Cats and Kids (part two)

KSCO Pet Radio show interview on cats and children with Dr. Rachel Geller, Cat Behaviorist, Sunday, January 31, 2021 (continued)

LAURA PAKIS: We’re talking with dr. Rachel Geller. She is a cat behaviorist, a pet Chaplin, and also an amazing cat person because you are involved with pretty much everything cat related.  You also have a wonderful book that I have read.  It’s teaching me more about cats than I have ever known.

How to contact Dr. Geller

LAURA PAKIS: Dr. Geller. How can people ask you a question?  Say they wanted to learn more about cats or cat behavior. Do you have a website or a way for people to get in contact with you?

RACHAEL GELLER: I do have a website. Its http://drrachelcatbehavior.com/. The website has all kinds of information and videos, but it also has a submission form. If somebody is looking at the website and don’t find the answer they’re looking for or want a more in-depth discussion with me about a certain cat behavior problem; I encourage everybody to fill out the submission form.

I will respond to the person who submitted the form, and I do all of my cat behavior work completely free of charge. My personal mission in life was that I never wanted to be a financial barrier preventing people from keeping their cats in their homes. So please don’t feel like you can’t afford my rate or my prices. That’s not a worry in my case. I want to help you. You resolve your cat behavior problems, and I want to help keep your cat in your home, especially if you thought of surrendering a cat due to a behavioral problem.

LAURA PAKIS: That is just wonderful!  Your website again is http://drrachelcatbehavior.com/. Check it out. There’s a lot of things on it.

Why does a cat purr?

I have a question about purring.  Is it good or bad?

RACHAEL GELLER: It’s generally good. I say usually because 90% of the time, cats purring when they are happy.  But cats also purr to soothe themselves when they are terrified.

I’ll often get questions from people such as, “My cat is purring at the vet, yet she is scratching and biting the vet. That doesn’t make any sense. How can she be happy at the vet and scratching at the same time?”

Well, she’s not too happy at that veterinarian appointment. She is purring because the vibrations when she purrs are a way to self-soothe.

I had this experience when I was dating men sending me mixed messages. Sometimes cats do send mixed messages or mixed signals to people. You’re getting the tail lashing, or you hear a purr, but the cat is agitated.  Or your cat is purring, and then she scratches. It is good to understand that a purr always is not always indicative of contentment in those cases. It can be that she’s fearful, anxious, or scared.  The purr is a way for her to calm herself down to self-soothe.

This is good for people to be aware of. Although I think most times, the cats are purring out of happiness.  But there are situations where that’s not the case.

LAURA PAKIS: So you are saying to look at other things besides just hearing the purr–to see the cat as a whole rather than just one trait.

RACHAEL GELLER: Yes. Cat behavior never occurs in a vacuum.

Why does my cat knead on me?

LAURA PAKIS: I have a question about my cat? Now granted, my stomach is not like, a six-pack or anything, but the cat really enjoyed kneading my stomach. I thought it was kind of weird. I kept thinking. Oh my God, I should do more sit-ups. But is there a reason why the cats do this?

RACHAEL GELLER: Yes, there is. That’s another very soothing behavior.  Often kittens will do that with the mom cat.  It feels good. It’s soothing. It provides contentment. It provides relaxation.

Cats are very tactile animals, and there’s a lot of sensory opportunities through their paws. So it’s really a sign of happiness. It is a kind of contentment relaxation. Yes, it can feel a little funny, but if it doesn’t bother you, go ahead and let the cat do it.

Why does my cat lick me?

Another question that I get along that same vein is people will say, “My cat is licking me.” That’s another thing that may not go so great to us humans because their tongues tend to be a little bit like sandpaper.  But grooming another cat, grooming a littermate, being groomed by the mom cat; these are all very soothing, relaxing behaviors. So if your cat is cuddling With you and start licking you, she’s doing it out of love.

Again, if you can bear the feeling of the sandpaper tongue, just let her be.  If not, you can gently redirect her to be happy in another way, like give her a little chin scratch or something.

Why does my cat rub against me?

LAURA PAKIS: I had heard that cats rub against you because they want to put their scent on you.  Is that true?

RACHAEL GELLER: This is true. Cats will rub against you because they wanted to pass their friendly pheromones on you. And this is a sign of love. This is a sign of the cat saying, “you’re mine” by depositing their scent on you. They’re creating ownership. You are their territory. So cats do like to deposit their scent on items and people they consider part of their world, part of their territory.

It’s a good thing when your cat is rubbing you.  It sounds a little strange from a human perspective, but it all makes perfect sense from a cat perspective.

What to do with abandoned kittens

JOSH STEVENS: Hey, Dr. Geller, JOSH STEVENS here. I was wondering about what one would do if you came across an abandoned bundle of kittens?  What are some of the best steps to take now? My neighbors ended up taking a couple [of kittens] in and were able to get the rest to a shelter. What would you say is the best advice for those who encounter such a situation?

RACHAEL GELLER: Calling a local shelter or rescue is always a great course of action because, typically, they’re going to be equipped to spay and neuter the kittens or the abandoned cat. They’ll be able to get the cats and kittens to the veterinarian. The cats and kittens can be evaluated to determine if they can be put up for adoption or if these are feral cats and would be better off returning them to their home colony.

The best course of action is to contact the local shelter or a local rescue because they’ll have the personnel to do all those many steps involved in the rescue.  You want to get the cat spayed, neutered, vaccinated, fully vetted, and then evaluated.

Where is this cat going to be happiest? Perhaps the cat was found outside, but she’s a friendly stray, or she’s maybe semi-feral and not completely sterile. There are all kinds of steps to go through to determine the best way for that cat to be happy and healthy and move forward.  An Animal Control officer might be able to help as well.

I find that local shelters and rescues can usually move the quickest and the most efficiently to get that cat from start to finish into a home, and that’s really what we want to do; get them off the streets and get them safe.

 

About Rachael Geller, Ph.D.

Rachel Geller, Ed.D. is a certified cat behaviorist. She was on the board for The Cat Connection from 2017 to 2020. Previously, she was on the Board of Directors in the role of vice president at the Gifford Cat Shelter for 7 years. Rachel is a certified Cat Behavior and Retention Specialist through the Humane Society and a certified Humane Education Specialist through the Academy of Prosocial Learning. She is also a certified Pet Chaplain® through the Association of Veterinary Pastoral Education. She is currently a cat behaviorist/consultant for Here Today Adopted Tomorrow Animal Sanctuary and Baypath Humane Society. She provides cat behavior help both locally and throughout the country to her clients, including cat owners and shelters.

Rachel was a panelist for the Humane Society in an educational webinar that teaches shelters how to set up cat behavior programs. She has presented for the Massachusetts Animal Coalition and the New England Federation of Humane Societies on cat behavior, cat behavior & retention programs, and surrender prevention. She was also a presenter for the Online Behavior Day sponsored by the Community Cats Podcast. HSUS has recognized Rachel’s cat behavior program as a model program.

As a humane education specialist, Rachel is the author of the webinar “Activities for Inclusion” for the Association of Professional Humane Educators and was a contributing author to “The Ark Project – Jewish Initiative for Animals.” She is also certified as a RedRover Reader, which is a reading-based program to develop empathy for animals in children.

Rachel was a panelist for a webinar on pet chaplaincy for the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab through Brandeis University.

Rachel’s book, Saving the World, One Cat at a Time, was written to help resolve cats’ behavioral and emotional problems to create harmonious relationships between cats and their owners.

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