How do I train my cat to use a scratching post?

Since scratching is a normal feline behavior, it is important to offer you cat or kitten scratching posts. A post that has more than one type of material (natural wood, sisal rope, carpet, etc.) or several posts is ideal. It/they should be sturdy and provide horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces. Place the post in an area where you spend a lot of time and in prominent locations. It is a good idea to place a post where your cat sleeps, because they like to stretch and scratch when they wake up from a snooze. Encourage your cat to use the post by making it attractive with catnip. You can even use toys the cat will chase, and play with them on the post. Young kittens will not object to you taking their paws and rubbing them on the post. Reward your cat whenever it scratches in the appropriate area (verbal praise, food treats, catnip,etc). Use an “aversion” when inappropriate scratching occurs (water spray or loud noise). You can also make inappropriate surfaces undesirable by using double sided sticky tape – cats don’t like to stick to their scratching posts!!

How can I stop my cat from urinating outside its litterbox?

The first step in solving inappropriate elimination problems is to determine the cause. There are three primary categories of elimination disorders: physical, behavioral and litterbox aversion.

It is very important to first have your cat examined by a veterinarian, and a urine sample checked to rule out medical or physical problems. Often when cats have urinary tract infections, bladder stones, or metabolic diseases such as hyperthyroid disease, diabetes, or renal disease, the cat will urinate inappropriately (outside the litter box).

All the behavior modification in the world is not going to help a cat that has a medical problem!

If the problem is determined to be behavioral, there are behavior modification techniques that may be helpful. Most cats prefer unscented, scoopable/clumping litter. You should scoop your litter boxes at least once each day. There should be at least one litter box per cat and one litter box per floor of the house. They should be located in quiet, easily accessible location (not next to the furnace, dehumidifier, or dishwasher that can make unexpected frightening noises). Avoid using covered litter boxes. Many cats dislike the cover because they feel confined or vulnerable to attack, and the covers trap the odors. Most cats do not like the way a plastic litter box liner feels on their paws. Cats generally like litter to be two to three inches deep.

Make sure to clean areas where your cat has urinated with an enzymatic cleaner that chemically breaks down the urine. Even if you can’t smell the urine, the cat may still be able to, and may be inclined to use that spot again. If your cat prefers a certain location, try adding a litter box there and gradually moving it to your desired spot. When you are not supervising your cat, limit its access to the inappropriate location.

What kinds of things are poisonous to my cat?

There are many houseplants that can be toxic to cats such as Philodendron, Dieffenbachia, Easter lily, English ivy, and others. Chocolate, Tylenol, and Ibuprofen can also be very toxic. Automobile antifreeze tastes sweet but is extremely toxic, as are rodenticides (rat poisons). Any of these things can be fatal. If your cat has ingested something you think may be toxic, you can call the National Animal Poison Control Center at (900) 680-0000. There is a charge for this call. Or, you can call South Carolina Animal Poison Control at (800) 922-1117. This is a free call. You can also click this link for an informative list of houseplants that may be toxic to your pets.

Strings, rubber bands, cat toys, paper clips, and other items can also be serious threats to your cat’s health if they are ingested. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your cat eats anything it isn’t supposed to.

How do I introduce my new cat to my other pets?

It is important to have your cat examined by a veterinarian before introducing it to existing pets in the household in order to ensure that it doesn’t have any contagious diseases such as an upper respiratory virus or parasites.

All new pets should be separated from existing pets for at least a week to prevent spread of contagious diseases which that new animal may be harboring. The introduction should be very gradual. It is helpful to keep the new cat in one room with it’s own litterbox, food, toys, etc. This allows the new cat to adapt to the new surroundings and for the existing cat(s) to get used to the idea of a new feline in the household gradually and without the risk of a full face-to-face controntation.

How can I travel with my cat?

If you are traveling by airplane you will need to consult the airline for specific guidelines concerning appropriate carriers, temperature restrictions, and other things. You will need to get a health certificate for each cat stating that it is healthy, free of any contagious diseases, and current on its rabies vaccine. These need to be issued within 10 days (in the state of South Carolina) of your departure date. This is normally all that is required for interstate travel, but there are some exceptions, so it is always a good idea to check with the State Veterinarians’ Office for the state of destination. International travel can be much more complicated, so check with the USDA for full details on the requirements for entry into foreign countries.

If you are traveling by car you should try to acclimate your cat to its carrier and to the car before the trip. Each cat should have its own carrier. It helps to leave the carrier out for many days before the trip so the cat can become familiar with the way it looks, smells, etc. You want to have as many positive things as possible associated with the carrier. Put the cat’s food in the carrier, throw treats in it, place toys or catnip in it. Make the carrier a fun thing. Once the cat is used to the carrier, acclimate the cat to the car. Do this by taking very short trips in it. Go around the block and then come home and feed the cat. Use a lot of praise and positive rewards such as food and attention. Take progressively longer rides. Never yell at or scold the cat while it is in the carrier!

Sedatives are available for cats who need them. Contact your veterinarian for a prescription.