The Kitten Owner's Manual: Solutions to All Your Kitten Quandries in a Easy - To - Follow Question & Answer Format

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2001-03-01
  • Publisher: WORKMAN PUBL CO

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Help! Your feisty furball is into EVERYTHING! The American Veterinary Medical Association says that there are 64 million cat owners in the United States, and whether you share your home with a feline friend or a feline felon depends on how your cat spends the first year of its life. Award-winning pet journalist Arden Moore offers hundreds of practical tips to help you raise an indoor cat without losing your sanity, and she presents them in a fun question-and-answer style. Includes advice from leading veterinarians, animal behaviorists, and shelter directors, plus success stories from cat owners.

Table of Contents

Development and Communicationsp. 1
Help! My Kitten's Driving Me Crazy!p. 17
Kitten-Proofing Your Homep. 39
Kitty Cuisine and Calisthenicsp. 61
Litter-Box Lessonsp. 81
Adopting a Kittenp. 99
On the Go with Kittyp. 118
Health Concernsp. 131
Alternative Therapies for Kittensp. 161
It's Showtime: Teaching Your Kitty Tricksp. 174
Airlines and Pet Policiesp. 190
Resourcesp. 192
Indexp. 196
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


CHAPTER 5 - Litter-Box Lessons "Kitty, allow me to introduce you to the litter box - your personal place to potty." If only it were that easy! The truth is, kittens need your help to learn proper bathroom etiquette. Sure, they may be born with a predatory drive to pounce on fast-moving paper wads and to cackle at birds, but they need to be schooled in the finer points of litter-box use. Some learn it from their mommas or littermates; others turn to you as their teacher. Understanding your kitten's needs from the get-go will help make her homecoming smooth and uneventful. Litter-Box Basics True, shopping for litter boxes and accessories may not be the highlight of your weekend, but selecting the proper items will help your kitten develop healthy habits. My kitty arrives tomorrow. What supplies do I need? Litter 101 class begins before your kitten steps foot in your home. You need to buy the right bathroom accessories and essentials for your kitten. The shopping list includes a plastic litter pan (easy to clean), litter, a plastic durable pooper-scooper, a dust pan and broom, antibacterial liquid cleaner, and an air freshener. Bypass plastic liners - they are a hassle to use and a needless expense. If you are adopting a tiny orphan kitten under eight weeks of age, you'll need a small plastic box with sides no higher than three inches. The sides should be high enough to keep the litter inside and low enough for your short-legged feline to easily step up and over. For kittens older than eight weeks, purchase a standard-sized plastic litter box (18 inches long by 14 inches wide by 4 inches high). Kittens are able to spring in and out of the litter box with their limber legs. And, trust me, they will because at this tender age everything is a game or an adventure. Some kittens like covered litter boxes for the privacy, and owners like the way they help contain the mess and odor. But if you have a kitten that is easily intimidated by other cats or household pets, place an open litter box in a corner so that your kitten can see and prepare for any unexpected interruptions. I have three kittens. How many litter boxes do I need? Three. This is my favorite math lesson. One box per cat should be your goal. And, if possible, locate the litter boxes in different places in your home. This strategy will help discourage one kitten from being territorial and blocking access to a litter box by another feline housemate. It's physically impossible for a territorial cat to stand guard in front of all of the litter boxes at the same time. And, having an extra litter box or two provides easy access and reduces the likelihood of "mistakes." What type of litter should I use? When it comes to selecting litter, you have many choices. Types include clay, clumping, and organic (recycled newspaper). You make the call for your kitten. Continue to use the same type unless she starts to avoid her bathroom box, a clue that she may be allergic to the litter or prefer something different. Where's the best place in the house to keep the litter box? Let's start by ruling out the worst places. Topping the list: right next to your kitten's food and water bowls. Felines have super-strong noses that can detect aromas far better than people can. And they are into the clean scene, too. So make sure there is distance between the food and water bowls and the litter box. Another no-no locale: a high-traffic area of the home such as the kitchen, dining room, or living room. Cats prefer a little privacy and quiet when they do their business. So, the best places: in a bathroom, the closet floor of a spare bedroom, a warm cozy corner