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
Ask friends or your veterinarian for recommendations in your area.
Have your cat-sitter meet your cat(s) and understand the personality and routine as well as any preferences such as grooming, treats, affection and interactive play.
Discuss all tasks to perform while you are gone in detail and leave carefully written instructions.
If special foods or medications are needed leave careful instructions and notes.
Provide plenty of food, litter, and medications (if needed), and note where extras are located.
If your sitter can only stop by the house once a day add additional litter boxes to ensure your cat always has a clean box even if a scooping is missed to avoid litter box aversion and consequent inappropriate elimination problems.
Make sure your cat has an ID tag and microchip. Have current photos available in case she gets lost while you are gone.
Have a friend who has a back up set of keys and is willing to be an emergency contact.
Give your pet-sitter your veterinarian’s contact information, as well as the phone number and address for the nearest emergency vet services.
Have a written letter authorizing the pet sitter to approve emergency veterinary care in your absence.
Call your veterinarian ahead of time to let them know you will be gone and provide information as to any directives. Leave your credit number on file at the vets office to provide emergency coverage if needed.
Leave your contact number at the vet’s office.
Sometimes there is no choice but to board your cat. Boarding can be stressful for any cat. Plan ahead. Make sure room is available.
Many vet offices and animal hospitals also do boarding.
Many kennels require proof of up-to-date vaccinations, so inquire ahead of time about which vaccinations are required and if your cat is up-to-date.
Ask if you can bring along familiar items for your cat – bedding, something with your scent, toys, and whatever food they currently eat. Also bring along any medications your cat needs.
Give the kennel detailed information about your cat’s preferences and needs, as well as your contact and emergency veterinary information.
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:
Vertical posts must be sturdy and tall enough for the cat to stretch his body. Horizontal marking posts are preferred by some cats. Try both types to find out what your cat prefers.
The posts should be located in prominent areas in your home. Cats often scratch when they wake up from a nap so put one near the cat’s sleeping area.
You can buy ready-made scratching posts at the pet store, or you can make your own. A simple log is preferred by some cats. For others, a piece of corrugated cardboard mounted on a piece of wood works just fine. Although most pre-made posts are covered with carpet, this may not be the best material to use. Cats can get their claws stuck in the fabric loops and stop using the post as a result. Try attaching the carpet upside down or using another material like upholstery fabric that is more “shreddable”.
Attract your cat to the post using catnip. Sprinkle the catnip on the base and into the fabric, or hang bags of catnip from the top. Spend time near the post encouraging your cat to interact with it. Play with the cat near the post and incorporate it into your play.
The most important step is to reward the cat every time he uses the post. Have yummy food treats nearby and give one to the cat whenever you see him scratching the post.
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.
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.
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.
When you want to end the play session, begin by decreasing the intensity of the activity. You don’t want to abruptly end the game, leaving the cat in an excited state.
Don’t be discouraged if during the first few sessions your cat only looks at you or half-heartedly paws at the toy.
How to Avoid Problems
Never play with hands and feet
Watch closely for playful body postures
Manage problems with alternative active play options for the cat
Enrich environment: Offer multiple climbing options such as perches and window hammocks, rotate toys often, provide easy access to looking out windows, hide food, use feed dispensing or food puzzle and interactive toys, use appropriate play toys such as wand, string, and feather toys, teach your cat tricks with clicker training
Compatible feline or canine companion
Safe access to outside
Don’t escalate play behavior; end play before it escalates and reward for calm and relaxed behavior
Inappropriate play behavior should end in all play and may be interrupted with a mild stimulus that will startle the cat enough to stop the behavior, but should not make your cat fearful
No physical punishment for aggression is ever appropriate
Plenty of scheduled play interactions and scheduled play sessions
Benefits of Interactive Play
Motivates sedentary cats and helps prevent obesity
Strengthens the bond between you and your cat
Can help cats become more comfortable in a new environment or with new people
Can redirect tension between companion cats
Maintains muscle tone and improves circulation
Can stimulates appetite for finicky eaters when using feed dispensers and puzzle toys
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.
React with a quick jerk away from the cat because this is how prey responds to an attack and this can trigger continuing aggression.
Physically punish the cat because this only teaches the cat that you will play back roughly, and the cat will respond with intensified violence or she could become fearful of you. Furthermore if the cat is small or a young kitten, you could seriously injure the cat.
Have a big reaction such as screaming and jumping because this may make the cat think you just attacked her back, which could increase the aggression.
Put the cat in a “time out,” i.e. carry her into a room to confine her, especially if the cat is likely to bite you when you pick her up.
React in anger because this can cause fearfulness and stress in your cat, can escalate the attack, and most certainly will not improve the behavior.
GAME OVER—stop all play and calmly withdraw from the cat.
Redirect your cat to appropriate toys. Use fetch toys or toys on stick to keep the cat away from the human.
