Partnership for Animal Welfare - Cat Care Guide January 2006

 
Partnership for
Animal Welfare

Cat Care Guide
   January 2006
Table of Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................. 1
Preparing for Your New Cat ................................................................................................................................... 1
    Pre-adoption shopping list ................................................................................................................................. 1
    Phone Numbers to Have on Hand ...................................................................................................................... 1
Welcoming Your New Cat ...................................................................................................................................... 2
  Initial Introduction ............................................................................................................................................. 2
    The Basics .......................................................................................................................................................... 2
    Potential Problems ............................................................................................................................................. 2
    Introducing to Other Animals ............................................................................................................................ 2
        Cats ............................................................................................................................................................... 2
         Dogs .............................................................................................................................................................. 3
         Small Animals .............................................................................................................................................. 3
    Kitten Proofing................................................................................................................................................... 3
    Getting Help ....................................................................................................................................................... 4
When to Call the Vet ............................................................................................................................................... 4
    Kittens ................................................................................................................................................................ 4
       Signs of Illness.............................................................................................................................................. 4
    All Cats (Adults & Kittens) ............................................................................................................................... 5
         Vomiting ....................................................................................................................................................... 5
         Dehydration .................................................................................................................................................. 5
         Limping ........................................................................................................................................................ 5
         Warning Signs .............................................................................................................................................. 6
Keeping Your Cat Safe ........................................................................................................................................... 6
    Kittens ................................................................................................................................................................ 6
    Keep Your Cats Indoors..................................................................................................................................... 6
         Hazards of the Great Outdoors ..................................................................................................................... 6
         Helping Cats Adjust to Indoor Life .............................................................................................................. 7
      Lost Cats ....................................................................................................................................................... 7
    Household Hazards ............................................................................................................................................ 7
         Chemicals & Toxins ..................................................................................................................................... 8
         Plants ............................................................................................................................................................ 8
         Dangerous Food ............................................................................................................................................ 9
         Common Household Items ......................................................................................................................... 10
         Recliners ..................................................................................................................................................... 10
         Appliances .................................................................................................................................................. 10
Litter Boxes & Litter ............................................................................................................................................. 10
    Where Should You Put The Litter Box? .......................................................................................................... 11
    How Many Boxes Should You Have? ............................................................................................................. 11
PAW Cat Care Guide – Table of Contents                                                                                                                                      ii

     Cleaning the Litter Box .................................................................................................................................... 11
     What Kind of Litter Should You Use?............................................................................................................. 11
     Miscellaneous .................................................................................................................................................. 12
     What Type of Litter Box Should You Use? ..................................................................................................... 13
     Why Is Your Cat Avoiding The Litter Box?.................................................................................................... 13
Food & Water........................................................................................................................................................ 15
          Nutritionally Balanced Diets ...................................................................................................................... 15
          Treats .......................................................................................................................................................... 16
          Free-Choice vs. Meals ................................................................................................................................ 16
          Prescription Diets........................................................................................................................................ 16
          Maintaining Weight .................................................................................................................................... 17
          Dry vs. Wet Food........................................................................................................................................ 17
          Encouraging a Cat to Eat ............................................................................................................................ 17
          Water .......................................................................................................................................................... 18
Grooming .............................................................................................................................................................. 18
Allergies ................................................................................................................................................................ 19
Medical.................................................................................................................................................................. 20
     Vaccinations..................................................................................................................................................... 20
     Wellness Care .................................................................................................................................................. 21
     Pet Health Insurance ........................................................................................................................................ 21
     Feline Diseases................................................................................................................................................. 21
     Parasites ........................................................................................................................................................... 22
     Dental Care ...................................................................................................................................................... 23
     Medications ...................................................................................................................................................... 23
     Taking Your Cat’s Temperature ...................................................................................................................... 24
     Geriatric Cats ................................................................................................................................................... 24
     Kittens .............................................................................................................................................................. 24
Cats & Plants ......................................................................................................................................................... 25
Cats & Sleep.......................................................................................................................................................... 25
Scratching.............................................................................................................................................................. 25
Jumping on Things ................................................................................................................................................ 26
Aggression ............................................................................................................................................................ 27
Declawing ............................................................................................................................................................. 28
Spay/Neuter ........................................................................................................................................................... 29
Identification ......................................................................................................................................................... 29
Cat Carriers ........................................................................................................................................................... 30
          Flying .......................................................................................................................................................... 30
Cleaning ................................................................................................................................................................ 30
Shopping ............................................................................................................................................................... 31
          Toys ............................................................................................................................................................ 31
PAW Cat Care Guide – Table of Contents                                                                                                                                    iii

