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Scratching Behavior in Cats

Managing scratching behavior in cats

Cats scratch for a variety of reasons:  to maintain the health of their nails (discarding the dead outer sheath and exposing the new growth underneath), to stretch out the muscles in their shoulders and back, to mark their territory around other cats, and to serve as an emotional outlet (scratching after being startled, frustrated, or relieved at the owner returning home).   Cats need to scratch just as puppies need to chew, so the owner’s goal is not to eliminate the behavior but to manage it in the safest and least destru

When Your Mild Cat Becomes a Wild Cat

When your mild cat becomes a wild cat: Managing play aggression in cats

You know it, because you’ve seen it:  that look in your cat’s eyes right before he dive-bombs your ankles, cuffs your sleeve or bites your arm.  He might appear to be enjoying a petting session, then suddenly grab your hand in his mouth; other times, he may charge you on the way to the bathroom.  You may wonder, especially if biting or scratching is involved, if it’s in play or if your cat actually means to harm you.  While each case is individual, the following methods ma

Petting-Induced Aggression

Petting-induced aggression and overstimulation

It’s hard not to feel hurt: you were simply stroking your lovely new cat, when she suddenly clamped her claws around your arm and bit you!  What in the world would make your sweet cat behave this way?

Aggression in Household Cats

Aggression in household cats

By Victoria L. Voith, DVM, PhD, and Peter L. Borchelt, PhD

Myth: Aggressive behavior between household cats requires finding another home for one of them.

Miss Smith has two castrated male cats that are 5 and 6 years of age. They had always gotten along well until a few weeks ago, when they suddenly began fighting. Now, every time they see each other they hiss, attack each other and then run away. There is no indication that their behavior is getting better.

Litter Box 101: Preventing and Solving Litter Box Problems

Litter Box 101: Preventing and solving litter box problems

Housetraining cats and kittens

Most cats and kittens require little training to use their litter box, as they have an innate desire to dig and bury their waste.  The challenge for owners is to see that the behavior continues!  Once a cat or kitten has developed undesirable toilet habits, the problem can be very difficult to resolve.  Here are some suggestions that will help keep your cat or kitten using his litter box.

Bringing Kitty Home: A First Day Guide

Bringing kitty home: A first day guide

The arrival of a new cat is exciting for adopters, but frequently confusing and stressful for the cat itself.  Whether introducing your cat to your family or to other pets, first impressions matter, and failure to plan ahead can negatively affect long-term success.  Take the following steps on Fluffy’s first day to get everyone off to a great start!

Preparing Your Cat for a New Baby

Preparing your cat for a new baby

As if expectant mothers don’t have enough to think about…now they might find themselves inundated with comments such as, “Of course you have to re-home your cat!”  or “Don’t you know cats steal babies’ breath?” (They don’t.)  The reality is that most fears are overblown, and that your cat can still be a loved -- and loving-- part of your family even after a new baby has come home.  To be sure, there are steps to take to ensure a smooth transition from cat-centered to baby-center

Introducing Your Dog to a New Baby

Introducing your dog to a new baby

When anticipating the arrival of a new baby, special care must be taken to prepare the family dog – or dogs – for the big changes to come.  Planning ahead and taking precautions are key in making the transition a smooth one for everyone involved.  

Adding a New Cat to Your Household

Adding a new cat to your household

Many people who adopt a cat from Animal Humane Society enjoy their feline companion so much that they return later with the idea of adding a second cat. They often ask the questions, “How is Daisy going to react?” and “Is this going to work?” The answer is, “Probably, but it’s not always easy to predict how a cat will react; you won’t know for sure until you try.” Unlike canines, most felines do not live in social groups, yet there are millions of homes where two or more cats live in reasonable harmony. Here are some tips that can increase your chances for establishing a peaceful multi-cat home.  

Selecting your second cat

  • Don’t worry too much about the gender of the cats involved. We are assuming that you are a responsible owner whose pets are spayed/neutered! Although some sources recommend choosing an opposite-sex animal, many feline behavior experts indicate that the sex of the animals makes very little difference. Animal Humane Society’s experience in thousands of second-cat placements also supports this conclusion. Age and temperament are the most important factors.
  • The typical adult household cat will accept a new kitten much more easily than he will accept a new adult cat. Cats are by nature very territorial, and your cat may resent an adult feline intruder, attacking him or retreating under the bed as a result. He may, however, feel less threatened by a relatively helpless 8 week old kitten. Even so, you will want to monitor your cat’s behavior with the newcomer until you’re sure he will not harm the kitten. Follow the introduction protocol below for maximum success.
  • Is there a special kind of kitten you should select for your second pet? If you are able to choose from a group of kittens, look for one that’s grooming or playing happily with the others, or sleeping comfortably. Avoid any kitten that’s hissing, growling or engaged in serious battle with his mates. 
  • What if you just fell in love with one of the adult cats at the shelter or just don’t want to go through the swinging-from-the-drapes kitten stage? Can you successfully integrate another cat into your household? Possibly, but it’s going to take a lot longer for both pets to get comfortable, and there is the possibility that the two may merely learn to coexist rather than becoming friends. Success in adding a cat depends largely on the personality of your present cat: if he’s easygoing and mild mannered and the new cat is also fairly laid back, you may have little trouble if you introduce them slowly and correctly.

