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If you share your life with a cat, you know how wonderfully playful, intelligent, independent, and affectionate felines can be. However, you may have some questions about how to care for your cat. This section will address these and other issues that face those who enjoy the companionship of a cat.

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Bringing Your New Cat Home

Congratulations! You have a new cat. No doubt you’re looking forward to years of happy companionship. But what do you do now?

Be prepared

Before bringing your new furball home, outfit your home with all the supplies you could possibly need.

Coming home

The first thing you should know about your new pet is that most cats hate to travel. For the trip home, confine your pet in a sturdy cat carrier. Don't leave him loose in your car, where he might panic and cause an accident, or get out when you open the car door. He may yowl and cry and try mightily to get out of the carrier, but don't give in.

Upon arrival

After the ride home, he will, most likely, not be in the mood for fun. To make his transition to your household as comfortable as possible, select a quiet, closed-in area, such as your bedroom or a small room away from the main foot traffic, and provide him with a litter box, food and water, toys, and a scratching post.

Let your new pet become acquainted with that limited area for the first few days. Be sure to spend plenty of time with him in that room, but if he’s hiding under the bed, don’t force him to come out.  If necessary, sit on the floor to talk to him and offer treats. Let him sniff all your belongings and investigate all the hiding places.

Your new cat may be full of self-confidence and itching to get out and make himself at home. Or he may be more of a shrinking violet who needs more time to adjust.

The first week

Over a few days, slowly introduce him to the rest of your house, including the other pets and household members. Make sure he always has access to "his" room so he can retreat to it if he feels nervous. It will take a little while, but he'll eventually start to feel comfortable at home.

Cats vary in terms of how demanding they are as pets, so let yours guide you to the level of attention he wants, whether it's your hand for petting, or your lap for sitting. Provide him with the necessary creature comforts, and give him the companionship he seeks, and he'll be content.

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Aggression Between Cats

Your cat's best friend may not be another cat. Cats are very territorial creatures and often vehemently defend their turf.

Two's company -

Many people adopt a second cat thinking that the resident cat will be happy. This is a risky move. Just because your cat is sweet and loving with you doesn't mean he's going to be sweet to another cat.

Although you can increase the chances that they will get along or at least tolerate one another by making proper introductions, there's no way to predict whether cats will get along with each other. Unfortunately, there's no training method that can guarantee that they ever will. But we're here to help negotiate a truce.

Types of aggressive behaviors -

First, let's understand the different types of aggression and what causes them.

Territorial aggression: This occurs when a cat feels that an intruder has invaded her territory.

  • A cat may be aggressive toward one cat (usually the most passive), yet friendly and tolerant with another. 
  • Problems often occur when a new cat is brought home, a young kitten reaches maturity, or a cat sees or encounters neighborhood cats outside.
  • Typical behavior includes stalking, chasing, ambushing, hissing, loud meowing, swatting, and preventing access to places (such as the litter box, bedroom, etc.)
  • Female cats can be just as territorial as males.

Inter-male aggression: Adult male cats may threaten, and sometimes fight with, other males. This is more common among unneutered cats. They may fight over a female, for a higher place on the totem pole, or to defend territory.
Cats stalk, stare, yowl, howl, and puff up their fur (picture the arched back of the Halloween cat) to back each other down.  If one does back down and walk away, the aggressor, having made his point, will usually walk away as well.

If no one backs down, cats may actually fight. They may roll around biting, kicking, swatting, and screaming, suddenly stop, resume posturing, fight again, or walk away. If you see signs that a fight may occur, distract the cats by clapping loudly, tossing a pillow nearby, or squirting them with water. These actions can also be used to break up a fight.Keep your distance.

Defensive aggression: Defensive aggression occurs when a cat tries to protect himself from an animal or human attacker he believes he can't escape.

This can occur in response to:

  • Punishment or the threat of punishment from a person
  • An attack or attempted attack from another cat
  • Any incident that makes the animal feel threatened or afraid 

Defensive postures include:

  • Crouching with the legs and tail pulled in under the body
  • Flattening the ears against the head
  • Rolling slightly to the side

Continuing to approach a cat in this posture is likely to cause an attack.

Redirected aggression: Cats direct this type of aggression toward another animal, or even a person, who didn't initially provoke the behavior.

