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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How to Care for a Stray, Feral or Abandoned Cat

Abandoned Cat
My cat, Scrappy, that some previous neighbors abandoned, before I rescued her in the winter of 2014.

April 5, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

There are so many cats that are feral, stray or that have been abandoned by irresponsible owners, that I felt this was important information to share. However, before taking any action to help a cat, please find out the laws pertaining to stray and feral cats, in your area. There are places that prohibit feeding them and in some instances, by feeding a cat, you become it’s lawful owner. That’s why it’s important to know the laws, before you act so that you can decide what’s best.

It’s also equally important to make sure you’re dealing with a cat that really is a stray, feral or that was abandoned. In order to find out, it’s a good idea to ask people in the area if they know anything about the cat. You can even take pictures and distribute flyers so that any potential owner might see them. There are also groups on social media sites that publish pictures of lost pets, for most areas. I highly recommend looking there and on classified websites to try to find any owners. If you’re able to, you could even put a collar on the cat with a tag that reads; “If this is your cat, please call (your phone number).” If you do so, make sure it is the kind of collar that breaks off, if the cat gets caught on something. They’re called “break away collars.”

While waiting to hear from any potential owners, providing food, water and shelter could save the cats life! You can leave these things, in the area where you’ve repeatedly seen the cat. A mixture of dry and wet cat food is best because it could have problems eating dry food, if it has untreated dental issues. A shelter can be made very inexpensively. There are many options for doing so. A good shelter could be made out of a large, old cooler. Just cut a hole, big enough for a cat to get through, in one end. Another option is to use two plastic storage containers with some foam insulation, in between the two containers.

Example of home made feral cat shelter.
Here’s one that I made for my cat, Scrappy, when she was still outside.

The Alley Cat Advocates website has really good instructions on how to make your own cat shelter. Just click on the word “instructions” above and then click on the icon that reads: “Download Pdf.” Once you’ve made a shelter, place it in the same area where you’ve been feeding the cat. You do want to leave, at least, a little space in between the food and the shelter, as the food can draw the attention of other animals.

If you haven’t heard from someone claiming the cat, within a week or two, you need to decide what to do with the cat. If it’s truly feral, meaning it doesn’t want human interaction, at all. Then, it should be trapped and taken to a shelter that has a trap, neuter and release program. If you can’t find a shelter that participates, in your area, you can approach the shelters near you, about starting a program. The Alley Cat Allies website goes into much more detail about how to do so, here.

If the cat is trapped and taken to a shelter they will evaluate whether the cat is adoptable or not. If it is adoptable, they will put the cat up for adoption. After it has been sterilized, received shots and any needed veterinary care. If the cat isn’t adoptable, the shelter will get in touch with you after the cat has recovered from surgery, to take the cat back where you trapped it, for release. Doing this helps cut down the feral cat population.

If the cat is friendly and, like I did, you decide you want to try to integrate the cat into your household, it’s important that the cat receive veterinary care before you bring it indoors. Not only for the health of any other pets but, also for the health of yourself and your family. Cats can be carriers of parasites that can be transferred to humans. It’s also important that the cat be tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLv) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) before being around any other cats. There are no cures for either disease and they are contagious to other cats. A cat with FeLv should not be with other cats under any circumstances.

However, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is only spread when cats wound each other during a fight. So, if you do have other cats, you can decide whether you want to take that risk or not. If you decide to take the risk, please introduce the cats to each other, using extreme caution. You can read how to do so in my blog post titled, “How to Successfully Introduce New Cats or Kittens to Older Cats.”

My cat, Scrappy is FIV positive. My husband and I, integrated her into our home, with two other cats, without any issues. It took quite a while to do so but, I’m really glad that we did. She’s a good cat!

My cat Scrappy.
Scrappy, today.

Disclaimer:

I am not a veterinarian nor am I affiliated with or receiving compensation from any of the other websites that are linked to, in this blog post. Please always consult a qualified veterinarian for advice when dealing with cats.

What Every Cat Owner Should Know About Feline Diabetes

Princess Overweight in 2006
Top cat is Gonzo. Bottom cat is Princess, who was very overweight, at that time. Taken in 2006.

March 22, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

I look back and can’t believe how overweight my cat, Princess, was in 2006! At the time, I didn’t even realize how big she was. I went through a few tough years and in those years, my cats missed a few annual checkups. I highly recommend that you take your pets to the vet, at least once a year. Senior cats should be seen every six months. That’s how diseases are spotted and treated, before they become a serious issue.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t how it happened for Princess, and I still beat myself up for it, to this day. In the summer of 2009, Princess started losing a lot of weight, and fast. Her hind legs began sliding out from underneath her, as well. I suddenly couldn’t keep up with the litter box, no matter how often I scooped it! She was also drinking so excessively, that, she would lay next to the water dish, to drink. She was diagnosed with feline diabetes and neuropathy in June of 2009. Neuropathy was the result of having high blood glucose levels, for an extended period of time. It’s, basically, nerve damage that’s caused by uncontrolled diabetes.

