Cat Tips

Brrrr….It’s cold outside! The following guidelines will help you protect your companion animals when the mercury dips.

  • Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.
  • During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.
  • Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

The holidays are a time to eat, drink, decorate and share good times with friends and family. However, the same treats and trimmings considered harmless for humans can be hazardous to your pet’s health. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is offering pet owners some helpful hints to keep their pets happy and healthy during the holiday season.

Christmas Trees: Pine needles can get lodged in an animal’s esophagus, making it painfully prickly for your pet to swallow. PETCO says that even drinking the water from the Christmas tree base is enough to cause diarrhea, mouth sores, vomiting and loss of appetite.

Deck the Halls: A bunch of mistletoe may tempt a festive kiss, but PETCO warns that eating this holiday greenery could cause a drop in blood pressure, as well as vomiting and swollen throat and mouth tissue. Other holiday foliage, including Holly and Poinsettias, contain toxins that could lead to severe stomach problems, as well as skin, mouth and eye irritation. Worse yet, Yew is extremely toxic, and one mouthful could be deadly.

Tinsel and Lights: A flickering flame and shiny decorations intrigue companion animals. When lighting the menorah, advent wreath or decorative candles, PETCO advises to keep pets in another room where paws and claws can’t reach them. With electrical lights, remember to tape exposed electrical cords to walls or floors to ensure no chewing or tripping. Tinsel and wrapping paper may look like fun toys, but they can cause choking, upset stomach or more serious problems.

Holiday sweets with chocolate are not for pets. Depending on the dose ingested, chocolate (bakers, semi sweet, milk and dark) can be potentially poisonous to many animals. In general, the less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it could be. In fact, unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobromine as milk chocolate. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as 1/4 ounce of baking chocolate by a 10-pound dog. Keep your pet on its normal diet. Any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your cat severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals that have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. Don’t give pets holiday leftovers and keep pets out of the garbage. Poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages. Greasy, spicy and fatty foods can cause stomach upset; spoiled or moldy foods could cause food poisoning signs, tremors or seizures.

  • Alcohol and pets do NOT mix. Place unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot reach them.If ingested,the animal could become very sick and weak and may go into a coma, possibly resultingin death from respiratory failure.
  • Keep aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers away from pets. They can cause vomiting and intestinal blockage.
  • Be careful with holiday floral arrangements. Lilies are commonly used and all varieties, including Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Stargazer and Casa Blanca can cause kidney failure in cats. Safe alternatives can include artificial flowers made from silk or plastic.
  • Common Yuletide plants such as mistletoe and holly berries can be potentially toxic to pets. Should a cat or dog eat mistletoe, they could possibly suffer gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and lethargy if ingested.
  • Poinsettias are considered to be very low in toxicity. However, they could cause mild vomiting or nausea if ingested by your pet. Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers, which if ingested, can cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can also act as a breeding ground for bacteria and if ingested a pet could end up with nausea,vomiting and diarrhea.
  • If ingested, decorations such as ribbons or tinsel can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction. This is a very common problem, particularly with cats. Consider decorating your tree with ornaments that are relatively less enticing to pets, such as dried non-toxic flowers, wood, fabric or pinecones.
  • A Christmas tree should stand on a flat, wide base. You may also want to anchor the tree with fishing line tied to a drapery rod, a ceiling or wall hook. Cats often see trees as excellent climbing posts. Whether your tree is live or artificial, both kinds of needles are indigestible.
  • Cover your tree stand tightly with skirting. The water from the tree base can cause mouth sores,vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
  • If you plan to entertain, provide a “safe haven” to which your pets can retreat when they get overly excited and there is a possibility of escape.
  • If you are going away for the holidays: make sure pet enclosures are secure, your pets are wearing proper identification, and arrangements have been made for their care.
  • While your pet is safe in a loving home, remember those less fortunate. Millions of pets, nationwide, will be homeless this holiday season. Our shelter animals appreciate toys,treats, and especially love and attention as much as yours. So visit and bring your holiday cheer.
  • If your dog or cat are out during the day, remember that asphalt and concrete can get very hot and burn the pads of your pet’s feet. Your pet must always have shelter available to protect it from extreme temperatures and inclement weather. Keep in mind, too, that pets who are older or overweight are more likely to overheat during hot weather.
  • Since many people treat their lawns with pesticides at this time of year, keep your pet away from unfamiliar yards and grassy areas.
  • Provide your pet with fresh, cool water every day in a tip-proof bowl.
  • Keep your pet well-groomed, but resist the temptation to shave off all of his hair in an effort to keep him cool. A pet’s coat will protect him from getting sunburned. The coat also acts as cooling insulation for most animals.
  • Keep your pet away from spots or puddles of auto coolant in the garage, driveway, or parking lots. The sweet taste of this poisonous liquid is tempting to animals, but could lead to a fatal result.

