FACQs (Frequently Asked Cat Questions)

What do I need to know about cat ownership?

Should I adopt a kitten or a full grown cat?

Why should I have my cat spayed or neutered?

My cat seems fine. Why should I take them to the vet?

What vaccines should my cat receive? How often should they receive them?

What should I feed my cat?

Should I let my cat go outside or should I keep him indoors?

How do I introduce a new cat to my existing cat?

Can I introduce a new cat to my dog?

What if my cat has litter box issues? What can I do?

Can I adopt a cat/keep my cat if someone in my household has allergies?

Is it okay to declaw my cat?

Is secondhand (or even thirdhand) smoke dangerous for my pet?

I am moving to a rental property and cannot take my cat. Or can I?

What if I have to rehome my pet?

We are having a baby. Does that mean I have to get rid of my cat?


What do I need to know about cat ownership?

Having a pet is a tremendously fulfilling and rewarding experience. However, adopting a cat is like adopting a child and should be a lifetime commitment. Our mission is to find forever homes for our cats with loving adopters. Before adopting a cat, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Cats can live up to 20 years. Are you willing to commit to this animal for the entirety of its lifetime?
  • If you marry, have a child, or move, will you be willing to keep the cat?
  • Are you willing and able to take on the financial responsibility of having an animal? The average yearly cost to have a cat is approximately $705 according to the ASPCA. That doesn’t include emergency veterinary care or treatment for a possible chronic condition, which can be in the thousands.

8 Things You Should Never Do When Adopting A Cat      [back to top]


Should I adopt a kitten or a full grown cat?

Adult cats are much harder to find a home for. Hundreds of thousands of adult cats are euthanized yearly in animal shelters because homes can’t be found for them. During kitten season (in the spring and summer, especially), older cats are euthanized to make room for the kittens that are much easier to rehome.

An adult cat will spend its life being eternally grateful that you picked them. They’re desperate for attention and thankful they’re not languishing in a shelter anymore and that they’ll never be abandoned again.

Kittens are not recommended for children under five years of age. Kittens have not learned to retract their claws and can accidentally scratch when they play. When a rambunctious child won’t back off and leave the kitty alone, an adult cat can jump high to get away, hiss to warn, or swat with claws retracted. When a kitten gets overstimulated, they’ll bite, play attack, and wrestle.

Kittens are fragile and may accidentally be hurt by a young child, and a young child is more likely to be hurt by a kitten. Kittens are perfect for families with older, more responsible children.

Kittens aren’t kittens very long. They require constant supervision and are very energetic. Kittens unsupervised may climb your curtains, chew on your plants (which can be very dangerous for them), or chew your phone wires (although bitter apply spray helps). Adult cats are more laid back and calm.

If you’re over 6o, you probably want to consider an adult cat. Odds are the kitten will outlive you. We have a Seniors for Seniors foster program that caters to clients over 60.

An adult cat has built up a stronger immune system, body system and organs. A kitten’s immune system is still immature and very fragile. A kitten may be more prone to illnesses and viruses. A kitten appearing fine one day can be sick the next day. The younger they are, the more at risk they are of getting sick. All of our kittens and adults receive the FVRCP vaccine to help protect against illness.

Physical and personality characteristics in kittens can change. In the first year, a kitten’s face, eye color, color and length of fur can change. As a kitten matures, its true personality emerges. Whereas, with an adult cat, you know exactly what you’re getting because their personalities, eye color, coat, and body type are already fully developed. If you’re seeking certain personality traits in a cat, consider an older teenage kitten or an adult cat. A kitten’s personality is unpredictable as they grow.

At the time of adoption, adult cats are usually fully vaccinated. Kittens may not be old enough for their rabies vaccine and may just have their first FVRCP vaccine. A kitten will have its first worming, but will need one or two more treatments. There will be the expense of follow-up vet appointments to cover the additional vaccines and worming for kittens. There’s a bigger financial commitment involved with a kitten during its first year. If you want a declawed cat, we may have an adult that is already declawed (we do not declaw our cats, but sometimes they come to us declawed).

Cats need companionship. However, most of us have to work for a living. If your cat is going to be left alone for long periods of time, we recommend a companion. Kittens that have a buddy won’t be as destructive and get in as much trouble when they have each other to play with. If two cats aren’t a possibility, we suggest you consider a teenager or adult. They acclimate better to being left alone.

