Cat Care

Introducing Your New Cat to the Family Pets

It will take some time to get your new pet used to other family pets, but how you handle this stage will help to prevent fearful and aggressive behaviors from developing. Remember, pets who live in the same house may never be best friends.  Here are a few tips to help them adjust to each other.

When you come home with your new cat, confine him to one room with his litter box, food, water, and a bed. Then feed your resident pet and the new cat near either side of the door to this room. This will help start things out properly with the cats associating something enjoyable (eating) with each other’s presence.

It’s also a good idea to exchange blankets between the pets or put the scented blankets underneath the food dishes so they have a chance to become accustomed to one an other’s scent. When the new cat has spent some time in his confined area, and is using the litter box and eating regularly, give him some free time in the house while the other pets are confined in the same room the new cat was in. This will allow each pet to get used to the other pet’s scent without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to explore and become comfortable with his new surroundings without being frightened by other animals.

This kind of gradual introduction helps to discourage fearful or aggressive behaviors. It is perfectly normal to see some level of these behaviors when they first have direct contact, but don’t give them an opportunity to intensify. If either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them and try again later. You should expect hissing, spitting, and growling from cats that are getting to know each other.

Do not directly interfere if a fight breaks out. The safe way to handle an animal fight is to throw a blanket or towel over each pet. Separate them until they calm down. Until they are accustomed to each other, keep them separate when you are not home or overnight and only have supervised visits. Don’t forget that this is a process and you will need to be patient.


Making Your Home Safe for Your Cat

There are many poisonous items in your home — Lysol™, aspirin, antifreeze and many cleaning products. Make sure to put these out of reach of your pet…but remember cats are very good at opening cabinets. If your cabinets are within your cats reach, consider child-proofing them.  And don’t forget that reclining chairs, string, yarn, garage doors, and electrical cords can also present dangers for your cat.

Many household plants are also poisonous, such as poinsettia and philodendron. If your cat gets into your plants, hang the plants up high. For plants that cannot be hung, wrap the base in tinfoil or stick toothpicks into the dirt to keep your cat from digging. Or you might try spraying the plant with water and sprinkling its leaves with powdered ginger.


Outdoor Cat Facts

The average life span of a cat that goes outdoors is less than two years, while an indoor cat often lives to be sixteen years old.  Indoor cats will not become lost, be stolen, or be injured by a car or another animal. They also won’t pick up fleas or other parasites (ticks, ear mites, worms), or be exposed to a number of contagious, deadly diseases like feline leukemia, infectious peri­tonitis and rabies.  If your cat goes out and your neighborhood is safe, make sure that you have him spayed or neutered first and buy an expandable collar with an I.D. tag in case he gets lost.

Most cats are very happy indoors if they get enough attention and exercise.  Indoor cats, and kittens especially, are active and need lots of toys and stimulation. We recommend climbing toys, scratching posts, and sturdy toys like ping-pong balls and empty spools.


Litter Box Problems

The number one behavioral problem in cats is litter box avoidance. When a cat isn’t using his litter box, he is not being spiteful. He may be under stress, have a medical condition, or be following natural instincts. It is your job as the owner to determine what is troubling him. It could be a move, a new baby, or a new addition to the household. Punishing him will get you nowhere and harsh treatment only contributes to a cat’s stress and worsens the problem.

Cats require clean litter boxes. If you have an old litter box, there may be lingering odors in it. Replace it with a new one. Cats may require two boxes and there should be at least one on each floor of your house. Each litter box should be scooped daily.  Often accidents indicate stress about the litter box placement. Cats are unique. Some like covered or open boxes, clay or clumping litter, plastic liners or newspapers, scented or unscented. Most cats like a quiet, private area. You will need to experiment to determine what your cat prefers.

If you have multiple cats, allow for differences in preferences and provide a separate litter box for each cat. Remember to not put a litter box near the cat’s food dishes. We wouldn’t want to eat near our bathroom either. Conversely, if your cat is having litter box problems put his food dishes in the area of the accident to deter it.

Be sure to check with your veterinarian first about any litter box problems your cat may be having to eliminate medical concerns such as a bladder infection or worms. Clean soiled areas with vinegar and water or soda water. Do not use ammonia-based products, which smell like urine to a cat and will only attract more accidents.  As a last resort confine the cat in a room that has not been soiled in the past. After a period of time your cat should be using the box consistently, then you can expand its territory, gradually adding one room at a time. If you are trying to make an outdoor cat use a litter box indoors, try mixing a couple spoonfuls of dirt in with the litter.