Bring the Outdoors In

Cats love the great outdoors. Unfortunately, the outdoors might not always love them back. With so many potential threats, ranging from automobiles to not-so-friendly animals, allowing your cat to roam free isn't smart or safe in today's environment.

But your indoor cat need not be deprived.  Whether you live in an apartment building or in a house with a yard, you can create a cat-friendly indoor-outdoor space that provides the essence of a wilderness adventure, without exposure to any of the risks.

The possibilities are endless, ranging from a small window box, to a state-of-the-art screened-in porch. The type of space you create depends on a few factors:  how much space you have available, what you can spend, how handy you are at building things, and your property's legal limitations. If you're renting, be sure to ask your landlord before making changes to the rental. And homeowners should check local building ordinance laws before adding to the home or property.

If space and money are obstacles, consider a window box -- which you can either build or buy. These are about the size of a window air conditioner, and work well for apartment dwellers. The frame is usually an acrylic material, spanned with claw-proof screen or Plexiglas for kitty's panoramic view. The most important part of installing such an enclosure is to make sure it is 100 percent secure. It must be able to withstand the weight of several cats without collapsing, weather conditions, and would-be house thieves.

If you have a yard, consider building or buying a structure you and your cat can use, such as a screened porch or patio. Using claw-proof screen will ensure that your cat can't get out and other animals can't get in. This screen is made of polyester (instead of aluminum, which animal claws can tear easily), with a nylon or vinyl coating. Cats can actually climb it without doing any damage.

Supervision of time spent in the enclosure should be a priority, too, especially in extreme weather and temperature conditions. Make sure your cat has access to a litter box, food and fresh water. You should include a floor in the enclosure, instead of placing it directly on the ground to eliminate digging opportunities. A floor helps to keep fleas and ticks out of your enclosure, and prevents kitty from accidentally eating plants or grass that might have been poisoned with run-off fertilizer or pesticides. Lush plants and grass in pots on your porch will provide the jungle environment your cat craves.

By bringing the outdoors inside, you can keep your cat safe, happy and in touch with the sounds, sights and smells of nature.

Pets and Kids – What Can They Handle

If you are considering getting a cat as a pet for your children, the first thing you should think about is the day-to-day care that will be required. Help show your child what it’s like to own an animal by making a trip to the local library, or buying a book about how to look after cats.

Making your child a part of this new adventure will help her to understand what your new addition to the family needs before you bring her home. Of course pets aren’t all work and no play, and bringing a cat into your family can offer a lot of benefits to children, including reducing stress and teaching responsibility … not to mention the hours they’ll spend playing games together.

After you’ve explained the basics of what your new cat will need, there are a few other important things to teach your child when it comes to her pet:

  1. Cats need space.

Just like children sometimes need time outs, cats can, on occasion, feel the same way. That’s why it’s important to teach your children to read your cat’s body language and to respect when they may need time alone. Some easy signs to watch out for are:

  1. When a cat wags its tail, that usually means something has irritated him, so this is a good time for your children to give the cat some space.
  2. If their hair stands up on end and they start hissing, this is a definite sign that your cat feels threatened. In this situation your kids must leave the cat alone and back away. Give them about 30 mins to cool down and then quietly come back into the room, making slow movements and sit down at their level and offer to pet and fuss them again.
  3. Most cats don’t want to be fussed with when they’re hungry or when it’s time to eat, so it’s a good idea to teach your kids to leave the cat alone while he’s doing these things.
  4. Sometimes biting is a way for cats to play – so teach your children to keep their hands away from the cats mouth and ideally wear long sleeve tops and trousers until they get used to playing nicely together.  
  1. Sometimes cats don’t want to play.

