Feeding your cat
High-quality commercially prepared cat foods have been scientifically developed to give your cat the correct balance of nutrients and calories. Your shelter or veterinarian will be able to recommend the best diet to keep your cat healthy. Buy the highest-quality food you can afford. Lower-quality foods may cost you less today, but they can increase your cat's chances of developing health problems in the future.
Obesity is a serious health problem in cats. Ask your veterinarian to help you determine the ideal body weight for your cat, and adjust your cat's diet to attain and maintain that weight according to your veterinarian's suggestions.
A word about food boredom: It's not uncommon for cats to tire of the same old thing day in and day out. Provide variety in the form of different flavors and textures. Always gradually introduce any new brand of food to prevent digestive upset.
Never feed your cat human food such as table scraps, bones, or high-fat meats. Contrary to popular myth, milk is not necessary for cats and may cause digestive upset. Meat, however, is necessary for cats (because it produces essential metabolites); that's why placing your feline on a low-meat or no-meat diet is never recommended.
Introducing A Cat To A Resident Cat Or Dog
Bringing a new cat or kitten into your home and introducing it to your resident cat or dog can be quite nerve racking. You want them all to get along together and welcome the new feline into the house, but this seldom happens quite so easily - even though your reason for getting another cat may be to keep your resident cat company, it may not rush out and welcome the newcomer with open paws! Careful introductions can help to smooth the way towards harmonious merging of animals - controlling the situation rather than leaving the animals to sort it out for themselves will give a much better chance of a smooth meeting and the best possible start together.
Introducing cats to cats
Remember that cats do not need to be social creatures - unlike the pack-orientated dog they can function happily on their own without a social structure around them. They are unlikely to feel the 'need' for a companion even though you would wish to have another cat around. You cannot force cats to like each other - some will live with a newcomer easily, others will never get on or they may just manage to live alongside each other in an uneasy truce - you can only try. However, if there is no competition for food or safe sleeping places (as in most good homes) then cats will accept each other eventually and some will even seem to form close bonds with one another.
If you plan on adopting a kitten take a minute to consider adopting 2 from the same litter as they are familiar and already bonded with one another. There will be less destructive behavior as they will have each other to play and torment rather than a prized sofa or rug.
While it may be a matter of feline choice as to whether cats get along, how you introduce a new cat or kitten into your home and to a resident cat or cats can make the difference between success or failure. Once a relationship becomes violent or very fearful and the cat feels threatened it can be very difficult to change the behavior patterns. Thus careful introductions which prevent excessive reactions and take things slowly are vital.
Adults or kittens?
A kitten is less of a threat to a resident cat than an adult cat because it is still sexually immature. Neutering or spaying helps to remove most of such problems, but may not eliminate them altogether. All of our cats are altered prior to adoption.
Choose a quiet time when the household is calm - avoid festivities, parties, visiting relatives or friends and find time to concentrate on calm reassurance for both cats.
Smell is important
Remember that scent is the most important of the cat's senses in terms of communication and well-being. You can try and integrate the new cat into your home and make it less alien by getting it to smell of 'home' before you introduce it to the resident cat. To do this stroke each cat without washing your hands and mix scents in this way. You can also gather scents from around the cat's head area by gently stroking it with a soft cloth and dabbing it around your home and furniture to mix and spread scents. Likewise letting the cat get used to the new smells of the house and another cat before the initial meeting can make it more tolerable. For this reason it can be very useful to delay letting cats meet for a few days or even a week. During this time keep them in separate rooms allowing each to investigate the other's room and bed without actually meeting. Happy Cat Sanctuary HIGHLY recommends starting your new cat in a separate room or bathroom, somewhere that you can close a door. You may think this is mean or unfair to your new cat but it is completely the opposite. Especially if you have adopted more of a shy cat, wouldn’t you rather be able to go in a room and pet and comfort the cat instead of trying to drag it out from under a couch or from behind a washing machine or refrigerator?
When you feel the time is right to let them meet without a door between them then you can try to use food as a distraction. Withhold food for one morning or evening so that they are both somewhat hungry and then feed them in the same room. Choose a room where either cat can escape behind furniture or jump up high or hide if it wants to. Put down the resident cat's food and then let the new cat out of its room to eat - you will have to judge how close they can be - don't attempt side by side initially!
