FAQ’s for adopted cats

Q: Can I change the name of the cat?

A: Absolutely – even if the cat “knows” their name, they will learn the new one, or you can make it close if you want to alter it.  Cats do seem to respond better to something with an “eee” sound at the end – Misty, Baby, Smokie, Charlie etc.    We will likely remember the original if only because we attempt to not reuse names.  Paperwork for the vet will have the original, but your vet can change their records and you can continue from there.

Q: Cats are meant to be outside right?

A: Check out our “95 good reasons to leave cats inside!”.

Q: Should my cat wear a tag?

A: All our cats are microchipped, and if your cat is lost and the finder checks for the chip that is enough (provided you have kept contact information up to date), but the best thing could be for your cat to be wearing a License.  A license may mean that your pet would be driven home if found by animal control, or if taken to the shelter.

Q: What should my cat eat?

A: We leave dry food out all the time, and give wet food optionally.   Cat preference would be many times a day (they naturally eat small meals frequently – think hunting for mice etc), but just remember that if you feed them when you wake on weekdays, you won’t sleep past that time on weekends.

Q: How much should my cat eat each day?

A: A seven pound cat needs 200 calories a day to maintain that weight, and you feed for the weight you want the cat to be.  If you want your cat to weigh less than it does, feed fewer calories or play more.  Read the food label to see how many calories is in how much of the food you feed.  And treats should be no more than 10% of their daily calories.

Q: Do I really need a carrier to take my cat home?  Can’t I just carry it in my arms?

A: Think of a carrier like a car seat – just as a hospital won’t send new parents home with their baby without making sure they have them secured and safe, we want to make sure everyone stays safe – the cat, as well as your whole family.  Unsecured items can be a danger in an accident, and cats can get in front of the driver or under pedals if loose, causing an accident.

Q: What is catnip and does my cat need it?

A: Catnip is a plant in the mint family.  It contains an oil that affects a part of the cats brain that we don’t have, so no comparison can be made.  Cats who are affected (approximately 70% of cats are, once they reach sexual maturity) will react for about 15 minutes, then their brain will need about 2 hours to “recharge” before it will affect them again.  Some cats are affected in positive ways, rubbing or nuzzling, eating catnip leaves and otherwise enjoying themselves.  Some cats get aggressive, not playful, so use caution when learning how your cat reacts.

Q: I should give my cat a bath right?

A: The only reasons I bathe a cat is if they get into something I’d rather they not lick off themselves.  Paint, paint thinner, skunk spray, someone else’s diarrhea.  Basically something hazardous to their health.   Otherwise, cats are self cleaning, and feel better when they smell like themselves.

Q: How do I know if my cat is sick?

A: Sometimes cats just “aren’t themselves” with no obvious symptoms.  That can be an indicator of a problem, but some symptoms in general to watch for (and visit the vet with) are: breathing changes, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, not peeing (might be blocked), not using the litter box, sneezing, eye issues, obviously favouring or scratching some part of their body, hair loss, lumps or wounds.  Each of these could be an emergency or simply a concern depending on severity and frequency.

Q: Can I feed my cat “people” food?

A: Some foods yes, some no.  Things to avoid include (but are not limited to): anything cooked with onion or garlic, avacado, grapes (and raisins), alcohol, caffeine.  Xylitol (sweetener) is a huge no right up there with chocolate.  Look up a comprehensive list if you want to try different foods.  In general, cats are carnivores and need to eat meat.  Cat food (all cat foods sold commercially with an AAFCO statement on them) are “balanced” to have everything a cat “needs” to survive.  If you upset that balance by giving them chicken or fish or some other food in quantity exclusively (and not knowing what else might be needed to balance it), you can cause them damage.

Q: How old is my cat in human years?

A: A rough age chart works where the first 2 years of a cat life is about like 24 of ours, then 4 years for every year after.  So a 5 year old is about 36 or a 10 year old 56.

Q: My cat is hiding [in the basement, under the bed, behind a shelf], how do I get it out?

A: Do you need to get it out?  Is it in danger?  Are you going to the vet or moving?  A new cat needs time to adjust to a new territory and will want to hide during that adjustment time.  If you leave food and water in the area and that and the litterbox are disturbed then the cat is fine and will come out when they get acclimatized.  If you *need* the cat to come out right now, you might need heavy gloves or a net depending on your relationship with the cat.

Q: My cat scratches the couch, how do I get it to stop?