Imagine that you are unable to understand where all the explosions are coming from and the flashing lights that appear out of nowhere. There is no way to help you understand that these frightening displays of vision and sound are ‘FUN’. Your pet goes through that terrifying experience every Fourth of July. Fourth of July fireworks can frighten pets, and that fear can cause your dog or cat to panic and try to escape the confines of your yard or house.

  • Please keep your pet indoors on the Fourth of July in a quiet and isolated room with covered windows, or the basement where there are no windows, to help her feel safe and secure.
  • Turn on a fan, a radio or television to muffle the sound of fireworks. They’ll provide familiar indoor sounds and may help soothe her if she must be alone on this noisy holiday.
  • Don’t take your pet to a fireworks display.
  • If your pet behaves nervously by pacing, whining or crying, distract her by playing with her or doing something she enjoys.
  • Don’t stroke, pet or reassure her by saying, “Don’t worry, it’s okay.” This may actually reinforce her nervousness or fright.
  • Make sure she always wears an appropriately-fitting collar. If your pet is a dog, you should be able to slip no more than two fingers beneath her collar. If your pet is a cat, she should be wearing a stretch or safety collar.
  • Your pet should always wear an identification tag with your current phone number and address, as well as a current license/rabies tag.
  • You may want to talk with Lewis Clark Animal Shelter about providing her with a microchip identification implant, in case she loses her collar and tags.
  • If your pet does stray away from home, it’s important that you visit The shelter to find out if your pet has arrived safely. You can find addresses and phone numbers of shelters in other cities and states listed in the front section of the “white pages” telephone book and on the internet. Provide a photo and specific description of your pet. These steps will greatly increase your chances of finding your animal friend!

If you have someone watch your pet while you go away, make sure that the pet sitter has a list of emergency numbers, including a number where you can be reached, the number of your veterinarian, and the number to your local animal shelter. Your sitter should also have your dog’s or cat’s rabies certificate, so you should be sure it is licensed before you leave. Should your dog or cat become involved in a potential rabies situation while you’re gone (e.g., he bites someone or gets into a fight with a raccoon), the vaccination and license information becomes crucial.

Make sure that your dog or cat is wearing some sort of ID. Pets are more likely to run off when left without their owners. If he’s wearing an ID when he runs off, it’s much easier for anyone who finds him to get him back home safely.

Make sure that your pet sitter knows to call the animal shelter if the pet does get lost. It’s best to leave the sitter a complete written description of the pet or at least some color pictures so that the sitter can provide a detailed description of the pet should a lost report need to be filed.

Many pet sitters don’t even know to file a lost report with the shelter. Other sitters who know to call the shelter if the pet gets lost can file only a general description of the lost pet (“sort of a medium-size brown dog”) and may not even know whether the animal was male or female. Since we may have around 300 animals at the shelter at any one time, we need as accurate a description as possible to search our kennel for your pet.

It’s Flea Season Again. Are You Ready for Battle?

Every year you watch helplessly as fleas torment your pet and drive you crazy. Besides being downright annoying, the pesky insects can do plenty of harm to your pet. They can cause allergies, skin infections, anemia, and even tapeworm infestations.

Feel like giving up? Feel like dousing your pet with every pesticidal shampoo, dip, spray, powder, or collar on the shelf? Don’t do either. Instead, try this safe, effective flea-control regimen.

Know Your Opponent

Fleas can vary their egg-to-adult life cycle anywhere from 18 days to 20 months, depending on how hot and humid it is. They may also spend as little as 10% of their lives on your pet. Put the two together, and you’ll realize that soon after you rid your pet of fleas, more of the little pests will hop onto its fur and you’ll be back to square one. The solution? Treat the home as well as the animal.

