Pet Lover Geek

From the Vault: Enriching the Lives of Cats (part 1)

May 17, 2022 Lorien Clemens Season 7 Episode 9
From the Vault: Enriching the Lives of Cats (part 1)
Pet Lover Geek
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Pet Lover Geek
From the Vault: Enriching the Lives of Cats (part 1)
May 17, 2022 Season 7 Episode 9
Lorien Clemens

We pay a lot of attention to dogs on this show but we don't forget about the cats! Join Lorien as she interviews four different cat industry experts on how to enrich your cat's life. In part one of this From the Vault episode, you will hear from Marci Kowski and Damien Hall about some solutions to a bored cat and how to improve your bond with them!

Show Notes:

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Show Notes Transcript

We pay a lot of attention to dogs on this show but we don't forget about the cats! Join Lorien as she interviews four different cat industry experts on how to enrich your cat's life. In part one of this From the Vault episode, you will hear from Marci Kowski and Damien Hall about some solutions to a bored cat and how to improve your bond with them!

Show Notes:

Thanks for listening! Check out our sponsor, PetHub for more great pet parent resources.

Have an idea for a PetLoverGeek episode or have something else you want to share? Drop us a note to

00:00 Music

00:02 Lorien Clemens

We're going to explore cat enrichment, you know, all the things that you can do to keep your cat engaged, happy, not knocking down your fine China or peeing someplace that they're not supposed to. You know at least most of the time, and to begin with, we've invited our good friend from Feline Behavior Solutions Marci Koski to share with us some basic things that you can do. Cat toys, cat enrichment with your cat to help enrich their lives and keep them focused and loving life. So welcome back to the show Doctor Marci.

00:35 Marci Koski

Hi Lorien how are you today?

00:36 Lorien Clemens

I am fantastic. I have to start off by congratulating you -- earlier this fall, I don't know if our listeners know -- you won the Women in the Pet Industry Network's Woman of the Year Advocate and I just wanted to give you a big congratulations from us. 

00:51 Marci Koski

Awh, thank you so much. I'm really honored and blessed to have been bestowed that award. 

00:56 Lorien Clemens

Well, it was well deserved and I mean I was at the award ceremony and I saw all the other nominees and you were up against some really great, amazing people, but I do have to say that though I was cheering for you because I love you so much, I also was thinking she needs to get this recognition because you do. You are such a great voice for our cats and taking care of them and I really appreciate that from you.

01:17 Marci Koski

Thank you.

01:18 Lorien Clemens

So I want to just start with the basics because you and I were chatting just before we started the on-air interview. People ask us all the time, you know, why aren't you talking about more geeky cat stuff? You talk about the geeky and the tech toys for dogs all the time, where's the cat stuff? And you and I talked about this last year, but can you talk about just generally to that like, why aren't we seeing a ton of tech-based products out there for cats in terms of toys and stuff?

01:44 Marci Koski

Yeah, things haven't really changed much. There are some kind of gadgety toys for cats out there. There's the Kittio and remote controlled laser pointers that you can control with your smartphone, but really when it comes down to it, cats are basic. They just love basic stuff and you know like you'll order something amazing from Amazon for your cat, specifically for your cat, that you are like, "oh they're gonna love this!" And what do they do? They ignore the toy and go straight for the box.

02:16 Lorien Clemens

It's so true.

02:18 Marci Koski

That is what cats are all about. The simpler the better, and I think it really has to do with them being just natural predatory beasts that hang out in our home and they are looking for ways to be both. You know, express that predatory energy that they have inside of them, and that includes not only going after something as a prey item but also hiding and stalking and keeping themselves hidden like predators do. So I think that's basically what it comes down to when cats are looking at toys. What really engages those predatory senses?

02:57 Lorien Clemens

Do you think that there's something to do too with the fact that sometimes mechanical, at least based things, turn a lot of cats off?

03:05 Marci Koski

Yeah, you know, I've had a lot of cat toys over the years, and I've found that my cats don't like plastic. The texture and the way plastic toys kind of move and the way that they sound is not something that they can relate to as a prey item at all. Even toys that make chirping sounds or little noises, I think that cats can understand that they're electronic, and they're like what? That's not real.

03:35 Lorien Clemens

Right, whereas dogs are like, "Oh yeah, give me more, give me more." Maybe the whole thing about cats are maybe a little smarter, I don't know.

03:41 Marci Koski

Yeah maybe, wink, wink. You can't see that, but I'm winking, and yeah, I think that initially things can turn cats on, you know, and they'll get this burst of excitement or something new, something novel and that's great because novelty is the spice of life, right? But things that don't really tap into that prey drive, the cats lose their interest in it quickly, so a lot of electronic toys are like that. So I found that the things that are most successful with cats tend to be more realistic in terms of prey types. They move more realistically. Either that or they have something to do with treats because you know cats.