Here’s a list of possible Feline Diabetes Symptoms;

  • Excessive and frequent urination
  • Breath that smells sweet
  • Excessive drinking of water
  • Excessive hunger or a change in appetite
  • Being overweight and/or weight loss (This is not always the case, some cats are diagnosed while at a healthy weight.)
  • Walking on hind hocks (not up on their toes, like they should be)
  • Feet that slide out from under their body and/or weak legs.
  • Dull looking and oily coat
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Irritability
  • Drooling
  • Unusual litter box odor
  • Urinating or defecating outside of the litter box and/or on soft objects

Not all cats will have all symptoms and overweight cats are at a much higher risk. Cats are treated with insulin injections and Princess received them twice a day. She was on them for four years! The veterinarian also had me put her on a dry cat food with lower carbohydrate and higher protein percentages. However, her condition didn’t improve and she also developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease!

That’s when I made the decision to switch her food! I, actually, wrote about this, in another blog post titled Raw Pet Food, The FDA and My Sick Cat. Instead of re-typing all the details, I’m going to continue by quoting myself, from that post;

“In 2012, I took a leap of faith and decided, against our veterinarian’s wishes, to start feeding both of my cats, a raw pet food. Rad Cat was just about the only raw cat food on the market, at that time, that could be purchased locally. So, that’s what I switched my cats to. At first, my cats didn’t want to eat it. It wasn’t until I mixed it with canned food, that they devoured it! I started weaning them off of kibble and slowly replaced it with more raw and canned food.

Then, one day, Princess didn’t seem to be doing well, at all. I rushed her to a vet hospital, where I learned that her blood glucose levels were dangerously low! Because I had changed her food, and because her regular veterinarian had kept her on the same amount of insulin (despite me telling him about the diet change), she nearly died! Her blood glucose had dropped to dangerously low levels. After the vet stabilized her, I decided it was time to switch veterinarians. The new vet taught me how to test blood glucose levels at home, and how to know when, and if, Princess needed insulin. She hasn’t had an insulin injection, since!

Feeding raw food, not only seemed to send Princesses diabetes into remission, it seemed to cure her digestive issues, as well. I had never seen my cats so healthy and happy!”

Princess after eating raw cat food.
Princess at a healthy weight in 2016, after feeding raw cat food!

On April 1, 2019, Princess will be turning 19 years old! If you want your cats to live a long, healthy lives, feed them a species appropriate diet! Dry food is not a good choice for cats, as it does not provide enough moisture and the percentage of carbohydrates in them, is far too high! (There’s a reason feline diabetes and kidney disease are becoming so common in cats!) Think about what a cat would eat in the wild.

Cats should be fed, either, a low carb, high protein canned/ wet food or a raw cat food. I, actually, mix the two. I was having issues with Princess, recently, after the company that made her raw food, went out of business. However, I found an alternative and she’s doing really well, again! If you would like to know what I feed her, leave a comment.

I highly recommend doing a little research, yourself, to try to find the right food for you and your cat. There’s a really good comparison chart on the website catinfo.org that’s written by Lisa A. Pierson D.V.M. that shows carbohydrate and protein percentages for a large variety of different brands and kinds of canned and raw cat foods. I’ll leave a link to that chart, below.

I hope you find this information helpful and that it keeps someone else from ending up with a diabetic cat!

Disclaimer:

I am not affiliated with nor am I receiving compensation from the website, it’s author or any of the food companies listed on the website or cat food chart that I am linking to below. You should always consult with a veterinarian when switching your pets food. I’m not a vet, I’m simply sharing what worked for me and my cat.

Here’s the link to the food chart mentioned above:

Cat Food Comparison Chart on Catinfo.org by Lisa A. Pierson

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.

Gonzo’s Antics – Memories of One Cool Cat | Part III : The Flying Feline

March 1, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

Gonzo thoroughly enjoyed hiding under and attacking couch cushions! He was about 2 or 3 years old, here.

Part III :

The Flying Feline


After having to buy a new mattress, things settled down, nicely. Which left me time to think about decorating my condo. Since the living room had big vaulted ceilings and two sky lights, I decided I wanted to hang some plants. I did my research, and found out that Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) are one of the safer plants you can have in a house, with cats.

So, I got a spider plant and one of those macramé plant hangers. I ended up hanging it in the living room, directly under a skylight and over the love seat. The plant loved its new home and it grew like crazy! It even started to “spider out,” after several months. I was really happy with it and even happier that Gonzo and Princess hadn’t noticed it! Or so, I thought……

It had been another long day at work. Only, I had switched jobs and now worked as a receptionist for a company in Boulder, Colorado. It was about a 35 minute commute. So, after battling traffic, I was happy to be home! I stuck my key into the door and turned the handle….chaos ensued.

Gonzo was swinging through the air, as if he were on a trapeze! All I could see was his butt, sticking up, out of the planter that had contained my spider plant. He was digging in the soil, as if searching for buried treasure. Soil and pieces of plant were everywhere! I was so shocked, all I could yell was, “Gonzo!”

