How to Safely Introduce Cats and Newborn Babies

Introducing cats and babies uses some of the same techniques as cat-to-cat or cat-to-dog introductions. So if you are having a baby, congratulations! Or perhaps a grandchild will visit soon, what fun! In either event, paying attention to your resident cats and providing proper introductions will prepare you, the child, and the cat(s) for a peaceful and even joyful time together.

There is no truth to the old wive’s tale regarding cats “sucking the breath” of infants. However, kitties are heat-seeking furry missiles that may enjoy being close to a warm body. That’s why they sleep on your lap (or your head!) and may be drawn to sleep near or even on top of an infant. A baby’s breath that smells like milk may also prompt a curious cat to take a sniff, which may have given rise in part to the old myth. Certainly, cats and babies can and do get along very well, but they should never be left unsupervised since they could unintentionally hurt each other. Supervised interaction is important.​

Why Cat Introductions Matter

Remember that your cat was there first. If he has never been exposed to infants, toddlers, or young children and has only been around adults, put yourself in your cat’s paws. Compared to an adult owner, these small humans might as well be creatures from Mars! Children smell different, sound odd with higher pitched voices, and look weird because they’re closer to the cat’s level and move differently and erratically. As such, the cat may switch into stranger-danger mode and either become frightened and hide, or defensive and try to drive away the scary creature. Neither option is good.

Before Baby Comes Home

When you are expecting a baby, start preparing the cat before the infant comes home. You have nine months to prepare. Cats love the status quo so when you begin redecorating a room for the nursery, be sensitive to him especially if he’s had access to the area before. Make changes gradually. Allow him to investigate the new things so he doesn’t feel left out. But be aware that he’ll probably LOVE to sleep in the bassinet, or bat the baby’s mobile around, so invest in a baby gate to keep him out when you can’t supervise. Placing a plastic carpet protector, nub side up, on the mattress will shoo most cats away.

Tape the sound of an infant crying so that your kitty gets an advance warning of what to expect. Cats use sounds to communicate, and infant cries sound similar to kitten distress cries, so it can be upsetting for cats to hear this. Be matter of fact, and if the cat investigates the sound or acts calm, reward with calm praise. Should he become upset, try playing a favorite game with Kitty before you turn on the recording so he’s having a fun time and associates the infant cries with a benefit for him.

Prepare Kitty in Advance for Baby’s Homecoming

Begin wearing baby powder or lotion weeks in advance. That way, your cat associates these smells with someone he already knows and loves. You’ll need to change your routine once the baby arrives, so try to do some of this in advance so the kitty won’t become upset that suddenly he gets no attention and that STRANGER that smells WEIRD and sounds SCARY takes all your time. Excluding your cat from this wonderful, happy time will confuse your cat and leave him sad, stressed, and potentially poised to act out in unacceptable ways, like missing the litter box.

When Baby Arrives

Once the baby is born, bring home something scented with the infant so that your cat has an advanced introduction. Remember that cats communicate with scent, and identify friends as smelling similar to them. That’s one reason they cheek-rub against you. So it will be helpful that the cat first has a chance to smell the baby on a tee shirt or blanket before he actually sees the infant.

Another trick that may help the cat more quickly accept the baby is to pet your kitty with the baby’s socks and then have the infant wear them (fur-side out, of course!). That way, the baby actually smells like the cat, so kitty identifies the infant as part of his family from the get-go.

Cats typically are very good with babies. When you bring home the baby, treat the event in a matter-of-fact manner, and don’t make a big deal of the introduction (even though it’s momentous, of course!). You want the kitty to understand this is a normal, expected part of his life. Don’t force the introduction. But if the cat acts interested, allow him to sniff the baby’s foot, perhaps (with that scented sock). By allowing your cat to actually look at, smell, and touch that creature that’s so very different, he’ll understand there’s nothing to fear.

Praise the cat when he behaves in a confident, calm manner. Once the kitty understands that treating the baby like one of the family and in a respectful way is to his advantage, there should be no problem. Perhaps make a special baby-cat time when you’re feeding your new baby, and have treats to toss to the cat or a laser-beam toy at the same time. That way, the cat associates great things with the baby’s presence.

As the baby grows, you’ll, of course, teach the child to respect the cat, too. Be sure the kitty has a private retreat to escape from reaching toddler hands. Mutual respect and careful introductions grow into a loving bond as your infant grows up alongside your special cat. And that’s a purr-fect relationship that will last a lifetime for them both.

Is Your Cat Scared of People?

Cats can have all different kinds of personalities. Some are outgoing, dominant, cuddly, or attention-seeking, while others are nervous, shy, and sometimes even scared of people. For cats who are scared of people, daily visitors to their home can cause extreme stress, but thankfully, this is something that can be overcome.

Cat Socialization and Personalities

Like people, cats are born with their given personalities, but the environment they grow up in can bring out certain character traits, especially if the environment is not a good one.

Socialization as a kitten is one of the most important determining factors in developing a cat’s personality and the behaviors it exhibits. For example, kittens who are bottle fed, exclusively cared for by a human and never exposed to other cats may not know how to react normally to other cat mannerisms. They may have problems interacting with other cats throughout life because of this. But kittens who have the opposite experience and are never handled by humans during the first few months of life can have issues interacting with people.

Reasons Why Cats Are Scared of People

A fear of people is often seen in feral cats who live outside and have little to no human exposure. If a cat is naturally more dominant, the lack of human interaction may contribute to that cat being aggressive towards people. If a cat is naturally more submissive, it may be scared or people and simply run away from them if it did not grow up around them.

Aside from not having been exposed to people or properly socialized, cats may be fearful of humans for other reasons. Sometimes cats are scared of people because they have had a bad experience with a human. Unfortunately, not all people are kind to animals and may intentionally hurt a cat, which often results in a scared feline. Other people, such as veterinary staff members, may unintentionally frighten or stress a cat out during a routine visit, which can also cause a cat to develop a fear of people. Bad experiences with people or a lack of exposure to people, in general, are the most common reasons why cats are scared of people.

If a cat has developed a fear of people in its own home, it may be due to an excessively noisy visitor–someone who accidentally startled it, or even someone who taunted it while visiting or through a window. If a cat in pain, such as one with arthritis or a wound, has been picked up and accidentally hurt by an unknowing visitor, it may also hide and develop a fear of people. This fear of people is a defense mechanism that a cat may unfortunately develop, but it is designed to protect the cat from future harm. 

Preventing a Fear of Visitors

Expose your cat to other people and cats while they are young. This exposure is often referred to as socialization and it will teach your cat that different cats and people are nothing to be scared of but instead are part of a normal life. If possible, expose your kitten to people of all shapes, colors, and sizes. Children, senior citizens, men with beards, women who wear a lot of perfume, people of varying skin colors, and other people all smell and look different and may unintentionally startle your cat if it isn’t used to these variations in humans.

Overcoming a Fear of Visitors

It may be a slow process, but you can teach a fearful cat to no longer be scared of visitors. Many of the same techniques used to help prevent a fear of visitors are useful in overcoming a preexisting fear in a cat.

  • Treats, verbal praise and petting, pheromones, supplements, and encouraging your visitors to be quiet and slow-moving will all help show your cat that there is nothing to be afraid of. 
  • Allowing your cat to come out from hiding instead of forcing it out is helpful.
  • Visitors that stay for an extended period of time may have a better chance at having your cat warm up to them since the cat will have more time to get used to them.
  • Having frequent guests instead of one or two visitors a year during holidays will also help recondition your cat to know that visitors are not scary since it is a regular part of life and not something new or unexpected.

Cleaning Stinky Kitty Accidents

Sometimes we cat lovers just have to “get down dirty” when the subject of cleaning up messes arises, and this is the time. I’m not talking about the mess that occurs when your cat knocks over a vase full of flowers. I’m talking about basic cat messes. You’ve got it – the pee, poop, and barf accidents that occasionally plague a house with cats. We’ll address these separately, as they each require a bit different treatment.

Cat Pee Cleanup

The most important thing to remember about cat urine is “get it while it’s fresh.” Urine goes through a decaying process as it “ages” in your carpet, caused by bacteria feeding on the organic wastes, and at the same time, converting it to gasses, primarily that strong ammonia smell.

Aside from the developing odor, the longer you allow urine to remain, the more likely its chances of seeping through the carpet into the pad and/or the wood floor beneath.

Fresh urine can often be cleaned up with the first two steps below, but you’ll sometimes need the third:

  1. Blot:  Use an old, thick, bath towel and blot up as much liquid as you can with it. Continue with paper towels until no moisture is seen.
  2. Dilute and Blot Again:  Heavily spray the area with clear water or a mild solution of white vinegar and water, then blot again, as above.
  3. Neutralize:  If the odor still exists after the carpet is completely dry, it’s time to break out the big guns: urine odor removers, based on chemicals, enzymes or bacteria/enzymes, all designed to neutralize the odor by eating the bacteria causing it.

Old Urine Stains

In the case of dried urine, the bacterial process is well under way, and you’ll need the help of the odor removal products. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for best results. Be aware that if the urine soaked all the way through to the wood floor underlying, you may need to remove the carpet and padding, and treat the wood directly. Then you’ll have to make the decision whether to attempt to save your existing carpet or re-carpet entirely.

Black Light

If you are surrounded by the scent of cat urine but can’t find any stains, consider investing in a black light, which will illuminate the cat pee, as if by magic. They are readily available in the larger pet stores, as well as online.

Removing Cat Poop Stain and Odor

If it’s firm, you’re in luck. Pick up with a paper towel, and then, using a small stiff-bristled brush, clean the area with a mild detergent and water mixture. Follow with steps 1 and 2 above. If your cat has diarrhea, bacteria is present. Clean up as much as you can with paper towels, then clean with detergent and water. Rinse and blot, then follow with a neutralizing product, such as one of the enzymatic cleaners mentioned previously.

Removing Cat Vomit

Treat vomit stains in the carpet as you would treat feces with diarrhea. However, if your cat eats canned food containing red dyes, you will probably have to call in a professional, as these dyes are extremely difficult to remove.

It is important to note that cat owners should try not to take their cats’ “accidents” personally, as they are truly accidents, and not done to be stubborn, to punish the owner, nor for any of the other human-type reasons people often assume. Cats are fastidious creatures and will use their litter boxes faithfully if everything else is right in their world. When they suddenly start making mistakes, it’s up to us humans to investigate and correct the cause. There are plenty of articles on this site covering litter box problems should this kind of problem arise.

Here’s to happy, healthy cats and a clean, fresh-smelling home!

How to Prevent Cat Door Escape Attempts

Cats kept inside for their own safety sometimes attempt the great cat escape, and practice door dashing. Usually, they come back inside immediately, but some door dashers do accomplish a great cat escape and are never found again. Others cause injuries when they trip owners trying to get out, or when owners fall trying to prevent the doorway dash.

Prevent Cat Escape

Dealing with cat escape artists at the door is particularly frustrating for owners. Even when Kitty understands that a particular location (the doorway) is forbidden, she may avoid the place when you’re looking but make a zooming escape as soon as visitors arrive and the door cracks a whisker-width open.

It’s a natural urge to explore and seek out the best view of kitty territory, even that seen through the window and blocked by that inconvenient door. You cannot change instinct, but you can modify some of these irksome behaviors with these door-dashing tips.

8 Tips to Stop Door-Dashing Cats

  • Encourage her to stay away from danger zones with training techniques. Any time you see the cat lounging near the doorway, use an interruption such as a loud “SSST!” or clapped hands to shoo her away. The idea is to make the doorway area unappealing so that kitty keeps away, and offer her a more rewarding pastime. Some cats are dissuaded with the help of a long-distance squirt gun aimed at their backside. However, some cats like Seren enjoy being sprayed.
  • Make the entryway unfriendly. Many cats dislike the feeling of walking on aluminum foil, so place a couple of sheets over the walkway.
  • Another option is to apply Sticky Paws (double-sided tape) to make the surface uncomfortable. Put the Sticky Paws on placemats positioned on the forbidden area, so it’s easily removed. You can also use clear plastic floor mats placed spike-side up so the cat will avoid the area.
  • The SSSCAT is a cat repellent device that sprays a hiss of air to startle the pet that triggers the built-in motion detector. You don’t have to be present for it to work.

  • You may also use smell deterrents to keep the cat away from forbidden doorway zones. Cats dislike citrus smells, so orange or lemon scents sprayed at the bottom of the door may help.
  • It’s not fair to simply forbid the cat access to a much-loved activity. Offer her legal outlets that are more attractive than the forbidden zones, and she’ll naturally choose to lounge there and abandon the doorway dash.
  • Position a cat tree or kitty bed on a tabletop right in front of a window some distance away from the forbidden door. Make this the most wonderful cat lounge spot ever: hide catnip or food treats in the bed, for example.
  • Before you go out the door, use positive reinforcement by giving your cat the best-treat-in-the-world, but only if she’s on this cat tree/bed (a safe distance from the door). While she munches, you can make a safe exit. Enlist help from friends to knock on the door or ring the doorbell to practice, so arrivals also make kitty think, “Hey, it’s treat time!”

Is Your Apartment Big Enough for a Cat?

Some of the most frequent questions asked by people who are thinking of getting a cat have to do with the size of their homes. There are no quick and easy answers. However, we can safely say that a cat can be very happy and comfortable in a small studio apartment. He can also be miserable and lonely in a 5,000 square foot home if he is ignored by his human companion. Here are the issues to consider:

Will He Be Bored?

Although cats are not really the “loners” some people believe them to be, a cat can remain active and interested in his surroundings, no matter how small, as long as his human companion takes the time each day to play with him and cuddle with him. After all, this is the reason you’re thinking of getting a cat, isn’t it?

Will Litter Box Odor Be a Problem?

Litter box odor is controlled by three conditions:

  1. Choice of Cat Food (Garbage in Garbage Out) – As a rule, premium cat food with few grain fillers will produce less stool odor.
  2. Cleanliness of the Litter Box – A box kept scrupulously clean will not produce penetrating odors, even if it is kept in a small bathroom. (If you’re really cramped for space, there are some very nice litter box enclosures on the market, that look like nice pieces of furniture to visitors.)
  3. Having Ample Litter Boxes – The rule of thumb is one litter box per cat plus one extra. So a home (or apartment) with one cat should have two litter boxes.

What If He Misses the Litter Box?

If you clean the litter box regularly, it is unlikely your cat will go outside the box. If he does, despite pristine-clean boxes, a veterinary visit is indicated. Urinary tract infections or Chronic Renal Failure in older cats are the most common medical causes of out-of-the-box accidents.

  • Straining to urinate
  • Meowing or crying while in the litter box
  • Excessive licking of the genitals
  • Blood in the urine

Cystitis in Cats 

is another painful cause of cats urinating outside the box. It is caused by crystals forming in the bladder, which make urinating extremely painful. Immediate treatment is necessary for cats that get Cystitis. It isn’t surprising that Urinary Tract problems are the number one cause of cats being taken to the veterinarian.

Cats need an acidic urine for urinary tract health. The pH of cat food has a direct relationship here. Although the higher range may vary under certain circumstances, the expert consensus seems to be from 6.0 to 6.5. (The lower the pH, the more acidic the urine.) A pH above this range can lead to the growth of struvites (magnesium ammonium phosphate crystals). A pH lower than 6.0 can cause the formation of calcium oxalate crystals.

I Don’t Have a Yard. Will He Be Unhappy Kept Indoors All the Time?

Please don’t fall for the “fresh air and sunshine” fallacy. Hundreds of thousands of cats live out long and perfectly happy lives as indoors-only cats, as long as they get the exercise they need through interactive play with a human parent. There are safe alternatives, depending on your apartment arrangement. You can screen off a balcony (with the landlord’s permission), or you can train your cat to walk on a leash, for outdoor excursions.

Treat Kitty to Some Play-Alone Toys

For times when you won’t be home with your cat, several play-alone toys will help keep him from feeling lonely when you are not home. They needn’t be expensive, either. We hear that cats are wild about the Yeowww Catnip Cigars, and they also love the catnip bananas. Even paper shopping bags are great free playtoys for cats, who love to burrow in them like nests. Just be sure to cut off the handles first. 

The Short Answer

The amount of love and positive attention your cat receives is much more important than the square footage of your apartment.

10 Ways to Find Your Lost Cat

If you’re the owner of an indoor-outdoor cat, you may be faced with a situation in which your kitty is suddenly missing. Even indoor-only cats may slip out the door unexpectedly. However, the chances are that your cat did not run away. Cats are very territorial (even the neutered ones). In fact, they will defend their territory at all costs. If driven out by another alpha cat who is bigger and meaner, cats will often seek safety indoors before running away. The sad truth is that it’s more likely a cat has been unwillingly removed from the area, injured or killed.

In order to find your cat, consider the possible reasons for his absence. This is the time to set aside emotions and evaluate the possibilities, with an appropriate action for each.

Human Intervention

There’s a possibility that your cat may have been a victim of one of the following scenarios:

  • Picked up by Animal Control
  • Picked up by another cat lover who thinks your cat is “lost”
  • “Rescued” by someone who thinks your cat is “abandoned,” “neglected,” or “stray”
  • Abducted for gain by professional “catnappers”
  • Abducted by others for sick purposes (dog-baiting, ritual sacrifice)
  • Trapped and “disposed of” by a cat-hating neighbor
  • Accidental “abduction” (Cat hides in a vehicle; is driven out of the area)

Injured or Killed

  • By auto accident
  • By a dog or another cat
  • By wild animals (coyote, skunk, or raccoon)

Plan Your Strategy

With these considerations in mind, you can plan your strategy for recovering your cat if he is still alive or to bring closure if it is discovered he’s not. Time is of the essence, and you may need to perform all of the following actions:

  1. Check Your Yard First
    Indoor cats that slip out will usually stay in their own yards, or hide under decks, foundations, and shrubbery.
  2. Use a Baby Monitor on Your Porch
    Leave a bowl of food on your porch with an electronic baby monitor.
  3. Create Flyers with a Photo of the Cat
    Offer a reward, and distribute the flyers door-to-door in at least a three-block radius. In addition, post the flyer in store windows and on telephone poles.
  4. Alert Your Animal Control Officer
    Give them a flyer and ask them to on the lookout for your cat, dead or alive.
  5. Call Local Veterinarians
    It is possible a guardian angel brought your cat in with injuries; ask the vets if you can post a flyer in their clinics.
  6. Visit Your Local Animal Shelter
    Leave a flyer and ask if a cat meeting the description has been brought in, alive or dead.
  7. Advertise
    Most local newspapers and shopping guides will allow free “lost and found” ads. Also, check the newspaper listing for “found cats.”
  8. Post to Local Lost/Found Internet Pages
    Some communities sponsor websites specifically designed for lost/missing pets.

  1. Check with Local Rescue Organizations
    Ask for permission to visit foster homes that may have recently taken in a cat meeting the description.
  2. Hire a Pet Detective
    Chose a pet detective trained to track lost animals through the use of technology.

The Importance of Identification

It is important to emphasize that with proper identification, your cat may be returned to you. If your cat wears a collar and tags, most people will return him to you if they think he is lost. With micro-chipping and/or ear tattooing, many veterinarians and animal shelters will be able to notify you, even if the collar/tags were removed. Professional thieves will avoid cats with ear tattoos; they know that laboratories will not accept owned cats, and more nefarious “end users” will probably also avoid them.

Use Caution in Offering Rewards

Sad stories have been told about cruel extortionists who extracted large cash rewards from grieving pet owners under the premise of having “found” their pets. If you advertise with an award, be sure to leave out one or two pertinent identifying details of your cat (one black whisker, one white toe, etc.) Don’t leave yourself open to false hopes, and by all means, don’t wire reward money until you see your cat.

Become Involved and Involve Your Neighbors

Most important of all, take steps to prevent cats from becoming lost in the first place. There most likely are other outdoor cats in your neighborhood, especially if you live in the suburbs.

  • Contact their owners and tell them about your concerns.
  • Organize a “cat neighborhood watch.”
  • Stress the importance of identification for their cats.
  • Be on the lookout for strangers in the neighborhood, and if you see someone picking up a cat, get the license number and description of the vehicle. Call the owner if you recognize the cat.
  • Become familiar with the laws in your community with regard to pets. Many cities have laws that say all found pets must be turned into the local shelter. Unfortunately, many people do not realize this or disregard the law.

Keep Your Cat Indoors

Although indoor cats occasionally slip out, they rarely go far, and can usually be lured back in easily before meeting harm. It goes without saying that an inside cat is a safer cat.

Hopefully, these tips will help foster a successful recovery. Remember, it’s every bit as frightening for our wayward cats as it is for us.

How to Bathe a Cat

Kittens learn to lick themselves by two weeks old, and adult cats spend up to 50 percent of their awake time grooming themselves. Why risk life and limb bathing your cat?

A bath stimulates the skin and removes excess oil, dander, and shed hair. It also offers an opportunity to teach your cat that being handled even in unexpected ways won’t hurt them. Cats will need to be touched by the vet, handled by vet techs or house sitters and guests. Making the bath a pleasant experience helps cats “generalize” the event to future similar situations.

But bathing too often can dry the skin. A good guideline is to bathe shorthairs no more than every six weeks; two to three times a year during shedding season should suffice.

Kittens accept baths most readily so start as soon as you adopt one, as long as it’s at least four weeks old. Elderly cats or extremely ill cats may be stressed by bathing so follow your veterinarian’s recommendation in these instances.

Preparing your Cat for the Bath

Before getting your cat wet, brush its fur thoroughly. Make sure you have all the necessary grooming supplies ready prior to the bath. Be sure to clip your cat’s claws beforehand as well or risk having your clothes and skin shredded.

If it’s not the first time you’ve bathed your cat, you may want to do the pre-grooming the day before, otherwise, the animal may figure out what you’re up to before you even get it near the water.

The bath area should be warm and draft free. The bathtub will do, but your knees will thank you for using a waist-high sink. Move all breakables out of reach, and push drapes or shower curtains out of the way or they may spook your cat. Avoid anything (strong scents, scary objects, mirrors) that potentially frighten cats, so the bath is as pleasant as possible.

Preparing the Bath for Your Cat

For routine cleaning, you only need a simple grooming shampoo labeled specifically for cats. Human baby shampoo or dog products can be too harsh and dry the cat’s skin, and in some case may be toxic. 

Assemble your shampoo, several towels, and a washcloth near the sink or tub, and run warm water (about 102 degrees, or cat body temperature) before you bring in the cat. Some cats actually enjoy water, but no cat wants to be forced to do something.

Try floating a Ping-Pong ball or another fascinating cat toy in the water to entice the cat to try to fish it out. A cat who plays with the water will be less likely to fear it.

Cats hate the insecure footing of slippery surfaces so place a towel or rubber mat in the bottom of your tub or sink. That does wonders for cat confidence and often eliminates or at least reduces yowls and struggles by half. Or, try standing the cat on a plastic milk crate, which gives him something to clutch with his paws, while allowing you to rinse him on top and underneath without turning him upside down.

Wear old clothes. Expect to get wet. Also, close the door to the bathing area, or you risk having a soapy cat escape.

Special Tips for Bathing Kittens

For small cats or kittens, use the double sink in the kitchen, two or more large roasting pans, or a couple of buckets or wastebaskets set in the bathtub. Fill each with warm water, then gently lower your cat (one hand supporting its bottom, the other beneath the chest) into the first container to get her wet. Most cats accept this method more readily than being sprayed.

Don’t dunk your cat’s face or splash water on it; that’s what gets cats upset. Let your kitty stand on its hind legs and clutch the edge of the container as you thoroughly wet the fur. Then lift the cat out onto one of your towels, and apply the shampoo, using the washcloth to clean its face.

After lathering, dip the cat back into the first container to rinse. Get as much soap off as possible before removing and sluice off excess water before rinsing in subsequent containers of clean water.

Dip or Spray Method

Jumbo-size adult cats can be hard to dunk, and running water can be scary for them Instead, you can use a ladle to dip water. If you have a spray nozzle from the sink, use a low force, with the nozzle close to the fur so kitty doesn’t see the spray.

Never spray in the face; use a wash rag to wet, soap and rinse that area. Keep one hand on the cat at all times to prevent escapes. Professional groomers often use a figure-eight cat harness to tether the cat in place, which leaves the bather’s hands free.

Rinse beginning at the neck and down the cat’s back; don’t neglect beneath the tail or tummy.

Wrap the clean cat in a dry towel. Shorthaired cats dry quickly, but longhaired felines may need two or more towels to blot away most of the water. If your cat tolerates or enjoys the blow dryer, use only the lowest setting to avoid burns.

How to Manage Your Cat’s Claws

A kitten’s paws are like the hands of babies. As they grow, they will become more and more important tools for life, and claws are an essential part of cats’ paws. And like babies, they may use those tools in destructive ways unless they are trained. Please learn to respect your cat’s claws. Never even consider declawing as an option, nor getting rid of the cat. Instead, consider the training options you need to use, even as you’d train an errant toddler.

The Many Uses of Cats’ Claws

A cat’s claws are versatile, multi-purpose tools. Cats use their retractable claws every day, for climbing, scratching, pouncing, turning, balancing, or defending themselves against other cats, dogs, other predators, even humans who might try to harm them. Cats do not scratch furniture with malicious intent. Scratching is part of their regular self-maintenance program to keep their claws nice and sharp for self defense. When cats scratch, they are actually dislodging and removing a transparent sheath that grows over the claws. You may occasionally find these sheaths buried in your carpet. Scratching also stretches and tones your cat’s back and shoulder muscles. Yelling at your cat or getting mad at him only confuses him, because he is doing what comes naturally, with the nearest tool at hand, which may presently be your prized Louis XIV chair you inherited from Aunt Blanche.

A Two-Step Plan

Fortunately, there are compromises that offer you and Tiger a win-win resolution. An often-used psychological tool with children applies equally to our cats: encourage / reward desirable behavior and discourage undesirable behavior. Consistency and repetition are the key words and are crucial to any re-training program.

Positive Tips to Consider:

  • Apply soft plastic nail caps, such as Soft Claws
    Soft Claws (also sold under the name “Soft Paws”) are the cat’s meow when it comes to both fashion and utility. These plastic nailcaps come in four sizes, and application is fairly simple, once you and kitty get the hang of it. These are “natural” color, but they come in fashion colors as well. Available from your veterinarian or at the larger pet supply stores.
  • Trim Tiger’s claws
    Trimming will not discourage him from clawing furniture, but will render his weapons a little less deadly. It’s really very easy to do yourself, but if you’re simply not up to the job, your veterinarian will do it for a minimal fee.
  • Buy or Build a Scratching Post
    Your cat should have at least one post that’s tall enough for a full vertical scratch, sturdy enough to stand when he puts his full weight on it, and covered with a nice rough material like sisal.Play with your cat near the post and put a little catnip on the post to make it more appealing. Pretend you’re a cat and scratch the post yourself; before you know it, kitty might join you.
    Put scratching posts in places where your cat is likely to scratch: near where he sleeps and around exits and entries to rooms and the house.

Reward good behavior (this is important).

Praise your cat profusely and give him one of his favorite treats when he uses his scratching post, and when he has cooperated with claw trimming or Soft Claw application. His fertile little mind will soon associate loving hugs and tasty treats with good behavior.

Discourage Undesirable Behavior

You must use your discouragement tools at the time of the crime. If you delay even a few minutes, your cat will not understand why he is being rebuked and the lesson will have been lost. Never, never use physical punishment like hitting or shaking your cat. That only teaches him that you are a bigger bully, and can lead to even worse behavior on his part in the future.

  • Use the “pennies in a can” trick. The instant you see kitty scratching the sofa, shake the can a few times. They hate the racket and will usually stop.
  • Spray the area around your cat’s favorite scratching area with citrus-scented spray. (Test fabric in an inconspicuous area first.)
  • Lay a few sheets of aluminum foil over sofa arms and sides. Cats will usually avoid the area.
  • Try putting wide double-sided tape over his favorite scratching surface. Cats dislike the sticky feeling, and will avoid the area. A commercially available product is Sticky Paws.
  • Buy a small plant mister spray bottle and fill it with water. When you catch your cat in the act, give him a spray with the bottle. Don’t drench him; a quick spray will suffice.
  • Consider a Commercial Cat Deterrent. These products often work with a combination of an electric eye or motion sensor, and a blast of air accompanied by a loud sound. If you have fearful and/or anxious cats in your home, I would advise these only be used as a last resort.

Tricks like penny cans and spray bottles are only effective as long as the cat does not associate you with the punishment. Otherwise, they will only continue their illegal scratching when you are absent. Often, once a cat has learned that certain areas are off-limits for scratching, clapping your hands, accompanied by a sharp “No” will be all you’ll need.

How to Organize a Safe Room for Your Cat

One of the most important tasks to attend to before bringing home a new cat is to organize a “safe room” for her to stay for the first few days. It should include all the necessities a cat needs for comfort and security. Follow these step-by-step instructions for the best results.

Although it is most desirable if there are other cats in the house, a safe room does not always need to be a separate room. If this is the only pet in the home, the safe room may be an area set aside in a large room in the home.

Time Required: 30 minutes

Here’s How:

  1. Minimal Supplies for the New Cat:
    • Food & Water Bowls
    • Scratching Post
    • Litter Box
    • Cat Bed or Cat Tower
    • Toys
  2. If a separate room is not used for the safe room, place one or two tall screens to create a private section in an unused corner of a room.
  3. Place the litter box in one corner of the room, well away from the food and water bowls. It doesn’t need to be fancy. The important factor is that it be sized correctly for your cat. If you want to conceal it, many nice litter box covers are available that resemble furniture or another décor. You’ll also need a scoop, and a container to dispose of the scoopings. I use the Litter Locker Plus, which comes with its own scoop and a roll of replacement bags.
  4. Place the scratching post next to the litter box. Be sure it is a nice tall one, and sisal covering is preferred to the carpet by most cats. If you have enough space and the funds, you might consider a cat tower as an alternative. Most of these have scratching substrate such as sisal, around many of the supports. With a nice platform at the top, many cats prefer a tower to a bed, because of their innate attraction to high places.

  1. Absent a tower, a comfortable, private place to sleep is a necessity for cats since they sleep a large portion of the day. Of course, if the safe room is in a bedroom, your new cat may soon ignore the nice little bed you bought in favor of your bed. If the safe room is a screened off area, the cat bed could be in a corner opposite the litter box.
  2. Food and water bowls should be placed well away from the litter box. They may be made of glass, stainless steel, or ceramic. If the latter, make sure they have been glazed with a lead-free glaze. It’s best to completely avoid plastic bowls for cats’ food and water, as plastic is a potential cause of irritation and rash in the chin area (commonly called “kitty acne”).
  3. A few toys complete your new cat’s safe room. You’ll want at least one interactive cat toy to use as a bonding tool, and one or two play-alone toys, for the times you are not in the room.


  1. Be sure to cat-proof the whole area before bringing your cat home.
  2. You’ll need something under the litter box to keep stray litter from landing on good carpeting or floor. Litter mats are made for that purpose, but even a layer of newspaper will suffice in a pinch.
  3. Rolled up newspaper wads also make good toys for interactive games of “fetch.”
  4. An old soft pillow can substitute nicely for a cat bed.
  5. If you have space, a comfortable chair for yourself would make your visits more relaxing for both of you.

