AOH :: CATS3.FAQ|
Cats FAQ 3/4
Last-modified: 14 September 1993
Periodicity: 20 days
This is the third part of the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) List
for rec.pets.cats. It is posted every twenty days: updates,
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welcome: send email to one of the addresses below.
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IV. PROBLEM BEHAVIORS (INSIDE)
A. In General.
You cannot discipline cats as you would dogs. Dogs form social
hierarchies that you can take advantage of by placing yourself at the
top. Cats form social groups only by necessity and the arrangement is
based on respecting territory, not by respecting the "top dog". Many
mistakes made with cats are due to thinking that they will react like
**Do not *ever* hit a cat or use any sort of physical punishment.**
You will only teach your cat to fear you.
* You can train your cat not to perform inappropriate behavior by
training your cat to perform other behavior alternative to or
incompatible with the inappropriate behavior.
* Since cats hate to be surprised, you can use waterbottles,
clapping, hissing, and other sudden noises (such as snapping,
"No!") to stop unwanted behavior. However, be aware that these
tactics will not work when you are not present. In addition,
immediacy is key: even seconds late may render it ineffective.
You must do it as soon as the cat starts the behavior.
* The face-push has been described by various readers. This
consists of pushing the palm of your hand into the cat's face.
This is best used when discouraging something like biting. Don't
hit the cat, simply push its face back gently. You might
accompany it with a "no!"
* Making certain behaviors impossible is another tactic. Think
"childproofing": keep food in containers; keep breakable and/or
dangerous objects out of reach; make sure heavy objects, e.g.
bookshelves, are stable. Look for childproofing gadgets and hints
and think how you can apply them to preventing cat problems. Even
when the analogy isn't perfect, physically preventing problems is
still a good guide. E.g., defrosting meat? Put it in the
(unheated) stove, not out on the counter.
It is always best to train your cat away from undesireable behavior as
soon as possible, as young as possible. You will have the most
success training your cat when it is young on what is acceptable to
scratch and what is not. Never tolerate it when it is "cute" since it
will not always remain so.
Cats are frequently fascinated with houseplants. However, you may not
appreciate the attention, which can range from chewing on the plant
leaves to digging or peeing in the plant soil.
For chewing, try spraying Bitter Apple or Bitter Orange on the leaves.
Dusting cayenne pepper on them may also help. You may wish to grow
some grass or catnip for them as an alternative; plants do provide
them with needed nutrients (the absence of which may be causing their
For digging or urinating, cover the dirt with aluminum foil or gravel.
If the plant needs it, add some vinegar to the soil to counteract the
ammonia in the urine.
Some cats start spraying in the house. You will want to first rule
out any medical causes, such as FUS or cystitis. Sometimes it is
useful to distinguish between *spraying* (which winds up on walls) and
*urinating* (which is generally on the floor). Spraying is more often
a behavior problem and urination is more often a medical problem. It
is best to check with a vet first. If the problem is medical, then
you will need to simply clean up the odor after the problem is
treated, otherwise you will need to try some of the behavior
modification outlined below (and you'll still need to clean up the
You must remove the odor from items that the cat sprayed on to prevent
the cat from using the same spot again later. The ammonia smell tells
the cat that this is an elimination spot, so never use ammonia to try
and "remove" the odor! See (Removing Urine Odor).
Cats sometimes spray to mark their territory so sometimes an area for
your cat that other animals cannot go to will help. Keeping the
litterbox *immaculately clean* will help in other cases.
Sometimes cats pick small throw rugs with non-skid backing to urinate
on. This is caused by an odor from the backing that somehow tells
the cat to urinate there (probably an ammonia-like smell).
Cat-repellent sprays or washing the rug *may* help; you might just
have to get rid of that rug.
For persistent spraying after the above steps, try the procedure
outlined in (Housebreaking).
For unwanted scratching, provide an approved scratching post or other
item. Issue firm "no!"s on unapproved items. You may wish to spray
Bitter Apple or Bitter Orange (available at most pet stores) on items
that they are particularly stubborn about. Praise them and give a cat
treat when they use the approved scratching material. Demonstrate how
to use the post by (yes) going up to it and scratching it like your
cat would. They will come over to investigate your scent and then
leave their own.
Pepper (black, white, or cayenne) can be applied to furniture and
plants to discourage scratching. This does not deter all cats. You
can also cover areas with double-sided tape (sticky on both sides) to
discourage unwanted scratching. (Always be sure to provide an
alternative scratching item.)
In general, cats will either use a post a lot or never use it. The
deciding factor can be the material that the post is made out of. It
has to be fairly smooth (cats usually don't like plush carpet) and
shouldn't be a material that their nails get stuck in. Once that
happens, they may not use the post anymore. Natural fiber rope
wrapped tightly around the post appeals to many cats. Some cats like
plain wood; a two-by-four made available may work well. Other cats
prefer the kind of "scratching posts" that are horizontal rather than
It is possible for cats to stop using the litter box or to have
trouble learning in the first place.
