Thomas E. Catanzaro, DVM, MHA, FACHE, Diplomate American College of Healthcare Executives
Special Recognition for Contribution from Marty Becker, DVM
Cat Training Classes - "Kitten Kindy"
Introduce yourself, welcome people to the class, and describe what will happen in chronological order (class starts at 6:30 pm and runs until 8:00 pm):
1. Litter box training
2. Destructive scratching
4. Preventative health care - food, vaccinations, parasite control, dentistry, etc.
5. Sell the project
a. make appointment for complimentary veterinary exam and preventive health care measures
b. pass out free food samples, etc.
c. detail and sell pet supplies
Bond the client "emotionally" by celebrating the human-animal bond with a graphic touching story.
Ask the client to remember the first cat they ever had. First ask them to remember the cat's name (ask for some names from the audience). Then take them further down this mental road by asking them the breed, color, where it slept, what it ate, when the cat was the happiest, when they were the happiest with the cat, and finally under what circumstances they had to say good-bye.
With great emotion and conviction stress that this human-animal bond is one of the longest-lasting, most powerful, and significant emotional events in their life. Emphasize that the goal of our having these training classes is to:
Celebrate and protect the human-animal bond
We want to be life-long partners with them in having a happy, healthy pet that is part of the family and that lives life to its fullest potential
Understand that cats aren't the same as dogs. One is not better than the other,......just different.
Difference between dogs and cats? Dogs come when they are called...cats say "take a message" and I'll get back to you! Mary Bly
Dogs live to please their owners. Cats live to please themselves. That's why there are no obedience classes at cat shows! Phil Maggitti
Harrison Weir, the Englishman who invented cat shows, believed that cats have a natural, sullen antipathy to being taught, restrained, or made to do anything to which their nature or feelings are averse. Unlike dogs, who in the wild depend on the pack for survival and easily and willingly transfer that interdependence to their human pack...cats are consummate freelancers. Independence suits them just fine. So rather than ask why cats don't come when called, we should ask, instead, why should they?
When should you start training your cat? The best time to start training it is as soon as you have established a rapport with your new feline friend. As soon as your cat has identified you as the source of food and lavish attention, you should begin teaching it to respond to the name you have chosen for it.
A sobering fact? The number one reason for convenience euthanasia in cats is for litter-box related problems (70-80%). Therefore, it is critical that we do everything we can to prevent litter-related problems.
Litter maintenance, litter type, litter box placement and the number of boxes in the household are some of the most important components in cat ownership.
Many types of litter material are on the market. These include plain clay, plain clay with added odor control substances, scoopable/clumping type, those that can be flushed down the toilet and pelleted newspaper. The choice of material is up to the cat owner, but certain factors should be considered.
The first is the individual cat. One should take into account that cats can have preferences for litter materials. Some cats are sensitive to odor and do not like scented litters. Therefore, an unscented one would be best. Some cats are more particular about texture and prefer one of the scoopable or clumping brands. Other cats may prefer unusual products like cedar chips, play sand or even dirt.
It may take a little trial-and-error, but if your cat is comfortable with one kind of litter, stick with that brand and leave the litter pan in the same place. Cats are creatures of habit and switching litters may result in accidents.
There are the main times when your cat will have the urge to eliminate:
After waking up
When your new cat is getting used to its surroundings, place him gently in the litter pan after any of the above to help reinforce his natural instincts. If that cat eliminates, praise it gently but with enthusiasm and love.
Here are the four main reasons a cat won't use the litter box and will have accidents:
1. Improper cleaning and maintenance - cats are clean animals and sensitive to odor. The best way to control odor is through thorough and frequent cleaning. Therefore, it is important that an owner have a regular pattern of litter maintenance. Although most owners only change the litter material every seven days, for many cats this is not often enough. As a basic rule - the fecal matter should be scooped out daily and the litter changed every 4-7 days. When cleaning the pan, it is best to use a mild dish soap (avoid ammonia based cleaners or other strong cleaners that are abhorrent to some cats) or just put the pan outside in the sunlight for 30 minutes to an hour on a regular basis.