Hopefully, this information helps you in your adoption decision.     [back to top]


Why should I have my cat spayed or neutered?
  • Spaying a female cat at four months will prevent even one “heat” cycle, which is characterized by incessant crying, howling, sometimes destructive behavior, false pregnancies, possible spraying, and amorous overtures to chairs, people, etc. This heat cycle can and will last as long as one week and will be repeated again every three weeks until the female has mated. It only takes one time to get pregnant. All of our adoptable cats/kittens are spayed or neutered.
  • Neutering a male at four months will make it less likely to want to get out and roam, get into cat fights, and exhibit mounting behavior and territorial urine-marking.
  • Spayed and neutered cats get along better with one another.
  • Black dogs and cats are the last ones to get adopted from shelters. There are more of them in shelters and they are euthanized more frequently because of lack of space.
  • For every person born in the United States, there are 15 dogs and 45 cats born.
  • Each day in the United States, 10,000 people are born and 70,000 puppies and kittens are born.
  • Two out of 10 cats brought into a shelter will be adopted and eight will be euthanized. Only two out of a hundred will be returned to their owner.
  • 40 percent of cats killed in shelters are between five months and three years old.
  • The average number of kittens in a litter is four to six. A fertile female cat can produce an average of three litters in one year.
  • If a female cat has a litter, and all the kittens from that litter are allowed to reproduce and so on, then in seven years that one female cat and her offspring will be responsible for producing 420,000 cats.
  • Over $2 billion is spent annually by local governments throughout the United States to shelter and ultimately destroy nearly 11 million adoptable cats and dogs.
  • While you were reading this, more than 45 healthy, adoptable cats, kittens, dogs and puppies were “put to sleep”.    [back to top]

My cat seems fine. Why should I take them to the vet?

Cats are very good at hiding pain and illness; it’s a coping mechanism built into their nature to help them avoid predators in the wild. By the time cats exhibit physical symptoms (lethargy, lack of appetite/overeating, vomiting, not drinking enough/drinking too much, urinating too much/too little/not at all, loose stool/diarrhea/constipation, sudden weight loss/gain, excessive licking, fur pulling, aggression/biting, hiding, etc.), it may be too late to help them (or too much time may have been lost).

This is why annual physical exams, including lab work (blood work and a urinalysis), are so important for our feline companions. If a problem is caught early, there is often much that can be done to effectively manage a health condition (or in some cases, even reverse it). Healthy cats under 8 should have annual vet visits, and healthy cats over 8 should have vet visits 1-2 times per year. Cats with health concerns may need more frequent visits. Many vets offer annual wellness packages that include an exam and lab work at a discounted price.

Read more about the importance of regular vet visits and how you and your vet can make vet visits less stressful for your cat here.

A note about vaccines:

There are differing schools of thought regarding the types and frequency of vaccinations for cats. A rabies vaccine is required by law by most state and local governments. While one rabies vaccine has been shown to be effective for many years through titer testing, most municipalities will not accept titer testing in lieu of an updated rabies vaccine. There are rabies vaccines labelled for one year or three years; it is recommended that whichever you choose (the less you stick a cat, the better), opt for a non-adjuvanted version of the vaccine (adjuvanted vaccines carry a higher risk of injection site sarcoma). We recommend the Merial Purevax three year non-adjuvanted rabies vaccine for cats, which came out in 2014 (not all vets carry it).

The FVRCP vaccine, while not required by law, is also an important vaccine, as it protects against deadly panleukopenia and gives some protection against the herpes and calici viruses (which are responsible for upper respiratory infections). Studies show that the initial vaccination likely gives lifetime protection against panleukopenia. Although the vaccine is labelled for annual administration, the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends administering it no more often than every three years. There are many manufacturers offering a non-adjuvanted form of this vaccine.

Non-core vaccines offered by some vets include the FIV vaccine and the FeLV (feline leukemia) vaccine. The FIV vaccine is not recommended because a cat who is vaccinated for the disease will always test positive for the disease (which becomes an issue if your cat is picked up by animal control and tested; many animal controls will put down cats who test positive). It also only protects against certain strains of the virus, and it is an adjuvanted vaccine. Most FeLV vaccines are also adjuvanted (the PureVax FeLV vaccine is not), give limited protection, and both of these vaccines are unnecessary in low risk populations (i.e. indoor cats). Discuss your cat’s risk factors with your veterinarian when deciding whether to give these vaccines.

