By Marc Morrone
Q: We have a pretty tabby we named Tin Tin. She started coming around to my garden a few years ago. We started feeding her outdoors and then she was ours. However, she will not allow being touched and doesn’t purr.
How can we entice her to allow human touch? She likes companionship and follows me wherever I go. We started giving her treats, which she prefers to regular cat food, although we do give her dry cat food and some canned food. She licks up the sauce from the canned food but doesn’t eat the food itself in most cases. Is there any harm in letting treats be a part of her regular diet? I very much enjoy your column and look forward to any input you can offer. – Jennifer Wilson, Hartford, CT
A: I commend you on giving a cat like this a home and getting her off the streets – especially one with a few issues as yours seems to have.
A diet of canned food is always preferable to give to cats over dry food, but if she does not like it then she does not like it. The more important issue is the treats. Most commercial treats are not formulated to be a complete diet, so they should be restricted as just occasional treats. You can try to put some dry cat food in the package that the treats come in and offer the bits of dry food to the cat out of that package – most likely she will not know the difference.
The petting is not an easy issue to fix. She has politely told you many times that she does not like it and she will be confused and upset if you do not respect her wishes. However, one thing I have tried in the past is the play with the cat with a chopstick – they are light and smooth and cats seem to like them.
If she seems to enjoy the touch of the chopstick, then gradually cut an inch or two off the chopstick every few days so your hand comes closer to her body. Hopefully by then she will accept your hands on her body if they bring her the same pleasure that the chopstick does.
Of course, if she regards the chopstick with horror and revulsion when you try to pet her with it then you just have to wave the white flag in defeat. She seems polite and drama free. I know many readers who have such cats that would gladly trade places with you.
By the way, I love the name Tin Tin.
Q: One of our cats, a female American shorthair, is about 10 years old, around six pounds and has short whiskers, many of which aren’t straight. Best we can tell she’s always had whiskers like this. What causes this? Thanks for any help! – Alex Meade, Lexington, KY
A: The whiskers on a cat are just modified hair. They work like an antenna to relay information about the cats’ environment down through the hair and into a special follicle that attaches the whisker to the cat’s skin.
So, just like other hairs on the cat, a whisker can vary. The book smart part of me was taught that a cat with no whiskers or short whiskers will have problems orienting itself. However, the street smart part of me has seen many cats that lost their whiskers due to accidents and those cats seem to get around just fine after the accident. Plus, I have had many hairless Sphinx cats or Rex Cats that had very short or no whiskers at all and they do fine without them for their entire lives.
Perhaps a cat with short whiskers that was fending for itself in the forest may be compromised without them, but most likely your average house cat that only needs to find its way from the food dish to the couch has no issues with whiskers that are less than perfect.
(Marc Morrone has kept almost every kind of animal as a pet for the last half-century and he is happy to share his knowledge with others. Although he cannot answer every question, he will publish many of those that have a general interest. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; please include your name, city and state.)
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