Scratching the Furniture

All cats like to scratch – it feels good, stretches out their muscles and sharpens the claws. Sadly our sofas can be perfect for the job.

  • They are nice and sturdy – cats don’t like scratching anything that feels unstable.
  • They are made of coarse material that shreds off easily – they like to mark their territory in vertical scores, in a material they can dig their nails into.
  • They are nice and high – cats like to be able to stretch their whole body when they scratch.
  • They are usually situated in a busy area of the house – cats like their scratch marks to be visible for territory reasons.

You cannot get a cat to stop scratching. What you can do, is redirect the scratching towards something suitable, that they are allowed to scratch. The alternative scratching area needs to be as appealing as your furniture. This means ensuring it fits all the criteria listed above – sturdy, high enough to stretch on, in a busy area of the house and made of tempting material.

There are lots of climbing trees and scratching posts available at PetO, so you are sure to find one that fits your needs. From high climbing towers that double as a place of rest and escape, to scratching boards that hang from the door handle to get the required height, the range is extensive. To encourage your cat to use it, place it close to where they are already scratching and try rubbing a little catnip into it to make it smell more appealing to them. You can also make current scratching objects a little less appealing, by scenting them with “no scratch” sprays or covering them with double sided tape.

If they are still reluctant to use their new scratching post, try to associate it with lots of good things. Feed treats around it, or serve dinner there. Try and encourage play around it, chasing a string and stimulating the cat to start scratching. Over time they will start to love it and see it as their own personal place.

Meowing

Cats meow to bring attention to themselves and some cats will continue explaining their issue or need until it’s met.

Whilst it may be nice to have your cat meow and wrap themselves around your feet, a constant stream of noise quickly becomes tiresome.

If your cat is meowing relentlessly, consider the possibility that she is feeling stressed. See our article ‘soothing anxious cats’ for tips on how to calm her down. If this is not the case, then your cat simply wants your attention.

The solution to curbing the noise is to simply ignore your cat every time she meows. This means, that at 3am you ignore the meowing, the standing on your head or swiping your eyelids, and refuse to move. Don’t feed, talk to, or spray her with water. If you have to, perhaps shut the cat out of the room for a few weeks.

If the behaviour has been happening for a long time, it may take some time for it fade. Be aware, it will get worse before it gets better, as your cat tries longer and harder to solicit a reaction from you. You need to be strong, practice some tough love, and hopefully your nights will be peaceful again soon.

Litter Training Problems

Sometimes, cats stop using the litter tray and instead leave little surprises elsewhere. This is upsetting for you if they have previously been litter trained and this is a new behaviour. It is necessary to investigate possible reasons for the change in behaviour.

Why Have They Stopped?

If your cat used to be happy to use their litter tray but has recently begun toileting elsewhere, you need to find out why they are uncomfortable about using it.

  • The first thing to do is to rule out any health problems – cats can be susceptible to urinary tract infections and other diseases, arthritis may make it difficult to climb into the tray. Get a full vet check before you do anything else.
  • If your cat is in good health, then consider the possibility that she had a fright in the litter tray. Cats can be very sensitive. If another cat attacked her or something startled her whilst she was using it, she may make a permanent association.
  • Some cats develop a preference for certain surfaces or litters – they may like it more or less absorbent, a certain depth or a certain texture. Changing the litter from paper to crystal for example, can be enough for the cat to mount a protest and stop using the tray.
  • Stress is a very common factor – things that may seem mild to you can deeply upset a cat, such as new pets, lots of guests, or even rearranging the furniture.
  • If you have multiple cats in your house, their social interactions can change over time. One cat may guard the litter tray from the other, or start to bully them when they try to use it.

What To Do About It

There are many solutions to a cat that is toileting outside the litter tray. Unless you are sure of the reason they have stopped, it is best to try all of them.

