Questions and Answers about Cats

Below are some questions asked of me about cats, with my answers. You might find the answer to a question you have. To ask a question, go to the W. V. Cats forum at http://wvcatsforum.tuxedocatwebs.com.

Margaret Schill, W. V. Cats

Question Topics

How to help strays in the yard Neutered male spraying New kitten not affectionate
Strays seen as a nuisance Cat on counters New cat nips me when I pet him!
How to catch a cat gone wild Covered litter box or not? New kittens terrified of people
Cat lost after going outside at new home Cats and chocolate  

How to help strays in the yard

I have a few stray cats I noticed in my yard. I feel so bad about this. What can I do to help them? I do feed them because I don't want them to starve to death. But I am so worried about them freezing to death. I don't know if they belong to anyone in the neighborhood. What can I do?

I am so glad you care about the homeless cats. First and foremost, they do need food and water. In the cold especially, lots of food is critical for the cats as fighting cold takes extra energy. You can build or buy some shelters for them. Here are links with instructions on that, that includes info about caring for homeless cats:

http://www.theanimalspirit.com/Questions.html#shelter

http://www.feralcatcaretakers.org/PDFs/FCCC_FeedStations_final.pdf#search='feral%20outdoor%20shelters'

In addition, try to befriend them to where they, or at least some, let you touch them. Some may be abandoned or lost tame house cats. If they are, then take them in, starting out by staying in just the bathroom (until you know they use litter boxes). If you have other pets, you also need to keep newcomers separate at first to avoid fights or possible transmission of diseases or parasites. Then, take the new cat to the vet for a health check, and anything needed to fix up their health or parasite problem, if any.

If the new cat is a tame cat, then you can keep it in your house while trying to find a home for it. My husband and I managed to find homes for 10 or so homeless cats by asking everyone we know socially, even if not on close terms, and everyone where we each work. Take a picture of the cat in need of a home and carry it around to help induce people to want it. People often say "No" just from your words asking, but if you show a cute picture of a cat, it makes many people really stop and think about it. Some cats took a few months of our fostering them until we found a home. Of course, we didn't keep the cats in the bathroom all that time! Once they used a litter box, we used our master bedroom for their "safe room", since we had our own cats and you can't just all of sudden put a new cat into a group of other cats. But then, those who didn't get new homes after a few months, we slowly and carefully integrated with our other cats, so they had free run of the house until they finally go adopted out. For information on integrating cats, see my articles Integrating Cats and Introducing Young Kittens to Adult Cats.

Be sure to get any cat you get your hands on spayed or neutered! That's the only way to stop more homeless cats from being born.

http://www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter.html Links to low cost Spay/neuter clinics in various states.

http://www.operationnoblefoster.org/speuter/resources.htm More links to low cost spay/neuter clinics in various states.

If the cats are untouchable, even after many days of patiently and slowly getting closer to let them slowly get used to you, you can do humane trapping to then be able to get them to a vet to be spayed/neutered, and then released back to your yard after a day of recuperation from the surgery (called TNR- trap, neuter, release). That will help stop the cycle of suffering, homeless cats. Here are links about trapping and caring for feral cats:

http://www.feralcat.com/trapinst.html Human trapping of cats information and instructions.

http://www.catcaresociety.org/feral.htm Caring for and managing feral cats, with some info on trapping.

Also see my Feralspage.

I encourage you to join the W. V. Cats forum. Many members are either in your situation, or are on the rescue end, and can advise and encourage you.

So far, all the stray cats I rescued wound up being socialized to humans already, and were able to be "befriended" by my patiently getting them used to my presence as not being a threat. You may have read some of my rescue stories on the "Footprints" site, but here is the link to my current rescue page: http://www.wvcats.com/rescues.htm. Good luck with everything.

Margaret


Strays seen as a nuisance

I really enjoy your site and would like to ask your opinion. I live in Arizona a we have a real bad feral cat problem in my neighborhood. The old lady next door feeds all of them and there is nothing I can do. Our yard and porch smells like cat urine- we can't even open the windows on a nice day. Now to make things worse, two of our house cats have died since moving in. It kills me to lose two very important members of our family because this woman has no respect for the neighborhood. I came home from work the other day and there were several cats on my roof. I can only estimate the colony is around 20-25. We have two new little girls (saved from shelter) in our family and I will not allow them to fall sick as well. This is a real problem and I don't feel I should pay $70 a cat to get them fixed. They are still going to pee in my yard. I understand it's not the cats fault... but I can't even leave my house and that is not acceptable.

Many stray cats in some areas is a problem. It is so sad for those poor cats. But I also understand it can become an irritation with the urine smell. You say two of your cats died, which I am sorry for, but I can see no way that can be due to the stray cats outside, unless you let your cats outside to free roam, or they snuck out, and they picked up some fatal illness from cats outside such as FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or FeLV (feline leukemia virus). If your cats were kept indoors, their deaths really can't be due to the outside cats. What did your vet say their cause of death was from? Of course, if you did not have necropsies done, the vet can't know for sure.

To protect you new cats, keep them indoors only, have them tested for FIV and FeLV. Kittens can be born with FeLV, or acquire it from nursing on an infected mother. Kittens are rarely born with FIV, but it could happen if the mother was infected with it. Then get them vaccinated as per the recommendations of your vet, and keep up with vaccination schedules.

