quickly with a laser so we would stop it on a toy but that still didn't seem very satisfying for him.
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby Ana » Wed Sep 14, 2016 1:19 am

I dump a dozen crickets in the living room for my cat Stasi a few times a month. Without coons, they'd probably wander and become a noisy
nuisance, but my busy bees haven't allowed it yet, lol. I've known people who offer up mammals, but I'm not comfortable with it. Definitely try
the crickets, and you can also try those horrid superworms, or even a few "feeder" fish in a medium- sized Tupperware container of water.

Also, catnip is pernicious! If you sow some in your yard, it will grow and can provide amusement. There are a variety of edible plants and grasses
you can grow in pots. There are also some really cute DVDs you can get of birds, bugs, interesting chirps and whistles.

Outdoor enclosures are life changing for indoor cats- you won't regret it! ♡
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby Ash » Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:15 am

I agree with Ana about giving them access to the outdoors. That doesn't necessarily mean an enclosure (that can be intimidating to build)--you can have a "cat box" on the side of the house. So just a small cage or ledge that comes off a window with wires so they can't escape obviously. You can make it simple or elaborate, big or small. They seem to like it regardless.

A lady I cat-sat for did this for her kitties so that they could go be outside whenever they wanted. She always left a window cracked in her basement that led into the the kitty condo, which was a small outdoor area the cats could jump around in and look at stuff. She also put bird feeders on that side of her house so the cats could watch the birds fly around.

It was really cool, and they loved spending hours out there. If you search online for cat window boxes, you can see all sorts you can buy, or ideas to build your own.
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby Ana » Wed Sep 14, 2016 9:21 am

I *love* this simple design!
Image

Two things I forgot to mention! Stasi has had a few "pets" over the years, a beta fish in a 10 gallon aquarium with a "viewing shelf" in front for her, a dozen tetra fish, a hamster who was sleepy and rather boring, and half a dozen wild mice who wintered with us before being released in the spring. The mice playing in their wheels provided hours of delight for Stasi, but she could become passionate about getting into their habitat, so careful consideration has to go into security for the "pet"! :lol:
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby Vata Raven » Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:04 pm

I found a site that shows off a lot of outdoor enclosure designs for smaller sized animals, mainly for the cat family, but can also work for small dogs.

http://catbitats.com/
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby Ash » Thu Sep 15, 2016 4:04 pm

The picture Ana posted is a perfect example of something simple you can make that will really help enrich a cat's life.
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby vulpini » Thu Sep 15, 2016 5:17 pm

Thank you all for the input!

We keep a solid supply of catnip that they go crazy for. We have a catnip plant too, but we can't let them near it because last time they had full access to one we found it on the deck tipped over with no more leaves :lol:


I love that picture of the cat window box! Do you think they would get frustrated not being able to actually go outside, or does it seem like they would be content enough just sitting in the box "outside"?
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby Ash » Thu Sep 15, 2016 5:30 pm

The cats are super content in the window box, actually. They are a very observant animal.
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby vulpini » Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:39 am

Decided as a temporary exercise measure I'd take Ella outside yesterday on her harness (I have one of those harnesses with leg and neck holes where the leash can attach on top). My neighbors dogs weren't out and I had some free time to watch her. She went crazy! I felt bad because the vest restricts her movement, so once I decided she was safe with me watching her and with no dogs out, I took it off and she had a blast. She dug in the dirt, then flopped down on her side and rolled in the red dust (though all the red stains on her white paws have gone away....cats are weird). Took her to see the barn we're building and she went crazy for some straw set next to it. Rolled over in it over and over and over, and her cheeks were all wet when she stood up :lol: . She's seemed happier since then, and looked healthier too, if that's possible. So now I'm actively trying to find something that'll let her go out without danger (Miles is too much of a wuss to go outside. He sees "ghosts"and slinks back inside).

Funny thing today, too. She got into a drawer in my room where I keep the cat treats and must have found one of those koala things that have the grippy hands and are really soft and mouse-like in there. She brought it up to me, meowing, and dropped it close to me. I sort of tossed it for her and she went nuts! I started tossing it across the house on the hardwood floors and she would sprint after it and eventually started "skating"with it, pawing at it and chasing while it slid on the floors! It's something I haven't seen her do in forever.

Also, she exhibited some odd behavior with that particular toy she's never had access to. She would pick it up in her mouth and hold it for a second, then drop it and walk away. Then she'd come back, pick it up, carry it for a few steps, drop it again, walk away. It was so weird. I'm wondering if letting her outside re-activated some of her old hunting instincts? Whatever the case, she enjoyed going out so much and even let me know when she was done, walking by herself in front of me back to the door.

If I weren't so scared of the coyotes around here + her getting stepped on by a horse (she's never really seen one)/getting diseases outside/getting lost or killed by a dog I would let her live outside in the barn...she seems happy outside.....I feel bad keeping her in but I've heard all the horror stories of outdoor cats :/



Also, another question. Have you guys heard of those cat shelves you can put on your walls to let your cats have vertical space? I've been thinking about it, because both of them love to be up high....
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Re: Can anyone explain my cats' behavior?

Postby minervasden » Fri Sep 16, 2016 12:30 pm

vulpini wrote:Also, another question. Have you guys heard of those cat shelves you can put on your walls to let your cats have vertical space? I've been thinking about it, because both of them love to be up high....


Yes, cats usually enjoy them very much. You can easily diy your own-you can find lots of ideas online. When deciding placement, be sure they won't be able to jump from the shelves to someplace you really don't want them to be.
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