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Top Tips For Firework Night

What can I do?

Is your pet afraid of fireworks? You are not alone – recent research suggests that almost half of the pets in the U.K. show some level of fearful response to loud noises. Planning ahead can be helpful. See Fear of Fireworks.

On fireworks night:

Provide a den or hiding place – Animals naturally hide when they are scared and it can help to provide a ‘safe place’ which they can squeeze into, like an understairs cupboard or an indoor kennel with blankets over the top and inside, leaving the door ajar. An ideal place is somewhere near the centre of the house, or somewhere they have previously hidden. Cats will often hide under the bed and emerge once they feel it is safe. Never try to remove your pet from their ‘safe place’ as they may be fearful and this could lead to aggression.

Muffle the sound of fireworks – Close all the curtains, shut outside doors and windows, and have your pet as near to the centre of the house as possible. By closing the curtains you are removing potential additional problems from flashing lights etc. Put on the TV or radio to mask the bangs.

Keep them inside – Don’t let pets outside when fireworks are likely or during a display. Take dogs out for toilet purposes before it gets dark and then keep them in. A firework going off when they are outside can lead to a fear of going out. Make sure your cat is kept in after dark (with access to a litter tray) and ensure all escape routes such as cat flaps are blocked. It is also advisable to have your pets microchipped and ensure their details are up to date in case they do escape and become lost.

Feed your pets before the fireworks start– This can encourage them to rest and hopefully sleep. Giving your dog a stodgy, high carbohydrate meal before the fireworks for example chicken and pasta can help. This will help your dog feel sleepy and less responsive to the noise. Food filled interactive toys to help distract pets are also useful.

Don’t over fuss them – This can be difficult, but if they rely on you for comfort during scary events, they will be less able to cope when you are not at home and make matters worse in the long term.

Stay calm yourself – Most pets can sense when their owners are worried, and this increases their stress. Let them hide in the den or their ‘safe place’, and leave them there until the fireworks have finished and they come out. You can give your pet lots of fuss once they emerge.

Don’t get angry – Although your pets behaviour may be annoying, it is happening because they are scared and getting cross will only make them worse. Don’t try and take your pet out of its hiding place- this increases their stress and could lead to aggression.

Prepare for unusual behaviour – Fear can make your pet behave out of character. For example, if they anticipate that going into the garden predicts a loud noise, they may hide or show aggression to avoid going outside.

Don’t forget your small furries during fireworks– If they live outside partially cover cages and pens with blankets to help sound proof them and provide extra bedding for them to burrow into.

Talk to your vet – We can advise short-term measures which may include products like Nutracalm, Zylkene, Adaptil or Feliway. Thundershirts have also been found to help with mild phobias. They exert a gentle pressure mimicking gentle hugging to calm your pet without you comforting them. Sedative medications may be recommended for more severe phobias, particularly if they don’t settle but pace around in distress, shaking and salivating or panting. It is important to help reduce your pets’ stress during upcoming firework events and help prevent their fears becoming worse.

Your veterinary surgeon and veterinary nurse can also advise a long-term preventative approach for once the firework season is over. Fear of fireworks does not get better on its own- in fact they are likely to get worse over time and lead to other behavioural problems. The earlier you seek help the better the outcome is likely to be.

Fear Of Fireworks

Why is my pet frightened of fireworks?

Every pet is different but broadly speaking pets which are afraid of fireworks fall into one of two groups:

those which have had a bad experience with fireworks in the past (for example a rocket going off close to them) and associate the sounds with being frightened- learned behaviour

those which are afraid of all sorts of loud noises – noise phobia

Noise phobic dogs do sometimes require extra behaviour therapy as they often have high levels of anxiety in general.

What can be done to solve the problem?

As we all know, fireworks make distinctive noises. Many humans find the constant bangs and whistles around bonfire night unsettling, so imagine what it must be like to have the sensitive hearing of a dog. Unfortunately it is impossible to explain to a pet that the fireworks are just noisy and not a threat to them.