Please note that vaccines should only be given to healthy pets. Talk with your veterinarian about whether your cat is healthy enough for vaccines or whether a health waiver might be an option.

Click here for more information regarding vaccines.

Regardless of your cat’s vaccine schedule, they should see the vet for an annual physical exam. Early detection is the best treatment!    [back to top]


What vaccines should my cat receive? How often should they receive them?

There are differing schools of thought regarding the types and frequency of vaccinations for cats. A rabies vaccine is required by law by most state and local governments. While one rabies vaccine has been shown to be effective for many years through titer testing, most municipalities will not accept titer testing in lieu of an updated rabies vaccine. There are rabies vaccines labelled for one year or three years; it is recommended that whichever you choose (the less you stick a cat, the better), opt for a non-adjuvanted version of the vaccine (adjuvanted vaccines carry a higher risk of injection site sarcoma). We recommend the Merial Purevax three year non-adjuvanted rabies vaccine for cats, which came out in 2014 (not all vets carry it).

The FVRCP vaccine, while not required by law, is also an important vaccine, as it protects against deadly panleukopenia and gives some protection against the herpes and calici viruses (which are responsible for upper respiratory infections). Studies show that the initial vaccination likely gives lifetime protection against panleukopenia. Although the vaccine is labelled for annual administration, the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends administering it no more often than every three years. There are many manufacturers offering a non-adjuvanted form of this vaccine.

Non-core vaccines offered by some vets include the FIV vaccine and the FeLV (feline leukemia) vaccine. The FIV vaccine is not recommended because a cat who is vaccinated for the disease will always test positive for the disease (which becomes an issue if your cat is picked up by animal control and tested; many animal controls will put down cats who test positive). It also only protects against certain strains of the virus, and it is an adjuvanted vaccine. Most FeLV vaccines are also adjuvanted (the PureVax FeLV vaccine is not), give limited protection, and both of these vaccines are unnecessary in low risk populations (i.e. indoor cats). Discuss your cat’s risk factors with your veterinarian when deciding whether to give these vaccines.

Click here for more information regarding vaccines.

Regardless of your cat’s vaccine schedule, they should see the vet for an annual physical exam.

 [back to top]


What should I feed my cat?

Cats are obligate carnivores, and as such, require meat proteins as their main source of nutrition. The best, most nutritionally complete and biologically appropriate diet is an organic human grade fresh raw food diet, a commercially prepared raw food diet, or a dehydrated raw food diet (according to Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, CVA, CCRT, NMD). Many pet parents might have difficulty offering a raw diet (or in some cases, the pet may not eat it), so Dr. Becker recommends a canned food diet as the next best option. However, not all budgets or lifestyles can accommodate these types of diets, so many pet parents opt for a dry food diet. Within dry food choices, there are better and lesser quality options. Pet parents should feed their cats the highest quality food (raw, wet, or dry) that their budget will allow.

What do cats need in their diets?

  • protein (from a recognizable meat source)
  • taurine (an amino acid naturally present in meat)
  • vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids (naturally occurring vs. synthetic preferred; chelated minerals are best)
  • Moisture (water, broth)

What should I look for when selecting a cat food?

Pet food labels follow the same basic rules as human food labels, meaning that the list of ingredients descends from the largest to the smallest amount. Look for whole foods on the label.