You say the neighbor women "has no respect for the neighborhood". I disagree. I am sure they were stray cats already in the area, that she felt sorry for and feeds, then more got born. They would be God's cats that she is trying to help in her way, respecting the lives God created. Some are probably afraid of humans, so even if the woman wanted to and could afford to get them spayed/neutered, she then could not, since they won't let people pick them up. People can get human traps to trap scared cats to then get them to a vet, but an old lady is not really physically able to do that. Possibly you can, though.

You don't have to pay $70 per cat to get it spayed/altered. There are many low cost spay/neuter clinics around. Some places will even accept feral cats in a trap, carefully sedating it first when it is in the trap, to then be able to safely get it out to spay/neuter it. You can also seek out and contact local cat rescue groups who may be able to help you. Some will come to a home and help out with trapping stray cats to get them neutered. If the cats are not tame to humans, they do have to be released back to where they came from though, as they won't survive just being dumped someplace else.  They will not know where to find food and shelter in a strange area, plus, other cats may have claimed that area and will fight off the new arrivals.  Cat fights can be savage.

Any strays that are tame can be adopted out to someone as a pet house cat. Here are links that will be of help to you:

http://www.catswithnoname.net/Arizona.htm   Links to Arizona shelters and rescue groups.

http://spay.adlaz.org/maricopa/  If you live near Phoenix, this group tells about a mobile spay/neuter van than comes to neuter cats for only $10 each! They also have other info and help for people in your situation, especially this part from their site, http://spay.adlaz.org/maricopa/#feral, "Free-roaming, primarily feral cats only. Are you feeding "stray" or homeless street cats that you would like to have sterilized, but you can't catch them because they are too afraid or wild? AzCATs' Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program can help. The cats are humanely trapped, sterilized and returned to you. You must agree to take them back and continue to provide them with food and water. The program is donation-based. AzCATs will provide you will all the equipment, information and necessary volunteer help that you need to humanely end the breeding cycle."

http://www.azcare.org/SNhelp.html   More info about vets doing low cost spay/neuter in Arizona.

http://www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter.html  Links to low cost Spay/neuter clinics in various states.

http://www.operationnoblefoster.org/speuter/resources.htm  More links to low cost spay/neuter clinics in various states.

http://www.feralcat.com/trapinst.html  Human trapping of cats information and instructions.

http://www.catcaresociety.org/feral.htm  Caring for and managing feral cats, with some info on trapping.

I also encourage you to join the W.V. Cats forum. Many members are either in your situation, or are on the rescue end, and can advise and encourage you.  Good luck with everything.

Margaret Havahart 1085 Easy Set Cage Style Animal Live Trap   Shake Away Cat Deterrent 20oz.

How to catch a cat gone wild

What is the best way to catch a cat that has gone wild?

If the cat is totally afraid of humans, the more sure and faster way to catch it is by setting a humane trap for it, such as a Havahart cat trap, shown above. Instructions are on the following sites:

http://www.feralcat.com/trapinst.html  Note to NEVER leave a set trap unattended!!! Of course, you can't be in view of the trap or the scared cat won't go near it, but you must go check every few minutes. You also might trap opossums or even skunks by mistake. If so, release them by standing aside the trap, not in direct line of their exit. If a skunk, get out of the way fast after opening the trap door to try to avoid being sprayed!

More info about trapping feral cats: http://www.catcaresociety.org/feral.htm.  Note that you cannot trap a cat and then just dump it off someplace else. It will likely die of starvation or exposure, not knowing where food and shelter can be located, or be seriously attacked by other cats who claimed the territory. Cat fights can be very seriously brutal.

If the cat was a tame pet cat at one time, sometimes the slow befriending method works, which I used on some of the cats on my Rescue page at http://wvcats.com/rescues.htm.  I spent a few weeks putting food out at the same time and same place every day, started out by standing way back, then moving up just two or three inches a day until the cats were no longer afraid of my presence. I spoke sweetly to them while they ate. Then I would squat near them when they ate, not trying to touch them at first, but did move my hand a little towards them to get them used to staying put even if my hand moved. At first they would back up quickly, but then would not be scared with me squatted next to them moving my hand. And, I always talked to them.

Next, I would set my hand next to the food bowl, but did not try to touch the cat, or move my hand. After that, I would set a finger on the far rim of the bowl while the cat ate. Once that was well tolerated by the cat, I'd gently touch the cat's head for a second while it ate,  increasing how much touching the cat would tolerate day by day. Eventually, those cats regained their "pet cat" attitudes and wound up begging for pets and cuddles.

The slow befriending method makes taking the cat back inside to leave the easier transition for the cat, as the cat has come to like and trust you first. But, cats that were trapped have come around inside after a period of time. You would of course set the cat up in just one room, with all the necessaries and comforts, and then do the slow befriending method described above inside, along with just quietly hanging out peacefully reading or napping so the cat gets used to you around but in a non-threatening way.

Hope I answered what you want or need to know.  Feel free to ask more questions.  You can post on the W. V. Cats forum at http://wvcatsforum.forumup.com.  Also, a good cat forum that  has many people who have rescued and trapped cats that can give you advice is www.cats.about.com

Regards,

Margaret Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter

Cat lost after going outside at new home

It seems like you're quite knowledgeable about a vast range of cat topics.

Anyway, here's the problem I have. About a week ago I moved my cat of 8 years to a new home. I kept her inside for about 2 days, but then she became utterly desperate to get out so I went outside with her on a leash. This was a relatively difficult task, because where I live, (a subdivision) the fences are easy to jump on to. Once she jumps on, I am unable to retrieve her in some situations such as when she walks outside the perimeter of my house and into a neighbors. I can't climb into their gardens! 