A: Cat furniture is cheaper than our furniture typically – buy them their own scratching boards, posts and cat trees.  If you want them to stop scratching something they currently do, place their furniture near it and deter them from the old obsession with double sided medical grade adhesive – they won’t like their hair getting caught in it and are less likely to reach out and touch it.  Cats like to leave their scent so they want it to be somewhere that is the center of attention.

Q: What cleaning products are not safe to use around cats?

A:  For the most part cleaning products when properly dried and not used while the cat is in the area can be fine, but realize that cats walk on surfaces and then lick their paws after.  Lysol for instance contains Phenol (anything with an -ol in the name does) and cats can be allergic to it or it is toxic to them.  Bleach and water is an effective disinfectant after cleaning with a pet safe soap.  Don’t spray cleaning products into the air near cats.

Q: My cat jumps on the counter [couch] and I don’t want them to – how do I stop them?

A: You can use a water spray, or a sound, but if it only happens when you are there to see, it will likely continue when you are not.  If you deter them with foil (on a soft surface) sticky tape, or aluminum cans lined up (out of sight from the floor), the deterrent will happen when you are not there and discourage them from future jumping.

Q: What do you mean by “cat proofing”?

A: Look at the room (and the whole house) with cat eyes – watching for loose string, wires, plastic bags, rubber bands.  Knick knacks on the shelf you don’t want knocked off, human medications that might be ingested, essential oil diffusers, plants or flowers.  Toilet bowl cleaner is fine if the lid is always down, but if it might be left up (or the door open) don’t use an automatic cleaner.  

Q: What plants are bad for cats?

A: This is a many page answer – the list is huge – the big danger is Lilies – even tiny bits of the pollen or chewing on the leaves can cause kidney failure.

Q: How do I know if my cat has fleas?

A: Part the fur and look at the skin in various places – looking for small black flecks – if you find any place them on a damp paper towel and try to smear them.  If they smear red your cat likely has fleas.  See the vet for flea control and prevention.  DO NOT USE flea meds that are for a dog or have tick control – they are not safe for cats.

Finding a Lost Cat

One of the first things often told to someone who has had a cat get lost (or slip out of the house) is to place their litter box outside. The difficulty with that is the reason cats bury their waste is to avoid detection by predators. Litter boxes and food may attract something that would scare or hurt your cat. If smell will attract your cat, your smell is saturated around your house where you enter and leave. To enhance it, you could put previously worn clothing outside near where the cat left from.

Most cats that get out are found quickly and very close to where they got out, even if they ran a few houses away right away, they often come back. In the minutes and even the first hour of an escape, hunting for them is the best choice. Knocking on all the neighbours doors, checking backyards, under cars, behind bushes, in open garages offers the fast opportunity for a quick reunion. Don’t forget to recheck the places you have already checked. If you have checked 5-10 houses away several times and still have not seen your cat, you will need to get reinforcements.

The next step if the initial search doesn’t produce sightings is to get the word out. This is where posting online (helpinglostpets.com), placing posters, using an application like Nextdoor, or a Facebook group for your community will produce more results. Don’t worry about details like age and gender. Colour, maybe size and hair length will get you further. A poster need only include the words “Lost Cat”, a photo (with background removed – just the cat), and a phone number. Printed on brightly coloured paper or poster board will draw attention.

The vet clinics in the area are where someone who found a lost cat would be able to have the microchip scanned so they are the next contact to make, as well as your microchip registrar and the animal control for the area you are in. It doesn’t hurt to contact animal control for the nearby areas as cats can get in vehicles or run a distance on their own. Make notes of everywhere you have placed posters and everyone you called as when you have found your cat you will want to remove and notify everyone.

What you are looking for at this stage is sightings. To know where your cat has been seen and when will help you plan to be where they are. To actually catch them you can use a live trap as we use for colony cats or you can even use a carrier if you have a way to close the door (like a string pulled through). Leaving a garage or shed open your cat may shelter inside.  Or a window or door of a room you can close the interior door to prevent other animals gaining access to your house.  Your cat may let you walk up to them and pick them up, but this is unlikely as they are in survival mode and not comfortable like they are in your home. Their response to you or your voice is not going to be normal, survival is the priority. Food (smellier the better) is more likely to attract than treats.

There are always exceptions, each cat is an individual. Even a cat that has lived outside can act like this if they get surprised by being out in a place they haven’t been before. It is called displacement and can also happen to outside cats if they get chased or transported a distance from their territory. The biggest key is to not give up. Keep hunting, keep checking, keep asking.  Cats were reunited years after being lost (due to microchips) and owners had given up looking.