For example, your cat is sitting in the window and sees an outdoor cat walk across the front yard.  He gets very agitated because that cat is in his territory. You pet him; he turns and bites you. He doesn’t even know who you are at that point—he's so worked up about the cat outside that he attacks the first thing that crosses his path.

Smoothing ruffled feathers -

Your first step should always be to contact your veterinarian for a thorough health examination. Cats often hide symptoms of illness until they're seriously ill; your aggressive cat may be feeling sick and taking out his misery on others. 

If your cat gets a clean bill of health, consult your vet or an animal behavior specialist for help. A behaviorist will advise you on what can be done. You may need to start the introduction process all over again, keep the cats in separate areas of your home, or even find one of the cats a new home if the aggression is extreme and can’t be resolved.

Consult with your veterinarian about a short course of anti-anxiety medication for your cats while you're working on changing their behavior/s. Never medicate your cat on your own.

Prevent future fights -

This could mean keeping the cats separated from each other while you work on the problem, or at least preventing contact between them during situations likely to trigger a fight.

Spay or neuter your pets. The behavior of one intact animal can negatively affect all of your pets.

What to avoid

  • Don't count on the cats to "work things out." The more theyfight, the worse the problem is likely to become. To stop a fight in progress, make a loud noise (like blowing a whistle), squirt the cats with water or throw something soft at them.
  • Don't touch them, or you might get seriously scratched or bitten. Seek medical attention if you're injured.
  • Don't punish the cats involved. Punishment could cause further aggression and fearful responses, which will only make the problem worse. You could even become a target for redirected aggression. 
  • Don't add more cats. Some cats are willing to share their house and territory with multiple cats, but the more cats who share the same territory, the more likely it is that some of your cats will not get along with each other.

It's a mystery -

Many factors determine how well cats will get along with one another, but even animal behavior experts don't fully understand them.

We do know that cats who are well-socialized (those who had pleasant experiences with other cats during kittenhood) will likely be more sociable than those who haven't been around many other cats.

On the other hand, "street cats," who are in the habit of fighting with other cats to defend their territory and food, might not do well in a multi-cat household.

 

Used with permission. http://www.humanesociety.org/

Wanted: A nice warm barn to call home.

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Every barn needs a good cat to watch over it. Currently, the Humane Society has an abundance of felines who would make first-rate barn cats.  In addition to being excellent, natural mousers, they can make great outdoor companions who gradually get to know their people and often grow affectionate and talkative over time.

Barn cats ask little of their people -- just an ample supply of fresh food and water each day, a safe and cozy area in the barn padded with straw for cold winter nights, and a commitment to providing veterinary attention when needed. You may ask, why adopt barn cats when they could just return to their habitats? Because adoption provides a great alternative for semi-feral cats who face dangers out in the world and sometimes don't know where their next meal is coming from. It's a good thing for both person and cat.

If you can offer these cats a home, please contact the Humane Society for more info. Advice and training on acclimating a barn cat to your barn or farm environment is available.

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Kittenproof Your Home

 

1.   Look around your house first, at high shelves and low cupboards and hidden nooks. Do you see things that kitty might break, or harmful substances she might ingest?

2.   If you're into needlework, keep your supplies in a closed container. Needles and thread might appear to be fine playthings, but can be fatal if your kitten swallows them. Kittens playing with balls of yarn may make delightful pictures, but put the yarn away right after the photo session.

3.   Fold and secure your window blinds cord with a rubber band, out of kitty's reach. If she gets tangled up in it, she could strangle.

4.   Kittens are wonderful little packrats. If you don't want to find your floors littered with garbage, invest in covered wastebaskets and kitchen garbage containers.

5.   Always keep the door to your clothes dryer closed, and double-check inside before using it. Cats like to find dark, warm places to sleep, and the results could be tragic.

6.   Keep the floor clean of stray rubber bands, ribbon and twine. All are hazardous when ingested by a kitten.

7.   Keep cupboard doors and dresser drawers securely closed. Cats can find all kinds of mischief inside, and can be injured if you close a drawer and the kitten is behind it. Use child-safe fasteners for kitchen cabinets.

8.   Cloth drapes are better left out of reach of your furry 'curtain-climber'. Tie them up securely until your kitten is trained to a scratching post.

