Going on vacation? Cats are creatures of routine, so as much as you can keep your cat’s lifestyle stable. Ideally, keep your cat at home as cats feel safest and most comfortable in their familiar environment.

Do not leave your cat alone for more than 12 hours without someone to check on them. This is to ensure attention to medical emergencies, make sure your cat is eating, and provide your cat with much needed affection and mental stimulation. If you are going away for more than 10 days, it is best to have someone who can spend the night at least a few times a week while you are away.

How to Find a Cat-Sitter

When Hiring a Cat-Sitter

Boarding

Sometimes there is no choice but to board your cat. Boarding can be stressful for any cat. Plan ahead. Make sure room is available.

Your Cat at Someone Else’s House

Confine the cat to a “safe room” preferably away from loud unfamiliar noises and other animals. Some cats will need to stay confined to one room for the duration of the visit, depending on how outgoing (or shy) your cat is and how comfortable she is with strangers, other animals, and new environments. Security is key so make sure there is no chance for your cat to escape through open windows, cat doors or other doors left open. If she does escape she will be lost and far from home.

Traveling with Your Cat

Prepare ahead of time. Is your cat comfortable in a crate for the duration of the trip? Does your cat need any health certificates or vaccines before the trip? It is always a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about any vaccines or other medications. Bring enough food, litter, and medications (if needed).

Finally, have a great trip! You can relax knowing that you have prepared properly and can either travel with your cat or leave her at home in safe hands, where she will be comfortable until you return.

Why Get a Scratching Post?

Cats scratch on things for two reasons: to shed their claws and to mark their territory. To save your furniture from damage, you need to provide your cat with a scratching post or two and teach him how to use it.

Tips for Scratching Post Use:

Once your cat is using the scratching post you have provided, you can teach him that other things are off limits. If you catch your cat scratching the sofa or chair, make those areas undesirable by covering them with aluminum foil or double sided sticky tape or lightly spray the area with a lemon scent. Do not spray or scold your cat as this can make him fearful of you and your cat may learn to scratch the sofa or couch in your absence. It’s important to entice your cat to the scratching post and praise him for using it.

Types of Posts

Horizontal or vertical. The first thing to consider when buying your cat a scratching post or furniture is whether or not he prefers vertical or horizontal surfaces. Some cats like to rear up and pull down, while others like to stretch way out along the floor and pull. Most large cat trees provide both surfaces, while the basic post is more for vertical than horizontal. Cardboard types tend to lie directly on the floor. Some types of vertical scratching posts can be hung from a doorknob or off the back of a door. The best thing you can do is observe your cat. If he tends to rear up to claw, then a vertical post is your best bet. If your cat favors your carpet or rugs, then a floor-based horizontal scratching post is better.

Sisal rope. Sisal rope scratching posts and cat furniture provide long-lasting scratching surfaces for cats. Sisal is very tough and resists shredding very well. Sisal scratching posts are excellent choices for cats that prefer to claw and scratch rough surfaces. The main downside to sisal is that it is not very easy to incorporate catnip into in order to make it more attractive to your cat.

Carpet. Carpeted scratching posts and cat furniture make up the bulk of most manufactured products. It is easily made, easy to work with, and can be attached to many different surfaces and shapes. Carpet is not nearly as durable as sisal, so over time it shreds and loses bits of the nap, making it messy. Carpet also retains dirt and debris, so it will need occasional vacuuming.

Cardboard. Cardboard scratching surfaces are fairly new and by far the cheapest alternative. Most cardboard scratching surfaces are refillable. Cardboard, which has a lot of holes, can easily accommodate catnip to make it more attractive; however, it shreds easily, leading to bits of cardboard around the house. Some cats also like to chew on cardboard, which is not good due to the chemicals present within it.

Wood. Wood is another type of scratching surface. These types are not very common but are probably the closest thing to what a cat in the wild would use to stretch, mark, and shed on. A wood post will be very durable, more so than sisal. It does not lend itself to hosting catnip, but it also will not retain dirt or leave bits of itself lying around.

We are happy that you have decided to add a cat to your household. There are many lovely cats to choose from—ranging greatly in age and temperament. Before selecting a cat, it is best to think about what type of cat would best fit into your lifestyle. Below are some of the factors we consider wise to understand before you bring home your new feline.

Your Household’s Experience Level

If you have never had the pleasure of a feline in your home, you will need to be initiated gently! Though a kitten seems non-threatening and oh-so-cute, they are babies and need lots of time and attention. Kittens usually require more training in household manners, and the home will need to be kitten-proofed so that they cannot injure themselves, as they will get into everything! Also, a kitten will develop a personality based on learning and on genes, and the personality may be one that you didn’t plan for or are not ready for. It certainly could be an OK match if your heart is set on it, if you have time on your hands, and a willingness to learn. However, an adult cat with the right personality will likely be easier and more predictable.

