Why Your Cat Thinks You’re A Huge, Unpredictable Ape?

SHINGLES ISN’T MY condition; he’s my cat. I love him like crazy, but he gets under my skin.

I’m not alone as a conflicted cat fancier. Tony Buffington is a veterinarian at Ohio State University, and he recently told me many cat owners are constantly frustrated by their feline companions. Even though we feed them, clean up after them, and pet, hug, and hold them, Buffington says that few of us know how to listen to our cats. This can make things more frustrating for them than for us. That’s because no matter how much we love them, cats are our captives, domesticated aliens with no way of explaining their customs, or of interpreting ours.

Dr. Buffington (a great name for your next kitten, by the way) sat down with me to explain how to listen to cats. These aren’t just tricks to score more cuddle time, but ways to create a more harmonious home that could improve your cat’s health. For years, he’s been studying the root causes of interstitial cystitis, a painful and chronic inflammation of feline bladder tissue. His research indicates a stressful home environment may cause the condition, and perhaps other chronic cat diseases as well. He believes the best cure is learning to listen to your cat, giving him choices, and reducing the environmental factors that trigger his stress response.

You are a huge, unpredictable ape

You hear the unmistakable sound of claws on couch. You snap, shout, squirt water, and maybe even throw a pillow. It’s all futile, because eventually he’s at it again. Your cat isn’t ignoring you, Buffington says. He just doesn’t know how to connect your negative reinforcement with his behavior. This is because cats evolved as solitary hunters with little need for reading social cues, especially those for behavior modification.

“How the hell is your cat supposed to know that you’re yelling at him because you want him to stop scratching the couch?” Buffington says. Without the cognitive ability to connect your outburst to their scratching, cats see only chaotic aggression. “To the cat, you’re this crazy primate who is attacking him for no reason,” he says.

Instead of discouraging the act, you become an object of fear. What’s more, your cat becomes frustrated, and eventually stressed, because you constantly interrupt natural feline activities like raking his claws or jumping on something high. “Cats get sick when they want to express their natural behaviors and they can’t,” he said, and will continue to do the thing when you aren’t around.

“The way to train a cat is through their environment,” Buffington said. For example, put two-sided tape on the corner of your couch, or tinfoil on the kitchen counter. Then, put the now-more-attractive alternative nearby: A scratching post covered with catnip, or the awesome cat tree you built from scavenged driftwood. When your cat does the thing you want her do to, reward her with a treat, or affection. “You let the house provide the negative reinforcement, while you provide the positive reinforcement,” Buffington said.

Feline feng shui

In those few hours each day where he isn’t sleeping, your cat is a little bundle of energy that wants to move through your home as harmoniously as possible. But you’ve disrupted his flow by placing the food dish next to the refrigerator, the litter box by the dryer, and his favorite cardboard box alongside the sliding glass door leading to the yard.

You might be deaf to the fridge fan or the spin cycle. But Buffington says it sounds like a monster growling at them while they eat or poop. Put the dish and the litter box in quiet, calm places where kitty has an escape route if he feels threatened (i.e., not in a closet).

Sights also can be stressful. Cats are curious about other animals, but if there is no visual barrier between the dogs, cats, goats, horses, or alpacas outside, the cat will feel threatened. “Cats don’t understand glass, but they do understand height,” Buffington says. Give your cat access to high places, like a cat tree or bookshelf, where she can observe in peace.

Read Next Storie at Page Two

Cancer Health Insurance

When you receive a cancer diagnosis, it can be overwhelming – for you, and your family. Having the right health insurance can help to reduce some of the financial pressures so you can focus on your health and recovery.

If you’re in need of cancer treatment, it’s important you know what’s covered by private health insurance. Every policy is different and every treatment plan is unique; this is one case where the fine print really does matter.

Covering cancer treatment costs – what are the options?

Treating cancer can be more expensive than you might expect. To help cover the costs, some people use the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) alone, and others use a combination of Medicare and their private health insurance.

Here’s what each one offers:

Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – what’s covered?

Medicare can cover hospital care, diagnostic testing and imaging, GP visits and some of the cost of specialist visits. If chemotherapy, radiotherapy and drugs such as antinauseants and immunostimulants are being used as part of your treatment, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) might reduce or cover the cost of prescribed medications.

With certain medications provided outside of hospitals, there may be a ‘gap’ or an amount you have to cover yourself. Always ask your health provider about these costs ahead of time so that you’re prepared for the bill.

Private health insurance – what’s covered?

Private health insurance generally covers you for part, or all, of the costs of being a private patient receiving treatment in a private or a public hospital, depending on your level of cover. It doesn’t mean your private hospital stays are free, but you can choose your doctor and the hospital you’ll be treated at, and your policy may cover the cost of a single room.

Depending on your level of cover, private health insurance may also cover you for out-of-hospital services. This is called extras or ancillary insurance. For most people, that means physio, optical and the annual dentist visit, but it can also include some of the complementary treatments sometimes used in cancer treatment. This could include things like, home nursing, assistance with travel and accommodation, psychology, occupational therapy, dietician advice, post-operative medical/health aids, assisted living programs.

As a private patient, you may need to pay extra fees including doctors’ charges, hospital accommodation, pharmaceuticals, theatre fees, prostheses and so on. Generally, the higher the premium you pay, the fewer additional costs you’ll have to deal with.

Limiting your health insurance expenses – what should you consider?

Here are some practical things you can do to keep on top of your expenses if you’re using private health insurance:

  • Contact your health fund before you receive treatment to find out exactly what they cover and what you’ll have to pay for yourself, and if there are any associated waiting periods you need to serve.
  • Understand what it means if your insurance policy has restrictions or exclusions. It may mean you’re not covered for things you think are included.
  • Find out if your hospital or specialist has an arrangement with your health insurer so you don’t face avoidable out-of-pocket expenses. You might even decide to change where you go for treatment based on this information.
  • Ask your doctor for a written estimate of costs and find out how long you’ll have to pay the bills.
  • Read any letters or brochures from your health insurer; they can make changes to your policy, so it’s a good idea to stay informed
  • Make any claims with your insurer as soon as possible so there’s no delay on your payments.

Choosing the right level of private health insurance may increase your comfort during treatment and help to lighten your financial load in the long run. It’s important to research your policy options carefully to choose the policy that best suits you.