9.   Keep your toilet lid down at all times, lest kitty fall in or drink from it. Better yet, keep your bathroom off-limits to your kitten unless you absolutely have to keep her litterbox there.

10.   Do not keep your kitten in the garage, and always keep the doors closed. Anti-freeze is very tasty to animals, and is just one of the common poisonous substances found in garages.

11.   Cover electric cords, such as the tangle from your computer, with covers sold for that purpose. Caution: wrapping electic cords could be a fire hazard.

12.   There are a number of household plants poisonous to cats.

13.   Remove all breakable valuables from high shelves and store them in a cabinet with a door.

14.   Use animal-safe insect repellant. Commercial roach and ant poison will kill cats if ingested.

 

Tips:

  1. The real secret to kitten-proofing is to look at your home through the eyes of a cat. Find everything that looks like a swell toy, and if it's something harmful, get rid of it or make it safe.
  2. Bitter Apple or lemon-scented sprays are both great for marking areas you want to be off-limits. Cats hate the taste and/or scent of them.
  3. If your kitten will be indoors-outdoors, make sure your yard is clear of snail poison, rodent traps, and other hazardous material. Better yet: fill your house with attractive toys and make him an inside-only cat.

Feline Wisdom

Eventually, we all land on our feet.
Admire leaps of faith.
All the action happens at night.
Paws every day for a nice stretch.
You can die from boredom, but curiosity won't kill you.
Maintain good hygiene at all times.
There's only one boss, and it's not you.
The best things in life are furry.
Live your life in the here and meow.
Cat hair is a wonderful complement to any outfit.
Fight stress by taking a nap every half hour or so.
Any empty lap is fair game.
It doesn't hurt to stay out all night now and then.
When it comes to hogging the bed, it's a free-fur-all.
Sometimes things can get a little hairy.
Always keep a positive cattitude.

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Solving Litter Box Problems
 
If you're having a hard time persuading your cat to use the litter box, it just may be time to draw a line in the sand. Most cats prefer eliminating on a loose, grainy substance, which is why they quickly learn to use a litter box. But when their preferences include the laundry basket, the bed, or the Persian rug, you may find yourself with a difficult problem. By taking a closer look at your cat's environment, you should be able to identify factors that have contributed to the problem, and make changes that encourage your cat to head for the litter box once again. The most common reasons why cats don't use the litter box are an aversion to the box, such as dislike of a covered box, or dissatisfaction with the depth of the litter. Two other common reasons are a preference for a particular type of litter not provided in the box, or a preference for a particular location where there is no box.
 

Sometimes, the problem is a combination of all these factors. To get to the answer, you'll need to do a little detective work—and remember, the original source of the problem may not be the reason it's continuing. For example, your cat may have stopped using the litter box because of a urinary tract infection, and then developed a surface preference for carpet and a location preference for the bedroom closet. If that's the case, you'll need to address all three of these factors to resolve the problem.

Cats don't stop using their litter boxes because they're upset at their human caregivers and are determined to get revenge for something that "offended" them. Because humans act for these reasons, it's easy for us to assume that our pets do as well. But animals don't act out of spite or revenge, so it won't help to punish your cat or give her special privileges in the hope that she'll start using the litter box again.

Medical Problems

It's common for cats with medical problems to begin eliminating outside of their litter box. For example, a urinary tract infection or crystals in the urine can make urination painful—and both are serious conditions that require medical attention. Cats often associate this pain with the litter box and begin to avoid it. So if your cat has a house-soiling problem, check with your veterinarian first to rule out any medical problems. Cats don't always act sick, even when they are, and only a trip to the veterinarian for a thorough physical examination can rule out a medical problem.

Cleaning Soiled Areas

Because animals are highly motivated to continue soiling an area that smells like urine or feces—and because cats' sense of smell is so much stronger than humans'—it's important to thoroughly and properly clean the soiled areas.

Urine stains will glow in the dark under a fluorescent black light, which can generally be purchased at hardware and pet supply stores. Once located, the stains should be cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner, also available at pet supply stores. Strong smelling household cleaners will do little to eliminate the odor or deter your pet from re-marking the area. Be sure to clean the area thoroughly before steam cleaning to avoid "locking in" the odor.