  • A whole protein (muscle meat) should be the first ingredient; ideally, the first several ingredients will be proteins (i.e. chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, salmon, rabbit, duck, venison, quail, kangaroo, etc.) Fish based diets are generally discouraged due to high phosphorous levels (this is particularly bad for cats), concerns about mercury levels and contaminants, and have been associated with hyperthyroidism in cats.
  • The word “meal” after an identified protein is okay, but the word “byproduct” is not. Byproducts can be comprised of heads, feet, viscera, and other animal parts. Unidentified protein meal (“meat meal”, “meat and bone meal”) can contain rendered euthanized pets from shelters and vet clinics, 4D meat (dead, diseased, dying, disabled), road kill, and zoo animals. Also avoid “animal” fat (vs. an identified fat, such as chicken fat).
  • Avoid carbohydrate fillers such as corn (corn meal, ground whole corn, ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, maize, etc.), cellulose (which is basically sawdust), wheat and other grains, and soy (especially if high up in the ingredient list or if several of these are listed). Cats do not need carbs, and the proteins, vitamins, and minerals from these sources are not readily bioavailable to them. Also, in combination, they could constitute a higher percentage of the food’s makeup than the first ingredient!
  • Avoid chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, propyl gallate, and propylene glycol. Many fish meals are preserved with ethoxyquin, but this is not indicated on the label. These have been linked to cancer and other serious illnesses.
  • Avoid foods containing dyes, as these can be harmful to your cat. Dyes are added to appeal to the human; cats have a limited ability to see color (naturally brown foods are best).
  • Canned foods follow the same basic rules above, except that the first or second ingredient is typically water or broth. Cats require a lot of water, and canned food is an excellent source of moisture. Avoid carrageenan; it is a possible human carcinogen, has been linked to serious disease, and is thought to exacerbate conditions such as gastrointestinal disease. Cans larger than 5.5 ounces (and even some small cans) have BPA (an endocrine disruptor chemical) in the lining.

What are the benefits of feeding my cat a better quality food?

  • Decrease in or elimination of hairballs and/or vomiting
  • Shinier, healthier coat
  • Less volume and odor of stool
  • It is more protein/calorie dense, so cats tend to eat less of it than cheaper foods made with fillers (which helps offset the cost)
  • A healthier diet equals a healthier pet (lower vet bills and longer life)

Isn’t dry food better for my pet’s teeth?

According to Dr. Becker, “Dry foods no more clean a pet’s teeth than eating granola or crunchy crackers clean a human’s teeth. What cleans a pet’s teeth is the shearing action from consuming bone dense foods or grinding on raw bones, or brushing your pet’s teeth” (and, of course, veterinary dental cleanings). Dry foods often contain grains, which actually promote plaque and tartar.

What about prescription foods?

Your vet is the best source of information in regards to your pet’s health; however, not all vets are thoroughly trained in feline nutrition in general or as it relates to disease processes in cats. Prescription diets that vets often prescribe are made with biologically inappropriate, low quality ingredients that may address the cat’s health issue, but can cause a myriad of other health issues if fed over a prolonged period of time. There are often high quality over-the-counter foods that can better address your cat’s specific medical condition and are more cost-effective. Ask your vet what to look for or avoid in a food if your cat has a specific diagnosis for which a certain type of food would be therapeutic; this will often be in the form of limitations on certain minerals or the carbohydrate load. You might consider consulting an integrative veterinarian; they are often more well-versed in pet nutrition.

For more information on why feeding prescription foods should be carefully reconsidered, please read the following articles:

Prescription/Therapeutic Diets – Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM

Saying No to Poor Quality Pet Food… Even When It’s Recommended by Your Vet – Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, CVA, CCRT, NMD

Can You Guess the First 5 Ingredients in This Popular Veterinary Diet? – Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, CVA, CCRT, NMD

Recommended Commercially Prepared Cat Foods (and where to buy them):

Wet Cat Foods      Dry Cat Foods

Why is water so important? How can I get more water into my cat’s diet?

Cats do not have a high thirst drive and can become dehydrated. Water is very important in keeping them from developing several diseases, especially those involving the kidneys and bladder.

The best way to get water into a cat’s diet is with a raw food diet or a canned food diet (these contain around 70-75% moisture). Cats on a dry food diet (which contains about 10-12% moisture) only take in about half as much water as a cat on one of the other diets, so they are left in a chronic mild state of dehydration. Dry food diets can be supplement with canned food, and a pet fountain will entice most cats to drink more.

What is the best feeding method and frequency?

How much and how often you feed your cat depends on its age, health, size, what type of diet you choose, and your schedule.

  • Free feeding – Leaving food out all of the time ensures your cat will never go hungry (especially if you are gone for long periods of time), but free feeding dry food can quickly lead to obesity in an adult cat if not monitored. Canned food will spoil if left out for long periods of time (always refrigerate unused opened canned food).
  • Scheduled feeding – Feeding once or twice (or even several times) a day (whether raw, wet, dry, or a combination) ensures that your cat will not overeat and allows you to monitor their caloric intake, but may not always be convenient. There are electronic feeders on the market for both wet and dry food that will dispense food at programmed times if you choose scheduled feeding but aren’t home to do so. There are also microchip/RFID feeders you can use if you have multiple cats and want to keep an overeater out of another cat’s food (also helpful if you have cats on different diets).

