March 15, 2010

Pet-to-Pet Introductions

Introducing Your New Cat To Other Animals In Your Home

“The fur will fly” is an expression that could be used right about now — when you are bringing home a new cat an dyou have one, two, or even more cats in your household.

Most of the time these situations work out well after two or three weeks. The cats sort themselves out into a new pecking order, and the newcomer takes it place in the fold. In the meantime, expect hissing, growling, and cats chasing one another from room to room.

It is wise to keep the newcomer separate from the others for the first 48 hours or so. You can keep him in a bathroom or bedroom with his food, water, litter, and some toys. Since it will spend much time sleeping, it will not be lonesome. The other cats can smell the newcomer and hear it moving around through the door.

On the second or third day, you might position the door so that it is open enough for everyone to meet and sniff, but not enough for a cat to slip in or out of that room. After a day or so, open the door and allow the newcomer freedom. Don’t go out of the house in those early days without putting the new cat back in its own quarters.

Other options include blocking off one floor for the “old” and one for the “new” cat, if you can do that where you live. You might also keep the newcomer in an animal cage for a few days with its food, water, and litter box so the other animals can see it and sniff around, but the cat is protected.

Some new cats are accepted easily in a multi-cat household with none of the above dramatics. That is particularly true when the new member is a kitten. Sometimes, one cat tolerates the other but never really grows to like its housemate. Less frequently, an adjustment never comes. If after four weeks or so it looks as if there will never be tolerance in your household, let alone harmony, you have four choices:

  1. You can call in an animal behavior therapist to help everyone become adjusted
  2. You can keep the cats separated forever, perhaps on different floors of your home.
  3. You can get used to the idea that one or more of the animals will never be happy about the newcomer (or the newcomer about the others) and learn to live with the occasional hissing or fighting.
  4. You can return the new cat.

There are some felines that prefer to be in a one-cat household and never do adjust or even become at least reasonably accepting of another cat. It is not common, however, for an adoption to fail because of other cats in the house. Hang in there. It does take patience.

Now, about dogs. If you have a dog or two, again you could have any one of several responses to and by the newcomer, depending on the temperament of each animal. Follow the above suggestions. Dogs and cats can get along well, although here too it is usually a kitten that causes less fuss than an adult cat meeting your dogs.

Cat_Vs_Dog

Posted in: General Information
March 15, 2010

How to Kitten Proof Your Home

by Franny Syufy, About.com guide

Kittens are curious little tykes and love to explore nooks and crannies. Here are tips for making sure they don’t find ‘toys’ that can harm them.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 1 – 3 hours

Here’s How:

  1. Look around your house first, at high shelves and low cupboards and hidden nooks. Do you see things that kitty might break, or harmful substances she might ingest?
  2. If you’re into needlework, keep your supplies in a closed container. Needles and thread might appear to be fine playthings, but can be fatal if your kitten swallows them. Kittens playing with balls of yarn may make delightful pictures, but put the yarn away right after the photo session.
  3. Fold and secure your window blinds cord with a rubber band, out of kitty’s reach. If she gets tangled up in it, she could strangle.
  4. Kittens are wonderful little packrats. If you don’t want to find your floors littered with garbage, invest in covered wastebaskets and kitchen garbage containers.
  5. Always keep the door to your clothes dryer closed, and double-check inside before using it. Cats like to find dark, warm places to sleep, and the results could be tragic.
  6. Keep the floor clean of stray rubber bands, ribbon and twine. All are hazardous when ingested by a kitten.
  7. Keep cupboard doors and dresser drawers securely closed. Cats can find all kinds of mischief inside, and can be injured if you close a drawer and the kitten is behind it. Use child-safe fasteners for kitchen cabinets.
  8. Cloth drapes are better left out of reach of your furry ‘curtain-climber’. Tie them up securely until your kitten is trained to a scratching post.
  9. Keep your toilet lid down at all times, lest kitty fall in or drink from it. Better yet, keep your bathroom off-limits to your kitten unless you absolutely have to keep her litterbox there.
  10. Do not keep your kitten in the garage, and always keep the doors closed. Anti-freeze is very tasty to animals, and is just one of the common poisonous substances found in garages.
  11. Cover electric cords, such as the tangle from your computer, with covers sold for that purpose. Caution: wrapping electic cords could be a fire hazard.
  12. There are a number of household plants poisonous to cats. A link to a list is at the bottom of this article.
  13. Remove all breakable valuables from high shelves and store them in a cabinet with a door.
  14. Use animal-safe insect repellant. Commercial roach and ant poison will kill cats if ingested.

Tips:

  1. The real secret to kitten-proofing is to look at your home through the eyes of a cat. Find everything that looks like a swell toy, and if it’s something harmful, get rid of it or make it safe.
  2. Bitter Apple or lemon-scented sprays are both great for marking areas you want to be off-limits. Cats hate the taste and/or scent of them.
  3. If your kitten will be indoors-outdoors, make sure your yard is clear of snail poison, rodent traps, and other hazardous material. Better yet: fill your house with attractive toys and make him an inside-only cat.