  • Place litter trays in several locations around the house. If they have developed a fear of a location, one cat is guarding that spot or they need it in a quieter area, this will help.
  • Have different litter types in multiple trays. If you have the space, have several litter trays in each spot with different litters, and see which one they prefer to use. You can then cut back on the number of trays later.
  • Make sure you clean them regularly. Cats will often stop using the tray, if it is dirty. When they go on the rug, it is cleaned immediately and thoroughly – no wonder they like to go there again.
  • Remove any hood or liners that you may have changed, that your cat may be uncomfortable with.
  • If there is a place that she is eliminating regularly, put a litter tray over that spot. If that’s not possible, either make it her food and water spot, or place something there to discourage her for a while such as upside down carpet runners or double sided tape.
  • If you suspect your cat is experiencing stress, try using a pheromone calming spray and minimise any change in the household for the next few months.

Introducing New Cats

Cats tend not to like changes to their environment very much. Introducing new cats into another’s territory can be a stressful experience for both of them, but with a little time most cats will appreciate a companion, playmate and help in guarding their territory.

It can take up to a year for cats to trust each other and become friends, although they can learn to tolerate each other quite quickly if the introduction is well managed. Be patient and follow these instructions, to make the process as easy as possible for everyone.

  1. Begin by setting up two separate territory areas for the both of them – try shutting off a spare room for your new cat. The newcomer will appreciate having a safe place and the resident cat will only have a small section of their territory invaded. Make sure that both areas have their own litter box, bed and scratching posts, and that the newcomer has lots of places to hide, both up high and on the ground.
  2. The cats will be able to hear and smell each other, without being able to touch or see each other – they can begin to get used to having each other around. By feeding them on either side of the closed door, you can start to help them associate each other with positive, happy feelings. They will learn that being around the other cat means that good things happen, rather than scary and aggressive things.
  3. Take a clean sock, put it over your hand, and gently stroke your new cat around the face and chest with it. You will be covering the sock with their smell and happy pheromones – scent molecules that cats use to communicate their feelings to other cats. You can then place the sock into the territory of your resident cat, and allow him to sniff, smell and generally investigate it. Use another clean sock to do the process in reverse, allowing your new cat to investigate your resident cat. This allows them to thoroughly satisfy their curiosity, without risking a fight. Repeat the process as often as you can, until both cats are ignoring the socks in their environment.
  4. You can now move on to allowing your new cat to investigate the rest of the house, with your resident cat shut safely in a different room. Give the new cat plenty of time and space to explore at their own pace, before putting them back into their safe room and letting your resident cat out, to get used to the new smells around his territory. Repeat this process over the next few days.
  5. By now, your cats should be relatively used to the idea of having a shared territory and you can begin to introduce them. Using either a baby gate or a doorstop to open the crack a little, continue your feeding routine as usual, but with the cats being able to see each other. You may have to move the bowls further away from each other, at a distance both cats are comfortable with, and then gradually move them closer. It may take a few days of feeding like this before they are comfortable in each others presence.
  6. Now it’s time for the big introduction. After feeding, you can open the door and allow them to slowly get used to each other. Try to distract them both with toys and treats, and make sure there is plenty of space for them to retreat to and keep out of each other’s way if they want to. If a fight breaks out, separate them again with no eye contact for at least 2 days and then take a few steps back in your program – it takes this long for cats to calm down and eliminate all the aggressive hormones from their system. Introducing them too quickly after a fight, will just escalate the violence.

 

Dealing with Fighting Cats

Cats will argue with each other, despite their general loving relationship. This is normal and they will get over it. However, if your cats are continuously fighting, it shows there is some deeper issue going on. Here are a few steps to help bring peace to the home.

Investigate the Cause

Sometimes, something as obscure as a new cat moving in next door can be the cause of feline aggression. For example, if you have a male and female cat, and your male cat sees the new cat spray a bush in his cat zone, this can cause your male cat to fight with the female cat in your house, over territory.

Even something as simple as rearranging the furniture can start territory wars between cats. Where previously they had clearly established boundaries and rules about whose sofa was whose, now they must fight it out again to ascertain rules about who sleeps where and when.

If you have a new cat to introduce to the household that is fighting its new roommates, see our article ‘introducing new cats’.

If You See a Fight

It can take up to two days for a cat to settle down after a fight. So if you see a fight happening, separate them, and then leave them separate until they have both calmed down again. Just the sight of the other cat can send them back into an angry and frightened state, and aggression can keep escalating this way. After two days, you can slowly reintroduce them again, and you may find that they return to their peaceful ways.