Clean Your Quarters

Begin with a thorough cleaning, which will eliminate most of the eggs and adult fleas lurking in your home. Wash all pet bedding in hot, soapy water. Mop hard floors. Vacuum everywhere–carpets, upholstery, drapes, corners, crevices. Seal the vacuum cleaner bag immediately in a plastic bag. Once you start, don’t let up or you’ll lose ground! Vacuum and clean once a week until you begin to see results. Then you can do it less frequently.

Commission New Weaponry

If you have a heavy infestation, apply an environmental insecticide after vacuuming. You can use a fogger “bomb,” but a pump spray is better for all but extreme infestations, since it will allow you to apply insecticide only where your pet sleeps and plays. Don’t apply it to your pet! Products that kill developing fleas (called insect growth regulators) are the safest and most effective–look for the word “methoprene” on the label. Follow directions to see how often you can apply it.

Liberate Your Pet

On the same day you first vacuum and clean, shampoo your pet with a non-medicated product or mildly medicated “flea” shampoo to rid the pet of fleas. After that, use a flea comb (available in most pet supply stores) on a daily basis. Dip it in a dish of soapy water after each stroke to drown the fleas. Shampoo the animal periodically according to labeling instructions, and keep grooming daily with the flea comb. You’ll quickly begin to see results.

Add More Weaponry

For most infestations, the cleaning/shampoo/flea comb system is all you’ll need to achieve flea control. If your problem is severe (or if you can’t shampoo your cat without a major fight), you can add other non-pesticidal alternatives to your program. Many pet owners swear by brewer’s yeast (added to the pet’s food in small dosages), or prefer to rub diluted oils or herbal powders into the animal’s fur. If you decide to use a pesticide, products containing “pyrethrums” are the safest. Consult your veterinarian about prescription flea medications such as Advantage, Frontline or Revolution.

Heed These Warnings

If they are misused, pesticides can sicken or kill your pet. If you feel you must use a pesticidal product, whether it’s a shampoo, dip, spray, powder, or collar, ALWAYS read the label and follow directions. NEVER use pesticides (including flea collars) on kittens and puppies or old, sick, pregnant, or heartworm-infected animals. And as a rule of thumb, use only one pesticide at a time on your pet.

Whether your new cat is coming from a shelter, a home, an urban street or a country barn, the first twenty-four hours in your home are special and critical. Before you bring a new cat into your life, it helps to understand a little bit about how cats relate to their world.

For the cat, territory is of paramount importance. A cat views his territory the way most of us view our clothes; without them, we feel naked and vulnerable. Place us naked in a room filled with strangers and
most of us would try to hide! It is common for cats, regardless of whether they come from homes or streets, to hide in a new territory. Very sensitive or under-socialized cats often hide for a week or more! You know that this cat is now a member of the family, but the cat doesn’t.

You can help make the transition to a new home smoother and easier by providing some privacy for your new cat. If possible, start by preparing your home before you bring in the cat. Choose a room for the litter box; a bathroom works well. Set up the litter box with one to two inches of litter, and place it in a corner, if possible.

Now create a safe haven for the cat to hide in. You can buy a covered cat bed but a cardboard box turned upside down with two “doors” cut in it will work nicely. Why two “doors?” Many cats seem to feel more secure if they have a second “escape” route. Get a box big enough for the cat to stand up, turn around, stretch out and lie down in — but keep it cozy! Place the box next to the wall or in a corner where the cat can see the door to the room. You don’t want the cat to feel trapped. Place a sisal, cork or corrugated cardboard scratching post next to it. Finally, clear off a shelf for the cat to perch on to view his new world.

After you have prepared the bathroom, cat-proof every other room of your home. Are there raised surfaces for the cat? If the answer is “no,” make some! Cats need to be able to jump up and survey their territory. Do you have valuable mementos that are easily broken? Put them away until your cat is happily moved in. Check out all the nooks and crannies. Are there places that could be dangerous for the cat to explore or hide in? If so, block them off. Finally, put a scratching post or pad in every room.

