Cat Advice | Paws and Effect Advice by cats, for cats and their people Sun, 25 Jan 2015 21:23:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Is My Cat Peeing On The Bed Because She’s P*ssed Off? Sun, 25 Jan 2015 21:22:59 +0000 [...] ]]> A cat hiding under blankets on a bed

Photo CC-BY Dubravko Sorić

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I’m desperate for some help. We have two 5-year-old cats and we adopted a new kitten, Maycie, in October. We slowly introduced the kitten and things were going fine. Around the end of November, one of the older cats, Rayah, began to “go after” Maycie pretty aggressively. Maycie began to urinate on chairs, couches, beds, and clothing. We took her to the vet and discovered she had a urinary infection and Giardia. So we isolated her to the bathroom. After a week of consistently using the litter box, we moved her to the spare bedroom. Her diarrhea began to clear up about a week ago, so we had a fecal test run again and her results came back negative for everything. The vet said we could slowly re-introduce her to Penny, the other 5-year-old. So yesterday she was out and about for 45 minutes. She played with an interactive toy while Penny watched and occasionally joined in or hissed from a distance. After 45 minutes, we put Maycie back in the spare bedroom. Today when I got home from work, I was going to feed everyone then let Maycie out again for a little while. When I went into her room, I noticed she had urinated on the bed a few times, so now she is back in the bathroom – with me sitting here typing this to you. I have NO idea what to do now! Is it possible she is ‘mad’ about being in the room alone? Will she have to be in a household with no other cats? We lover her tremendously, but can’t deal with this urination problem much longer. ~ Mimi

Siouxsie: Oh, Mimi, we feel for you! Inappropriate urination is one of the most stressful issues any cat caretaker can have.

Thomas: A lot of people misinterpret inappropriate urination, especially on beds or clothing, as an act of revenge or a way to express anger, but actually that’s the last thing it means.

Bella: The cause of the vast majority of behaviorally related inappropriate peeing is stress — specifically, territorial stress.

Siouxsie: Considering that Maycie is being regularly attacked by one of your other cats and the vet has given the poor little thing a clean bill of health, this is especially likely to be the problem. She’s probably so scared and insecure the only way she knows how to feel safe is to pee in “her” space.

Thomas: So what do you do about this? What it boils down to is helping Maycie to feel that your home is also her home and building her confidence.

Feliway Comfort Zone diffuserBella: Step 1 is to get some Feliway Comfort Zone plugins and use them in her room and in the room where you and the other cats hang out the most. You can get them at any pet store or online retailer, and many veterinarians’ offices carry them as well.

Thomas: Hey, don’t laugh: this stuff works! When Mama first brought me home from the shelter, she used these plugins and they made me feel better, and our vet uses Feliway in the exam rooms.

Siouxsie: The next step is to clean up all the urine remnants. Even if a surface looks clean, there are proteins in urine that stick around for a long time. Mama uses Fizzion to clean up pee smells and barf stains, and it works fabulously when used as directed!

Thomas: After you’ve cleaned everything, you’re going to start with scent swapping. Do this by putting the older cats in the spare bedroom while letting Maycie roam around the rest of the house. Coax her onto sofas, cat trees and other furniture by using an interactive toy. Give her a good 45-minute session of exploration each day.

Bella: By getting her up high, you’ll help her mark the rest of the house and the higher she goes, the more confident she’ll feel.

Siouxsie: And the more she plays in the space, without the other cats looking on, the more comfortable she’ll feel.

Thomas: Make sure there’s no competition for resources. You’ll need at least three litter boxes, plus one extra. Territorial cats like your older kitties may “guard” litter boxes and make it uncomfortable and perhaps even unsafe to use the litter box. If you have three litter boxes in different rooms, there’s no way the two other cats can watch all three.

Bella: You’ll also want to make sure there are no place where Maycie can get cornered by the other two cats, so establish plenty of “cat highways” so the three cats can coexist without meeting one another by surprise, and that if Maycie needs an escape route, she can have one.

Highly recommended by Mama!

Highly recommended by Mama!

Siouxsie: Cat behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett, Mama’s first behavior mentor and writer of several awesome cat books, has a whole section on her website about how to deal with intercat issues like aggression, litter box aversion, and creating a “group scent.” We suggest checking out her posts for step-by-step instructions on how to help fighting and insecure cats.