Upon hearing that, Gonzo lifted his head, distracted from his adventure and let out a chattering noise that sounded like a dolphin! He realized he was in trouble. Yet, still swinging, and with potting soil stuck to his nose, he went back to digging. Only, with more urgency, as he knew his little adventure was coming to an end. I attempted to jump and grab at him but, he was too high up! “Get out of there,” I said in a half angry, half trying not to laugh, voice. I couldn’t reach him so, I started climbing onto the back of the love seat. As soon as I was within reaching distance, Gonzo leaped to escape! He took off running like a greyhound, chasing a rabbit.

I started cleaning his mess and, at first, was pretty pissed off about it. However, after seeing that it didn’t really do any damage and all the soil cleaned up with a little vacuuming, I giggled to myself. I took a step back and realized the distance that he had to have jumped, in order to even get into that pot! I still don’t know how he did it. It was at least a good 5 to 6 feet from the back of the love seat, to the pot that the plant was in!

I concluded that he was crazy and went looking for him, so he could be scolded. Everytime I got close to him, for the rest of the day, he took off running. After which, he would stop (once far enough away that there was no chance I could reach him), look right at me, and meow in triumph! Gonzo 2 – Humans 0

Gonzo’s Antics – Memories of One Cool Cat | Part II

February 25, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

Gonzo – Wasn’t He A Gorgeous Cat!?

Part II


It was a hot summer day and work had been hell! I couldn’t wait to get home to relax and unwind. I usually took a shower after work because, being a veterinary assistant, is a dirty job. I was too tired, though. I just wanted to lay back on my bed and cool off.

I had a California king size waterbed, at that time. If you’ve never had a waterbed in the summer, you haven’t lived! You turn the heater for it off and it’s like laying in an ice box.

I was finally home! I put my purse down where I always kept it, next to the bed, and kicked my shoes off. I turned with my back towards the bed and plopped down on it with my entire body. SPLASH!! I screamed because the water was so cold and I was drenched!

Luckily the waterbed liner held up, keeping the water from flooding my condo or the condominium downstairs. I immediately suspected a cat popped the mattress but, couldn’t be sure. Being on the top floor made draining the water that remained in the mattress, a great time. I had hoses running out the window and down the side of the building to a grassy area.

Once all the water was cleaned up and I was left with a ton of wet towels, it was time to investigate. I started inspecting the mattress to see where the hole was. I couldn’t find it, at first. Then I saw it! At the very corner were three very distinct rips. It was a cat!!

My ex and I had adopted a second cat, a female that we named Princess. It was time to see which cat was guilty. I took each cat and gently pushed their paws so their nails came out and tried lining the nails up with the three tears. Princess was still too little. It didn’t match up.

As soon as I picked Gonzo up and walked over to the mattress, I knew he was guilty. He started wiggling and trying to get away from me! I managed to get him to calm down enough for me to try to see if his nails matched up to the rips.. BINGO! His nails lined up with those tears, perfectly!

I couldn’t be mad at him though, I should’ve known that waterbeds and cats, just don’t mix. Gonzo 1 – Humans 0

Gonzo’s Antics – Memories of One Cool Cat | Part I

Gonzo

February 22, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

Part I


In 1999 I married my, now, ex husband and we bought a nice two bedroom condominium. It was on the top floor, had big vaulted ceilings and skylights and beautiful cream colored carpet. I worked as a veterinary assistant at a vet hospital that was just a few miles away. Despite being busy with work, I felt like something was missing from my life and decided I needed a pet!

I always had dogs while growing up but, didn’t think a condo would be ideal for one. So, I decided to go to the local animal shelter to look at cats. I had my heart set on adopting a black one because, they’re usually the last to be adopted.

There were so many cats there, I felt bad for the ones I passed by! They were all meowing and acting crazy, trying to get my attention. Then I came to a jet black cat with huge copper colored eyes. He didn’t make a sound and sat in a very “prim and proper” manner. I knew right then, he was the one!

I went and told the shelter staff which one I wanted to see, and was met with a sigh. The lady told me that I couldn’t adopt that one because he was scheduled to be euthanized the next day. She explained that he had an upper respiratory infection and had been sick for awhile. I was really upset! They were going to put him down over a respiratory infection!? Telling me that just made me want him more.

I demanded to talk to a supervisor and explained that I worked at a veterinary hospital. I told them I wanted to adopt him, despite him being sick! I knew he could get better after just a few days on antibiotics. After the supervisor realized that I worked at one of the veterinary hospitals that did spays and neuters for them, she agreed to let me take him home. However, it was under the condition that I had to return him, if he wasn’t better in one week. I agreed.

I filled out all the paperwork and took him home. I named him Gonzo because my sister in law had a cat named Fozzie. He recovered from his upper respiratory infection within three days so, I got to keep him! The veterinarian I worked for, thought he was about 9 months old and so, Gonzo’s antics began…..