How do I transition my cat to a new food?

Cats are prone to gastrointestinal upset if their diet is changed abruptly (this is more of a problem with dry foods than wet foods). Slowly changing your cat from one food to another over several days helps to avoid this issue:

  • Step 1 (2-3 days): 25% new, 75% old
  • Step 2 (2-3 days): 50% new, 50% old
  • Step 3 (2-3 days): 75% new, 25% old
  • Step 4: 100% new

What/how often should I feed my kitten?

Kittens have special dietary requirements and should generally be given foods that are specifically labeled for kittens (or high quality foods labelled for all life stages) until they reach one year of age. Kittens are not prone to overeating since they are growing so rapidly; therefore, constant access to food is encouraged.

What types of food and water bowls or dishes should I use?

Nonporous bowls or dishes for food and water (ceramic, glass, or stainless steel) are recommended. Plastic dishes are porous and tend to trap food particles and bacteria. The feline acne that cats sometimes get on their chins is often caused by the bacteria harbored by plastic dishes.

How should I store my cat’s food?

Frozen or refrigerated raw foods should be stored according to the package instructions.

Unopened cat food (canned or dry) should be stored in a cool, dry place (never in a garage or car; especially on a warm day). Opened canned food should be tightly covered and stored in the refrigerator. Some cats prefer room temperature food, so warming up refrigerated leftovers may entice them to eat it. Cold food can also upset a cat’s stomach, so warming it up or allowing it to set out for a few minutes is advised.

Opened dry food should be stored in its original bag inside an airtight container in a cool, dry place (most kitchens are warm and humid). If dry food is poured directly into a plastic container, the plastic can suck vitamins out of the food, and the plastic itself can leach into the food. Fats from the food can leach into the plastic and become rancid and contaminate new food poured into it.

Once dry food is opened, the vitamins begin to break down, and it is susceptible to moisture (which causes mold and mycotoxins), light, oxygen (which oxidizes the fats), and storage mites and other pests (which are drawn to grain). Making sure your food is fresh and storing it in the original bag inside an airtight container will help prevent these things from happening

Click here for a printable version (includes works consulted).      [back to top]


Should I let my cat go outside or should I keep him indoors?

The safest place for your cat is inside your home. Cats are susceptible to many dangers outside, including parasites, pests, disease, toxic chemicals, attacks from other animals or people, and inclement weather. Cats may also become lost. At best, a good Samaritan may find your lost cat and keep him or her, but many times, the cat ends up at an animal control facility where it goes unclaimed and loses its life. Even if your cat has an ID tag and is microchipped, collars can become lost, and animal control may miss microchips.

Here is a short list of the dangers that can be encountered by a cat who is allowed to go outdoors:

1. roundworms
2. hookworms
3. whipworms
4. tapeworms
5. ringworm
6. coccidia
7. giardia
8. fleas/ticks (can lead to hemobartonellosis)
9. ear mites
10. FIV
11. FeLV
12. FIP
13. panleukopenia
14. upper respiratory infection
15. toxins/poisons
16. other animals (dogs, coyotes, hawks, etc.)
17. vehicles
18. traps
19. unsavory people
20. weather

The average life expectancy of an outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat is 6 years, while that of a cat who remains indoors is 12-14 years. Many indoor cats live to be 20 or more!

Alternatives to letting your cat freely roam outside:

  • Put up a kitty window seat in a favorite spot for bird watching.
  • Install a garden window so they have a place to lay that makes it feel like they are somewhat surrounded by nature. These can be real glass garden windows or one designed specifically for a cat’s pleasure. They can be glass or screened in to let your cat enjoy the fresh air.
  • Allow kitty to enjoy your sun room or screened in porch.
  • Build a catio (a patio for cats). This can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like it to be. If you want a nicer looking one that ties into your backyard decor, this would be a great use for that leftover material from building your deck.
  • Train your cat to walk on a harness and leash.
  • Take your cat for a walk in a pet stroller.

Remember that if your cat has any direct exposure to the outdoor elements, he or she will need monthly flea/tick treatments, heartworm preventative, and deworming.      [back to top]


How do I introduce a new cat to my existing cat?

Cats are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment. Some cats can meet a new cat and be friends right away, but cats are very territorial, and most cats need time and space to adjust to a new companion and establish a rapport and a new social hierarchy.