Thomas: If you can eliminate resource competition, clean the urine, raise Maycie’s confidence, deal with the other cats’ resource guarding behavior, and create a group scent, we believe all three will at least be tolerating each other eventually.

Bella: We’re not going to lie — this can be a long process and it will require patience and compassion on your part. But if you keep it up and follow through, you could have a happy three-cat household. We’re a happy three-cat household!

Siouxsie: Except when you chase me, Bella. I don’t like that and I wish you’d stop.

Bella: I’m trying, Siouxsie. It’s just that sometimes I can’t help myself.

Siouxsie: I know, honey. It’s just that I’m so tired and it hurts me …

Bella: I’ll try even harder, I promise!

Thomas: How about you readers? What have you done to help a territorially insecure cat feel comfortable in her home? How have you dealt with inappropriate urination? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

]]> 2
How I Got My Diabetic Cat “Off the Juice” Sun, 18 Jan 2015 15:00:50 +0000 [...] ]]> Learn about the how, when, where and who of managing feline diabetes.

Today at Paws and Effect HQ, we’re celebrating Bella’s two-year “remissioniversary!”

Happy Remissioniversary! Bella's been insulin-free for two years now, and we're celebrating!

Bella came to us with insulin-dependent diabetes, and just a couple of weeks later she was in remission. If you have a diabetic cat, I hope you’ll take heart from our story and use some of the resources that helped me to help Bella.

I met Bella at HART of Maine, a no-kill cat shelter in southern Maine. She and several other diabetic cats had been under the care of HART’s former “diabetic den mother,” Margaret B. When Margaret learned that I wanted to adopt Bella, she took time to teach me to test her blood glucose and how to give insulin shots. She was just a phone call or text away as I learned how to care for a diabetic kitty. Thanks to her and my vet, I got Bella into remission, and here’s how I did it.

1. Join a support community

Every caretaker of a diabetic cat should have a mentor. Margaret was a real blessing to me, and it would be awesome if everyone who lives with a “sugar kitty” had a Margaret of their own. But even if you don’t have a Margaret, you can find great information and support at Through their Feline Diabetes Message Board, people with diabetic cats can learn and get emotional support as they get used to the idea of living with a diabetic kitty.

Bella looks in a box fool of whoopie pies, a cool cat glass, and a thank-you card from HART of Maine

Bella inspects a present my friends at HART of Maine sent to me. Yum, real home-made Maine whoopie pies!

2. No kibble, ever

Food that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein is key to managing diabetes. I feed Bella and the rest of the Paws and Effect Gang a freeze-dried raw food that I rehydrate with warm water. But you don’t have to go raw — there are quite a few canned foods that meet the criteria for managing diabetes, including a few brands you can find in the grocery store. Check out Dr. Lisa Pierson’s cat food comparison chart and look for canned food whose calorie content is less than 10% total carbohydrates.

3. Home test daily

If your cat is on insulin, you absolutely must learn to home test. You’ll be able to track your cat’s blood glucose levels more accurately and you may avoid life-threatening situations like hypoglycemic crises or diabetic ketoacidosis. There are lots of glucose meters available, and many meters used by diabetic humans are appropriate for use in cats. has great info on how to home test and what glucometers work the best and are most cost-effective.

Bella and Thomas curled up together in a cat bed

Bella loves her Thomas!

4. Work closely with your vet

Every vet knows the basics of diabetes, but some are willing to go the extra mile and really help you help your cat by learning all they can about the disease. A good vet who is a good communicator, who can help you understand what’s going on with your cat, is crucial.

5. Be prepared for emergencies

Have a bottle of corn syrup and an oral syringe on hand so that if your cat’s blood sugar goes too low, you can bring her back up before she goes into a crisis. Also, have your vet’s number and your closest emergency clinic on speed dial. I also recommend programming the address of the emergency clinic into your GPS, because few things suck more than getting lost while your cat is very sick.

Bella peers soulfully out the window

Happy Bella!

6. Learn about the different types of insulin

There are different varieties of insulin, and some may work better than others for your cat. Bella did very well on Lantus when she was still insulin-dependent, and I’ve heard of other cats that do well on Levemir and Humulin. If you’re having trouble controlling your cat’s blood glucose, talk to your vet about trying a different type of insulin.

