Tag Archives: cats

What Simple Memory Tests Tells Us About Feline Intelligence

They’re certainly cunning, but are cats smart? Most people agree that cats are crafty and sly, but recent research shows that feline intelligence goes much deeper than mere cunning.

 

Does Your Cat Remember Her Dinner?

The cats versus dogs debate is likely to rage on for all eternity, but when it comes to memory, we tend to ask more of dogs. Cat parents don’t always expect their felines to perform tricks on command or remember complex tasks like providing navigation assistance for visually-impaired handlers. However, just because cats’ memory skills aren’t put to the test, it doesn’t mean those skills don’t exist!

 

Researchers at Japan’s Kyoto University determined that cats do indeed have the cognitive ability to form complex, event-based memories just like humans. The study, which centered on a group of 49 feline participants in 2014, set out to determine whether domestic cats “retrieve and utilize incidentally encoded ‘where’ and ‘what + where’ information.” In other words, the scientists wanted to know whether cats form specific memories related to specific events.

 

Study participants were either sourced from the ever-popular Japanese cat cafes or were pet house cats. And, the studies were actually conducted in the cats’ own living spaces. This helped the cats feel more at ease throughout the entirety of the study. The researchers then used an item to test their memory with something all pets love – food! They used dishes of food to determine whether the cats would remember which dishes they had been fed from 15 minutes earlier.

 

 

Now on to the results! By using a simple arrangement of empty or full food dishes, the researchers concluded that cats do indeed store and recall “what + where” memories. According to the research team behind the experiment, the results indicate that cats have a degree of consciousness around their actions that is similar to our own human consciousness.

 

Understanding Episodic Memory

Cat parents probably aren’t surprised to learn that a group of 49 kitties was quick to remember anything related to food. If a cat recognizes her feeding bowl, she is likely to perk up when she sees it and maybe even come running when she hears the sound it makes when placed on the counter.

 

Now let’s dive into the details! From a scientific perspective, however, there’s a difference between responding to a stimulus (such as the sight of her dinner bowl) and remembering that a specific incident occurred. Most animals can be trained to respond to a sensory stimulus related to food, but this study focused on a different idea. The memories explored in this study related to episodic memory, a class of memories dealing with an animal’s personal experiences. A person remembering where he was the last time he had his car keys is an example of retrieving a stored episodic memory. This study broke new ground in establishing the idea that domestic cats can act on episodic memories like humans do.

 

Researcher Saho Takagi said this kind of memory retrieval is commonly associated with the “introspective function of the mind.” Takagi admits she finds it amusing to consider that cats “may enjoy actively recalling memories of their experiences like humans,” implying that her research could be extrapolated into the idea that cats think wistfully of the good old days. The research doesn’t prove that, but when it comes to knowing what cats are thinking, these results may be the closest to a reliable clue. Now we know that cats may be a bit nostalgic, too!

 

 

Cat parents may not be scientists, but they certainly enjoy speculating about their kitty companions’ thoughts. Now that it’s been proven they can remember specific events from their pasts, it will be even more fun to imagine what all those cat daydreams are about.

How Shelters are Using Scents and Toys to Help Cat Adoption

Out of the 3.2 million cats that enter shelters in the United States every year, only about 1.6 million are adopted. And shelters are starting to do something about it. From giving toys to play with and feeding them quality all-natural cat food to using special scents to keep them calm, shelters are changing their approach to caring for their furry residents to reduce stress and to make the cats more adoptable. Animal shelters are incorporating several interesting methods of looking after their cats’ mental health with enrichment activities designed to increase the number of adoptable cats.

 

Olfactory Enrichment Defined

According to a research study at the Ashland Cat Shelter, the goal of “enrichment” is to let cats live their best lives by encouraging species-typical behavior while increasing the cats’ ability to cope with challenging situations. Olfactory enrichment, as they call it, approaches this goal using cats’ sense of smell, with the understanding that certain scents are soothing to cats.