Set Up Cat Zones

Cat fights are most commonly caused by territory or resource guarding. Make sure that the most prized resources for a cat are in ample supply. This means several litter trays, feeding in separate spots, and lots of places to escape. Cats like to be high up where they feel safe, so provide cat towers or trees in strategic locations, so that one cat can ‘own’ one and the other can ‘own’ another.

If there are large open areas in the main rooms of your house, use screens or move the sofas to provide separate areas for each cat, with their line of site blocked. Although some cats will share resources such as sofas, many will develop a mutual respect for each others ‘zones’ and have separate sleeping and resting areas.

Dealing With Feline Stress

Many cats don’t like change. Their personality is a mixture of experience and genetics. Some cats have high anxiety and suffer from stress as part of that personality.

Some cats will just accept change whilst others struggle with all things new. If your cat does suffer from stress, there are things you can do to help that anxiety dissipate.

Some triggers for cats to experience stress are:

  • A new family member, whether human or animal
  • Moving house
  • Having their family away on holiday
  • Feeling over crowded in a multiple cat household

Signs that your cat may be feeling anxious or stressed include:

  • Hiding under beds, furniture and clothes, or inside boxes and cupboards
  • Vocalising more often than usual, either hissing and spitting or meowing
  • Urinating inappropriately around the house, or spraying walls and furniture
  • Increased levels of scratching

If you suspect that your cat may be feeling worried about something, there are many ways you can help soothe them.

  • Use a synthetic cat pheromone, designed to make cats feel at ease. These products are available both in spray form and as a diffuser. They can be sprayed on bedding and scratching posts or plugged in to release pheromones throughout the house. The pheromone is undetectable to humans and will reduce stress levels in all nearby cats. You can use it during times of change, such as rearranging the furniture or having guests in the house, or keep it plugged in all the time for anxious cats.
  • Provide several litter boxes throughout the house, particularly if you have multiple cats. Often unnoticed by humans, subtle social battles occur on a daily basis and one cat may be guarding the litter tray from the other. Often cats will be stressed if they feel they are forced to toilet somewhere they feel uncomfortable, so giving them lots of options will make them feel more relaxed.
  • Provide their food in interactive toys, so that they have to work to get it out. This mimics their hunting behaviours and can reduce anxiety. Rotate the toys so that they don’t get bored.
  • Provide high up places to rest and nap, such as cat trees. Cats feel safe and secure when they can look down on their territory and prefer non-slip surfaces such as carpet.
  • Try to limit the amount of change happening in the household until the cat has settled down.

Litter Training a New Kitten

Cats are constantly grooming and as such are naturally clean. This makes litter training relatively easy. Remember, your kitten will want to toilet somewhere out of the way, somewhere clean, and in a material where they can bury it.

  1. Ask the breeder or shelter what type of litter they were using. The cat will be used to that type of litter and will find it easier to know where to go, once they are living in your home.
  2. When you bring your kitten home, place several litter trays around the house so that there is always one within easy reach. Show your kitten the litter tray, so they know where it is.
  3. If you have more than one cat, you will need more litter trays. Use the + 1 rule – you need as many litter trays as you have cats, plus one extra, otherwise you can end up with guarding and anxiety problems.
  4. Make sure the litter trays are clean and that they are situated in a relatively quiet area. They also need to be away from food and water bowls and sleeping areas.
  5. If you are having problems litter training your kitten, try confining them to one room. Place their sleeping spot, water and food in one corner, and the litter tray as far away as possible in the other. Once they get used to using the tray, you can start to let them regain their freedom.
  6. If you are still having difficulty, have a look at our ‘toilet training problems’ article for more help.

Kitten Nutrition

Many food choices are available and it can be confusing, but here are a few simple ideas on what to look for when it comes to your cat’s food:

  • Choose a food that is designed to suit their age and size. Kittens have different nutritional needs to adults, whilst specific breeds may also have different dietary requirements. Older or large cats will need foods that support their joints, whilst smaller and younger cats need more calories to keep up with their faster metabolism.
  • Choose a food that suits the breed. For example, the short nose of a Persian may need kibble designed to be easy to pick up and chew, whilst the sensitive skin of a Russian Blue will need higher levels of Omega 3.
  • Choose a food that suits their health. From renal health to hairballs, there are many foods that have been formulated to support the different issues that cats face.
  • Choose a food that suits their temperament – cats with a diminishing appetite may find wet food more palatable, whilst cats prone to gulping their food will benefit from a large sized kibble.
  • Choose a food that suits your lifestyle – if you are a busy working mother, dry food stores well and is easy to feed. If you prefer a more holistic approach, a raw diet may be your preference.