7. Even if your cat goes into remission, test occasionally

Bella hasn’t needed insulin since January 18, 2013, but I still have my blood glucose meter and testing strips (testing strips do “expire” after a while, so I have to go get a fresh batch). I also have my vet run a mini blood panel on her when she has her annual physical, just to make sure her blood glucose and other lab values are good. The peace of mind and proof of remission is more than worth the small extra cost.

Bella looking out the window

Bella watches a seagull and wishes it would stop taunting her.

Bella’s diabetes was uncomplicated, but some cats have secondary conditions like acromegaly that can make the disease hard to control. However, it’s common veterinary knowledge that a large majority of diabetic cats can be controlled and even brought into remission through diet alone. If you have a “sugar kitty” of your own, take heart: Bella and the diabetic kitties at HART of Maine are living proof that remission is possible!

Another organization that was crucial in saving Bella’s life was Diabetic Cats In Need. They provided free testing supplies and meters for anyone who adopted a diabetic cat from HART, and over the seven years they’ve been operating, DCIN has saved the lives of more than 600 diabetic cats in the US and Canada. I’ve tried to return the favor by donating and volunteering to assist the organization with my time and talents, and I hope after reading this post and learning about DCIN’s amazing work, you’ll make a donation to help them save other “sugar kitties.”

As always, please remember that this post is not prescriptive: I’m not a veterinarian and even if I were, I don’t know your cat. I’m simply sharing what worked for Bella and me.

Do you have a diabetic cat? What have you done to control her disease? Do you have any tips for other cat caretakers with extra-sweet kitties? Do you have any questions about diabetes? Ask away in the comments: if I don’t know, I’ll try to find someone who can answer your questions.

]]> 14
Should I Use My Old Cat’s Things With a New Cat? Sun, 11 Jan 2015 23:51:51 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My little girl passed over rainbow bridge. I think I’m ready for another cat, but I worry about bringing her home with my previous kitty’s things around. Her scratcher, bowls, carrier, toys, and litter box: won’t they smell like my other cat ? Should I destroy the old things or can I use them?

~ Mary

Siouxsie: Wow, it’s great that you asked this question, Mary! It shows you really love and care about cats and you want to make sure that any cat lucky enough to share your home  feels comfortable there.

Thomas: There are a couple of things we wouldn’t reuse — food dishes and the litter box. The reason for this is that these are a cat’s most important “possessions.” If you want to make sure your new cat feels welcomed and safe in your home, buy new dishes and a cat box.

Bella: Litter boxes should be replaced regularly, anyway. As you know, we scratch and dig in our boxes, and our claws can make marks on the plastic of the box.

Siouxsie: Combine these scratches and what ends up in the litter box, and even if you regularly clean it with bleach, those micro-scratches are going to be breeding grounds for bacteria and other yuckies.

Thomas: You certainly can reuse your cat carrier, but please be sure to clean it thoroughly before inviting your new kitty to use it.

Bella: Mama reused Dahlia’s old carrier for me, and I feel totally comfortable in it.

Siouxsie: If your cat’s beds are washable and your cat wasn’t extremely ill before she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, you can reuse the bed if you wash it first. If the bed isn’t washable, we’d recommend replacing it.

Thomas: In fact, you may even want to add a totally new bed so your new cat has some choices about where she sleeps.

Bella: As far as your previous cat’s scratcher goes, as long as it’s in good shape, there shouldn’t be a problem with reusing it. Be sure you encourage your new cat to use the scratch post; that way he or she will be able to mark it with her own scent.

Siouxsie: With toys, we’re not so sure. Interactive toys are fine to reuse, but we’d recommend getting your new cat a variety of solo play toys that he or she can baptize with her own scent. And get a few different types of toys so you can find out what kinds your new cat likes best.

Thomas: That said, Mary, Mama doesn’t throw away all our toys when she brings a new cat home. But the thing is, when one of us crosses the Bridge, there are still kitties in the house who are used to those toys and beds.

Bella: One thing we haven’t discussed is the human psychological factor. Some people feel the need to start totally fresh when they bring a new cat into their home after a former furry friend has passed away — not to forget about the cat friend who shared their lives, but to allow the new kitty to be her true self without any associations with sadness and grief.