What You Need:

  • child-safe cabinet locks
  • cord covers

The original article may be found at About.com, with links to more wonderful suggestions about how to get off to a successful start with your new little bundle of fluff.

Sidebox-Kitten-Thinks-R

Posted in: General Information
March 15, 2010

Inappropriate Elimination

or “Litterbox Avoidance”

House-training problems — called inappropriate elimination — are the number one cause of behavior-related complaints from cat lovers — and with good reason. No one likes to deal with urine and feces in a litterbox, much less in a part of the house you didn’t expect to find them. Cats who can’t be convinced to use the litterbox all too often end up looking for a new home — and for these animals, the prognosis is grim.

The first step in getting your cat to use the litterbox is to figure out why he’s not using it. Rule out a medical problem — commonly, a urinary-tract infection. These infections give the cat a “sense of urgency” to urinate even when the bladder is not full, and urinating may even be downright painful in more severe cases. Your cat may come to associate the use of the box with these unpleasant sensations and so avoids the box. If that’s the case, you need to retrain your cat, perhaps by changing the box and litter so that it “feels” different, but probably by using the safe room approach (more on that later).

If your cat checks out fine at the vet, you need to experiment to make sure everything about the box is to his liking. The following list describes some things to consider:

  • Cleanliness. Cats are fastidious animals, and if the litterbox is dirty, they look elsewhere for a place to go. Think of how you felt the last time you were faced with a dirty public restroom, and you can probably empathize! Attend to the box frequently — twice a day is ideal — and make sure that it’s completely scrubbed clean and aired out on a weekly basis. Another option: two litterboxes.
  • Box type and filler. Many choices people make to suit their own tastes don’t match with what their cat wants, and when you’re talking boxes and litter, your cat’s opinion is the only one that counts. Many times the offending box or litter is one chosen in an attempt to reduce smell for people — but your cat’s can still smell just fine. A covered box may seem more pleasing to you, but your cat may think it’s pretty rank inside. Likewise, scented litters may make you think the box smells fine, but your cat may disagree — not only is the box dirty, he reasons, but it’s got the extra “clean” odor he can’t abide. Go back to basics, a simple box, a plain litter. Many cats prefer clumping litter, and this variety makes the box easier to keep clean, too. Just skip the deodorizers.
  • Location. Your cat’s box should be away from his food and water dishes (you don’t eat near the toilet, so why should your cat?) and in a place where he can get to it easily and feel safe. Consider location from a cat’s point of view: choose a quiet spot where he can see what’s coming at him. A cat doesn’t want any surprises while he’s in the box. You should also experiment with additional boxes in your house, especially if you’ve got more than one cat. Urine and feces are weapons in a war over territory: some cats share boxes; many don’t.

Make the area where your cat has had mistakes less attractive by cleaning thoroughly with a pet-odor neutralizer (available in pet supply stores or catalogs) and cover with foil, plastic sheeting, or plastic carpet runners with the points up to discourage reuse of the area. Enzymatic pet mess cleaners take time to work, so figure on keeping the area blocked off for at least a couple of weeks.

If this procedure doesn’t clear up the problem, you may need to retrain your cat by keeping him in a small area for a few days. Make sure that the safe room has no good options besides the litterbox — no carpet, no pile of dirty laundry. Block off the bathtub — keep an inch of water in it to discourage its use as a place to go. After your cat is reliably using the litterbox, let him slowly expand his territory again. As long as you keep up your end of the bargain and keep the litterbox appealing, he should keep up his end, too.

a_sandcastleWhat cats do in the litterbox when we’re not looking.

Posted in: General Information
March 15, 2010

Bringing Kitty Home

The Carrier

Whether you’re bringing home a tiny little kitten weighing in at less than one pound or a full-ground Maine Coon at a whopping eighteen pounds, you need a carrier.

scary-at-vetWhy do you have to bring her in a carrier? Because this is a big, I mean really big step in the cat’s life. She’s leaving what she knows for something totally unfamiliar. Even if her previous life was bad, she has no idea what’s ahead of her. The carrier will keep her safe during the trip to your house and provide her with a little hiding place.

Place a towel in the bottom of the carrier for warmth and also to absorb any messes. I always also bring an extra towel so I can replace the first one should it get soiled.

Because this is such a big step for a little cat (and for little you), if you can arrange it, the best time to bring her home is at the start of a weekend or when you can take a day or two off.

Have a Kitty Suite Ready

The whole family is excited, even the dog is eagerly wagging his tail in anticipation of the new cat’s arrival. In your sweetest voice, explain to them that for the time being, the cat will need a small space of her own and time to adjust to her new surroundings. As you watch your family’s smiles fade and the dog’s tail droop, remember – you’re doing the right thing.