All cats are different, so there is no hard and fast rule regarding how long it takes to introduce a new cat into a home with an existing cat, but it may take up to 4 to 6 weeks for the cats to make the adjustment. If at any point the introduction fails, you have to take a step back or start over altogether.

Step 1: 1 – 2 weeks

Keep the new cat in a separate room, such as a bathroom or bedroom. Do not let them see each other. This will allow your new cat to get used to the sounds and smells in their new environment without encroaching upon your existing cat’s territory.

Feed the new and the existing cat wet food or special treats on either side of the closed door. This allows them to hear and smell, but not see, the other cat. Getting a special treat in the presence of the other cat builds a positive association with the other cat’s presence.

Take a pair of socks and rub the cats down with them, then lay one sock by each cat’s food bowl. This continues to build a positive association with the other cat. Re-scent the socks every 3-5 days.

Rotate the cats into each other’s territory for a few minutes at a time (without letting them see each other). Put your existing cat into the new cat’s room after you have removed the new cat, then let your new cat explore the existing cat’s territory.

Step 2: 1-2 weeks

Continue to do all of the above, but now let the cats have brief glimpses of each other. Hold one cat, open the door for a few seconds so they can see the other cat, then shut the door. Do this a few times a day, and make it just a little longer as you progress. You can also put the new cat in a carrier and set it out in the existing cat’s area for 30-60 minutes at a time. Some people put up a screen door between the two rooms during this time so the cats can see each other, but still remain safe.

Step 3: 1-2 weeks

Now it’s time to see how they do together. Make sure you have a large open space with escape routes in case either cat gets nervous or needs to flee. Put each cat at either end of the room, and have a squirt bottle of water at the ready in case you need to break up a squabble. Let them have supervised time to interact and explore and see how they do. Once you are satisfied that they have had several successful visits and seem to be getting along, you can try leaving them unsupervised.

If you have followed all of the steps, have taken it slow, and took a step back (or started over from the beginning, if necessary), your cats should be able to cohabitate peacefully, and may even become good friends.

Not all cats, however, will get along. Just like people, some cats just won’t mesh. In this instance, you can try the following:

  • Feliway diffusers (30 day plug-in)
  • Feliway calming spray (sprayed 1-2 times per day)
  • Calming collars (30 days)
  • Rescue Remedy (added to drinking water)
  • Prozac (for anxiety/aggression; it can take 4-8 weeks for the drug to have an effect, but cats may not need to be on it permanently)
  • Keeping the cats in separate parts of the house or rotating them

Also make sure you are following the normal rules of thumb for cats:

  • One litter box per cat plus one extra (in different parts of the house)
  • Separate food and water areas for each cat
  • Make sure food and litter stations won’t cause one cat to become trapped by the other cat

If all methods fail and you find yourself unable to keep the new cat, please return it to the rescue group you adopted it from (or find a rescue to take it in if you acquired the cat elsewhere). Please don’t turn it in to a kill shelter or animal control facility. Owner surrenders do not have a hold time and may be put down immediately. Very few cats make it out of kill shelters alive. Please don’t dump the cat outside, either. The outdoor environment is harsh and dangerous; the cat will not thrive, and may not survive. Cats who are allowed outdoors have a significantly shorter life expectancy on average than strictly indoor cats.

For a listing of local pet resources and organizations, click here.

Click here to download a printable version of this guide.      [back to top]


Can I introduce a new cat to my dog?

When introducing a new cat or dog into the household, it’s important to make sure that they can live safely with one another. A good indication is whether the dog has lived safely with a cat before. Even if they’ve had experience living with the other species, you still want to introduce them to each other in a controlled setting gradually. If there’s more than one dog, introduce them to the cat separately. It is recommend that the pet parent wait until the cat has adapted to the new home before introducing him or her to the dog.

Prior to the first introduction, you may want to walk your dog. You want the dog to be calm. When the dog is calm, you can then bring the cat into the room and place her on a table or have her in a carrier. Give both of them treats while they’re watching each other. If either one become nervous or agitated, stop the introduction.

When introducing them next, have the cat on a table or chair. Have your leashed dog sit, and give both of them a lot of treats. If they seem comfortable with each other, you can bring the dog closer. You may want to ask the dog to lay down. Keep giving them treats as you bring them closer. You should continue with these supervised, short, and calm visits for as long as necessary.