A few days ago I thought perhaps that it was time for me to let her do a little wander on her own. She came back and it was fine. The next day she went out at about lunchtime and never came back. Hysterical, the next morning I printed off 100 fliers and immediately and distributed them to neighbouring houses. 10 minutes later, a phone call arrived and I went to pick my kitty up. When I got to the house that my cat had turned up at, I was ASTOUNDED to see that the house was almost identical to mine! This is because all houses built in the subdivision were built at the same time, and by the same company.

Please help me! It is going to be a cold winter here very soon and she can not afford to be out in the cold at night. I don't know what to do because yet again she is desperate to get out, but I am afraid that she does not know her way back home and taking her for walks on the leash are proving to be futile because she tries to escape.

Yours Sincerely,

Jane

Dear Jane,

When a cat is new to a home, they need to be kept inside for a good month or two so that they really, really come to consider the new place their home.  To cats, their territory is of utmost importance.  If you let a cat out too soon after you move, they often do wander off trying to find the old house.  Many cats then get lost.

However, letting cat wander loose outside is a bad plan.  So just don't allow it.  There are so many dangers to cat wandering loose that it is not worth it.  One day she might never be found or worse, found dead in the road. Continue taking her out on harness and leash outings to let her get some fresh air.  But, do it on a set schedule, such at only at a certain time of the day, and even only every other day if that works best for you according to your schedule.  Cats do learn schedules.  If she knows there will be a dependable time that she will be taken out, she will be less likely to try to dart out the door, and will stop meowing to go out at all hours. It is also best to give the cat a treat or feed the cat some highly desired canned food when you bring the cat back in, to get the cat to feel good about coming back in. That worked for us when we took our cats out on harness and leashes, before we built our enclosure for the cats.

Cats can and do adjust to being indoor only cats, with perhaps being taken out on harness and leash outings now and then.  You do need to provide toys and play with them every day, so they remain stimulated and don't get very bored. Get a cat tree and put it by a window that gets a view so she can bird watch.  If possible, buy or build an outdoor cat enclosure with free access to the house.  My cats love ours and spend a lot of time out there.  Here is the link to my page on enclosures, that also has links to pages showing what other people have built for their cats. http://wvcats.com/enclosures.htm.  Even a small pen is fine with the cats, as they do like to be out in sunshine and fresh air, but they don't need to have a vast area to get that.  Remember to use "tough love", so your cat will be around to love for many years.   

Regards, 

Margaret Outdoor Feline Funhouse - Portable Outdoor Enclosure for Small Pets 

New cat nips me when I pet him!

My new adult cat keeps nipping if you pet him. I'm not sure if he thinks it is play time or what. He won't let you love him much. He does come up on my bed at night and cuddles up to me, but  if I reach down to pet him, he nips!!!

Many cats get over stimulated with petting and head scratches. They will seek them out, but then some cats just all of a sudden can't take it anymore, and will suddenly go to nip or scratch. It's sort of like how a little tickling feels good to humans, but then if it keeps up beyond a certain point, it feels horrible, and almost painful. Different cats have different levels of tolerance for physical contact. It must be partly a genetic thing, with super sensitive nerve endings. This may be what the case is with your cat. Nevertheless, it is not good even if you understand the reasons.

All cats do give warning signs when they have had enough and are about to lash out. The problem is that some of their body language warning signals are rather subtle for many humans to realize. Things to be very aware of when touching a cat:

Ear position. Ears turned to the side or back and flattened down, even only partway, means the cat is annoyed. Stop all physical contact at the first sign of both ears turning back and starting to go down. Some cats will not give you time to "get" the warning, and will lash out as soon as their ears start going back, so don't take you eyes off the ears. Here is a picture of gray Sumner making "irritated ears" at Simon. It doesn't look very severe, but Sumner was mightily ticked off at Simon coming near him.  Be on the lookout for that kind of ear position and stop touching the cat when you see it.

Tail signals: Irritated cats lash their tails from side to side. What is a friendly signal in dogs, is an angry signal in cats. When touching your cat, note what the tail is doing. When it starts to go side to side, hands off. If it very rapidly lashes back and forth, get the heck out of the way fast! That is a mighty agitated cat!

But, from what you said, it sounds like it could also be what you were thinking, that the cat is seeing your hand as a toy, or at least some of the times it happens. We had that problem with a young cat we fostered.  When we first got Sparky, he had a very serious problem of play aggression with our hands when they moved near him.  It seemed he had been played with as a kitten with hands, but as an almost adult cat, those teeth and claws were no longer innocent little things. The body language signs for play "hunt the hand" will be about the same as described above when a cat is plain irritated. The ears won't go back as severely, but the twitching tail will be similar to a cat that is angry.. When cats are playing "get the prey", they will swish their tails from side to side due to being  agitated about "the hunt" and not due to anger, but the results wind up pretty much the same. Happy bites and angry bites hurt the same.

What you can try for both reasons (play or biting from over stimulation) is saying firmly, but not yelling, "No bite!". Yelling frightens some cats, who then might bite feeling they need to defend themselves. But you must use a special "I mean it" tone of voice that is only used for scolding since cats go mostly by tone of voice as opposed to words. Then immediately move away from the cat and ignore him for a while.

Giving a cat an immediate time out in another location away from you also helps if it was a case of play aggression.. If the cat is nipping due to over stimulation, he just needs to have his body's limits respected, so it wouldn't really be helpful to give him a "time out".  But certainly, it is appropriate to tell him, "No bite!"