2. The cat that is not spayed or neutered - un-neutered male cats have a strong natural desire to spray urine and mark territory. Female cats exhibit the same behavior only to a much weaker extent. We highly recommend having your pet spayed or neutered and it can be done safely as early as 8 weeks of age. The sooner the better.
3. The cat has a medical problem - when a cat suddenly stops using the litter box, the first step should be to take the cat to the veterinarian to rule out a medical problem - again, the sooner the better!
4. Instead of Pandora's Box it can be Pandora's Pan - another cat is in the house, you've moved the pan (or the area doesn't give adequate privacy, is too close to where she eats, or is too close to where she cat-naps), the cat now has access to an upstairs or basement and doesn't feel like traveling very far to eliminate, you've changed brands or litter, bought a new pan, etc.
What if your cat has inappropriate elimination and you discover it with your foot during your midnight bathroom run? Experts recommend that unless you catch your cat in the act - within 3-5 seconds of having gone - you must ignore the accident. Punishment after the fact will not affect this behavior and will do further harm. If you do catch your cat in the act......reprimand it verbally with a stern "no" or "bad kitty". Then clean the area with a product that will eliminate the odor, not just mask it.
Rules of thumb
Find a litter your cat likes and don't change it
Clean fecal material out daily and change litter as needed but at least every 4-7 days
Get a litter box that fits and suits your cat. For example, a small cat may need a box with small sides, and some cats don't like covered boxes. Have one litter box per cat and one litter box per level in the house
Get your cat spayed or neutered and always check with a veterinarian immediately if your cat has urination problems
Lift-n-Sift Cat Pan, BoodaBox, or Doskocil Covered Box
Ultra Clump Litter
Cats have a strong desire to scratch. Scratching is an inherited, normal behavior of cats. They do it for four primary reasons:
Claw conditioning - such as the removal of the dead outer layer of their claws
Visual territorial marking
Olfactory territorial marking - with scent from glands in their paws
Stretching their front limbs - ever watch a cat wakeup?
A cat normally chooses a prominent vertical object to scratch and returns again and again to the same location - for example, a tree. The front claws are extended, gripping the surface, and are withdrawn and extended alternately. This action not only leaves a prominent visual mark but also an olfactory mark from secretions of the sweat glands in the paws. This scratching action also aids in the conditioning of claws by removing old, frayed, and loose layers of claw and exposing the sharp, healthy, new claw underneath (cats also chew the old claw off while grooming themselves). The instinct to scratch begins at about one month after birth. So it is important that rather than try to stop cats from scratching, we:
Find an object for them to scratch that is mutually acceptable - for example...a scratching post
Remove their claws, cover them over with protective caps such as Soft Paws, trim their nails frequently
An Acceptable Place To Scratch - How can you get a cat to use a scratching post? The following rules of thumb will help:
Because cats frequently scratch and stretch after waking, put the post close to the cat's sleeping area
Some cats prefer free standing sleeping perches and climbing areas, whereas others like a post that is hung on furniture or on a door. Whatever your choice, cats prefer a material that is loosely woven so that their claws can hook into the fabric and tear the fabric using long longitudinal strokes. Often carpet is too durable, won't tear, the cat's claws catch, and the cat refuses to use it. Many experts recommend securely fastening upholstery over the carpet. That way as the cat rips through the upholstery into the carpet, the carpet begins to take on the cat's foot pad odor while the cat can still shred the replaceable upholstery. Some other good materials for scratching have sisal, cardboard, wood, or wood composite surfaces. Please note, unless the scratching post is completely destroyed, don't replace it. In fact most cats prefer a post that is worn, stringy, and easy to rip. Along with surface texture, location, habit, visual, and olfactory marks attract the cat back to the same location.
If the cat is reluctant to use the scratching post, positive reinforcement (rewards) should be used to make the post more appealing. Try one or more of the following:
Once the cat awakens, use food or a toy as a lure to get the cat to approach the post. Hold the lure part way up the post and wait until the cat stretches or scratches before giving it the reward.
If the post has ledges or platforms, food, toys, or catnip can be placed on the ledges, or hung from the post. Some experts recommend spraying the post with spray catnip.
