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!
Introducing your cat to existing pets
There are many reasons for inappropriate elimination, but 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
- 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.
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
It’s important to understand that cats need their claws, and scratching is an important function for stretching, shortening nails, and marking territory.
If you’re here, you may be concerned about your kitty scratching furniture or other household items. Try a yes/no approach:
Give her a YES
Cats need to scratch and stretch–the NO won’t work without the YES
- Make sure the cat has lots of scratchers to choose from. Not all cats like the same kinds
- Put an appropriate scratching surface in front of / on top of the spot she’s been scratching, so she has a better alternative
- You can put some catnip or silvervine on the appropriate scratching places to attract them there
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.
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!
Cat Health Concerns to Watch For
Here are a few things to watch for when you adopt a cat. We always recommend taking the cat to the vet within the first few months of adoption to establish the relationship.