In the short term what we can do is follow the steps in our ‘Top Tips’ factsheet  to provide a secure area for your pet at home and help manage your pet’s stress by using pheromone treatment in the run up to the firework season.

In the long term, sound desensitisation has been shown to be very successful for animals with firework phobias. You cannot do this during firework season as it needs to be done when there are no fireworks going off. It is best started around springtime. It is really important to consider long term control as fear of fireworks generally gets worse if left and can lead to fears of other loud noises such as thunder.

Adaptil

Adaptil, a dog appeasing pheromone is very useful for helping to calm dogs naturally. They work by releasing appeasing pheromones into the home on a sustained basis. This can be used to good effect to reduce the anxiety provoking effects of fireworks.

In mammals, all nursing females release substances called appeasing pheromones, the function of which is to reassure their offspring. Canine appeasing pheromones are secreted by the mum 3 to 5 days after birth enhancing the attachment between the puppy and its mother providing reassurance and comfort. These pheromones have been proved to also provide comfort to adult dogs in times of stress.

Adaptil is available in diffusers, sprays, collars and tablets.

Feliway

Feliway is a synthetic copy of the facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. By mimicking this pheromone Feliway creates a state of familiarity and security in the cat’s local environment. Feliway can help to comfort and reassure cats while they cope with a challenging situation and help prevent or reduce the amount of stress caused by a change in their environment. It may also help reduce fearful reactions to loud noises and reduce stress due to indoor confinement.

Feliway is available in a diffuser or spray form.Your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets can provide you with information to help you use the products to their maximum efficacy.

Zylkene

Zylkene is a product which is derived from a milk protein. It has a similar post prandial calming effect that you would see in a puppy after it has received a milk feed from their mother. It has been shown to help pets manage stressful situations. Unfortunately animals cannot make the milk protein when they stop feeding from their mother but they can still respond to it in the same way.

Zylkene is available in a capsule form which needs to be given once a day. The capsules can be given whole or opened and the palatable powder mixed in with food or a treat. Zylkene is suitable for both short and long term use to reduce stress in cats and dogs.

Nutracalm

Nutracalm is specifically formulated to naturally calm anxious pets and to help reduce unwanted or unruly behaviour. Nutracalm contains various ingredients involved in helping to reduce stress and anxiety including L-Tryptophan and L-Theanine. It is available in a capsule form which needs to be given once a day. The capsules can be given whole or opened and the palatable powder mixed in with food or a treat. Nutracalm is suitable for both short and long term use to reduce stress in cats and dogs.

Please ask your veterinary practice for more information. Adaptil, Feliway. Zylkene and Nutracalm are all available over the counter.

Diets

Royal Canin manufacture a ‘Calm’ diet which can be used as a support for behavioural therapy. The diet contains active ingredients alpha-easozepine and l-tryptophan (a serotonin precursor that helps to support a relaxed mood) which are proved to be beneficial in anxiety disorders. Prebiotics are also included to help encourage friendly bacteria in the gut to reduce stress diarrhoea. The food should be used from 10 days before the expected stressful situation and Royal Canin claim that it continues to work two to three months after being consumed.

Sedatives

Unfortunately some pets do not respond to the natural products as their fear is too severe or they are noise phobic. In this instance sedative drugs may be required for a short period of time. These are available from your veterinary surgeon but they will require your pet to have had a recent health check and you may be asked to bring your pet in for a consultation. This is to ensure there are no underlying health problems which could be exacerbated by the medication. The most common drug used nowadays are Diazepam based medications. This is due to its ability to help reduce anxiety as well as make your pet sleepy. They also have some amnesic properties which can help reduce your pet’s memory of the event ensuring the phobia does not worsen. This is not recommended for long term use and desensitisation programs should be discussed with your veterinary surgeon and veterinary nurse.