Do NOT *ever* try to discourage a cat's mistakes by rubbing its nose
in it. It never worked for dogs and most certainly will not work for
cats. In fact, you wind up reminding the cat of where a good place to
Potential CAUSES for failure to use litterbox:
* MEDICAL PROBLEMS:
1. diarrhea (many causes)
a. small intestinal- soft to watery
b. colitis (inflamed colon)- mucus in stool, blood, straining
2. urinary bladder inflammation
b. Bacterial infections
d. calculi (bladder stones)
(excessive water volume consumed and urine voided: upper water
intake for cats is 1oz/lb; most cats drink considerably less
a. diabetes insipidus
b. diabetes mellitus
c. kidney disease
d. liver disease
e. adrenal gland disease
f. pyometra (pus in the uterus)
g. hypercalcemia (high blood calcium)
* TERRITORIAL MARKING:
1. intact female in heat
2. intact male spraying
3. marking of peripheral walls particularly near windows may be
from presence of outdoor cats
4. may be triggered by over-crowding of indoor cats
5. previously neutered cat has a bit of testicular or ovarian
tissue remaining, possibly resulting in a low level of hormone
which could trigger marking
6. neutered male with sexual experience exposed to female in heat
* LITTER BOX PROBLEMS:
1. overcrowding: too many cats using same box
2. failure to change littter frequently enough -- some cats won't
use a dirty box
3. failure to provide constant access to litterbox
4. change in type of litter used
5. change in location of litterbox
6. unfamiliar, frightening, or loud objects near box: dishwasher,
7. food and water too close to litterbox
8. objectionable chemical used to wash or disinfect litterbox
9. location preference: your cat may want the box in a different
10. texture preference: your cat doesn't like the feel of the
11. failure to cover litter: learned process from parents
a. use of litterbox is instinctive
b. cats that don't cover litter may be more prone to
c. your cat may be indicating texture preference problem
* PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS:
(most common manifestation is inappropriate urination)
1. addition or subtraction of other pets in household
2. visitors, company, parties, redecorating, construction, or any
type of commotion
3. a move to a new environment
4. change in routine or schedule: a new job or working hours
5. their return from boarding or hospitilization
6. interaction problem with other pets or cats
a. cats are asocial rather than antisocial; in the wild each
has a territory and period of contact with others in the
group (and only one male per group)
b. a closed environment will create a greater degree of
interaction than some cats prefer. The more cats in a
household, the greater the degree of interaction
* CHEMICAL ATTRACTION OF PREVIOUS "ACCIDENTS:"
1. likely to produce repeated visitations to the same spot
2. may induce urination by other members of a multi-cat household
3. you may have moved to a residence previously occupied with
other dogs and/or cats
* Rule out medical problems FIRST
1. complete history and physical
2. stool/GI workup for diarrhea (if needed)
3. urinalysis for inappropriate urination to rule out an
4. workup for polydipsia/polyuria
5. important to check all cats of a multi-cat household
a. last cat seen misbehaving may be responding to chemical
attraction and not be an instigator
b. more than one cat could have problem
6. treat/correct medical problems first. Behavioral problems can
only be diagnosed in a healthy cat
* Territorial marking:
1. neuter all cats (check history of neutered cats; retained
testicle in male or signs of heat in female)
2. prevent other cats from coming around outside of house, close
windows, blinds, and doors
3. prevent overcrowding in multi-cat households
* Litter box problems:
1. provide a box for each cat
2. change litter daily
3. provide constant access to a box
4. go back to previously used brand of litter and/or discontinue
5. move box to where it was previously used
6. eliminate new or frightening noise near litterbox
7. move food and water away from litterbox
8. if cat is only going in one spot, put the litterbox at the
exact location and gradually move it back to where you want it
at the rate of one foot per day
9. if there are several places, try putting dishes of cat food in
those areas to discourage further elimination there
10. experiment with different textures of litter (cats prefer
11. use a covered litterbox for cats that stand in box but
eliminate outside of it
* Psychological Stress:
1. eliminate if possible
2. try to provide each cat at home with its own "space"
a. use favorite resting areas to determine
b. provide separate litterboxes near each space if possible
c. cubicles, boxes, shelves, crates are effective for this
3. tranquilizers sometimes work well in multicat situations
* Chemical attraction:
1. dispose of all soiled fabric or throw rugs if possible
2. 50% vinegar or commercial products may be used
3. steam cleaning may help
4. repellants may help
5. do not replace carpeting until problem entirely solved or it
may start all over again on your new carpeting
(In portable kennel with litterbox, (with appropriate corrections)
to stop further inappropriate behavior while medical and/or other
problems are being treated.)
1. particularly beneficial for transient stress induced problem
2. may allow acclimation to stress situation where source of
stress cannot be eliminated
a. choose an area that can be a permanent location of litterbox
b. keep cat confined to this area 4-6 weeks when not under
your direct visual supervision (if your cat attempts
elimination outside of kennel when you are watching,
squirt with water pistol as soon as elimination posture is
attempted and put cat back in kennel)
c. if cat is using box regularly for 4 to 6 weeks when not
under your gradually give access to larger and larger
areas of your home, one room or hallway at a time
(1) allow 1 week of good behavior in the new area before
adding the new room
(2) never increase access area until you are 100% certain
cats use of litterbox is 100%
(3) if accident occurs, re-evaluate this material to make
sure litterbox problem or something else didn't
d. begin confinement over again and double intervals for
* For inappropriate urination problems in which all else fails and
the alternative is euthanasia, hormone therapy may be attempted.
1. only for neutered cats
2. only 50% effective
3. side effects may include increased appetite (common),
depression or lethargy (less common). Long term use might
have side effects such as: mammary enlargement, adrenocrotical
suppression, and diabetes mellitus.
4. usually requires lifelong maintenance on regular intermittent basis
5. very dangerous drug; use borders malpractice -- should be
reserved for cats who will be put to sleep if problem is not
b. weight gains predisposing to obesity
c. mammary gland development
d. feminization of males
e. may induce latent diabetes
6. dosage is initiated daily for 7 day trial; if effective, then
dosage is tapered to least effective amount given every other
day every one to two weeks
7. relapses may be expected when drug is discontinued
The best way to discourage running to the door is never to let the cat
succeed! After a history of unsuccessful attempts, the cat will stop
trying. After even one success, the cat will try hard and for a long
Tip: don't arrive at the door with three bags of groceries in hand and
expect you'll be able to keep the cat in. Instead, put down all but
one bag and use that bag to block the floor level when you come in.
