Reading a Cat’s Body Language

The Tale of the Tail

  • Flying high: “All is terrific!”
  • High with the tip hooked over: “I’m playing!”
  • Dropped low: “I’m very unhappy.”
  • Twitching back and forth: “Back off!”
  • Bushy: “I’m angry!”

Tongues Talk When Cats Groom

  • Rapid, non-stop licks: “I’m embarrassed.”
  • Short licks while looking at you: “I’m content”
  • Constant, deep, intense licks: “I’m bored.”
  • Short, shallow licks: “I’m nervous.”
  • Licks all over YOU: “I like you!”

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How old is your cat in human years?

Proper nutrition is important throughout the different life stages of your kitten and cat.

Litter Box Basics

As you get ready to bring a cat or kitten into your home, make sure you have all the things you will need to make your new pet feel welcome. Besides providing high-quality food, a safe environment, proper veterinary care, and lots of love, it is also important to give some thought to your cat’s litter box. While this may not seem like a very important subject at first, the litter box can quickly become the major focus of your attention should your cat decide to stop using it. Elimination disorders are one of the biggest reasons for cats to be given up to shelters, and one of the most common problems for which people seek veterinary advice.

While it’s true that most cats will instinctively use a litter box from the time they are young kittens, some basic knowledge about cats and litter boxes can help prevent problems from starting in the first place. And, as we all know, it’s much easier to prevent a problem than to deal with it after it’s started! Here are some important points to keep in mind:

New kittens

  • Cats have a natural instinct to eliminate in sand or soil, and kittens also learn from observing their mother. Kittens usually start learning to use the litter box at 3 or 4 weeks of age, so by the time you bring your kitten home, she will likely be used to using a litter box.

    You will not need to train your kitten to use the litter box in the same way that you would
    housebreak a puppy. However, it is important to make sure your kitten knows the location of the litter box in her new surroundings. Make sure the box is not in a noisy or hard-to-reach place. Soon after you bring your kitten home, take her to the litter box at a quiet time. Place her into the litter box, gently take her front paws and show her how to scratch at the litter once or twice. Don’t worry if she jumps right out again. Place her in the box at the times throughout the day when a cat would normally go to the bathroom:
    first thing in the morning, and after meals, playing, and waking up from a nap. Remember that cats prefer privacy when using the litter box, so once you see that she has used the box, leave her alone.

    Most cats will make the adjustment to a new litter box without any problems. However, if there are any accidents, don’t scold or punish your cat. Yelling or using a squirt bottle will only confuse and scare your cat, and she won’t understand why you are upset. Instead, clean up the accident with an enzyme cleaner to remove stains and odor. Then go back to square one, placing the kitten in the litter box frequently until she starts using it. If the accidents continue, or if you are noticing any diarrhea or straining, have your kitten examined by your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical problems. Cats with urinary tract disease or intestinal parasites may stop using the litter box.

Number of boxes

  • The rule of thumb here is that you should provide one litter box per cat, plus one extra. While this may seem excessive to us, cats are very fastidious and some cats will not use a litter box that other cats have used. Some cats also prefer to use one box to urinate in and another to defecate in. If your house has several levels, make sure there are litter boxes on every floor.

Location

  • A cat’s litter box in a quiet, private corner. Cats prefer to use the litter box in a quiet, private
    place where they feel safe. Loud noises (buzzers on washers and dryers, etc), people walking in and out, or being startled by a dog or challenged by another cat as they leave the litter box, can be disturbing enough to make your cat choose another location.

    If your dog tries to steal a snack from the cat’s litter box, try placing a baby gate across the doorway to the room the litter box is in (this would also work in a closet doorway, if needed). Place the gate a few inches off the floor so that the cat can get under it but the dog cannot. Besides preventing the dog from harassing the cat as she enters or leaves the box, this will prevent the chance of your dog developing an intestinal obstruction from eating cat litter, or becoming infected with any intestinal worms the cat may have. If your dog is small enough to go under the gate, position the bottom of the gate at the floor and for kittens or arthritic cats, place a stepstool in front of the gate to help the cat jump up and over.

    If you have more than one cat, make sure that the litter box is not in a location where one cat can ‘corner’ another as she leaves the litter box (for example in a hallway that ends in a dead-end). There should always be an entrance and an escape route.

    Most cats prefer not to have their litter box right next to their food dish, so avoid this situation if possible.

Size and type of litter box

  • There are many types of litter boxes available, including covered boxes, self-cleaning boxes, and boxes designed to fit into corners. Make sure the litter boxes you provide are the right size(s) for your cat(s). Some animal behaviorists say that the litter boxes people provide are often too small. Keep in mind that kittens or geriatric cats may need boxes with lower sides. If you need a large box with relatively low sides, consider using sweater storage boxes. You can also cut down the sides of the sweater box if needed. Some cats may feel more secure in a litter box with a hood. This can also be helpful for cats who dig very enthusiastically as they cover things up. This may also work well for cats who stand
    on the edge of the box to urinate or defecate. However, a hooded box can concentrate odor and should be cleaned daily. The new automatic self-cleaning litter boxes can save on clean-up time, but some models are noisy. Some cats seem to be bothered by the noise, some apparently are not. If you have several cats, you might want to provide several types of litter boxes and let your cats choose between them.

Litter type

  • In general, cats seem to like a litter that has the consistency of beach sand or garden soil. They seem to prefer fine-textured litter (such as the clumping type) to more coarse litter, and unscented litter to scented. Two inches of litter in the box is usually sufficient. It generally works better to use less litter and change it more frequently. If you’re not sure what type of litter to use, put several types out, including clumping and non-clumping, and see which your cats prefer.

Cleanliness

  • CAUTION: Pregnant women should not clean the litter box due to risks associated with
    Toxoplasmosis.