Aversion to the Litter Box

Your cat may have decided the litter box is an unpleasant place to eliminate if:

  • The box is not clean enough for her.
  • She has experienced painful urination or defecation in the box due to a medical problem.
  • She has been startled by a noise while using the box.
  • She has been "ambushed" while in the box by another cat, a child, a dog, or by you, if you were attempting to catch her for some reason.
  • She associates the box with punishment. (For example, someone punished her for eliminating outside the box, then placed her in the box.)

What You Can Do:

  • Keep the litter box extremely clean. Scoop at least once a day and change the litter completely every four to five days. If you use scoopable litter, you may not need to change the litter as frequently, depending on the number of cats in the household, the size of the cats, and the number of litter boxes. If you can smell the box, then you can be pretty sure it's offensive to your cat as well.
  • Add a new box in a different location, and use a different type of litter in the new box. Because your cat has decided that her old litter box is unpleasant, you'll want to make the new one different enough that she doesn't simply apply the old, negative associations to the new box.
  • Make sure that the litter box isn't near an appliance (such as a furnace) that makes noise, or in an area of the home that your cat doesn't frequent.
  • If ambushing is a problem, create more than one exit from the litter box, so that if the "ambusher" is waiting by one area, your cat always has an escape route.
  • If you have multiple cats, provide one litter box for each cat, plus one extra box in a different location.

Surface Preferences

All animals develop preferences for a particular surface on which they like to eliminate. These preferences may be established early in life, but they may also change overnight for reasons that we don't always understand. Your cat may have a surface preference if:

  • She consistently eliminates on a particular texture—for example, soft-textured surfaces such as carpeting, bedding, or clothing, or slick-textured surfaces such as tile, cement, bathtubs, or sinks.
  • She frequently scratches on this same texture after elimination, even if she eliminates in the litter box.
  • She is or was previously an outdoor cat and prefers to eliminate on grass or soil.

What You Can Do:

  • If you recently changed the type or brand of cat litter, go back to providing the litter that your cat had been using.
  • If your cat is eliminating on soft surfaces, try using a high-quality, scoopable litter.
  • If your cat is eliminating on slick, smooth surfaces, try putting a very thin layer of litter at one end of the box, leaving the other end bare, and put the box on a hard floor.
  • If your cat has a history of being outdoors, add some soil or sod to the litter box.

Location Preferences

Your cat may have a location preference if:

  • She always eliminates in quiet, protected places, such as under a desk, beneath a staircase, or in a closet.
  • She eliminates in an area where the litter box was previously kept or where there are urine odors.
  • She eliminates on a different level of the home from where the litter box is located.

What You Can Do:

  • Put at least one litter box on every level of your home. (Remember, a properly cleaned litter box does not smell.)
  • To make the area where she has been eliminating less appealing to your cat, cover the area with upside-down carpet runner or aluminum foil, place citrus-scented cotton balls over the area, or place water bowls in the area (because cats often don't like to eliminate near where they eat or drink).

    OR

  • Put a litter box in the location where your cat has been eliminating. When she has consistently used this box for at least one month, you may gradually move it to a more convenient location at a rate of an inch—seriously!—per day.

Everyone Makes Mistakes

If you catch your cat in the act of eliminating outside the litter box, do something to interrupt her like making a startling noise, but be careful not to scare her. Immediately take her to the litter box and set her on the floor nearby. If she wanders over to the litter box, wait and praise her after she eliminates in the box. If she takes off in another direction, she may want privacy, so watch from afar until she goes back to the litter box and eliminates, then praise her when she does.

Don't ever punish your cat for eliminating outside of the litter box. By the time you find the soiled area, it's too late to administer a correction. Do nothing but clean it up. Rubbing your cat's nose in it, taking her to the spot and scolding her, or inflicting any other type of punishment will only make her afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence. Animals don't understand punishment after the fact, even if it's only seconds later, and trying to punish them will often make matters worse.

Other Types of House Soiling Problems

Marking/Spraying: To determine if your cat is marking or spraying, consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist.

Fears or Phobias: When animals become frightened, they may lose control of their bladder and/or bowels. If your cat is afraid of loud noises, strangers, or other animals, she may soil the home when she is exposed to these stimuli.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Humane Society of the United States.

 

Caring For Your Cat: The Top Ten Essentials.
 
  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, contact the Humane Society 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 search the internet for information on your particular issue.