of the basement, or in the laundry room, providing that the litter box is not right next to the vibrating washer and dryer. By placing the litter box in a good location, you will encourage good litter-box habits in your kitten. Strategically place an air freshener about five feet away to help temper litter-box odor. What's the proper way to introduce my kitten to her litter box? Kittens are natural copycats. Kitty see, kitty do. Many learn the appropriate place for urination and defecation by observing and imitating their mothers. If your kitten has been orphaned and there is an adult cat in your household, she may pick up pointers from the adult cat, especially if she has been accepted as a new feline friend. The adult cat becomes the kitten's litter-box tutor. If your new kitten has no other feline companions, you must become the instructor. Don't panic - it's easier to teach a kitten how to use a litter box than it is to teach your child how to ride a bike. When your kitten nibbles on food or laps up some water and starts to walk away, this is your cue. Wait about fifteen to twenty minutes, then slowly walk over, pick up your kitten, and place her in the litter box. A kitten's bladder is tiny and the digestive process is fairly quick, so this is prime time for litter-box action in a kitten. When your kitten is in the box, spark her interest in the litter by stirring it gently with your finger. Let the kitten jump in and out of the litter box at will. Don't force her to stay in the litter box. The goal is to make the litter box a place of necessity - one without unpleasant associations or tension. Once your kitty makes a deposit, give her a few gentle strokes and offer praise in a calm, friendly tone. Most kittens catch on quickly. Within a few days, your kitten will be strutting over to the litter box all by herself. Be careful not to let the kitten wander too freely at first. She might get lost in the house and choose an inappropriate litter-box area out of desperation. My new kitten seems scared of her own shadow. How can I introduce the litter box to her? New kittens often hide until they feel comfortable in their surroundings. Place the litter box where your kitten feels safe, and gradually move the box, if necessary, if she wants to explore the house. At first, keep your kitten confined to a limited area with an accessible box until she is fully litter-box trained. And don't forget that good behavior deserves rewards. Always give her gentle verbal praise for a job well done. She doesn't need food treats during her bathroom training. How often should I clean the litter box? Daily. If you get into the habit of scooping out your cat's deposits each morning, you greatly reduce the likelihood that your kitten will seek potty targets outside the litter box. The popular clumping style of litter needs to be scooped daily to keep it fresh. Clay and organic litter types need to be scooped daily and totally dumped and replaced once or twice a week. Ideally, once a week you should clean out the litter, clean the pan with mild detergent and hot water, rinse it thoroughly, and dry it completely. But once a month will suffice. Be sure to clean the plastic pooper-scooper at the same time. You can save some money if you use plastic bags from the supermarket to gather your kitten's daily deposits rather than buying cat litter bags. Seal them shut and toss them into your outdoor garbage to keep your home odor-free. Is it true that kittens sometimes sleep in their litter boxes? File this under the "Strange but True" category. Some kittens, including my nothing-embarasses-me Murphy, like to nap in their freshly cleaned litter boxes. To them, the box represents a security blanket, providing them comfort. This is more common among newcomers who are adjusting to unfamiliar surroundings. Most will find more appropriate sleeping spots within a few days or a week. But if your kitten seems to regard her litter box as her bed, do what I did with Murphy. I persuaded her that a cardboard box stuffed with a fluffy towel is a much nicer napping place. So, when your kitten starts to circle her litter box to get into a good sleeping position, gently lift her out and place her in the cardboard bed. A sleepy kitten is more apt to stay put and rest. Should I be concerned about any health issues when cleaning my kitten's litter box? Veterinarians advise owners to follow good sanitary practices when cleaning litter boxes. Wear rubber or plastic gloves when scooping out the deposits. Immediately place deposits into a plastic bag, tie it shut, and take it directly out to your trash can. Then come inside and wash your hands thoroughly in warm soapy water. Clean gloves with antibacterial soap after each use. There is a slight risk of exposure to toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by parasites harbored in feces. Cats become infected with this parasite by eating raw meat, birds, or mice that carry the