    Cats are extremely clean creatures, and they may avoid a litter box that is not cleaned often enough. Scoop the litter boxes at least once daily. Wash the litter box and change the litter completely once a week. Do not clean the box with a strong smelling disinfectant, but rinse the box well after washing it. Any accidents should be cleaned up with an enzyme cleaner specifically made for pet stains, including cat urine. Regular cleaners may mask the odor so that we can’t smell it, but to a cat’s superior sense of smell, the odor will still be discernible, and can prompt a cat to continue to use that area as the
    bathroom.

Summary

  • Most cats have a strong instinct to use a litter box, and cats do not need to be housebroken in the same way that we housetrain dogs. However, keeping some ‘litter box basics’ in mind can help keep your cat content and prevent problems from starting.

Toxic Table Food

Common foods that can be toxic or hazardous for your pet

  • Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine
  • Xylitol — Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste
  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Onions, Garlic, Chives
  • Grapes & Raisins
  • Milk
  • Bones
  • Raw meat and eggs

Recommended Vaccinations and Care For Kittens and Cats

6-8 Weeks old:

  • Physical Exam
  • FVRCP Vaccine #1
  • Fecal Test and Deworm

12 Weeks old:

  • Physical Exam
  • FVRCP Vaccine #2
  • Feline Leukemia Vaccine #1
  • Feline Leukemia/FIV Test
  • Fecal Test and Deworm

16 Weeks old:

  • Physical Exam
  • FVRCP Vaccine #3
  • Feline Leukemia Vaccine #2
  • Rabies Vaccine
  • Fecal Test and Deworm

Approximately 6 months old:

  • Spay or Neuter
  • Microchip

Yearly Thereafter:

  • Physical Exam
  • FVRCP and/or Feline Leukemia Boosters
  • Feline Leukemia/FIV Test as appropriate
  • Rabies Booster

Recommended Procedures for Cats and Kittens

Spay: A spay is the surgical removal of the female cat’s uterus and ovaries. After being spayed, she will not experience heat cycles or become pregnant. Once your cat has been spayed, her
disposition should not change except for the better: she is usually more relaxed, playful and
affectionate, as well as become less noisy and nervous. More importantly for her health, spaying
also dramatically reduces the occurrence of tumors in the reproductive system, false pregnancies
and conditions related to hormone imbalances, as well as eliminates the risk of uterine infections
and tumors.

Neuter: A neuter is the surgical removal of the testicles through two small incisions in the scrotum. Neutering at a young age helps to decrease the male cat’s urge to roam and helps decrease
the chance of him developing the habit of “spraying” walls and furniture with urine. Neutering also
tends to make him a friendlier and gentler pet, as well as less prone to fighting and serious injury.
More importantly for his health, neutering also dramatically decreases the occurrence of prostate
and other reproductive tract tumors, as well as eliminates the occurrence of testicular tumors.

Microchip: The microchip is an innovative pet retrieval system providing safe, lifelong identification of your pet. A microchip also improves the chances of retrieving a lost pet. The chip is the size of a grain of rice and is quickly and safely implanted in the scruff of your cat. A handheld scanner can identify your pet’s microchip. When a lost pet is scanned, its ID number can be
reported to the AKC Companion Animal Recovery Program, a database that is available 24 hours a
day. That system can then reconnect you with your lost pet.

Fecal Testing and Deworming: We recommend frequent fecal testing for worms and parasites. This is especially important if children and other pets are in the home, as several intestinal parasites can be passed to children or other animals. The current Center for Disease Control (CDC)
recommendation is that families with children under the age of 8 years old or immunocompromised
persons should deworm their pets quarterly and do a fecal test twice a year.

Feline Leukemia/FIV Testing: This is a simple blood test that can detect both the feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency viruses. Results are available within a matter of minutes. Both diseases are highly contagious and potentially fatal and we may recommend yearly testing if your
cat is at high risk of exposure.

Proper Nutrition: Your kitten should be fed a high quality kitten diet. A high quality diet is specially formulated with the specific balance of nutrients your kitten needs. You can discuss
special diet options for your kitten with your veterinarian. Please refrain from feeding your kitten
any table scraps, as this promotes bad habits and may result in dietary imbalances.

A lifetime of Feline Wellness

Here  is a handy checklist to ensure your feline friend stays happy and health:

Feline Wellness Form

Feline Diseases Protected Against With Proper Vaccinations

FVRCP – Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Panleukopenia

  • Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus: These are highly contagious viral infections which can be fatal to kittens. Each of these produce flu or cold-like symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and eyes, and fever. They can also cause ulcers in the mouth or throat.
  • Panleukopenia: Also called feline distemper, this is a potentially fatal disease among cats. It is a highly contagious viral disease that can be spread through the air, contact with infected animals, or even contact with places where infected animals have been. The disease affects the cat’s intestinal tract and bone marrow. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, severe dehydration and fever.

Rabies

  • This is a fatal infection of the central nervous system. It is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies attacks nervous system tissue and can cause paralysis and death.
    Some symptoms include changes in behavior – such as excitability and aggression – followed by paralysis. This disease is transmittable to humans. Administration of the rabies vaccine is regulated by the State of Colorado and is required for cats and dogs by State Law.

Feline Leukemia Virus

  • This disease is caused by a virus that inhibits the immune system and results in various types of cancer and other chronic diseases. The virus is present in saliva, urine, and other body fluids and
    is typically passed from cat to cat by general contact – including licking, biting and sneezing.
    Symptoms vary considerably from cat to cat. Cats may be infected for long periods of time before they show any signs. Signs include depression, fever, loss of appetite, anemia and swollen glands of the neck and abdomen. The feline leukemia virus may cause chronic or recurrent infections by other disease causing agents.