04:26 Lorien Clemens

Right, that's pretty much true for any fur baby in our house, it's like if there's food in it we're down. So what would you say if somebody, maybe I don't know getting a new cat or they're realizing gosh my cat is just a couch potato and I need to do something to get some enrichment in here. What's the one product that every cat home should have?

04:45 Marci Koski

Okay, the one cat toy you need to have is called Da Bird and it's a 3-foot-long wand with a 3-foot-long string. Both the wand and the string are black and then at the end, it comes with a little tuft of feathers and when you wave it in the air it spins. Now, what's so great about Da Bird? Its DA BIRD, is that there are many attachments that you can buy for it, so some cats will have preferences for the types of prey that they like to go after, so birds is 1 type of prey. So the feathers that come on Da Bird are awesome. Just you have to move it realistically. Mostly it flies in the air and spins around. Sometimes it'll flutter to the floor. You let your cat get it or whatever, but then it zooms back up in the air. Now there are other attachments you can buy for Da Bird. One of them is called Da Mouse or Da Rat, it's a little bit bigger version, but they're brown. They have a little tail. Guess what? They're not pink. They don't have sparkles. They don't have streamers flying off of them.

05:56 Lorien Clemens

They don't have jingles on them and stuff like that're on some of these, yeah.

05:59 Marci Koski

Right, and then the way you wanna move the mouse is it stays on the floor and it skitters across the floor and it goes behind furniture and it moves like a mouse. Cats also really like playing with bugs. So another natural prey item for them and there's another toy or a line of toys called Neko flies. It's NEKO flies and they have a wand, which I'm not terribly crazy about because it's shorter, but they have a really great line of bug lures. They make cicadas, dragonflies, they have one that's like a centipede, but it's called the Catipede and that's my cat's favorite one, and the cat people love it.

06:41 Lorien Clemens

Do they have spiders because our cats like to chase the spiders in the house?

06:43 Marci Koski

They might have a spider, but definitely they have legs and stuff and what you can do is simply cut the lure off of the string that it comes with and attach it to Da Bird.

06:53 Lorien Clemens

Oh, which is the better wand.

06:55 Marci Koski

It's the better wand. So Da Bird is really what you wanna start with because it's the best and you want to try to take your cat through what's called a prey sequence and the first step in that is staring, which is so exciting for cats, but it's really boring for humans. So if you think your cat doesn't play, just get over the staring part and you'll be good. So it's staring and then stalking and chasing and then pouncing and grabbing and then performing a kill bite. So when you have a play session, you wanna take your cat through that, you know, several times and have a 10 to 15-minute play session. I recommend in the morning and the evening and then you give them a meal after your play session because that's kind of like hunting and then eating right and that puts them into the hunt, eat, groom sleep cycle, which is very natural for cats.

07:52 Lorien Clemens

We've heard from other folks that have come online that that actually will help decrease behavior issues.

07:56 Marci Koski

Yes, absolutely. It lowers the stress level for your cats and gives them that physical exercise that they need as a predator and just realistic hunting type of play sessions are the best thing you can do for your cat.

08:12 Lorien Clemens

Okay, so you mentioned how some things are boring for humans. Which I think the majority of all the toys that are out there, especially for cats, are really to appeal to humans. So let's talk about that though, so I've got my Da Bird and I've got my attachments and everything that but maybe I want something a little bit different and I'm out there trying to evaluate some new toys. I mean, are there criteria that I should be taking with me when I'm looking at potential toys for my cat?

08:39 Marci Koski

Yeah, so self play toys are really great and those are individual things like little balls or the mice or whatever, so catnip is something that can get any cat to go wild, well actually about 80% of cats, because some cats don't really react to catnip, but they react to other things like honeysuckle and there's one other that I'm spacing on. I think it's Silverline but catnip toys are great, and really it comes down to preference with those smaller self play toys. Cats do not see the color red, so red toys I'm not really keen on because it doesn't really stand out to them when you know they're playing so blue and green toys and yellow toys will stand out better for your cat. So that's something I keep in mind. Natural fibers are also things that I tend to give my cats more. So things that have raffia or rope string but you have to be careful. You always want to supervise so your cat doesn't actually eat those things. I don't know plastic again, I've just never had a lot of luck with plastic toys, but things that move erratically are very good. It's a lot of personal preference when it comes to cats, but if you can get that predatory instinct zoned in that's what's going to bring out your cat's inner predator.

09:59 Lorien Clemens

And of course, have a large assortment of boxes in the house.

10:02 Marci Koski

Boxes and bags, boxes and bags.

10:05 Lorien Clemens

Yeah totally. Thanks so much for coming on the show Doctor Marci you've been terrific as usual.

10:10 Marci Koski

Thank you.