After you're in, bring in the rest. In general, spend the time to be
in control whenever the outside door is opened. Kids will need to
learn how to keep the cat in too. A waterbottle may help with
persistent cats. It will pay off later when the cat stops trying to
To turn a formerly outdoor cat into an indoor one (or to discourage a
persistent one, you might try this, recommended by the San Francisco
SPCA: Enlist the help of a friend to hide outside the door with a
hose and spray attachment and have her or him spray the cat when you
let it out. This may take several applications, over several days.
Some cats *are* remarkably persistent, and never seem to give up.
G. Drape/Curtain Climbing.
If possible, use tension rods instead of drilled into the wall rods.
The tension rods will simply fall down on top of the cat if it tries
to climb them. Otherwise, take the drapes off the hooks and thread
them back up with thread just barely strong enough to hold them up.
When the cat climbs up, the drapes will fall down on it (be sure that
the hooks aren't around to potentially injure the cat). After the
drapes have remained up for some time, re-hook them. These methods
have the advantage of working whether you're home or not.
Vertical blinds can work very well; cats cannot climb up them, cannot
shred them, cannot shed on them, cannot be bent the way horizontal
blinds. It is furthermore easy for cats to push them aside to look
outside. Vertical blinds are usually vertical strips of plastic, but
they can also come covered with different fabrics to match your decor.
These kinds are still pretty indestructible.
H. Cord (and Other) Chewing.
Put something distasteful on the cord to discourage chewing.
Substances to try: tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, Bitter Apple/Orange,
nail-biting nailpolish, orange/lemon peel. If you cannot find a
substance that will repel your cat, you may wish to use duct tape to
secure exposed cords. Duct tape comes in a variety of colors and you
will probably be able to find something relatively inconspicuous.
This will work on other chewed items, as well, although you will need
to check the compatibility of the chewed item with the substance you
put on it.
Give a sharp, plantative yowl, like the sound a hurt cat will make.
Pull your hand back (or if that would score furrows down your hand,
let it go completely limp), turn your back on it, and ignore it for a
few minutes. People are divided on the issue of whether to allow hand
attacks at all or to allow limited hand attacks. You can train the
cat to do either with the same method. For the former, always wail
when attacked and then offer a toy to play with instead; for the
latter, wail whenever the claws come out, but allow attack of the hand
up to that point. Be aware that a cat trained not to use a person as
a toy at all will be more trustworthy around a new baby (see A New
Baby). You may try hissing at a cat that persistently attacks you.
The best way to prevent this problem is to get a garbage container
with a firm lid. Do NOT start with container that's trivial to get
into, then gradually move to harder and harder containers: this just
trains the cat to get into the harder container. A hospital type of
container that opens the lid with a foot pedal is effective and
convenient. Another is the kind with metal handles that swing up to
close the lid. The important thing is the lid is tight and secure.
Another way to prevent this is to store the garbage can out of reach,
such as in the cabinet under the sink or in a pantry where the door is
kept closed. If the cat can open the cabinet door, get a childproof
latch for it.
If the problem is one of tipping the container over, several bricks in
the bottom of the container may help stabilize it. Once the cat is
convinced it can't be knocked over, you can remove the weight.
It's not a good idea to let your cat on your kitchen counters or
tabletops. There are several ways to prevent this. Leave a
collection of poorly balanced kitchen utensils or empty (or with a few
pennies inside) aluminum cans on the counter near the edge, so the cat
will knock them off if it jumps up. Cats hate surprises and loud
noises. Leave some ordinary dishwashing liquid on the counters, or
some masking tape (or two-sided carpet tape) arranged gummy side up.
Don't leave things on the counter that will attract the cat (like raw
These same techniques will work for other surfaces like dressers,
L. Early AM Wakeups.
Cats are notorious for waking their owners up at oh-dark-thirty.
If you wish to stop this, there are several steps to take.
The cat may simply be hungry and demanding its food. By feeding it
when it wakes you up at an ungodly hour, you are simply reinforcing
its behavior. If this is why it's waking you up, you can handle this
either by filling the bowl just before you go to sleep so it will not
be empty in the morning, or by ignoring the cat's wakeups and feeding
it at the exact same time convenient to you every morning. The cat
will adjust fairly quickly to the second.
If it is trying to play, there are again several tactics you can try.
If you make a practice of tiring it out with play just before bedtime,
you can reduce its calls for play at dawn. What works in some cases
is to hiss gently at the cat. You can also try shutting it out of the
bedroom. If it pounds on the door, put it in a bathroom until you
In persistent cases, try the vacuum cleaner, eater of noisy kitties.
Go to bed, leaving him out in the hall. Position the vacuum cleaner
next to the door, inside it. Plug the vacuum in, and arrange things so
you can switch the vacuum on from your bed (eg, wire a switch into an
extension cord). Wait for the scratching and wailing at the door.
Turn the vacuum cleaner on. If cat comes back, turn it on again.
The cat will eventually decide to stop bothering you in the morning.
M. Toilet Paper.
Five ways to prevent cats from playing with toilet paper:
* Hang the roll so that the paper hangs down between the roll and
the wall rather than over the top of the roll.
* If the cat knows how to roll it either way, then you can get a
cover that rests on top of the toilet paper and this will work.
You can make your own by taking the cardboard core from an empty
roll and slitting it lengthwise and fitting it over the roll.
* You can balance a small paper cup full of water on top of the roll.
* Instead of a cup of water, try an aluminum can with pennies.
* If you are unwilling or unable to use the cover, then close the
door to the bathroom.