Be calm and reassuring and reward the behavior you want with praise and tid bits of a favorite treat. Gauge how the cats are getting along - they may find their own spots and curl up for a sleep or you may need to keep the new one separate again for a little longer, using meals as a time for them to get together a bit more. Once you are sure they are not going to fight or chase then you can start to utilize the whole house - the cats will probably find places to sleep and routines which allow them to live peacefully in the same house and partake of all the benefits of food, warmth and attention while gradually becoming used to and accepting one another.
How long will it take?
It may only take a day or two or it may take several weeks for cats to tolerate each other. It may take months before the cats are relaxed with each other, but you are on your way to success if you reach the stage of a calm truce between them. It is amazing how a cold wet day outside will force even the worst adversaries together in front of the fire after a large bowl of food.
Introducing the dog
While dogs and cats have often been portrayed as enemies, it is usually a great deal easier to introduce a new cat to a dog than to another cat. While both animals may be wary of each other initially, they do not see the other as direct competition and can actually get along very well. If your dog is used to cats he may be excited initially at having a new one in the house but he will soon settle down and the novelty will wear off very quickly. He will begin to see the new cat as part of his pack. Many dogs will live happily with their own cats while chasing strange felines out of the garden, so you will need to take care until the cat is seen as one of the household.
Likewise if your new cat or kitten has previously lived with a dog then it will be much less likely to be frightened for long and will become confident around the dog more quickly.
However, initially safety must come first. You will need to keep everything under control until the dog and cat have got used to each other. Stroke the dog and cat separately but without washing your hands to exchange their scents. The cat will then take on the smell profile of the house and become part of the dog's pack. Once again a separate room is ideal for first meetings to keep the situation calm and the cat protected. Let the dog sniff the newcomer under the door and get over its initial excitement. The cat may well hiss and spit but it is well protected. Some dogs, especially those not used to cats or of an excitable or aggressive disposition, need extra special care for introductions. They should be kept as calm as possible on the lead and made to sit quietly. The new cat should be given a safe position in the room and allowed to get used to the dog and approach it if it wants. This may take quite some time and requires patience and rewards for the dog if it behaves well. For quieter dogs and those used to cats, introductions can be made by using a strong cat carrier. Keep the dog on a lead initially, place the carrier on a high surface and allow controlled introductions which are short and frequent. Most dogs will soon calm down when they realize the newcomer is not actually very interesting. Progress to meetings with the dog on a lead initially for safety. If your dog is rather excitable then take it for a vigorous walk first to get rid of some of its energy!
Breeds such as terriers or those breeds which like to chase, such as greyhounds, may need to be kept well under control until they have learned that the cat is not 'fair game'! Young pups are likely to get very excited and may try to 'play' with the new cat which is unlikely to want to join in! You may need to work hard to keep things calm and be aware that a sudden dash from the cat will induce a chase. Praise the dog for calm interactions, make it sit quietly and use treats to reward the dog for good behavior. Again, associate the presence of the cat with reward for calm behavior. When you progress to access without the lead make sure there are places where the cat can escape to - high ledges or furniture it can use to feel safe. Never leave the dog and cat together unattended until you are happy they are safe together. The cat's food will be hugely tempting for any dog, so set it up and out of the way of thieving canine jaws! Likewise a litter tray can be pretty tempting and should be kept out of reach of the dog if it is likely to munch on the contents.
If you have any other cat questions please feel free to email us and we will do our best to answer them.
Moving To A New Home
Cats develop strong bonds with their environment so house moves are potentially stressful. Planning ahead will ensure that the transition from one home to another goes smoothly. After all, this is a traumatic time for you and one less worry would be a good thing!
Before the removal van arrives it is advisable to place your cat in one room - the ideal location would be a bedroom.
Put the cat carrier, cat bed, food bowl, water bowl and litter tray in this room and ensure the door and windows remain shut.
Place a notice on the door so that removal men and family know that this door should be kept shut.
When all other rooms have been emptied, the contents of the bedroom can be placed in the van last. Before the furniture is removed your cat should be placed in the cat carrier and put safely in the car to make the journey to the new home. Follow the advice below for transporting your cat.
The bedroom furniture should be the first to be installed in the new home.
Place a synthetic feline facial pheromone diffuser (a plug-in Feliway device available from your veterinary practice) in a floor level socket in the new room where your cat will be temporarily confined. Once the room is ready your cat can be placed inside with his bed, food bowl, water bowl and litter tray and the door shut. If possible a family member can sit in the room with your cat for a while as he explores.