Siouxsie: If you do decide you want to start fresh, we’d recommend that you consider donating your former cat’s beds and scratcher to an animal shelter — again, as long as your former kitty didn’t die from a potentially contagious illness.

Thomas: If you do this, please be sure that anything you give the shelter is clean, sanitized and in good shape. No shelter wants donations of broken things and garbage. And don’t donate the litter box; that’s going to have to go in the garbage or recycling.

Bella: Mary, we’re so sorry for your loss. We know how hard it is for you humans when you lose a cat friend — Thomas and Siouxsie comforted Mama after two of the most heartbreaking losses she’s ever experienced and it took all their feline powers to help her get through her grief!

Siouxsie: And congratulations on being ready to welcome a new furry friend into your home.

Thomas: What about you other readers? Have you kept your previous cat’s belongings for a new cat, or do you start completely fresh? Share your thoughts in the comments.

]]> 6
My Cat Won’t Let Me Bathe Her, and She Stinks. Help! Mon, 05 Jan 2015 01:33:16 +0000 [...] ]]> Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have a 5-month-old cat named Mephistopheles (Mephi) and we’ve had her and her brother Loki for two months. We rescued her, not only from whoever abandoned her, but also from the horrible, disgusting “shelter” she was being kept at. When we got them, they smelled like soured milk and mildewed clothes, so we had to bathe them. Loki took his bath no problem, but Mephi wouldn’t even let us pet her, let alone pick her up, so bathing her was out of the question — so for two months we’ve been dealing with a sickeningly stinky kitty. She trusts us a little more and will let me pet her now (the rest of the family still gets flattened ears and a poofed up tail), and is gritty and greasy to the touch. I tried sponge bathing her, but she bolted away and hid under the couch for almost four hours. The vet offered no advice and I don’t know what to do for her. I know cats are supposed to be self-cleaning but she’s really nasty right now.

~ Rachel

Siouxsie: Awww, poor little kitten. No self-respecting cat wants to smell terrible, that’s for sure! I’m really shocked that the place you got these cats didn’t bathe them before they let you adopt them, but I’m glad Mephi and her brother are safe in your family now.

Thomas: The good news is, there is a way you can get the worst of the reek and grunge out of poor Mephi’s fur …

Bella: … and make her feel like she’s getting some nice, loving petties at the same time!

Siouxsie: We’re talking about a “dry bath.” There are lots of commercial dry shampoos for cats, which you can find at any pet store. These typically come in the form of a powder or a mousse that you rub or brush into the cat’s fur and leave on.

Thomas: If you go this route, make sure the dry bath you get is specifically formulated for cats because some ingredients that might be OK for dogs could harm cats.

Bella: Another option is to create a DIY dry bath for cats using oats or bran.

Siouxsie: has an article on how to make and use a dry bath for your cat. This article also mentions things you can add to the preparation to decrease odor, which you may want to use.

Thomas: And WikiHow has a five-step pictorial presentation on how to give a dry bath.

Bella: Another option is to use cat wipes. You know those fold-up wet napkin things you humans sometimes get at restaurants? Cat wipes are like that.

Siouxsie: But cat wipes aren’t really for deep cleaning. Most of the time people use them to help control allergens because they get saliva and dander off the fur. Mama uses  cat wipes on me sometimes when I’m feeling under the weather and I haven’t been able to keep myself as clean and shiny as I’d like.

Thomas: The cat wipes will be better for maintenance and upkeep once you’ve gotten the worst of the grime and grunge out of Mephi’s fur.

Bella: Of course, you do have one other option: you can bring Mephi to a groomer and have the groomer bathe her. Groomers are professionally trained to handle animals and can get your kitty clean and shiny with minimal trauma to the cat or themselves. It might be worth spending the money on a groomer or at your vet’s office to have them bathe Mephi for you.

Siouxsie: If you do bring Mephi to a groomer, make sure that groomer has separate areas for cats and dogs, or that you’re there to take her home as soon as she’s finished, because nothing will freak a scared cat out like having to wait in a room full of barking dogs!

Bella: The best thing about having someone else bathe her is that she’s not left thinking of you as the cause of her trauma! Tee hee hee!

Thomas: Good luck, Rachel. We hope you can get your little Mephi smelling sweet in no time!

Siouxsie: What about you other readers? Have you had to bathe a cat that didn’t want to be bathed? How did you do it? Please share your answers in the comments.

]]> 4