Cats can be solitary creatures, so however much your children may want to play a game, your cat might not be in the mood. Here are some useful tips to create happy play times:

  1. Never force your cat to play a game. If she seems like she’s not in the mood, it’s best to just leave her alone and try again at a different time.
  2. Try out different toys to keep your cat interested.
  3. Always use toys which are suitable and appropriate there are homemade toys like a ping-pong ball, a piece of string with newspaper strips tied to the end which can provide plenty of fun. Alternatively you can pop down to your local pet store and ask for some advice on suitable toys for your kitten or cat.
  4. Sleeping cats should always be left alone – no one enjoys being woken up from a wonderful nap!
  5. Try to schedule regular playtimes and supervise them with your children and cat until they can be trusted to play responsibly together.

 

  1. Cats need to be handled with care.

Whether you’ve brought a new kitten home or adopted an older cat, your children must be taught how to handle their new friend with care. Here are a few tips on the best ways to pick up a cat:

  1. Cats should never be picked up by the scruff of the neck. This can harm your cat and is something only mother cats should do with their kittens. Otherwise you may accidentally drop them as the cat wriggles from this uncomfortable position.
  2. When your child picks a cat up, it’s best if they scoop the cat in their arms and support one hand under their chest and the other under their hind legs.

Once you’ve got the basics in place you will find that your cats and children can form a wonderful bond together. Having cats is a great way for children to learn responsibility, how to care for something else and will also provide hours of fun, love and entertainment as your cat becomes a firm member of the family.

How to best bond with your new cat

Becoming a new cat owner is an exciting experience. Your kitten can become a happy new addition to your family, as long as you start by making your new pet comfortable in her surroundings and take the time to bond with her.

Prepare Ahead of Time
Laurie Donovan, DVM, recommends a few preparations to help ease the transition prior to bringing your new cat home. “The items you really need are food and water bowls and litter boxes, and you should always buy one more litter box than the amount of cats you have,” she suggests. “It’s also advised to purchase a scratching post as well. Cats like to jump on counters and shelves, so make sure to safely put away any valuable, breakable objects and tuck away any exposed wires.” 

It’s a good idea to ask around for veterinarian recommendations early, too, so you have one ready to evaluate your new cat during the first week.

Start Small
After you bring your cat into your home, it’s smart to keep him confined to one area at first, to help get him acclimated. “Make sure to lead your new cat to where the litter box is located, and show him a few times,” says Donovan. “Try to keep loud noises and activities to a minimum as to not spook the new cat while he explores.”

Of course if you already have a cat at home, introductions can be a bit more intense. Here’s how to keep the harmony in a house full of cats.

Show Your Affection … the Right Way
Creating a level of trust between you and your cat takes patience and positive integration. “Pet him when it seems he wants to be touched -- forcing it may just make him run away and hide,” says Donovan. “You can use toys that have the human-cat interaction, such as a laser pointer, and a stick with a cat nip mouse or feather attached to the end.” Cats are very sociable, and with a little time they will learn to love your company and become a perfect addition to your home!

Children and New Cats

Whether through serendipity, regular visits to shelters or cat breeders, or simply the persistent child who attracts all stray cats within a 10-mile radius, parents may find themselves in a home with a new cat in one corner and an eager child in the other. If you find yourself in this situation, you may also wonder about the challenges that arise after the wonder of the new arrival has worn off. Here are some suggestions to help you maintain harmony between your child and the new feline member of the family.

First, get the whole family together and make a list of the cat's needs. Then use this list to assign responsibilities. Even allowing for individual interests and abilities, children should be at least eight to 10 years old before becoming primary caretakers for any pet. However, there are a number of responsibilities children can handle at a younger age, as long as they are overseen by parents.

Cats must be fed regularly, and their dishes washed. Water bowls should also be washed every day, and rinsed and refilled several times a day. The litter box (or, ideally, litter boxes)--no one's favorite chore--should be scooped daily and periodically washed and refilled. The floor surrounding the box will need sweeping or vacuuming every day. Cats also enjoy--and benefit from--regular grooming. This includes brushing and nail clipping. The coats of longhaired cats will require more attention than shorthaired cats. Any procedure that may potentially cause pain, such as combing through knotted hair or trimming nails, should be performed by an adult.