So why am I being such a meanie and not allowing you to let the cat run free about the house, especially since you’ve already taken the time to kitten-proof it? Because I don’t want to overwhelm her. She’s a small cat and it’s a big house. Imagine if I whisked you off and dropped you in the middle of a large, unfamiliar city. I then tell you that you have to find your way around the entire city right away. You’d probably get lost, overwhelmed, frustrated, scared, and your initial impression of this strange place might be negative. Basically, that’s what you’d be doing to your cat if you give her the run of the place – you’d be dropping her in a strange city (a foreign one, no less).

Much of a cat’s sense of security centers around her territory, so allow your cat to begin acquainting herself with her new home a little at a time. This is crucial for a kitten because she won’t know where any of her necessities are. If you’re bringing an adult cat into the house, this is a big change in her life and you must make her feel safe. Safety for her comes in the form of a little sanctuary place.

When you set up the kitty suite, place the litter box on one side of the room and the food/water bowls on the other. It’s important to keep a good distance between them because cats don’t eat in the same area they use for elimination.

Place her in the room but leave her in the carrier. Open the door to the carrier and let her come out in her own time. A kitten will likely charge right out, but an adult may not be sure of herself right away. Even after she has stepped out of the carrier, leave it in the corner of the room as an extra hiding place.

She may hide under the bed for two days but that’s okay. The fact that she can hide will make her feel better. After you’ve closed the door and left her alone she can begin to investigate the room around her. Inch by inch is how she may expand her comfort zone, in quiet, in private, and without a bunch of eyes watching her every move.

No matter what kind of room you’ve chosen as you’re kitty’s sanctuary room, make sure that she has plenty of hiding places there. Don’t put her in an empty room where she’ll feel totally exposed and threatened. If it’s not a room with furniture, place boxes lined with towels around. One trick I do is to cut a doorway into the side of a box with a lid or a box placed upside down to make a little cardboard cave.

Create a comfortable and cozy bed for your new kitty. You can either buy a pet bed at the store or line a box with some old clothes. I prefer to line a box with a couple of sweatshirts that I’ve worn so the cat gets used to my scent. If you’re bringing in a kitten at a cold time of year, her room should be warm enough and draft-free.

If you’re bringing your new cat into a household of existing cats, oh boy. A sanctuary room set up for her is absolutely necessary or the fur will fly! How much interaction should you initially have with your new cat? Each case is a bit different. If you have brought home a kitten, you’ll need to give her plenty of time and attention because she’ll be anxious to bond with you. If the new arrival is an adult cat, you’ll have to use your judgement and base it on her emotional state. If she acts threatened, back off and give her some time by herself. Introduce yourself slowly.

How will you know when it’s time to spring your new cat from her kitty “jail”? If she’s a kitten, you can do it as soon as you’re sure she has the routine down: eating, drinking , using the litter box. An adult cat may take longer. What you should look for is for her to resume normal activities: eating, drinking, using the litter box, and seeming more secure. If she’s still hiding in the back of the closet, buried beneath a pile of shoes, she’s not ready. If you already have cats in the house, the new cat will need to stay in the room for a while so you can do a gradual introduction.

Your main concern for a kitten is to make sure she stays safe and has enough time and privacy to eat, sleep, and use the litter box. Everyone is going to want to hold her and play with her, but she’s still a fragile baby and needs your watchful eye. When you do decide to open the door, let her investigate the house a little at a time.

How do you introduce your new adult cat to your family? S-l-o-w-l-y. She could easily feel overwhelmed. Do your cat a big favor and let her have all the personal space she needs. Don’t rush anything. After all, you’re going to have many years together, so start things off right.

Your children may have a difficult time understanding the importance of the kitty’s need for a sanctuary. They may be eager to have the kitty sleep in bed with them. Use your judgement, based on the kitty’s age, level of comfort, and any other specifics of your situation. A kitten doesn’t have litterbox training perfected yet and could have an accident on your child’s bed because she may not remember where the box is. Make sure the cat knows where her litter box is and routinely uses it before trusting her in other rooms in your house.

Posted in: General Information
March 15, 2010

Top 10 Reasons Why Two Kittens Are Better Than One!

  1. You’ll save two lives instead of one.
  2. One kitten can become lonely.
  3. One kitten can just drive an older cat nuts.
  4. Two kittens will “self-train.”
  5. They help each other burn off energy.
  6. Fewer behavior problems with two kittens.
  7. Curiosity overcomes “food finickyness.”
  8. They act as pillows for one another.
  9. Having two kittens is insanely fun.
  10. They will each have a friend for life.

two_kittens_hugging

Read the full article at Reasons why 2 Kittens are Better Than 1 from the Cats Guide at About.com

Posted in: General Information