Welcome to life with a new kitten!
So sweet, so playful, so many questions about behavior, feeding, you name it. At your first visit with us, you will be given a New Kitten Information Kit that contains all sorts of helpful tips, sample products, brochures, etc.
Below you’ll find all sorts of helpful information to get you started with your new kitten. And as always, please don’t hesitate to speak with our staff for questions and guidance.
Cats, Carriers and Vets:
Tips on making it easier to get your cat to the vet (or wherever you need to take them) Many cats are fearful of car rides and veterinary visits, which makes it harder for us to give them good medical care. It also makes it difficult for cat owners to decide to take their nervous cats to the veterinarian for routine care and may delay an examination for an illness. Cats can be trained to be much more comfortable with their carriers, cars, and the veterinary clinic. It takes a little preparation and patience, but will greatly improve your cat’s comfort level and our ability to care for your pet. Here are some tips and links that will help you to help your cat!
The Steps to Improved Carrier Behavior
1. Start carrier training as young as possible. Starting as kittens teaches your pet that the carrier is just another fun hiding place, or play area, rather than a confined punishment space. Carriers that load from the top or especially those that come apart in the middle are helpful, as veterinarians can then take the top off and start their examination with the cat comfortably sitting in the bottom. Put the carrier in a room that the cat likes to be in, perhaps in a sunny location, with a soft piece of bedding to encourage exploration and voluntary use.
2. Encourage daily entry. Every day, put a piece of kibble or a treat in the carrier. When the cat eats it, calmly praise/pet it and give it a few more treats. If the cat doesn’t take the treat right away, just walk away; if you try to persuade the cat, they will become suspicious! It may take a few days, but the cat should start to eat the treats, although maybe when you are not watching.
3. Gradually close the door. Once the cat happily goes into the carrier when you are around, gently close the door, give a treat, and open the door so that the cat does not feel trapped.
4. Extend the door-closure period. After several days of this, leave the door closed and walk out of the room for a few seconds before returning and giving another treat. Gradually work up to carrying the carrier to a different place in the house.
5. Begin car rides. Over days to weeks, move on to placing the carrier in the car, then short car rides, then a ride to our veterinary clinic for a treat (and petting from our staff if your cat is comfortable with it). If at any point your cat becomes nervous (crouching, ears back, etc.), go back a step and give treats until your cat is more comfortable with that level.
6. Cover the carrier when traveling. When you start taking the carrier in the car, place a towel over it; cats usually feel safer this way.
7. Add toys, treats or bedding into the carrier. If your cat has favorite toys, treats, bedding, or brushes, please bring them to the clinic when you visit (for training visits and the actual exam). This will give your cat more familiar things that he/she associates with good feelings.
8. Consider using Feliway® (pheromonal anti-anxiety spray) just before traveling. When the time for the examination arrives, the routine will be familiar and your cat will be much more comfortable. With especially nervous or suspicious cats, Feliway® can help with the initial training period as well. Some cats, despite your best efforts, still become scared of confinement or travel. In such instances, we can help you by prescribing additional anti-anxiety medications to help alleviate the stress.
What is Environmental Enrichment and Why Does Your Cat Need it?
Environmental enrichment is a phrase that may not be familiar to you but if it’s important that you become familiar with it and what it means to your cat. A boring environment can contribute to problems such as destructive behavior, inter-cat aggression, depression and anxiety. Under-stimulated cats are at risk of developing boredom-related or stress-relieving behaviors such as over-grooming, chewing inappropriate items, picking on companion pets, retreating into isolation, over-eating , self-mutilation, compulsive behavior and loss of appetite.
Born to Move
Your cat has finely-tuned senses. Their ears can move independently and hear sounds that humans can’t. They can pinpoint sound location with amazing accuracy. Their binocular vision has excellent low-light ability and can see in conditions humans consider totally dark. Then there’s a cat’s sense of smell. They can detect odors that we’d never know where present. Now let’s look at the cat’s body. The cat can jump 5-7 times her height. They walk on her toes for speed and stealth. They’re incredibly flexible and able to perform lightning-quick directional changes. Their whiskers help them navigate in dark environments and also help in detection of prey, among any other functions There are so many other facts about your cat’s body that enable them to have incredible speed, stealth and accuracy. Imagine having all that equipment and it never gets used. That’s the way it is for many cats. They’re brought indoors (and we want them in indoors) but there’s nothing to do. Cats weren’t meant to be sedentary and eat mountains of food. Cats were born to move.