 

Reprinted by permission of The Humane Society of the United States.

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Raising Orphan Kittens

A kitten may need hand raising because the mother has died, become ill, rejected the kittens or abandoned them. In the case of feral cats, the kittens may have been taken from the mother for taming. Kittens should not be taken from the mother before 5 to 6 weeks of age if possible. (For wild kittens you may want to take them away from the mother at 4 weeks to tame them. As they get older, taming gets progressively harder.) The longer the mother cat is able to feed the kittens the better since young kittens need mother's milk for best nutrition as well as important antibodies. This passive immunity usually lasts until the kittens are 6-14 weeks of age. Since orphans have no such protection, they are especially vulnerable to disease. First try finding a foster feline mother; breeders, veterinarians and animal shelters may know of nursing cats in your area. Try calling any "cat people" that you know for leads as well. Cats will very often feed kittens other than their own. If you must feed them yourself before weaning age, you must devote considerable energy and weeks of constant care if the kitten is to have a good chance at survival. The younger the kitten, the more fragile it is. Very young kittens may not survive without a mother no matter how good the care.

Warmth & Feeding

As soon as you find an orphaned kitten it must be protected from becoming chilled.  During their first week, kittens should be kept between 88 and 92 degrees F. For the next 2 weeks they still need temperatures of 80 degrees or so. When they reach 5 weeks  they can tolerate a lower room temperature.  Place a heating pad, set on LOW, in the bottom of a box or carrier, making certain to cover only half of the area with the heating pad. Put a folded blanket or towels over the heating pad. After a few minutes, press your hand to the bedding, it should feel warm, NEVER HOT.

As soon as possible, take the kitten to a veterinarian to be checked out for dehydration and general condition. Kittens can become dehydrated very quickly without a mom and may need fluids under the skin. Kittens that are dehydrated from lack of fluids or diarrhea will have very little energy or appetite, so this is important to take care of immediately. Stools should be checked for worms and parasites. The vet can supply a lot of advice on hand raising kittens as well as needed supplies so don't skip this step. When you get the kitten home you must continue to provide warmth. It's important to warm the kitten before attempting to feed the kitten!

Feeding can be done with feline replacement formula and a nursing bottle, (available at vet supply stores). Mix up enough formula for one - two days and no more than that. Store in the refrigerator. A plastic water bottle works well as the squirt tops make it easy to fill the nursing bottles.

Be careful not to force feed the kitten. Let the baby suck at its own pace, otherwise you can fill the baby's lungs with milk and cause pneumonia. Do not squeeze the bottle! It's very important to use the correct sized hole in the nipple. Too large and the fluid will pour out and choke the kitten, (watch for milk bubbles coming out of the nose), too small a hole and the kitten will not be able to suck the formula out of the bottle and will become exhausted in the process. The formula should slowly drip from the tip when the bottle is held upside down. Keep your bottles, nipples and formula containers clean!

To feed your kitten, place it stomach down on a towel or other textured surface to which it can cling. Slip the nipple between its jaws, hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle to prevent air from entering the kitten's stomach.  If a kitten should aspirate formula into its lungs, immediately hold it upside down until the choking subsides. If the kitten is not strong enough to suckle, seek veterinary assistance ASAP.

Formula should be warmed to body temperature by placing the bottle in a cup of hot water for five minutes. DO NOT warm formula in the microwave. Feed kittens less than two weeks of age every 2-3 hours. As they get older every 4-6 hours will be enough. Check the package for recommended feeding amounts and feedings per day. A kitten needs approximately 8 cc’s of formula per ounce of body weight per day. The kitten's age determines the number of daily feedings it should receive.

When a kitten has had enough formula, bubbles will form around its mouth, and its tummy will be rounded. After each meal, burp the kitten by holding it upright against you shoulder and patting it lightly on the back. Do not overfeed kittens, as this can bring on diarrhea as well as other problems. Kittens should be weighed frequently to ensure that they are growing properly. You'll soon know if your orphans are thriving because they will grow at an incredible rate.

Stimulation

The kitten's natural mother takes care of both ends of her baby. By licking the kitten's abdomen, she stimulates the bowels and bladder and tidies up the resulting mess. A surrogate cat mom should gently rub the kitten's abdomen and bottom with a wad of toilet tissue. This stimulates the discharge of waste and keeps babies clean. Be careful to rub only enough to get them to expel waste materials. Keep the area clean and watch for chafing which might indicate that you are rubbing too hard or not cleaning well enough. If a kitten won't nurse, it may need to eliminate waste first. Stimulate the kitten, then offer the bottle again.