If you are well versed in feline ways, you have many options. For instance, you will be able to take on a cat with behavior issues such as nipping or hiding. If these issues persist, we will show you how to handle these common problems.

Do You Have Children?

If the human members of your family are young, say under twelve, we recommend that you avoid cats who are skittish or easily startled by noises and activity. You should also avoid cats with a history of aggression.

Though kittens are cute and playful, they are not always good matches for households with young children. Kittens are fragile and need very consistent and gentle handling. They can develop serious behavioral problems if not raised with consistency and care by all members of the household.

Type of Home

If you have a small apartment, we would advise a less active cat, perhaps one that is over five years old. If you have a large house with multiple bedrooms, you will want to avoid an overly-fearful cat, as a lot of space can be overwhelming, and your cat may spend a lot of time hiding.

Lifestyle

Are you home a lot or gone all day? All cats need daily attention, both petting and interactive playtime, but some cats need more. If you are gone all day, you should think twice about getting a young kitten or a needy cat. Behavioral problems (such as biting, scratching, and destructive behavior) are common if cats are under-stimulated. A more independent temperament may suit your lifestyle better.

If you often have company over, you may consider an outgoing cat who will enjoy the extra attention. A shy cat would be overwhelmed by lots of social gatherings and would likely hide.

Consider the grooming needs of your new cat as well. A longhaired cat is going to need more attention to its coat. This will include thorough brushing anywhere from once daily to a minimum of twice a week.

You could also think about getting two cats instead of one; this way they can provide stimulation and company for each other. An excellent option is to adopt cats who have come into the shelter as a pair and have a history of getting along well. Barring that, you could adopt one cat now, and then come back in a month or two, after your cat has settled in, to adopt a suitable companion.

Personality Preference

Do you have an idea of what type of personality you like in a cat? Are you looking for a very playful cat or a lap cat? While it can be difficult to tell how your new cat will be in a home, we do have personality profiles that will let you know what we have observed here. If a cat is a “lap cat” in this setting, she is likely to be in a home as well. Remember that some of these cats will fall into the “needy” category. If a cat is very high-energy here, she is likely to be high-energy in a home. On the other hand, a cat that is mildly shy here may very well become less shy (and potentially more active) over time in a stable home. So, be sure to take these factors into consideration when you are looking.

Do You Have a Dog?

If you have a cat-friendly dog, you will want a kitten (needs lots of supervision with a dog), a confident adult cat, or an adult cat who has a history of enjoying life with a dog. Avoid very fearful cats, declawed cats, and otherwise disabled cats (such as three-legged) unless you have a very small and docile dog. Make sure you have the time and space to introduce the two gradually. You should also be willing to make practical changes to your environment as needed, such as blocking your dog’s access to the litter box and installing safety gates.

Do You Have Other Cats?

It is best to match temperaments and stay within the same age group, when adopting a second cat. If you have a playful, active cat at home, you will need one who can put up with and maybe even enjoy that level of energy. Likewise, if you have a mellow older cat at home, don’t bring home a hyper, aggressive kitten. We have cats available for adoption that have demonstrated goodwill toward other felines. You may want to start by looking at some of these kitties, especially if you are not sure if your cat at home is good with other cats. It is important to realize that no matter who you decide upon, it will take time, and space to separate the cats, in order to make gradual introductions. Cats are territorial animals and often take weeks or months to adjust to another cat in their space.

Indoor Vs. Outdoor

Indoor cats typically live safer and longer lives, as they avoid such hazards as being hit by cars or contracting fatal diseases such as FIV (Feline Immune-deficiency Virus) and FelV (Feline Leukemia) from neighborhood cats. We encourage people to look into alternatives to letting their cats roam the streets, such as fencing in your yard with special cat-proof fencing or perhaps harness-training and “walking” your cat. However, if you are determined that your kitty go outdoors solo, you should avoid white cats (they can get skin cancer) and skittish cats (they are more likely to run away, and very difficult to find if hiding). Cats who have been declawed should never be let outdoors, as they are unable to adequately defend themselves and often have impaired ability to climb.

This list of ten books offers a survey of some of the most informative literature on cat behavior and biology, and how to make a happy home with your feline.