If circumstances require that you bring in the cat before your home is ready, keep him in his carrier until you have his room set up! He will be fine in there for a while longer. Opposite the litter box, place a bowl of fresh water. After the room is set up, place the carrier next to the “safe haven.” Close the bathroom door before opening the carrier. Do not pull the cat out. Allow him to come out on his own and begin to explore his new home. Now, leave the room. Yes, leave…remember you are giving him time to acclimate. Go and prepare a small amount of a premium quality cat food. Quietly place it next to the water bowl.

Do not reach for the cat! Let the cat come to you. If he doesn’t approach, come back in fifteen minutes. Do not be surprised if he doesn’t eat. It is common for re-homed cats to show no interest in eating, often for several days. Pick up the leftovers and leave. Come back in a couple of hours with a fresh meal of the same high-quality food. If the cat is openly soliciting affection, eating and not hiding, you can open the door and give him one more room. Do this slowly until you have introduced the cat to all rooms in his new home.

Remember to let the cat set the pace. Be patient. It may take weeks for the cat to comprehend that this foreign turf is his new territory.

*Written by Elizabeth Teal, Former ASPCA Animal Behavior Counselor,

Would you like help with your newly adopted cat?

It doesn’t take magic to make cat adoptions stick, but how about a little Howdini? Howdini is a free online info source with a huge catalog of short How To videos on everything from choosing a wine to choosing a cat. Last year the ASPCA filmed six three-minute Howdini video segments that guide cat adopters through some common pre- and post-adoption quandries:

  • How to choose a cat for your family
  • How to prepare your home for a new cat
  • How to introduce a new cat to other pets
  • How to teach your kitten to play gently
  • How to deter your cat from scratching the furniture
  • How to understand your cat’s mood

Visit and search “cat kitten” to find all six video options.

Again, these videos are free and publicly accessible, so spread the word to your shelter friends and neighbors!

Here are some other useful articles you might enjoy!

  • Litter Box Problems
  • Cat to Dog Introductions 
  • Cat to Cat Introductions
  • New Cat, New Litter Box

When it comes to personal hygiene, cats are the epitome of cleanliness. They are naturally equipped with the implements to groom themselves: a barbed tongue with which to lick, forepaws they moisten with saliva and use as a surrogate washcloth, and teeth to dig out tougher debris. Believe it or not, adult cats may spend as much as half of their waking hours grooming themselves, their relatives and friends.

Mothers begin licking their kittens, right after birth, to clean them, stimulate them to release urine and feces, rouse them to suckle, and provide comfort. Kittens usually begin grooming themselves when they are about 4 weeks old. At 5 weeks of age, kittens also begin grooming their littermates, as well as their mom. Mutual grooming amongst littermates, called allogrooming, often continues into adulthood. Allogrooming is a social activity that serves to strengthen the bond between cats.

Licking Patterns

If you’ve ever watched a cat groom her face, you’ve probably noticed the highly stereotyped manner in which she does it: first saliva is applied to the inside of one paw, then, using an upward circular motion, the cat begins rubbing her nose with her paw from back to front. The cat will then reapply saliva to that paw and, using semi-circular motions, groom behind the corresponding ear, the back of the ear, the forehead and over the eye. When finished with one side, the process is repeated with the other paw on the other side of the head. After the head is clean, the cat grooms the front legs, shoulders, flanks, anogenital area, hind legs, and tail with long strokes of the tongue. The order of body parts may vary, and not all of these areas are necessarily groomed in one sitting.

Problematic Grooming

It comes as no surprise to anyone that grooming has hygienic benefits. It helps eliminate parasites, keep the cat’s coat clean and smooth, cool the cat down through evaporation of saliva, and stimulate glands attached to hair roots that secrete substances to keep hair water-proofed. However, grooming can also have psychological benefits. A cat may groom to temporarily reduce conflict, frustration, or anxiety. Under these conditions, licking becomes what is called a “displacement behavior.” Displacement behavior can occur when an animal is motivated to perform two or more conflicting behaviors simultaneously. Unable to do so, a third behavior arises that is out of context with the situation. For example, during a social conflict a cat that feels threatened may be conflicted between running from its attacker and fighting. Caught in a bind, the cat decides to groom instead! Grooming appears to calm and reassure the cat.