Each time you feed and stimulate the kittens, follow up by washing their fur all over with a barely damp towelette using short stokes as the mother would use. This cleans their fur, teaches them to clean their fur, and gives them a feeling of attention and well-being. If the kittens have diarrhea and become caked with stool, it is easier on their skin to wash them in warm water.  

The kitten's instinctive need to suckle (frustrated by the lack of the mother's breast) may cause the kitten to suckle its litter mate's ears, tail or genitals, causing irritations to develop. Try to satisfy this oral need by caressing each kitten's mouth with your finger or a soft cloth. It is unhealthy for a kitten to injest urine... DO NOT ALLOW a kitten to suckle on a littermate's genitals. Remove the kitten from the others if necessary.

Fleas

Abandoned kittens will need to be cleaned and checked for fleas soon after they are found. Flea anemia can hamper any attempt to save the kitten and may even kill the kitten.  Fleas carry tape worm eggs. The vet will carry flea sprays suitable for use on kittens. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for use on kittens. NEVER use flea sprays intended for dogs on cats or kittens.

Weaning

You may begin weaning the kitten at 4 weeks of age. Start by offering it formula in a dish twice a day. Moisten a small amount of dry kitten food with water. Don't expect the kitten to be weaned overnight. As it eats more often from the bowl, reduce the bottle feedings. Canned kitten food can also be used to introduce the kitten to solid food. Young kittens cannot chew dry kitten food without moistening. Check instructions on the container. Try to buy high quality food for the kittens (from the vet or pet food stores). Much of what is sold in supermarkets is pure junk food and may not help your kitten thrive.

Changes in diet or certain foods can cause diarrhea, so keep an eye on stools. Diarrhea can be life-threatening to a young kitten.

Litter Box Training

The four week mark is also a good time to introduce the kitten to the litterbox. Place the kitten in the box after each meal. You may have to continue stimulating the kitten, but it will soon catch on.

Love and Attention

Besides food and warmth the kitten needs emotional closeness. Pet it frequently and let it snuggle against your warm skin. Socialize your kitten by introducing it to other animals and people. But keep in mind that orphaned kittens are especially vulnerable to diseases. At the first sign of any abnormal behavior or loss of appetite, take them to the veterinarian.

Milestones

At birth, a kitten should weigh 2 to 4 ounces. By the end of its first week it should double in body weight. The kitten should open its eyes at about 8 days. The eyes will stay blue for about 2 more weeks. (The true eye color will not appear until the kitten is about 3 months old.)

At 2 weeks the ears will start to stand up. At about 3 weeks the kitten will try to walk. At 4 weeks kittens start to play with each other and develop teeth.

Check with your veterinarian as to the timing of the needed vaccinations. The kitten should be ready for adoption at 8 weeks.

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Feral Cats: Frequently Asked Questions
 

1. What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?

  • A stray cat is a pet cat who is lost or abandoned. Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats who are not spayed or neutered.
  • Stray cats are accustomed to contact with people and are tame, but feral cats are not accustomed to contact with people and are typically too fearful and wild to be handled.
  • Wheras stray cats may be reunited with their families or adopted into new homes, feral cats do not easily adapt or may never adapt to living as pets in close contact with people.

However, there are many things you can do to help improve the health and quality of life of feral cats. 

 

2. Why are there feral cats? Where do they come from?

Feral cats are the offspring of lost or abandoned pet cats or other feral cats who are not spayed or neutered. Females can reproduce two to three times a year, and their kittens, if they survive, will become feral without early contact with people. Cats can become pregnant as early as 4-5 months of age, and the number of cats rapidly increases without intervention by caring people.   

 

3. Where do feral cats live?

Feral cats typically live with a group of related cats known as a colony. The colony occupies and defends a specific territory where food (a restaurant dumpster, a person who feeds them) and shelter (beneath a porch, in an abandoned building) are available.

Since feral cats typically fear strangers, it is likely that people may not realize that feral cats are living nearby because the cats are rarely seen.