N. Splashing Water
Some cats like to tip the water dish and empty it all over the kitchen
floor. You can try placing it on a small rug. There are large
"untippable" (pyramid-shaped) dishes available at the pet store. If
the cat then paddles the water out, you may just want to put the dish
in the bathtub. Cats should always have a source of fresh water
(except for pre-op surgery or prior to a car ride), so removing it
while you are not at home is an unsatisfactory solution. If the cat
is indoor/outdoor, you may want to put the water dish outside.
O. Ripping Carpet.
Some cats may develop the annoying and expensive habit of ripping up
carpet. There are several possible reasons behind this, listed below.
In all circumstances, be sure that there is plenty of items that the
cat *can* scratch.
* Other "approved" scratching posts may be made of carpet, confusing
your cat. Switch to scratching materials that do NOT use carpet.
Common alternatives include sisal rope, corrugated cardboard, or
carpet turned wrong-way out. Retrain your cat onto these items.
* Some cats rip at doorways that are closed, trying to get through.
You can put down plastic carpet covering, securing it with nails
if necessary, through the doorway so that it sticks out on both
* A particular spot may be favored, for no apparent reason. There
may be some odor at that spot. Try cleaning it thoroughly with an
enzyme-based cleaner like Nature's Miracle and then spraying a
touch of Bitter Apple or the equivalent on the spot.
P. Closet Antics.
Cats love closets, since they're dark hidey holes full of fun stuff.
But you may not want your cat to swing on your good silk clothing
or rearrange your shoes. Conversely, you might want your cat to be
able to get into the closet and keep larger pets out.
If you have a swing-and-shut door, you might try a cat door to allow
the cat access. A child-barrier that lets the cat jump over but not
the dog is another possibility. Or a chain (like the chain some front
doors have) might work.
A solution with closets that have double sliding doors is to drill a
hole through the area of overlap, with the doors positioned closed or
partially opened as you wish. Then you can use a nail or a peg in the
hole to keep the doors in position.
V. PROBLEM BEHAVIORS (OUTSIDE)
A. In General.
Outside cats, especially those not your own, can present you with
difficult problems. Cats are not regarded the way dogs are under law:
there is nothing that says you have the "right" to keep cats out of
your yard, for example (whereas dogs can be required to be kept
confined or on leash, for example). There are historical and
practical reasons for this -- but there are still practical steps you
can take to resolve several problems. This section is written
primarily for people who want to stop other cats (i.e., not their own)
from being a nuisance on their property.
Mating cats can make an unbelievable amount of noise under your
window. If these cats are feral, check with your local animal clinic
about trapping and neutering these cats. Many will do them at little
or no cost, depending on how many cats you're willing to bring in for
the procedure. Eliminating the breeding stock in feral cats as much
as possible will also help reduce the stray population in your area
over time, and reduce similar problems like cat fights and spraying.
C. Your Garden.
Between digging and eating in your plants, cats can do considerable
damage to a garden. There are a number of ways to keep cats from
digging in, chewing on, or eliminating in your garden.
Some people have successfully used the "diversionary" tactic by
planting catnip in another corner of the garden entirely, confining
the destruction to one spot.
If you have not yet started your garden, put chicken wire down and
plant between the wire. Cats dislike walking on the chicken wire and
most plants (unless they grow too big) do just fine growing between
Other people have reported success with different sprays, gels, and
products specifically formulated to keep animals out of your yard.
Check your local pet store.
Lemon peels, soap slivers (use biodegradeable soap) dipped in cayenne
pepper and other organic materials have also been reportedly successful.
Cats hate water: surprising them with a squirt gun (or turning your
sprinklers on) can discourage specific cats from returning.
D. Local "Attack" Cats.
Sometimes there is a problem with a particular cat that fights with
other cats. If it is feral, try to make arrangements to neuter it, if
possible. If it belongs to a neighbor, try to discuss the matter with
your neighbor, and avoid being "threatening." When approached
reasonably, most people can be reasonable in turn. Sometimes your
neighbor just doesn't know his cat is bothering you.
If the cat actually follows your cat through the pet door, you might
try an electronic pet door to keep it out (see Pet Doors).
E. Your Birdfeeder.
Locate your birdfeeder in an area where the ground is clear, affording
cats no cover. At the same time, try to locate it *under* something,
like a tree, to provide refuge from attack by other birds.
F. Keeping your cat in your yard.
Cats are very good at scaling fences. But if you have a yard that is
otherwised fenced in, you can try keeping your cat from going over the
fence by attaching corrougated fiberglass to the top of it. There is
then no purchase for the cat to pull itself up. It is even possible
to find different colors of the fiberglass to keep it inconspicuous.
Keep in mind, though, that many cats are clever climbers and high
jumpers and may circumvent anything short of a yard totally enclosed
and roofed over with chicken wire.
A. Scratching Posts.
You can order a large catnip tree from Felix (1-800-24-Felix),
especially if you cannot make one on your own because of lack of
skill, time, or workspace. Cats especially enjoy being able to climb
up and down these structures. Big ones should be bolted to the wall
for stability. Most pet stores sell these things. Expect to pay no
more than US$100 for a good sized one. Look for sturdiness and balance.
Sisal has been recommended over carpet for a scratching post cover.
Cats seem to like the texture better, and it helps avoid confusion
over which carpet is the "right" carpet to scratch.
You can also buy rectangular chunks of catnip-treated corrugated
cardboard scratching 'posts', available at pet supply stores for
about US$8 each. They can be either hung from a door, tacked to a wall
or just laid flat on the ground. You might have to "show" them how to
use them. Most cats love the texture of the cardboard (as well as the
You might try used automobile tires placed upright and tied securely.
