Explore the topics below for help with common cat issues. If you have further questions about caring for your cat, do not hesitate to contact us.
Adjustment to new home:
The best way to allow a cat to begin adjustment is simply to leave it alone. If there are children in the home, encourage them to sit and watch TV or play quietly in their rooms while the cat has a few hours to walk around and check things out. If the cat decides to hide for a bit, let it. If food and water is left out, the cat will come out at his/her own pace. If there are other pets in the home, put the dog on a leash so that you have control over the situation and let other cats meet on their own while you observe. Be prepared for hissing and growling because that is what cats do. It is normal and it is OK.
It can take 6 months for pets to adjust and form a bond with a new owner. Think of your first two weeks where you were in a strange place; your first day of school; a new job or new city where you didn’t know anyone or how to get around. It’s not easy. Here are some tips to makes the first two weeks easier on the cat and you.
• Hiding is normal, leave the cat alone and make sure it has access to food, water and a litterbox.
• Hissing and growling at other cats is normal. Cats are generally social; but this is a new situation.
• Allow cats to work it out without going too far. Ignore it and if you have to interfere, do so with noise rather than chasing, swatting or picking up. Try stomping your foot or clapping your hands. When the disagreement is over leave the cat(s) alone. It often takes 30 minutes to an hour for cats to calm down.
• Never have cats meet while you are holding them. Cats transfer their fear to whoever is closest so if you are holding them you will get bit or scratched. A great way for cats to meet is to share a toy under a closed door. Place one cat on each side and a toy under the door.
• Tell kids to leave the pets alone for the first week. There should not be any carrying, chasing, kissing or hugging. Any cat, even a kitten, is just not ready for this level of contact in the early stages of adjustment. How do you know when they are ready? The cat will come to you and seek out affection.
• Fear will prevent a cat from using the box or eating so if your new cat is fearful, confine him/her to one room with a feeding station and litter box. Let them get used to that room first.
Rules to remember:
• Add a cat = add a litterbox. There should be a rule of no more than 2 cats per litterbox. For instance, if there are 3 cats in a household there should be at least 2 litter boxes.
• Add a cat = add a food bowl
• Kittens cannot always remember where the litter box is in a large home. Keep them confined to one room for the first 2 to 4 weeks then show it to them regularly
Expect a 3 to 6 month period of adjustment.
It is against the policy of Woods Humane Society to declaw a cat if done solely for the convenience of the owner. We ask that you explore all other options thoroughly. Consider declawing only as a last resort and only then after extensively researching the procedure. The removal of claws can affect your cat’s behavior and litterbox use. There are many options such as providing a scratching post, spending quality playtime with your cat, and applying Soft Paws nail covers.
We recommend quality nutrition for your pet. This includes easy access to fresh water daily. Cat foods are specially formulated to provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that a cat needs. Feed your pet according to their stage of life. Cats under one year of age should get kitten food and there are adult and senior diets as well. Follow the label instruction regarding how much to feed every day and make adjustments as needed so that your pet maintains a healthy weight.
Cats instinctively dig and bury their waste. As long as your cat knows where the litterbox is, he/she is likely to use it. Some cats, however, do not like to share with other cats, some require privacy, and some like to have two boxes to meet their needs. The best way to insure litterbox compliance is to clean the box daily.
Most cats exhibit few behavior problems, other than jumping on the table, waking you up at 3 am, or playing too rough. Any behavior can be modified by how you react to it. If you are experiencing a behavior problem with your cat, don’t hesitate to call, we can help!
Prepared by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., Distributed by Denver Dumb Friends League
Edited / updated by Woods Humane Society
SUCCESSFUL INTRODUCTIONS REQUIRE TIME AND PATIENCE.
Introducing a New Cat to Other Cats
1. Confine the new cat to one medium sized room with its litterbox, food, water, and a bed.
Feed the resident cats and the newcomer near either side of the door to this room. Do not put
the food so close to the door that seeing each other eat upsets them. This will help to start things out on the right foot by associating something enjoyable (eating!) with each other’s presence. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until the cats can eat calmly directly on either side. Next, use two doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the cats to see each other, and repeat the whole process.
2. Switch sleeping blankets between the new cat and resident cats so they have a chance to
become accustomed to each other’s scent. Also, put the scented blankets underneath the food
3. Once the new cat is using its litter box and eating regularly while confined, let it have free
time in the house while confining the other cats. This switch provides another way for the cats
to have experience with each other’s scent without a face-to-face meeting, and allows the
newcomer to become familiar with its new surroundings without being frightened by other
4. Avoid any interactions between the cats, which result in either fearful or aggressive
behavior. If you allow these responses to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It is
better to introduce the animals to each other so gradually that neither cat becomes afraid or
aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but do not give them the
opportunity to intensify. If either cat becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them, and
continue the introduction process in a series of gradual steps, as outlined above.