Next, consider your new pet's tolerance for physical contact. While some cats seem to enjoy being cuddled for long periods, others simply do not. A forcibly restrained cat will naturally push against the holder with her claws, scratching as she jumps away. Even young kittens may bite when stressed. Timid kittens or cats react to physical attention by hiding for long periods. To keep children safe and cats content, the family can discuss these issues--and their possible solutions--together. Nails can be trimmed and kept relatively dull. Most important, children may need to understand that cats have individual needs, and for some that includes not being picked up. Instead of carrying a kitten everywhere, children can be enlisted to play with her, perhaps even making new toys for the cat. Homemade toys can include stuffed animals or dangling fishing pole creations using feathers and bells. Give the cat a little box or bed in each room that's a "safe haven," and then make sure the children understand the cat must be left alone whenever she's in her safe haven.

Finally, no matter how much your kids promise and no matter how much they love the cat, it is ultimately your responsibility to care for any pet. Check every single day to make sure all the cat's needs have been met. You owe it to the cat. It's OK to leave the dirty dishes piled up in the sink for a week to make a point about responsibility. But it's unfair to the cat to leave her unfed, unbrushed, unloved, or her box unscooped, just to teach your kids a lesson. Caring for a pet helps children develop empathy for another living creature. With the help of parents, that relationship can lead to lifelong benefits for everyone.

Bringing Home Baby: Tips for Introducing Your Cat

You have this sweet, cuddly bundle of joy. Just looking at him brings a smile to your face. He’s so darn cute that you even forget about the early morning feedings, bathroom mishaps and random crying jags in the middle of the night. 

Then, you decide to have a baby.

So, how do you make sure your newest family member and your beloved cat get along? We have tips to help make the introductions pleasant and safe for both parties.

  1. Time. When you bring home a new baby, you will have much less time for your cat. So, in the months prior to your baby being born, as harsh as it may sound, try spending less time with your cat to get him accustomed to this inevitable change. If your cat is particularly attached to you, try having your significant other form a similar bond with the cat so she won’t feel abandoned when the baby arrives. Similarly, if mom used to be the one to do certain things -- like cut his nails, brush his fur or cuddle with him at night -- these duties should be handed off before the baby comes, as well.
  1. Space. Since your cat won’t have complete access to your lap anymore, teach your cat to sit on the floor next to you, or wait to be invited into your lap, as opposed to jumping up on his own volition.
  1. Smells and Sounds. Desensitize your cat to the new sounds and smells that accompany a baby by putting baby oil, powder or whatever products you plan to use on your own skin so your cat can smell them and have some time to get used to them.

Get your cat used to baby sounds by playing recordings or YouTube videos of crying or babbling, and turn on any noisy gadgets like ambient noise machines, swings, etc. well before the baby arrives. Try to make these experiences pleasant by petting your cat and/or giving him a treat at the same time.

  1. Health and Safety. Get your cat used to regular nail trimmings, and if your cat exhibits behaviors like swatting, nibbling or biting, it’s extremely important that you enroll him in behavior classes before the baby arrives.

Consider carrying a swaddled baby doll around the house to get the cat used to the presence of a baby, and invite over friends and family members who have babies. Always supervise any interactions between your cat and a baby, and never force it. If your cat chooses to stay away, let him, as it could be a sign that he’s stressed.

5. The Initial Meeting. Once the baby is born, ask a friend or family member to take one of the newborn’s used blankets or onesies from the hospital to put in your cat’s crate or bed so that he can become familiar with the baby’s scent. Then, when you bring your baby home, ask someone to stay outside with your baby while you go inside to greet your cat. Spend some time with him, giving him lots of love and attention, and then go outside and bring in your newest bundle of joy. Though the cat may initially run away, he will eventually come back. Allow the cat to investigate, but also set healthy boundaries. Since new babies can’t control their head movements or roll over, a snuggly cat can be dangerous, and a stressed out cat may pee in the crib. So, if he is showing interest in jumping into the crib, consider getting a crib tent to keep him out.