Cat Care

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.

Timing

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?

Face-to-face meeting

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!

Moving Day

  • 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.

Lifestyle changes

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:

  • Beds
  • Litter trays
  • Scratching posts
  • Food bowls
  • Water bowls
  • 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.

Bathing Your Cat

Wet Cat

Cats generally do a good job of keeping themselves clean, but for various reasons, there will be occasions you'll need to bathe your kitty. It's not as hard as you may think, once you both know the routine, so practice when your cat is young.

  1. Assemble your "tools" next to the kitchen sink: Two thick towels, cat shampoo, conditioner, (for longhaired cats), two large cups or mugs, clean sponge.
  2. Put a rubber shower mat in the bottom of the sink so kitty will not slip and slide.
  3. Run about two to three inches of body temperature water into the sink-- just enough to come up to kitty's belly. Test the water on your wrist, much as you'd test a baby bottle. You should not be able to discern heat or cold.
  4. Place a capful of the cat shampoo in a mug of warm water and mix well, to keep from shocking warm cat flesh with cold shampoo.
  5. Pick up your kitty and lower her gently but quickly into the water, talking calmly to her all the while. Another human helper is optional at this step.
  6. Give her a few minutes to relax to the idea that you aren't going to kill her, all the while talking to her and petting her.
  7. Turn on and test the temperature of the shower spray and holding it right up against the cat's skin, wet her body, taking care not to splash in her face.
  8. When she is well soaked, pour the diluted shampoo evenly over her entire body, again staying away from the head.
  9. Massage the shampoo gently into her fur for several minutes. Now is your chance to give her a full body massage. You may even find that she enjoys it.
  10. Rinse well, using body temperature water and the shower nozzle, stroking it the way you would a brush, in long strokes from the base of her neck down over her tail. You can gently pat some water on her tummy at this time, with your other hand.
  11. Give her several long petting strokes with your hand to slick away excess water, and to test for any remaining soapiness.
  12. Repeat steps 11 and 12 until all evidence of soap is gone. This is the most important process, as soap residue can dry her skin, leaving it vulnerable to rashes and infection.
  13. With a clean, moist sponge, wipe down the back of her head and her muzzle, again being careful to avoid her eyes, ears and mouth.
  14. Using a large bath towel, lift kitty out of the sink and pat her down, using the towel to blot up as much water as possible.
  15. Repeat step 13, using another clean towel, then leave her alone to continue the drying process by herself. Don't forget the praise!

Tips

  1. If your cat won't tolerate the shower spray, use a large measuring cup to pour the water over her in steps 7 and 11, taking care not to splash.
  2. If your cat is cool with it, you can use a hair dryer set on low to speed up the drying process. This is helpful with longhairs, but don't brush until completely dry.
  3. Although not necessary, diluted cream rinse may be applied after the first rinsing, then thoroughly rinsed out.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Good luck!

Introducing Cats To Children

Are cats and children a good mix?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.

Introducing an Adopted Cat Into a New Home

Introducing a new kitten or a cat into a household needn't be a trying experience for either the kitten or adoptive parent. Felines are most likely to adapt to new living arrangements and homes with or without resident pets if a few precautions are taken. No single plan will work equally well for all cats due to their different nature (each cat may differ in breed, personality, early experience, etc). Added to this, the same cat may react differently to two different living situations (some homes are smaller, noisier, and more crowded than other homes). However, cats are most likely to successfully adapt to a new home, with less stress, if the following arrangements can be made prior to introducing the cat. This is only a guideline, if there are specific suggestions we will let you know prior to bringing your cat home.


