What is Feline Friends’ stance on declawing?

We are strongly against declawing of any cat. All adopters must sign a contract agreeing to never declaw their Feline Friends cat. Declawing is not just the removal of a cat’s nails – it is actually an amputation of half their “finger”, from the knuckle joint onward. This can cause arthritis and other medical conditions later on. In addition, a cat relies on its claws as a means of defense, whether for protecting itself or climbing a tree to get away from a predator. Even indoor cats can sometimes get out.
StopDeclaw.com (Warning: graphic)

Should my cat go outside at all?

We believe a cat is safest indoors. There are too many tragedies awaiting a wandering cat: cars being the most likely killer, but wildlife such as coyotes and fishercats can be a serious threat, as well. There is also disease to think about: rabies, distemper, panleukopenia, FIV and Feline Leukemia Virus are just a few. Plus it’s only polite to keep your cat on your own property!

What indoor dangers should I be aware of? How do I cat-proof my house?

Many common household items, including houseplants, may be dangerous or even deadly to your new cat. A few hazardous house or garden plants include: Azalea, Calla lily, Chrysanthemum, Daffodil, English holly, English ivy, Foxglove, Honeysuckle, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Iris, Larkspur, Lily of the Valley, Mistletoe, Philodendron, Poinsettia, Spider Plant, Tulip, and Wisteria. This is far from a comprehensive list.

The only sure way to protect your new cat from plant poisoning is to prevent access to the plants. You can also make the plants less attractive to your cat by spritzing the plants with water and then sprinkling them with cayenne. If your cat seems to crave vegetable matter you can provide safe alternatives. Oat grass, catnip and catmint are all safe and enjoyable for your cat to eat.

Other common household poisons include chocolate, onions, antifreeze, deicing salts, insect control products, and many human medications. Even fun cat toys such as string, rubber bands, yarn or dental floss can be ingested and cause intestinal blockage or strangulation. To protect your cat from choking provide only toys without removable parts.

Some cats like to chew dangling electrical cords. If your new cat is one of them, protect her by hiding the cords or keeping your cat away from certain rooms. An easy way to hide electrical cords is to purchase plastic or rubber tubes used for plumbing, make one slice down the length of the tube, and stuff in the electrical cord.

Be careful of dangling drapery or mini-blind cords. Cats love to play with these cords, but they can strangle themselves by catching their necks in the loops. And keep the clothes dryer door closed – that warm laundry inside can be tempting to a sleepy cat!

What should I feed my cat?

While at Feline Friends your new cat was eating both dry and canned food. We recommend that you make fresh, clean water and dry cat food available to your new friend at all times, and feed canned food twice a day. The most important thing is that you feed a high quality food. The higher quality food you purchase, the healthier your cat is likely to stay. Highest quality brands include Wellness, Felidae, Innova, Solid Gold, Nature’s Variety, Iams, Eukanuba, Nutro, Neura, and Purina One. Cheaper, lower quality foods are often full of dyes, preservatives, additives, and other items that could cause digestive or urinary tract problems. Also try to avoid foods with corn and other cheap grains – these are fillers which can often cause allergic reactions and upset stomachs. To find the higher quality foods we recommend Dave’s Soda and Pet City or Westfield Feed if you are local. If you do not live nearby check for any feed or pet food stores in your area.

Remember that foods should be switched gradually to avoid upsetting tummies – slowly add some of the new brand to some of the old food until your cat’s meals are almost all of the new food.

Stay away from milk! Despite most cats’ love for the taste of milk, it can cause diarrhea and dehydration. Also if you must feed table scraps, keep it to an occasional treat. Cat food is nutritionally balanced for your cat, it contains all of the vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and other good things she needs. If she starts eating lots of tuna, chicken and other table scraps she won’t get a balanced diet and won’t stay healthy.

Help! I lost my cat!

Most cats can be recovered if immediate action is taken. If the cat was adopted from Feline Friends, please call us immediately!!! Try contacting local animal shelters (in our area Dakin Humane Society, Foundation for TJO Animals, MA Missing Pet Network, MA Lost Pets, Lost and Found Pets of Western MA, Helping Lost Pets.

Low-Cost Spay/Neuter

For those in financial need there are several programs in the Pioneer Valley that can help. The SPCA offers low-cost spay/neuters for people and their pets; Dakin facilities “Feral Spay Sunday” which assists people in Trap-Neuter-Release programs; and Petco often has low-cost vaccination clinics. Please contact the organizations for more information.