         Beds ............................................................................................................................................................ 32
         Scratchers, Scratching Posts, & Cat Trees.................................................................................................. 32
         Perches ........................................................................................................................................................ 33
         Grooming Supplies ..................................................................................................................................... 33
         Movies ........................................................................................................................................................ 33
         Cat Fencing ................................................................................................................................................. 34
         Catalogs ...................................................................................................................................................... 35
         Miscellaneous ............................................................................................................................................. 35
Favorite Products .................................................................................................................................................. 35
         Periodicals................................................................................................................................................... 36
Cat Shows ............................................................................................................................................................. 37
Cats & Dogs .......................................................................................................................................................... 37
    Food Aggression .............................................................................................................................................. 37
    Introductions .................................................................................................................................................... 37
Cats & Kids ........................................................................................................................................................... 38
Cats & Babies........................................................................................................................................................ 38
Cats & Pregnancy.................................................................................................................................................. 39
Cat as Gifts ............................................................................................................................................................ 39
Disaster Preparedness............................................................................................................................................ 40
    Evacuation Supplies ......................................................................................................................................... 40
    Shelters............................................................................................................................................................. 40
The Loss of a Pet ................................................................................................................................................... 40
Adopt for Life ....................................................................................................................................................... 41
Resources .............................................................................................................................................................. 41
         Web Sites .................................................................................................................................................... 42
Introduction
Although this handbook may seem extensive, it is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cats and
their care. You could be finishing your PhD on cats, and then meet a new cat and have to trash the dissertation
and start your research all over again. Cats are so diverse and so unpredictable and so … cat-like … you can
never really know all about them or understand all their fascinating quirks. We hope this guide will be a good
reference for you, but you can also use it as a starting point for your own research.
Luckily, there is a wealth of information available to help you out. There are plenty of books and magazines,
and the Internet has millions of cat-related pages, with sites on everything from birth to death, including many
on how to spoil your cat beyond his wildest dreams. Just keep in mind that the Internet has a lot of
unsubstantiated information, and some of it is totally bogus. It’s always a good idea to corroborate your findings
on several sites. Especially if you are seeking medical information, you would want to verify your findings on
reputable veterinary sites such as www.avma.org or www.vetinfo.com, and of course with your own
veterinarian. There is also a wealth of well-documented information at the web sites of The Humane Society of
the United States (hsus.org) and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (aspca.org).
Much of this overview is concerned with illness, problems, and dangers. But remember that kittens are resilient,
and most cats lead basically trouble-free lives. You probably will never be confronted with most of these issues,
but if you are aware of what could go wrong you can be prepared.
Please bear in mind that this document is not intended as a comprehensive medical guide. If you have any
questions or concerns about your cat’s health, check with your vet.
Most importantly of all, enjoy your new PAW companion!

Preparing for Your New Cat

Pre-adoption shopping list
    Food & water dishes – non-plastic
    Bed
    Toys
    Scratchers
    Carrier
See Shopping below for ideas on what products might be best for you and your new cat.

Phone Numbers to Have on Hand
It’s a good idea to have the following numbers handy – on the refrigerator or next      Tip –
to the phone or wherever you will be able to find them quickly when you need            Animal Poison Control:
them:                                                                                   888-426-4435
                                                                                        (888-4ANI-HELP)
    •   Your veterinarian
    •   Nearest emergency veterinary hospital
    •   ASPCA Poison Control Center: 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) (A $50 consultation fee may be
        applied to your credit card.)
Other emergency resources:
    www.pets911.com (lists emergency clinics by zip code)
PAW Cat Care Guide – Welcoming Your New Cat                                                                          2

Welcoming Your New Cat

Initial Introduction
When you bring a new cat into your house, whether it’s your adopted PAW cat or
any other newcomer, she will probably be nervous at first and will be happier in a        Tip –
small area – a bedroom or study or even a bathroom is ideal. You will want to             The Basics: food,
provide a litter box, bed, food and water, and some toys. If the cat is shy, it may take  fresh water, litter box,
several days or even several weeks before she is comfortable coming out to explore        scratching posts.
the whole house. You should provide a hiding place – a cardboard box or enclosed
bed or tunnel – where the cat can feel safe and secure, but where you can reach in and pet her. Spend time with
her, talking to her gently, providing quiet companionship and getting her used to you and the new environment.
Some cats are totally unfazed by their arrival in a new home, and they will take over from the first minute. If
there are no other animals in the house, you can just show them the location of the important items (litter box,
food and water dishes) and let them explore. If there are other animals, you will want to do a more gradual
introduction (see Introducing to Other Animals below).

The Basics
Provide fresh water in non-plastic dishes.
Always start the cat out with the food he has been eating. If you want to switch to another type, do it gradually.
See the Food section below for more information on nutrition and diet.
Have at least one basic litter box available (uncovered to start out, preferably with the same litter the cat has
been using). For kittens and old cats, make sure the sides aren’t too high or there is a cut-out, so the cat can get
in and out easily. See Litter Boxes & Litter below for more information on the all-important bathroom facilities.

Potential Problems
Since changes tend to be stressful, even good changes, cats sometimes develop an intestinal disorder or upper
respiratory infection soon after arrival. They usually recover quickly, but if they have persistent diarrhea or
don’t eat for more than two days (one day for a young kitten), or if they have mucous discharge, you should call
the vet. Call the vet if your formerly active and alert kitten is lethargic, huddling, or not eating.
If you have any questions about your PAW cat, please ask the cat’s foster parent or consult your vet (see When
to Call the Vet below).