  1. Find a room the cat can use as its "home-base" for the next several days. The room should have a door, or some other way to "privatize" the room and cat from the more active hustle and bustle of daily living (including infants and other pets).
  2. In a corner opposite the door, place the cat’s litter box, preferably with sandy, clumping-type litter. If the cat has already established a preference for a different type litter, use it.
  3. In a separate corner, or as far away from the litter box as possible, place fresh water and food. You may wish to place a plastic carpet runner beneath both the feeding area and the litter box for purposes of cleaning.
  4. Select another corner (or area away from the litterbox) for kitty to sleep; you will probably have to change this location to your cat’s self-proclaimed sleeping area later (how many cats actually sleep where you want them to?), but that's okay.
  5. Place the cat in the room with you, with the door closed. ALLOW THE CAT TO DISCOVER WHERE EVERYTHING IS. DO NOT take the cat to the various locations.
  6. Be passive. Allow the kitten to discover the room's strong points, like window ledges to look out of, a comfortable couch or bed, tables to jump up on, and anything else in the room that might be used as an "escape route," should one be needed (from the kitten's point of view).
  7. You may wish to leave the kitten by itself when it appears its ready to take a nap, or when kitty appears relaxed and confident in its new surroundings. If kitty chooses to nap in your lap, consider yourself lucky. Of course, you can always try to place kitty in the sleeping area you've selected, and then leave the room.
  8. Your new companion animal will let you know when it’s ready to take on the rest of the house. It’s important that you allow the cat to do this at its own speed. A cracked door just large enough for the cat to enter or exit from its room is a good starting place.
  9. Keep other pets and family members from kitty's room. Introductions to these individuals should be well controlled. Again, allow the cat to approach and withdraw (back to its room if necessary) from people or other pets that remain passive.
  10. Once Kitty has become familiar with its new home and household members, you'll become aware of its preference for playing, eating, sleeping and other activities. At this point (anywhere from a few days to possibly a few weeks), you may begin to gradually change the location of the litter box and food bowl to areas preferred by both you and Kitty (hopefully the same areas!)

In General

The litter box should always be placed away from other motivationally important areas, such as sleeping, feeding, and playing areas. The box should be placed in an area that gives the cat both PRIVACY and ESCAPE POTENTIAL. NEVER punish the cat for missing the box by rubbing its nose in it, shaking it, or placing it in the box while upset (you or the cat). Instead, think about what might have made the box an unattractive place to use, and what made the "wrong" place a more attractive location, from your cat’s point of view. Make the necessary changes. Call your local veterinarian or cat shelter if you think your cat needs professional help!

If you have any other cat questions please feel free to email us and we will do our best to answer them.

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. 

Lethargy/Excessive Sleepiness

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.

Weight Loss

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.

Mini-Physical Exam

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.

Eyes

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.

Ears

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. 

Socializing Shy Kittens

Kittens over 8 weeks of age who’ve had no positive interaction with humans often take much longer to socialize. However, these same guidelines are often effective up to 6 months and often even with adult ferals although we recommend that only for people who have had experience with feral cats.

Location

The best place to socialize kittens is anywhere where the socializer can get on their same level and comfortably interact with the kittens without the kittens feeling "backed into a corner," or hiding out of reach. A dog pen large enough for the socializer to enter can be set up in any room and has the added advantage of more frequent exposure to typical human activity if placed in a busy room of the house. Most bathrooms work very well although they are isolated from continual household activity. A small room without hiding spots under couches and beds or behind furniture can also work very well. Radio and television sounds can contribute to getting outdoor ferals accustomed to the indoor environment. Small cages or carriers don’t work well since the cats always feel cornered when we reach in and they have no room to make the important "mind shift" where they decide to approach us out of self-interest in order to get the food they desire. They need to have the option not to be near you in order to make that decision to approach.

Cats socialize themselves by choice!
We only provide the incentive…Food.

FOOD is the most important tool to facilitate the socialization process. Growing kittens have an insatiable appetite which will give them the courage to approach you and be touched when they might normally never allow you anywhere near them. Putting food down and walking away takes away any incentive for them to welcome you into their world.

The following guidelines are not hard fast rules. You may find that the kittens skip to advanced stages very quickly or you may find they follow a sequence of their own design.