A time out due to play aggression must be done the instant the cat nips, so the cat connects the isolation to the event of nipping you. If even a few seconds go by, the cat is not positive why you are scolding, since he has stopped biting by then. The time out can be done either by you carefully moving the cat to another room and shutting him in for about 1/2 hour, or with you immediately leaving the room and shutting a door between the cat and where ever it is that you go.  If the cat is really excited and nipping a lot, best if you don't try to pick him up  Basically, you are giving the cat a time out from YOU, since a cat exhibiting play aggression wants to be with you.

Don't forget to let the cat out again after 1/2 hour if you shut him in a room, especially if there is no litter box and water in the area the cat is. It will take many days of doing the above consistently, at every single occasion to get a cat out of the habit of using your hands as toys. You will even need to get out of bed when it happens then. If you let the cat get by some of the time, such as when you are in bed, the cat will then learn it's ok to do it when you are in bed, but not when you are up and about. It is a pain in the neck at first, to have to get out of bed, but after several days, most cats do learn to not nip hands in play. Some cats might take longer, if they are on the slower side. Sparky was dangerous to us when we got him, treating our hands like real prey he was trying to kill, with digging his claws in to hold the hand still so he could sink his teeth in, but, he finally learned to quit it, so I am sure your cat will too.

However, in a case where it is play aggression, it is essential that the cat has toys, particularly things that can be "hunted", grabbed and chewed on. A small stuffed animal is liked for that by some cats. For Sparky, I used a large sock monkey I happened to have, as you see in the inserted picture. It was about as big as him, and he grabbed and wrestled it like he would in play fighting with another cat. Notice his "wild boy" look, with the ears going back. That's the look of a cat needing some action, but you can see the ears are not down all the way flat as they are in a cat actually angry. I carefully gave him his monkey when he was starting to get riled up. I had to present it by holding onto the tail, up in the air, as when he saw my hand move, he would try to play with my hand. It took a second for me to make the monkey move by swinging it a little by the tail for Sparky to get interested in grabbing the monkey instead of my hand.

Be sure to have some interactive play time with your cat daily, with a fishing pole or streamer type toy, that the cat can chase and then catch as you make it move. Toys that just sit there are ok, especially if the cat has imagination like my cats do, where they will pick up a fake mouse in their mouths then sling it away from them so they can "chase" it, but for cats who don't do things like that, the still toys aren't of much interest. Cats are hunters by instinct. They still have the need to "hunt" things even when pampered indoors, so you must provide play opportunities that let off some of the pent up "I need to hunt" feelings.

If you have a scheduled interactive play time with the fishing pole or streamer type toy (or a bathrobe sash even), for about 10 minutes, that your cat learns will be a regular daily event, he likely won't have much need or interest in trying to catch and nip your hand. Do the interactive play at pretty much the same time daily, as cats learn schedules. If a cat knows he can depend on something, he can often hold off until that time. But certainly, you can add some extra play sessions, and I would if the cat seems worked up and restless.

That serious little nipper Sparky did get over his play aggression against hands through time outs, substituting a stuffed animal for a human hand, and interactive play sessions with a fishing pole or draggy toy daily. All three are needed.  You can't just tell a cat what not to do, you also must provide with things it can do, that meets the need the cat has.

If it turns out your cat simply got over stimulated, most of  the above was overkill, but it still is good knowledge to have.

Margaret

New kittens terrified of people

We have recently adopted two very scared little kittens from a man who had way too many cats. The mother of these kittens would not be considered feral, but definately is not a tame animal, and is very skittish around people. The kittens are completely terrified, and huddle together in a corner of our house all of the time. We understand that it is going to take some time for the kits to come around, but what methods could we take to help make them more social animals? Our goal with these kits is to have two loving and friendly cats, who don' scatter every time someone walks up to them. We have been introducing ourselves to them and spending time with them, trying to help them to understand we aren't going to hurt them. In general, do kittens with this type of fear and lack of socialization, mature into good house cats?

Yes, they can. I took in four feral 7 week old kittens and their homeless mother. The mother become, or more likely "recame" a total lap cat, who could not get enough attention! Obviously she was not a feral cat. She started out running in terror when I first tried to get near her when she was still outside, but got over her fear of me soon enough. By the time we took her and her kittens in, the mother loved to be petted.

Two of the kittens became very people friendly in about two weeks, and would trot up to me purring even when I came in their room. They liked getting cuddled and petted. The other two took longer. I think genetics plays a role in timidness versus confidence as I treated the kittens pretty much the same. Kittens are much easier to tame down to humans than adult cats are.

First, you must keep the kittens in one room. If allowed free run of a home, they get too overwhelmed, plus also have too much "running away" room. If the room is a bedroom, put stuff under the middle of the bed, but leaving the edges accessible to the cats. This is so they cannot hide to where you cannot get to them if necessary. Put little "hidey hole" things in the room, where the cats feel they are "safely hidden" but you can easily get to them if necessary. Things such as a box turned upside down with a doorway cut in to form a "cave" is good. Also, a cat carrier with the door secured firmly in the open position.

If cats are afraid of people, and have the chance to run far enough away to avoid them, that serves to reward them for running away. The more it happens, the more afraid they can become as with each instance of feeling fear, then panicking, then trying to hide, they remember more and more those terror feelings of needing to escape and come to pair the humans with "need to escape" thoughts.

Pairing you humans with tasty food helps make you seem to be "good". If the kittens are in just one room, with no deep recesses to hide in, they are forced to see, hear and smell you come in when you bring in the food. They cannot totally avoid you so must begin to deal with your mere presence. But instead of the reward of escaping from you, they get a reward of tasty food due to your presence. Canned food is usually loved most by cats, so be sure to serve one or two meals of it daily, as part of the acclimation to humans process aside from canned food being good for cats. (It's also easier for kittens to digest.)