Precautions: You will need to add another litterbox, and probably clean all the boxes more
frequently. Make sure that none of the cats is being “ambushed” by another while trying to use
Try to keep the resident cat’s schedule as close as possible to what it was before the
newcomer’s appearance. Cats can make lots of noise, pull each other’s hair, and roll around quite dramatically without injury. If small spats do occur between the cats, you should not attempt to intervene directly to separate the cats. Instead, make a very loud noise, or throw a pillow at or a glass of water on the cats in order to separate them. Give them both a chance to calm down a before reintroducing them to each other. Be sure each cat has a safe hiding place.
The Introduction Process
The first introduction between your current pet and your new pet is a very important part of the process. Introductions of a dog to a cat(s) at the shelter can be highly stressful or traumatic for all of the cats and possibly the dog. Also, it is not necessarily a good indicator of how the dog will react at home. Therefore at Woods we are unable to perform a cat and dog introduction test as it does not truly indicate how the dog will respond to living with a cat. Here are four steps to do at home that can help you ensure a successful meeting:
Step 1: Choose the proper location for the first meeting
Resident cat to new dog: If you are adopting a dog the introduction should take place in the home in a safe setting with the dog on leash.
Step 2: Separate the animals
• Over a few days, rotate which animal has freedom and which is confined to allow each animal plenty of time to investigate the other’s scent (you can also rotate blankets between the cat and dog so they can investigate the other one’s scent).
• Sometimes the dog should be confined to a crate or another room (or taken to another location if they can’t be left alone) to allow the cat time to roam free and investigate the smell of the dog.
• If the dog obsessively digs at the separation barrier or barks at the cat for more than a day or two, the interaction likely won’t work without proper training. You may need the help of a professional. Please contact us at (805) 543‐9316 x 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
• When no one is home the dog or cat must always be securely confined to prevent unsupervised interactions.
• Use these first few days to work with your dog on responding to his/her name so you can get attention easily when starting the face‐to‐face introductions.
• Using treats; call your dog’s name once, wait for him/her to turn and look at you. When he/she does say “yes” and give a treat and a happy smile!
• Once the dog is calm (or at least not obsessed with the cat) and the cat is calm, eating and using the litter box normally, you can proceed to the next step.
If the dog stares at the cat or the door separating the cat, try to distract the dog and get him/her to look away with treats, a happy voice or by gently guiding the dog away on a leash. Once the dog is away from the cat, try offering a treat. If they take it, repeat this process until he/she is no longer focused on the cat or door.
Step 3: Make controlled introductions
• Allow both animals to be in the same room at the same time, but keep the dog securely leashed.
• If the dog has any leash aggression issues you will want to put him/her in a crate to settle in first and then bring the cat into the room. This will give the cat the chance to investigate the dog and will show you the dog’s reaction to the cat.
• Continue with this type of introduction until the dog is calm and ignores the cat and the cat is calm, eating and using the litter box normally.
• If there is any fear or aggression displayed on either animal’s part, stay at step 2 longer.
• Once both the dog and cat are relaxed around each other you can take the dog off the leash or out of the crate for supervised interactions.
• Continue indefinitely until both the dog and cat seem happy and relaxed around each other.
• When no one is home, the dog or cat need to be securely confined to separate areas so unsupervised interactions are not possible.
Step 4: Allow unsupervised interactions
• Unsupervised time together can occur after the cat and dog have been supervised around each other for a significant period of time (a month or so) and you are positive they will not hurt each other.
• If the dog remains overly focused; does not take their eyes off the cat or the door; completely ignores you or lunges suddenly as soon as the cat moves, this is probably a dangerous match. If you are looking for a dog to live peaceably with your cat, another dog might be a better choice. If at any time the dog lunges toward, growls, snaps at or shows any aggression toward a calm, quiet cat, this match will not work out. For the safety and health of all of your family members, the dog should be returned to us or rehomed to someone who can provide a safe environment. The same holds true if a cat attacks a calm, quiet dog. If you are committed to make the relationship work, you will need professional help and should contact us for assistance.
• If your cat who is growling, hissing, or swatting, give the cat a break and try again on another day. You might also need to try a different dog. A cat that continually hisses and growls at all types of dogs will likely not want to live with dogs. Your cat may tolerate a dog, but they probably won’t be happy — which is an unfair situation for your cat.
• If the cat stops eating, drinking, using the litter box or visiting with family members, they are not happy. You might want to consider finding a better match or contacting a professional animal behaviorist for advice.
Extra Help If you need more assistance please call Woods Humane Society at 805‐543‐9316 ext. 10. We are happy to give more tips or resources to help with the introduction. If the introduction does not work out or the dog and cat are unhappy together, please call Woods to return the animal. We will be happy to find that animal a forever family without cats or dogs and help to find a more suitable pet for your family if possible.