Rubbing the cat's paws gently on the post helps provide visual and olfactory cues that may attract the cat back for future scratching.
If the cat can't be closely supervised, it should be left with its scratching post in a designated kitten-proof area where unwanted damage cannot occur. This area should contain the cat's bedding, food, water, litter pan, and toys (for some cats this may be a room, an entire floor of the house, or maybe only a large cage).
What if the cat scratches what it's not supposed to...like your favorite couch? Try one or more of the following:
Modify the cat's environment - this is the first step in the correction of problem household scratching. You can allow the cat more access to the outdoors. Or you can move the damaged furniture and replace it with an appropriate scratching surface, thereby maintaining the location habit (the new scratching post should have the same surface as the old scratching surface and be at the same level - for example, if the cat liked to scratch the fabric on top of the chair, don't replace it with a wooden scratching post at ground level).
Behavior modification: Rewards - use catnip, toys, treats, or food rewards to attract the cat to use the new, acceptable scratching post
Behavior modification: Punishment - The principles of effective punishment require:
that the cat be caught in the act
that the punishment be aversive enough to deter the cat from returning to the spot
that the cat associate the punishment with the act of scratching, not with the presence of the owner
Declawing Or Covering The Claws - Declawing is a highly controversial issue. Critics claim declawing can trigger chronic physical ailments such as cystitis, asthma, skin disorders and cause gradual weakening of the muscles of the forelimb, shoulders, and back. They also claim that hunting, balance, fighting, climbing, and feline social relationships are affected adversely by declawing and that every cat can and should be trained to use a scratching post.
However, if an owner is unwilling or unable to prevent or correct problem scratching using the behavioral modification techniques discussed above, declawing may prove to be an acceptable alternative. Declawing also is an effective way to eliminate household clawing during running, jumping, climbing, and playing. To date, all of the negative or critical comments and statements about declawing have been based on hearsay or anecdotal evidence. Since 1985, a number of studies have looked at the effects of declawing on feline behavior and all have found that declawing met the objectives of all cat owners and caused no detrimental behavioral effects. Most scratching problems are greatly reduced or eliminated by declawing. 96% of owners of declawed cats are satisfied with declawing, and as many as 70% report an improved relationship with their cat. The human-animal bond is strengthened!
Rules of thumb:
Cats have a strong urge and instinct to scratch. So either train them to scratch on an appropriate surface or have them declawed (or nails covered)
Because cats like to scratch after awakening, put the scratching post near their bedding. If the cat has access to several levels of the house, have a post on each level
Get a scratching post that has a material the cat will like. To encourage the cat to use the post, use rewards or lures
If the cat scratches in an unwanted place, use behavior modification
Have your cat declawed at 8-16 weeks of age at the same time as sterilization
If you don't want your cat declawed, cover them with protective caps such as SoftPaws, trim your cat's nails frequently, and use a scratching post (and use rewards and attractants to encourage its use)
Cats spend a lot of time licking themselves in "hard to reach places". Observe one in the act and they seem very determined but enjoying the process quite a bit! Why do cats groom themselves? To remove dead hair, usually, it's a good idea to expedite the process by regularly bathing and brushing your cat.
Why bathe and brush your cat? Here are some benefits:
The more hair you remove, the less the cat has to remove. Also there will be less hair all over your house and clothes!
Regular grooming can help you in training your cat. If the cat is used to being handled and associates it pleasantly......your other training (litter pan and scratching) will be much easier
How to groom your cat:
Start ASAP - as soon as your cat is settled in, start grooming him for several minutes each day until he is used to being handled.
Use a raised and slick surface - a table or bathroom counter usually works great (don't use the kitchen table or anywhere else the cat is never allowed).
Use a slicker brush or comb - the proper tool depends on the condition of your cat's coat and how often you groom it. Comb or brush in the direction the coat lies and don't apply too much pressure. If the cat is heavily matted, or you have a lot of difficulty grooming it, we recommend you seek the services of a professional groomer.
