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Pets & Animals

Keeping Cats Indoors: Make Your Pet Happy, According to Science

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Keeping cats indoors: how to ensure your pet is happy, according to science

by Mark Farnworth and Lauren Finka for The Conversation

(The Conversation) — By 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in cities, while one in three will share their city with at least half a million other inhabitants. With more and more people living in dense urban settings, what does the future hold for pets?

High-rise living might not be ideal for most pets, as outdoor access can be difficult and there may be limited space indoors. For cats in particular, a trend towards indoor lifestyles might restrict how much they’re able to behave normally.

As the domesticated descendants of the African wild cat, cats are obligate carnivores – they need to have a meat-based diet. Naturally, this requires them to hunt. A study in the US found that pet cats could be killing up to four billion birds and up to 21 billion mammals every year.

So housebound cats may be good for wildlife, but how can people ensure their pets thrive indoors? Sadly, scientific research is pretty light on this question. Despite so many of us inviting them into our homes, we know relatively little about how cats handle living inside.

If allowed, cats will hunt outdoors. But their freedom comes at a cost to wildlife. HildeAnna/Shutterstock

Choosing the right cat

We know that some cats are more suited to being house cats than others, although we need to be careful not to generalize. All cats have individual needs, personalities and preferences. High energy and hyperactive cats, rescued strays with little indoor experience or those that aren’t very friendly towards people aren’t good choices for a life lived entirely indoors.

It’s often assumed that older cats may be a better choice because they’re more sedentary and cats with a previous history of living indoors may also adjust more easily to a new indoor home. Some cats have diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency virus, that keep them housebound. But this doesn’t mean these groups of cats will all have the right temperament to cope with indoor living.

House cats are prone to obesity and may spend large amounts of time inactive, both physically and mentally. Providing a safe outdoor space for cats could be beneficial for their wellbeing. Cat proofing gardens, for example, so they can’t escape, could ensure pets can benefit from the outdoors in a more controlled way. But if this isn’t possible, there’s still much that can be done to improve a cat’s life indoors.

Personal space

Because cats are only considered semi-social, indoor environments may present several situations that they would usually choose to avoid. This can be anything from too much attention and unexpected guests to toddlers and other animals that don’t understand the concept of mutual respect and personal space.

We know cats like boxes, but you can also give them high vantage points to climb to. To do this, you can use a “cat tree”, although an accessible shelf or the top of a wardrobe would work well too. Cats also need access to quiet rooms and spaces to hide under so they can remove themselves from situations they find stressful. Be mindful though – if your cat spends most of its time hiding, your house may be less cat-friendly than you think. Uncontrolled stress in a cat’s life can lead to illnesses such as idiopathic cystitis.

Predatory behavior

But what about their need to hunt? Allowing this behavior is vital, and that includes them being able to look for food as well as finding and eating it. Searching for food usually involves short bursts of activity and long periods of waiting in cats, while the feeding part is also complex, as the cat decides how and where is best to eat.

To recreate this, you can scatter food on the floor or hide it in puzzle feeders. You can even vary where you feed your cat and encourage it to explore and manipulate objects. Getting a cat to move more and eat regular, smaller amounts of food can help reduce the risk of obesity.

Play can also be used to mimic hunting without the need for food. It’s always best to keep bouts of play short, encouraging pouncing and chasing, and using toys which mimic the shape, texture and movement of live prey. You should always end on a positive note and while the cat is enjoying itself, so that future playtimes will be anticipated rather than endured.

Toys can help simulate the hunting experience for cats in the home. WaitForLight/Shutterstock

Brushing up

Like humans, cats like to maintain themselves. Sharp claws are a must for effective climbing and defence, so make sure to provide scratching posts, especially if you want to protect your furniture. In the wild, cats use trees and other objects, not just to maintain their claws but also to leave marks for other cats to follow.

Make sure your cat can comfortably go to the toilet. Use unscented litter that is changed regularly and put the toilet in a discreet place, away from their food and water. For cats, as for us, it’s not a public activity. If your cat is going to the toilet somewhere inappropriate, it may be that they’re unhappy with their toilet arrangements or they may need to be checked by a vet.

Cats are as complex and each individual has unique needs. Before you decide whether to have an indoor cat, make sure that it’s a decision the cat would be likely to make too.