Cats that like horizontal scratching posts jump up on it and scratch
and cats that like vertical scratching posts stretch up and scratch.
The tires can be bare or themselves covered with scratching material.
In addition, cats have fun going through and around the tire.
Other readers have reported using wooden boards wrapped several times
around with burlap. The burlap can be replaced as it is shredded.
B. Catnip and Valerian.
Catnip is a plant that causes various reactions in cats. Very young
cats and kittens will not be affected by catnip. About 20% of cats
are never affected by catnip. It is not known why or how catnip has
the effect it does on the rest of the cat population. It is a
non-addictive "recreational drug" for cats with no known harm to the
cat. There was an article in _Science_ [exact reference?] on the
neurological effects of catnip on cats. It seems to stimulate the
same pleasure centers in the feline brain that orgasm does. Most cats
"mellow out" and become sleepy and happy, others start acting very
kittenish. A small percentage will become possessive of their catnip
and may snap or hiss at you.
You can find wild catnip plants in most weedy areas, and harvest the
seed. Or you can buy seed from companies like Burpees or Parks or
Northrup King -- most garden centers have catnip seed this time of
year -- check the "herb" section. Or even seed racks in the grocery
and discount stores.
Catnip is easy to grow. You will need to keep the plant itself out of
the reach of the cats as catnip-lovers will quickly destroy it. The
best strategy is to get some growing, and then pinch and prune it
regularly and give the harvested leaves to your cat. Keep it in its
own pot, as it will spread rapidly. Cats will tend to dig up
transplanted catnip and eat it roots and all, but are much gentler on
plants started from seed. The leaves have to be bruised to release
the odor, and transplanting seems to be enough bruising...
Nepeta cataria is the common catnip; other Nepeta species have varying
amounts of "active ingredient". A good one is Nepeta mussini, a
miniature-leaved catnip that makes a good rockgarden plant. Nepeta is
a genus of the Lamiaceae (=Labiatae), the mint family. There are
about 250 species of catnip, plus a bunch of hybrids between species.
Only about 10 are available in this country, though.
You can order from Burpee (215-674-9633)
Nepeta cataria B61424 $1.25
N. mussinii B38828 $1.45
Valerian root is an herb with effects very similar to catnip and
generally makes cats a bit nuts. It is however not as readily
available as catnip and perhaps a bit more potent than catnip.
Catnip and Valerian both act as sedatives on humans.
C. Other Toys.
In general, cats perversely favor the cheap homemade toy over the
expensive supermarket toy. Toys commonly mentioned foil or paper
balls, superballs, little plastic rings from milk jugs, ornaments on
christmas trees, pencils, paper bags, cardboard boxes, Q-tips, cat
dancers ... the list is nearly infinite.
A new "cat toy" seems to be the production of videotapes for your
furry feline. Tapes of birds and mice complete with intriguing noises
have kept several reader's cats entranced. If your cat seems to like
watching TV (some do), this might be fun for your cat. Don't give it
access to your remote, though.
Take sensible precautions with toys that can injure the cat: avoid
toys small enough to be swallowed or choked on; avoid toys with loose
or potentially sharp parts; avoid toys that can strangulate the cat or
shred the intestines if swallowed (including string and rubber bands).
Put strings away when you are not at home.
Most cats will love playing with you. There is the usual string or
ball chasing; a few will even retrieve thrown items. "Hide and seek"
and "Peekaboo" are also popular. Cats commonly display interest by
dilating their pupils; look for this to see what catches its
Cats will often display behavior commonly called "elevenses," since it
seems to occur most often around 11PM. This consists of the cat's
eyes dilating, its tail poofing out, and alternating between hopping
sideways and racing all over the house. Your cat wants to play. Take
it up on the challenge. Chase after it, play hide and seek. This can
also be useful; playing with a cat just before bedtime reduces the
chances of your cat wanting to play with you at 3AM.
VII. CHANGING ENVIRONMENTS
A. A New Baby.
Cats can become jealous upon the arrival of a new baby. Reassure the
cat that you still love it by paying it plenty of attention. In the
exhaustion and turmoil of a new baby, the cat is often neglected, and
this will add to its resentment.
There is a myth that cats will kill babies. The superstition is that
they'll "steal" the baby's breath; the latter day explanation is that
they will lie on babies and suffocate them. While cats may like the
baby's warmth and may curl up next to it, it will not often lie on the
baby and in any case will move when the baby begins to flail its arms
Most cats are trustworthy around babies after getting over any
jealousy, especially if it is trained not to use people as toys;
however babies should *never* be left unsupervised around *any*
Cats generally don't like travelling in cars. For short trips, put
them in carriers to prevent accidents such as getting in the driver's
way, or escaping when the door is opened. Some cats are more calm if
kept in a pillowcase or a soft gym-bag type of carrier. For long
trips (all day or more), use cat carriers, minimize food intake
beforehand, and give water every time you stop. Consider getting
harnesses and leashes for when you stop. Most motels allow cats.
Sometimes you can use temporary fencing to block off the back of your
car to give them a roomier "cage"; you can usually then put
litterboxes down instead of keeping them for pit stops. Tranquilizers
can be obtained from the vet, but not all cats react well to them, and
they may make a trip worse than it would have been otherwise (test the
cat's reaction to them beforehand). Many cats will sack out after a
few hours on the road.
For long-distance trips, make sure the motels take cats beforehand.
Some do not, and are very nasty about it if you try to beg a room.
AAA lists motels that accept pets.
You might want to carry along water from your home, especially if you
are traveling between states. Ice cubes in the water dish allow your
cats to have water without it spilling while you're driving (and helps
if its hot, too).