Over-grooming, in the form of excessive licking, biting, nibbling, chewing, or sucking the coat or skin, with no underlying medical cause, is typically indicative of stress. Common causes of feline stress are: fear, lack of stimulation, isolation, new pet in the household, move to a new household, separation anxiety, or in some cases early weaning. Over-grooming becomes problematic when it results in self-inflicted injury (hair thinning, removal of complete tufts of hair, skin infections), a condition called “Psychogenic Alopecia.” This diagnosis is made when no underlying medical condition can be detected. In some cases, excessive grooming can start in response to a skin irritation (fleas, allergies, infections), but it can escalate into a behavioral problem even though the condition has cleared. It is thought that the grooming behaviors become self-reinforcing by reducing anxiety. The grooming actions become repetitive, called “stereotypies,” that may come and go, depending on the cat’s current level of stress.

What does it mean if my Cat Grooms Me?

Cats are social animals. They lick their owners as a display of affection and trust, the way they would lick littermates or their mother. They also may lick to taste any substance that is on your skin, such as salt.

Should you Groom your Cat?

If your cat enjoys being brushed or combed then I encourage you to do so. Grooming your cat can serve to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Grooming can also help you screen your cat for any problems that may be developing on the skin. However, many cats do not take fondly to being groomed by any tools but their own, so if you value your own safety, it’s best to leave these cats to take care of the job themselves! If your cat is prone to hairballs, matting fur, or excessive shedding, you may need to leave the grooming to a professional groomer.

*Written by Barbara Pezzanite, PH.D –

Solving Litter Box Problems

Cats tend to have surface and location preferences for where, and on what, they like to eliminate. Most cats prefer a loose, sandy substance, which is why they will use a litter box. It’s only when their preferences include the laundry basket, the bed or the persian rug, that normal elimination behavior becomes a problem. With careful analysis of your cat’s environment, specific factors that have contributed to the litter box problem can usually be identified and changed, so that your cat will again use the litter box for elimination.

Some common reasons why cats don’t use the litter box are:

  • an aversion to the box,
  • a preference for a particular surface not provided by the box,
  • a preference for a particular location where there is no box,
  • or a combination of all three.

You’ll need to do some detective work to determine the reason your cat is house soiling. Sometimes, the reason the litter box problem initially started may not be the same reason it’s continuing. For example, your cat may have stopped using the litter box because of a urinary tract infection, and has now developed a surface preference for carpet and a location preference for the bedroom closet. You would need to address all three of these factors in order to resolve the problem.

Cats don’t stop using their litter boxes because they’re mad or upset and are trying to get revenge for something that “offended” or “angered” them. Because humans act for these reasons, it’s easy for us to assume that our pets do as well.

Animals don’t act out of spite or revenge, so it won’t help to give your cat special privileges in the hope that she’ll start using the litter box again.

Medical Problems

It’s common for cats to begin eliminating outside of their litter box when they have a medical problem. For example, a urinary tract infection or crystals in the urine can make urination very painful. Cats often associate this pain with the litter box and begin to avoid it. If your cat has a house-soiling problem, check with your veterinarian first to rule out any medical problems for the behavior. 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, it’s imperative that you thoroughly clean the soiled area.

Aversion To The Litter Box

Your cat may have decided that 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 either 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 (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. This will vary according to how many cats are in the household, how many litter boxes you have, and how large the cats are that are using the box or boxes. A good guideline is that if you can smell the box, then you can be sure it’s offensive to your cat as well.

Add a new box in a different location than the old one 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 that makes noise or in an area of the house that your cat doesn’t frequent.

If ambushing is a problem, try to 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.

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 carpet, 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 your cat is eliminating on soft surfaces, try using a high quality, scoopable litter, and put a soft rug under the litter box.

If your cat is eliminating on slick, smooth surfaces, try putting just 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.

Make the area where she has been eliminating aversive to her by covering it with an upside down carpet runner or aluminum foil, or by placing citrus-scented cotton balls over the area.

Location Preferences

Your cat may have a location preference if:

  • She always eliminates in quiet, protected places, such as under a desk downstairs 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 house from where the litter box is located.