Set the food on one side of the room, preferable near the hidey spots, and then quietly sit on the other side of the room. Read a book, eat a snack, daydream, whatever, but do it for a long time, maybe. Talk quietly to the cats while you are in there. You are waiting for the cats to dare creep out and eat comfortably with you merely being in the room, but not trying to touch them. Do this every day, a few times a day. Move your arms and legs, (maybe stretch your arms overhead, wiggle your feet), but don't move from that spot. The kittens will likely run for cover when you move your limbs at first, but then will relax and get used to you moving in place, as it poses no threat.

Relatively soon, the kittens should be less afraid. When the kittens seem more relaxed about your mere presence across the room, move closer a little bit day by day, until they can be fine with you about three feet away. Then get them used to you standing then squatting again, and bending forwards, but not coming closer or trying to grab them. You are getting them ready to be picked up, but first they need to not feel the need to run for cover when you change from a standing position to a squat or bending pose. Every once-in-a-while, slightly extend your hand with the palm down towards a cat just for a few seconds. Get them used to you reaching out a little, offering the hand to be sniffed, with not trying to touch them.

They probably will run back a bit the first time, but then will come to think of it as just your "wiggling around". One or both may go to sniff your hand. That is the first goal, for them to come to you, rather than them accepting you coming to them. Let them get a lot of sniffing without you trying to touch them. Once you get them acclimated to your outreached hand, palm down, place your hand at the edge of the food bowl while they are eating. You want your human scent and closeness really associated with that tasty canned food. Since they will ONLY be allowed to get the canned food when you are around, they will pair you with that good thing. (But do leave out dry food other times as kittens grow incredibly fast and need LOTS of calories.)

When that goes well, sneak in a little brief pet on the kitten's head. If the cat jumps back in alarm, slowly move back your hand, and talk soothingly. It ought not then take many more days until they let you pet them a bit while eating. Get a draggy type toy or just a length of rope (never yarn or string as they are very dangerous for cats since cats can wind up swallowing them, causing a blockage at best, severing of the intestines and quick death at the worst, since cats cannot spit out yarn or string due to their barbed tongues, being forced to swallow the entire length as they are trying to spit it out). Start having some interactive playtime, with you dragging the rope/bathrobe sash or store purchased Cat Charmer draggy toy. Kittens cannot resist chasing after such a thing.

At this point, start trying to handle them more. Take the chance to get a hold of one while you are kneeling or sitting next to it on the floor, and hold it on your lap a few seconds. Keep holding the kitten even if it seems scared, screams in alarm and is wiggling to get away. Talk softly and sweetly, trying to comfort it like you would a very fussy human infant. Pet the head and body gently, trying to replicate movements of a mother cat licking the kitten. At this stage of things, the kittens have come to not fear your mere presence, so it is time for them to now work on being picked up and briefly handled with no harm coming to them. Put the kitten down after a few seconds.

Do this a few times a day. You want to avoid lifting the kitten all the way from the floor to a standing height, as that is very scary to kittens. When playing with the draggy toy, do it sometimes with you sitting on the floor, and make it drag over your legs, enticing the kittens to run on you. Make yourself the "fun and food" person. By this point, the kittens should not be afraid of you, but may still be skittish about handling. Just keep on with the above, prolonging the number of seconds you keep hold of a kitten when you do hold it.

Very soon at this stage, the kittens ought to tolerate handling, and may even come to you for some cuddles. When this is the case, expand their horizons and let them have some exploration time in another room a bit each day, then put them back in "their" room. Little by little let them have more time in other rooms. Do not let them have free run of the entire home until they are comfortable with you, though not necessarily lap cats. Here is a link about taming feral kittens. http://www.messybeast.com/feralkit.htm#Kittens.  Even though your kittens are not quite feral, they are not quite tame, so many of the tips in this article will be of use to you.

Hope things go well.

Margaret

New kitten not affectionate

I have emailed you a couple of times, and was most grateful for your prompt and good advice concerning my first little kitten.  He is 10 weeks old now.  I have one other concern and would be most grateful for your advice. We have had him for exactly 2 weeks now but find he is not as affectionate as we would have hoped. The only time he comes out and wants to 'know' us is first thing in the morning.

If I try to pick him up during the day he tries to run and hide somewhere...and he NEVER greets me if I come in the door after being out for a couple of hours. Will he change do you think as he gets older? I am seriously thinking of letting my friend have him who has a Big House and garden, as I am in a flat (we do have a large balcony).  But I feel my kitten is not happy here and maybe would rather be somewhere with a nice big garden and lots to do.

I do understand your previous advice about getting another kitten, but at the moment my flat is a bit too small for 2 cats. I hope to move in about 18 months time, and perhaps to a larger property and might consider this option then, but he would be 2 years old then! He never sits on my lap or comes up for a cuddle and it is really disappointing. I would be grateful for your advice. Thank you.

A 10 week old kitten is still an infant, who actually should still be with his mother and littermates until 12 weeks. How did you come to get him? If he had not been handled from 3 weeks on much, he won't be used to much handling from humans and might be a bit afraid of them. Also consider that he hardly knows you. Two weeks is hardly any time for a bond to have developed. To him, you are still a big, scary creature. You could hurt him or even kill him by stepping on him, which he has some sense of, so yes, he will be wary at times. Do not consider that the way an infant kitten to a new home acts is how it will be forever and ever. He's hardly been alive at all yet. Be patient. You flat out cannot conclude he is not happy with you at your home, as he is just a scared little infant, any more than you could conclude that a crying 6 month old human baby doesn't want to live where it is.

