You love your cat, but you just can’t take it anymore. The litter box issues are driving you up the wall. Or maybe it’s the fights between your grand old cat and the feisty new kitten.
Before you throw up your hands and swear you’re sending Snowflake to a shelter, you might try hearing what Snowflake has to say -- in a manner of speaking. “Stop and listen to what your pets are telling you,” says Alice Moon-Fanelli, PhD, CAAB, a certified applied animal behaviorist.
Contrary to popular belief, mother cats do not teach their kittens to use the litter box. Kittens begin to dig in and use dirt and dry, loose material at about 4 weeks old without ever having observed their mothers doing so. This natural instinct is used in training kittens to use the litter box. Begin as soon as the new kitten arrives in your home.
Buy the largest litter box you can find; your kitten will soon grow into a cat, and will appreciate having the room. Make sure at least one side is...
Too often we just aren’t paying attention to our pets, Moon-Fanelli says. Empathy is key, so put yourself in puss’s boots.
To help you do that, WebMD consulted with experts on cat behavior and health about some of the most commonly cited reasons for giving up a cat. Their tips for understanding kitty (and discarding some of your own misconceptions) may help you to live happily ever after together.
“We’ll Find Kitty a Good Home”
When people want to give their cat away, they usually say they want to find the cat “a good home.” Why can’t your house be that good home? With a little guidance, it probably can be, says Linda P. Case, MS, author of Canine and Feline Behavior and Training: A Complete Guide to Understanding Our Two Best Friends. It’s rare that behavior or other issues with your cat can’t be resolved.
Start with two key steps:
Talk to your veterinarian before assuming the problems can’t be fixed. Something as easy to treat as a urinary tract infection can be behind a host of problem cat behaviors, such as yowling, marking, or refusing to use a litter box. “A large study showed that people who relinquish their cats tend to have not seen a veterinarian or other professional in the last year to address their problem,” Case tells WebMD. So before assuming an issue is unfixable, talk to the people who really know.
Consult a veterinary specialist about behavior problems. Not every cat complication has a physical cause, of course, and that’s where a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (ACVB) or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) can help. These professionals “can discuss, evaluate, and advise you in person, by telephone, or email,” says Moon-Fanelli. They can offer insight into why your cat is doing what he’s doing and how you can change his behavior. Ask your vet for a referral.