Got a New Kitten for Christmas?
by Christina Strickland
Adopting a kitten during the holidays is a kind-hearted thing to do, but many cats adopted as gifts during the holiday season end up at shelters a few months later due to behavioral issues. Here’s a guide to help avoid the most common reasons cats are relinquished to shelters. Avoiding these common mistakes will help keep your relationship with your new fluffy friend a good one.
Scratching the Furniture!
Scratching is a normal feline behavior. To expect your cat not to scratch is unrealistic, but there are things you can do to prevent inappropriate scratching. Be sure to have vertical scratching posts available. Scratching posts should be tall enough to allow your cat to fully extend his front legs while in a standing position. Cats are finicky creatures; some cats prefer sisal rope–covered scratching posts, while others prefer burlap or carpet textures. Enticing your cat to the scratching post can be helped with the aid of catnip, treats, and toys. If your cat is still scratching inappropriate items, double-sided tape over the areas your cat is attracted to can be quite an effective deterrent. One of the best ways to prevent inappropriate scratching is to keep your cat’s nails trimmed. Begin handling your kitten’s paws regularly to get him used to the handling necessary for nail trimming. Cat nail trimmers can be purchased online or at your favorite pet store. We highly recommend having a styptic powder on hand, such as Kwik-Stop Powder. This powder helps to stop bleeding should you accidentally cut your cat’s nail too short, causing it to bleed. To trim the nails, begin by gently applying pressure or with your fingers, to each toe to extend the attached nail. With the nail extended, trim the clear or white tip of the nail only. Avoid the pink area closest to the toe. This is the blood supply to the nail and will bleed if cut too short. Always end each nail trimming session with a treat. Many cats do very well with regular nail trimming when they are started young and enticed with treats! If you need assistance learning to trim your kitten’s nails, call us! We are happy to help!
Urinating Outside the Litter Box
Urinating outside of the litter box is one of the most frustrating issues that a cat owner can face. Cats do this for a number of reasons, and many times these reasons are solely behavioral. If your cat is urinating outside of the litter box, please consult your veterinarian to ensure that the cause is not physical. Urinary tract infections, urinary crystals/stones, and even arthritis can contribute to inappropriate urination. If the cause is behavioral, we must determine why your cat is doing this. Think of it this way; for many cats, urinating outside the litter box is their equivalent of a complaint department. Something is making your cat unhappy, and this is their way of letting you know. One of the most common reasons we see this issue has to do with the litter box itself:
- You should have one litter box per cat in your household plus one extra. For example if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes available. The interpersonal relationships between cats can be complex. This simple measure will often eliminate the issue of urinating outside the litter box entirely.
- Keep the litter box scooped and clean. Your litter boxes should be scooped at least daily. All litter should be changed and the box disinfected at least one to two times monthly.
- The type of litter can also make a big difference. For some cat the scent and texture of the litter can be repellent. If a change in the litter type or brand preceded the litter box issue, change back! Once you find a litter that your cats like, don’t mess with success. Often the scented cat litter that we like is off-putting to our feline friends. The depth of the litter matters too. Don’t over-fill your cat boxes. About two inches of litter is generally acceptable to most cats.
- The type and location of litter box can also make a cat less than fond of using the box. Cats are private creatures and generally prefer a quiet and private location for using the litter box. Be careful not to make it too private though. Cats in multiple cat households may be deterred from using boxes that are covered or too enclosed. They may be uncomfortable using the litter box if they can’t keep an eye out for incoming housemates.
Remember, if the reason is not physical, your cat is trying to tell you something by urinating in inappropriate places. It can be challenging to figure out what the issue is and prevention is absolutely the easiest route!
Cat Fights and Bullying
As your sweet little kitten reaches maturity, the dynamics of your cat’s relationship to other cats in the household may change. Ensuring that every cat has personal space is of utmost importance. Cats need areas to be social and areas to be alone. For many cats the solution is vertical. Cat trees, cat shelves, and other high perch areas are often key to improving interpersonal feline relationships. Having a lack of personal space can also be another cause for cats to urinate outside of the litter box. Even if your cats are the best of friends, allowing vertical areas for your cat to perch may on be essential to keeping harmony in your household. Keeping food and water bowls in separate areas can also be helpful in establishing distance between cats.
This Cat is Into Everything!
Animals, just like people, get bored. When pets get bored, they often find less than ideal things to do. Pets need environmental enrichment. Environmental enrichment is a term used to describe the measures taken to keep your cat’s world entertaining. Wild cats hunt for their food, they climb trees, and must rely on skill and instinct for survival. While your cat doesn’t have to hunt and kill food or be wary of predators in your living room it is important to create situations that stimulate your cat for emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
- Feeding: Feed your cat smaller, more frequent meals. Try hiding your cat’s food bowl in a different location each meal to create an environment where your cat must “hunt” for their meals. Use puzzle toys for dry food or treats to create mental stimulation.
- Playtime: Cats need playtime with you. It creates a bond between you and your cat and allows the physical activity needed to keep your cat strong and healthy. Cat toys come in a variety of types with laser toys and catnip toys being the most popular for stimulating active play! Daily playtime is a great way to keep your cat out of trouble.
- Hiding houses: Cats love boxes! Create a play house out of cardboard boxes for your cat. Line the box with crinkly paper and a little sprinkle of catnip for extra fun.
- Time together: Spending time with your cats is the bottom line. Providing things for them to do and activities to do together is key to maintaining a happy cat household.
If you have questions about your cat or cats we are here to help. If problems arise, please don’t hesitate to talk to your veterinarian. Our goal is to keep your human/cat relationship happy and healthy for many years to come. You can call us here at Claws & Paws at 281.997.1426 or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.