 

Effective Stress Relieving Scents

Have you ever witnessed a cat’s reaction to catnip? Considered almost magical by many cat owners, roughly 60 percent of cats have a strong positive reaction to this mint relative. And it’s not the only scent that cats respond to. BMC Veterinary Research, headed by Sebastiaan Bol completed a study to gauge cats’ response to four different scents:

  • Catnip
  • Valerian
  • Tatarian Honeysuckle
  • Silver Vine

Results showed that nearly all domestic cats love one or more of these scents. Because these scents are safe and non-addictive, shelter workers and owners alike can feel good about providing them to their furry charges. And cats experiencing the stress relief offered by this “euphoria” may indeed prove to be more adoptable than fearful or stressed out kitties.

 

Other Soothing Techniques

Using scents to help calm and increase the number of adoptable cats isn’t the only adoption strategy out there. Many shelters are using olfactory enrichment along with other techniques such as:

Providing More Toys

Did you know that people spend more time watching cats that have toys in their cage at shelters? The ASPCA’s Adoption Center in New York City did some research and found out that whether or not the cat is playing with the toy, they get more face time with potential adopters. Plus, giving kitties an outlet for having fun helps relieve stress. In addition to standard toys, some low-cost options used in shelters include:

  • Balls of paper
  • Chains of pipe cleaners
  • Paper bags
  • Puzzle toys

 

Clicker Training

Animal shelter volunteering is about more than just providing a roof and necessities. More volunteers are working to improve the odds of animals being adopted with a variety of strategies. Clicker training is one of the simplest, and it teaches cats to be responsive to commands. This, in turn, makes them more appealing to people looking to adopt. This positive training technique marks desirable behaviors with a click and rewards it with a treat. Because the clicking sound is completely different from everything else in the cat’s environment, it becomes an effective form of communication between people and pets.

 

Breaking the Ice with a New Cat Friend

Your new roommate’s cat is adorable, but she always runs away when you walk into the room. Or maybe your new boyfriend has a feline roomie who persistently stares at you from across the room but won’t let you pet her. Most cats need some time to warm up to strangers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps in starting an amazing relationship with a new friend! These tips can help you master the process of charming an unfamiliar feline.

Don’t Force It

Cats tend to make their feelings clear, so if you’re dealing with a kitty who would rather disappear than let you pet him, he’s not just playing hard to get. If you become impatient and get too aggressive in your approach, you’ll probably scare him and ruin any progress you’ve made up to that point. Respect the cat’s boundaries and follow his lead. Try to get his attention by inviting him to play with you and a favorite toy, but don’t be offended if he doesn’t immediately take the bait!

 

Serve Up Some Love

Use a social trick that is as old as time: food. A tasty meal or treat is a great way to get on the good side of a person, and it works equally well for many animals. It may still take some coaxing, but even a shy cat has trouble resisting something tasty like Freshpet’s grain free cat food, which includes a range of tempting recipes to entice virtually any cat.

 

Photo courtesy of GloGirly.com

 

This “friendship-through-feeding” approach is a particularly good idea if the cat in question lives with someone you see often, like a romantic partner. You can even try feeding the cat at regular mealtimes for a while. Establishing yourself as a food source makes it clear that you’re a great person for a cat to befriend. It’s also a good idea to keep some treats in your pocket, just in case the cat comes close enough to sniff you. If you smell like something he enjoys, he just might stick around.

 

Move Slowly

When you finally get close enough to make contact, don’t dart your hand out quickly or try to grab the cat. The ideal process for petting a cat the first time requires some finesse. Extend your hand slowly and let the cat sniff it. If she rubs up against your hand, you’re in. Pet her using gentle scratches at the base of the chin or behind the ears, rather than patting the belly or stroking the cat’s entire body. Starting small with slow, gentle motions is the best way to avoid startling or annoying your new four-legged friend.

 

Using a combination of these approaches over time should make you irresistible to a shy cat. Just be patient and know that you’ll make friends eventually. Trust us – Good things like cat cuddles are worth the wait!