What You Can Do

  • Put at least one litter box on every level of your house.
  • Make the area where she has been eliminating aversive to her by covering it with upside down carpet runner or aluminum foil, or by placing citrus-scented cotton balls over the area.
  • 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 per day.


If you catch your cat in the act of eliminating in the house, do something to interrupt her like making a startling noise, but be careful not to scare her. Immediately take her to where the litter box is located and set her on the floor. 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. If you find a 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 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. Punishment will do more harm than good.

Other Types Of House Soiling Problems

Marking/Spraying: To determine if your cat is marking or spraying, please see our handout: “Territorial Marking In Dogs And Cats.”

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 house soil when she is exposed to these stimuli (see our handout: “The Fearful Cat”).

Dogs can kill a cat very easily, even if they’re only playing. All it takes is one shake and the cat’s neck can break. Some dogs have such a high prey drive they should never be left alone with a cat. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats usually become afraid and defensive. Use the techniques described above to begin introducing your new cat to your resident dog. In addition:

Practice Obedience

If your dog doesn’t already know the commands “sit,” “down,” “come” and “stay,” you should begin working on them. Small pieces of food will increase your dog’s motivation to perform, which will be necessary in the presence of such a strongdistraction as a new cat. Even if your dog already knows these commands, work with obeying commands in return for a tidbit.

Controlled Meeting

After your new cat and resident dog have become comfortable eating on opposite sides of the door, and have been exposed to each other’s scents as described above, you can attempt a face-to-face introduction in a controlled manner. Put your dog’s leash on, and using treats, have him either sit or lie down and stay. Have another family member, or friend enter the room and quietly sit down next to your new cat, but don’t have them physically restrain her. Have this person offer your cat some special pieces of food or catnip. At first, the cat and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Lots of short visits are better than a few long visits. Don’t drag out the visit so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat
this step several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each other’s presence without fear, aggression or other undesirable behavior.

Let Your Cat Go

Next, allow your cat freedom to explore your dog at her own pace, with the dog still on-leash and in a “down-stay.” Meanwhile, keep giving your dog treats and praise for his calm behavior. If your dog gets up from his “stay” position, he should be repositioned with a treat lure, and praised and rewarded for obeying the “stay” command. If your cat runs away or becomes aggressive, you’re progressing too fast. Go back to the previous introduction steps.

Positive Reinforcement

Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with your cat is unacceptable behavior, he must also be taught how to behave appropriately, and be rewarded for doing so, such as sitting, coming when called, or lying down in return for a treat. If your dog is always punished when your cat is around, and never has “good things” happen in the cat’s presence, your dog may redirect aggression toward the cat.

Directly Supervise All Interactions Between Your Dog And Cat

You may want to keep your dog on-leash and with you whenever your cat is free in the house during the introduction process. Be sure that your cat has an escape route and a place to hide. Keep your dog and cat separated when you aren’t home until you’re certain your cat will be safe.


Dogs like to eat cat food. You should keep the cat food out of your dog’s reach (in a closet or on a high shelf). Eating cat feces is also a relatively common behavior in dogs. Although there are no health hazards to your dog, it’s probably distasteful to you. It’s also upsetting to your cat to have such an important object “invaded.” Unfortunately, attempts to keep your dog out of the litter box by “booby trapping” it will also keep your cat away as well. Punishment after the fact will not change your dog’s behavior. The best solution is to place the litter box where your dog can’t access it, for example: behind a baby gate; in a closet with the door anchored open from both sides and just wide enough for your cat; or inside a tall, topless cardboard box with easy access for your cat.

A Word About Kittens And Puppies

Because they’re so much smaller, kittens are in more danger of being injured, of being killed by a young energetic dog, or by a predatory dog. A kitten will need to be kept separate from an especially energetic dog until she is fully-grown, and even then she should never be left alone with the dog. Usually, a well-socialized cat will be able to keep a puppy in its place, but some cats don’t have enough confidence to do this. If you have an especially shy cat, you might need to keep her separated from your puppy until he matures enough to have more self-control.

When To Get Help

If introductions don’t go smoothly, seek professional help immediately. Animals can be severely injured in fights, and the longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Conflicts between pets in the same family can often be resolved with professional help. Punishment won’t work, though, and could make things worse.

