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.
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.
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: