Tips for Making Your New Cat/Kitten(s) Feel At Home
(Tips for Making Your New Cat/Kitten(s) Feel At Home)
The Big Moment Is Finally Here
Congratulations you have just adopted a new Cat/Kitten(s) from OMC! (Only Maine Coons Rescue)! You have rampaged through the pet store to stock up on supplies, toys and goodies. Now it's time to introduce the new cat to your home and the rest of the family. With just a little planning and patience, you can ensure that the new cat's adjustment period will be as rapid and stress-free as possible.
Home Is Where the Catnip Is
Cats are, by nature, highly territorial, which means that having a place to call their own is extremely important to their emotional well-being. The new cat is already in a state of stress from having been shuffled around from shelter to foster home to your home. Your goal is to help make the new cat feel comfortable as quickly as possible. When you bring the new cat home, confine it to a single room for at least the first few days (with food and litter, of course!). Although this may seem cruel by human standards, it is actually a great kindness to allow the new cat to claim ownership of a small new territory at its own pace and without competition. Some shy cats may hide under the bed for as long as a week; others will be ready to come out into the house and go exploring after just a day. The important thing is to let the new cat emerge whenever it feels ready. You should spend as much time as possible in the room with the new cat, but you should never try to force it out of hiding. The new cat will let you know when it's ready to begin exploring more of the house. Be sure to leave fresh food and water out at all times, and check that it is being consumed. Even stressed cats like to eat, so no food for 24 hours or more is possibly a sign of illness and warrants a trip to the vet.
Meeting the Family
Naturally, everyone in the family, especially the kids, will be excited about the new arrival. Children should be invited to visit the new cat in its ROOM, one at a time. Try to keep your children quiet and seated on these visits, so they do not frighten the new cat if it not used to kids. If the new cat is friendly and approaches, have them offer an outstretched hand to sniff. If the new cat accepts this, they can gently pet it. As the new cat becomes familiar with the child, they may play with a cat toy on a string or stick. NEVER let your children encourage a kitten to pounce on their fingers (or yours, for that matter). It may seem cute at first, but a full grown cat jumping on and biting a hand in play can be very painful or cause bleeding. Teach your children how to properly hold a cat, with one hand under the rump and one hand on the back, held up against their bodies. You should NEVER leave small children unsupervised with your cat.
Reassuring Jealous Cats
Cats are like children in many ways, so it's not surprising that your cat may be jealous of a new arrival. They may be fearful of losing their territory or worried that they are about to be replaced. Extra love, attention and patience during this transition will help to reassure your cat that it is still the center of your universe! Be prepared for it to take from a week to a month before the new cat is accepted by the Resident Cat. Before bringing home the new cat, make sure that both your cat and the new cat are healthy and current on their vaccinations, including Feline Leukemia. Let your cat continue to have run of the house while the new cat is confined, so that it understands it is not being pushed out of its territory. Allow your cat to sniff or paw under the door with the new cat, and exchange items to familiarize each animal with the other's smell.
When the time comes for the two cats to meet face to face, try to give them short periods of contact, slowly increasing the time as they adapt to one another. Be sure to supervise their visits until you're sure they are okay alone, and be prepared for some hissing and growling, which is quite normal for cats that are getting to know one another. Do not yell at or discipline either cat for hissing or growling and in the unlikely event of a fight breaking out, break it up with a spray from a water bottle or a thrown towel, not your hands. Prevent the new cat from sleeping in any of your cat's favorite places (for example your bed) and provide each with separate food and water bowls and litter pans. They'll probably use each other's, but will appreciate having their own. Try to keep your cats routine intact, and take every opportunity you can to pet and praise them. Above all, be patient, and one day you will find both cats grooming each other when they think you're not looking!
Friendly like Cats and Dogs
Most of the same advice applies to introducing cats and dogs. Again, let the dog have run of the house, and sniff at the new cat under the door and exchange scented items during the first few days. You may wish to put up a baby gate in the doorway of the new cat's room or bring the new cat into the house in a carrier so the animals can see each other before they actually meet. Make sure the first visits in the house are supervised, with the dog on a leash if you are unsure about how friendly it will be. Encourage your dog with gentle praise if it is friendly. If the new cat runs from your dog, do not ALLOW the dog to chase it, and don't force a cat that seems uncomfortable to be in the same room with the dog. Keep the first visits brief, and then extend them as the animals become familiar with each other. Be patient, give them time, and they'll soon learn to get along.
Preventing Bad Habits
A little training when the new cat first comes home will help to prevent any bad habits from becoming established. If you try to "think like a cat" to discover why they perform a certain unwanted behavior, you can help to establish more acceptable routines. Here are some tips on the three most common bad habits below.
Cat Scratching is a normal behavior to leave a scent on their territory, get exercise, and groom their nails. Most cats will leave your expensive furniture alone if you redirect their scratching instincts to an acceptable spot. Invest in a cat condo big enough for your cat to stretch out on, and if you see it scratching, take it to the post. Rub a little catnip on the cat condo to enhance its appeal. You can also put strips of aluminum foil down the edges of your sofa during the training period as a deterrent. Also, have a spray water bottle handy to spray your cat while firmly saying "NO" if it scratches the couch. PLEASE DO NOT DECLAW YOUR CAT. Declawing is equivalent to amputating your own fingers at the first knuckle. It's painful, unhealthy, leaves your cat defenseless, and often causes emotional problems that arise from the suppression of this very natural activity.
Jumping on the Kitchen Counter and Table
Cats love high places! So the kitchen counter strikes them as a great place to watch the world go by. If your cat also finds food up there, they've just had major reinforcement for this bad habit. Best solution is to find another spot in the kitchen where it's OK for your cat to hang out from on high, like the top of the refrigerator. Then persistently move your cat there every time its jumps on the counter. Repetition and consistency is the key here, but eventually your cat will get the idea.
Not Using the Litter Box
Take your cat first to be checked by your vet to rule out a urinary tract infection. Next, try changing the type of litter, for many cats are very sensitive to particular litters. Try unscented litters, removing hoods from boxes, moving the box to a more private location, or cleaning the box more often. Provide multiple boxes in multiple cat households. Also, if you have a kitten, be sure it actually remembers where the litter box is! Sometimes in a big house a small kitten can get lost, in which case it will look for the nearest unobtrusive corner to go!
Introducing a new cat or kitten to your household is exciting, challenging, and rewarding. With time, love and patience, the new cat will settle in to become a wonderful and unconditionally loving companion.
Litter Box Issues and Answers
Litter Box Issues and Answers:
This is information that may save the life of any cat you know! Please save this information should you need it or to pass along to anyone who's at their "wits end" with litter box problems. Soiling "outside the box" is the #1 reason cats are abandoned or put down so this information could save a cat's life!
Last week I attended a lecture by Dr. Andrea Tasi of Kingstown Cat Clinic on "Litter box Blues" and learned some very useful information. You can print out more information about preventing Litter box Blues at: http://www.preciouscat.com/litter-box-solutions/
RULE OUT MEDICAL CAUSES FIRST:
Dr. Tasi said that over the course of her practice she has found that medical problems are the #1 reason cats stop using the box. So she encourages cat people to always rule that out first. (I had urine withdrawn externally with a needle from my 14-year-old cat last month. It really wasn't that bad and was over in about 3 seconds; the cost was under $30 and was well-worth doing.) Cats are "associative beings." That means that if they associate the cat box, or type of litter, with painful urination or defecation, even after curing the infection, they will "still associate" pain with the litter box. Therefore, in order to break the "associative disorder" it's advised to buy a NEW box and perhaps a new litter type, and go from there. REMEMBER: Cats aren't trying to get back at you by soiling, they are doing it for perfectly logical reasons -- you need to think like a cat in order to change your cat's behavior. Never, ever punish your cat as you will not change the behavior, but only make your cat fear you.
USE SANDY TEXTURES:
As we all know, cats originated as desert animals and, as such, they truly prefer SOFT, sandy textures. Dr. Tasi said AVOID the new crystal products, and coarse litters, as they are painful to the tender pads of many cats, and "just don't feel right." Dr. Tasi generally recommends clumping litters, except for kittens under 4 weeks, who can inhale or ingest the clumping substance and develop health problems, sometimes fatal. She especially likes a product called "Dr. Elsey's (unscented) Precious Cat Litter." Dr. Elsey also makes another product called "Cat Attract" that attracts them to the box. You can take a look at his products at: http://www.preciouscat.com/, or call toll free at: 877-311 CATS (2287). If you want a clay free litter product, try "World's Best" which is made with corn. Dr. Tasia recommends filling the box 2-3" with litter.
TAKE THE HOOD OFF & DUMP THE SCENTED LITTERS:
She said that cats NEVER go into dark, enclosed spaces to eliminate because that puts them in a very vulnerable position. So if a cat is avoiding a hooded box, take the hood off or don't use one in the first place! It is another "turn off" to cats and will often make them go elsewhere. Dr. Tasi said that our cats' noses are 1000% more sensitive than ours and hoods trap the odors and dust. Also, "out of sight, out of mind," may make us forget to scoop the box as often as we should (at least twice a day). Would you want to go to the bathroom in a dirty toilet? Your cat doesn't either! Cats also find the smells of roses and cheap perfumes in the litter repulsive, so always choose unscented litter. Try mixing about 1/2 cup baking soda into the box if odor is a problem to your nostrils.
TRY A DIFFERENT SIZED BOX:
Especially for those overweight cats, or cats whose urine sprays outside the box; go to Home Depot, Wal-Mart, etc. and buy a BIG Rubbermaid or plastic storage box. If she or he is a sprayer, get one that's very high and cut out an oval entrance in front. If she or he has arthritis, put a little ramp up to the entrance. If they kick litter all over the place, buy one of those large plastic washing machine liners and put your "box or boxes" into it. It's much cheaper to buy these items at a department store than from a pet store.
Best scoopers are flat metal utensils with little holes or slits -- I've found the best ones at the dollar store!
LOCATION OF BOX:
Please put a box on EACH LEVEL of your house in a quiet, out of the way location, that's not next to a heater, washing machine or appliance that could suddenly start up and frighten your cat. Be mindful of older cats that may suffer from arthritis and bladder problems and might find a long trip to the basement painful and difficult (put a ramp or phone book in front of the box entrance to help them step up). Though cats see better than us in low light, CATS CAN'T SEE IN THE DARK, so please don't put their box in a pitch dark basement. Also, the general rule of thumb is to have one box for each cat and put each box in a different location so they aren't competing for the box. And don't place them next to their food or water. Would you want to eat next to your toilet?
CLEANING THE BOX DOESN'T JUST MEAN SCOOPING OUT THE POOP!:
Again, back to that 1000% nose, look at the box itself next time you clean it. After scrubbing it with soap and water and perhaps a bit of bleach, rinse it out thoroughly. You may want to place it in the sun to dry as sunshine is a natural disinfectant. Then put your nose into the box and take a deep sniff. If there's a lingering odor or it's covered in scratches and discoloration, throw it out and buy a nice new one at Wal-Mart or Home Depot.
CLEANING STAINS & ODORS OUTSIDE THE BOX:
You've got to use an enzymatic cleaner to get rid of those stains and odors. Remember your cat's 1000% nose will bring him back to previous elimination spots and she or he will pee/poop there again. There are some great products available, including "Simple Solution" Stain & Odor Remover. Dr. Tasi's favorite product is "Anti-Icky-Poo" in Veterinary Practice strength (she doesn't like it in "regular" strength). Check your vet's office for it or order online at: http://www.antiickypoo.com/ Dr. Tasi said you must first SATURATE the spot with solution and KEEP IT WET for 24 hours, covering it with plastic & spraying it several times. Remember that the urine soaked in deeply and then spread horizontally throughout the fibers, so you must get the product deeply into whatever is stained or smells. DO NOT USE ANYTHING THAT IS AMMONIA-BASED, because of its "urine-like" scent to a cat.
Dr. Tasi also recommends another product called "Feliway": http://www.feliway.com/ this smells like friendly pheromones to a cat and when sprayed in a cat's environment, it creates a comforting, reassuring feeling that reduces the impulse to urine mark or scratch. (A cat's pheromones are between his eye and ear; when she or he rubs his head against you, they are putting friendly pheromones on you.)
PLAY WITH YOUR CAT - STRESS CAN CAUSE ELIMINATION PROBLEMS:
Dr. Tasi says that many elimination problems stem from boredom. Cats are designed to be hunters and become incredibly bored and frustrated when they are denied the opportunity. She says to spend at least 15 minutes each day playing with your cat. Toys like "da bird" are excellent (ask for it at your local pet store); anything interactive that makes your cat run and chase. Dr. Tasi says laser toys are OK -- NEVER shine in your cat's eyes -- but can frustrate the cat as they are never able to catch anything. Be sure your cat has plenty of toys to stalk and chase. Here's a great site for toys: http://www.cattoys.com/ You might also want to consider acquiring another cat or two so your pet has somebody to play with. CAUTION:
Do not leave string toys lying around as your cat can choke to death on string or it can end up wrapped around his internal organs and
WONDERFUL FINAL TIP FOR ACQUIRING A NEW CAT:
Apart from "Introducing a Cat to a New Home" instructions which are another topic in itself, I learned this simple new tip: While keeping the cats separated in different rooms, try wiping each cat's fur with a separate towel daily. Then place each cat's food dish on top of the other cat's towel. They will associate each other's scent with the positive experience of being fed, and grow tolerant of each other quickly!
Cats and dogs are more likely to roam, get lost, stolen, injured, or killed.
Male and female cats will spray.
Male cats will fight (big vet bills), be more aggressive toward people.
Male dogs urinate in the house, are aggressive with other male dogs.
Female cats and dogs are more susceptible to cancer.
Female cats and dogs in heat and pregnant are temperamental, aggressive and likely to break house training
Cats and dogs make nicer pets; become more kitten and puppy-like in their behavior, not driven by hormones to reproduce and protect territory.
Animals may put on weight; adopter could monitory and restrict an adult's diet (Diet foods are available), and encouraged plenty of exercise
MYTH: Female cats and dogs should have one litter before being altered because motherhood makes them calmer, nicer pets.
FACT: Having a litter does not always produce a calm pet, but spaying will produce a calm pet whether or not reproduction has taken place.
THE VICIOUS CYCLE: Adopters want their pet to have "only one" litter and promise to find good homes. Those who adopt the babies may also want "just one litter, " and overpopulation continues.......
THE BAD BARGAIN: Allowing an animal to breed may involved unwanted expense and heartbreak.; Sick babies require medical care ($); mother may abandon her litter or be unable to nurse, requiring human caretaker to feed babies every two to three house; babies may die (heartbreak).
THE "NATURAL LIFE": In nature, the weak, the sick, the old, do not survive-nature's way of controlling population. Veterinary care provides our pets with longer lives than they would experience "in nature". By domesticating animals, we have taken away nature's population controls. Failing to have pets altered is failing to substitute our own population control. The result is millions of homeless dogs and cats being euthanized every year.
REMEMBER: EVERY PUPPY OR KITTEN YOU ALLOW TO BE BORN TAKES A HOME AWAY FROM AN ANIMAL ALREADY ALIVE. Those people who provide homes for your pet's litter(s) could instead give a home to a shelter/rescue animal.
IF YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION (BY HAVING YOUR PET SPAYED OR NEUTERED), THEN YOU PERPETUATE THE PROBLEM!!!!
Indoor vs Outdoor Cats
Like many cat lovers, you may have thought about letting your cat go outside. A lot of cat owners feel guilty about keeping their cat inside, and worry that they are depriving their cat of natural instincts or fresh air and sunshine. If you have experienced some of these feelings, American Humane Association appreciates your concern for your feline friend and would like to help you make an educated decision.
Let’s look at the issues surrounding Indoor vs. Outdoor cats:
Disease: The American Feral Cat Coalition estimates that there are approximately 60 million feral and homeless stray cats living in the U.S. Many of these cats may carry diseases that can be passed on to your cat if they come into contact with them. A number of these diseases can be serious or potentially fatal. Common examples include:
Feline Leukemia (FeLV)
Feline AIDS (FIV)
FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)
Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia)
Upper Respiratory Infections (or URI).
Parasites: While usually not life-threatening for cats, several common parasites can be picked up by your cat when venturing outdoors, including:
Ringworm (A Fungal Infection)
These parasites can cause a variety of moderate to severe symptoms, such as scratching, skin infections, vomiting, and diarrhea. In addition, these creepy crawlies can hitch a ride into your home and infect your family. Parasites can be very difficult to eradicate from your pet, from humans, and from your home.
If You Decide to Let Your Cat Outside:
Protect your cat from other cats. Keep them on a leash or secured in a cage or other confined space where they can’t get out (and other cats can’t get in).
Make sure an adult supervises your cat’s outdoor time to ensure strays cannot come into contact with them.
Take her to the veterinarian at least once every year for lifesaving vaccines, as well as parasite screening and treatment.
A major consideration for cat lovers thinking about letting their cat venture outdoors is safety. In addition to the risks posed by fellow cats, other potential hazards that can seriously threaten your cat's well-being and even "their life" include:
Cars: Contrary to popular belief, cats do not have the innate instinct to avoid busy streets, and they frequently get hit by cars.
Animal cruelty: Roaming cats may be at risk for animal cruelty. Sadly, some people have been known to shoot cats with BB guns or arrows, while some cats end up being trapped, abused, and killed in the name of “sport” or “for fun.”
Loose dogs and wild animals: We may think of our feisty felines as good hunters who are capable of taking care of themselves with sharp teeth and claws. Unfortunately, cats may be good hunters, but they also often wind up being hunted. Cats are commonly attacked by loose dogs and wild animals, such as coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and even alligators (depending on where they live). Injuries from wild animal and stray dog attacks are very serious and often fatal.
Toxins and poisons: Outside cats also face danger from coming into contact with toxins, such as antifreeze, that are often ingested because they have a pleasant taste. Cats may also end up accidentally exposed to rodent poisons when they hunt and eat rodents that have recently ingested poison bait.
Trees: Trees can be a source of some danger for cats that climb to a place where they are afraid or unable to climb down. In some cases, they may be up in a tree for days until they become so severely dehydrated and weak that they fall and suffer severe, serious, or fatal injuries.
Killing birds and small animals: A cat’s prey drive is so strong that even well-fed cats may naturally enjoy hunting birds or other small animals. Although the impact made by one cat might not seem like a big deal, it is important to think about the total impact of all the cats who are allowed outside. Loose cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year, yet birds are believed to be only 20 percent of the wildlife stray cats kill. Birds are especially at risk around homes with feeders and birdbaths.
Keeping Indoor Cats Happy
Here are some great ways to ensure that your cat enjoys a happy, healthy life inside your home:
A Companion for Your Cat
Many cats enjoy the company of other cats or in some cases, dogs! Playing, chasing and mutual grooming and snuggling can fulfill your indoor cat’s need for exercise, companionship, and affection while you are at work or away from home.
Provide your indoor cat with a variety of different interactive toys to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
While cats have individual preferences for favorite types of toys, most enjoy the thrill of getting any new toy. However, just like children, they may get bored with it after a few days. This does not mean you have to buy your cat new toys constantly. Try putting some of the toys away while you leave others out, and then rotate them every few days to give your cat the “new toy” excitement without the expense.
A great way to stimulate a cat’s hunting instinct is to provide your cat with a prey-like toy, such as a laser toy or cat fishing pole. Enjoying these types of toys with your cat for several minutes each day is an ideal way to interact with your cat and provide much-needed exercise and playtime, while allowing an appropriate outlet for her natural prey drive.
Indoor cats should be provided with appropriate surfaces on which to exercise their natural instinct to scratch. Cats have individual preferences, and many prefer to have a variety of scratching posts and surfaces, so be sure to offer your cat several types in multiple locations around your house.
Creating a Perfect Indoor Environment
Climbing places: Your house may already provide climbing opportunities on furniture, shelves, or cabinets, but you may also want to have climbing areas specifically for your cat, such as a cat tree. You can buy cat trees at most pet supply stores, or research online how to make your own.
Cat perches: Cats are natural-born sun worshippers. Giving your cat access to several windows will give her the opportunity to both sunbathe and watch the world from the safety of your home. If you have narrow windowsills, consider installing a cat perch on several windows so your cat has a place to stretch out and enjoy the view. Shelves made especially for this purpose can be purchased at most pet supply stores, or you can research online how to build your own.
“Cat TV”: Provide entertainment for your cat by placing a bird feeder or birdbath in your yard within view of the windows. If you decide to provide feeders and baths, please keep our winged friend's safe by keeping your cats inside at all times. A screened-in porch can also be a safe, enjoyable place for your cat to enjoy the sun and a view of nature; just be sure that the screens are secure to prevent escape.
Hiding places: Most cats love to hide. Providing your feline friend with fun hiding places is easy and does not have to cost a dime! Most cats will be thrilled to have a cardboard box or paper grocery bag to hide in. If you prefer, you can purchase a cat tent, condo or tunnel at a pet supply store, or figure out how to make one at home.
Declaw your cat? Read this first.
Declawing is a series of bone amputations. Declawing is more accurately described by the term de-knuckling and is not merely the removal of the claws, as the term "declawing" implies. In humans, fingernails grow from the skin, but in animals that hunt prey, the claws grow from the bone; therefore, the last bone is amputated so the claw cannot re-grow. The last bone of each of the ten front toes of a cat's paw is amputated. Also, the tendons, nerves, and ligaments that enable normal function and movement of the paw are severed. An analogous procedure applied to humans would be cutting off each finger at the last joint.
Declawing, also known as onychectomy (än-ik-ek-tō-mē), is a major surgical and potentially crippling procedure that robs an animal of its primary means of defense. Declawed animals may be at increased risk of injury or death, if attacked by other animals. They are deprived of their normal, instinctual behavioral impulses to use their claws to climb, exercise, and mark territory with the scent glands in their paws.
Declaw surgery exposes cats to the risks of general anesthesia and complications of the surgical procedure, which include bleeding, infection, lameness, nerve damage, gangrene, extensive tissue damage, and death.
The estimates of the prevalence of declawing vary considerably. It seems that 25%–43% of all cats in American homes are declawed. The reason for this high number is that many veterinarians actively market and recommend the procedure without disclosing the details of the procedure to their clients with cats. Others perform declawing unquestioningly. Many people with cats don't understand that declawing is amputating the bones and think they are doing "all the right things" for their beloved animal.
A survey of twenty Los Angeles area veterinary clinics, reported in the February-March 2003 issue of The Pet Press, found that 75% agreed to perform declawing without question and without any attempt to establish a medical, behavioral, or any other indication to justify the procedure. Not only is declaw-on-demand the norm, the staff at veterinary clinics commonly encourage clients, whose cats are scheduled for spaying or neutering, to "supersize" the procedure by adding declaw surgery.
According to the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association (SCVMA), most veterinarians offer declawing and 5% make over $1000/hour performing the procedure. Clients who bring their cats to these veterinarians typically report that neither the nature of the procedure, complications, nor humane alternatives is ever discussed.
Declawing is one of the most painful, routinely performed procedures in all of veterinary medicine. Each toe of the cat is amputated at the first joint.
Declawing a cat is equivalent in a person to amputating the entire first knuckle of every finger.
Declaw surgery is so predictably painful that it is used by pharmaceutical companies to test the effectiveness of pain medications in clinical trials.
Initial recovery after declaw amputation surgery takes a few weeks, but even after the surgical wounds have healed, there are often other long-term physical complications and negative psychological effects.
Does declawing contribute to behavioral problems such as litter box avoidance or biting?
Yes, declawing a cat can be the reason that cat loses its home. Cats may be abandoned by their owners after being declawed because the cats develop behavioral changes or other problems after the declaw surgery. These behaviors include biting and urinating or defecating in unwanted areas outside of the litter box. Declawed cats with these behaviors are more likely to go to the pound, where an estimated 70% will be euthanized (killed). The pain of declawing sometimes causes cats to be reluctant to walk or play, and as a result, owners sometimes neglect them or mistreat them.
Do behavioral problems in declawed cats result in abandonment or losing their homes?
The National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy published "The Top Ten Reasons for Pet Relinquishment to Shelters in the United States" in 2000:
#1 House Soiling
#2 Aggression (biting)
(These are the two behavior problems most associated with cats that have been declawed.)
The report showed house soiling, followed by aggression, as the most common behavioral reasons for pet relinquishment. These two problem behaviors are frequently reported about cats that have been declawed; however, for cats with claws, it is interesting to note that destructive scratching did not make the list. Only 3.3% of cat owners, according to Scarlett, et al. (JAVMA 2002) claim destruction of furniture as the unwanted behavior that led them to relinquish their pets. This figure is similar to the 3% of cats that, according to the study, were relinquished for being "unfriendly and disobedient."
If declawing is unethical because it surgically alters animals for the convenience of humans, why isn't spaying or neutering also unethical?
Spaying and neutering benefits animals. Declawing provides no benefit to the animal. Spaying and neutering are the most effective and acceptable form of contraception for animals. About 6 million animals die every year in the US shelter system because there are not enough people who will adopt these unfortunate creatures. This tragedy can be prevented through spaying and neutering animals to prevent pet over-population. Spaying, or the removal of the uterus and ovaries in a female animal, also prevents certain cancers and deadly infections. Neutering, or the removal of the testes in a male animal, prevents certain cancers, and may help prevent prostate problems. Both surgeries can be performed with the animal going home that same day.
The number of cats and dogs that end up in pounds and being destroyed is estimated by all authorities to be in the millions annually. Until another alternative is available, surgical sterilization, when done properly by qualified personnel, benefits all companion animals by preventing unwanted pregnancies, as well as the deaths, of many animals.
It should be stressed that equating surgical sterilization to surgical declawing is an invalid comparison and a poor rationalization for performing the mutilating procedure of amputating a cat's toes.
Why do cats scratch things?*
A cat's natural instinct to scratch serves both physical and psychological needs. Their claws are their primary, instinctive tools for defending themselves and capturing prey. They scratch to keep their nails in condition and to mark territory. Before domestication, cats satisfied these needs by clawing tree trunks. House cats can be trained to satisfy their desire to claw without damaging valuable property. Most cats can be trained to use a scratching post. Other options include the use of nail trimmers, sticky strips applied to furniture, climbing trees and scratching mats.
Cats stretch their bodies and tone their muscles by digging their claws into something and pulling back against their own clawhold. Declawed cats are deprived of the means to defend themselves or flee from danger. Declawed cats have been injured or killed by other animals when they could not climb out of harm's way or had impaired ability to protect themselves.
By far, the most common reason given by cat owners who are considering having their pet declawed is to protect furniture or other property. Some may believe that declawing will prevent the cat from injuring them. Some veterinarians will recommend the procedure to their clients. Some people will not ever notice that their cats are having trouble after being declawed. Unfortunately, as many people discover too late, declawing may cause far worse problems than it solves. There are many better ways to treat behavior problems other than radical and irreversible surgery.
Soft Paws cat nail caps
Soft Paws® and Soft Claws® are vinyl nail shields that are safe, non-toxic caps adhered to your cat's natural nails. They protect your furniture from scratching damage without interfering with the cat's natural ability to extend and retract its claws. After a month or so, the caps are shed with the natural growth of the cat's nails. Items like Soft Paws® and scratching mats will protect your possessions and provide the necessary outlet for your cat to scratch. Remember, the time you invest in training your cat will be rewarded over a long and happy lifetime together.
What are the potential complications of declawing?
Felines—whether house cats or big cats—can suffer pain, post-operative complications, serious health problems, psychological trauma that manifests itself in negative behavioral changes, and even death because of being declawed. More details about the complications associated with declawing include the following:
Litter box problems.
Many declawed cats won't use their litter boxes anymore. After the declaw surgery, the cat's paws are very raw and when the cat goes to use the box, digging in the sand causes the cat a lot of pain. They begin to associate the box with that pain and may never use it again. Many cat experts know this and it has been confirmed in the veterinary literature. It is not uncommon for declawed cat owners to trade scratched furniture for urine-soaked carpeting. In one survey, 95% of calls about declawed cats related to litter box problems, while only 46% of clawed cats had such problems-and most of those were older cats, many with physical ailments that accounted for the behavior.
Deprived of claws, which is their primary defense, a cat may turn to its only other line of defense—its teeth. Some experts believe that cats that are declawed are likely to become biters. Many veterinarians will recommend declawing to protect human beings from being scratched. This goes against what human health organizations recommend. Declawing the cat can give people a false sense of security because declawed cats bite more often after being declawed.
James Gaynor, DVM, an expert in pain management at Colorado State University Veterinary Medical School, has written about chronic pain syndrome in cats that have been declawed. The article describes severe pain in cats that can last a lifetime.
Veterinary textbooks list the pain from declawing as "severe."
Declawing is considered one of the most painful, routinely-performed surgeries in all of veterinary medicine and yet 30% or more of veterinarians don't provide any pain medication whatsoever to their declaw patients. Another study showed that declawed cats were still in pain from the surgery at the end of the study, which was 12 days after the operation!
Declawing is so predictably painful that it is used in clinical trials by pharmaceutical companies to test new pain medications.
Determining pain in cats is much more difficult than determining pain in dogs. Cats are very often stoical and people will interpret a cat curled up in a ball and sleeping as normal, when in reality, the cat is in a lot of pain. Dogs are more demonstrative of their pain.
While the immediate post-surgical pain that the cats suffer is obviously severe, it is impossible to know how much chronic pain and suffering declawing causes. Declawing is ten (front toes only) or eighteen (there are only 8 toes on the back feet) separate amputations, so it is not unreasonable to believe that declawed cats experience phantom pain in one or more toes. (Many human amputees report life-long, painful "phantom" sensations from the amputated part.) Cats typically conceal pain or illness until it becomes unbearable. With chronic pain, it may be that they simply learn to live with it. Their behavior may appear normal, but a lack of overt signs of pain does not mean they are pain-free.
Lameness, abscesses, and paw pad atrophy can occur after surgery. In some cases where the veterinarian left part of the bone in the toe, the claw can begin to grow again. However, the claw grows abnormally under the skin and might eventually bust through the skin on top of the paw. In one report that studied cats for only five months after surgery, about 25% of cats developed complications from both declaw and tenectomy surgeries (digital tenectomy or tendonectomy is a procedure, sometimes promoted as an "alternative" to declawing, where the tendons that extend the toes are cut). Click here to see the section on Tendonectomy »
In declawed (and tendonectomizedized) cats, the tendons that control the toe joints retract after the surgery because they are no longer anchored to the bones, and over time these joints become essentially "frozen." The toes can no longer be extended, but remain fully contracted for the lifetime of the cat. The toes become like hammer toes. Cats may continue to "scratch" after they are declawed, this is probably explained by the cat's desperate desire to stretch those stiff, contracted joints and not evidence that the cat does not miss its claws.
Veterinarians, in clinical settings, have found that in the immediate post-operative period, newly declawed cats shift their body weight backward onto the large central pad (the three-lobed pad on the palm) of the front feet and off the toes. This effect was significant even when strong pain medication was given, and remained apparent for the duration of the study (up to 40 hours after surgery). This altered gait may persist over time, and can cause stress on the leg joints and spine, and could lead to damage and arthritic changes in multiple joints. X ray images of declawed cats confirm this theory.
Death due behavior problems, anesthetic complications or defenselessness.
Declawing that results in biting or litter box avoidance may result in the cat being dumped at a shelter or simply abandoned. If taken to shelters, such behaviors make them unadoptable, and they will be destroyed. Many cats are exiled to a life outdoors because of these unwanted behaviors, even though declawed cats should not be allowed outside—their ability to defend themselves, and to escape danger by climbing, is seriously impaired. They also risk injury or death by dogs, cars, coyotes, poison, and other hazards of outdoor life. There is always a small but real risk of death from any general anesthesia, as well as from hemorrhage or other surgical complications. Many veterinarians will say that they would rather declaw the cat than have it die—it seems that they don't realize that declawing is often the cause of the cat's death. Declawing is unnecessary when there are so many humane alternatives.
What are the humane alternatives to declawing?
Humane alternatives to declawing exist and are easy to use.
A cat can be trained to use scratching posts to sharpen its claws without damaging furniture. Look at what the cat chooses to scratch on and duplicate it in your choice of scratching posts. If the cat chooses to scratch on the vertically oriented wooden legs of a table, get a wooden scratching post. It's the same for carpet. Most cats like the corrugated cardboard scratching pads that are available at grocery stores or pet supply warehouses. Place a little catnip on the new post to entice the cat to use it. Reward the cat with praise, love and treats for scratching in the right place. A vertical scratching post should be at least 28-36" (1 meter) high to allow the cat to stretch to its full height. Many cats prefer natural soft wood, such as a cedar or redwood plank, or posts covered with sisal rope. Some cats like to scratch on a horizontal surface; inexpensive cardboard scratchers are popular with these cats. Rubbing the surface with catnip, or using a catnip spray, may enhance the attractiveness of the post. For the more adventurous types, there are cat trees in dozens of sizes and colors, with features such as hidey-holes, lounging platforms, hanging toys, and other creative amenities. Many people do not even know that they should provide a scratching post for their cats. Because scratching is a deeply ingrained instinct in cats, if there is no appropriate spot, they will be forced to substitute furniture or other objects.
Regular nail trimming should help prevent damage to furniture. The cat's claws are clear, so it is easy to avoid accidentally trimming too deep and getting the quick. Click here to see the guide to trimming a cat's nails.
Nail caps called Soft Paws® or Soft Claws® can be glued painlessly to a cat's claws to prevent damage due to scratching. These items can be purchased at pet supply stores or through your veterinarian.
Double-sided Sticky tape like Sticky Paws® can be applied to furniture help deter a cat from scratching that surface. When the cat goes to scratch there, the tape feels funny to their paws and they learn not to use that surface anymore.
Despite their reputation for independence, cats can readily be trained to use a scratching post instead of the sofa, curtains or rugs.
Using surgery to prevent or correct a behavioral problem went out of fashion with lobotomy. There are many other options as well, such as clear, sticky strips to apply to the furniture, and other deterrents, as well as a multitude of climbing trees, mats, and other distractions that will protect your possessions. Adequate exercise, especially interactive play sessions, will also help channel the cat's energy. For aggressive scratching, conscientious nail-trimming or soft vinyl caps for the claws, Soft Paws®, are a good beginning. Remember, never play or roughhouse with your kitten or cat using your bare hands. You don't want the cat to get the idea that biting or scratching human skin is okay. And while it's fun to watch the kitten attack your wiggling toes under a blanket, when the 15 pound cat with 1/2 inch-long canine teeth does it, it's not nearly as amusing.
How Can you Tell if Your Cat Really is a Maine Coon?
How Can you Tell if Your Cat Really is a Maine Coon?
by: Sarah Crosier
The Maine Coon cat has been called "the king of the domestic cat world". The breed is visually stunning with its beautiful long ruff, bushy "raccoon like" tail and large tufty paws. The Maine Coon is the largest domesticated cat and visitors to our house are shocked to discover our 2-year old male kitten has another 2-3 years to grow before he is classed as an adult. As well as the Maine Coon's striking physical appearance, the breed has an inquisitive, friendly and lively personality.
I've had many people ask the question, "I think my cat is at least part Maine Coon, how can I tell?"
This is how the Maine Coon Breeders and Fanciers Association (MCBFA) answer the question on their website:
The Maine Coon is America's native longhair cat; it evolved naturally in response to the New England climate. Your cat's ancestors might be similar to the cats that founded the Maine Coon breed. However, it's impossible to tell from just looking at your cat if it is related to the Maine Coon or any other breed. Because the Maine Coon is a natural breed and hasn't been bred to the extremes, there are cats all over the world that resemble the Maine Coon. The only way to tell for sure if your cat is a Maine Coon is to look at the pedigree.
Ok, that may not help much because most people do know when they have a pedigree Maine Coon because they have papers verifying the pedigree.
So, if you don't have papers how can you tell if you have at least a part Maine Coon?