As an infant, it is not HIS job to make the bond with you, it is your job to make the bond with him. Little kittens take work and nurturing to develop socially and emotionally.  You said he does come out and wants to "know" you first thing in the morning, so he is starting to be more people oriented and is actually showing he does like you or believe me, he wouldn't come near.

Make those times very pleasant for him with you, but be very, very, sure that when he wiggles to get down, you do let him down. If you try to force him to stay on your lap or be held, you will make him hate it and try to avoid you to keep that from happening. Just do short and sweet cuddle times. Then maybe he won't run and hide from you later on. Very young kittens just want to play. Play, play, play. They have no time to be sitting on laps with so much playing to get done. They also have LOTS of energy, which means they just simply can't stand to be held still for long. It's how they are made. A healthy kitten is a hyperactive little thing.

An infant kitten, (one under 12 weeks), should not have run of the home. They are too little, and it is overwhelming for them. In nature, his mother would be caring for and protecting him until he was about 5-6 months old and at 10 weeks old, would be staying close by his mother's side. He would not be running all over the neighborhood, so your idea of giving him to someone to roam a big house with a garden would be even more scary to him at this age. He should be kept in just one room most of the time for the next two- 4 weeks, set up with all he needs, including toys of course.

He will be more comforted in a smaller space. This will help get him socialized to you, as he won't be able to get into the pattern of running and hiding when you approach, well, not too many feet away anyway. If the room is a bedroom, put some stuff under the center of the bed so when he goes under the bed, you will be able to reach him if needed for some reason (vet visit, he got hurt and you need to check him, etc.) Block most of the places he could hide in, but do have one place that is "sacred" where if he goes there, you will respect his fear and not roust him out. A small box turned upside down with a doorway cut into it is good for that, since in an emergency, you can quickly get him, but meantime, he feels he is sufficiently hidden.

Go visit him in his room many times a day, but just sit quietly and read, sew, watch TV, take a nap or pay bills. He must learn that every time you come by you are not going to try to snatch him up. Let him just get used to you being around in a non-threatening way. If he comes to you, pet him, but don't first pick him up. Spend time on the floor, where you will be less threatening to the teeny little fellow. Get a draggy thing, such as a length of rope or the sash from a bathrobe (never string or yarn as they are great choking dangers to cats as cats have barbed tongues and cannot spit out string or yarn). Entice him to run after the rope and have fun play due to you. Make the rope come close to you sometimes, drag it over your legs as you are sitting on the floor. Let him learn that running over your body, having body contact with you, is an ok thing. Get some small cat balls, and roll them across the room for him to chase. He will catch on that YOU can make objects become fun, and since kittens love to have fun, he will associate you with fun things. That is part of how to make a bond with a kitten.

Food is another big way to make a bond. Serve him canned food a few times a day, in addition to leaving out some dry for free feeding since infants need to eat a lot. When he comes over to eat the food, kneel nearby while he eats, talking sweetly to him. If he won't come close to the bowl, move further away until you get to the distance he finds comfortable. Then every day move only a tiny bit closer, until the day comes where he will eat with you right next to him. At that point, gently stroke his head and back a little as he eats. The goal is to pair your presence and gentle touch with the tasty, good canned food. After some time, he will come to like getting those gently caressing strokes, the way his mother did with him when she groomed him. One day, he will crawl onto your lap for some caresses, but while he is so tiny, that mostly will only happen if you are sitting on the floor.

Do also know that a great many cats are super, duper affectionate, but simply don't find human laps comfortable. Many cats and kittens also find being hoisted up off the ground into the air on the way to being held scary. Cats don't normally levitate up into the air. Several of my cats do not like to sit on laps, but they LOVE, even crave, sitting next to me to get tons of petting and head and back scratches. So, give it time. A well cared for cat can live for 20 years, so there is no big rush on things. If you really want an instant lap cat, then adopt an adult cat whose personality is already formed and whose temperament with humans is already known. But I hope that you will give your little kitten a chance to grow up with you and come to see and love you as his mom.

Margaret

Covered litter box or not?

I have a question concerning those 'covered' litter boxes that are sold in pet shops. At the moment I have an ordinary cat tray which I use the white 'catsan' litter in. My adorable little kitten is so clean and goes in there every time...(fingers crossed) but again I have been advised to get the covered litter box as they say it has less smell. I am not finding the one I have a problem.  I empty and scoop regularly.  I would be most grateful of your valued opinion.

If you scoop the litter box promptly (or as promptly as possible), and totally dump out the litter and put in fresh litter approximately once a week (maybe sooner depending upon the type of litter), and wash the actual box every week or two (a diluted bleach solution, well rinsed is good), there will not be any smell in your home. As I think I mentioned, I have 8 cats in the house now, and 6 large litter boxes in the house. Only one of the boxes is covered, mostly since it also serves as a step stool up to a ledge the cats perch on. My house does not smell like cat eliminations. A friend recently commented on that fact, by the way, so I now know it is not just me thinking that.

Some cats don't like covered litter boxes, but others do fine with them. The problem that could arise with covered boxes is that if you are out for hours at work, and the cat uses the box, then the odor will be more prominent in the box, which could repel the cat from using it. Cats are very clean animals and don't want to be around fecal or urine odor any more than we people do. If you are not having any problems, I'd go by the saying, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it."