Offer your cat some food.
Once the removal has been completed your cat can be allowed to investigate the rest of the house one room at a time.
It is important to remain as calm as possible to signal to your cat that it is a safe environment.
Ensure that all external doors and windows are shut.
Be cautious about allowing your cat unsupervised access to the kitchen or utility room as particularly nervous individuals will often seek refuge in narrow gaps behind appliances.
If your cat is particularly anxious it may be advisable to place him in a cattery the day before the move and collect the day after you are established in your new home.
Transporting Your Cat
If your cat is an anxious traveller you may wish to speak to your veterinary surgeon before the journey; a mild sedative may be prescribed.
Feed your cat as normal but ensure the mealtime is at least three hours before travelling.
Transport your cat in a safe container, ie a cat basket or carrier.
Spray the inside of the cat carrier with synthetic feline facial pheromones (Feliway; Ceva - available from your veterinary surgeon) half an hour before you place your cat inside.
Place the carrier in a seat and secure with the seat belt, in the well behind the seat or wedged safely on the back seat so that it cannot move around.
Do not transport your cat in the removal van or in the boot of the car.
If it is a long journey you may want to stop and offer water or a chance to use a cat tray, although most cats will not be interested.
If it is a hot day make sure the car is well ventilated; never leave the cat inside a hot car if you stop for a break.
Helping Your Cat To Settle In
Keep your cat indoors for at least two weeks to get used to the new environment.
Provide small frequent meals.
Maintain routines adopted in your previous house to provide continuity and familiarity.
Help your cat feel secure in his new home by spreading his scent throughout the house. Take a soft cotton cloth (or use lightweight cotton gloves) and rub your cat gently around the cheeks and head to collect the scent from glands around his face. Scrape this cloth or glove against the corners of doorways, walls and furniture at cat height to help your cat to become familiar with his territory as quickly as possible. Repeat this process daily until you start to see your cat rubbing against objects.
Continue to use the synthetic feline facial pheromone diffuser and rotate the device throughout the house, one room at a time.
Extra care should be taken for the permanently indoor cat as a new environment will be potentially unsettling.
Letting your cat outside
If your cat does not go outside already, we do not recommend letting cats outdoors, there are far too many dangers for them out there.
Keep your cat indoors for a couple of weeks to get used to the new property.
Make sure your cat has some form of identification (a collar with a quick release section to avoid getting caught up) with his name, address and contact phone number.
Alternatively, (or additionally) ask your vet to microchip your cat to ensure he can be returned if he gets lost. If he is already microchipped, remember to inform the registering company of your change of address and phone number.
Ensure your cat's vaccinations are up to date.
Consider fitting a cat flap for ease of access outdoors when you are out once your cat is settled. Make sure it is an electronically or magnetically controlled exclusive entry system to avoid the risk of strange cats invading your home.
Chase away any cats if you see them in your garden, your cat will need all the help he can get to establish territory as the ‘new cat on the block'
Introduce your cat to the outdoors gradually by initially opening the door and going into the garden with him.
If he is used to a harness then it would be useful to walk him around the garden on a lead.
Don't carry him outside, allow him to decide if he wants to explore.
Always keep the door open initially so that he can escape indoors if something frightens him.
Outdoor cats with a wider experience of change generally cope well; timid cats may take time to adapt to the new environment and should be accompanied outside until they build up their confidence.
Preventing Your Cat From Returning To His Old Home
If your new home is nearby your cat may explore when he first goes out and find familiar routes that take him back to his old home. It is wise to warn the new occupiers that your cat may return and ask them to contact you if he is seen. It is important that they do not feed him or encourage him in any way, this will merely confuse him. If you have moved locally it would be beneficial to keep your cat indoors as long as possible. However, this is rarely a practical option since those cats likely to return to previous hunting grounds will not relish being confined for such a long period. Follow the advice above for settling your cat into his new home; this will help, together with the use of both synthetic and natural scents to make the environment seem as familiar as possible. It may take many months of retrieval from your old home before your cat eventually settles down. If this process appears to be distressing him, he persistently returns to his old home or traverses busy roads to get there it may be kinder and safer if the new occupier or a friendly neighbour agrees to adopt him.