Project Trap-Neuter-Return

 

You have probably seen a cat roaming around your community and may have wondered if it was a lost pet or if it was a feral cat out on it’s own. We spoke to Sandra Obi, a partner of ours at the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, who helped us with some tips on how to point out a feral cat and ways you can help them live healthy lives outdoors.

 

Sandra works on a special program at The Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) called Project TNR dedicated to helping feral cats. They work with volunteers to gently trap, get them neutered and vaccinated for rabies, and then return them to their colony of cats. By doing this Project TNR, and programs like it, have helped to bring down the number of homeless cats. Overpopulation is an issue in every city. These kinds of programs also work with volunteers to feed these cat colonies on a regular basis.

 

 

Freshpet is proud to say has donated food to Project TNR  “We are grateful that Freshpet has recognized that homeless cats also need nutrition and need to be cared for. It’s no fault of their own that they’re ‘forgotten cats,'” says Sandra. Our last donation was distributed to 8 different caregivers that was feeding 225 homeless cats total that have been sterilized.

 

 

So if you’re looking to help these animals too, here’s where to start:

 

How do you know if a cat is feral?

Feral cats are actually domesticated cats that have returned to the wild. If you see a cat frequently, take steps to see if the cat does have a home. Don’t just assume. Does it have a collar? Also the universal sign that a cat has been “TNR-ed” is an ear tip. Before surgery, the vet will cut a part of the left ear off. So look for that when you see a stray in the distance. If there is no collar, and no ear tip, this cat may need your help.

 

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How do I get a cat to befriend me?

Start feeding them, same time every time everyday. They figure that out really quick that you’re a friend.

 

Young kitten in grass outdor shot at sunny day

 

What next?

Best place to start is looking for a program that can help educate you on what to do now, specifically how to capture and where to get them neutered.

Google “Trap Neuter Return” to find a program in your area. Sandra’s favorite resources are:

If you’re in New Jersey like we are, contact Project TNR. Sandra Obi and her partner Michelle Learner will work to support volunteers through the process of assisting these feral cats.

 

Are you helping cats in your community? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

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Protecting Our Pets from the Sun

Remember this nostalgic tune?

 

 

Well, we agree. Everyone IS free to wear sunscreen this summer. And in the case of your pets, we encourage it. If your pet loves to sunbathe or play in the summer sun, make sure to apply sunblock to sensitive areas like her nose, stomach, and tips of ears. Sunburn’s no fun for our furry friends. As always, consult your vet on which sunscreen is safe for your pet. Enjoy your fun in the sun!

A Home for Life

Home for Life is a small, but mighty group of people that are dedicated to giving a permanent home to animals that have been rejected from rescue or shelter programs.  Home for Life offers a home to older animals and animals with medical conditions or disabilities. For the nearly 200 animals that live at the Home for Life sanctuary in Minnesota, it is truly a blessing.

 

On any given day, the residents of the sanctuary are able to play, eat, and sleep all while feeling completely secure and cared for. Most importantly, they are given the love and affection that they deserve.

 

When we were reading through the stories about each animal, one in particular stood out. Benjamin Button is a cat that was rescued from a home where he was being underfed and neglected. The rescue group found him in dire straits, with one eye completely shut and other various injuries. He was eventually rescued and brought to the Home for Life sanctuary where he’s made an amazing recovery, and looks younger and younger by the day.

 

We wanted to give this adorable kitty some of our own Freshpet love, so we are sending them cases of our Freshpet Select Roasted Meals for Cats, and we made a donation to the sanctuary in his name. We absolutely love the people at Home for Life and the mission they’re embarking on. Check out their site for more details.

 

If you know of a pet or family member who deserves an Tail of Good, we want to hear from you! Email us at online@freshpet.com, or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter. You can follow all of our acts on our Tumblr page.