Mark Farnworth is Associate Professor of Animal Behavior at Nottingham Trent University. Lauren Finka is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Nottingham Trent University.

The Conversation publishes knowledge-based journalism that is responsible, ethical and supported by evidence from academics and researchers in order to inform public debate with facts, clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems.



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Health

Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

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Texas & California Wet Markets Show Full Extent of Vile Conditions

(TMZ) — It’s becoming more clear by the day that wet markets are NOT just a China problem — it’s an American problem too … just take a look at these latest clips from Texas and California.

TMZ has gotten a hold of even more graphic videos of two different live animal shops in TX and CA — where people pick out the animal, have it slaughtered on the spot and then sold to them right then and there — and you see the mixed-in livestock runs the gamut.

There are pigs in pens, goats and sheep hoarded together … and, of course, as we’ve seen in New York and elsewhere — chicken and rabbits cooped up in cages — all in the same area within earshot of each other, and all getting butchered.

Ya got pigs hanging from hooks out in the open, chicken beaks, feathers and guts all over the floor and in an exposed trash can — this while customers (including kids) come in and browse the freezer for whatever cuts of meat they want. It’s downright dirty and gross.

As we’ve been told by the experts, these one-stop-shop slaughterhouses/storefronts can be breeding grounds for disease — including new viruses, like COVID-19, which supposedly got started at a wet market in China.

We already know of lawmakers in Cali and New York working to get these things shut down, but it’s pretty apparent there needs to be federal legislation rolled out to address this. Can’t call the kettle black when we’re swimming in the freakin’ pot.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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Celebrity News

Joe Exotic Prison Has 2nd Highest ‘Rona Rate

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Joe Exotic Prison Has 2nd Highest 'Rona Rate

FORT WORTH (TMZ) — The prison Joe Exotic is currently being held at is the second leading hotbed for coronavirus in the entire federal prison system — but not to worry … Uncle Sam’s got a plan.

The ‘Tiger King’ star has been locked up at FMC Forth Worth in Texas, and as of Tuesday … there was a total of 298 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates, making it number 2 behind a federal CA facility at 570 inmate cases.

If that sounds troubling, it should … we’ve seen jails and prisons across the U.S. getting besieged with the virus — and some of the inmates are suffering. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has assured us they’re going above and beyond for their prisoners, staff and visitors alike at Joe’s facility to keep them safe and healthy.

As for Joe … his people have repeatedly told us … he’s virus-free.

The agency tells TMZ there’s a comprehensive action plan in place at all of their institutions — which includes reducing inmate transfers, increasing screening and testing, minimizing unnecessary movement on the inside and temporarily canceling social and legal visits, not to mention training for BOP employees. They will also do regular temperature checks.

The trick is … as little congregating as possible. BOP says it’s trying to keep guards at one post for as long as possible to avoid unnecessary interaction.

BOP also tells us they’ve made sure everyone — prisoners and staffers — have received surgical masks. BOP says it has things under control — so far fewer than 5 deaths at the Fort Worth facility … but with nearly 300 cases, it’s gotta be viewed as a full-fledged outbreak.

So … guess that means Joe’s in good hands??? Here’s hoping so.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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Pets & Animals

Dolphins Still Putting on Show in Japan without Spectators

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Dolphins Still Putting on Show in Japan without Spectators

JAPAN (TMZ) — Move over LeBron James … while pro sports leagues are trying to figure out when they can return to action, some dolphins are way ahead of ’em.

These photos are from Hakkeijima Sea Paradise’s special dolphin show Thursday in Yokohama, where they had zero spectators due to the coronavirus quarantine guidelines there.

Animal trainers still did their thing, though, with dolphins and a beluga whale putting on quite a show — despite lacking a crowd of oohing and ahhing humans. Let’s keep it real … the animals are in it for the food.

The show wasn’t just a dress rehearsal … the aquarium videotaped the performance and aired it on the web for folks to watch safely from home.

Makes ya wonder … do the animals feel differently performing without a crowd? Or, is it just a little closer to being in the wild without a loud pack of humanity watching ’em? We sure hope so.

Tune in to TMZ on TV weekdays Monday through Friday (check syndicated/local listings)

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