It is never ideal to change your cat's lifestyle from outdoor to indoor but occasionally it is necessary and a house move takes place that requires him to be confined. If your cat spends most of his time outside anyway it may be kinder to re-home him. If, however, your cat spends little time outside then it may be acceptable for him to be kept inside in the future. Indoor cats require extra effort from the owner to stimulate them to encourage exercise and avoid boredom. Suggestions to enhance an indoor cat's environment include:
Hiding dry food around the house to provide opportunities to ‘hunt'.
Providing plenty of high vantage points and scratching posts that the cat can climb.
Regular predatory play sessions at least once a day.
Occasionally owners are fortunate enough to move to a property where they can let their cat outside for the first time. The transition from indoor to outdoor cat, if taken gently, will enhance your cat's emotional wellbeing and enable him to live a more natural life. Follow the guidelines for letting your cat outside but accept that the process should be gradual. Many cats, under these circumstances, may prefer to go outside only when you are there to provide reassurance.
Moving To A Smaller Property
If you have a multi-cat household then your cats have become used to living with the available space of your previous home. Moving to a smaller property could potentially cause some tension between the individuals. Limit the risk of antagonism in the new home by providing sufficient resources, such as:
High resting platforms (e.g. wardrobes, cupboards, shelves)
Private hiding places (e.g. under the bed, bottom of wardrobe)
Moving house is supposed to be one of life's most stressful experiences. By helping your cat to settle calmly and with minimum problems, the harmony of the new home can be established that bit more quickly.
Cat to Cat Introductions
Research has shown that a single hostile encounter between two unfamiliar cats can set the tone for their relationship for a long time to come. So to prevent your new cat from getting off on the wrong foot with your resident cat, plan to introduce them gradually. Adults that grew up around other cats usually adjust more easily to a new feline housemate. If you are adopting from Happy Cat Sanctuary, we will try to help you match the personality of your new cat to that of your resident cat. Remember to spend plenty of quality time alone with your resident cat in order to minimize jealousy. At first, do not allow face-to-face contact between the two cats. Instead, follow these steps:
Confine the new cat to a room (door closed) while the resident cat has the rest of the house. Then switch their places for an hour or less every day. This allows them to become familiar with each other's scent.
Keep the new cat in a separate room for several days, occasionally switching places between them to allow each cat to smell the other without an encounter. You'll need a separate litter box for the new cat, and depending on the cats' preferences, you may want to continue to maintain two litter boxes for them after the introduction is completed.
After a few days, crack open the door separating the two cats. Prop it open a couple inches so they can see one another but can't make full contact. Once they tolerate this limited contact (no fighting, some hissing and growling may be expected), open the door a bit wider. If they start to backslide, go back to step 2.
When the two cats seem comfortable with limited exposure, try feeding them on opposite sides of the same room. Then return them to their separate quarters. After a few days of common mealtimes, they may be ready to share the same living space. Remember to let them set their own pace and never force them to be together. Keep them separated when you are not home to supervise until you're certain they can tolerate each other’s presence. It may take a few days and sometimes even 2 or 3 weeks before they reach this stage. Patience is the key to a happy, multi-cat home. If steps are taken correctly, it should be no problem to introduce any new cat into a multi-cat home.
Happy Cat Sanctuary follows this guideline to introducing new cats to our facility; we have been quite successful and have cats (anywhere from 10-25 at a single time) of all different ages, sizes, genders and personalities living together peacefully.
Happy Cat Sanctuary is here to help you, if you have any questions or concerns about introducing your new cat to your existing cat, please contact us and we will offer tips and suggestions to make it easier for everyone!
Introducing Cats To Children
So, you had a cat in the family when you were a kid. And you are thinking that the addition of a cat into your home would make a terrific family pet, and would give your children the pleasure of loving and caring for an animal.
Most likely you'd be right.
But, just because you have nothing but pleasant memories of growing up with a much loved feline pet doesn't mean that things always go faultlessly well.
There are things to remember and steps to take before introducing a cat to your children.
First thing make sure that your children would want a cat as a family pet. Most probably they will enthusiastically welcome the idea, but make sure that they understand that caring for a living breathing creature has responsibility attached to it as well as pleasure.
Be prepared to assume all the responsibilities of taking care of the family cat yourself. Children can, and should, be taught to take care of some of the chores if they are old enough, but if they lose interest it will be up to you.
No matter how laid back or tolerant your cat is you should never leave a toddler unattended with a cat. Even older children should be under your supervision until you are quite sure that the cat and your kids respect each other.