 

 
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Introducing Tails of Good

In this weekly series, Freshpet will share a story that has inspired us in the pet community. As part of the story, Freshpet will either “give good” by helping deserving pets and pet families, or “spread good” by thanking those who already go above and beyond.
 

One of our friends Chelsea has taken on a wonderful responsibility: fostering shelter cats before their adoption. As a cat lover, Chelsea is only too happy to bring these kitties into her apartment.

 

This past week, Chelsea welcomed a new visitor to her home: Hector. A former “bodega cat,” Hector lived in an New York City deli for five years before he was put up for adoption. When he got to Chelsea’s house, he was acting a bit shy—staying in her bathtub or under her bed. He would only come out to eat his food in the middle of the night. It was clear he was feeling a little homesick.

 

To make things a little more comfortable for Hector, last week we brought him a nice soft bed to sleep on, and a bag of our Freshpet Vital Chicken, Ocean Whitefish and Egg cat food recipe.

 

And we’re so happy to say that as of yesterday, Chelsea spotted Hector sleeping on his new bed with his plate licked clean. He’s even spending some time on Chelsea’s lap, where he’s finally feeling right at home.

 

If you know of a pet or family member who deserves a Tail of Good, we want to hear from you! Email us at online@freshpet.com, or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter.
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Teaching a Senior Pet Some Fresh Tricks

Forget the idea that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. As parents, it’s up to us to do the best for our pets by taking care of them and providing them with everything they need. That especially includes feeding them fresh, nutritious food that will keep them healthy. No matter how old your dog or cat is, it’s never too late to get him on a diet that will help them live longer and happier. Our good friend Dr. Katy has given us a few guidelines to remember when giving your pup or kitty the Fresh Start he deserves.

 

The first thing to always remember is that there is no “one size fits all” diet. Pets, like humans, have different dietary requirements as they age. An older dog, for example, doesn’t have as many energy requirements a young, active dog. That means they shouldn’t consume the same amount of food as one. Every pet’s needs are different, depending on his breed, weight, age, and other factors. But every pet’s diet should contain the appropriate nutrients and amino acids that dogs and cats require to maintain healthy coats, immune systems and muscles. This means feeding a well-balanced, fresh diet like Freshpet Select Slice & Serve Chicken Recipe for dogs, for meals that contain protein-rich chicken, vitamin-rich vegetables and high fiber brown rice. For Cats, I recommend Freshpet Select Roasted Meals for Cats Chicken Recipe, made with bits of fresh chicken, real ocean whitefish, accented with carrots and spinach for a meal that your cat will love.

 

If you’re planning on changing your pet’s diet, slow and steady is the key. Aim for a 7-10 day transition in which you slowly add more and more of the new diet and less and less of the old diet until your pet is completely switched over. By doing this, you should be able to avoid any gastrointestinal upset that would be expected with an abrupt change. As always, consult with your vet about the type of food and how much you should be feeding your pet.

 

After you start feeding your pet fresh, expect to see a great change in him. Increased energy, improved weight and a soft, shiny coat are just a few ways that you’ll see your pet improve. You may even notice that he’s generally happier! Use our own Fresh Start score card to start keeping track of all these wonderful changes that you’ll see in your pet.

 

Don’t forget that your pet also needs exercise, even in his older years. Inactivity can lead to weight gain and added stress on his joints. It’s also important that you consider how much activity he can actually take. Short, easy walks are always recommended for dogs. If you have stairs, try having your pet climb up and down them with toys and treats. If you’re lucky enough to have a dog that likes to swim and access to a body of water, swimming is great for your dog’s muscles while easy on his joints. Every little bit of exercise helps, and your pet will be happy to have the playtime with you!

 

Older pets are an absolute joy to have as a part of your family. If you are lucky enough to be the parent of one, always remember that no matter how senior he is, there’s always something you can do to give him a Fresh Start.

