Rita Reimers is known as the ‘cat whisperer’. Here, she gives expert answers to your questions about cats
By Chere Di Boscio
Ah, cats! They’re the stars of the internet, and favourite pets for billions of people around the world. Part of their appeal, of course, is their mystery.
While a dog will pretty much befriend anyone who feeds him, cats are more elusive. More independent. Perhaps for those reasons, when a cat shows you affection, it feels kinda special.
For those of us who live with cats, though, we often wonder what the hell is going on in their little heads. They’re much harder to ‘read’ than dogs, and so when I got the chance to ask Rita Reimers – the world’s in demand cat behaviorist – some questions, I not only jumped at the chance, but I reached out to Eluxe readers on social media. I asked them to send in any questions about cats they had for Rita, and the results are below.
And Rita’s advice is good. She’s the author of Sadie’s Heart, Loving and Losing Our Beloved Cat Companions and host of Pet Life Radio’s 19 Cats and Counting Podcast. Based out of South Carolina,she shares her home with a whopping 19 rescued cats.
Good Attitudes & Club Cattitude
Rita has always been drawn to animals, and possesses a unique ability to communicate with and understand the tender nature of felines, in particular. Her “cat magic” comes from her over 30 years of experience as a multi cat owner and cat rescue worker. Understanding cats and their behaviors is a natural ability for Rita, and she considers it her calling in life.
In her advice column, “A New Cattitude,” which is featured in every issue of CATSTER, she combines humor with practical solutions for feline behavior challenges. She also writes regularly for websites such as Chewy.com, Pet MD, and Pet Central. She is also a sought-after guest writer, providing her advice for pet care companies such as Litter Genie, Meow Mix, and 9Lives.
You can also find Rita hanging out in Club Cattitude, the “members only” section of her website, RitaReimers.com. There, you can ask Rita and the staff questions about cats, as well as enjoy a community full of other cat-loving people. The club also contains exclusive blogs/videos, giveaways forums and much more. Rita also conducts regular chats, where she holds one-on-one cat behavior sessions with members.
Rita is a member of the Animal Behavior Society, a supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and is a Professional Member of the Cat Writers Association.
Here below, she answers some of our staff and reader’s questions about cats. We hope this information helps you better understand your own moggie, too! (And if you’d like to get some detailed answers to one of the most specific questions about cats – namely, can my cat be a vegan – please check this article out).
Expert Answers To Your Questions About Cats
My cat hates being picked up, but sometimes we need to. How can we make it easier for him?
My cat, Pinky, was like that when she first came to me. I spent time enticing her to sit on my lap while I sat next to her on the floor by offering little pieces of chicken or tuna. Once she got comfortable sitting on my lap, I would then gently lift her and put her back down, just for a second or two, until we worked into longer periods where I could hold her up.
Soon I began lifting her up and standing, so she would get the feeling of lift as I then placed her on the sofa. Eventually, we got to the point where I could pick her up and hold her for a few moments, always rewarding her with a treat so she began to anticipate a goodie after being lifted up.
Now I can pick her up with ease. Gentle coaxing is and trust building is the best way to get a cat to allow being picked up.
Why does my (neutered) male cat always bite the back of the neck of my (neutered) female cat?
My altered cats do this at times, too. Sometimes it’s just rough play, but the instinct to mate is still there even in neutered male cats. I notice this happens more in the nice weather, which makes sense as this is the time of year when kittens are conceived and born. If there are females outside who are in heat, this could be what triggers your altered cats to go through the mating motions.
My indoor cat is really lazy and is getting fat. How can I get her to play more?
Cats love to chase things, like they would be out in nature when hunting for food. Use toys that mimic flying birds or scurrying mice to lure your cat into the hunt. Structuring playtime to happen before mealtime is an excellent way to get your cat to move around before eating. Also ensure she’s not overeating, and she’s eating the right food. You can get food for neutered cats at Burgess Pet Care, for example. This will be lower in calories than regular food.
My cat used to kill loads of mice and birds when he was younger. Now, he’s almost 3 and has stopped hunting. Is that normal?
Cats that are well-fed usually don’t hunt as much as cats who need to hunt for their food. Since most people want to stop their outdoor cats from hunting, you’re already ahead of the game.
How can I get my cat to stop hunting?