Introducing to Other Animals
Keep the newcomer separate at first, behind a closed door. This gives the animals a chance to get used to each
other’s smells and to play footsy under the door. A baby gate might be appropriate for dogs or young kittens, but
most cats will just jump it. A screen door is very useful for keeping animals separated during introductions. It
can be installed temporarily or even permanently if there is ongoing animosity.

Cats
Try feeding them in the same room (in carriers if necessary), so they get used to associating the other’s presence
with good things. Move the food dishes closer together as they become more accustomed to each other. Rub a
cloth on each cat and then put it in the bed of the other cat. Switch the resident and newcomer for an hour or so,
so the resident cat can explore the newcomer’s room and check out the new smells and the new cat can get
accustomed to his new surroundings without intimidation.
Always make sure the resident animals continue to get plenty of attention. Give them extra treats and catnip
parties and plenty of petting and cuddling time.
PAW Cat Care Guide – Welcoming Your New Cat                                                                           3

It’s natural for cats to hiss and growl some during initial introductions. If you see
ears pressed against the head, arched back, and fluffed out fur, this might be a         Tip –
precursor to aggression, or it could be a bluff. You might want to separate them and     When introducing
proceed more gradually. If you have any doubt about how they will behave, have           animals, play it safe
blankets and water bottles handy when the cats first meet. If they start to fight, try   and take it slow.
squirting them or throwing the blankets over them. You want to separate them, but
you don’t want to get scratched or bitten. Sometimes loud noises will startle them and break up the melee.
Luckily fights are uncommon, and you should be able to avoid the risk of aggression by introducing the cats
gradually.
Hopefully the introduction won’t take more than a few days, but it could take several weeks. You don’t want to
rush it, because then you might have to start all over again.
Be aware that sometimes cats just have a mutual antipathy and will never be friends. But hopefully they will at
least learn to tolerate each other.

Dogs
If you are introducing a cat to dogs, never leave them alone together and make sure the cat always has an escape
route. Start out with the dog on a leash and the cat behind a baby gate or other barrier. Keeping the cat safe is
most important, but you also want him to feel safe. So putting the cat in a carrier and allowing the dog to poke at
it, for instance, might be a good introduction for the dog, but it probably isn’t going to give the cat good feelings
about his new house mate. Holding the cat in your arms while the dog investigates is a bad idea, since the cat
could freak out and scratch or bite, and he could get loose and take off with the dog on his tail. Take it slow, try
to make the cat feel secure at all times, and keep the dog restrained until there is no doubt that the cat will be
safe.
See also Cats & Dogs below.

Small Animals
Birds, mice, hamsters, gerbils, lizards, and such are natural prey for a cat. Make sure they are in secure cages
and if possible keep them in a separate room. Some cats have a very strong predatory instinct (especially those
that fended for themselves outside), while others are quite indifferent to small prey animals. Some cats even
become friendly with small animals, but that’s a high-risk experiment, and it could be very stressful to the little
critter.

Kitten Proofing
Kitten-proofing is not unlike baby-proofing. You need to look at your home from the perspective of a young
animal determined to get into trouble. Think about what might be dangerous for a young kitten to ingest, play
with, get stuck in, fall into, get wrapped in, be smothered by, or have fall on him. To paraphrase Shakespeare:
Kittens are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

    •   Cut the Loops – As with babies, loops from window blinds or drapes can be deadly for kittens. Even
        draping them up “out of reach” doesn’t guarantee they won’t fall down or be pulled down. Remember,
        kittens can climb and jump. Loops should be cut.

    •   Bundle the Wires – Strands of wires hanging down behind the desk                 Tip –
                                                                                         Kittens are accident
        (which is typical for computers and peripherals) can be deadly. A kitten
                                                                                         prone. Save a life …
        can get wrapped in those wires just like a fly in a spider web. One of our       kitten proof your home.
        volunteers came this close to losing a kitten that way. The kitten was
        found dangling in mid-air, tangled up in the web of cables, with one of the wires tightening around her
        neck. By the time she was rescued, it was hard to get the wire loose and she was barely able to squeak
        for help. It was pure luck that the kitten didn’t strangle. So we’re not being overcautious or paranoid
PAW Cat Care Guide – Welcoming Your New Cat                                                                         4

        when we say to bundle the cables. You can use twist-ties or buy velcro fasteners or contain them in
        snap-together conduits – whatever will prevent that potentially lethal spider web effect.

    •   Put Away Breakables – Fragile knick-knacks and ornaments can be kitten magnets. You can never be
        sure how high a kitten will be able to climb or jump until after it happens. Not only could they damage
        or destroy a valuable item, they could get hurt themselves from the breakage. So, at least until the kitten
        is older and more sure-footed, or until you are sure they can’t get on top of that bookshelf, put away the
        breakables.

    •   Limit Access to Risky Situations – When kittens first come to the house it’s best to keep them in a small
        area, until they are used to their new home and family. You don’t want them to have access to holes in
        walls, rafters, hiding places behind or under furniture, or vents and chimneys. Typically, basements,
        attics, storage areas, and laundry rooms are perilous places that are full of hidey-holes where kittens can
        disappear. Or even a cluttered room with lots of boxes can be risky. Rather than taking chances, keep
        the kittens confined to smaller, barer areas.