Why Environmental Enrichment Works
First, there’s physical health. If your cat is active they have a greater chance of staying in better shape. Their muscles get a good workout, their bones stay strong and they’re more likely to develop a normal, healthy appetite. Now, let’s look at the benefits you may not be aware of. A cat who has positive experiences usually has more confidence. Fun, safe environment = happy, confident cat. Stressful or boring environment = unhappy, stressed cat. Since cats are sensory-driven, if a cat has no tension release, they may come up with one that isn’t beneficial. A common anxiety-relieving behavior is over-grooming. The cat may self-groom so much that bald spots appear. By providing outlets for energy release, the cat has something to do so they don’t need to engage in destructive behaviors. Studies have shown when a cat is hunting, a brain chemical (dopamine) is released that creates a feeling of eager anticipation. This release is initially triggered by the sound or scent of prey. Cats enjoy being in hunting mode. When in the seeking circuit, it would make sense that the cat would be less anxious, depressed or bored. Opportunities to experience eager anticipation and exploration are important. Luckily for us, we don’t have to supply mice and birds so cats can experience the seeking circuit; it can be done through toys and playtime.
Implementing Environmental Enrichment
You can include food-related environmental enrichment whether you’re home or not through food-dispensing toys (aka puzzle feeders). A puzzle feeder in its basic form is simply a plastic ball with a hole in it where dry food randomly falls out as the cat rolls it around. Several manufacturers make a variety of ball-shaped puzzled feeders for dry food. Some puzzle feeder balls have computer chips to enable you to record a voice message for your cat. There are many other styles of puzzle feeders. Aikiou makes the Stimulo. This puzzle feeder uses tubes and the cat has to reach in to get the food. You can customize the length of the tubes to match your cat’s ability. The Stimulo is readily available through various online sites as well as at many local pet product stores. Another terrific company that makes puzzle feeders for cats and dogs is Nina Ottosson Products. You can also make homemade puzzle feeders by using plastic water bottles. Cut holes in them and place dry food or treats inside. Even the round cardboard insert from paper towels works well. Cut holes, put kibble in there and fold the ends closed. If you use odd-shaped treats, use freeze-dried ones, you’ll have to cut the holes larger or make sure you break up the treats into small enough pieces. The concept of working for food is natural for a hunter; they’re hard-wired to use their senses and physical skill to get prey. Batting a ball around provides activity and fun as opposed to hunkering down at an over-filled food bowl. The other benefit of puzzler feeders is that the cat will eat slowly. If you feed wet food you can also set up puzzle feeders. Something as simple as a muffin tin can be a great wet food puzzle feeder. Put a drop of wet food in each compartment. For cats who eat too quickly, you can smoosh the food down a bit so she has to work a little harder for her reward. You can also put wet food in a mug placed on its side so the cat can use her paw to reach for it.
Cats benefit from several types of play, including:interactive and object play. Interactive involves you holding a fishing pole-type toy so your cat can concentrate on being the hunter. Move the toy like prey so your cat can practice her hunting skills. To trigger the prey-drive move the toy across or away from the cat’s visual field. Don’t dangle the toy right in front of them. No self-respecting prey would run to the cat and offer itself up as lunch. Playtime is also just as much mental as physical so when engaging in interactive play, don’t keep the toy in motion. Have it hide, quiver, dart across to another hiding place, etc. Put interactive toys away after playtime so kitty doesn’t chew stringed parts and to keep these sessions special. Object play involves furry mice, crinkle balls and other small toys. Up the fun factor by placing them in objects or locations that inspire curiosity. Place a furry mouse inside an empty tissue box. Cut paw-sized holes in a box, tape the flaps closed and toss some toys in there. Place a ping pong ball inside a paper bag that’s on its side. Have a furry mouse peeking out from the top perch of a cat tree.
We live in a horizontal world but cats live in a vertical world. Cats often seek out high spots for napping. An elevated location can also become security for a cat, especially in a multi-cat home. The more vertical space, the more territory the cats have to share. If there’s tension between the cats, one kitty may climb to an elevated spot as a display of status. This can often be the display a cat uses instead of physical confrontation. An elevated spot can also be a refuge for a timid cat. They know they’re safe there because no one can sneak up behind them. You can create vertical space with a cat tree. Manufacturers make trees in various heights and configurations. Depending on your budget you can purchase a simple tree or an elaborate one that reaches the ceiling. What’s most important is that it’s sturdy so if kitty takes a flying leap the tree won’t topple over. “U” shaped perches are better than flat ones because cats feel more secure when they can feel their backs up against something. Cat walks and shelves can add to vertical territory. You can purchase shelves and walkways or you can make your own. You can also install kitty stairs on the walls for the cats to access various shelves and perches. You can make it as elaborate or as simple as you want. In a multi-cat home, make two sets so one cat never blocks another cat from getting up or down. Window perches are great middle ground options. You can buy perches that attach to windows. Some have heating elements and that’s great for winter days where there might be a draft coming in or for older cats who need warmth.