  1. Evaluation - If the kittens are healthy, using the litter box, and will eat in front of you, you can safely begin delaying meals just enough to give you the advantage of hunger. (If not, you may decide to give them a "free ride" until this situation stabilizes. Once they seem calmer or the vet gives the OK, you may begin the "tough love" stage of socialization where you space out the meals so that the kittens are eager to learn.)
  2. Tough love – Never put food down and walk away. If the kittens will eat in your presence, progressively pull the dish as close to you as possible. Stay with the kittens until they have eaten and then take the food away with you when you leave. Always leave water of course.
  3. Eating off your finger - When the kittens are eating from a dish right beside you, start offering something tasty off your finger. Gerber or Beechnut baby food are favorites in Turkey, Chicken or Beef flavors. You may want to try this in place of step 2 if they won’t move close to you to eat from the dish. The order is of no importance as long as they are improving on some level. Be flexible but don’t let them hold you hostage at the stage of their choice. "Get tough," and make them work for it.
  4. Lead them onto your lap – Once they are used to eating off your finger, use that to lead them up into contact with your body by their choice. You can also try putting a dish in your lap and let the entire litter climb up onto you to eat. The braver ones will start and the shy ones may need to be worked with individually at their level. Lead the braver ones as close as possible and see if they will make eye contact with you while licking from your finger. That’s a biggie for them!
  5. Initiate Contact – Initiate contact at the beginning of a session where the kittens are particularly hungry and eagerly engrossed in eating. Start with them eating from a dish or while eating off the finger and eventually progress to touching them and petting while they are in your lap eating. Start in the head and shoulder area only. If s/he runs off lure them back with baby food on the finger and any bad experience should be soon forgotten. (This approach works at any stage. Back up to a stage that they’ve mastered and work back up to where they "freaked-out." Don’t stop the session until they’ve forgotten the bad experience and are happily doing one of the steps with which they feel comfortable.)
  6. Preparation for lifting – Expand petting and touching around the head and shoulders by moving to touching the underbelly to desensitize them for being picked up. Also try nudging them from one side to the other while they are engrossed in eating. Just having your hands near them and gently pushing them around is an important preparation to being picked up.
  7. Moving on the ground - Set up two dishes and gently scoot a kitten the short distance from one dish to the other. If the kitten is engrossed in eating s/he won’t mind being lifted if it goes smoothly and quickly. If not, lure ‘em back, back up and start over.
  8. Picking them up – Start sitting on the floor. work. Have a full jar of baby food opened and ready before you try the first pick-up. Try it when they are engrossed in eating right next to you rather than scrambling after them on the run. Lift them under their chest with the food right in front of them. Hold them as loosely as possible onto your knees and eventually to your chest. Young kittens are often reassured if they feel the warmth of your body and can feel your heart beat when held against your chest. If it works you can try it up onto your knees the next day and eventually standing up.
  9. Handling w/o food - After a good long session where the kitten(s) are very full and getting sleepy, try gentle petting and work up to holding and petting without the incentive of food being present. If this works you should be able to try it at other times between meals. It may be hardest just before feeding when the kittens are very hungry and confused and stressed by being held when they have only food on their minds.
  10. Transition to adoption - A crash course in socializing for the adopting family may be needed to assure that the transition to the home goes well. If the adopter starts them in the bathroom rather than turning the kittens loose to the run of the house, it will assure that they can bond with the kittens and that the kittens will know where the litter box is. If not the kittens often run off under the couch to hide for the foreseeable future.

Interactive Play

Most feral and shy kittens are frightened by interactive play when first exposed to humans. There is no rule for when to introduce it, or when they will accept it, but the best way to start is with a toy which isn’t too threatening. A string on the end of a stick or some toy that allows you entice them from a distance allows them to get involved with your game without being face to face with you.

Save Baby Food (or whatever proves to be their favorite food) as a reward for new steps or to break through a plateau. Once a step has been mastered, only offer regular food as a reward for that step saving special treats for new territory. Remember the Mantra is "tough love."

Supplies Every Cat Household Needs

Outfitting a house for a new cat isn't nearly as complicated as it may seem. Just a little advance thought will help make the newcomer feel at home and welcome in strange new surroundings.

Every cat household needs the following:

Litter Box and Litter

The litter box, or pan, should be shallow enough for the cat to jump into easily, but the sides should be high enough to contain scattered litter as the cat scratches in it. Commercially sold plastic litter boxes are excellent. Some have high-domed lids on them to keep flung litter from spreading throughout the house. 

You probably won't have to worry about training your cat to use the litter box, but you will need to show your cat where to find it. Cats are fastidious and have a keen sense of smell. It is important to clean the pan daily. 

Never place a litter box close to where the cat is fed, because cats believe these two duties are quite separate, and they will choose to do one or the other elsewhere. Many people put the litter box in the bathroom, away from high-traffic areas.