Desensitisation and counter- conditioning programs

Desensitisation is the process where the response to a fear inducing stimulus is reduced by repeated neutral exposure. The program aims to help your pet learn to cope with fireworks by gradually allowing them to become used to the noises associated with fireworks. This will require a lot of time and commitment from you to work through the programme in full to be successful. Even the mildest noise phobia can take several months to treat. SoundTherapy4Pets have created a download available on ITunes designed to recreate the noises associated with fireworks in a random pattern. The program comes with in depth instructions which you must work through in order starting with a low volume and over time gradually increasing as recommended. Remember animals are far more sensitive to sound than people and they will hear at volumes so low that you may not be able to hear it. The program should only be started once the firework season is over.

Counter-conditioning is the process where your pet associates the sound with something enjoyable such as feeding or playing. This is carried out after desensitisation with the aim of replacing the fearful feelings with feelings of pleasure.

The desensitisation program should be used in conjunction with pheromone therapy and a range of downloads are available from Sounds Scary to help with other phobias such as traffic and children noise.

Useful links:
www.feliway.co.uk
www.adaptil.co.uk
www.zylkenepet.co.uk
www.nutravet.co.uk
www.royalcanin.co.uk/Calm

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD)

FLUTD is the name used for a collection of common conditions affecting the cat’s bladder and/or urethra. The urethra is the narrow tube which carries urine from the bladder to the outside. Included in this description is cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).

The signs shown by cats with FLUTD are often similar regardless of the cause.

Clinical signs

  • Difficulty, pain or crying when passing urine
  • Passing urine more frequently
  • Passing only small amounts of urine
  • Passing urine in inappropriate places
  • Straining before, during and after urination
  • Passing bloody urine
  • Behavioural changes and/or aggression
  • Inability to pass urine
  • Increased grooming of the hind end, possibly due to pain in that area

Most commonly FLUTD is seen in middle aged and overweight cats although it can occur in cats of any age. Both male and female cats are prone, however neutered cats are more susceptible, with males having a greater risk of complete urinary tract blockage.

Causes of FLUTD

There are many causes including:

  • Urinary stones or crystals forming in the urine which then irritate the bladder lining
  • Urethral plugs that form in the male cat’s urethra causing a blockage
  • Muscle spasm in the wall of the urethra
  • Abnormalities in the structure of the urinary tract
  • Stress and behavioural issues
  • Cancer of the bladder or urethra
  • Disease affecting the nerves controlling the bladder
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Certain cheaper varieties of pet foods may increase the chance of developing FLUTD in susceptible cats

Diagnosis

We need to investigate all potential causes of FLUTD. This is important to ensure that the most appropriate treatment is provided. In 60-70% of cases seen it is not possible to find an underlying cause and this is called Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC). Your veterinary surgeon will require a thorough history to establish which signs your cat is displaying and when they are occurring. A full examination is then performed, where your cat’s bladder and other organs are checked. Bloods are usually taken to check for diseases such as kidney disease and diabetes. A urine sample is then collected to examine its concentration, acidity and the presence of crystals, protein, red and white bloods cells and bacteria (infection). Once the veterinary surgeon has these results, treatment can usually be started but if the clinical signs reoccur or there is no improvement, further investigations will be required.

The next step usually involves X-rays or an ultrasound scan to assess the bladder, urethra and kidneys to try and locate the exact site of the problem.

Treatment of FLUTD

Depending on the underlying cause, treatment can vary considerably.

Feline Idiopathic Cystitis (FIC)
Once all other potential causes have been excluded a diagnosis of FIC is made. Cats make frequent attempts to urinate, often with blood in their urine due to bladder discomfort unfortunately with no medical cause. It can be a painful condition and once treated, measures should be undertaken to prevent a recurrence once the problem has resolved. Stress is an extremely important flare factor in FIC and can be anything from an environmental change to a new cat moving in to the street. See below for reducing stress and also Feline House Soiling. Veterinary recommended supplements are also available to help repair the lining of the irritated bladder wall and relax your cat.

