How to Keep Your Kitten from Becoming a Terrorist

April 17, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

You’ve more than likely come across a cat, or two, that seemed innocent and cute, until you tried to pet it! Cats who bite, claw and attack strangers and sometimes even their owners…. are like little terrorists! Only with fur, fangs and claws! No one wants to end up with a cat like that, or a cat that hisses, growls and hides from people.

There are a number of things that can lead a cat to act in such a way. Some of those reasons could, possibly, be related to health. Therefore, if you have a cat who suddenly becomes aggressive, or that starts hiding, please take them to a veterinarian.

What I’m going to focus on, is; how our behavior can influence our cat’s behavior. This is especially important when you’re raising a kitten. What you teach them and the experiences they have, in their youth, will shape how they act, in the future.

First, it’s extremely important to socialize a kitten. Not just with people but, also with other pets. The American Veterinarian website, has an excellent article on the proper way to do so. Of course, you should give the kitten a few days, to adjust to new surroundings, before doing so.

Second, you need to teach your kitten that biting people isn’t ok. The way I taught all four of my cats, was to gently stick my finger in their mouth, just far enough to hit the gag reflex. You only want to do so, for a split second. They quickly learn that biting, isn’t a pleasant experience!

If you would rather, you can try blowing in the kitten’s face, instead. Cats don’t like it and they’ll usually stop, when you do. Whatever technique you choose, you should loudly say, “ouch,” when the kitten bites. This reinforces the message that you don’t want to be bit. If the kitten is really out of control, grabbing it’s scruff (the extra skin at the back of its neck, above it’s shoulders) and saying “no,” works. However, I like to use that as a last resort.

You should, also, avoid using your hands, fingers, feet or your clothes, as toys. For instance, putting your hand under the covers of your bed, and moving it around to provoke the kitten, is teaching the kitten that it’s acceptable to attack your hands! Use a toy with a wand on it, instead. Anytime you play with the kitten, a toy should be involved.

Also, if you have children, it’s important to teach them that they need to be gentle with the kitten. Squeezing, hitting and playing rough with it, can result in a fearful and or aggressive cat.

Another thing that can impact behavior is being left alone, for extended periods of time. Kittens require time and attention. If you’re gone all day, it’s a good idea to have someone that can stop by, check on, and play with, the kitten. Playing with the kitten on a daily basis, will not only help tire it out, it will help you raise a happy, friendly cat, as well. Bonding is another bonus!

Disclaimer:

I am not associated with, or receiving compensation from any of the websites I’ve linked to. I’m only sharing helpful resources, combined with my personal experiences. Please, always consult a veterinarian when caring for pets!

Sources:

Martin K., Martin D. (2017 February 25) The Keys to Kitten Socialization American Veterinarian Journals. Retrieved from https://www.americanveterinarian.com/journals/amvet/2017/february2017/the-keys-to-kitten-socialization

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Litter Box Challenges and Possible Solutions

March 6, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

Cats are very peculiar about where they “do their business,” and there are many reasons your cat may end up going outside of the litter box. First and foremost, please understand that your cat doesn’t have it out for you! They aren’t doing it because you didn’t feed them their favorite food last night.

Most of the time it’s either a health problem or stress that causes a cat to eliminate outside of their designated area. That’s why the number one thing you should do (after you find a “present,” where it shouldn’t be), is take your cat to be seen by a veterinarian! Diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, thyroid problems, poor eye sight, pain from being declawed, etc.. are just a hand full of the many ailments that could cause a cat to avoid their box.

Other things that should be considered are;

  • The location of the box – Is it in a location that offers privacy?
  • Other pets – Are they following the cat and disturbing them while in the box? Do they get along with each other?
  • Number of litter boxes – Do you know there should always be one more litter box, than there are cats?
  • Type of litter – Did you recently switch brands?
  • Changes in the household – What recent changes could have stressed your cat out? New baby? Having house guests? Did someone move in with you?
  • Changes in your life – Have you been spending less time at home? Did your work hours change? Have you been stressed out?

