From a cat’s point of view
January 25, 2013
People adopt a cat often with a clear vision of how that kitty should look. Adopted kitty goes home and often everything goes well. Sometimes not. We are grateful for the times when things go well.
Do not become discouraged by the times that things don't go well. Cats are independent creatures that have their own view of things.
A common problem is that kitty is hiding under the bed. The adopter had imagined going home and enjoying a good TV program with kitty on lap. Instead they are alone with TV and kitty under bed. Be patient and you will most likely get exactly what you want.
We adopted two youngish cats to a family around Thanksgiving. They reported that one kitty came out to play within a couple of days. The other one, even with lots of coaxing felt safest under the bed. Now, six weeks later, the second kitty is out and playing. Often shelter cats have been tossed out by someone, tried to make it as stray cat, caught and brought to a shelter and put in a kennel. Next off to a clinic for spay/neuter and then taken home by a person(s) they have never seen.
Cats are not pack animals by nature as dogs are. All this moving around is stressful for kitty and she may experience it as trauma. They need to have time to learn that they are safe and can trust.
The most common problem cat owners have are litter box problems. This is an easier issue to prevent than to cure. Cats have a strong sense of smell. The litterbox may appear clean to you but not to the cat. This is a little like going into a filthy gas station bathroom. If it's unappealing the cat may go elsewhere. Many owners clean the litterbox once a week. If you flushed your toilet once a week what would you do? Often the cat is defecating about two inches from the litterbox. Watch a cat go to the bathroom. The cat digs a little hole about the size of a quarter, he carefully positions himself and it's a bull's eye every time. If the feces is not in the box the cat did not intend for it to go in the box. She is trying to tell you that she would like to use the box, but she's repelled by the smell and wetness.
Cleanliness is key. How do you lure kitty back into the box? You must convince kitty that the box is a good place to be. Through play and high value treats lure kitty towards the clean box. Eventually lure him into the box until he gets the idea that the box is a fun place to be. Reward kitty verbally, petting, brushing, treats and anything else that works. Eventually kitty will use the box again. When he does reward him and make it worth his while.
As infuriating as it can be to deal with litter box problems do not reprimand kitty. Positive reinforcement works best with kitty.
Cats misbehave when they are stressed. Yelling or hitting only stresses kitty more which increases the likelihood of kitty's poor behavior and then if you reprimand with even more gusto kitty gets more stressed and on and on it goes.
Stressing your cat to teach it something new is never a good idea. How well do you learn when you're stressed? Be positive and your kitty will be once again using the litter box.
Cheryl Wicks is the executive director of Sammie's Friends. The shelter can be reached at 530-471-5041.