Bacterial infection
This will be treated with a course of antibiotics. Usually repeat urine samples will be requested to check that the infection has cleared before stopping the antibiotics.

Urinary crystals or stones
If these are found to be present in your cat’s urine, a change in your cat’s diet will be required usually to a prescription diet which will be able to dissolve them. If bladder stones have formed from the crystals joining together, then surgery may be required to remove them as they may be too large to dissolve. The diet can be fed long term if required to help prevent the problem from recurring again.

Muppet presented to us with blood in his urine and a history of straining to urinate. After an investigation which included a urine sample, an X-Ray and an exploratory laparotomy, Muppet was found to have 11 substantial bladder stones. An incision was made into his bladder and the stones removed. He made a full recovery and is maintained on a prescription urinary diet to prevent the problem from recurring again.

Urethral obstruction
This is a life threatening medical emergency. A blockage of the urethra means the cat is unable to pass urine causing it to back up to the kidneys severely affecting their function. This very quickly leads to collapse and eventually death if left untreated. Once diagnosed, the blockage will be treated immediately usually under anaesthesia and your cat will remain in hospital for several days depending on the severity.

Reducing stress
Stress is a very important ‘flare factor’ which owners often overlook in treating a cat with FLUTD or FIC. Changes in diet, environment and weather, for example snow making your cat unwilling to urinate outside with no provision of a tray indoors, overcrowding, bullying, owner stress and new additions to the household are all triggers which can cause a flare up of FLUTD to a cat prone to the disease.
Stress associated with urination, for example cat owners who do not allow their cat to have a litter tray in the house, an unsuitable position for the litter tray (ie, in a noisy or busy part of the house) or even unsuitable litter in the tray are all factors that should be considered when caring for your cat. Also competition for the tray itself in a multi cat household should also be considered and more than one litter tray provided.

Pheromone treatment can often be helpful. Feliway is a synthetic copy of the facial pheromone used by cats to mark their territory as safe and secure. Feliway creates a state of familiarity and security in the cat’s local environment. This pheromone has been proved to provide comfort to adult cats in stressful times.

Zylkene is derived from a milk protein which has a similar post prandial calming effect that you would see in a kitten after it has received a milk feed from its mother.

Royal Canin manufacture a ‘Calm’ diet which can be used as a support for behavioural therapy. The diet contains active ingredients alpha-easozepine and l-tryptophan (a serotonin precursor that helps to support a relaxed mood) which are proved to be beneficial in anxiety disorders. Prebiotics are also included to help encourage friendly bacteria in the gut to reduce stress diarrhoea. Other supplements containing similar nutrients may also be recommended.

Your local branch of Cinque Ports Vets can offer advice on how best to reduce your cat’s stress so please feel free to ask for any information.

Other recommendations
Increasing your cat’s water consumption to help dilute the urine can help. This can be done by adding in some wet food to the diet and making sure your cat has free access to water. Water fountains can be useful for encouraging your cat to drink as they constantly move and recycle the water making it more appealing to your cat.

Some varieties of cheaper pet foods, may increase the chance of developing FLUTD in susceptible cats.

Ideally a high quality pet food should be fed which actively promotes urinary tract health by keeping the pH of the urine less acidic. We would recommend the Royal Canin Feline Vetcare range as this food has been developed to have an S/O Index which indicates that the food helps provide an environment unfavourable to the development of struvite and calcium oxalate crystals.

Controlled weight loss is also important as well as increasing exercise to help with long term control.
Most cats with FLUTD lead a relatively normal life as long as appropriate lifestyle changes and sometimes treatment are implemented. Depending on the individual case your cat may be prone to occasional recurrences.