Introducing your new cat to the resident cat

Let’s start with what not to do: tossing them together and hoping they will “work it out.” It’s important to remember that cats are, by nature, solitary and highly territorial creatures who often require weeks or months to adjust to changes in their environment and lifestyle. For that reason, first impressions are extremely important when meeting other household pets. Cats who are introduced too quickly and fight may never learn to co-exist peacefully, so a gradual introduction is essential for long-term success. Here are some tips to guide the process:

  • When you bring your new cat home, confine him to one room with his own litterbox, bed, food and water (we refer to this as a “sanctuary room”) for a week, or at the very least until he has been examined by your vet. At the next meal, place the two cats’ bowls on either side of the door to that room. The aim is for the cats to associate the pleasurable activity of eating with the presence of the other cat. Gradually move the bowls closer with each feeding. When they can eat calmly with both bowls directly across from each other, open the door a crack – for just a few seconds – so they can see each other as they eat.
  • Once the new cat seems comfortable in his new surroundings, is eating well and using his litter box, confine your resident cat in another room and let the new cat explore the house. This allows the new cat to come in contact with the resident cat’s scent without direct contact. An additional option is to exchange the cats’ bedding for a night.
  • Monitor the cats’ first actual encounter closely and limit the time they spend together at first. Some display of fearful or aggressive behavior (crouching, hissing, ears back) is to be expected, but you want to avoid letting them establish a pattern of aggressive or fearful behavior, which may be difficult to change. If these behaviors intensify, separate the cats again and go back to step one. If an actual fight breaks out, throw a towel over them (to distract them) or make a loud noise to separate them. Lure the new cat back to his sanctuary room (don’t pick him up while he’s still aroused) and give them a few days to calm down. Do not hold either cat in your arms during introductions: if either one reacts aggressively to the other cat, you could be scratched or bitten.
  • Continue to provide supervised encounters with both cats, watching closely for signs of tension or aggression. If one cat appears to be freezing, staring or fixating on the other cat, have some treats or fun toys nearby to redirect them away from each other. This will also continue to teach them that good things happen when the other cat is near.

Be sensitive to what a big change this is for your resident cat. Even if you think he’s being obnoxious and unreasonable, give him the security of his usual routine and his own special time with you.

Keep in mind that “success” doesn’t necessarily mean your cats will be best buddies. Some cats become bonded to one another while others spend the rest of their lives avoiding and hissing at each other. Realize that either of these scenarios might happen. Your goal in facilitating introductions is to set the stage for the cats to peacefully share their living quarters, but understand you simply cannot “make” them like each other.  

Introducing two new adult cats can be challenging, but if done carefully and correctly, the results can also be very rewarding. This process takes time: count on 2-4 weeks if integrating a kitten and an adult, and 4-6 weeks (or longer) if integrating two adults. While following this protocol will maximize your chances of success, know that some cats simply never learn to coexist peacefully. If you have followed the introduction process and do not see any improvement after a month’s time – especially if one cat is terrorizing or injuring the other – long-term success may be unrealistic. Rehoming one of the cats or keeping them permanently separate may be necessary for everyone’s safety.

This material is copyright of Animal Humane Society and can only be used with written permission.

Introducing Dogs and Cats

Introducing dogs and cats

Despite the stereotype of “fighting like cats and dogs,” many adopted dogs learn to live peacefully with resident cats, whether puppies or adults. The most important thing for adopters to know is that this adjustment is a process, not a one-time introduction. Care must be taken to introduce dogs and cats slowly, making the process as stress-free and pleasant as possible. Adopters must then be prepared to manage their pets’ interactions for the next several weeks, if not longer.

While careful introductions are the best way to set everyone up for success, there is no guarantee that your cat and dog will become buddies. Some pets learn to tolerate each other, while others might attempt to cause each other harm. The outcome will depend both on the manner of the pets’ introduction and their individual personalities. The following steps can help to maximize your chance of long-term success.

  1. Keep the pets separate for at least the first 3-4 days. Prevent any contact until your new pet has had his vet checkup and been cleared of illness. Some families confine their cat in a sanctuary room with the door closed, others confine each pet to a separate floor of their house, still others confine their dog in a finished basement. The goal is to allow the pets to get used to each other’s presence without face-to-face contact. Even if they can’t see each other, they can hear and smell each other. 
  2. While the pets are still separate, begin to feed them on opposite sides of a closed door. The idea is to teach them to associate the presence of the other pet with pleasant things, such as food. With each feeding, move their food bowls a little closer to the closed door; continue the process until each pet can eat calmly right next to the door.
  3. Begin teaching your dog basic obedience cues, such as “sit” and “down.” Keep training sessions short, pleasant and rewarding for the dog. If you need help training your dog, contact Behavior and Training at (763) 489-2217 to get started in a class.
  4. When the pets can eat their food calmly right next to the door, begin face-to-face meetings. Keep the first few sessions short and calm. Keep the dog on a leash and let the cat come and go as she wishes. Do not restrain either pet in your arms, as injury could result (if either pet behaves aggressively). Ask the dog to sit and reward him with small, tasty treats for calm behavior; toss treats to the cat as well. If either pet demonstrates aggression, calmly distract and redirect them: toss a toy for the cat to lure her from the room, call the dog’s name and reward his attention. Return the pets to their confinement areas.
  5. Repeat these face-to-face sessions daily, saving the pets’ favorite treats for when they are together. If the cat attempts to leave the room, allow her to do so, and do not let the dog chase her. Try to end each session before either pet shows stress or aggression. (Conduct these “meet and greets” in common areas of the house; do not use either pet’s sanctuary room.)
  6. When both animals appear to be getting along well, allow them loose in the room together, keeping the dog’s leash attached and dragging on the floor. (This will allow you to step on it and prevent the dog from chasing the cat if he gets excited.) If tension erupts between them, go back to the earlier introduction steps and repeat the process. Make sure the cat has access to a dog-proofed sanctuary at all times, complete with a litter box. Continue to separate the pets when you are not there to supervise.  

If one aspect of this process bears repeating, it’s that first impressions matter: introduce your pets slowly and carefully to maximize the chance of long-term success. Good luck!

This material is copyright of Animal Humane Society and can only be used with written permission.

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