Getting Help
If you have any questions about your PAW cat, please contact the cat’s foster parent. His or her contact
information should be part of the adoption packet you received. It’s better to ask the foster parent as soon as you
suspect a problem than to wait and possibly allow more serious problems to develop.
If the cat appears to be sick, you can try to contact the foster volunteer first, but please don’t wait very long
before you take the cat to the vet. If the cat is vomiting for more than a day or appears lethargic, please contact
your veterinarian immediately. It is fairly common for a cat to refuse food for a day or two upon first arrival at a
new home, but if he has been eating normally and then stops, that could be the sign of a serious problem. If it
continues for more than a day, call the vet.

When to Call the Vet
►When in doubt, call the vet. Don’t take chances. Cats are very good at hiding pain and illness, so by the
time they are in obvious distress, it may be too late.◄

Kittens
Small kittens don’t have the same physical reserves that healthy adults do. They
have less body fat and less immunity to disease. They can get sick quicker and they        Tip –
can fail very quickly. They may also give different signals than an adult cat. For         Cats hide illness.
instance, an adult may huddle in a corner because he is shy or feeling intimidated. A      Kittens crash quickly.
kitten might hide because he’s frightened, but if he is actually huddling he is            When in doubt, call
probably sick. Don’t wait more than a day to take him to the vet.                          the vet. Don’t wait.

Signs of Illness
If a kitten is acting bright and alert, has plenty of energy, and is playing and eating and drinking, then a little
sneezing or watery eyes probably isn’t anything to worry about. However, you should call the vet if you see any
of the following:
    •   mucous discharge from the eyes or nose, especially if it’s not clear
    •   coughing
    •   acting lethargic, withdrawn, less active than usual
PAW Cat Care Guide – When to Call the Vet                                                                           5

    •   not eating or not eating as well as usual
    •   not drinking
    •   regurgitating (vomiting immediately after eating)
Kittens, unlike most adult cats, will swallow items they are playing with … including pills or other medications.
Nothing is safe from a curious, playful kitten. One of the first symptoms of a foreign body is a kitten that acts
hungry, runs toward the food, and then either doesn’t eat or eats and immediately vomits. Don’t delay – take the
kitten to the vet. The sooner the foreign body is treated the better the kitten’s chances of recovery.
If you see a foreign substance (like string or twine) hanging from the cat’s mouth or anus, don’t pull on it! If the
kitten is trying to poop it out, you can give him a chance to expel it. You can tug on it gently. But don’t force it.
If there is a long piece inside the kitten, you could end up cutting the intestine when you pull. Take the kitten to
the vet immediately.

All Cats (Adults & Kittens)
Vomiting
Occasional: If the cat is otherwise acting normal – bright and alert and running around and holding water down
– you can wait a day or two to see if the problem resolves. It might be an adjustment problem from anxiety, a
change in water, or simply the excitement of being in a new place. You could try one of the sensitive stomach
diets to see if that helps. If the cat has other symptoms, such as those listed under Warning Signs, call the vet
immediately.
Frequent or ongoing: If the cat vomits several times a day, or continues to vomit for several days, then you
should call the vet.
If the cat seems dehydrated (see below), call the vet.
Possible poisoning: If you think there is any possibility your cat ingested something he shouldn’t have, call the
vet or the Poison Control Hotline (you should have both those numbers readily available). Even if you think it’s
unlikely, try to think back. Is anybody in the family taking medications that could possibly have been left out?
Did anybody take Tylenol recently? Sometimes people drop pills and they roll away and, especially for an over-
the-counter analgesic, the person thinks nothing more of it. But a kitten might find that pill. Tylenol is deadly to
cats, as are many other human medications.

Dehydration
Cats aren’t always good about drinking, especially when they first arrive in a new home. Keep an eye on water
intake. If you suspect your cat isn’t drinking, you can try pulling the skin on the neck or shoulders away from
the body. If the skin snaps back quickly, the cat is probably well hydrated. If the skin falls back slowly, that’s a
sign of dehydration. Feel the gums. If they are dry and sticky, that’s another sign of dehydration. This is a
potentially serious condition. You can encourage the cat to drink by offering trickling water from the faucet or a
water fountain dish. You can try syringing water into the side of the mouth, but it’s very hard to get enough into
the cat that way, and there’s also the risk of aspiration if you aren’t careful. Put the cat in a room by himself and
measure the water intake carefully. Being in a separate room might also make him feel more secure and
encourage him to drink more, especially if there are other animals in the house. If you think he still isn’t
drinking enough and he still seems dehydrated, call the vet.
Dehydration is more serious for kittens. They have fewer reserves than adult cats and can crash quickly.

Limping
Cats, and especially kittens, play hard, and sometimes they can strain a muscle. If your cat is limping slightly,
but occasionally putting the leg down, and is otherwise bright and active and acting normally, you can wait until
morning to see if he will be okay. If he is in distress and is never putting the leg down at all, you should take
PAW Cat Care Guide – When to Call the Vet                                                                             6

him to the vet. Of course you have to use common sense. If the leg is bent at a strange angle or the bone is
sticking out, obviously you need to get the cat to the doctor right away.

