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Keeping an Indoor Cat Happy

Make your kitty's world safe and stimulating with these easy-to-implement tips.

Health and Hygiene continued...

Teach kitty how to use a litter box. An indoor cat needs an indoor toilet. Fortunately, litter box training for most cats isn't very hard, especially if you begin when kitty's young. And if you've adopted an older cat who was once litter box-trained, it's a good bet kitty will soon get back into the old habit. Here are tips to help get a new cat trained to use a box:

  • Use unscented litter in a plastic litter tray.
  • Place the litter box in a quiet, easy-to-access place. 
  • Place your cat in the litter box and praise kitty when he or she sniffs or scratches in the box. You can give kitty the idea of what to do by gently taking her front paws and showing her how to scratch the litter. 
  • Place kitty in the box several times a day, praising him, and showing him what to do if he needs the nudge. Always let him jump out of the box when he's ready.
  • If she has an accident somewhere else in the house, don't punish her (it won't help kitty learn), but do pick up the waste with a paper towel and put that in the litter box. Then place kitty in the box.
  • When you can't supervise a still-untrained kitty for a while, put the litter box, food, water, and toys in a bathroom, small room, or large dog crate. Then confine the cat in this space.

If kitty uses the box consistently then refuses it, the culprit could be a dirty box, a new brand of litter, or a too-noisy litter box area. Your cat may have been frightened near the box, or it could be suffering from a medical condition such as a urinary tract disease, urine crystals, or bladder stones.

Stopping kitty's dashes for the door. The lure of another cat or a tree full of birds may sometimes be too much for a contented indoor cat. If you find your cat running for the door or squeezing through open windows, you can discourage kitty's escape attempts with these tips:

  • Have your cat neutered if your door-dodger is male. Male cats can detect in-heat females from blocks away, says cat trainer Alice Rhea in her book Good Cats, Bad Habits. So you'll need to reduce his interest.
  • Make the outside a scary place, suggests Rhea and the pros at the ASPCA. Plan for the next time kitty dashes to the door by having someone stationed outside with an air horn or a pot and spoon. Then be sure your Houdini is met with a lot of very loud noises when he runs out the door. Repeat with each door over several days, and pretty soon your cat will decide it's much more predictable inside. 
  • Be sure all window screens fit tightly and can't be popped out with persistent pushing. 
  • Try distracting your kitty by rolling a toy across the floor as you come in or go out the door.

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