Cat Dishes

Each cat should have his or her own food and water dishes. These must be shallow; cats like to keep their faces and whiskers clean while they eat.

Grooming Tools

Although cats groom themselves, they generally love to be brushed and combed. Long-haired cats must be brushed daily to prevent their hair from matting. Even short-haired cats enjoy the attention and the stimulation of being personally attended to. Use a daily brushing ritual to keep an eye on your cat's overall health and on skin and coat conditions. Some rubber brushes have special teeth that dig down and remove loose dander and dead skin cells. Metal, fine-toothed combs are designed to extract fleas from the coat.

Nail Clippers

You also can use human-nail clippers. Read our tips for trimming your cat's claws (see link below) and, if you have trouble convincing your companion to cooperate, ask your veterinarian or groomer for additional advice or a demonstration.

A Scratching Post

Cats can be easily trained to scratch on a scratching post instead of the sofa arm or mahogany table leg. The scratching post should be untippable and covered in sisal rope or the webbed reverse side of carpet (a fireplace log is also a good alternative). Do not cover the post with the same kind of fabric that you are trying to protect in your home—upholstery or carpeting. That will only confuse your cat.

An Inviting Bed

Cats will sleep where they want to, which is usually with you. If you do not want your cat in bed with you at night, you must provide a more appealing option, such as a soft pillow or an inviting old comforter. Anything soft and warm, especially if it has your scent on it, can attract your cat. But let your cat discover it; a cat who is forced to lie down on a restricted spot will summarily reject that spot. And consider rethinking your policy against animals in bed. A purring companion at your feet is a better sleeping aid than anything you can find in a drugstore.

Toys

Many common household items make great cat toys. Plastic rings from milk jugs and Ping-Pong balls are fun to chase. You can make a "mouse house" by cutting a hole in the bottom and the side of a paper bag; flick a wad of paper inside the bag and watch your cat ingeniously fish it out. 

Avoid string, ribbon, or rolls of yarn. Cats' barbed tongues make it difficult for them to spit anything out once they begin to swallow it. Besides the potential for choking, string can cause serious problems if ingested. 

When buying commercial cat toys, pick a toy that you could give to an infant. There should be no parts that can come off and be swallowed. Keep small children's toys away from cats. Contrary to the myth that cats only eat what's good for them, toy soldiers have found their way into cats' digestive tracts.

The Top Ten Essentials

Although your cat may act independent and be litter-trained, he still counts on you to provide him with food, water, safe shelter, regular veterinary care, companionship, and more. Take care of these ten essentials, and you'll be guaranteed to develop a rewarding relationship with your feline companion.

  1. Outfit your cat with a collar and ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there's a chance your companion may slip out the door—an ID tag greatly increases the chance that your cat will be returned home safely.
  2. Follow local cat registration laws. Licensing, a registration and identification system administered by some local governments, protects both cats and people in the community.
  3. Keep your cat indoors. Keeping your cat safely confined at all times is best for you, your pet, and your community.
  4. Take your cat to the veterinarian for regular check-ups. If you do not have a veterinarian, ask your local animal shelter or a pet-owning friend for a referral.
  5. Spay or neuter your pet. This will keep her healthier and will reduce the problem of cat overpopulation.
  6. Give your cat a nutritionally balanced diet, including constant access to fresh water. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what and how often to feed your pet.
  7. Train your cat to refrain from undesirable behaviors such as scratching furniture and jumping on countertops. Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained with a bit of patience, effort, and understanding on your part.
  8. Groom your cat often to keep her coat healthy, soft, and shiny. Although it is especially important to brush long-haired cats to prevent their hair from matting, even short-haired felines need to be groomed to remove as much loose hair as possible. When cats groom themselves, they ingest a great deal of hair, which often leads to hairballs.
  9. Set aside time to play with your cat. While cats do not need the same level of exercise that dogs do, enjoying regular play sessions with your pet will provide him with the physical exercise and mental stimulation he needs, as well as strengthen the bond you share.
  10. Be loyal to and patient with your cat. Make sure the expectations you have of your companion are reasonable and remember that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved. If you are struggling with your pet's behavior, contact your veterinarian or local animal shelter for advice.