Useful links:
www.icatcare.org/advice-centre/cat-health/feline-lower-urinary-tract-disease-flutd-signs-causes-and-investigation
www.icatcare.org/advice-centre/cat-health/feline-lower-urinary-tract-disease-flutd-treatment
www.icatcare.org/advice-centre/cat-health/feline-idiopathic-cystitis-fic
www.feliway.com
www.royalcanin.co.uk
www.royalcanin.co.uk/dietary management

Cat Scratching

(kindly reproduced from Behaviour Problems in Small Animals by Jon Bowen&Sarah Heath)

Claw marking has the functions of:

  • stretching back muscles after resting
  • claw maintenance and sharpening
  • scent marking as a means of identifying territory to other cats

It may also become a way for your cat to get your attention and cats will often claw the sofa right in front of you and then scamper out of the room waiting to be chased. Cats that carry out excessive clawing can become a nuisance and there are various strategies for dealing with the problem.

For some individuals, claw marking becomes a problem during periods of social tension. It will continue until the tension is relieved, so it may be necessary for your veterinary surgeon or behaviourist to carry out a thorough investigation before the problem can be resolved.

However here is some general advice to reduce the problem of clawing.

Claw marking

The natural location for this is outside the house as it is intended as a signal to other cats to warn them about the boundary of the marking cat’s territory. Many gardens lack good opportunities to claw mark but these can be easily provided. Softwood posts can be installed at the edge of the garden or small sheets of softwood can be fixed to corners of buildings, such as sheds, with the wood grain running vertically. To determine whether a piece of wood is suitable for your cat to claw, try making an indentation in it with your thumbnail. If an indentation is easily made and the wood grain is wide, then the wood is suitable. As an alternative to softwood, you can use lengths or sections of natural tree trunk that has heavily rutted corky type of bark. It is important that the scratching posts are in clearly visible locations and not hidden away. To attract your cat to scratch them, they should be rubbed against existing scratch marking locations so that some of the scent is picked up. They should then be raked vertically with a wire brush to create a few fake scratch marks.

Clawing after resting

When cats wake up, they will often stretch against a piece of furniture, digging their claws in and then making a few clawing movements. There is no way to displace this behaviour so it is best to install a commercially available carpet or hessian covered scratching post close to places where your cat rests and then scratches furniture upon waking. These can be made more attractive to your cat by marking them with heavy, vertical black lines using a permanent felt marker, and then scratching the surface with a few vertical strokes of a wire brush.

Clawing to maintain claw sharpness

Upholstered furnishings and stair carpets provide perfect opportunities for cats to sharpen claws. They want a surface that will catch on the edge of the back part of the claw and then pull off any loose old nail as they wrench their claws out of the surface. Ordinary scratching posts may not provide the right kind of surface for this. Position a hessian or carpet covered post in front of the place your cat usually claws. If this does not attract your cat, then consider covering the post with a thick layer of blanket and then covering this tightly with heavy fabric. This will usually give your cat the texture they are looking for. Choose a fabric that has a strong pattern of stripes and align these vertically, or use blank fabric and make some vertical marks on it with a permanent marker.

Clawing for attention

Cats often claw furniture in front of their owners as a means of getting attention. This presents problems because your cat will rapidly learn that clawing the furniture continues to get a reaction but that clawing the scratching post doesn’t. It is therefore important to look at your cat and react positively when they claw the scratching post but not when they go to scratch the furniture.

Deterring undesirable scratching

Once you have provided your cat with suitable substitutes, it is possible to deter them from scratching other places.

Preventing scratching of softwood(pine wardrobes etc)

If the object has a varnished surface, rub down any existing claw marks and apply a treatment with commercially available wood hardener. This is a polymer which penetrates the wood and dries to make it very tough. Then apply several additional layers of high grade varnish to the object until the surface is very smooth and hard. Test treatment on an inconspicuous section of wood before using it generally to check that the appearance of the object will not be impaired, and allow the varnish to dry completely before allowing the cats to have access to the woodwork that has been painted. You can test the surface again with your thumbnail, you should find that the surface is much harder, which will make it far less appealing to scratch.