When the dog and cat are behaving themselves, you can introduce them to each other with the dog off his leash. Make sure kitty has a way to escape, if necessary, like something high to jump on. You’ll still want to supervise these visits and make sure there isn’t any chasing or intimidation. If there are issues, you’ll need to go back to the leash and crate method.

After there have seen several successful unrestrained introductions and you feel comfortable, you can let them interact together unsupervised. Make sure kitty has an escape route. Make the unsupervised visits short, gradually increasing the time of these visits.

When integrating animals together, it’s important not to rush the process. With patience most animals can live together peacefully. However, sometimes it just can’t work out. This can be a dangerous or even deadly situation. If the cat or dog continue to behave aggressively or in a predatory manner when you’re attempting to introduce the two, it may just not work out, and you’ll want to return the cat to us.

If a dog has a strong predatory drive, he’ll become very focused, stiffen, and stare. He may also start whining and barking. If your dog starts to exhibit this type of behavior, don’t allow the dog near the cat. Definitely don’t let the dog chase the cat. Dogs that injure or kill cats have a strong predatory drive. More than one dog in a household are more prone to be a risk factor for this type of behavior. It doesn’t take long for a dog to injure or kill a cat. A cat can injure a dog too; for example, scratching an eye. Not all dogs who chase cats are prey driven. They may not do physical damage, but there’s the psychological stress factor for the cat. If you don’t feel like you can trust your dog, you need to keep him away from the cat.

A cat can also be the aggressor. Make sure kitty is not harassing, stalking, and swatting the dog. This type of behavior could cause the dog to become aggressive towards the cat.

When introducing the dog to kittens, you’ll want to supervise very carefully. Your dog could kill or injure a fragile kitten very quickly by just trying to play. The kitten won’t have any fear of the dog. Kittens like to run and play. A dog’s prey instincts could be aroused. For safety reasons, kittens should always be kept separate from the dog when you’re not there to watch.      [back to top]


What if my cat has litter box issues? What can I do?

Inappropriate elimination in cats is the number one reason cats are relinquished to animal shelters. These problems can usually be solved with a little patience and troubleshooting.

Medical Reasons a Cat Doesn’t Use the Litter Box

If a cat quits using its litter box, the first thing you want to do is get kitty to the veterinarian to rule out medical issues. The more common ones are urinary tract infection, kidney infection, urinary crystals, bladder stones, diabetes, arthritis, or bowel issues. Your cat could be trying to communicate physical pain to you. Stress can bring on a urinary tract infection. If a urinary tract infection goes untreated, the cat can associate the pain of trying to urinate with the litter box causing a possible future behavioral problem.

If you notice your male cat straining to go in the litter box or excessively licking his genitals, have him checked out by the vet immediately. This could indicate a urinary tract infection or a blockage, which is deadly in male cats. This results in extreme pain which he may associate with the litter box, thus causing him to avoid the litter box. Urinary issues are especially dangerous with male cats. Their urethra is narrow and is easily blocked. This can cause death within hours or irreversible organ damage from excessive toxins in the system. Don’t delay getting the cat to the vet.

Some cats develop microscopic crystals in their urine. These may or may not be associated with a urinary tract infection (cats under 10 years of age that have urinary crystals typically do not have a urinary tract infection). These crystals, which are like very fine sand, irritate the bladder. In male cats, the crystals may plug the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder, through the penis, to the outside of the body). This is a life-threatening condition, since the cat would be unable to urinate. A urinalysis done via cystocentesis renders the most reliable results (crystals can form outside the body within 30-60 minutes in free-catch samples).

In some cats, larger stones can develop. These are called urinary calculi and the condition is referred to as urolithiasis. Stones may actually form anywhere in the entire urinary tract. The urinary stones in cats can be found in the kidneys, ureters (tiny tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), bladder, or urethra (the tube from the bladder to the outside of the animal). They can also obstruct the outflow of urine.

