New Adopter Information

Below are a few common issues new adopters might encounter and some tips on how to address them. We hope you find this information useful!

INAPPROPRIATE ELIMINATION

If your cat is demonstrating unusual litterbox behavior, it’s important to understand that your cat is not doing so to spite you. There are many reasons for inappropriate elimination, and it is sometimes resolved with an easy change in box location or litter type.

Your first step should be ruling out a medical condition. Cats frequently express physical discomfort or illness through a change in habit or behavior, and what might be an annoyance to you could actually be a sign that there is something medically wrong.

If your vet has ruled out medical issues, the behavior may be territorial, stemmed by anxiety, or resulting from dissatisfaction with the box setup. Here are some common non-medical reasons for inappropriate elimination:

Unhappy with litter or box. Some examples:

  • While a covered box is appealing to humans, it may cause the cat to feel trapped and at risk of ambush (especially in a multi-animal home).
  • Size of box should be large enough for the cat to turn around in.
  • Scented litter may be unappealing to cats.
  • The feel of the litter or the pan liner (if used) may be unpleasant to your cat. This happens most frequently to declawed cats, whose paws may be extra sensitive throughout their lives.
  • Placement of box should be convenient to the cat, feel safe to the cat, and socially significant to the cat. A place once safe to your cat may become stressful with introduction of a negative association (i.e. cat is ambushed or hears loud noise while in the box).

Number of boxes. The general rule of thumb is to have as many litter boxes as you have cats, plus one. In multi-cat houses, boxes should be spread throughout the house, as your cat regards several boxes in one place as just one box. In multi-level homes, there should be a box on every story.

Dirty box. Cats are fastidious creatures, so if the box is not scooped or cleaned frequently, they may seek cleaner options. A good rule of thumb is to scoop boxes twice daily and replace litter monthly, washing the box with diluted dish soap.

Changes in routine and other territory stressors. One of the most important things to a cat is whether her territory today is the same as it was yesterday. Any number of changes could be a stressor to your cat—arrival of a new animal or family member, someone’s departure, visitors, storms, etc. Animals outside can also trigger territorial stress, as can the relationships among your pets inside. Depending on the stressor, there are different ways to help your cat cope.

 

SCRATCHING AND CLAW MAINTENANCE

First of all, keeping claws trimmed helps reduce damage. Search YouTube for how-to videos, or you can take your cat to a vet / groomer for a trim. You could also try Soft Paws to cover her claws.

Regarding scratching undesired scratching surfaces, try a No/Yes approach:

- Give her a NO:

  • Put double-sided tape on any inappropriate places she's been scratching. This generally works very well--cats hate the feel of tape, yet it's humane. 
  • One thing we DON'T recommend is the spray bottle. Since she only gets sprayed when the humans are around, it is ineffective as a behavior modification--she'd end up associating the spray with you, not the scratching. She may also view it as an act of aggression, so it could hurt the bond between you and your cat and cause her to become aggressive.

- Give her a YES (this is very important since cats need to scratch / stretch--the NO won't work without the YES):

  • Put an appropriate scratching surface in front of / on top of the spot she's been scratching, so she has a better alternative. 
  1.  For horizontal scratching (like carpet): if you google "horizontal scratcher," you'll find plenty of options. 
  2. For vertical scratching (like sofas): a  favorite vertical scratcher is the ultimate scratching post, which is high enough for them to stretch vertically, and also doubles as a little seat for them. (And it's pretty.)
  • You can put some catnip on the appropriate scratching places to attract them there. Many of us fosters have some kind of scratcher in every room of the house to give them something to "own" that isn't furniture.

Also, keep in mind that if you bring in new pieces of furniture, they are going to want to scratch it. New things = new territory to mark. So have tape and scratching posts ready to go!

OTHER CAT BEHAVIOR ISSUES

A cat behavioralist can help you determine stressors or address bad behaviors. World-renowned cat behavioralist Pam Johnson-Bennett lives right here in Nashville. Johnson-Bennett has written several books and has her own television show dedicated to helping owners understand their cat’s behavior, and she does both phone and in-home consultations. http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/

PREGNANT OR NEW MOTHERS

Many women are counseled about Toxoplasmosis, a zoonotic disease that is passed by fecal-oral transmission--which means you must ingest cat feces to be at risk. This disease leads to concerns over the safety of pregnant women or new mothers owning cats. However, studies have shown that the risk of getting Toxoplasmosis from gardening is higher than the risk of getting it from your cat. Simple solutions are to wear gloves while cleaning the litterbox or enlist the help of your family.

ALLERGIES

Just like with flowers and bushes, some cat owners experience allergies that may vary in intensity throughout the year. For many owners, these are manageable with guidance from your doctor. If you think your allergies might be cat-related, make an appointment as soon as possible to speak with your primary care physician about how to keep your allergies under control.

 

HEALTH ISSUES WITH YOUR NEW CAT

All of our adoptable cats and kittens have been spayed, dewormed, received monthly flea preventative, and are up-to-date on vaccinations. However, NCR strongly recommends a new kitty check-up with your veterinarian after adoption. Just like with humans, illness can strike at any time – especially when a cat’s environment and routine has been changed. Here are a few common issues to watch for:

  • URIs - Upper Respiratory Infections: Symptoms can include nasal and eye discharge, sneezing, lethargy and not eating.
  • Diarrhea: Change in diet is one way to upset a tummy. If you plan to change the food he or she has been eating, please do so gradually and consider probiotics.
  • Hair loss: Certain fungal infections including ringworm can be the culprit. Ringworm is one of the few cat conditions that can be spread to dogs and humans. The incubation period for ringworm is about 2 weeks, so your cat could have been exposed but not exhibit symptoms until after adoption.
  • Tapeworms: Tapeworms are caused from ingesting fleas/flea eggs. They pass in small segments which resemble small grains of rice and can be seen in stool or on the rear end of your cat. While tapeworms are benign parasites, it is important to treat your new addition and implement a flea control regimen. NCR recommends Revolution or Advantage and NEVER an over-the-counter flea control product which could be deadly to your pets.

If you need additional information about your new family member, or have specific questions not addressed above, please reach out to us. Thank you again for saving a life!

Kim Kmiec: loveallcats3@hotmail.com

Carrie Patterson: carrie9371@hotmail.com

Megan Brodbine: meganbrodbine@yahoo.com