If you're traveling in the summer, make sure the cats get lots of air
or air conditioning in the car. carry an umbrella or other
shade-making device in case you have a breakdown. Keep alert to where
the sun is shining in your car (i.e., is it beating down on the back
seat where the cats are?)
Trains vary widely whether or not animals are allowed on passenger
cars. Amtrack does not. British Rail permits cats in a basket or
cage placed on the floor, seat or luggage rack. The Swedish railway
company allows pets in the smoking section of the car, although
pet/non-smoker compartments have been recently introduced.
All major airlines allow cats that fit with carrier underseat
according to the same dimension limits as for underseat baggage. Most
airlines will tell you the cat has to be able to stand up in that
carrier but won't enforce this. The pet area is not cargo, it's
pressurized but possibly not heated or cooled. Get nonstop flights
since the airplane has little climate control for pets or passengers
while on the ground. Airlines aren't permitted to take more than one
cat per carrier except for kittens. You must call ahead, usually only
one carrier is allowed in the cabin, the rest must go into the pet
* Try not to travel when temperatures are outside the 40-80 degrees
F range at either end of the flight or at any stops in between.
* Try to travel at off-peak times to minimize delays.
* Use a sturdy kennel with proper ventilation and room for your
cat to stand, turn around, and lie down.
* Try not to tranquilize your cat unless absolutely necessary.
Some airlines are better than others. Delta and United have failed to
follow standard procedures to protect animals in inclement weather and
as a result many animals have died on their flights. They are being
fined $300,000 for this negligence by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
American, Continental, Pan Am, and TWA have also been fined. The
ASPCA has brought charges in about 50 cases in the past five years.
Much of this information can be found in "Pets on Planes: Too Often
it's a Rough Ride," _Conde Nast Traveler_ magazine, June 1992.
C. International Travel.
A partial list: most states require a health certificate and proof of
rabies vaccination for pets crossing state lines. Most airlines will
require this regardless. Hawaii and Britain have a 6 month quarantine
for all pets entering either island (the chunnel may change Britain's
policy in a few years). Canada has a 4 month quarantine [I think?],
except from the US, where rabies vaccination documentation is
sufficient. Scandinavian countries have a three month quarantine,
with exceptions for animals from rabies-free countries such as Britain
Australia accepts animals only from rabies-free places and even these
animals have a four month quarantine. Some sources have cited
different lengths of time from different acceptable countries, eg, six
months if from Britain, but this is unverified. There is unrestricted
travel between Australia and New Zealand if the animals have been in
New Zealand for at least six months. It is unclear what New Zealand's
US to Australia: The key to bringing cats into Australia is that you
cannot bring cats from mainland US *directly*. You must go through an
intermediate stop, London or Hawaii. Hawaii is more popular, it has a
shorter quarantine and makes a warm vacation spot. In Hawaii, the cat
must be in official quarantine for 4 months, followed by another 30
days in a commercial kennel/cattery. The cat can then be brought into
Australia, but faces another 4 months of quarantine here. So the total
takes 9 months (and a fair investment).
Again, there are a variety of responses to a change in home location.
Some cats do well, others are a nervous wreck for several weeks.
By keeping your cat at someone else's home during the actual move-out,
you will keep it out of the way, prevent accidental escape or injury,
and spare the cat the trauma of seeing its world picked up and carried
out. Once at the new place, keeping it for a day or so in one room of
the new place before allowing it out to explore will alleviate its
anxiety. In any case, be prepared for up to several weeks of
"slinking" and hiding until becoming accustomed to the new place.
If you have an indoor/outdoor cat, you will want to keep it indoors
for about a month before you let it out. Cats have a homing instinct
that takes about a month to "reset". If you let it out before this
time, the cat may become disoriented and get lost, or make a beeline
for the old home.
When you go on vacation or otherwise will be absent for some period of
time, you must make provisions for your cat.
It is a good idea, whichever solution you use, to inform your vet that
you're on vacation and to take care of your cats in any case that
comes up and you will settle the bill when you get back. Let the
sitters know, too.
1. Leave at home
In most cases, you will be able to leave your cat alone for three to
four days with no supervision provided that it has an adequate supply
of food and water. If your cat does not free-feed, this may not be at
2. Pet sitters
Find a friend (or a company that provides this service) who will drop
by your house at least once a day to feed it, water it, and generally
check up and play with it. This is the least traumatic method for the
cat since it will stay in familiar territory and has the added bonus
of your house looking occupied. Check to make sure that the
professional service you use is bonded, and interview the person
beforehand. Check references that they supply.
You can call the local humane society, animal rights groups or vets to
find a recommended sitter. These groups can often recommend good
sitters, and just as important, warn you off particular companies that
have had complaints.
Experiences have ranged from good to satisfactory to terrible with
kenneling cats. It will depend a good deal on your cat's personality
and the kennel. Look for a kennel that is clean and is attentive to
its boarders. Look for personnel that like playing and otherwise
caring for animals. Be wary of kennels that are not clean and
cheerful. Some have reported that their animals came home with
diseases; check the kennel's policy regarding these matters. Some may
involuntarily dip their clients; check for this also. Check for
4. Take Cat With You
5. Leave with Someone Else
Find someone willing to take your cat in while you are gone. Your cat
will have to stay somewhere new for a while, but this can be
convenient, and especially if it always stays with that person while
you're gone, its adjustment can be quick.
VIII. OTHER TOPICS
A. Removing Urine Odor.
For fresh urine: clean the spot with any good carpet shampoo (Spot
Shot is one). Then soak it with plain old club soda, leave it for
about ten minutes and blot it up.
If the urine has soaked the pad and the floor below that, it will be
difficult to remove the odor regardless of what you use.