Provide interactive play at least twice per day, preferably morning and evening hours. Good toys include cat-dancers, fishing pole toys, string-toys. Stick to regular play routine so your cat has appropriate outlets for play and plenty of exercise. Also leave toys that she can play with alone. Try to vary them regularly to ease boredom.
Learn to recognize early signs of play aggression, such as dilated pupils, hiding around corners, and crouching. Redirect the cat immediately at the first sign of these behaviors.
Consider putting a bell around the cat’s neck, so she is less likely to execute a sneak attack.
Consider adopting a second cat of similar age, energy level, and temperament.
Offer your cat more mental stimulation by harness training her to go on walks or teaching your kitty simple tricks (like “sit” and “stay”).
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.
Keep your petting sessions short and to the areas where the cat truly enjoys your touch; keep in mind that it is very important to avoid getting the cat to the point where she is irritated. Even if you feel okay with the level of aggression, your cat might find this handling quite stressful. It also may reinforce biting behavior and may increase aggressive incidents and/or intensity in the future. Therefore, if you know your cat may get overstimulated after about 2 minutes of petting, then only pet the cat for 1 minute and give it a break. Similarly if you know your cat doesn’t like to be petted a certain way or in a particular area, avoid doing so as much as possible. After a while you can increase petting time a little and see how well she tolerates it.
Observe for signs of overstimulation and impending aggression. Cats almost always give clear warning signals before biting or scratching. It can be difficult to pick up on those signs at first because cats can be subtle in their body language. Common signals to look for include: tail swishing or flicking, skin twitching over the back, flattening of the ears, freezing, tenseness or staring, quick head turn to watch your hand as you pet, pupillary dilation, low growl, or walking away and lying down. Pay close attention to other environmental changes such as loud noises and animals and people entering the room.
Stop petting at the first sign of any of these early warning signals. You can do this by just keeping your hands still by your sides. If the cat is very upset you may want to walk away from the cat, or if on your lap, stand up slowly and let the cat gently slide off.
Wait before attempting to pet again. Some cats only take a few minutes to settle down; others can take several hours. Make sure that all signals of irritation have stopped. If the cat is still worked up, switch to playtime with quiet interactive toys such as a feather or string toy. This can help decrease the arousal to touch, while still allowing you to interact.
Only pet your cat in the areas she truly enjoys. Most cats like to rub their faces or bodies on an offered hand, but do not appreciate long strokes over their bodies. It is important to know your cat, if she generally gets aggressive when petting the tail base, stay around the head for petting.
Punishment is not the way to address this behavior problem; it will not make your cats more comfortable with handling or less aggressive. Never yell or hit your cats as this might only make your cat fear you or become even more aggressive. The only way to address these behaviors is avoidance and proper handling and play techniques.
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:
Read the cat’s body language
Understand of basic needs of cats
Accept limitations to petting and the patience to not push the cat to accept more than she can handle
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:
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.”
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.
Establish a routine. Set your cat’s routine to match yours. If your cat is very playful, and you keep a late schedule, begin your nightly playtime at around 11:30 PM. Give the cat his big meal of the day just before you go to bed. It is NOT imperative (despite your cat’s thoughts on the subject) that you feed (or play with) the cat when you FIRST get up in the morning or when you FIRST arrive home from work. Feeding a cat first thing in the morning will only increase his desire to wake you up earlier and earlier because he will associate your waking up with the reward of being fed. To discourage this, take a shower, have your breakfast, play with him for a few minutes and THEN feed him. Whatever your personal schedule is, include your cat! The important thing is to decide on a schedule and stick to it.
Daily exercise. Your cat needs daily exercise no matter what age or what time of day it occurs. Many cats, in fact, need 2 or more 20–30 minute play sessions with INTERACTIVE toys. Interactive is the key word here because the cat’s playtime is also his bonding time with you. The more time you spend interacting directly with your cat, the closer the bond between the two of you will be. Yes, lap time is interactive too, but playtime will keep his mind and body engaged with you and will tire him out, which will help him sleep better at night. A good play session before bedtime is essential for a good night’s sleep for you both!
Mental Stimulation. Don’t let your cat sleep all day; keep him stimulated! There are ways to do this, even while you’re away. Open the curtains, set up a birdfeeder by the window, fill a Kong® toy or treat ball with food before you leave in the morning, leave the TV turned on to a nature channel, or play a “Video Catnip” style video (the movie Winged Migration seems to be a big hit in the cat world), change it up and leave out a paper bag one day and a big cardboard box the next. Change the location where the food it so your cat can “hunt” for it. Put catnip on the cat tree when you first get home from work, and rotate any solo play toys to keep it interesting. These are just a few options. Use your own imagination to keep kitty entertained!
Special places for play. Establish a location (or two) in your home where you play. This could be the living room, the kitchen, or the cat tree. We strongly suggest that you NOT make the bedroom one of those play places. This will only confuse the cat, if during the day he can play there, but at night he cannot. NEVER play with the cat on your bed.
Pick up the toys at night. Before bedtime, make a general sweep of the house and pick up anything that rolls, bounces, or makes noise. If your cat isn’t tempted, it’s a lot more likely he’ll sleep. If you have the rare cat who plays quietly, you can leave the toys out.
