Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat is about a year old. She came to us as a stray we found and we had her fixed and gave her the shots needed. When we found her she was pregnant. She had her babies under a neighbor’s house so although we were feeding her she was not around much because she was with the kittens. The kittens got older and we gave them away for adoption. The problem is that we are new to caring for an animal and we are unclear about a few things. She is now very finicky about food. I always have water and dry food available. We have tried many different types. She will nibble but that is all. I have tried introducing wet food. She doesn’t like that either. The other problem is that she is never satisfied. If she is inside she wants to go out. If she is out when she sees us she wants to come in. We give her a lot of attention but she’s still not happy. She meows constantly as though something is wrong or she is trying to tell us something. She is quiet for only a few hours a day if she is in a deep sleep. She seems to be lonely at times and greets us at our car and if we are outside she follows us everywhere but the constant meowing when we are trying to watch a movie or read is so very annoying. She is such a beautiful cat, but she’s worse than a toddler. I’m at my wit’s end! Please help!
Siouxsie: It sounds like what you’ve got here is a cat whose life has drastically changed and isn’t coping too well with those changes. But fear not–we can help you.
Thomas: First, let’s talk about the food issue. Since your cat goes outside, it’s quite possible that she’s supplementing her diet with mice and other small creatures, thus her lack of interest in the food you put out for her. If her weight is good, don’t worry too much about it.
Dahlia: You will, however, need to deal with the finicky eating issue at some point. If you want to change her food, there’s a way to do this gradually. If there’s a type of food she likes, try adding a tiny bit of the new food into the food she usually eats. Add a bit more over the course of several weeks until she’s switched over to the new brand.
Siouxsie: If you leave the canned food in her dish for more than 20 minutes or so, she probably won’t eat it. The canned food tends to dry out and can begin to harbor nasty bacteria that would make her sick. Also, if you pull the canned food right out of the fridge and put it in her bowl, it’ll probably be too cold for her to eat.
Thomas: To make canned food more tempting, we recommend heating it in the microwave for five to ten seconds (in a microwave-safe dish, of course). This will make the aroma stronger and possibly more interesting to her.
Dahlia: As for the “Wrong-Side Syndrome” — which is actually quite common for cats that get to go outdoors — there are a couple of things you can do about that.
Siouxsie: If you own your home, you can install a cat door that will allow her to come and go as she pleases. You may have to show her how to use it at first, but once she gets the hang of it she’ll enjoy having her freedom.
Thomas: We should point out that we recommend keeping cats indoors only, for their safety and the safety of other animals including songbirds. But since your cat is used to going outside, if you choose to bring her indoors you would have to gradually transition her to being an indoor-only cat.
Dahlia: Now, about the constant meowing. Your cat may be meowing all the time because she’s bored. Do you play with her regularly? If not, a few vigorous play sessions a day might help her to feel less trapped.
Siouxsie: She may be missing her kittens and wondering what happened to them. Cats actually do have these kind of issues. If you think you can manage it and you think it would make your cat less dependent on you, consider adding another cat to your household. And again, although we counsel people to adopt adult cats, we think a younger cat might be a better choice in your case.
Thomas: The good news is that animal shelters are overflowing with kittens right now, so if you want a kitten, summer is a good time to get one. Before you adopt another cat, you would have to get permission from your landlord (if you rent), and expect to be asked for the name of your veterinarian so shelter staff can contact him or her to find out if you’re responsibly caring for the other cat in your household.
Dahlia: A while back, we wrote a column about how to deal with unwanted meowing and vocalizing. You’ll find more tips on specific ways to remedy this problem there.
Siouxsie: Good luck, Donna. Please let us know how things turn out!