Cat Wars No More

It’s important to have realistic expectations when introducing a new pet to a resident pet. Some cats are more social than other cats. For example, an eight year-old cat that has never been around other animals may never learn to share her territory (and her people) with other pets in the household. However, an eight week-old kitten separated from her mom and litter mates for the first time, might prefer to have a cat or dog companion. Cats are territorial and need to be introduced to other animals very slowly in order to give them time to get used to each other before there is a face-to-face confrontation.

Slow introductions help prevent fearful and aggressive problems from developing. PLEASE NOTE: When you introduce pets to each other, one of them may send “play” signals which can be misinterpreted by the other pet. If those signals are interpreted as aggression by one animal, then you should handle the situation as “aggressive.”


Confine your new cat to one medium-sized room with her litter box, food, water and a bed. Feed your resident pets and the newcomer on each side of the door to this room. This will help all of them to associate something enjoyable (eating!) with each other’s smells. Don’t put the food so close to the door that the animals are too upset by each other’s presence to eat. Gradually move the dishes closer to the door until your pets can eat calmly, directly on either side of the door. Next, use two doorstops to prop open the door just enough to allow the animals to see each other, and repeat the whole process.

Swap Scents

Switch sleeping blankets or beds between your new cat and your resident animals so they have a chance to become accustomed to each other’s scent. Rub a towel on one animal and put it underneath the food dish of another animal. You should do this with each animal in the house.

Switch Living Areas

Once your new cat is using her litter box and eating regularly while confined, let her have free time in the house while confining your other animals to the new cat’s room. This switch provides another way for the animals to experience each other’s scents without a face-to-face meeting. It also allows the newcomer to become familiar with her new surroundings without being frightened by the other animals.

Avoid Fearful And Aggressive Meetings

Avoid any interactions between your pets that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It’s better to introduce your pets to each other so gradually that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don’t give them the opportunity to intensify. If either animal becomes fearful or aggressive, separate them, and start over with the introduction process in a series of very small, gradual steps, as outlined above.


If one of your pets has a medical problem or is injured, this could stall the introduction process. Check with your veterinarian to be sure that all of your pets are healthy. You’ll also want to have at least one litter box per cat, and you’ll probably need to clean all of the litter boxes more frequently. Make sure that none of the cats are being “ambushed” by another while trying to use the litter box. Try to keep your resident pets’ schedule as close as possible to what it was before the newcomer’s appearance. Cats can make lots of noise, pull each other’s hair, and roll around quite dramatically without either cat being injured. If small spats do occur between your cats, you shouldn’t attempt to intervene directly to separate the cats. Instead, make a loud noise, throw a pillow, or use a squirt bottle with water and vinegar to separate the cats. Give them a chance to calm down before reintroducing them to each other. Be sure each cat has a safe hiding place.

The Litter Box

Most cats have a specific preference about where they want to eliminate. By following the suggestions outlined in this handout, you’ll be able to start off on the right foot with your new cat.


Most people are inclined to place the litter box in an out-of-the-way spot in order to minimize odor and loose particles of cat litter in the house. Often, the litter box ends up in the basement, sometimes next to an appliance and/or on a cold cement floor. This type of location can be undesirable from your cat’s point of view for several reasons.

If you have a kitten or an older cat, she may not be able to get down a long flight of stairs in time to get to the litter box. Since she is new to the household, she may not remember where the litter box is if it’s located in an area she seldom frequents. Your cat may be startled while using the litter box if a furnace, washer or dryer suddenly comes on and that may be the last time she’ll risk such a frightening experience! If your cat likes to
scratch the surface surrounding her litter box, she may find a cold cement floor unappealing.  Therefore, you may have to compromise. The litter box should be kept in a location that affords your cat some privacy, but is also conveniently located. If you place the litter box in a closet or a bathroom, be sure the door is wedged open from both sides, in order to prevent her from being trapped in or out. Depending on where it’s located, you might consider cutting a hole in a closet door and adding a swinging door. If the litter box sits on a smooth, slick or cold surface, put a small throw rug underneath the litter box.

