In Savannah Morning News Column

Mysteries of the Feline

Savannah Morning News – February 10, 2018, William Brown III, Interim Chief Executive Officer

Shelters are built to help the need of homeless pets, yet in most shelter settings very little is actively done to understand feline behavior. They are still cared for; food, water, shelter, toys. Yet when an adopter returns the cat for scratching up the couch, not using the litter box, or not playing the first day home, the shelter will put the cat back in the kennel not knowing what else to do. Can you imagine how much better the adopter will feel about their cat if they only had a little more information about their pet? What better way to be a resource for the community as a shelter than having that information to give. Well, today we are going to pass along some of those answers.
Let’s start out with a few common issues adopters have that may lead to the return of a cat to the shelter.
“My cat won’t stop scratching my furniture.” Furniture feels good under their paws, they can easily mark the fabric with their scent claiming the territory as theirs, and why use the scratching post when the couch can easily get the job done as well? Double sided sticky tape is an essential tool when it comes to many cat issues. The tape acts as a deterrent that works even when you’re not home to chase your kitty away from the couch. Then they will start seeing the furniture as an unpleasant experience, meanwhile that scratching post with the treats and catnip around it is now her new best friend.
“My cat is not using its litter box.” There are a few questions you want to ask with this issue. Where is the box located in the house? How often is the box being cleaned? Is the box being shared with another cat? Cats naturally want to bury their waste as it prevents attracting predators to their area. Take advantage of this! Is the litter you’re using comfortable for the cat, is it kicking up a lot of dust? Is it clean enough for the cat so that she wants to use it? We like a clean spot to go, and so do they, which may mean cleaning more than you already do. Is the other cat in the household guarding the box and bullying the new cat away from it’s territory? If so, you may need to add another box into the equation. A good rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one.
“My cat is hiding and won’t come out.” This is a common misunderstanding when it comes to cats, as people are very much looking for cats to behave like dogs. They want the cat to explore, play, and automatically know where to properly pee and scratch. Unfortunately, cats take longer to warm up to a new environment. Cats have an established “home base” of an area of roughly 500 feet. In this area, they find food, water, shelter, and comfort. This is also the area they will live their lives in, so it must feel safe to them and allow them to be secure within that area. Imagine being moved around into a new area and having to establish all that information over again, while warming up to the other pets and people now in that territory. This adjustment takes time.
It is not natural for animals to act out of spite and vengeance. They are simply trying to satisfy a basic need whichever way they can. The answers and solutions to just these three common issues, can make the difference between a cat sleeping in its bed at night or being returned to a shelter.