4. How do feral cats survive—find food, stay warm, etc.?

Many don't survive. If they do survive, their lives aren't easy without human caretakers.

Females may become pregnant as young as 4 to 5 months of age and may have 2 to 3 litters a year. Being pregnant so young and so often, and having and nursing kittens, is even more stressful on female cats who are struggling to survive. More than half of the kittens are likely to die.

Males who roam and fight to find mates and defend their territories may be injured and transmit diseases to one another through bite wounds.

Feral cats may find food in a restaurant dumpster or someone may feed them. They may find shelter from the elements beneath a porch or in an abandoned building. But often they are without food and shelter.

Trap-Neuter-Return is a strategy to help improve the health and quality of life for feral cats and to prevent more cats from being born into this dangerous and difficult existence. 

5. What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a strategy for improving the lives of feral cats and reducing their numbers. At a minimum, feral cats who are TNRed are spayed or neutered so they can no longer reproduce, vaccinated against rabies, and surgically ear-tipped on one ear (ear-tipping is the universally-recognized sign of a cat who has been TNRed). Dedicated caretakers feed and provide shelter for TNRed cats, monitor the TNRed cats for sickness and remove new cats for TNR if feral or possible adoption if tame.

6. Why is The Humane Society of the United States supporting Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) more strongly now than it has in the past?

The Humane Society of the United States believes the best and safest place for cats to reside is in people's homes. Our focus in the past has been geared specifically toward pet owners, encouraging them to act responsibly, have their cats spayed or neutered and keep them safely confined on their property. This would reduce the number of abandoned and unaltered cats who are the originators of most feral cat colonies. 

While we continue to educate pet owners in this manner, we also recognize that currently there are millions of feral cats living outside homes in the United States. The welfare and control of these cats issue in almost every community. Effective strategies for permanently reducing the homeless cat population are essential and Trap-Neuter-Return—when properly implemented—offers such a solution. 

7. Do people take care of feral cats? What do they do? 

Many people see a homeless cat and start feeding the cat even though many communities have feeding bans meant to discourage feeding.

Ideally, the person quickly does more to help the homeless cat:

  • If the cat is tame, the person should take steps to find a permanent home for the cat.
  • If the cat is feral, unapproachable and wary after several days of feeding, the person should find out if there are any groups in their community that are currently doing TNR and consult one of the many resources to learn about Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). 

Once a cat or colony of cats has been TNRed, a dedicated caretaker provides food, water and shelter, monitors the cats for sickness and removes new feral cats for TNR or new tame cats for possible adoption. Trap-Neuter-Return is a strategy that many dedicated caretakers pay for out of their own pockets to help improve the lives of feral cats and reduce their numbers. Without TNR and a dedicated caretaker, the population of the colony would continue to increase. 

8. Why can't animal shelters rescue feral cats?

Animal shelters already care for and try to find homes for thousands of lost, injured, abandoned and relinquished pet cats. Whether the shelter is an independent non-profit organization or is funded by the municipality, many do not have the resources to proactively trap and remove thousands of feral cats.

Animal shelters that receive complaint calls or calls of concern from the public may attempt to humanely trap and remove feral cats. Or, they may provide information and loan traps to citizens interested in humanely trapping feral cats.

If there is a local group helping feral cats, the shelter may refer callers to that group.

Feral cats brought to the shelter, especially those who cannot be identified as members of a known TNRed colony, are likely to be euthanized right away or after a mandatory holding period. It is difficult to safely care for a feral cat in a typical shelter cage, and it is very stressful for a feral cat.  

9. Would it be better if feral cats were euthanized?

Some people feel sorry for feral cats because of their difficult and dangerous life. Others are annoyed by the cats' behaviors and want the cats removed. But many people don't feel that the cats should be euthanized. Even if there were enough people and money to remove and euthanize feral cats, other feral cats would move into the vacant territory to take advantage of the food source and shelter now made available. It's an endless cycle.

The alternative is Trap-Neuter-Return. When feral cats are TNRed, their health improves because they no longer have kittens and fight over mates, and nuisance behaviors are greatly reduced or eliminated. The colony's dedicated caretaker provides food, water and shelter, watches over the health of the cats and removes any newcomers for TNR (if feral) or adoption (if tame).