Woods Humane Society encourages pet owners to seek alternatives to the declawing of cats. If you are thinking about having your pet declawed, please take a moment to review the following information.
Why do cats scratch?
A Cats’ claws are constantly growing and shed regularly similar to our own. The part that sheds or frays is the sheath and sometimes needs a little help coming off. Scratching on rough surfaces such as furniture, wood or a rug helps remove the sheath and expose new sharp claw. Scratching behavior is also used mark territory. Small scent glands on the bottom of your cat’s feet allow it to leave tiny traces of scent that let the cat and other cats know, "This is mine." Scratching can also provide valuable stretching and foot-muscle exercise.
What is declawing?
The claw is an extension of bone and cannot grow back if the bone it extends from is not present. For this reason, the standard declawing procedure calls for the removal of the claw and the first bone of the toe. The operation is actually an amputation of the first bone and claw and is usually performed on the front feet only. As with all surgery, pain and bleeding maybe experienced.
What risks are associated with declawing?
If the whole claw and first bone is not removed, misshapen claws can grow back. In addition, if a bone fragment is left at the surgery site, it may become a source of infection. Both, claw re-growth and infections necessitate additional surgery. An incorrectly positioned cut during declawing surgery can remove too much of the toe, taking with it part of or all the toe pad.
Although there are no studies that support that declawing will change the cat’s behavior, Woods Humane Society has noticed a few things in some declawed cats such as biting or a change in litterbox habits. We can attribute most of the behavior problems that we have seen to sensitivity or perhaps pain of the foot. Cats also realized very quickly that a major resource for defending themselves is no longer available and this may be why biting develops as a new defense.
What are alternatives to declawing?
Introduce a scratching post
Buy or make a scratching post that is tall enough for the cat to stretch completely when scratching, and stable enough so it will not wobble when being used. Cover the post with a heavy, rough material like sisal rope or low pile carpet. Make the post a fun place to be by placing toys on or around it, or by rubbing it with catnip and put it in an accessible area. If you are trying to discourage the cat from scratching a particular piece of furniture, try placing the post in front of it, gradually moving the post aside as the cat begins to use it regularly.
Encourage the cat to claw the right things and discourage him from clawing the wrong things. Bring the cat to the scratching post. Each time you do this praise the cat by petting and giving treats. Spend time with the cat while it is on or near the post will encourage the cat to continue the behavior. If the cat begins to scratch on something it should not, a firm "Hey" or "Eh- Eh" is best and then move the cat to the scratching post. Reward the cat with praise, petting and treats.
Keep the cats’ nails trimmed
Cutting your cats nails regularly will help remove the sheath and control the amount of damage he or she may cause from scratching the furniture. However, not every cat will tolerate a good trim. Start now by getting your cat or kitten used to having his feet handled and nails clipped. With an older cat, it may help to begin by handling the feet first. Then introduce the clipping procedure by approaching the cat while it is relaxed (or even napping) and clip only one nail each time. Praise your cat while you clip the nail, and reward it with a treat afterwards. If you are in doubt about what the proper nail length looks like, ask your veterinarian to show you.
The only equipment necessary is a good pair of human style nail clippers. Alternatively, nail scissors made specially made for cats. Slide the blade onto the nail you will be trimming. Before cutting look for the pink line or “quick”, that runs down the center of each nail. The clipper blade should be placed about an eighth of an inch in front of the “quick.” Clip the nail swiftly and be extremely careful not to cut into the quick. If this happens, bleeding is likely. The bleeding usually will take quite a while to stop without assistance. Use baking flour to “plug up” the end of the nail. If you trim a small amount of nail, every couple of weeks, the quick will recede and your cats’ nails will stay shorter and cause less damage.
Soft Paws (www.softpaws.com) are a product that provides great alternative to surgery, nail trimming or if you just do not have time to train. These tiny vinyl “caps” glue in place easily over your cats’ nails. Soft Paws can save you money and save your cat the painful experience of surgery. With applications that only need re-gluing as they wear off (usually about once a month or longer), Soft Paws will end up being your cats’ best friend. Woods Humane Society is against declawing if it solely for the convenience of the owner, and asks that you be open to exploring all options to help establish and maintain a happy relationship with your cat while keeping both your furniture and your friend intact. Declawing your cat should be a last resort.
First: Is there anything wrong with your cat, medically?
Only your vet can answer this, so get on the phone and make an appointment. Before trying to diagnose a “litterbox problem” in any cat, always consult with your veterinarian to be sure the cat does not have a medical problem. Often medical problems such as a urinary tract infection can cause your pets’ behavior to change. If there is not a medical condition present then follow the tips bellow to find a solution.