Margaret

Neutered male spraying

What can you tell me about neutered male cats spraying? 

One must differentiate between actual spraying (or marking), and ordinary urinating.  When cats mark (spray) with urine, they most often back up to a wall or other vertical surface such as a bookcase, and squirt out a little bit of urine, but not as much as when emptying the bladder.  They shake their rear to scatter urine drops around when marking.  Sometimes a cat will "squat mark", when wanting to leave their claiming scent on something horizontal, such as pet bed.  However, in urine marking, there is not the amount of urine released as there is when a cat is simply doing ordinary urinating due to a full bladder.  If an actual puddle of urine was left on the floor, or some item, that is urination, which is a separate matter from spraying/marking.  That can mean a medical problem such as diabetes or a urinary tract infection, or some dissatisfaction with the litter box.

Any cat might spray when it feels his/her  territory is threatened, even spayed females.  My 5 year old Minerva, who went through many new cats to our home, sprayed a bath towel hanging near one of her favorite napping spots in response to one of our newest cats having snoozed there.  She never did such a thing before.  A stray cat hanging outside a  window can make an indoor neutered cat spray that area, in an attempt to "tell" that outdoor to cat to not try to get into the house.  Cats use urine as territorial "border markers", or "sign posts" to inform other cat of their presence.  It is a way that they try to keep the peace, as cats are territorial and do not take well to intruder cats in their territory.  Sometimes, when one cat smells the urine "sign post" of another cat, that area is respected as already belonging to the cat who left the urine scent.  Or, spraying can be a way to signal a takeover of a territory, such as when a new cat to a home might start spraying a certain area of the home in an attempt to keep the other cats away.  If outdoor cats are spraying around your house so your cats can smell it, they may "spray back" in the nearest place where they smell the outdoor cat urine, trying to let that other cat know to stop right there and do not come any closer.

That does bring up another point.  One time I thought one of my cats urinated on the back of the couch, which is under a window, but it turned out that with the window opened, what I smelled was the urine of a cat who went outside under that window.  Strong, pungent intact male urine.  So do check if that might be the case, before assuming it was your indoor cat urinating in the house out of the box.

To help with the situation of an indoor cat spraying, there are a few things you can do.  First, if a new cat is brought into the home, keep it 100% separated in just one room for a few days, and then do a very gradual over a whole lot days integration procedure, as detailed on the page, Integrating Cats.  That might result in territorial spraying never happening.  If it still does, such as in the case of my Minerva and the bath towel, add more special napping spots for the cats to hopefully avoid a conflict over one.  Putting a folded towel on top of the dryer even can create a special cat hangout (which was, in fact, the spot Minerva was "protecting").  You can also fold a blanket and put it along the back of the couch.  For some reason, cats find a blanket added to an existing surface makes it better and more desirable than before without the blanket.  Get a cat tree, if you don't have one, to make another desirable cat hangout.  Also, have food bowls in different areas, if you have more than one cat.  Sometimes cats feel territorial about food.  Same with litter boxes.  Have more than one and in different rooms.

When a male cat who already reached sexual maturity is first neutered, it can take almost a month before the hormones die down, along with the adult intact male's frequent instinct to urine mark.  Much of intact male urine marking is to leave "calling cards" for intact females to know where to find them, so once the mating urges are gone when the hormones die down, so will that reason for spraying.  If you have a newly neutered adult male, just keep him in one easily cleaned area of your home until his hormones die down and he quits leaving his "calling card".

If the spraying is due to stray cats outside, you can try to block your indoor cats' view.  That can be difficult and undesirable, however.  Instead, putting a litter box near that window can help.  The cats will urinate in the litter box, and may feel that that sufficiently urine marks the area, eliminating the need to also spray mark near the window.  You can buy or make decorative litter box hiders if the room is one where you ordinarily would not put a litter box.  One can even buy a litter box hider that looks like a giant flower pot complete with a plant on top.  That would be appropriate for a living room, even.  If you scoop frequently, there will not be an odor.  If the idea of a litter box in a certain room bothers you due to what others might think, simply move it when company comes over.  But it sure is better to have a litter box in the living room than the cat spraying urine on your couch!  See the Products page for litter box hider ideas. 

Also, be sure to have scratching posts or pads near the area the cat has sprayed.  Cats have scent glands in their paws, and one reason they scratch items is to leave their scent.  It is a form of marking, but one humans can't smell.  If you have scratchers near the area that is being urine marked, the cat might be content with leaving just paw scent.

To locate where a cat has sprayed or urinated, you can go around sniffing, but also, get a black light.  Urine glows in the dark.  However, so do other substances, such as tonic water.  But, a good, deep sniff will tell what is what.  To get rid of urine odors so that even the cat can't smell them, you need to use an enzymatic cleaner made for urine odors.  Nature's Miracle and Petastic are such products, but your local grocery store might have another brand that is similar. Look for the words "enzymatic".  Be sure to not use any other product first or the enzymes might not work.

If you don't do anything to get rid of the odor in the urine spot, it will eventually fade to where you can hardly smell it, but on muggy humid days the scent will "revive" some.  But your cat will be able to smell it even when you can't.  Personally, I would not be in a rush to get rid of the odor until you discover why an indoor cat is urine marking, and you take steps to remedy the reason.  Otherwise, the cat will just keep doing it.  Better that the cat not get into a habit of spraying, feels content with a one-time squirt, and you live with a few days of the old odor until you sort things out..   