Type Of Litter

Research has shown that most cats prefer fine-grained litters, presumably because they have a softer feel. The new scoopable litters usually have finer grains than the typical clay litter. However, high-quality, dust-free, clay litters are relatively small-grained and may be perfectly acceptable to your cat. Potting soil also has a very soft texture, but is not very absorbent. If you suspect your cat has a history of spending time outdoors and is likely to eliminate in your houseplants, you can try mixing some potting soil with your regular litter. Pellet-type litters or those made from citrus peels are not recommended. Once you find a litter your cat likes, don’t change types or brands. Buying the least expensive litter or whatever brand happens to be on sale, could result in your cat not using the litter box.

Many cats are put off by the odor of scented or deodorant litters. For the same reason, it’s not a good idea to place a room deodorizer or air freshener near the litter box. A thin layer of baking soda placed on the bottom of the box will help absorb odors without repelling your cat. Odor shouldn’t be a problem if the litter box is kept clean. If you find the litter box odor offensive, your cat probably finds it even more offensive and won’t want to eliminate there.

Number Of Litter Boxes

You should have at least as many litter boxes as you have cats. That way, none of them will ever be prevented from eliminating in the litter box because it’s already occupied. You might also consider placing them in several locations around the house, so that no one cat can “guard” the litter box area and prevent the other cats from accessing it. We also recommend that you place at least one litter box on each level of your house. It’s not possible to designate a personal litter box for each cat in your household, as cats will use any litter box that’s available. Occasionally, a cat may refuse to use the litter box after another cat has used it. In this case, all of the litter boxes will need to be kept extremely clean and additional boxes may be needed.

To Cover Or Not To Cover

Some people prefer to use a covered litter box; however, there are some potential problems with using this type of box.You may want to experiment by offering both types at first, to discover what your cat prefers.

Potential Problems: You may forget to clean the litter box as frequently as you should because the dirty litter is “out of sight – out of mind.”

A covered litter box traps odors inside, so it will need to be cleaned more often than an open one. A covered litter box may not allow a large cat sufficient room to turn around, scratch, dig or position herself in the way she wants. A covered litter box may also make it easier for another cat to lay in wait and “ambush” the user as she exits the box. On the other hand, a covered litter box may feel more private and may be preferred by timid cats.

Cleaning The Box

To meet the needs of the most discriminating cat, feces should be scooped out of the litter box daily. How often you change the litter depends on the number of cats you have, the number of litter boxes, and the type of litter you use.  Twice a week is a general guideline for clay litter, but depending on the circumstances, you may need to change it every other day or once a week. If you scoop the litter daily, scoopable litter can go two to three weeks before the litter needs to be changed. If you notice an odor or if much of the litter is wet or clumped, it’s time for a change. Don’t use
strong smelling chemicals or cleaning products when washing the litter box, as it may cause your cat to avoid it.  Washing with soap and water should be sufficient.


Some cats don’t mind having a liner in the litter box, while others do. Again, you may want to experiment to see if your cat is bothered by a liner in the box. If you do use a liner, make sure it’s anchored in place, so it can’t easily catch your cat’s claws or be pulled out of place.

Depth Of Litter

Some people think that the more litter they put in the box, the less often they will have to clean it. This is not true. Most cats won’t use litter that’s more than about two inches deep. In fact, some long-haired cats actually prefer less litter and a smooth, slick surface, such as the bottom of the litter box. The litter box needs to be cleaned on a regular basis and adding extra litter is not a way around that chore.

“Litter-Training” Cats

There’s really no such thing as “litter-training” a cat in the same way one would house-train a dog. A cat doesn’t need to be taught what to do with a litter box. The only thing you need to do is provide an acceptable, accessible litter box, using the suggestions above. It’s not necessary to take your cat to the litter box and move her paws back and forth in the litter, in fact, we don’t recommend it. This may actually be an unpleasant experience for your cat and is likely to initiate a negative association with the litter box.

If Problems Develop

If your cat begins to eliminate in areas other than the litter box, your first call should always be to your veterinarian. Many medical conditions can cause a change in a cat’s litter box habits. If your veterinarian determines that your cat is healthy, the cause may be behavioral. Most litter box behavior problems can be resolved by using behavior modification techniques. Punishment is not the answer. For long-standing or complex situations, contact an animal behavior specialist who has experience working with cats.