Common Reasons a Cat Avoids the Litter Box

  • The box isn’t clean enough. Scoop the litter at least once, preferably twice, a day.
    Location, location, location. The litter box may be next to a noisy appliance, not close enough to be easily accessible or not private enough.
  • The litter box was moved. If you’re going to move the litter box, place a second litter box in the new location. Introduce your cat to the new litter box. Every day move the original litter box a few feet closer to the new one. Once the original box is next to the new one, let the cat use both for a few days. You can then remove the original box, leaving the new one.
    The cat doesn’t like the litter. Once you find a litter the cat likes, stick with it and don’t change.
  • If you have multiple cats, there may not be enough litter boxes. Try adding more boxes. The rule of thumb is have as many boxes as you have cats, then add one.
  • The cat may not like the litter box. There’s not enough room to turn around, scratch or dig. It’s covered, uncovered, or too difficult to get in and out of.
  • There’s too much litter in the box. There should be no more than two inches of litter. Or, there’s not enough litter. Some speculate that if a cat urinates on a hard surface, they prefer less litter, and if they urinate on a soft surface, they prefer more litter.
  • Place a litter box on each level of your home. If the cat is too young, old, or sick, kitty may be having trouble making it down the stairs.
  • Inappropriate elimination outside the box is common for cats that aren’t spayed or neutered.
  • The cat was surprised or ambushed by another cat while attempting to use or leave the litter box.
  • The cat is stressed by a change in environment, a new cat or a move.
  • The cat has been punished for not using the litter box and was then placed in the box, thus associating punishment with the litter box.

Clean up the Mess

Clean the area where the accident occurred. Cats are prone to continue inappropriate elimination in areas that smell of urine and feces. Cats can smell things that we can’t detect, so clean thoroughly. Urine stains will glow under a fluorescent black light. After you’ve located all the stains, clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner made for pet odors. A mixture of half vinegar and half water can also be used. Don’t use pungent smelling household cleaners or ammonia. This will encourage the cat to continue urinating in that area. You may have to clean several times to remove the odor. If the area is carpeted, clean the padding and floor underneath. Clean the area before steam cleaning so as not to lock the odor in.

To make the areas less appealing, try using double-sided tape, covering the area with an upside-down plastic carpet runner, or aluminum foil. You can also try placing water and food bowls in the area; cats don’t want to use the bathroom where they eat and drink.

Products

There are products that can be used to aid when there are problems with inappropriate elimination.

Feliway spray, calming collars, and diffusers are a synthetic form of facial pheromone. Facial pheromone is used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. Feliway helps to comfort and reassure cats and helps to prevent or reduce stress and anxiety, thereby reducing or eliminating inappropriate urination.

Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract Litter was developed by a veterinarian to attract cats to use the litter box. Cat Attract Litter Additive can also be used with your regular litter brand. These products are available through a pet store or online.

If these methods don’t work, talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of prescribing fluoxetine (Prozac) for your cat. This medication has been used safely and effectively in cats to reduce anxiety and reduce or eliminate inappropriate urination.      [back to top]


Can I adopt a cat/keep my cat if someone in my household has allergies?

Allergies is one of the top two reasons given for surrendering pets (the other is moving). There are many things you can do to minimize or eliminate allergic reactions to cats so that you can keep your furry friend. In addition to over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, or allergy shots, this article by Dr. Karen Becker DVM gives several other pieces of advice.     [back to top]


Is it okay to declaw my cat?

In a word, NO. Declawing is a barbaric procedure in which the cat’s toes are amputated at the first knuckle. Declawing can lead to a host of issues, including ongoing pain, the development of arthritis, litter box avoidance, and biting.

See the following documents for more information:

Visit The Paw Project for more information.      [back to top]


Is secondhand (or even thirdhand) smoke dangerous for my pet?

YES, especially for cats. Studies show that exposure to second and thirdhand smoke significantly increases the risk of malignant lymphoma and oral cancer in cats. Read more here.      [back to top]


I am moving to a rental property and cannot take my cat. Or can I?

Moving into an apartment or rental home doesn’t mean you can’t take your feline companion with you! Click here for a great article on how to keep your kitty with you. Make a pet resume if you need to convince a property manager to allow your pet.

Search for pet-friendly housing on the sites below:

PadMapper.com
Rent.com
Zillow.com
Trulia.com
Hotpads.com
Apartments.com
ApartmentList.com
ApartmentGuide.com
ApartmentFinder.com
Metro Animal Resources
PeopleWithPets.com National Directory

 [back to top]


What if I have to rehome my pet?

Please click here for resources and advice on rehoming your pet.      [back to top]


We are having a baby. Does that mean I have to get rid of my cat?

Absolutely not! Learn more here.      [back to top]

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