If the object has a waxed surface, then it cannot be varnished unless the wax surface is stripped. This will almost certainly damage it. Instead, make up a mixture of solid furniture wax with a few drops of eucalyptus and citronella oil added. Apply this to the clawed area of wood as a polish. It will leave behind an odour that most cats find repellent. If this does not work, make up a preparation of solid furniture wax mixed with a few menthol crystals and several drops of eucalyptus oil and use this as a polish instead.

Soft furnishings

These can be temporarily protected with heavy-grade polythene sheeting, which will make the surface unpleasant to scratch. This is left in place for several weeks until your cat has switched all of their scratching to the posts and pads provided.

Useful links:
www.feliway.com

 

Feline House Soiling

House soiling is an extremely common problem and is unfortunately one of the most frequently used reasons for re-homing a cat to a rescue centre.

House soiling can be a problem for any cat- male or female, neutered or entire.

It is important to determine whether your cat is showing signs of elimination behaviour or marking behaviour. It can be difficult to differentiate between the two and it is important for us to collect a full clinical history. A video of your cat may also be extremely helpful.

Normal Toileting

Normal toileting has no visual ‘display’ element (unlike marking). Cats dig with their forepaws in loose substrate (litter), then squat and deposit relatively large volumes of urine or faeces in the pit they have made. They then cover over again using the substrate. The material used shouldn’t be too fine as your cat will have difficulty making a pit area. Cat’s don’t like dirty trays as they end up digging up their toilet. Cats generally favour quiet locations where there is some privacy for normal toileting.

It is important to rule out any medical factors causing house soiling issues and a full veterinary examination should be done to rule out any problems.

Older cats may suffer from a loss of control as they may find the litter tray too far away to get to in time. Multiple trays should be provided if this is the case. Osteoarthritis can also cause difficulties for cats getting in and out of the tray and trays are available with the front scooped out so your cat can just walk straight in . Other medical issues may also cause soiling issues for example kidney problemsdiabetesFLUTD and dementia.

Marking behaviour

Marking using urine or faeces is completely different to normal toileting.

Scent marking is perfectly normal and is commonly seen when your cat rubs their cheeks against things in their environment when they are feeling relaxed.When they feel threatened they will tend to scent mark using deposits of urine or faeces to communicate a message that it is part of their territory. The waste products are leaving a specific scent or ‘message’. This can be to another cat or to the owner trying to communicate there is a problem.

Comparison between marking and toileting behaviour

Marking                                                                                                          Toileting

Deposits out in the open/places of behavioural significance                 Deposits in secluded locations

Usually vertical for urine deposits (nose height for cats)                       Horizontal

Variable frequency which can be high                                                        Frequency in keeping with normal toilet

Small amounts in variable number of locations                                       Larger amounts in small number of locations

Standing position for urine                                                                           Squatting associated with digging/burying                                                                                                                                       behaviour

When the cat thinks the smell begins to fade they will top it up again. This obviously becomes a problem if your cat starts to exhibit these behavioural signs indoors. It is important to remember not to punish your cat as this just makes your cat more anxious and therefore more likely to mark.

Marking is seen when your cat has lost its perception of its core territory- a secure area where they eat, sleep and play. The perception of a threat may come from inside or outside the home.
Your cat will investigate the area, reverse up to the site and spray. Their tail will twitch and vibrate and your cat may have a glazed and vacant look on its face. Small to medium volumes may be passed with a strong odour. Usually highly visible locations are selected where the marks will be easily noticed and often vertical surfaces are chosen as this is just the correct height for another cat to sniff at to ‘read the message’.

Objects that heat up and cool down often attract marking behaviour for example TV, audio equipment and toasters.
Bags, shoes and other objects which bring foreign odours into the home may also be targeted.