Try a variety of foods, and choose one that suits both you and your cat’s health and well being.

Choosing a Kitten From The Litter

Many people believe their pet chose them. Others may be looking for a specific breed with particular markings. Whatever brings a new kitten into your life, you are bound for an exciting adventure together.

  • All kittens in the litter should appear healthy. They should be round, with soft stomachs and no ribs showing. Eyes and ears should be clear, their bottoms should be clean and there should be no sign of fleas on them.
  • They should be happy, friendly, curious and trusting. If several of the kittens are anxious, cowering or hissing, walk away.

Choosing a Kitten

Stand back and look at the litter as a whole before you interrupt them. Watch the way they interact with each other. You can tell a lot about a kitten’s personality by how they are playing with their siblings – which ones are gentler and quieter, or which ones are more active and exuberant.

There are several things in particular you should look out for:

  • Energy levels – this can vary hugely even within a litter. Watch them play for a while, and ask the breeder for an insight. Pick a kitten whose temperament matches your family needs.
  • Shyness – don’t think that the smallest shyest kitten needs rescuing, or that you can bring them out of their shell with some love and care. A shy kitten will be a shy adult, and you may not get the play time or cuddles you were hoping for.
  • Pick up your kitten and cradle them. Touch their feet, mouth and generally pet them all over, kittens will not usually be distressed by this. See how they react – some may settle in and purr, others will try to use you as a climbing post, while others will want to get down and play. Decide if you would rather an active cat or a lap cat, and choose accordingly.
  • After you have selected a few kittens, drop something that will make a loud noise. All kittens will startle at the noise unless they are deaf. Ideally, they should then recover and come over to investigate what it was. A kitten that stays away will likely be fearful as an adult.
  • Kittens should not instinctively be afraid of people. Most will be interested in who you are and what you are doing. Drag a piece of string along the ground – healthy kittens will eagerly jump on it and play. Independent kittens may be more interested in exploring, shy kittens may be more interested in hiding.

Bringing Home Your New Kitten

Picking up your new kitten is exciting for everyone, except maybe the kitten, who is going to be confused by the change. There are many ways you can make the transition easier and ensure that your kitten settles quickly.

  1. Place the kitten in a pet carrier for the journey home. As tempting as it may be to get him out and cuddle him, kittens can often get car sick and most will not like the movement through the windows.
  2. When you arrive home, let the kitten explore the house at their own pace, without too many people around. Put down the carrier and allow your kitten to emerge whenever they become comfortable – don’t pull the kitten out. Other dogs and cats should be kept away, initially. After the first few days you can begin to introduce them – see our article ‘Introducing a new cat’ for more help.
  3. Have lots of toys available for the kitten to play with and encourage them to bat toys around and chase them. You should have designated scratching posts around the house – if the inevitable happens and your kitten mistakes the sofa for the pole, simply pick them up and place them on the scratching pole.
  4. If you have decided on a name, then say it excitedly if your kitten looks round to see what’s going on and give them a reward.
  5. Have a litter tray somewhere out of the way and quiet, but still easily accessible. Cats naturally like to bury their waste, so litter training is usually relatively easy. Take your kitten there every hour or so, until they get the idea.
  6. After a few hours, your kitten will need to sleep. Kittens and cats nap throughout the day. Try to let your kitten sleep without disturbing them, no matter how cute they look – you have both had a big day!
  7. Feed the kitten a small meal of the same food being fed by the breeder or rescue shelter. You may want to change the type of food you feed later, but gradually introduce the change so that you don’t upset the kittens’ stomach.
  8. If you would like your kitten to be allowed outside during the day, wait until they are a bit older, have had all their vaccinations and are used to their routine before letting them out. They need to feel safe and secure in your home and know when to return for dinner time. Using a pet door that has multiple locking options, allows you to call your pet in and prevent them from going back out.