Hideaways can be in the form of an “A” or donut-shape bed. You can even take a box and turn it on its side to make a bed. Line it with a soft towel for your cat’s comfort. For a very timid cat cut a hole in the box as an entrance, turn the box upside down and your cat will have a complete hideaway. No matter how confident your cat may be, always make sure there are options for hiding in the environment. Every cat needs hiding places.
A tunnel can be a wonderful addition to environmental enrichment. You can purchase soft fabric tunnels or make your own using paper bags. If using paper bags, fold a one-inch cuff at the top to make the bag sturdy. Cut the bottoms of the paper bags, fold a cuff around that end and then tape bags together.
Your cat will still need a regular feeding station. Give each cat their own food bowl. Community bowls can inspire bullying. Additionally, don’t use double feeders with food in one side and water in the other. Food particles can get into the water and make the taste unpleasant. Keep food and water bowls clean and replenish the water bowl with fresh water every day. Water can be used for enrichment as well. Instead of a plain water bowl, consider using a pet water fountain. This is a good option for cats who like to overturn their water bowls in fun.
If your kitty is scratching the furniture it means they doesn’t have the right post. Scratching is a natural behavior. Supply a tall, sturdy post that’s covered in a rough material such as sisal. Being able to get a good scratch, stretch the muscles and displace anxiety by scratching is a vital part of cat life.
There are cat-entertainment DVDs that showcase prey. Between the visuals and the sound effects, many cats become fascinated. It can be a great way to entertain your cat or jump-start a play session. Outdoor bird feeders can be very entertaining. Set one up near the window where kitty has a perch or cat tree.
Enjoying the Outdoors Safely!
There are companies that make cat enclosures. You can find enclosures that sit in the window as well as ones that can be installed outdoors. Make sure the enclosure is well-constructed and sturdy. You can also bring the outdoors in by creating opportunities for your cat to enjoy novel scents and textures. Bird feathers are a great option. You can even bring in a log for kitty to scratch on.
Clicker Training and Agility
Clicker training is effective and fun. A clicker makes a cricket-type sound and once the cat makes the association that the sound means a food reward will follow, you can use the clicker to “mark” positive behaviors. The clicker becomes the bridge between a behavior and the reward. Agility is something we associate with dogs but cats can do it too. You don’t have to enter an agility competition but you can clicker train kitty to a fun obstacle course in your home.
Cats are social creatures, despite what you may have been led to believe. If you spend lots of time away from home your cat might benefit from a kitty companion. After a gradual and positive introduction, having a buddy can make a huge difference when it comes to enriching a cat’s life.
No More Ho-hum
Environmental enrichment is a necessity and not a luxury. It’s time to increase the fun factor in your cat’s life. Customize whatever you do to fit your cat’s age, mobility and health factors. Some cats will obviously be more active than others but every cat can benefit from a more stimulating environment and appropriate enrichment.
Litter Box Training
As you get ready to bring a cat or kitten into your home, make sure you have all the things you will need to make your new pet feel welcome. Besides providing high-quality food, a safe environment, proper veterinary care, and lots of love, it is also important to give some thought to your cat’s litter box. While this may not seem like a very important subject at first, the litter box can quickly become the major focus of your attention should your cat decide to stop using it. Elimination disorders are one of the biggest reasons for cats to be given up to shelters, and one of the most common problems for which people seek veterinary advice. While it’s true that most cats will instinctively use a litter box from the time they are young kittens, some basic knowledge about cats and litter boxes can help prevent problems from starting in the first place. And, as we all know, it’s much easier to prevent a problem than to deal with it after it’s started!
