Pet Improvement: Willful kitties

500 kittens passed through the Lincoln County Animal Shelter last year, and this year the shelter has already seen 300. (Courtesy photo)

So, you have decided wisely that for the new year you will no longer let your cat outside to roam. It’s a wonderful resolution, but your beloved feline is not so happy. The willful behavior begins: the protests, the harassment while you sleep. The inappropriate urination, caterwauling, scratching up the good furniture, and the list goes on and on. Finally, you get the ultimatum from your spouse: “Honey, it’s me or the cat.”

Let’s start by saying that not every feline is like this. Some kitties are so incredibly well-behaved and easy to train it’s a joy to be around them. We call them “dog cats.” They accept whatever you ask of them. But when this is not the case, it can be a real problem. In fact, in Lincoln County, the leading cause of cats being surrendered is inappropriate urination, according to Laura Braxling, the Lincoln County Animal Shelter’s director.

But by far, loose cats breeding and having kittens is flooding the shelter. Last year there were over 500 kittens, and this year they are already up to 300 that must be fostered, medically treated and placed in homes.

Her suggestion is to spay or neuter early with cats. Do this before they start learning the mating behavior. By four months of age, kittens will breed and have litters. She says that siblings, offspring and any relative will all mate with each other without hesitation. The rule at the shelter is to alter the kittens once they reach three pounds, and adoptions begin at three months of age.

Regardless of age, alter your pet cat if they are healthy. Intact cats want to prowl and mate. They can and will become quite destructive in your house. Both males and females mark with urine and are predisposed to other bad behavior in order to get free.

Ensure that you have ample litter boxes that are frequently cleaned. The rule is one and a half boxes per cat. Experiment with different shapes and sizes of boxes and types of litter. Cats feel vulnerable in the litter box, and litter is especially important to them. Use liners on the floor to catch any overspray. A simple cardboard box that is flattened works fine. Cats like to clean their paws once they exit, so try and provide a rubber mat where they can do this.

Inappropriate urination can also be a sign of a urinary tract infection or other health issues, so Braxling recommends you take your cat to the vet if this becomes apparent.

Unfortunately, if your cat is acting out and marking up the house, you might have to confine them to one room or a large dog crate until the behavior settles down. It’s important to never reward willful behavior with what they want, which is going outside. You will have to retrain that behavior assuming you have also taken the steps above.

Braxling encourages pet owners who are having any type of issue where they might consider surrendering to please call her. Recently someone was considering this due to the overspray in the litter box. It turns out that simply buying a box with higher sides solved the problem.

For more information on why to keep your cat indoors, please visit http://www.feralcats.com/csah and read about the Cats Safe at Home program.

For more information on great tips for enrichment, exercise and other activities to keep your cat happy, please visit https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/enrichment-ideas-activities-and-products-indoor-cats.

Jane Laulis is an avid pet lover. She hosts a pet talk radio show and is involved with pets from research to retail, nutrition to pet food manufacturing. She lives on the coast with her scientist husband, ocean faring dogs, indoor cats, exotic snakes and a charm of hummingbirds. She may be reached at [email protected]

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