Warning Signs
If the cat is vomiting, straining, crying, acting uncomfortable, avoiding the litter box, or urinating (or attempting
to urinate) frequently with small amounts of urine, call the vet immediately. If it is after hours, call the nearest
emergency vet, especially if it is a male cat. Males are much more likely than females to develop life-threatening
urinary blockages. But even female cats can block, so if you see these signs, seek medical attention
immediately.
Bloody urine indicates a problem, but it might not be an emergency if the cat is acting okay otherwise. If the
urine is bloody and the cat has any of the other warning signs, he needs prompt medical care.

Keeping Your Cat Safe

Kittens
Kittens are more inclined to get into trouble than adult cats. They are clumsier, more inquisitive, less
experienced, and very active. See Kitten Proofing above for more information on how to make your home safe
for kittens.
Kittens can also fail quickly when they get sick or hurt because they generally have a less developed immune
system, have less body fat and can lose heat quickly, and are more fragile because of their small size and
undeveloped bodies. Luckily, they can rebound quickly too, once the problem is fixed. But you don’t want to
wait around too long if your kitten isn’t acting right. Call the vet if you have any doubts at all. See Keeping Your
Cat Safe above for more detailed information.

Keep Your Cats Indoors
Some people believe that it’s okay to let their cats out if they don’t live near a busy
street. But many cats are run over in driveways … sometimes by their own family.            Tip –
And even the most stay-at-home cat may occasionally wander and encounter a busy             Indoor cats live longer
road. Or they may simply get lost. It does happen, and never knowing what                   and stay healthier.
happened to your pet is one of the worst things that you can experience.

Hazards of the Great Outdoors
Free-roaming cats are subject to many hazards, such as:
    • Cars
    • Intentional or inadvertent poisoning (toxic plants and antifreeze are very real risks).
    • They may be stolen for bait (to train vicious dogs to fight).
    • If they end up at a shelter, they may be euthanized or sold to a medical research lab.
    • They may be abused (or killed) by people who hate cats or who simply like to injure living things.
    • They may encounter hostile dogs or predatory wildlife.
    • They are much more likely to be exposed to a potentially fatal disease from another cat (Feline
        Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia Virus are contagious and potentially deadly).
    • Cat fights can cause very serious injuries – those bite wounds get abscessed.
    • Outdoor cats are likely to become infested with worms, fleas, and ticks, which can cause serious
        problems, including Lyme disease and heartworm.
    • In cold weather, they may cuddle up on a warm engine. When that engine is restarted, the consequences
        can be dire.
    • Your neighbors may consider them a nuisance and a threat to small wildlife, perhaps with cause.
PAW Cat Care Guide – Keeping Your Cat Safe                                                                          7

    • Rabies is a very real danger in this area. Even if your cat is vaccinated, rabid animals are dangerous
       because of their potential aggressiveness (rabid raccoons have been known to attack and kill cats). And
       if your cat is exposed to rabies, the entire household may need to get a series of vaccinations. It’s
       expensive and sometimes painful. On a related note, whether your cats go out or not, never let their
       rabies vaccinations lapse. Small mammals, including bats, can get into houses without your ever
       realizing it.
    • Cats are very curious and are known to become stuck in places they are exploring (vacant houses,
       garages, sheds, pipes). They may escape or be rescued in time. Or they may not.
    • Automatic garage doors have caused the mutilation or death of many cats. Even if you don’t have one,
       your neighbors might.
    • Coyotes are virtually everywhere now (yes, probably in your neighborhood too). And they will go out of
       their way to kill domestic pets.
    • Finally, there are leash laws for cats in some jurisdictions, including Prince George’s County, so it is
       illegal to allow your cat to roam free and you can be fined if you do.

Helping Cats Adjust to Indoor Life
Some cats seem determined to get outdoors. They can be difficult to deal with. Make sure they have plenty of
activity inside – toys, scratching posts, cat trees (the higher the better), and plenty of interactive playtime. Some
cats are entertained by “Catnip Videos” (with birds and mice and bugs). Keep a water bottle or loud rattle handy
to discourage them from darting out the door.
If your cat yearns to go outside and smell the breeze and roll in the grass, consider taking her for walks on a
harness. Use an H- or jacket-style harness (not the Figure-8 type), but bear in mind that cats can back out of
most harnesses if they are really determined. And a cat on a harness has no protection against a dog. A better
option would be a cat fence or cat enclosure, which can be either stand-alone or attached to an existing fence.
There are both do-it-yourself versions and kits you can purchase from catalogs (see the Shopping section for
sources).
Note that cat fences will not always keep out predators, so don’t leave your cats outside unsupervised,
even if they are safely contained.

Lost Cats
Lost cats are sometimes found. Sadly, many are not. Steps to take if you lose your pet include:
   • Advertise in the local newspapers. And keep checking the Found column. Lost cats sometimes show
        up miles away weeks later. Ask if special rates are available for lost animals.
   • Visit the shelter (don’t just call) and file a report, with a full description and a good picture.
   • Put up posters with a picture in the area where the cat was lost. Offer a good reward, but be prepared
        for some weird calls.
   • Contact the local veterinarians and if possible put up posters in their offices (injured animals are
        sometimes brought in to vets by good Samaritans).
   • Contact the local police department, fire department, and humane organizations.
   • Post a notice on your local access cable station if you have one.
   • If it’s feasible, go door to door with a picture and ask neighbors if they have seen your pet. Or put flyers
        on cars in the area.
   • Have an announcement made at the local school. Kids may notice a new cat in the neighborhood.
   • There are lost and found sites on the Internet where you can post a notice.

Household Hazards
►ASPCA Poison Control Center: 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) ◄
You should approach cat-proofing as though you had an active, inquisitive toddler in your house. Like toddlers,
cats will get into everything. Actually, they’re worse than toddlers, because they can climb higher and they can
PAW Cat Care Guide – Keeping Your Cat Safe                                                                             8

jump. And toxins can be even more hazardous for cats, because their metabolism is different from dogs or
humans, so even seemingly innocuous products can be deadly.
Note that kittens often swallow things they are playing with, and that includes pills. Never leave medication
where a cat can get to it.
For more comprehensive information and warnings, please check out the following articles:
www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/protect_your_pet_from_common_household_dangers
http://www.fabcats.org/poisonsinthehome.html

Chemicals & Toxins
    •    Medications – Human medications are often poisonous to cats. Cats cannot metabolize Tylenol, for
         instance, and it will kill them if they are not treated in time. If you think your cat could have been
         poisoned, try to remember if there is any medication in the house that he
         might have ingested. The vet will be better able to treat the cat if she has          Tip –
         some idea what the poison might be.                                                   Human medicines &
    •    Dog Products – Many products that are harmless for dogs are deadly to cats,         dog products can be
         including some shampoos and flea products. For instance, the permethrin             deadly to cats.
         family of insecticides is relatively safe for dogs, but toxic for cats, whereas products with pyrethrins are
         safe for cats when used as directed. Never use dog products on cats.
    •    Cat Products – Even products that are safe for cats can be toxic when misused. Overdosing is a
         common cause of toxicity. Always follow the directions, and if the cat shows any adverse reactions,
         discontinue use and call the vet.
    •    Household Cleaners – Household cleaners should be kept out of the reach of cats. Some cats are good
         at opening cabinets and you will need to get child-proof fasteners. Even if a bottle is closed up tight, if
         the cat knocks it over it could break and spill. Cats don’t usually eat or drink a toxic product, but they
         might lick it off their feet or fur.
         Household disinfectants can be harmful to cats. If you need to disinfect, try a mild bleach solution
         instead (1 part bleach to 32 parts water).
    •    Antifreeze – Many animals like the taste of antifreeze, and will drink it when given the opportunity. It
         is deadly. Sometimes the animal can be saved with prompt veterinary care, but not always. Don’t allow
         your cat access to areas where antifreeze might be stored or might leak. Buy antifreeze containing
         propylene glycol, which is safer for animals if ingested in small amounts.
    •    Beauty Products – Hair dyes, suntan lotion, nail polish, etc., can be toxic to cats.
    •    Pesticides – Insect killers, rat poison, fungicides, etc., are very dangerous to pets. Avoid the use of these
         products if possible. If you must use them, be careful to read all the warnings and follow the directions
         exactly. Note that cats can be poisoned by eating rodents that have consumed rat poison, so it’s always
         dangerous, even if it’s not accessible to the cat directly.

Plants
Cats like to snack on plants and grass, but many plants are toxic to varying degrees. Some might cause a mild
reaction – slight vomiting or minor inflammation or brief burning. Others, like lilies, are deadly poison, even in
very small amounts. If you have plants, or plan to get any, please check the specific variety to be sure it’s cat
safe. Even hanging plants aren’t necessarily safe if you have an active and determined cat.
If you grow grass for your cat to eat, buy it from a pet-supply store or catalog. Grass seed from nurseries often
contains potentially harmful fungus.
For a more comprehensive list of toxic plants, see the Toxic Plants document on the PAW web site, or refer to
one of the sites below.
PAW Cat Care Guide – Keeping Your Cat Safe                                                                      9

These web sites have comprehensive lists of toxic plants:
www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/protect_your_pet_from_common_household_dangers/
common_poisonous_plants.html
www.cfainc.org/articles/plants.html
http://www.fabcats.org/hiddendangersofplants.html

This site has a list of non-toxic plants:
http://www.cfainc.org/articles/plants-non-toxic.html

Lilies – Lilies are extremely toxic to cats, including the following varieties:
    Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum)
    Tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum)                                                       Tip –
    Rubrum (Lilium speciosum)                                                          Many plants are toxic
                                                                                       to cats. Lilies are
    Japanese show lily (Lilium lancifolium)
                                                                                       extremely dangerous.
    Day lily (Hemerocallis species)

Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia) is also very dangerous to cats (and children).