Margaret

Nature's Miracle Just For Cats Stain & Odor Remover    Feline UV Light Stink Finder

Cat on counters

My eight month old cat keeps jumping up onto the kitchen counters.  How can I keep him from doing this?  I don't want him to knock things over, and I don't want germs in my food.  I tried squirting him with a water gun, but he just goes back up when I leave the room..

Walking on counters is not "bad" in and of itself.  It is natural for cats to seek high places and explore their entire territory.  Many cats are compelled to go to high places.  If there is a window above the counters, that is powerfully attractive to a cat, so he can look at what he can hear outside, or just to check out what's going on out there.  And of course, if you leave food out on the counters unattended, the cat will naturally want to check it out.

I personally have no problems with my cats jumping up on counters to look out the window.  I do wash the counter before preparing food, and I use a cutting board to actually place the food on, so there isn't any harm or worry about "germs".  I don't leave breakable items on counters or other surfaces.  There is no harm that my cats can do by jumping on any surface in my home.  Perhaps you can "cat proof" your home as well, eliminating lots of worry and stress and need for "punishments".

Squirting cats with water doesn't work well, unless the cat absolutely has no idea you made the water squirt at him.  If the cat knows you make the water squirt, the cat will just wait until you are not in the area. 

You can try adding other high places for the cats to jump up on.  A cat tree is a wonderful thing, and better if it has a window view.  You can clear off the top of a dresser or a bookcase, to make free high places.  Perhaps if the cat has some other, new high places to go to, he will lessen how often he goes on the counters.  Of course, it there is a window by the counters with tempting birds chirping, he just is going to feel the need to hop up and look.  And certainly, if you leave food on the counters, well of course he will want to see if he might like some of it. You need to reduce temptations on the counter.  Never leave food on it, not even food you think a cat won't like.  Put up everything you can to make it boring and safe.  You can't do much about the window, if there is one, but certainly don't do something such as hang a bird feeder within view of that window  which would of course attract the cats to look out that window.

Many cats do not like to walk on sticky surfaces.  You can try putting down Sticky Paws (see below), which is wide lengths of double sided tape that is not overly sticky so a cat can't easily get off it.  If the cat jumps up and feels the tacky feeling, he likely will not want to stay up on the counter.  Some cats also don't like to walk on aluminum foil, or to hear the rustling noise it makes.  You can try putting down aluminum foil to deter your cat.  It doesn't work with all cats, though. 

Perhaps you can also reach a compromise in your mind about what really is harmless after all and can be allowed with out fuss and "punishments".  It will make things much less stressful for you and the cat.  Some "rules" we humans have in our minds really aren't very important when analyzed.  If he is a house cat, the house is his entire world, and of course he will want to "use" all of it.  Trying to accommodate the needs and desires of the cats can make for a very happy home for both species.  My cats have learned to stay off the counters when I am cooking, but once all is done and cleaned up, they can go on the counters.  They mostly just want to look out the window over the sink or use the counters as a step up to perch on top of the refrigerator.  It works well for us.  It might for you too.

Margaret   X-Large Sticky Paws ( Five 9' x 12' Sheets)  Cats on the Counter : Therapy and Training for Your Cat Cats and Chocolate

My cat likes to lick my bowl after I had chocolate ice cream.  Someone told me chocolate is toxic to cats.  Is that true?

Chocolate is toxic to cats (as well as to dogs). Chocolate contains Theobromine, which is what is toxic. Chocolate also has caffeine in it. Too much chocolate can cause seizures and even coma in cats and dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more Theobromine in it.  The biggest threat is from baking chocolate, followed by semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and hot chocolate.

The toxic dose of Theobromine (and caffeine) for pets is 100-200mg/kg. (1 kiliogram = 2.2 pounds). But some cats and dogs have had serious problems with less than that amount. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning is usually seen from 2 to 12 hours after the cat (or dog) has ingested chocolate.  Vomiting and diarrhea occur 2 to 4 hours after ingestion. The theobromine (and caffeine) causes nervous system stimulation, which leads to hyperactivity, tremors, and seizures. The heart rate becomes increasingly rapid and irregular. There may be excessive urination due to the diuretic (water clearing) effect of the chocolate. Advanced signs include stiffness, excitement, seizures, and extreme response to noise, light, and touch. Heart failure, weakness, coma, and death can occur 12 to 36 hours after intake!

There is no antidote for chocolate poisoning. If a cat (or dog) has eaten a chocolate product, call a vet or after hours vet clinic. Then rush the animal to the vet or emergency after hours vet clinic.  A veterinarian may use drugs to induce vomiting if the chocolate was consumed within the previous 2 - 4 hours, or a stomach tube and fluids to clear the stomach of chocolate, followed by activated charcoal treatment to prevent any drug remaining from being absorbed.

If advanced signs are present, specialized medications are needed to control the seizures and to correct the rapid and weak heartbeat in order to prevent heart failure and death.

Here is more information: 

http://www.petalia.com.au/Templates/StoryTemplate_Process.cfm?specie=Cats&story_no=1390

http://vetmedicine.about.com/cs/nutritio...

http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?...

http://www.aspca.org/site/DocServer/toxbrief_0201.pdf?docID=111


A cat licking just a very little chocolate ice cream residue left on a bowl won't cause serious harm. The cat might get diarrhea and possibly some nervousness due to the caffeine and Theobromine. That isn't good, so I would not let a cat lick a bowl that had chocolate ice cream in it. Certainly do not let a cat eat a bowl of chocolate ice cream, or drink chocolate milk, for that matter. All chocolate should be kept away from cats and dogs.