To find spots if you're not sure where they are, get a UV lamp that
has the filter built in (to eliminate any remnant visible light).
Urine fluoresces in "black light." You can get them at hardware
stores. There are also UV lamps in hobby stores and places that cater
to spelunkers and rockhounds, but they're more expensive. The UV
source is safe as long as you use the longwave lamp and not the
shortwave lamp used for tanning.
1. Enzymatic products
Products that remove odors: Nature's Miracle (carpet, has 800 number);
Simple Solution (carpet and other items); Outright! (carpet); Resolve
(carpet, perhaps other items); Odor Mute (originally for deskunking
dogs, has other applications, leaves white residue, works on
concrete). Odor Abolish, by Endosome Biologicals, may also be useful.
These products use enzymes to break down the odor causing compounds in
urine and feces, and are quite effective.
When using enzymatic products, it is important to use freshly diluted
enzymes, let it soak in as deeply as the urine has penetrated, and
*keep the area warm and wet for 24 hours*. Chemical reactions,
including enzymatic reactions, go faster at higher temperatures.
Unfortunately, most enzymatic reactions don't do well much over 102F
(38-39C)-- so not TOO hot. Try covering the area with towels soaked
in plain water after applying the enzyme, then a shower curtain or
other plastic over that to make sure the area stays moist.
The enzymes in laundry products are the same as those in the expensive
odor-killing products, but they cost less than 1/3 as much. They work
just as well. Biz is one product. You'll find it in your grocery
laundry section with the pre-soak laundry stuff. Remember, you have
to SOAK the area and then cover it to keep it from drying out. The
smelly area must be WET with the enzyme for 24 hours or more.
2. Launderable items
On launderable items: put in the washing machine with a cup of vinegar
and no detergent, then wash again as usual.
If you have concrete (eg, in the basement) into which urine has been
soaked, this can be difficult to remove, as unsealed concrete is very
porous. You will have to neutralize the urine and then seal the
concrete properly. A specialty cleaning service is probably the best
way to properly neutralize the urine in the concrete. Vinegars and
other cleaners may help, but only temporarily. Odor Mute is reputed
to work on concrete. Improving the ventilation may also help. In
extreme cases, pouring another 1/4-1/2 inch layer of concrete over the
original concrete will solve the problem.
4. Hardwood floors
Hardwood floors that have been stained with urine can be difficult to
clean. First treat with an enzyme-based product such as Nature's
Miracle to remove the odor. You can find wood bleaches and stains at
your hardware store: you may want to consult with one of the employees
on what is available. You will need to remove any varnish or
polyurethane from the area, sand it down a bit, bleach and/or stain
it, and then apply the protective coat. There are also professional
companies you can consult. In severely stained cases, you may have to
replace the wood.
B. Cat Owner Allergies.
In general, keep the cats out of the bedroom. If cats can be trained
to keep off the furniture, that also helps. Substances like Allerpet
C can be used on cat's fur to dissolve some of the dander and protein
from the saliva that people are allergic to. Long haired cats have
more area to deposit their saliva on and they have to be brushed
(putting more dander in the air), so short haired cats are better for
people with allergies. Clean and vacuum often; groom and brush the
cat (outside if possible) often so its hair-shedding around the house
is minimized; and bathe the cat regularly.
Some people are simply allergic to new cats. This kind of allergy
means that it will diminish with repeated exposure. Thus you will not
be allergic to cats that you are exposed to regularly; and actually
become allergic to your own cat if you're away from it for some time.
Washing hands frequently helps with this type of allergy.
Other people are allergic to the saliva on the cat's fur. A remedy
for this is to bathe the cat once a month. No soap is needed, merely
soak the cat thoroughly. Done on a monthly basis, it seems to keep
the saliva levels down to a tolerable level. This was reported in a
scientific journal somewhere; Cat Fancy covered it a few years ago.
You may be allergic to cat hair, in which case you may want to get one
of the breeds of cats with short, little, or no hair. There is a
hairless cat, the Sphynx, and there are breeds of cat which are
entirely lacking in the kind of hair (cats have four kinds of hair)
most people are allergic to. These are the Cornish Rex or Devon Rex
breeds, and their fur is short and curly.
You could go to an allergy specialist and get shots to help you with
specific allergies. This can be expensive, but worth it, especially
if you have other allergies as well. They'll test you for the things
you're allergic to, and then give you periodic shots to help you
develop an appropriate immunity to them. Be sure to find a specialist
familiar with cat allergies: many will simply recommend you get rid of
pets. Also, don't expect miracles. They can do a lot for you to
reduce your allergies, but sometimes they can't track down a
particular one, and sometimes it takes more than "just shots" to
deal with an allergy.
The magazine _New Woman_ (October 1992) has an interesting article
about a cat-allergy vaccine. Catvax is being developed by the
Immulogic Pharmaceutical Corporation (I.P.C.) in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and is now being tested on humans at Johns Hopkins
University. Tests on animals indicate that Catvax is different from
traditional cat-allergy shots in two ways. First, unlike conventional
allergy therapy, which involves biweekly or weekly injections for up
to a year, the vaccine may be able to completely prevent allergic
reactions after just a few injections. Second, studies suggest that
the vaccine will not produce allergic side effects, such as asthma,
that traditional shots often do. I.P.C. hopes to complete its human
studies and have the vaccine on the market by 1996 or 1997.
There is an informative article "When Humans Have Allergies: Ways to
Tolerate Cat Allergies," in _Cats Magazine_, April 1992. The August
1992 issue of _Cat Fancy_ contains an informative article; the
September 1992 issue has a survey of people's experiences with
allergies and what worked for them.
