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Cat Care Questions

How do I introduce a new kitten to my adult cat?

How do I introduce a two-month-old male kitten to my five-year-old female cat?

First, make sure that your kitten is healthy prior to introducing him to your older cat. Before bringing him home, take him to your veterinarian for a complete exam, including laboratory testing (your veterinarian may wish to do a leukemia test).

It is best to introduce the kitten to your cat slowly — don’t force them to interact. A gradual process of discovery and investigation is best. Bring the kitten into the house in a travel crate and let your older cat approach the crate and sniff, hiss and paw at it. Then reverse the situation by putting the older cat in the crate and let the kitten explore around the crate.

When both cats appear comfortable, allow them to roam freely together under your direct supervision. You should expect some hesitation and hissing from either or both cats during their first encounter. Once they seem relatively calm, feed them together in the same general vicinity, but not right next to each other. Separate them after the feeding. As they become gradually calmer, allow them to spend progressively longer periods together each day until they seem to be completely comfortable. Make sure you have at least two litter boxes — one for each cat.

It may take a week or two for them to become comfortable, but they should gradually adapt to each other. Be patient. Some cats are less sociable toward others and less willing to share their territory. With time, most cats learn to accept others in the household.

Consult your veterinarian for advice if your cats have not become accustomed to one another after a few weeks of interaction.

This question was answered by Dr. Pam Nichols, hospital director of Animal Care Center in West Bountiful, Utah.

Can a three-legged cat live a normal life?

Because of their small body weight, cats do very well after the loss of a leg. Their human friends often take longer to adjust to the change than they do. It might help, however, to make the cat an exclusively indoor cat. It’s reflexes and ability to avoid predators may be a bit hampered. Another helpful move might be to provide a few stools where the cat chooses to get up and down from things, such as beds or a favorite window sill.

If a front leg has been removed, jumping down can be painful if one leg has to catch the fall from three or more feet up. If a rear leg is missing, it may be difficult to provide the torque to jump up onto high things without a stool halfway.

Will declawing my cat change his personality?

This is actually a bit of a controversial issue within the veterinary community. Many veterinarians feel that declawing a young kitten won’t change his personality. The procedure is least traumatic when performed on young animals, because they’re smaller and they have less weight to carry on their feet after surgery. They’ll experience less pain and heal more quickly than full-grown animals, and should therefore be less affected by the surgery. Still, many feel that even adult cats can be declawed without a permanent change in personality.

There are some veterinary professionals who feel that declawing may change a cat’s personality and behavior, however. They argue that declawed felines may feel defenseless and may be more likely to mark (urinate on) their territory, avoid contact with others or become aggressive, and change their pattern of vocalization (growling, hissing, or increased crying).

The issue of declawing remains controversial, but the choice to declaw or not is a personal one. For more information, consult your veterinarian.

Walking a Cat on a Leash

I want to teach my cat to walk on a leash. He is 14 months old and slightly obese. I have a leash and harness for him. Do you have any tips for me?

It’s admirable that you’re trying to help your feline buddy lose weight and stimulate him with walks. You may or may not be able to teach him how to walk on a leash. Your cat’s ability to walk on a leash will in part be determined by his personality. If he is a confident or bold cat, your chances are good that he will learn. If he is skittish or shy, he may be too frightened outdoors to walk comfortably on a leash.

The other factor that will determine how well he takes to a leash is the method that you use to teach him. If his first experiences with the leash and harness are frightening or upsetting, you’ll have more trouble in future attempts. Keep the training sessions very short and upbeat. Use lots of food that he really likes (this won’t help with his weight problem, so cut back on his regular food) until he learns how much fun being outdoors on a leash can be.

Clicker training would probably work best to teach a cat leash walking. Clicker training involves using operant conditioning to teach an animal a specific behavior. Most information on clicker training that is available today relates to using clickers to train dogs. But clicker training also works for horses, dolphins, fish, cats, etc. Check your library or bookstore for a good book about this effective training method.

Grooming Your Cat

To prevent your cat’s long hair from getting tangled, try combing her every day to get her used to the experience and prevent the matts from forming. If your cat objects to this, she may benefit from a body shave two to three times per year from a professional groomer.

Ask your veterinarian to recommend a groomer who is experienced with cats. Long-haired cats often enjoy being shaved rather than trying to untangle their natty hair with a harsh wire brush. When the hair starts to grow back after the shave, use a boar bristle hairbrush, which is more comfortable on their skin, to maintain their hair.

Can I give my cat a bath?

Cats are generally pretty clean and do not need regular bathing unless they become dirty or have a skin condition. General bathing can be done once a month. For a basic cleaning an over-the-counter pet shampoo will work. Avoid using human shampoos and other human products as they are much too harsh. If your pet has a skin condition, then a special treatment by your veterinarian is wise since special shampoos may be needed for treatment.


Information courtesy of The American Animal Hospital Association.