Try to have a place that your cat can retreat to when he or she does not want the attention of kids (or adults for that matter.) Sometimes children do not understand when a cat does not want to play or be petted and a room, or someplace that your cat can be alone when it feels the need to can save disharmony.
Children need to be told just how sharp the claws and teeth of a cat are, don't let them find out by painful experience! Explain that cats can bite and scratch if teased, stressed or over excited. Show you children how to play gently with their pet and preferably with the sort of cat toy that keeps the cat at a little distance, such as a catnip mouse on a string.
Kittens may not be the best choice for very young children. A toddler may not be able to understand just how fragile a kitten is and that an over enthusiastic hug could harm their pet. A kitten is also less able to tolerate the rapid movement and gleeful shouting of a very young child than is an adult cat. An older cat, two years and up, would be more likely to be laid back about the attention of a toddler and certainly more robust than a kitten.
Demonstrate to your children the proper way to hold a cat. Show them how to gently pick kitty up with one hand supporting the chest and the other the back legs. If your kids are too young to learn how to do this they should be dissuaded from trying to pick up your cat. Tell your children to beware of a cat's sensitive areas such as stomach, tail, ear and paws.
A strong bond can develop between kids and cats and this can teach them love and respect for animals that can last for the rest of their lives. Teaching your children the basics of looking after their pet will reward them for years to come.
Signs of Illness
Note: These are only guidelines, we recommend that you contact a veterinarian if you have any questions about the health of your cat.
Signs Of Illness
Cats are notorious for their ability to appear healthy when actually sick. Get in the habit of giving your cat a weekly mini-physical and be on the lookout for signs of illness.
This common sign of sickness is sometimes difficult for owners to recognize, as healthy adult cats may sleep up to 16-18 hours a day. Get to know how much is normal for your cat.
Change in Appetite
Keep track of how much your cat normally eats and drinks so that any variation can be detected easily and early.
Change in Grooming
An ill-kept, oily coat can indicate illness. Conversely, cats that groom too often may have a nervous or itchy skin condition.
This sign often goes unnoticed, especially in long-haired cats. Owners who regularly groom their cats may notice the ribs and backbone becoming more prominent. Those who regularly weigh their cats are sure to see a change. A sudden loss of one pound in a cat that normally weighs ten pounds is cause for concern.
Change in Litter Box Habits
Cats that start visiting the litter box more frequently or that repeatedly urinate or defecate outside the box may be suffering from a disease of the lower urinary tract or large intestine. Cats that strain to urinate may have a urethral obstruction - such cats are in grave danger and need immediate veterinary attention.
Change in Behavior
House soiling and aggression are both behavioral problems that can sometimes be prompted by a physical illness.
Make the home checkup an extension of normal physical attention you pay your cat and he will not even know he is being ‘examined’. If your cat is normally not allowed on the kitchen table or counter, don’t examine him there, as it may be confusing and stressful.
Skin and Coat
Pass your hands over your cat’s body, feeling for swelling, asymmetry, sensitive areas, patches of hair loss, black flecks that signal fleas, scabby areas, or skin bumps. With your cat facing away from you gently lift the tail and take a look at his rear end. If you see tan-colored, rice-size objects, you are probably looking at packets of tapeworm eggs which require treatment. Next, use a moist paper towel to clean away any feces. In longhaired cats in particular, feces can get caught in the fur and, if trapped against the skin, can cause serious problems. If the hair has become matted, you will need to use blunt-tipped scissors. Be careful cutting out mats, and think about going to a veterinarian or professional groomer.
Face your cat head-on and examine the eyes. They should be bright and the pupils should be of equal size. There should be little if any tearing at the corners of the eyes and if the nictitating membrane (the opaque white membrane fanning out from the corner of eye) is protruding, the cat may have a health problem. Gently roll down the lower eyelid with your thumb – the tissue lining the lid should be pink, not white or red. Be sure your cat is not squinting with either eye.
With your cat facing you, gently pull up on the ear flap and look at the inner surface and down into the ear canal. The ears should be clean and light pink in color. Any discharge, redness, swelling or odor is abnormal. Do not attempt to clean your cat’s ears – probing into the ear canal can aggravate an ear condition or even cause trauma or infection.
Mouth and Nose
With your cat facing you, push back the lips to examine the gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. The teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar. Sniff your cat's breath - a strong, smelly odor is abnormal and may indicate a problem. Excessive drooling can also be a sign of oral disease. The nose should be pink and there should be no nasal discharge.