All of these things could lead a cat to urinate or defecate outside of the litter box. If your veterinarian doesn’t find anything wrong, health wise, then consider the list above and try to figure out what is causing it. You may even need to hire a behaviorist. Please don’t ever punish your pet for an accident outside of the box! This will only make the situation worse. Most of the time, if you can pinpoint the reason, you will be able to find a good solution that will put an end to it.

Here are some adjustments that I’ve had to make in my own house to help an aging cat and also because I have two cats that don’t get along. First, always protect the floor underneath and around litter boxes. If they are in carpeted areas, you may want to buy some of that clear plastic stuff that’s used over high traffic areas, to protect the carpet. Sorry, I’m not sure what its called! You could also use one of those clear mats that go under office chairs. I actually resorted to using clear plastic cupboard liner (not the adhesive kind).

After doing this, I realized that cats don’t really like walking on plastic! So, on top of that, I have indoor/outdoor carpet tiles (the kind with the thick rubber backing). These work really well! If someone misses the box, they can easily be cleaned or replaced. It’s much better than having to haul out the steam cleaner to steam the carpet in that room.

I have three litter boxes, for two cats. Two in a designated “cat room” and another at the opposite end of the house. There’s two in the cat room, just in case both cats end up in there, trying to do their dirty work, at the same time. The one at the other end of the house was put there because I realized that sometimes, one cat will try to “guard” the cat room. When this happens, the other cat has another option.

If you have a cat that consistently goes in one spot, away from the litter boxes, try putting a litter box there. Also, the best way to get rid of urine smell is by cleaning it up, with white vinegar! (Color test before using it, though.) If that doesn’t put a stop to the issue, try putting puppy pads there. Puppy pads are marvelous! They’re quick and easy to clean up and they protect the surface underneath them.

Now, last but not least, are the litter boxes, themselves, the issue? Some cats prefer covered boxes, others won’t go in them. Make sure the boxes you have are big enough and that they are kept clean. You should scoop them everyday and clean them out, entirely, every week. When you do so, don’t just dump all the litter. You should also be cleaning the box. Dish soap and a scrub sponge work well. This can be done in a bath tub, laundry room sink or even outside with a hose. Make sure to rinse well and dry before putting fresh litter in.

If you have an older cat, it’s a good idea to offer at least one box that has a lower side. That will make it easier for your cat to get in and out of the litter box. This was the issue in my house and it took me awhile to figure it out. Once I cut one of the sides of a litter box down, there were no more issues with going outside of the box. After that, I went and bought under the bed storage containers, removed the lids, cut down one of the longest sides on each of them and I now use those as litter pans!

I hope this information helps anyone who may be dealing with litter box issues. It may take some time to figure out what will work for you and your cat but, there’s always a solution and it shouldn’t be giving your cat up to a shelter!

Disclaimer: I’m not associated with or receiving compensation from any company who’s products I have mentioned in this post. I’m simply sharing what has worked for me and other cat parents that I know.

How to Successfully Introduce New Cats or Kittens to Older Cats

February 20, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

Things You’ll Need:

  • A room where you can put the new cat, separate from the existing cats. Such as; a guest bedroom, an extra bathroom, etc.. (Just make sure there are child safety locks on any cupboards and any harmful substances are stored to where kitty can’t get to them. If it’s a bathroom, keep the toilet seat down.)
  • New Litter Box and Fresh Litter
  • Dishes for Food and Water (separate from any existing cats dishes)
  • Cat Food and Water
  • A Few New Cat Toys
  • A Cat Bed (you can make one out of some old towels and a box)
  • 3 Baby Gates
  • A Spray Bottle Full of Water
  • Patience!!

