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Caring for Cats

CAN I ADAPT?
By Debra L. Stitt ©
(and Chance)

Iím Chance the cat and I didnít get my name by accident.  Iím probably one of the best authorities on the question of adaptability.  You see, I was a wanderiní kind of guy for a while until I got myself in a heap of trouble.  Iím one of the lucky ones, although I didnít know how bad I had it until I had it so very good! 

My mom doesnít know whether or not I had a ďrealĒ home in the past, although she assumes I didnít by the condition she found me in.  I guess I was one sorry dude!  Thankfully, when I decided to use bad judgment I was fortunate enough to do it at just the right time Ė when my new mom was driving by and saw me get hit by a mini-van.  I donít really remember anything after running out in the street, but she sure does.  Thank goodness someone that cared was there to rescue me or I wouldnít be here to share this advice with you!

Hereís the thing . . . I was an outdoor kitty, and now Iím an indoor kitty.  And, Iím a happy indoor kitty.  As a matter of fact, I donít like it at all any more when my mom or dad try to get me outside of the house for any reason (and they do for my doctor visits).  Iím about as stubborn as they come.  I quickly learned to love my new . . . home and my life.   

The key is this -- my mom and dad were so very patient with me.  They knew from my condition that I had been on my own for quite a while.  They put up with my middle-of-the-night howls until I adjusted to new sleeping patterns.  You see, when you live on your own outside, you use the nights to prowl and you hide and/or sleep during the day.  That can be a challenging habit to break but it can be done.  It really didnít take me long to adjust to their schedule because I got a lot of attention when I was living by their rules and schedule.  Positive reinforcement for good behavior made me feel like a king! 

When you take us street kitties in, you need to really think like a kitty.  Weíre so small compared to you and you scare us Ė not to mention that weíre not used to being taken care of.  Our existence has all been based on our ability to fend for ourselves.  We are not used to being pampered.  If we can learn to trust you, youíve got a loyal kitty for life!  So, here are a few simple tips.  These same tips will work for any type of feline, indoor or outdoor, that you choose to adopt.

1)  When it comes to discipline, never, ever use your hands for anything negative.  We equate objects (hands) with pleasant or unpleasant experiences Ė not both.  If you want us to equate your hands with everything pleasant, never hit us.  If you hit us, the unpleasant experience will override the pleasant one and we will never trust your hands.  The same is true with our name.  Donít equate our name with bad behavior by yelling it.  If you do, and then try to get us to come to you by calling our name, we will be frightened.  A good way to discipline us is with loud noises, like loud clapping Ė thatís very unpleasant to us!

2)  When getting to know you, thereís a pretty nifty trick that most people donít think of.  Get down to our level.  When you stand over us, itís a bit overwhelming.  But, when you get down on the floor with us, itís a lot less scary.  This will give us more courage to approach you.

3)  Once we know you, we will ALWAYS enjoy your company.  We may lie in a corner, on a perch or across the room, but we like being near you.  Itís comforting!  So, the best way to reinforce good behavior in us is to allow us to be close to you.

4)  Our noses are our most powerful sense -- and our best sense of well-being.  If you think something frightens us, slowly extend it to us and let us smell it.  Donít move quickly or speak loudly, just let us investigate.  Itís the best way to help us feel comfortable.

5)  We LOVE our familiar space.  Itís comfortable and safe.  We kitties are creatures of habit, as well as territory.  We really donít need the wide-open spaces to be happy.  Give us enough indoor stimulation and weíll never miss the outdoors.  Just be patient and let us adapt.  Give us lots of interesting and different types of toys, scratchers and places to call our own when we want to be alone.  If we cry at the door, distract us with something pleasant and positive.  Itís simply a matter of focusing us on something positive that pleases us both.  We quickly learn that when we please you, we get hugs and pets and thatís something we really, really like!

6)  If and when we have to move, think of us first.  ALWAYS make sure you isolate us with familiar belongings (as well as food, water and a litter box) during a move so that we feel safe.  Give us a room that we can stay in, away from all of the chaos, until things settle down.  We really donít like change, so donít subject us to a lot of it.  Once things settle down, crack the door to our room open and let us decide when to venture out and investigate.  We might do it at night when youíre sleeping but trust me, we WILL investigate Ė but on our own terms.  Allow us to retreat to our ďsafe roomĒ for as long as we need it.  Weíll let you know when weíre finally comfortable enough to let you have our room back.

Bottom line, be patient with us.  Seriously, weíre pretty darn smart and will catch on if you give us the chance.  Think like a cat!  We like making you happy!  When youíre happy with us, you want us with you and thatís right where we want to be.

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