10:11 Lorien Clemens 

And I'm sure we're going to talk to you in the future. Real quick, tell people how they can find you online.

10:15 Marci Koski

Okay, you can visit my website at All one word.

10:23 Music

10:23 Lorien Clemens 

Perfect. Thank you so much. Hang tight everybody, next up we're going to explore Catit. It's a brand that is crazy about cats. They offer a lot of different products to help enrich our cats lives, and we've even had one that we've been testing with our cats. So we'll tell you all about that. That's what's coming up next on Pet Lover Geek. 

10:40 Music

11:10 Lorien Clemens

I of course am a geek and I like to spice it up a little bit with my cats, so I'm excited. We're getting ready to explore some toys that are a little bit more elaborate than what Doctor Marci was talking about, and they're certainly more geeky and I discovered them last year at Super Zoo. It's a company that's called Hagen and they have a line called Catit and this brand is really awesome. They have an entire new line of products the senses 2.0 for cats and they're "pur"fect for geeky pet moms like me and I'm really excited to have on the line with us today Damian Hall. He's a senior marketing manager at Hagan -- Catit's parent company -- and he's going to go over some of the products in the Catit's Senses 2.0 line. Welcome to the show Damien.

11:54 Damian Hall

Thank you very much for having me.

11:55 Lorien Clemens

Now let's start with the Super Circuit because that's the one that I fell in love with at Super Zoo and we got it and brought it home to our cats, but I want you to kind of describe it to our audience. I look at it kind of as like an old Hot Wheels track system like what I had when I was a kid, but if you can kind of describe it to the audience so they get an idea of what we're talking about.

12:15 Damian Hall

Well, you know, you're really not that far off. I like to almost describe it as another one of our brands Habitrail. It's an enclosed track system that pet owners and pet parents can expand and create these elaborate tracks and playing areas for cats. One of the interesting things about this is we have what we call a fireball, which is a little red ball, little flashing LED light that the cats will react to and chase through the track.

12:46 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, and I love the fact it looks so futuristic even though it's just deceptively simple, but was that your inspiration? Your other line that you do for pocket pets like hamsters and gerbils?

12:57 Damian Hall

Well, actually I would like to say that it was, but actually it wasn't. We have very dedicated team in our Brussels office that does all the research and development for the Catit products, specifically the relaunch of the Senses 2.0. What we take into account when we're developing all these products are how will they enrich the lives of the cat and how will they enrich the lives of the pet parents. So all of these products, you know, like the Senses system with the super circuit and we have the play circuit and the wave circuit which are all different components of it were designed to entice the cat to explore their natural senses within kind of a safe boundary of your home. So opposed to chasing around something around your house that maybe you don't want them to. They can go in and they can stalk and they can paw and they can chase after the ball within the track. You know the whole Senses line if you remember when we had it at Super Zoo. We had what we called the playground where we had all of those products up together.

14:05 Lorien Clemens

It was like an amusement park for a cat.

14:07 Damian Hall

Absolutely, that really is the best way to play with cats, I believe. I would love to encourage people to set that up, but the idea with that was that you could make this entire activity center for your cat so you had a watering component. You had a scratching component. You had a grooming component within all of these pieces, so you had the Catit Senses Spa. You had the food tree or you had the digger, and so we design these products to figure out what does a cat naturally want to do, and how can you encourage great behavior with a cat?

14:42 Lorien Clemens

We actually have an entire room that we've devoted to our cats, primarily because the dogs own the rest of the house, and we thought the cats need a room that they could call their own type of thing and we got the Senses and we set it up and one of our cats is naturally curious, her name is Houdini and, you know, she was ready to check it out and with a little bit of coaxing, we got her playing pretty quickly. But the other cat was a little bit intimidated by it. Have you gotten feedback from Cat specialists or just your customers in general about how to get the cats interested in playing with it if it's something that's you know a little bit different than the box they're used to playing inside of?

15:18 Damian Hall

Well, you know, really one of the things that we like to encourage people to do is really interact with their cats. You know, part of this is them being able to go and play on their own, but also it has the ability that you can play with the cat as well and this is one of those particular products where you can go in and you can move the ball for the cat, and the cat can see it moving and you know, let their natural instincts take over. That's generally what we do and what I would recommend is that you know use this as a bonding moment with your cat. Some people may saying that's a little strange, but you know the same thing is when we're having we play with the feather on the string and the stick and the string. It's all about getting your cat to play with it once and interact with it and now of course sometimes cats don't like that. Some cats that we had at the Super Zoo show, they didn't play with this, but they loved to play and climb on the digger. Or, you know, work on the scratcher. There's always going to be personal preferences within the cat but we recommend getting down at their level. Play with them, show them how fun it is, and really it helps them relieve stress when they start getting it.