Sleep alone. Many of us can’t imagine a night spent away from our furry friends, but if those friends are keeping us up at night, one choice is to sleep in a separate room. Give the kitty his own room, or close your door. You might have to try both options to see which one works better.
Ignore attention-seeking behavior and play elicitations from your cat when you want to sleep. If you choose to sleep alone, you MUST enforce your choice by NOT rewarding your cat’s attention-seeking behavior. It may take weeks for him to stop pounding on your door, but if you EVER open it while he’s knocking, he will try even harder the next time you don’t feel like opening. One option for the door pounding is to use double sided tape (they sell wide rolls of this at pet stores, but test it out first as it may remove paint) on the outside of the door. Most cats don’t like the sticky sensation on their paws, so they won’t touch it. This can often bring about a quick end to the door pounding behavior. You can also muffle the sounds by sleeping with earplugs, a radio, a fan, air purifier or other “white noise” maker.
Positive reinforcement. Rewarding behavior works both ways: do not reward unwanted behaviors, even inadvertently. Playing with your cat when she wakes you up so you can get back to sleep will not work in your favor. She is being rewarded for waking you up and will do it again and again, earlier and earlier. Therefore, it is better to reward calm behavior with play or even use a cue word or toy when play with you starts so your cat is being rewarded for waiting for the cue. Also if your cat prefers to be sleeping on your head and you want him to sleep on your feet, place him where you want him to sleep and pet him there. Do NOT pet him (even occasionally) while he is up by your head. Ways of discouraging your cat from sleeping near your head are: changing your shampoo (he might like the smell), placing a pillow, like the one you sleep on, on a more appropriate location on the bed, tempting your kitty with a fleece, a cozy cat bed, plush animal, or even a wig (if he likes to knead your hair).
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.
To provide an outlet for excessive energy
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.
Take several paper towel/toilet paper cardboard rolls and cut them in varying lengths. Lengths should be long enough to encourage your cat to be successful at fishing items out or push them through to the other side.
Glue them securely together in the shape of a pyramid or box.
Place some enticing items such as treats or a ball inside the rolls. Try taking some tissue paper sprinkled with catnip and stuff it lightly in one roll, or just sprinkle some catnip inside a roll or two. Your imagination is the limit.
Be careful not to use too small of items/toys that your cat could choke on or swallow.
Providing new things to explore and find inside the holes is going to ensure your cat never gets bored with this game. Make a few different varieties and rotate them every few days.
Love in a Glove
Cautionary note: Catnip can make some cat’s inner tiger surface, if your cat becomes over stimulated and aggressive with catnip do not use it.
Marinate the glove, tissue paper, and straw in a plastic bowl with catnip.
Stuff the tissue paper and straw into alternating fingers, and use a mixture of straw and tissue paper in the body of the glove. Make a few different stuffed gloves so you can alternate every few days.
Tie the glove closed with string or yarn. Leave plenty of string for you to move/drag the glove from a distance. You also can hang this from a door knob or a steady chair so your cat can play solo.
If your cat loses interest after a few days, the catnip may need to be refreshed. Simply untie the string and replace the contents.
Also try different stuffing options such as cellophane, bubble wrap, crumpled up paper, or even regular grass and leaves. Again your imagination is the limit.
For more creative ideas: 50 Games to Play with Your Cat by Jackie Strachan
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The SF SPCA is an independent non-profit supported entirely by our community
San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a 501 (c)(3) non profit organization. EIN: 94-0836580
Ready To Adopt?
To expedite the adoption process, please complete the cat or dog adoption form and bring a printed copy with you to the SF SPCA Adoption Center (Hours & Location). This helps us better understand what sort of pet you’re looking for so we can guide you every step of the way! Please bring a valid photo ID and verification that you are allowed to have a pet where you currently live.
Find the perfect match.
First, we’ll meet with you to find out more about you and your pet preferences and answer your questions. Our goal is to help you find the pet that best fits your lifestyle and living situation so we want to make sure you have a realistic understanding of the time and resources necessary to provide training, medical treatment, and proper care for your new pet. This can take time so please allow at least one hour for the adoption process.
Meet and greet.
Once we have a good understanding of your living situation and the type of pet you’re interested in, we’ll make introductions and let you spend some quality time getting to know each other to see if there’s a love connection. It’s important that all household members take part in this important decision so please make sure everyone is present (including any resident dogs if you’re considering adding a new pooch to your pack).
Make it official.
Once love happens, we’ll complete the paperwork, review all the SF SPCA adoption benefits, provide information on any known medical or behavioral issues, and share tips to make the transition a success for both you and your new pet.
Stay in touch.
We consider you and your new furry friend a part of the SF SPCA family so please reach out with questions ― and be sure to share your adoption stories and pet photos at sfspca.org/stories
Don’t forget to schedule your first free health exam at the SF SPCA Veterinary Hospital within three days of adopting.