This is one of the most common questions about cats. Hunting is a natural instinct for them. Besides keeping your cat indoors, the best way to stop him from hunting is:
1) Don’t let him out until after he’s eaten
2) Play with him indoors before he goes outside, to mimic his hunting endeavors.
When cats don’t need to hunt for food, they still might hunt just for the fun/sport of it and to burn off their energy.
One of my cats is super affectionate and always sleeps in my bed, but the other – newer, younger – cat, does not. I think it’s because the older cat bullies her a bit. Is there any way I can boost the confidence of my younger cat so that she is more affectionate?
Some cats don’t like to sleep on the bed, so that might just be her personality. If she’s getting on the bed and the older cat pushes her off, your older cat is exerting his alpha position to claim you as his territory. Getting them to coexist on the bed might not be possible.
You can try by placing two cat beds on your bed and enticing each cat with some catnip or treats to curl up on the cat bed. Put them far enough apart so they cannot reach over to aggravate one another. Give your older cat a bit more attention, so he isn’t feeling competitive for your attention. Remember that cats set up their own hierarchies, and that isn’t something you can change easily.
I live in a really polluted area and worry about my cats breathing in fumes. What natural supplements can I give them to help detox their system?
That would be one of those questions about cats that’s best for your veterinarian to answer.
We are about to move from the USA to Australia and want to take our cats. However, some friends have told me it’s so stressful for cats to be on long plane rides (we would need to take 3 flights) that it would be better to give them away to a loving home here in the States – but that might break my heart. What is your opinion?
When I ran Just For Cats Pet Sitting, we had a client who was originally from Australia, and she brought her 3 cats to the States with her. When returning, she had a 4th cat she acquired in the States. She followed all the protocols Australia required for bringing the cats with her. It was better for them to be with her than to be rehomed. It can be stressful for cats to move from their territory, so I’d recommend getting a cat calming collar during the process.
Ultimately, it’s not always easy to move cats, but they are part of our family. Do what your heart tells you to do.
I love growing herbs in a little garden in front of my house, but my cat always destroys it by rolling around in the dirt! First of all, why do cats roll around in dirt? And secondly, how can I keep her out of the garden?
Cats roll in the dirt to mark their scent, claiming the area as theirs. You may want to plant some catnip at the edges of your garden. He/she will love it, and won’t go further in to the garden and disturb other plants. He’ll be too busy rolling around with joy.
I just got new neighbours. I have a cat, and they have three! My cat is now constantly fighting. How can I stop this?
The cats are probably fighting over territory, your cat to defend his and the new 3 are trying to establish theirs. The only real way to stop the fighting is to keep the cats inside.
My cat doesn’t really meow much – instead she makes a short, low kind of gurgling sound. What does that mean?
Cats don’t meow past kittenhood, unless they are using the meow to communicate with their human. If your cat was separated from their mom cat too early, or if they spent a long period of time in a shelter, they may not know how to meow anymore. The gurgle is probably the best attempt at communicating with us talkative humans.
My cat always reaches his paw out to touch me. I like to think he does this out of affection – but am I just projecting?
Yes, that is definitely a show of affection. Cat love attention and snuggles with their human. My Gigi kitten will often reach over and tap my arm to let me know she wants some love.
I have 2 new kitten brothers who are adorable, curious and affectionate. They want to go outside very badly! I’m starting to notice that I am swaying on my decision to keep them inside only. Any advice that could help me? Inside or inside/out?
Cats who live inside only have a longer life span, 18 to 20 years. They are free from parasites (fleas, ticks), disease (Feline Leukemia, Feline AIDS), safe from predators, mean people, poisons, and traffic.
As long as you provide high climbing spaces, cat trees, scratching pads, food, and water, your cats should be plenty happy inside. Regular play sessions, comfy beds, and lots of love will help them forget all about going outside.
My cat is totally destroying my furniture with her claws! HELP!
Trimming your cat’s nails regularly renders them relatively harmless. You can take your cat to a groomer or learn to do it yourself at home. If you’ve never trimmed a cat’s nails before, ask your veterinarian to show you exactly where to cut.
You can also put nail caps over your cat’s front claws to make them harmless to the objects in your home. You can put them on your cat at home or have your veterinarian or groomer do it for you. Nail caps last about six weeks and come in many fun colors, too.