Bringing a Senior Dog Home

So you decided to adopt an older dog. Let us be one of the first to congratulate you! Bringing a senior dog or cat home is a truly rewarding experience and we know you will feel the same after even just a few days. But, like bringing home any other new pet, senior pets will need a bit of prepping before they are completely acclimated to their new surrounding. We want to make this as easy as possible for you both, so here are a few ideas that will help your new pet fit right into his new home.

 

Give Older Dogs a Spot

 

Giving your dog his own safe area will go a long way to making him feel very comfortable in his new surroundings. Make sure it’s quiet, but try not to isolate him from the rest of the family. He’ll want to observe his new pack from a safe space until he’s relaxed enough to join in on the family activities.

 

Make the Introductions

 

It’s important to give your dog or cat the time he needs to adapt to your family. Introduce him to your family members individually and make sure he feels as safe as possible. He may have been in shelters his whole life, so it’s your responsibility to make this transition as easy as possible.

 

A walk in neutral territory away from your home is a good way to ease any stress and a wonderful way to kick off the bonding process. You’ll all be one big happy family in no time, so there’s no need to rush this part.

 

Ease Into a New Diet

 

While we always recommend the highest quality diet for all our pets, it’s important to note that transitioning a pet to a new diet should be gradual. A disrupted digestive system is no fun for anyone! If you can, get a little bit of his old food and mix it with his new food. We have many food options for older dogs, and recommend starting out with something easy like Freshpet Select Chicken or Freshpet Select Roasted Meals for Cats . Both recipes are packed with fiber that will make digestion very easy for your new pet.

 

Take Your Time!

 

While you may be excited and want to show off your new pet to everyone, remember that she is getting used to a brand new home with strangers. Like we said earlier, take every precaution to make the home comfortable for her and but don’t expect to rush her into every family function right off the bat. Give her the time she needs, and she’ll thank you for it in the long run.

 

The last thing to remember is that adopting a senior dog is a wonderful thing to do. You’ve given him a great home and he’ll spend the rest of his time with you loving you for it. Enjoy the new family member!

Giving your Dogs and Cats a Good Night’s Sleep

It seems like we can’t go a week without reading (yet) another new study about how a good night’s sleep is important to our health. It’s no secret that sleep is extremely beneficial to us. So, what about our pets? They need a good night’s rest as well. But what does that mean exactly?

 

Sleep For the Dogs

Dog parents know that sometimes it feels like their dog is always sleeping or taking a nap. Unlike us humans, dogs don’t get their sleep in one session, instead they take a series of short naps throughout the day. In total, dogs can sleep anywhere from 12 to 14 hours each day to get the amount of rest they need. Sleeping habits can also depend on age, breed, and activity levels.

 

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To help your dog get the good rest he needs, tend to his evolutionary needs. Remember that his ancestors lived in the wild, in dens and caves. Make sure your pup has a comfortable and safe place to rest by creating a bed and a sleeping area just for him.

 

Exercise and diet also play a large part in your dog’s sleep. A low-quality diet can slow a dog down because he lacks the appropriate nutrients he needs for energy. So make sure to feed your pet with nutrient-rich foods like our Freshpet meals and rolls. Lack of activity and exercise may cause a dog to become lethargic and sleep more than necessary. If your dog is sleeping more than 14 hours a day, give him some more exercise!

 

 

Sleep for the Cats

There’s a reason why it’s called a cat nap. it’s no secret that cats sleep a lot; in fact, they spend most of their day (an average of 18 hours) sleeping! Due to their evolutionary traits, cats are most active during dawn and dusk (sometimes pestering their parents), when their wild ancestors went out to hunt. The rest of the day is spent to conserve their energy.

 

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So because cats sleep all the time, it’s important for you to learn what kind of sleep cycle is normal for your cat. Note whether they’re a cat napper, a deep sleeper during the day, or a night sleeper. Changes in sleep patterns can be a sign of a health issue, which is something you should consult your veterinarian with. Try and keep up with your cat’s sleep to give her an easy and comfortable routine. And, as is the case with training any pet, patience is a virtue.

Good luck and sweet dreams!