If your cat is not declawed, trim its nails frequently - hold the cat facing away from you, hold its paw between your thumb and forefingers and push down to extend the claws, cut only the hooked talon-like part of the claw below the pink blood line.
Get your cat used to being bathed - although it is not necessary to bathe a cat.....most owners do. We recommend the kitchen sink. Put a rubber mat or towel in the bottom, and use the spray attachment to bathe your cat (use warm water only). Make sure you rinse your cat thoroughly. To dry your cat, towel dry first. For most short haired cats - air drying is fine. For long-haired cats, many people use a hair dryer. For fly-away static hair - rub an antistatic cloth over your cat's coat.
Will Rogers once commented, "I have always felt that the best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can't ask his patients what is the matter -- he's got to just know".
Veterinarians love animals and have dedicated their lives to protecting them, healing them, and helping them live happy, healthy lives. Although modern veterinary medicine is blessed with sophisticated diagnostic equipment and we are trained to do advanced procedures in orthopedics, cardiology, dermatology, etc., we would much rather prevent problems than try to cure the sick and heal the wounded. Sadly, according to recent American Veterinary Medical Association statistics, 40% of owners did not take their cats in for an annual physical examination or for vaccinations! Thus our emphasis and dedication to preventive health care.
The cornerstones of preventive health care are:
An annual physical exam - a veterinarian is trained to look past the obvious - to the potential - and can often catch problems early on before they cause unnecessary pain, expense, or worse.
Vaccinations - kittens get immunity from their mother's milk and are usually protected against disease until they are about 8 weeks old. After that, they rely on vaccinations to protect them. To try and simply put a complicated process - vaccinations cause the body to produce protective proteins called antibodies and white blood cells that ingest and remove disease causing viruses and bacteria
Use example of Sand Timer
Parasites - some live on the animal, such as ticks, fleas, and lice, while others such as roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms live inside the animal. In either case, parasites can cause harm to the animal and to their human friends and should be routinely checked for and removed.
Routine dental care - a cat's teeth should be white and clean, its gums healthy and pink, and its breath, while not sensually pleasing, not repulsive either! Whereas some cat owners are able to regularly brush their pet's teeth, and we recommend you do, most cannot. Therefore we recommend having your cat's teeth professionally cleaned by your veterinarian at least once a year.
Knowing when your cat is sick - most cat owners are very intuitive, know their cats intimately, and know when they are sick. A few common clues are:
The cat eliminates outside its pan
The cat refuses to eat
The cat is listless
The cat is not itself
The cat feels "hot" - a temperature above 103 degrees F (just like we always consider 98.6 degrees F normal for a human...a cat's benchmark is 101.5 degrees F)
Although many signs of illness or trauma demand an immediate trip to the veterinarian, if you are unsure, just pick up the phone and call. Better safe than sorry!
It is important, as the spokespersons for your cat's best interests, that we educate you to make informed decisions concerning your cat's health, happiness, and well-being.
Everything your cat needs means much more than treating accidents and illnesses. It means preventing diseases (viral, bacterial, and dental, etc.), preventing or curing behavioral problems (unwanted scratching, improper elimination, etc.), and helping your pet live a happy, healthy life (proper diet, toys, etc).
Our goal is to help "cookbook" the way you get started with your new feline friend so that you don't have to experience many common problems and can "fast forward" to the good times!
We don't consider it hard sell.......we consider it must sell! Our professional and moral obligation is to recommend everything you need for a happy, healthy pet. Per our professional oath, we are not only kind to animals, but are pledged to prevent pain and suffering as well.
Some of the things we are about to recommend to you are familiar and others are new. To help you understand "the project" and to make your buying decisions more organized and easier - we have prepared a "project sheet" of Everything You Need for a Happy, Healthy Cat.
Go over the Cat Project Sheet
We have great reason to celebrate and protect the family/pet bond. We talk to them like they're humans, we celebrate their birthdays, we let them sleep with us, we carry photos of them in our wallets, and buy them Christmas gifts. These aren't just pets.......they're members of our family!
As we told you earlier, the reason we hold these seminars is because we want to be a partner with your pet and you for a lifetime. And just like your pets.......we're always there when you need us!