Instructions:

It’s a good idea to have a room set up before bringing a new cat home but, I know that’s not always possible. Whatever room you pick, make sure that there aren’t any hazards to the new cat or kitten. Kittens, especially, can fit into surprisingly small spaces! Any spaces under or behind furniture, should be blocked off. (Trust me, my cat Princess ended up stuck under my dresser, when I first got her!) Set up a new litter box, food and water dishes, some toys and some sort of cat bed, in the room you’ve selected.

When you bring the new cat inside, take it directly to the designated room it will be staying in. Make sure all existing cats are not in that room and shut the door. Only then should you let the new cat out of it’s carrier. The door to the room with the new cat inside, should remain closed, at least for the first day. If the new cat hasn’t been dewormed and vaccinated, the door should stay shut, until a few days after it has been to a veterinarian. Don’t leave the new cat alone that whole time! Frequently go in the room to check on him or her, check food and water, clean up the litter box and of course, spend some time playing with them. My husband and I always decide which one of us will spend the first night with the new cat. That way it feels safe and gives an opportunity to bond with it.

The other reason you want to keep the door shut, at first, is to allow your existing cats to smell and hear the new cat but, not see it. This gets them used to the new scent and let’s them know a new cat has arrived, without giving them a chance to fight. You also want to make sure you’re giving your existing cats extra affection and attention during this entire process. They may be agitated, curious, upset, scared and might hiss or even try to attack the door to the room where the new cat is. That’s normal behavior and it’s important to remember that cats are territorial.

After the first day, or after the new cat has had a few days after being dewormed and vaccinated, you can open the door. Before doing so, stack three baby gates, one on top of the other, in the doorway. This serves as a barrier between the existing cats and the new cat, while also allowing them to see each other. Make sure the baby gates are correctly installed and are secure, as one or more cats may try attacking the gates! The door should only be left open when someone is there to supervise what’s going on. If things get too heated and one of the cats is repeatedly trying to attack, shut the door and try again the next day. The time you’ll have to do this, depends on the cats. I’ve had a cat that was just curious and ready for a new playmate and I’ve also had a cat that hated other cats! Understand that it may take some time to get to where you trust the cats together.

When you have the door open, you should start feeding all cats near the baby gates, on their respective sides of it. You should not allow old and new cats to be together, without them, until they can calmly eat an entire meal, close to each other, without any incident. This could take a few days, it could take a year! Be prepared for that. Patience is an absolute must, if you want to make this work.

Once all cats can eat, without incident, you’re ready to let the new cat out of its room! Yay! Remove the two top baby gates and leave the lowest one. This allows the new cat to come out when they feel comfortable, it also allows existing cats to go in the room if they want but, leaves a small barrier they have to jump over, to do so. This should only be done under supervision.

This is when you may need a spray bottle of water. I know its controversial but, I would much rather spray cats that are getting into a fight, in order to get them to stop, then end up with injured cats! Cats don’t like water so, if they do get into a confrontation, a quick squirt of water should get them to stop. Doing so also sends the message that you won’t tolerate any fighting amongst them. You may want to give them a chance to stop before spraying them, by loudly saying, “no,” and clapping your hands but, if that doesn’t work, be prepared to squirt them with water.

All major bickering has to stop before you can take the final gate down and this should also be supervised, the first few times. Don’t leave the cats alone together until you’re confident that they won’t fight while you’re gone. Until you reach this point, put the new cat, back in it’s room and shut the door, anytime you leave. (Please, do not leave the new cat shut in its room for extended amounts of time.)

It’s worth noting that, not all cats will end up being buddies. With lots of patience and love, you should be able to get them to where they at least tolerate one another. Good luck!

I should mention, there are diffusers sold in major pet supply stores, that help calm cats. One brand is Feliway, and I’ve found that they do help.

Disclaimer:

I am not a veterinarian and am only sharing what has worked in my home. It’s always best to consult a veterinarian.

I’m not affiliated with or receiving compensation from any brands or products that I mentioned.