Possible reasons for marking

It can be difficult to determine the exact reason for scent marking but some possible reasons are:

  • Change in environment-addition of a new cat to the household
  • New cat in the neighbourhood
  • A new baby
  • Decorating, changing furniture or moving house removes the familiar smells which comfort your cat

Immediate action should be taken regarding cleaning the areas. See our information sheet ‘Cleaning Urine and Faeces Marks In The Home’. Areas should be cleaned with a biological cleaner that contains no amnonia compounds, strong odours or bleach. Biological washing powder removes the protein compound and the alcohol removes the fat component. You will always need to clean an area at least 3 times larger than the actual soiled area.

The following information would be helpful to your veterinary surgeon and veterinary nurse:

  • age the problem started
  • were they previously well house trained?
  • pattern of deposits-location, frequency and volume
  • behaviour towards present litter facilities
  • where is the tray
  • orientation of deposits-vertical or horizontal surfaces
  • posture of cat during toileting
  • relationship between all the animals in the household
  • presence of owner/animals when soiling occurs (any other animals seen outside)
  • how you (the owner) react to the deposits
  • any household or neighbourhood events coinciding with onset?
  • how does the cat generally react to changes in environment/strangers?

 

A house plan is extremely useful to gauge an idea of the layout including the position of the windows, doors, major furniture, cat’s eating and sleeping arrangements and locations and locations of deposits. Marking on the plan the frequency of deposits at a particular site is also helpful as well as the location of the very first deposit and the most recent.

Picture courtesy of Behaviour Problems In Small Animals by
Jon Bowen and Sarah Heath

Elimination behaviour

Indoor elimination behaviour is usually more straight forward to treat than marking although many of the solutions are the same for both issues.

Possible reasons for Inappropriate Elimination

  • Lack of privacy
  • Unsuitable litter in tray
  • Competition for litter tray
  • Negative association with litter tray-pain or being interrupted by another cat
  • Medical illness-Incontinence or FLUTD (pain with FLUTD may cause the cat to associate the tray with the pain and they will look elsewhere for a toileting area next time)
  • Punishment

Treatment for inappropriate elimination and marking

It is important to ask for advice during the early stages. Many pet owners wait until the problem becomes unbearable before coming to us for help.

Treatment for these behavioural issues can be cured for many cats following veterinary advice but it can be a lengthy process. In some cases the underlying problems can be complex, with a number of factors contributing to the problem and your veterinary surgeon may recommend referral to a qualified feline behaviourist.

  • Stop any punishment
  • Increase the number of litter trays available and locate them for easy access by the cats in the household. As a general rule for a multi cat household there should be one tray per cat and one spare. As a cat owner a litter tray should always be available somewhere in the house for your cat to use should they need to regardless of whether there is a problem with soiling. 
  • Cats depositing faeces outside the tray may have too small a tray or the wrong litter type.Cats have muscle contractions in their back legs when defecating and the wrong type of litter may hurt.
  • Use pheromone therapy to enhance your cat’s sense of security in their core territory.
  • Install a microchip cat flap-especially useful if another cat is entering the house. If your cat can see other cats through the windows it may be helpful to cover them so it increases their feeling of security.
  • More resting, hiding, toileting, eating and drinking locations. Unless a multicat household is related, cats don’t necessarily like to share
  • Move litter trays to quiet areas. If the tray is under the stairs people will be thundering down them, in the conservatory other cats may be watching and if the tray is near the food your cat will tend to move where it toilets if they cannot move where they eat.
  • Make sure litter trays are deep filled-do not use scented litter as cats are sensitive to the smell
  • Try a mixture of open and covered trays
  • Try using a Feliway diffuser near the litter tray site
  • Consider using anti anxiety medications for example Zylkene or Nutracalm

Moving house- It helps to introduce them to a new environment gradually. Confining your cat to one room with their familiar belongings will help decrease their anxiety, gradually allowing further access when they seem relaxed. 