disease. Humans also can become infected if they eat raw meat, drink unpasteurized dairy products, or handle infected litter. If your kitten is kept strictly indoors and eats a commercial pet food, the risk of exposure is greatly reduced. I'm pregnant. What precautions should I take with litter boxes? During your pregnancy, delegate litter-box cleaning to another household member to completely eliminate your risk of exposure to toxoplasma. The biggest threat of infection occurs during a woman's first trimester of pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis can cause birth defects and mental retardation. To be on the safe side, always, always wash your hands well after playing with or petting your kitten. Changes in Litter-Box Habits For weeks your kitty may be a champion of bathroom etiquette, always using her litter box. Then, suddenly, it may seem like she's boycotting the box. Let's look at some possible causes. Why has my kitten stopped using her litter box? If your kitten is acting like a little stinker and going outside her litter box, don't unleash your anger. In many cases, a kitten that suddenly stops using the litter box has a very good reason - often related to a medical problem. Your kitten is trying to tell you something is wrong. She may be in physical discomfort or be reacting to a change in her environment. One thing is certain: the problem will not just disappear by itself, and if left untreated, it can quickly turn into an unpleasant habit. Your first step in finding out why your cat is urinating and defecating in the house is to book an appointment with your veterinarian to give your kitten a thorough medical exam. Common health problems linked to litter-box avoidance include cystitis (bladder infection), feline lower urinary tract diseases, parasitic worms, food allergies, diabetes, diarrhea, constipation, impacted anal glands, kidney failure, and tumors. Always rule out a medical cause before you consider something a behavior problem. My kitten seems to be having difficulty urinating. What might be wrong? Difficulty urinating can be caused by a host of urinary tract diseases. Don't delay. Bring your kitten to the veterinarian before the situation becomes life threatening. Urine trapped inside the body is a toxin that can poison your kitten. A kitten with bladder problems will often display the following symptoms. If your kitten is showing these signs, have her examined by a veterinarian. - Urinates only small dabs in the litter box - Steps in and out of the litter box and paws at the litter but does not urinate - Cries when she urinates in the litter box - Has blood in the urine - Starts urinating in inappropriate places, such as on your pillow or the rug My veterinarian couldn't find any medical problems, and my kitten still won't use the litter box. Now what? If medical problems have been ruled out, your kitten may be sidestepping the litter box because of the odor. Kittens like clean litter boxes and may go elsewhere if the litter box is dirty and smells. If you dutifully clean out the box daily and change the litter weekly and the behavior persists, try some of these strategies: Change the type of litter and put it in a new, clean box. Some cats develop allergies to certain litters. There are lots of types on the market, ranging from the clumping kind to wheat litters. Avoid litters that are perfumed, especially those with floral or lemon scents. Cats abhor such odors. Avoid overfilling the pan. Keep the litter at no more than two to three inches deep. Stop using enclosed litter boxes with lids. The urine smell gets trapped inside, encouraging some kittens to go elsewhere to avoid the odor. Keep your kitten's litter box far from her food and water bowls. Kittens won't eliminate near their food source. Sprinkle baking soda into the litter to help reduce its odor. Baking soda effectively absorbs unpleasant odors. Scrutinize the surfaces. One of the most common reasons healthy kittens eliminate outside the litter box is because they find some other place or surface more attractive. They may regard a covered litter box as too confining or be frustrated by pan liners. Or, the box may be too close to large appliances that make frightening noises. Check the scents. Kittens find strong floral room deodorizers and citrus smells highly offensive. Keep these smells at least five feet away from the litter box. The key to solving problem elimination is to make the litter box more attractive while making areas where the kitten is house soiling unattractive, say animal behaviorists. Sometimes just cleaning the litter box more frequently or changing its location and keeping the cat away from soiled areas may do the trick.

Excerpted from The Kitten Owner's Manual: Solutions to all Your Kitten Quandaries in an Easy-to-Follow Question and Answer Format by Arden Moore
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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