The most common reported form of aggression towards guardians in young indoor cats involves play aggression with unsolicited attacks, anywhere from light scratches to hard uninhibited skin- breaking bites. This behavior usually occurs in younger animals less than two years of age; however it can last many years into adulthood. There is no gender or breed predilection when it comes to play in cats, they all do it. Normal play behavior includes social, object, locomotor, and predatory play. They all start between 4-8 weeks of age and if not given the opportunity to play appropriately may lead to misunderstanding, behavior problems, and aggression as well as destruction of property. Under-stimulation such as being left alone all day or lack of appropriate play and exploratory behavior options may worsen the condition. Be aware that play time during early morning and evening hours corresponds with natural rhythm of hunting behavior in felines.   It is therefore important to know exactly when and how to properly play with your feline companion.

There are a variety of cat toys on the market and include food and puzzle toys and toys that bounce, flutter, or move in a way that entices the cat to chase. The best toys for active play are string or wand toys that look like feathers or streamers or a toy dandling from a fishing pole. Even a peacock feather makes a great interactive toy due to its length. For timid cats its best to stay away from large or noisy toys and not to choose a toy that could appear intimidating. Some cats are more attracted to things in the air while others prefer staying closer to the ground.  Knowing whether your cat prefers air or ground play hunting will be an advantage, and you may have to try several different toys and rotate them frequently before you find the ones your cat likes best. Your cat’s age and physical condition will have to be taken into account.  An elderly or out-of-shape cat will benefit more from ground hunting.

When you play with your cat try to imitate the movement of prey—this is much more interesting to your cat than continuous movements. Sometimes just a subtle movement and twitching of the toy can catch your cat’s eye, and your cat will plan its attack. Avoid dangling the toy in your cats face; no prey does that.

For your sessions to be most effective, play at least twice daily for about 10 to 15 minutes each time. Include a morning play session before you go to work to prepare your cat for a day home alone; leave her with a variety of food and puzzle toys to engage in solitary play. The play session when you get home is extremely important for an indoor cat because she probably napped much of the day. If you’re consistent in scheduling playtime, your cat will soon look forward to your arrival. Yet another play session can be scheduled before you go to bed, this helps some cats sleep calmly through the night.

When playtime is over, be sure to put all interactive toys away. In addition to the danger of strings being chewed, these toys should be reserved for your play sessions. Between sessions you can leave furry mice and other safe toys out for solo play. Don’t leave out too many toys because they’ll soon lose their appeal. Rotating a few helps prevent boredom, and your cat will think she’s getting a new toy each time it reappears.

Tips

How to Avoid Problems

Benefits of Interactive Play

Contrary to popular belief, play aggression can occur in a cat of any age. The term “play aggression” can be deceiving, as this type of aggression can sometimes be extremely intense, especially if the cat has started to target people in the household. Play aggression in cats involves biting and clawing as well as stalking and attacking people and generally treating people as a cat would treat prey or another cat. This behavior peaks in most cases in the morning and evenings—just like in the hunting would. Play-aggressive cats are usually young and very active; however, even older cats can be playfully aggressive. These cats tend to be very high-energy cats that become easily bored and have a short attention span. They will usually find just about anything to play with and are very rough and intense in their play. Lack of scheduled appropriate playtime is a major factor contributing to play aggression. Play aggression is often exhibited in cats that are ignored or left alone for long periods of time without a human or animal playmate.

When dealing with this form of aggression it is important to understand that play behavior is natural in all cats, and especially in kittens. Play is a natural and incredibly important part of the development. It keeps them healthy and helps them learn about social interactions with other cats or kittens. It’s also an energy releaser—and as everybody knows, kittens have endless energy! Kittens begin playing with their littermates, which helps them to develop their motor and hunting skills. In adult cats, not only can playtime ease stress and help adjust to a new home, it helps improve health, and strengthen the bond between cat and human.

Play aggression in felines is a behavior issue that can be understood, improved, and lived with as long as adopters understand the behavior and are willing to utilize suggested techniques consistently to ensure a happy home for both person and kitty.

Types of Play Matters—Interactive or Solo Play

Remember that playtime is like a hunting game for your cat. Interactive toys are the best way to play with your cat, and they usually feature a fishing pole design, with a toy dangling on the end of a string or wire. With interactive toys you can imitate various types of prey: birds, mice, snakes, bugs. Remember to move the toys like prey, as if they were trying to get away from the hunter, so don’t dangle the prey right in your cat’s face. On the other hand, don’t make it too hard for your cat to catch the toy. You want her to have many successes so that the play is fun and rewarding.

The other type of play for cats is solo play—toys they can play with by themselves. This depends on the cat’s level of activity and ability to self-entertain, but the most common types are ping pong balls, catnip toys, food dispensing toys, and fuzzy mice. They should be light enough for kitty to bat around since she will have to “bring them to life” by herself. Toys should be mentally stimulating and rotated regularly to prevent boredom.