What You Need:

  • litter box and scoop
  • Paper bag lined with a plastic bag for the scoopings.
  • scratching post
  • cat bed or tower
  • stainless steel or glass food and water bowls
  • plenty of cat toys
  • A screen or two if you have to “make do” with a corner of a room

How to Help Your Cat Live Longer

We who love cats want our cats to live as long as possible since they are members of our family. Although genetics may have an effect on how cats age, there are many things we can do to maximize our cats’ life potential, starting when they first come under our care. After all, when we adopt a cat, we assume the responsibility of giving them the best care possible. Aside from genetics, there are three main building blocks which form the foundation of a cat’s potential life span. A fourth is essential to assure that lifespan is spent in the highest quality of comfort

  1. Consistent Veterinary Care
  2. Nutritious Age-Appropriate Diet
  3. Responsible Care
  4. Form a Lifelong Bond

These building blocks will vary somewhat as cats progress from one phase of aging to another. While it was earlier thought that cats go through three basic stages of cat age, It is now acknowledged that they actually develop through six stages:

  1. Kittenhood is the growth period, which for most cats, lasts about six months. Some breeds, such as the Maine Coon, may not reach their full growth until age two or older.
  2. Junior, from six months to two years. Though year-old cats may appear to be adults physically, they are still developing mentally and emotionally.
  3. Prime, from three years to six years As might be expected by the name, cats in their Prime years of three to six years, are in the prime of life
  4. Mature, from seven to ten years  During these years, the first indications of chronic disease can show up, such as feline diabetesarthritis, or heart disease.
  5. Senior, from eleven to fourteen years. This would correspond to humans aged 60 and older.
  6. Geriatric Cats – From Fifteen to Twenty-one and Older

Cat Age and Veterinary Care

The importance of working in a partnership with your veterinarian can’t be over-emphasized. Regular veterinary care is the foundation of increasing your cat’s potential life span. All newly-adopted cats of unknown parentage, including kittens, should be immediately examined, tested for FeLV, FIV, and, in some cases, FIP. They should be isolated from other family cats until they are cleared of the communicable disease. The cats will also be tested for worms and checked for fleas, and initial vaccines will be given.

  • Kittens Vet Care
    Kittens will be seen by their vet three or four times during the first year, for follow-up vaccines, and for spay or neuter.
  • Adult Cats’ Vet Care
    During the maintenance years, cats should be seen annually, for well-check and booster vaccines. You should also learn when to take your cat to the vet for suspected illness and emergency treatment. Even cats of seven or eight can develop feline diabetes, arthritis, or become hyperthyroid, so it is critical to learning the symptoms of those diseases. Also, it has become all too common for younger cats to develop urinary tract issues, such as FLUTD, most often brought on by diet.
  • Senior Cats’ Veterinary Care Plan
    All cats 10 years or older should be seen at least twice a year for well-check. If they have any of the chronic diseases common to older cats, your veterinarian will need to see them on a more regular basis. Although dental care is important through all life stages, it is increasingly important during cats’ senior years.

By working closely with our veterinarians, knowing the signs of a healthy cat, and seeking immediate veterinary care when in doubt, we can go a long way toward increasing our cats’ potential lifespan.

Cat Age and Diet

A nutritious, age-specific diet forms the second building block of increasing a cat’s potential life span. Cats instinctively eat the most nutritious food available, and nutritionists use this model toward developing palatable, highly nutritious cat foods as closely aligned as possible to what cats would choose to eat in the wild. In order of nutritional preference, commercial cat foods fall into three categories:

Cat Age and Responsible Care
While veterinary care and a nutritious diet are essential parts of responsible cat care, four other factors rank high in our responsibility promises:

  • Spay and Neuter
    There is NO legitimate excuse for failure to spay and neuter our pet cats. Humans bear the full responsibility for the ever-growing population of stray cats on our streets, in alleys, and parks, all mating indiscriminately. Although feral cat colony managers do their best to TNR feral cats, they will never be able to stem the tide until the majority of cat owners do their jobs by spaying and neutering their cats.
  • Keep Cats Indoors Unless Supervised
    This goes hand-in-hand with spay-neutering for obvious reasons. However, there are a dozen other reasons to keep cats safely indoors.
  • Do. Not. Declaw. Your. Cats.
    Declawing hurts! It is a breach of trust. There is no valid excuse for declawing a healthy cat unless medically necessary, such as irreparable damage to a cat’s foot. For every excuse, you give I can give you humane alternatives.

Bond With Your Cat

The feline-human bond is one of the most beautiful lifelong relationships I know. We bond with our cats in a number of ways:

If you conscientiously follow the four building blocks listed at the top or this article, you will have gone a long way toward ensuring that as your cat’s age, they will enjoy life to its fullest. They will be well-nourished, healthy, and happy, knowing that they are spending their life with the person they love best in the world. And you can rest secure that you have done all you could possibly do to accomplish that. That’s all we can do, after all.