TNR improves the quality of life for existing colonies, prevents the birth of more cats, and reduces the number of cats over time. Additionally, many groups that provide resources for TNR have calculated that the costs associated with TNR are considerably less than those associated with removal, shelter care and euthanasia of feral cats.

10. What are problems associated with unneutered/unspayed feral cats?

A colony of unneutered/unspayed feral cats can produce a number of problems, including:

  • a growing population of cats
  • frequent and loud noise from fighting and mating behavior
  • strong foul odors from unneutered male cats spraying to mark their territory
  • flea infestations
  • visible suffering from dying kittens and injured adults.

In addition, the shelters in a community with a large, unneutered feral cat population may experience: 

  • higher intake rates of cats into shelters due to the rescue of feral kittens and the capture of feral adults
  • higher euthanasia rates for all cats due to the unadoptability of feral adults and the necessity to euthanize adoptable animals due to limited cage space
  • higher animal control costs due to trapping efforts and/or costs associated with caring for and euthanizing feral cats
  • a constant rate of nuisance complaints about feral cats.

11. Why doesn't simply removing feral cats from an area work to reduce their numbers and nuisance behavior?

There are many reasons why feral cat problems are rarely solved by efforts to trap and remove them. 

Feral cats live at a certain location because the habitat is suitable for their survival and offers food and shelter. If the cats in any one colony are removed, feral cats from surrounding colonies move in to take advantage of the newly vacated habitat and start the cycle of reproduction and nuisance behavior anew. 

In addition, if all the cats in a colony are not trapped, then the ones left behind tend to have more kittens that survive to adulthood due to lack of competition for resources until the colony reaches its former population level. 

Other factors which usually make removing feral cats ineffective include:

  • the difficulty of catching all the cats in a colony
  • the lack of animal control resources available to accomplish this task
  • the unwillingness of volunteers to trap cats who face an uncertain fate upon capture
  • the ongoing abandonment of unaltered domestic cats who can also repopulate a vacated territory
  • the lack of cooperation of the cats' caretakers—the only people who really know the cats' numbers and patterns and who can control whether or not they're hungry enough to enter a baited trap.

Trap and remove will only result in a temporary reduction in the numbers of feral cats in a given area. 

12. Why don't feeding bans work to eliminate feral cats?

The logic behind bans against feeding feral cats is that if there is no food available, the cats will go away. This is not true. 

Feral cats are territorial animals who can survive for weeks without food and will not easily or quickly leave their territory to search for new food sources. Instead, they tend to encroach closer into human habitations as they grow hungrier and more desperate.

Their malnourished condition will make them more susceptible to parasitic infestations, such as fleas, which they will spread into work places, garages, homes, etc., within their territory. 

The cats will also continue to reproduce despite the effort to "starve them out," resulting in the visible deaths of many kittens. 

As a result, feeding bans, if enforced, tend to make the situation much worse instead of improving it.

A second reason why feeding bans are rarely effective is that they are nearly impossible to enforce. Repeated experience has shown that people who care about the cats' welfare will go to great lengths, risking their homes, jobs and even their liberty, to feed starving animals. Someone determined to feed the cats will usually succeed without being detected, no matter the threatened penalties.

13. How does TNR solve common complaints associated with feral cats?

  • When feral cats are trapped, neutered and returned to their territory, they no longer reproduce. 
  • When the colony is then monitored by a caretaker who removes and/or TNRs any newly arrived cats, the population stabilizes and gradually declines over time. 
  • The cessation of sexual activity eliminates the noise associated with mating behavior and dramatically reduces fighting and the noise it causes. 
  • Foul odors are greatly reduced as well because neutered male cats no longer produce testosterone which, when they are unaltered, mixes with their urine and causes the strong, pungent smell of their spraying. 
  • Neutered feral cats also roam much less and become less visible and less prone to injury from cars. 

14. What can I do to help feral cats?

Helping feral cats can be very rewarding. There are many options for you to be involved.

First, you may want to look for an existing feral cat group or individuals who are practicing TNR in your area to help you learn the ropes. To learn more about feral cats and TNR on your own visit the Feral Cat Resources page.

 If there is a colony of feral cats in your area that does not have a caretaker you can become their caretaker. Feral cat caretakers practice Trap-Neuter-Return, feed, provide shelter and monitor the cats for any problems. 

 

Article used with the permission of The Humane Society of the United States

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