16:27 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, and to that end I mean I wanna kind of throw this out there. In general a lot of the toys that are out there, particularly the Senses 2.0, they're not meant to be just set up and then let the cats go for it on their own. They really are meant to be an interactive thing with you and your cat and would you recommend leaving your cats alone with these products as well once they get used to it?

16:48 Damian Hall

Well, this is one of the great things about this, you know, and I love the fact that you have your own room set up dedicated to it so you could have this entire playground set on the ground. For the most part, these toys are both interactive, but you can also leave them there. You know your cat can play with the scratcher all day long. Scratchers not gonna fall down. They can play with the ball. The ball's not going to get out of the circuit, which is good. Also, the groomer, it's a great idea, you know as they are home alone they can go and they can get on the spa and they can groom themselves on the spa as opposed to grooming themselves, say on the corner of your table or working their scratching magic on your favorite sofa. So these are great for, you know, I don't want to say babysitting your cats, but these are great for your cats to be able to play with all day long but on the same standpoint, you're able to interact with your cats with them. You know, have other toys that are like spinners that have treats spinners that I would definitely recommend you always supervise with your cat. That's a very important thing is that you never want to leave your cat alone with a dangerous toy or something that is a small choking hazard. So you know, these don't have that.

18:05 Lorien Clemens

Right, honestly I never once thought, oh gosh, I should put this away before I go. We play with it a little bit with the cats and clearly Houdini was liking it. Then we kind of left and I have the sneaking suspicion that Taz is probably more interested once we left than when we were there, but I don't know, I don't have a camera in there. Let's switch gears a little bit. You mentioned the digger a couple of times and I know you have a couple of other parts of the Senses 2.0 that are about feeding and we have a scarf and barf issue in our house with one of our cats and so I'd love for you if you can talk about some of the components of the Senses 2.0 that directly address feeding issues. 

18:40 Damian Hall

Oh absolutely. Basically, we have 3 components for the feeding issue. We have, I'll start off with the digger. We have the digger which is basically a round molded piece with small bowls that fit into the rounded piece and of course, you can check all of these things out at which might give you a better description than me. So what's good about that is your cat is literally going to dig into the bowl to get the treat or get their food. So what this does is that forces your cat to work for the food, so it makes them eat slower, slowing the cat down will help a bit of the scarf and barf, and we also have our feeding tree, which is another interactive toy that the cat has to actually work to get the food and this is basically -- it looks somewhat like a funnel -- with different levels that the cat has to paw the food and it goes down into a bowl. Now both of these we recommend and you know we talk about these in lines of helping cats regulate their speed of eating and the amount that they eat. So as opposed to a cat just saying, "okay, well I'm going to go and I'm going to eat everything that's in my bowl right now because I feel I need to do that." You give the cat the opportunity that you have to work to get the food so they're a bit more active so they slow down their eating and in the case of some obese cats it helps them eat less.

20:04 Lorien Clemens

One product when I was looking at all the Catit stuff, I saw that there was something about a gum stimulator. First of all, how does that fit into the system? And I've never once heard of that before, so tell me about that.

20:16 Damian Hall

Okay, so the gum stimulator is basically a part of our Wellness Center. The Wellness Center is a large pad with three different types of surfaces on it so that the cat can groom themselves on and massage themselves, and in the center of it, we have what's called the gum stimulator and basically, it's a somewhat dense piece of rubbery plastic that you can spray with catnip or you can put catnip in and basically the cat will similar -- I hate to equate it to a dog -- but basically the cat will chew on that and it will help clean their teeth.

20:57 Lorien Clemens

Now that I'm looking at the Wellness Center because before it didn't stand out to me in the Wellness Center, but now that I'm looking up close, I'm like ah there it is. It's up in that top little dome area.

21:05 Damian Hall

Up in that top little Dome area and basically, what that is, it's the ability so the cat will kind of just kind of chew on that and scratch on that and stimulate their gums but also help with just rubbing plaque off. Think of it as like a dental bone somewhat for your dogs. 

21:22 Lorien Clemens

Yeah, I actually, I'm really interested in that now. I wasn't sure about it before but we have a cat that loves to chew on everything and I'm like, oh, that might actually be good for Taz. Well, thank you so much Damian for coming on today. Unfortunately, we're out of time and tell people again where they can go to check out these great products.

21:38 Damian Hall

Well, you know to learn more about all of our products or purchase any for that matter, go to our website at and you can see our full line of Senses products.

21:49 Lorien Clemens

Fantastic thank you so much Damian really great to have you on the show.

21:53 Damian Hall

Thanks for having me.

21:54 Lorien Clemens

And to our listeners, thanks for joining us today. Make sure you leave a comment below for any cool or geeky ideas that you want us to cover in future episodes and like always give those fur babies a hug for me. I'm Lorien Clemens and this has been Pet Lover Geek, powered by PetHub. 

22:11 Music