Hands Are Not Toys

Never play roughly with a cat, wrestle with it, or move your hands so that the cat chases them. It is very important whenever you are playing with any cat to use a toy. Even if the rough play, biting, and scratching do not bother the owner, the cat will learn that your body parts are toys to bite and scratch.

Teaching Appropriate Play

Get your cat started on the right paw by training her how to play appropriately with humans. By always using toys for play, you are off to a good start. However, some kittens may still try to bite and scratch people because they may still see everything that moves as a toy. Also, they may accidentally miss the toy and grab your hand or arm. If this happens it is “GAME OVER,” stop the play immediately. The kitten will learn that play stops when she gets too rough. Ignore the cat for a while and do not give the cat any attention, you can then resume play with the cat once she has calmed. If done consistently (by everyone who interacts with the cat) it will decrease the chances of it happening again in the future, and over time you should see an improvement.

You should always try to steer the kitten’s playful behavior towards toys. The first step is to give the cat as much interactive playtime as possible. However, if the cat is still attacking humans, you can try to intercept the behavior. If you can anticipate the attack (you may see dilated pupils, a swishing tail, or other “pre-pounce” behaviors, like hiding or crouching) you can throw a toy just before the cat is about to attack. This redirects the attack towards the toy, and away from humans. However, if the cat has already attacked, owners should not offer her a toy immediately as this would be rewarding the aggressive behavior and may even increase the chance that she will attack in the future.

How to React to a Playfully Aggressive Attack: Dos and Don’ts

Your response to an attack from your cat can determine if the attack escalates or ends, and if the behavior will improve or worsen. Consistency is important.

Don’t:

Do:

Play-aggressive cats generally need a lot of room to romp and play. A large apartment or house is best. However, you can increase territory and create more vertical space in your home with perches and cat trees.

Keep in mind that play can impact the cat-human relationship in a positive manner. It can lead the cat to associate a regular positive experience with the person. This can increase trust and is especially helpful in relationships where a cat is unsure about a particular person.

Overstimulation refers to a cat’s normal response to being petted or handled in areas or ways the cat finds uncomfortable or have gone on for too long. A majority of cats exhibit overstimulation or petting-induced aggression to some degree. However, cats vary enormously as to the extent to which they like petting or handling and for how long they tolerate these without finding it aversive. They also vary greatly in the number and intensity of warning signals before it might result in aggressive reactions when those warning signals are neglected or ignored.

Here are some ways to help you develop a healthy way of petting your cat and to be safe.

The prognosis for this type of behavior in a home situation is good in most cases, given it is mostly a management problem. However, cats with rough play manners or who do not like to be petted or handled should not be allowed to play with young children or older people. The risk for injuries and infections are significant. For a good prognosis it is important to:

Has your kitten been waking you up at 5 AM for food and a good play session or even keeping you up all night playing vigorously with toys he ignores during the day? Pouncing on your feet the moment you finally fall asleep? Or has your senior cat who sleeps all day become vocal all night and not able to fall asleep?

There are two different categories of nocturnal behaviors in the cat: 

  1. The young cat being active due to being “crepuscular” (which means they’re most active at dawn and at dusk). This is the best hunting time and although our cats are domesticated and rarely have to hunt for their food, this behavior is still engrained and can lead to higher levels of activity and play behavior during those hours of the day. It’s important to remember that as far as the cat is concerned these behaviors are normal, although guardians often call them “bad habits.”

 

  1. The senior cat being active at night due to shifts in the sleep cycle, which can be signs of onset of cognitive dysfunction, and vocalization due to changes/loss in hearing ability or even anxieties. Any senior cat with the onset of such changes in sleep cycles should be examined by your veterinarian first.

This handout will hopefully provide you and your cat with a better night’s sleep.

Prevention and Modification

These tips can be used to prevent and modify behaviors with kittens, adult, as well as senior cats.

NEVER punish your cat. Physical punishment, throwing things, using electronic collars, squirt bottles, or even yelling can destroy the human-animal bond. Cats that are motivated to play and are being punished for trying to play may become conflicted and aggressive.

Letting your cat go outdoors might seem like a good idea; however, it might put your cat at high risk of disease, injury and even death if the outdoor environment is not safe. See the handout Indoor vs. Outdoor for more information.

Goal

To provide an outlet for excessive energy

Benefit

Satisfies cat’s predatory drive, increases physical fitness, and encourages cats to play appropriately.

What You Need

An imagination for creation, several toilet or paper towel cardboard rolls, an old fabric glove, string, catnip, tissue paper, and straw or raffia.

Tunnel Vision

Love in a Glove

For more creative ideas: 50 Games to Play with Your Cat by Jackie Strachan

Ready To Adopt?

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