Symptoms of Plant Poisoning:
   • Continual vomiting
   • Diarrhea
   • Refusal of food
   • Pale gums or tongue
   • Swollen tongue
   • Abdominal pain
   • Convulsions

If your cat exhibits signs of plant poisoning, call your vet immediately. If you cannot reach a vet, call the
Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Dangerous Food
The following foods can be dangerous for pets.
Adapted from: http://www.hsus.org/pets/pet_care/protect_your_pet_from_common_household_dangers/
foods_potentially_poisonous_to_pets.html

    •   Alcoholic beverages
    •   Apple seeds
    •   Apricot pits                                                                  Tip –
    •   Avocados—toxic to birds, mice, rabbits, horses, cattle, and dairy goats       Don’t feed your cat
    •   Cherry pits                                                                   products with garlic or
    •   Candy (particularly any candy containing the sweetener Xylitol)               onion.
    •   Chocolate (especially baking chocolate. Other types of chocolate may upset
        your pet’s stomach but are usually only harmful when ingested in large amounts)
    •   Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans)
    •   Garlic
    •   Hops (used in home beer brewing)
PAW Cat Care Guide – Keeping Your Cat Safe                                                                       10

    •   Macadamia nuts
    •   Moldy foods
    •   Mushroom plants
    •   Mustard seeds
    •   Onions and onion powder
    •   Peach pits
    •   Potato leaves and stems (green parts)
    •   Raisins
    •   Rhubarb leaves
    •   Salt
    •   Tea (caffeine)
    •   Tomato leaves and stems (green parts)
    •   Walnuts
    •   Yeast dough

Common Household Items
Remember, your cat is the equivalent of a toddler. Keep knives, utensils, needles and threads, sharp objects, etc.
out of reach. Don’t allow cats around open flames. If you use candles, make sure they are inaccessible to the
cats.
String and yarn are dangerous. If a cat swallows string or yarn, he could end up      Tip –
in emergency surgery. If you have string cat toys, only use them interactively        The following common
and put them away at other times.                                                     items can kill cats:
Small objects, such as buttons or beads or little pieces from children’s toys, can    Recliners, small objects,
be swallowed by cats, especially by curious kittens. Make sure you don’t leave        string, deflated balloons,
small objects around. Some kittens like to play with twist-ties and end up            unbundled electrical wires.
swallowing them.
Deflated balloons can choke cats.

Recliners
Recliners can (and do) kill cats and kittens. If you have a recliner, please make sure the cat isn’t inside when you
close it. Rocking chairs and gliders can be dangerous too, but recliners are potential death traps.

Appliances
Cats just love to curl up inside a warm clothes dryer. Tragically, they are sometimes still inside when the dryer
gets turned on. Keep the door closed! If you find a cat in the dryer, shut the door and bang loudly on the side. It
seems mean, but if it makes him afraid of the dryer it’s worth it.
Kittens will sneak into a dishwasher and refrigerator if given a chance – it’s amazing how stealthy they can be –
and sometimes get shut in if people aren’t paying attention.
Use common sense with other household appliances. Don’t leave stoves or hot plates turned on when you aren’t
around. Be careful with power tools. Use the same precautions that you would for a toddler.

Litter Boxes & Litter
Litter boxes are very important to cats, and litter box avoidance is very unpleasant for cat owners. Even a single
instance of trauma associated with the litter box can create litter box aversion, which can be very difficult to
overcome. So it’s in everybody’s best interest to have the best possible litter box situation for the cats.
PAW Cat Care Guide – Litter Boxes & Litter                                                                         11

Your motto for litter boxes, as well as for food, should be “Don’t make any sudden
                                                                                              Tip –
moves.” If you can avoid it, don’t move litter boxes around without warning; don’t
                                                                                              The 3 C’s of litter
change the litter without keeping a box available with the old litter. Every move and         box satisfaction:
every change should be gradual, so the cat doesn’t get confused or frustrated. Cats           convenient, clean,
don’t like change, and they appreciate an adjustment period when their routine is             and comfortable.
disrupted.
Luckily, most cats aren’t all that fussy and will tolerate plenty of variety in their bathroom facilities, but if you
have one of the fussy cats, you don’t want to make him disgruntled with his litter box setup. You want your cats
to be happy and consistent little litter box users.

Where Should You Put The Litter Box?
Litter boxes must be convenient for the cat to use. If they are tucked away in the basement, the cat might avoid
making the trek to the box, or he might get caught short. Kittens especially need boxes readily available. In a
multi-story house, there should be a box on each floor.
Don’t put litter boxes close to the food and water. Don’t put them next to the washer or dryer – the noise can
scare the cat away and trigger litter box avoidance.
Some cats prefer a secluded place for their boxes, where they feel secure from interruption (kids racing by,
ambushes from other cats). Other cats are more claustrophobic and prefer to have the box in a more open area.
Other cats couldn’t care less. You need to figure out what your cat wants and provide it, because this is a
situation where the cat rules.

