When people come to me with cat issues, we have a three way conversation with their kitties and come up with solutions to their situations. Over the years, I’ve come across some consistent input from cats. Here are some suggestions that come up over and over.
- I get many calls about litter box issues. If your cat is going outside the litter box (in your house), the first thing to determine is whether your cat has a urinary tract infection. Going to the bathroom outside the litter box is often the only way to get our attention. Once you’re sure they’re healthy, it’s important to be sure their litter box has a view. In nature cats use places where they can see predators approach. It is said that the ideal location of the litter box is directly across from the entrance to the room so your cat can see who is entering. Along the same lines, I regularly hear from cats how offensive scented kitty litter is. A litter box may be the only option a kitty has if they are an inside only cat. Imagine what it’s like to step into a heavily perfumed box and then leave with that scent clinging to your feet. Then the kitty has to lick these smelly feet to get them clean. Why not choose unscented litter for your kitty’s litter box?
- When introducing a dog to a cat household, set it up for success. Tell your cats ahead of time what to expect and keep the new dog on the leash while in the house. If the cats run at the first sight of the dog, the leash will prevent the dog from chasing them. Be vigilant with a new dog and be sure he doesn’t already have a predator approach with cats. If you see signs that the dog may not be friendly, it is good to get help from a trainer or behaviorist to assess the safety of your cats with the dog. If you don’t know the dog’s history, it is important to keep your cats safe and give everyone time to get to know each other. I usually suggest that you keep the dog on a leash until the kitties have approached the dog and moved freely around him. This can take weeks but gives you a chance to bond with the new dog as you take him out for walks.
- In any situation where you are making changes in your cats’ lives, it’s helpful to set up a calm environment. I find the kitty cheek pheromone called Feliway to be very helpful. Since cats rub their cheeks on things to label them as “good”, spraying a small amount of Feliway at kitty cheek height in each room can set up the atmosphere to signal that “everything is ok here!”.
- Play, Play, Play! Especially if you have inside-only cats! They are bored with the same old routine and same sights. Steve and Claudia Anderson have a great idea for their kitties Stella, Desi and Abby. They get helium balloons that float around their house with the ribbons trailing under the ballons. They sometimes tie a feather to the ribbon and their cats stalk and follow the balloons all over the house. Notice the games your cat initiates. Some like to play hide and seek, others love to fetch, others like to show off to an appreciative audience. Notice “What a fast cat you are!” or “ My goodness! That was an incredible jump!”
- Appreciate what they offer in term of affection. Some cats just don’t want to sit in your lap. They may prefer to sit nearby and keep you company.
- Cats very frequently ask for outside access. If it is at all possible to let your cat outside, it can be a very rewarding experience for them. There are many ways to keep this experience safe. Many of my clients use cat fencing on the top of their fences or on the rails of their decks to give their kitties sunshine and the opportunity to stalk bugs. One client uses a large dog run with access out of window through a cat door so that her cat can be outside and also safe. One client in a very safe neighborhood was concerned about her cat crossing the road. She installed an electric fence and her kitty wears an E collar and stays in the yard. If the outside is not an option, please do what you can to be sure they have access to windowsills with open windows for fresh air, and maybe a bird feeder nearby to offer entertainment. Some of my New York City clients have enclosed window boxes where their cats can lounge in the sun and watch people on the sidewalks below.