FIV-Positive Cats

Did you know that FIV positive cats can live long and healthy lives? FIV is not AIDS! Our FIV-positive cats are some of the sweetest, most loving creatures you will ever meet.
FIV: Catching a Bad Case of Rumors (Best Friends Animal Society)

My cat is urinating outside of the litterbox!

If your cat does “think outside the box” and have an accident, don’t punish her. Just clean the area with an odor-killing product. If your cleaning is unsuccessful, this spot may become your cat’s new bathroom. That’s why we recommend cleaning with pet odor-killers that contain enzymes. Stay away from ammonia-based products.

If the cat has access to a litterbox but continues to avoid its use, call us or your veterinarian for advice. The solution may be as simple as changing the type of box, the type of litter, or the box’s location. It may also be as complicated as a medical problem.

Clawing and Scratching

Scratching on surfaces is an innate marking behavior, not an attempt to ruin your furniture or drive you nuts. This behavior allows for the deposition of the cat’s scent in familiar places she wants to mark as her “territory.” Because this behavior is so instinctual, like grooming or burying waste, it is unlikely that you will be able to stop it altogether. The best approach is to provide safe alternative places to scratch and clip claws on a regular basis.

Scratching posts should be sturdy and tall enough (ie 3 feet high) for the cat to stretch full length. To make your own, attach a 3-foot piece of wood to a sturdy base and cover it with thick rope (sisal is great!) or a scrap of carpet (putting the carpet good-side-in is actually better – the canvas weave on the underside of a carpet is great for scratching claws on!). Other cats really enjoy cardboard scratch pads that you can purchase at most pet supply stores. If your cat goes for your furniture, gently redirect to the scratching post. Keeping the post near the favorite piece of furniture may be necessary. Sprinkling the post with catnip may make it more enticing. Having scratching posts or pads in different parts of the house is a good idea. If you have persistent problems with destructive scratching behavior, please call us at the sanctuary. We may have more solutions, such as SoftPaws (plastic nail caps) or sticky clear strips for furniture.

Whether or not your cat is a dedicated furniture scratcher it is a good idea to learn to trim claws. This will protect people from being clawed and your furniture from suffering damage. To clip the nails, press on the cat’s paw pad until the claws are extended. Clip only the white portion of the claw (usually where the claw begins to curve). Do not clip the pink portion of the claw – this contains blood vessels! You may want to purchase a product called Kwik-stop in case you accidentally trim a nail too short and the cat begins to bleed. To make your cat agree to future nail-trimmings, reward her by playing, giving food treats, or providing her with extra special attention.

How do I teach my cat to play appropriately with humans?

Cats are wonderful, playful animals. Their play is often a re-enacting of predatory behavior – chasing, pouncing, tossing, etc. Encourage your cat to play frequently and safely. In order to raise a well-mannered cat who will not bite, keep in mind that any behavior you encourage will remain with the cat for life. So if you hand-wrestle with your cat and allow her to gnaw on your fingers, be aware that she may still think this is acceptable when she weighs ten pounds, has daggers for claws, and much bigger teeth! Use a cat toy instead of your hand for play. If she grabs your hand, stop playing and walk away.

Other Problem Behaviors

Problem Behavior in Cats (Cat Fanciers’ Association)

Behaviorists, more information

Pamela Johnson-Bennett

How do I introduce a new cat to my children?

Cats will normally need a slow introduction process into your big, strange house, and your children need to be respectful of your new cat’s nervousness in a new home and desire for some time alone. But given the proper introduction most cats will learn to get along with your entire family. Read the following article for all the details.

How do I introduce my cat to a new baby?

A lot of cat owners express nervousness when it comes to adding a new baby to the family. Thankfully there are ways to prepare your kitty for your new bundle of joy and we are confident that you can live in harmony together. Read the following article for more information.

How do I introduce my new cat to my current cats/dogs?

Some people express wonder that we at the sanctuary have so many cats living together without cages. We follow a specific introduction process and most of the time it goes very smoothly!

What do I do to help feral cats in my neighborhood?

The strategy that has the most success with feral cats is Trap-Neuter-Release. Contact Dakin for more information on getting feral cats spayed/neutered and released back into their colonies. If you want more information about feral cats in general we highly recommend Alley Cat Allies, a national organization dedicated to ferals.
Alley Cat Allies

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