Cats need patience, care to be happy pets

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 30, 2010

Every year hundreds of cats are given away, surrendered for adoption, or just tossed out on the street because of behavioral issues.

Like dogs, cats can develop bad habits that can make living with them less than pleasant. House soiling, aggression, and destructiveness are among the most common reasons people get rid of their cats.

House soiling tends to top the list for reasons people give up their cats. Most likely there is something the cat does not like about its litter box if it is not using it.

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Many times cleanliness is the issue. Make sure you scoop it out every day and completely change the litter weekly. If cleanliness is not the issue, maybe it is the location of the box.

For example, maybe the litter box is in the laundry room and maybe the washer kicks on while the cat is “busy” and startles it. Your cat may be seeking a quieter place to do his business.

Another reason your cat may be shying away from its litter box is that maybe it’s too crowded.

If you have more than one cat in the house, they usually like to have their own litter box. In fact some cat behaviorists recommend that you get a box for every cat and add one extra.

When most people think of cat aggression, they think of cats and dogs fighting each other, but many times cats will show a form of aggression towards each other.

A bad initial introduction can cause ongoing aggression toward each other. Some people like to put them together and let them hash it out.

This is not usually the best way to start out a relationship. It is best to introduce a new cat slowly.

The resident cat feels the new addition is a dangerous stranger invading their territory. Start by confining the new cat to its own room with its own food and litter box. With the door closed they can sniff each other with out being face to face.

When they seem comfortable, you can open the door and let them meet. If hissing and growling becomes extreme, separate them and try again later. Separation and reintroduction can even help longtime cat housemates who fight.

Nothing will ruin a new couch faster than a cat shredding it with while scratching. The best way to fix this is to add a scratching post, so they have something other than the household furniture to scratch. You can buy a post or a cardboard scratching pad.

Place the scratching post in an area where your cat seeks scratching and you can even sprinkle it with cat nip to make it more enticing.

Keeping their nails trimmed will also cut down on the destruction.

With some work and creativeness many cat relinquishments can be avoided. With preparation and planning your feline can become and stay a happy part of the family.

Remember, every dog (and cat) should be treated like a show dog.

Tony Barker, The BARKer Shop