Firstly, these cats are not normal! They have distinctive personality traits and unique Maine Coon features. If your cat has some or all of the following, you can be sure you have a cat with dominant Maine Coon breeding:
1. Head: Round in shape when viewed from the front, medium in width and longish in length. The muzzle is square and can look broad in more mature male cats.
2. Ears: Set high and well apart. They are large, and well tufted tapering to a point, in common with the Bobcat and the Lynx. The tufts on the ears are one of the classic signs of a Maine Coon.
3. Eyes: Large and wide set with a slightly oblique slanting to outer base of ear.
4. Body: Full maturation can take 4 to 5 years and allowances should be made when judging size of the cat. Overall, the body is muscular and broad chested. The body is well proportioned throughout, and there are no unusual "oddities" in relation to size proportion.
5. Legs and Feet: The legs are sturdy and substantial, and proportionate to the body. The paws are very large and well tufted. Tufts in between the toes are an essential feature for a Maine Coon. There are five toes on the front paws and four on the back.
6. Tail: This is the probably the most unmistakable feature of the Maine Coon. The tail is long and should run the length of the body when at least as long as the neck. Originally, when Maine Coons lived as farm cats, the tail would cover the whole body and act as a kind of furry sleeping bag in the winter. The fur is also thick and long. It has been said that the name "coon" comes from "raccoon" because of the similarities of the tails of the two animals.
7. Coat: Heavy and shaggy, medium to longhaired and uneven in length. The fur is shorter on the shoulders and longer on the stomach. A frontal ruff is desirable although there is a marked variation in the length of ruff, depending on the particular line.
Unique Personality Traits
Here are 3 classic Maine Coon characteristics:
Dog like behavior: Common behavior is they will follow you around, they will sit at your feet, will come to greet you (whenever you've been out), they will fetch and retrieve if trained, they will also carry favorite objects such as a toy stick in the mouth and drop it at your feet. Like a dog, it is usual for the Maine Coon to stretch up on its back legs resting its front paws above the waist to demand a stroke from the owners.
Protective of his home: Can be rather suspicious and extremely curious, a little bit like a police "sniffer" dog checking bags for illegal substances. Although, this is an obvious exaggeration, we have found that non-cat loving visitors are not completely at ease with persistent investigations into their personal belongings.
Supervisor role: This is what we call the constant shadowing behavior of the Maine Coon, when something is happening in the house, such as computer work, housework, assembling furniture, or just about anything where people are moving about. The only way to discourage him/her from joining in is to finish the task when he goes off for a sleep!
In summary, if your cat looks like a Maine Coon and acts like a Maine Coon, you definitely have a part or even full Maine Coon.
Copyright 2006 Sarah Crosier
Why Kittens Should Be Adopted In Pairs
Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she created kittens in litters!
· Kittens need interaction with other kittens for healthy social development. A kitten learns a lot in the first several months of life from its mother and littermates. Separating a kitten from its mother is often a necessity for adoption purposes, but taking it away from its littermates and isolating it can delay the kitten's development emotionally, socially, and sometimes physically. Kittens that are able to remain with one of their littermates or a similarly aged companion tend to be healthier and happier, and in the long run, better socialized pets than those who are isolated from others of their kind at an early age.
· Even loving, caring, humans are not adequate substitutes for kitten companionship. Even if a person is fortunate enough to be home quite a bit, the amount of attention a lone kitten will demand is likely to occupy more time than the person has available. A pair of kittens will definitely want to interact with people, but can keep each other occupied. Most cats, regardless of their age, are highly sociable and are truly happier living with other cat companions. This in turn makes them better pets.
· Kittens are curious and crave constant stimulation. Out of boredom, a single kitten will often entertain itself by chewing plants, climbing drapes and furniture, unrolling toilet paper, exploring electrical cords and sockets, etc. Kittens that live with other kittens may sometimes do these things as well, but if they have another kitten to tumble around and play with it is less likely they will need to entertain themselves with behaviors like these, which can be destructive and dangerous.
· Kittens bite and wrestle with one another--this behavior is normal. You cannot prevent a kitten from doing what comes naturally, any more than you can force a two-year-old toddler to sit still. Though it is not acceptable for a kitten to bite and wrestle with its human companions, in the absence of having a littermate or companion its own age to play with, this is precisely what a single kitten will want to do. Even if you are willing to allow (and can tolerate) this behavior from your kitten, by the time the kitten matures, you will end up with an adult cat who has developed very bad habits (i.e., biting and scratching as "play").
· Kittens are very active at night. A single kitten is likely to keep people awake at night with constant jumping, pouncing, and other "hunting" behavior. With a companion to play with at night, this behavior is minimized because they will have each other to chase and play games with until they too fall asleep.
· A single kitten is not a good companion for an older cat. Kittens have boundless energy. They want to play and run constantly which typically overwhelms and irritates an older cat. Likewise, a kitten is apt to be frustrated that its companion does not have its same level of energy. At the very least, this can lead to two very unhappy cats. At worst, behavior problems such as litter box avoidance or destructive scratching can occur as one or both cats act out their frustrations on their surroundings. It is unlikely that the two will have a close, bonded relationship, even after the kitten matures, since their experiences with one another from the beginning of the relationship are likely to be negative. An older kitty is better matched with a cat closer to its own age and temperament