How Many Boxes Should You Have?
Make sure you have enough litter boxes. The rule of thumb is one box for each cat, plus one. That’s in case you
have cats who prefer not to poop where they pee and vice versa. It also ensures that if the cat messes up one box
(e.g., if he has a bout of diarrhea), he will still have a clean facility to use.
If you have a multi-cat household, you want to be sure every cat has access to a box whenever he needs one.

Cleaning the Litter Box
Litter boxes need to be cleaned frequently. If you are using clumping litter you should scoop out the poop and
clumps at least once a day. Scrub the box periodically with water. If you use a cleanser, make sure it is mild and
doesn’t have an odor, and rinse the box thoroughly. Don’t use strong cleansers or anything that might cause the
box to retain a chemical or perfumey odor.
If you are using non-clumping clay litter, scoop out the poop at least daily. Empty the box weekly and scrub it
and replace the litter.
If you are using non-traditional litters (pine, paper, crystals, etc.), follow the directions on the package.

What Kind of Litter Should You Use?
There are many different types of litter on the market nowadays, and the type you choose depends on your cat’s
preference and your own needs.
    •   If you have allergies or asthma you would want to avoid the dustier kinds of litter and go with pellets or
        crystals or paper (if your cat approves).
    •   If your cat has been declawed, you would want to choose a very smooth sandy litter to make walking
        and digging in the litter box less uncomfortable.
    •   Avoid scented litters. Cats dislike perfumey smells; in fact, perfume can be used as a cat repellent. Most
        cats like clumping litters, the sandier the better, but some prefer a coarser texture.
PAW Cat Care Guide – Litter Boxes & Litter                                                                          12

Remember, you can’t control your cat’s preferences. All you can do is try to figure out what your cat wants and
then provide it.
Here is a quick rundown on the kinds of litter you can choose from. Bear in mind that brands come and go, so
the selection on the shelves may not match the list below.
    •   Clay non-clumping: This litter is inexpensive, but since you have to empty the entire box frequently, it
        may not save you any money over clumping litters. It’s harder to keep clean too, since you can’t just
        scoop out the clumps. But this is a good basic, no-frills litter.
    •   Scoopable/Clumping: Most people prefer clumping litter, whether clay or from organic products (see
        the corn and wheat litters below). The urine forms clumps that can be easily removed with a scoop.
        Some brands are better than others. Some are dustier, some track less, some form harder clumps, some
        are designed for multi-cat households. You can try different kinds to find what is right for you, but
        always bear in mind that your cat’s preferences should take precedence.
        Special note about clumping clay litter: Young kittens may be inclined to eat litter, or to lick it off
        themselves or their littermates, and clumping litter can get impacted in their stomach or intestines. So
        it’s best to use other types of litters with young kittens, either non-clumping clay or the paper or wheat
        or corn litters. Sometimes old sick cats will eat litter as well, in which case you want to avoid clumping
        clay.
    •   Pine: This litter comes in pellets that gradually dissolve to sawdust when they get wet. The sawdust can
        be sifted off and the pellets topped off, or you can just replace it all when the pellets are all dissolved.
        Of course you would scoop out the poop daily (at least). It’s very convenient for humans, but not all cats
        like to walk or dig in the pellets.
    •   Paper: You can get recycled paper litters in both pellet and clumping forms. The clumping form is very
        good for young kittens. It has a rather strong but not unpleasant odor. The pellet form is similar to the
        pine pellets.
    •   Crystals: Made of silicon beads which soak up urine and eliminate odor. You only have to scoop solid
        waste. An 8-lb. jug is supposed to last 2 months for one cat. This litter is dust-free. It would be an
        excellent choice for cats and people with respiratory problems. The older versions tracked a lot and
        were like walking on ball bearings, but the newer versions are softer and track less. This is a very
        convenient litter if your cats will use it.
    •   Ground Corn (World’s Best Cat Litter): An excellent litter, especially for kittens or sick or old cats who
        might eat litter. It is safe to ingest (in small quantities), clumps well, and is biodegradable. It has become
        much more readily available in recent years and you can probably find it at your local pet supply store.
        It is more expensive than other litters, but if you only have a few litter boxes it is worth considering.
    •   Ground Wheat (‘SWheat): This litter gets mixed reviews. Most people don’t like it because it is very
        dusty, the clumps fall apart, and it gets rancid after getting wet. But other people say they like it, so the
        formula may have changed since the first round of reviews. Be warned: dogs like to eat this litter.
    •   Citrus: This is a bone-headed concept, since cats don’t like the smell of citrus – in fact, it is sometimes
        used as a cat repellent. Avoid this litter (because your cats will probably want to).
    •   Flushable: read the directions. It may not be appropriate if you have a septic system or live in an
        apartment with a large shared plumbing system.

Miscellaneous
Outdoor Cats: Sometimes cats who came from outdoors are reluctant to use a litter box at first. In that case, try
filling the box with dirt and then adding litter gradually.
Litter Depth: Most cats like a deep substrate, but others prefer to have it shallower, perhaps because then there
isn’t so much to move around. To figure out which your cat prefers, try grading the substrate, from shallow at
one end to deep at the other, and notice which end your cat uses.
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