Dear Dr. Thompson: I have a colony of about six stray cats on my West Toledo property. Most are feral, but two recent additions seem as though they may have had homes at some point. They slept on my enclosed porch this winter, and although provided with food and heat, they made repeated attempts to come in my house.
These two young cats have recently been adopted together by a nice lady and her husband who already have two cats. Although the cats used the litter box on my porch, and at her house too, they are also urinating in corners and leaving stools on the carpeting.
I assume this is some sort of territorial response to her other cats. The behavior is about to cost these cats their new home. Any suggestions on how to stop the unwanted behavior? Thanks.
For starters, feral or stray cats should never be introduced into a new home without appropriate testing for contagious diseases and intestinal parasites.
Cats can harbor some potentially fatal diseases without outwardly seeming ill, and stray cats lead a high-risk lifestyle for these conditions. They can also bring intestinal and skin parasites into the home that can infect people. For these reasons, your veterinarian should evaluate any cat you are considering bringing into the home.
Once you have taken the appropriate health precautions, following certain steps can help make the transition.
For the recently adopted cats and the cats that have had two interlopers introduced into their territory, life has been turned upside down. The new cats should be placed in a separate room with food, water, litter boxes, and a scratching post for at least one week. Cats are aware of one another through smell rather than sight or sound, so the established cats need to become accustomed to the scent of new cats.
After the week, the door should be cracked open so they may see one another but not be allowed to enter or exit the room.
After a period of time when they can see one another without hissing or getting angry, gradually open the door for longer periods of time. The new cats should have the room available as a fallback if tensions escalate. Eventually, they should gradually begin to accept the presence of the two new cats.
The litter box problems you are describing are classic conflicts in multiple cat households. There should be at least five litter boxes in different areas of the house and on each level. These boxes should be scooped daily and changed out and washed weekly.
They need to be in areas without loud noises and where the new cats can’t be ambushed. Cats in the wild eliminate in fresh, clean places every time and in a house with four cats, if there are not adequate box numbers and if they are not maintained, problems will eventually develop.
Hopefully, she can make the necessary introductions and work to create a friendlier habitat for the four. Www.indoorpet.osu.edu is a fantastic resource for pet owners to learn about the unique needs of dogs and cats and help work through problems they may be having. Good luck.
Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.