Why Two Kittens Are Better Than One

The hardest task is to pick just two.

The decision to adopt a kitten is an exciting event, but not to be entered into lightly. Kittens require an enormous amount of care, which, of course, is compensated by the extreme pleasure of watching them grow and develop. Sometimes, it is better to adopt two kittens, whether this is your first cat or an addition to a feline family. I put the challenge to my forum members to explain why two kittens are better than one. They came up with some very solid and creative arguments for two kittens.

You're Saving Two Lives Instead Of One

"If it's kitten season, that's one more kitten that will get a home instead of growing into an adult which will decrease its chance of getting adopted." It is entirely true that kittens are much easier to place than adult cats, and the 15-month-old cat you see in the shelter today is very likely a holdover from last year's crop of kittens. Another way of looking at it is that it's better to get all the kittens adopted out right away, to give the older cats a better chance at finding homes.

One kitten can become lonely

A kitten left alone during the day can become lonely and bored, which sometimes can lead to mischief. Two kittens will never be lonely, especially if they are siblings but that is not always the case - a kitten from 2 different litters can and very often form a bond just as strong as if they were littermates. In fact, you'll often find situations in shelters and rescue group adoption where a cage will contain two kittens with a sign, "These kittens may be adopted only as a pair." Shelter volunteers recognize that siblings and bonded cats/kittens really need to stay together. And since shelters are often frightening places to small creatures, unrelated cats often form close bonds that should be respected when adoption time comes.

One Kitten Can Just Drive An Older Cat Nuts

Older cats' patience runs thin when a kitten wants to play Although it might sound contrary, an older, established cat will probably accept two kittens better than one. One kitten will seek out the older cat as a playmate, or worse, tease and pester the senior cat which can cause stress to an older cat. The kitten in return, will be "rewarded" for his playful efforts with hisses and swats. Two kittens will expend their energy in play with each other, leaving their older "uncle" to relax in peace.

Two Kittens Will "Self-Train"

These kittens are learning litter box manners together Kittens learn by copying. If one kitten is quick to learn appropriate litter box use, the other will be likely to copy. They also help each other with grooming; washup after meals soon becomes a ritual with two kittens.

They Help Each Other Burn Off Energy

These kittens are "playfighting," an essential part of their development Even the most devoted human caregiver can quickly become exhausted by trying to keep up with the energy of a single kitten. Two kittens will wear each other out, leaving their human parent free to just enjoy watching them. The downside to this, of course is sometimes you have double trouble!

Fewer Behavior Problems With Two Kittens

Jaspurr and Joey take time out on their own bench Many people who experience behavior problems with kittens find that some of them go away when they adopt another playmate. What may be perceived as mischief is often just the result of boredom. Much like their human counterparts, kittens sometimes misbehave because "negative attention is better than no attention."

Curiosity Overcomes "Food Finickyness"

Two kittens share everything, including food preferences "If one kitten is finicky about food, the belligerence is often overcome by curiosity at what its sibling is eating. (Feed one cat Same Old, the other cat New Stuff, and they both end up tasting the new stuff.)"

They Act As Pillows For One Another

Joey finds that Jaspurr makes a superb pillow. Kittens will often play so hard that they simply flop where they are, and more likely than not, they will flop next to (or on top of) each other. There is no sight so endearing as two kittens curled up together for a nap. Their peaceful innocence can soften the heart of even the grumpiest curmudgeon, and the sight of that blissful moment will wash clean the slate of their previous misdoings.

Having Two Kittens Is Insanely Fun

There's no denying it; kittens are insanely fun! "And last, of course, they're just so much darn fun to watch!" Having lived through (and survived nicely) the joy of adopting and raising two kittens, I can personally attest to the downright fun of having two kittens.

They Will Each Have A Friend For Life

Jaspurr and Joey enjoy their first birthday "cake," together - still best friends Two kittens who grow up together will almost always be lifelong friends. Although they will sometimes have their little squabbles (what friends don't?) you will more often see them engaging in mutual grooming, playing together, and sleeping with their best pal. If you are considering adopting a kitten, think about your best friend and consider whether you would deprive your kitten of the enrichment a friend brings to life.