Here are some important points to keep in mind: New kittens
Cats have a natural instinct to eliminate in sand or soil, and kittens also learn from observing their mother. Kittens usually start learning to use the litter box at 3 or 4 weeks of age, so by the time you bring your kitten home, she will likely be used to using a litter box. You will not need to train your kitten to use the litter box in the same way that you would housebreak a puppy. However, it is important to make sure your kitten knows the location of the litter box in her new surroundings. Make sure the box is not in a noisy or hard-to-reach place. Soon after you bring your kitten home, take her to the litter box at a quiet time. Place her into the litter box, gently take her front paws and show her how to scratch at the litter once or twice. Don’t worry if she jumps right out again. Place her in the box at the times throughout the day when a cat would normally go to the bathroom: first thing in the morning, and after meals, playing, and waking up from a nap. Remember that cats prefer privacy when using the litter box, so once you see that she is using the box, leave her alone. Most cats will make the adjustment to a new litter box without any problems. However, if there are any accidents, don’t scold or punish your cat. Yelling or using a squirt bottle will only confuse and scare your cat, and she won’t understand why you are upset. Instead, clean up the accident with an enzyme cleaner to remove stains and odor. Then go back to square one, placing the kitten in the litter box frequently until she starts using it. If the accidents continue, or if you are noticing any diarrhea or straining, have your kitten examined by your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical problems. Cats with urinary tract disease or intestinal parasites may stop using the litter box.
Number of boxes
The rule of thumb here is that you should provide one litter box per cat, plus one extra. While this may seem excessive to us, cats are very fastidious and some cats will not use a litter box that other cats have used. Some cats also prefer to use one box to urinate in and another to defecate in. If your house has several levels, make sure there are litter boxes on every floor.
Cats prefer to use the litter box in a quiet, private place where they feel safe. Loud noises (buzzers on washers and dryers, etc), people walking in and out, or being startled by a dog or challenged by another cat as they leave the litter box, can be disturbing enough to make your cat choose another location. If your dog tries to steal a snack from the cat’s litter box, try placing a baby gate across the doorway to the room the litter box is in (this would also work in a closet doorway, if needed). Place the gate a few inches off the floor so that the cat can get under it but the dog cannot. Besides preventing the dog from harassing the cat as she enters or leaves the box, this will prevent the chance of your dog developing an intestinal obstruction from eating cat litter, or becoming infected with any intestinal worms the cat may have. If your dog is small enough to go under the gate, position the bottom of the gate at the floor and place a step stool in front of the gate to help the cat jump up and over. If you have more than one cat, make sure that the litter box is not in a location where one cat can ‘corner’ another as she leaves the litter box (for example in a hallway that ends in a dead-end). There should always be an entrance and an escape route. Most cats prefer not to have their litter box right next to their food dish, so avoid this situation if possible.
Size and type of litter box
There are many types of litter boxes available, including covered boxes, self-cleaning boxes, and boxes designed to fit into corners. Make sure the litter boxes you provide are the right size(s) for your cat(s). Some animal behaviorists say that the litter boxes people provide are often too small. Keep in mind that kittens or geriatric cats may need boxes with lower sides. If you need a large box with relatively low sides, consider using sweater storage boxes. You can also cut down the sides of the sweater box if needed. Some cats may feel more secure in a litter box with a hood. This can also be helpful for cats who dig very enthusiastically as they cover things up. This may also work well for cats who stand on the edge of the box to urinate or defecate. However, a hooded box can concentrate odor and should be cleaned daily. The new automatic self-cleaning litter boxes can save on clean-up time, but some models are noisy. Some cats seem to be bothered by the noise, some apparently are not. If you have several cats, you might want to provide several types of litter boxes and let your cats choose between them. Litter type In general, cats seem to like a litter that has the consistency of beach sand or garden soil. They seem to prefer fine-textured litter (such as the clumping type) to more coarse litter, and unscented litter to scented. Two inches of litter in the box is usually sufficient. It generally works better to use less litter and change it more frequently. If you’re not sure what type of litter to use, put several types out, including clumping and non-clumping, and see which your cats prefer. Cleanliness Cats are extremely clean creatures, and they may avoid a litter box that is not cleaned often enough. Scoop the litter boxes at least once daily. Wash the litter box and change the litter completely once a week. Do not clean the box with a strong smelling disinfectant, but rinse the box well after washing it. Any accidents should be cleaned up with an enzyme cleaner specifically made for pet stains, including cat urine. Regular cleaners may mask the odor so that we can’t smell it, but to a cat’s superior sense of smell, the odor will still be discernible, and can prompt a cat to continue to use that area as the bathroom.
Most cats have a strong instinct to use a litter box, and cats do not need to be housebroken in the same way that we housetrain dogs. However, keeping some ‘litter box basics’ in mind can help keep your cat content and prevent problems from starting.
CITATIONS: http://www.vin.com/members/cms/document/default.aspx?id=5244099&pid=21&catid=&said=1 http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=1+2137&aid=3288 http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/what-is-environmental-enrichment-and-why-does-your-cat-need-it/