C. Cats and Water.
There are breeds of cats with an affinity for water. There have been
reports from rec.pets.cats readers about cats getting into showers
with them; other anecdotes have been very entertaining to read.
Most cats, whether or not they like to get wet, will be fascinated
with watching water drip out of faucets or drain out of tubs, sinks,
Reports of cats drinking from the bottom of the shower, from the sink
and other unlikely places are common. Some cats can be fussy
about water; they seem to like it as fresh as possible, preferably
still moving. You may be able to stop some of this behavior by
changing the cat's water every day and moving it some distance away
from the food dish. In general this habit will not hurt your cat,
however unpleasant it may look to you. Toilet water drinking *should*
be discouraged, but this is easily done by leaving the lid down.
D. Indoor and Outdoor Cats
1. Pros and cons
There are a good many arguments for keeping them inside. They will
live longer since the chances of being hit by a car, hurt by other
people or animals, or infected with contagious diseases from feral
cats will be minimized. On the other hand, cats derive much pleasure
from exploring around outside.
Often, a satisfactory compromise is to allow the cat out under
supervision. This can be done by either letting them out into a
fenced yard (although if you leave them out there, they will probably
eventually climb the fence), or using a harness and leash. To use the
latter, accustom them to the harness first, in the same way as a
collar. Then accustom them to the leash by leaving it on for short
periods of time. Then take them outside, and follow them where they
go (do not try to take them "on a walk").
3. Pet doors
Pet doors are a good solution for people tired of letting cats in and
out. There are many kinds of doors, including those that fit into
patio doors without requiring a hole cut through the wall or door.
You may have trouble with other animals coming in the door, or want to
let your dog but not your cat use the pet door. The solution is an
electronic pet door. The door has a lock that is deactivated by a
magnet that selected pets wear on their collar. Look under Pet
Supplies in the yellow pages. If you can't get one locally, call
"America's Pet Door Store" toll free at 1-800-826-2871 for a catalog.
Electronic pet doors are installed much like a regular pet door, but
you plug them in. The door itself needs a firmer push to open than
most. A great feature is the 4-way lock. The lock can be set so the
cat can 1) go both in and out 2) go in only - great if you want to
catch them 3) out only 4) totally locked. Doors cost about
E. Catching Feral Cats.
On occasion, you may want to catch feral cats. They can be very
difficult to catch. When it seems to be impossible, call your local
humane society or SPCA to see if you can borrow a humane animal trap.
Some places allow you to "check out" such traps, just like books from
the library. A little food for bait, and you've got 'em.
F. Finding A Home for a Cat.
For whatever reason, you may need to find a home for a cat. List
everywhere: newspaper, bulletin boards, computer bulletin boards,
newsletters, anywhere you like. But limit sharply: don't adopt out if
they don't meet standards. Minimal standards: will neuter as soon as
the cat's old enough, committed to a 20 year responsibility, they have
a home or apartment that permits pets, knowledgeable about cat health
and behavior or committed to become so. Do charge a nominal fee, at
least US$10, unless you know the adopter well; this keeps away those
collecting animals for research. (You can donate all or part of the
money to animal causes if you like.)
G. Dealing with Landlords.
A number of landlords initially say "no pets" but change their minds
when assured that the cat was well-behaved and assured of an extra
damage deposit if necessary.
Also, it seems like many landlords are more likely to approve of a cat
if you make it a condition of signing the lease, rather than if you
ask if it's OK to get one after you've already moved in, or if you try
to sneak one in without asking.
Try to prove that you are a responsible owner (photos of last house,
references, vet records, etc.) to help win your case.
For more ideas and tips, look up
Dog Fancy, Volume 22, No. 8, August 1991, "Breaking Barriers:
How to find an apartment that allows dogs," by Amanda Wray.
H. Pet Insurance.
In the August issue of Cat Fancy, there is an article discussing
health maintenance plans for cats that is set up between your vet
and yourself and then administrated by this HMO company. The
company is called RLI Planned Services in Peoria, Illinois.
The article included a sample plan. For $75 a year, your cat
BASIC HEALTH CARE:
1 physical exam, no charge
1 FVRCPC booster, no charge
1 Rabies booster, no charge
1 FeLV test, no charge
50% off FeLV series
Fecal analysis, ear flush, worming, no charge
1 Pedicure, no charge
MAJOR ELECTIVE PROCEDURES:
Spay or Neuter, 40% off
Declawing, 20% off
Dental Prophylaxis, 50% off
Radiographs, 20% off
EKG, 20% off
Chemistry screen profile, 20% off
Complete blood count, 20% off
All other medical, surgical and hospital services (except
prescriptions and diets) are 10% off.
(All of these things are included in this HMO for $75/year.
OR $125 for two years.)
Here's the company's address:
RLI Planned Services Inc.
9025 N. Lindbergh Drive
Peoria, IL 61615
The article says to ask your vet about this program. If he/she
isn't familiar with it, they should contact the company and see
about setting up the HMO plan.
Vets also may be able to direct you to other pet insurance plans that
they know about. You may want to consider that $100/year over an
expected 15 to 20 year lifetime is $1500 to $2000. Plus whatever you
have to pay for excluded costs, coverage limits, deductibles. Pet
insurance will help with major medical problems such as FUS, cancer,
etc, or emergency care. If your pet is basically healthy, you will
pay about as much either way, for insurance or for preventative care
that keeps it healthy.
This article is Copyright (c) 1993 by Cindy Tittle Moore. It may be
freely distributed in its entirety provided that this copyright notice
is not removed. It may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in
commercial documents without the author's written permission. This
article is provided "as is" without express or implied warranty.
Cindy Tittle Moore
Internet: email@example.com USmail: PO BOX 4188, Irvine CA 92716
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