Useful links and websites:
Cleaning Urine And Faeces Marks In The Home
Improving The Indoor Environment For Your Cat
Improving The Outdoor Environment For Your Cat
www.feliway.com
www.sureflap.co.uk

Introducing New Cats

(kindly reproduced from Behaviour Problems in Small Animals by Jon Bowen&Sarah Heath)

Before introducing a new cat, it is important to prepare for their arrival.

This should include:

Providing your new cat with their own room containing a litter tray, food, water and a variety of resting and hiding places.

Installing a Feliway (available from your local branch) will increase the sense of familiarity and security in this location.

Allow your new cat to become fully confident in this new location and with all members of the family. This may take a few days, after which your cat should be eating, resting and approaching visitors to this environment normally.

The already resident cats should be provided with several extra feeding stations, places to drink and additional places to rest and hide. A Feliway diffuser is also useful to increase their sense of security.

Your new cat must then be introduced to your other cats in a series of gradual stages. Cats primarily recognise other members of their group by smell, which is why cats sometimes react oddly to their owners after they have been stroking or handling other cats.

Stage 1-Scent introduction

Prepare several disposable cloths, each labelled with a cat’s name.

Use each labelled cloth daily to collect odours from the face and flank of the cat with whose name it has been labelled. The cloths must not be mixed up and must be stored separately in plastic bags to prevent cross-contamination.

Whenever going to greet, feed or play with your new cat, it should be briefly presented with an opposing cat’s cloth to smell and investigate. The cloth should be wrapped round your hand. Initially this may trigger a degree of alarm (the cat may back away, hiss or freeze). At this stage it is important not to force contact as your cat may become aggressive.

If there are multiple cats in the household, then the resident cats should be presented with your new cat’s smell, and the new cat with odours from different cats in the group.

With repeated presentation of the cloths, your cat should ultimately ignore the odour or may react positively to it. When all cats are reacting in this way it is time to move onto stage 2.

Stage 2-Scent swapping

After harvesting the odour from your cats, the cloths should be put together in a bag so that odours mix.

This combined odour is then used in the same way as above.

Once there is a positive reaction to this combined odour then you can mark yourself with the mixed odour so that when the cats greet they are unintentionally self marking with this new odour. The cloth should be rubbed on objects that the cats regularly rub against, including your legs.

Odour swapping may then switch to using a single cloth, as long as each cat accepts being rubbed with the scent from others.

Once all cats are accepting this new odour and are actively rubbing against the clothed hand and other objects that have been marked with the cloth then it is time to move to Stage 3.

Stage 3 Allowing your new cat to explore

Your new cat should be allowed to explore and utilise the rest of the house while the other cats are excluded or shut in an inaccessible room. This allows your new cat to learn all of the hiding and escape places so that as the cats meet, your cat does not feel vulnerable.

Once your new cat is using the resources in the home confidently, then it is time to move on to the next stage.

Stage 4-Limited face to face introduction

Your cats need to begin to see each other but without any risk of carrying out an attack. This can be managed using a glass door or mesh screen. Some child gates are made from mesh that provides a partial barrier. Mesh barriers are best as they allow some diffusion of body odours that are involved in identification. If neither is possible, then a partly open door may be used (open wide enough for the cats to see each other but not get through).

The cats are given food on either side of the screen at normal feeding times, or are distracted with a game.

It is also useful to rub the door or screen with the odour from the cats so that there is maximum chance of scent recognition.

The cats are encouraged to play and feed progressively closer to the screen, as long as there is no aggression.

Once the cats are showing no aggressive or fearful behaviour, they can be allowed to meet face-to-face, after an initial meeting through the door or screen.

It is important to continue mixing odours between the cats and applying their ‘group odour’ to yourself and common marking places in the house until your cats have begun to rub against each other or groom each other. At this point, Feliway diffusers and other environmental changes may be taken away gradually.
The total time for the introduction process may vary from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, but there is no shortcut if harmony is to be achieved.

Click on the video below to watch Vicky Halls cat behaviourist advise on how best to introduce a kitten to an existing cat.