February 2, 2012  From Harvard-trained cat behaviorist, Mieshelle Nagelschneider

As a cat behaviorist and cat whisperer (science-based), I get this cat behavior question posed to me quite often — “Why do cats knead or try and cover their food?”.

Here’s the answer:

This kneading behavior is a very common and instinctual behavior seen in adult cats as well as kittens. Also known as “milk treading”, kneading behavior (often accompanied by purring) is a behavior from kitten-hood that stimulated milk flow from the mother cat’s teats. If kittens are abruptly weaned or orphaned from their mother, they are much more likely to perform this kneading behavior for the rest of their lives; but any adult cat can knead on their owner when they are feeling relaxed and content. In fact, all of my six cats have occasionally “made biscuits” on my leg while I’m at the computer or on top of my head while I’m sleeping!

When your cat is kneading on you, she is feeling the most relaxed and happy, so take it as a sign that she feels
very comfortable and safe with you. What you’re observing is a common cat behavior and she should be allowed to continue!

Covering food is a survival instinct attributable to your cat’s ancestors (the African Wildcat). By covering their dead
prey (in this case, his cat food), they are attempting to hide the leftovers so that
predators or competitors are not drawn to the area.

If your cat’s water bowl is next to his food, his pawing around the water bowl may be an attempt to cover the entire area so
it’s not a draw to other animals. If he is kneading his front paws against the floor near his water bowl or on the edge of the
bowl, this is a leftover nursing behavior from kitten-hood.

Mieshelle Nagelschneider  C.A.T Counselor





The man who used to approach the cat stroller who use to think Foxxy was the meanest cat, he says she’s not the same cat she used to be.  No more hissing or mean cat.  She is a totally different cat now!

But the biggest change was in me. You taught me to understand cats and how to approach cats.  One thing: Do not (behavior advice removed) her and (behavior advice removed) and always (behavior advice removed).  That made a big difference.

I can brush her now.  She doesn’t claw or hiss anymore.  I learned not to do certain things and that worked.

Toys.  Foxxy never played before I met you.  Now she goes crazy for toys like my other cat does and like you said, was the biggest part of making her happy and actually be a cat.

You taught me how to talk to cats. It makes me very emotional to talk about this.  Because cats are so intelligent and so calming and she is so happy now, but I sense that she really appreciates what I’ve done for her.  It’s like she’s saying thank you and knows I care about her even more and that alone adds to her happiness and well being.

Foxxy right now is making a big fuss with me wanting me to pet her now. This has never happened to me before.  Rubbing all over me like Christian the Lion.  Have you seen that video on You tube?  I cried for the longest time when I said that Lion and how he related to his owners.  Now I have this experience too with my cat.

Mieshelle, you have not only changed my cat, you have changed me too — my personality in some way.  I have never been sentimental.  Instead, I’ve been a realistic and always down to business.  Because of you teaching me how to connect with my cats, I have become much more sentimental and feel for the first time, my emotions inside.  I am so much more joyful and in just the small things in life.  My life is joyful now.  Joy of small things.  Being kind to cats may seem small, but it is life changing for me.
You have taken a human being and shown them to be more caring.  You have done that for me and now at 75 and even with Parkinson’s disease, I am feeling alive and joy like never before.  A leaf got stuck to Foxxy’s cat stroller and I noticed it and brought it in and painted it and pressed it against paper.  I have never done anything like this in my life.

Self-confidence is something else you gave me:  You talked with me and made me understand cats finally.   I can now relate to my cats so well.  And it helps with other things.  If I got Foxxy to stop hissing and attacking, I can do anything!  I do things now I would never do before.  There was a storm the other night and the next day leaves and branches were all over the apartment complex.  I took out my Great Grandson’s plastic pail and rake and decided to go out and clean it up.  While I was out there other people came to help me and offered me a real rake.  Before, I would have never had the confidence to go out there and do something like that.  The manager even gave me a $25.00 gift certificate at a restaurant and the other ladies got one too.  For the first time, we are going to put on skirts and dress up and go out on the town.  I haven’t worn a skirt in 40 years. Before talking to you, I would have just stayed in and thought “ I can’t go out there and do anything like cleaning up leaves”.  And now I have new friends in the apartment complex and before we never talked to each other.

Thank you.  You have not only changed my cat Foxxy, but you have changed my life.  I’m happier now than at any other time in my life.  You always hear of people wanting to relive their 30’s or 40’s.   But not me.  I am the happiest I’ve ever been and Foxxy is happy now too.

Shirley and “Foxxy”,  Mechnicsburg, PA


September 29, 2011

Social facilitation:  Why aren’t other cat behaviorists aware of it?

Remedy? Study cat behavior.

I had the pleasure of co-hosting an episode for Animal Planet’s Must Love Cats with John Fulton.  As the Cat Behaviorist (or as they called me, Cat Whisperer) on the episode, we worked with a client of mine in Newport Beach, California.  My client has recently become engaged to his Russian girlfriend, Ala, who owned a lovely hairless Sphynx, Luxora, she brought with her from Russian.   As the story can commonly go, his two cats did not get along with Luxora.  She only wanted to play, but sometimes was a little too rough and triggered fear behavior.  The owners also reintroduced the cats much too quickly which created confrontational and threatening feelings that led to this fear.  My job was to show the owners how to reintroduce the cats in a very positive and non-threatening way.

Social facilitation (sadly, a behavior technique left out by most behaviorists) is critical in getting a multi-cat household to exist peacefully.  Without a group scent = TROUBLE.  Cats primarily rely on scent and a group scent helps the cats feel affiliated with one another and can decrease hostility between them. It’s not enough to merely have the cats’ scents spread out throughout the home.  The cats must all smell alike or you’ll create factions or cliques of cats throughout your home  and territorial thinking.  In fact, here is a USA Today article that proves my point and I wish this lack of understanding wasn’t the case, but unfortunately, there is advice out there that is really incompetent.  All one needs to do is read a vet behaviorist book and do some research to stay on topof the latest in cat behavior.  http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/pets/2010-01-12-pet-talk-cats-smell_N.htm

If done correctly (gradually and with pleasant associations)  this technique is very beneficial to cats and helps in eliminating aggression between them.

Another very important technique is creating an environment that decreases territorial disputes and aids in time sharing important resources.  A land-o-plenty is critical when it comes to keeping the peace in a multi-cat household.  But more on that in my next blog!