Second: What has changed recently in your life?
If nothing has changed then we can fall back on the three most common reasons why cats “decide” not to use a litterbox:
Take a good look at the location of your cat’s litterbox. Have you moved it recently, is it a high traffic area or is it easy for the dog to harass your cat while it is using the litterbox?
First, clean the area where the cat has been eliminating. Your best bet: a specific animal odor remover and cleaner like Natures Miracle* can be used at the site to eliminate stains and odor. Second, move the litterbox to a quieter location preferably the location that the cat has been peeing or pooping. Then, gradually move the box several inches every day until the box and the cats’ behavior is where you want it.
As you move the box you will want to make the area that you do not want the cat to use less appealing. Natures Miracle cleaner will do this but, also adding a few treats in a small bowl will help. No one likes to eat where they “go.”
You can try changing the type of litter you use, but remember, do not change too much too quickly.
Some alternatives for you: For cats that pee on linoleum or hard wood, less litter allows them to dig to the bottom of the box…creating a similar surface and providing just enough litter to cover what they have done. You will have to clean the box more but it is worth it.
Softer litter – sandy scoopable litter is easier and feels better to some cats.
Perfumed litter – Often the additives are just too much for a cat’s great sense of smell. Basic plain clay litter works great for these cats.
Fear is a big deterrent for many cats. If you have more than one cat add another box so the fearful cat can build new experiences. If you have a dog, you can baby gate the room off so just the cats can get over or under the gate.
If you have a hood on the box (a covered box) try removing it. Often a large cat will hit their head or just may never have seen a hood before. You can leave it nearby for the cat to explore and hopefully adjust to but remember, changes take time and every cat is different.
Is the cat new to your home? A yes to this question means that your new cat is still in transition and may need just a bit more time. Most cats do not feel comfortable, or at home, in a new environment for 6 months to 1 year. A smooth easy transition to a new home is key to creating harmony and the behavior you want.
A few solutions:
If your cat is new it may simply be too frightened to wander back to the box or not quite know where it is yet. Give your new pet time and show it where the litterbox is a few times a day. In addition, be sure that the litterbox is not in some far off corner of a dark basement. Try keeping all of your new cats’ “stuff” on one floor (food dishes, litterbox, and pet bed).
You may want to consider leaving your cat in a room with the box while you are away during the day. This will prevent the cat from wandering the house and, out of fear, deciding to “go” in a spot that is easy to get to. However, do not confine the cat for weeks at a time. Cats are very different from dogs and require a different approach and long-term confinement should be a last resort.
If fear is not a factor, find out what type of litter the cat is used to, the cat’s previous owner or the adoption agency where you got the cat will know the answer. Check your paperwork for information. A cat’s preference can stay with them for a lifetime.
Did you add an additional new cat or other pet? Do not expect a new cat to share with an existing cat. Just because you want them to share, does not mean they agree. Peeing where another cat pees (especially one you just met) can be seen as territorial aggression or a challenge. A good rule to live by - Add a cat = Add a box!
Solution: Simply get another litterbox and place it far enough apart so each cat can choose the one they prefer and in time the cats may choose to use one or you may just be stuck with double duty.
Have you moved? Often the lingering odor of previous cats can be present in a new home. You may need to use an animal odor eliminator on your rugs or common animal areas.
A few solutions:
A great product called FELIWAY* will synthetically “mark” the territory for your new cat and can assist with spraying, peeing and overall anxiety. You can get this at any pet store.
Did you move the litterbox? Every time you make a change to your environment, you may need to consider how it will affect your cat.
Put the litter box back if you moved it. Show your cat that you did put it back and wait for one week of consistent good litterbox use before you decide to move it again (that is, if you must move it). Then move the litterbox a little at a time every few days or weeks until it is where you want it.
Remember most importantly that punishment is not a solution: It is rare that you will be able to catch the cat in the act of eliminating outside the litterbox, making it very difficult to punish on a consistent basis. In addition, as we all know, inconsistent punishment is not effective, nor is punishment after the fact. Both can make the problem much worse. As always, feel free to call us (805) 543-9316.
Lost and Found Cats
According to a study published in Animals in 2018:
If your cat is lost, this research suggests to consider his or her personality and experience outdoors, and conduct a slow, meticulous search near your home, calling their name, as soon as possible.
If you can’t find your cat within 24 hours:
To avoid losing your cat, consider:
If you find a lost cat: First consider if the cat is a lost pet or a feral cat or community cat. To tell the difference, use these Alley Cat tips. If it is a community cat, consider making a subsidized spay/neuter appointment for it.
If it is a lost pet cat:
If you are interested in adopting a barn cat, please reach out to Ellen Nelson at email@example.com.
Other Barn Cat Resources: