Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Caring for Cats

I just adopted my first cat/kitten and I am clueless!

First thing’s first: DON’T PANIC! Your new friend will most likely be nervous, agitated or scared, so it is important for you to remain calm. When you bring your new cat or kitten home for the first time, prepare a room to take her to. This room should be quiet and closed-off from the rest of the home. This will allow your new cat to adapt to you and your home without the overwhelming task of a whole house (or other pets) to take in.

You should have in this room:

  • A litter box
  • Food and water
  • A comfortable bed (a soft blanket in a box will do nicely – cats don’t discriminate!)
  • A small selection of toys
Place the litter box as far away from the food and water as possible, as cats do not eliminate where they eat. Most cats are naturally inclined to use any grainy surface to relieve themselves, but it is helpful to place your cat or kitten near or into the litter box so she knows exactly where it is. Let your new cat stay in this room for a few days before introducing her to the rest of the home. If you have other pets, especially other cats, you will need to take it slower. (See below for details about pet introductions.)

More information about bringing your new cat home is available from the Humane Society.

Do kittens need to be cared for differently than cats?

Yes! As with most animals, kittens require special considerations regarding their environment, activity and nutrition. Be sure to provide a safe haven for your kitten, ensuring that potential hazards have been eliminated. Provide plenty of kitten-safe toys to keep the energetic youngster entertained and out of trouble. A healthy diet is critical to the development of a kitten; feed the best quality kitten food you can afford.

More information is available in these Must-Know Tips for Raising Kittens.

Why is my new kitten scared of people?

Feral cats are untamed domestic cats. They are born to stray or feral cats and without proper socialization, they become too wild and fearful to live with humans. During For Animals’ Trap-Neuter-Return efforts, adult feral cats are returned to their colonies while the younger kittens are socialized and adopted. If your new kitten is still a bit wary of humans, or if you have come into contact with feral kittens, frequent handling will help her become more accepting of contact.

More information is available from the Feral Cat Initiative on Socializing (Taming) Feral Kittens and Interacting with a Shy Cat or Kitten Who Was Socialized Late.

Is there anything I should know about caring for my aging cat?

An older cat still has plenty to offer in terms of love and companionship. However, there are special dietary and environmental considerations to keep in mind. Cat food formulated for senior cats will ensure that your cat nutritional needs are being maintained as her body goes through changes that can result in decreased nutrient absorption. Providing warm areas for rest and assisting with grooming in hard to reach places will help keep your cat comfortable.

Read more about caring for aging cats from Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine.

Is it safe to have plants around cats?

There are many plants that are toxic to cats, but many more that are safe. View the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants list to learn more. If you suspect your cat has eaten a poisonous plant, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Are there other items in my home that could be harmful to my cat?

There are numerous items that pose a threat to your cats. In your house, items such as human medications, poisonous plants and flowers, string, yarn, rubber bands and dental floss are are potential hazards. Ingestion of any of these can be poisonous or cause an intestinal blockage or strangulation. Holiday decorations are also dangerous for kittens and cats, particularly tinsel and lights.

A comprehensive list of both inside and outside items to avoid is available from the Humane Society.

Read more about kitten proofing your home from Hill's Pet Nutrition.

Common Behavior Problems in Cats

My cat is not using the litter box!

Eliminating outside of the litter box is frustrating for cat owners, but can also be a sign that your cat is experiencing stress. The cause can be tricky to uncover but the problem is not impossible to overcome. It is imperative that a medical cause be ruled out, as urinary problems are quite common in cats. See "Common Medical Conditions in Cats" below for medical causes of inappropriate urination. Once your cat has been cleared by the vet, there are many resources available to help you.

The Humane Society has published articles on litter box problems and urine marking problems. It is important to understand the difference, as they each have their own causes and treatments.

The ASPCA also has resources for litter box problems and urine marking.

If you are still having difficulty resolving your problem, it may be time to seek professional help. Work with your veterinarian to find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist that can help you come to a resolution.

Help! My cat is (fill in the blank)!

Cats are complex social beings who are very sensitive to their environment. Whether you have an ongoing behavior problem, or one that seems to have sparked up overnight, there are a variety of resources available to help you. Note that it is always important to first rule out any medical cause that may be causing your cat’s behavior.

The ASPCA has comprehensive resources for a number of cat behavior issues, from aggression to vocalization.

The Humane Society offers tips sheets on a variety of common behavior problems, including fear, aggression, scratching, litter box problems and more.

If you are still having difficulty resolving your problem, it may be time to seek professional help. Work with your veterinarian to find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist that can help you come to a resolution.

Common Medical Conditions in Cats

What is the difference between FIV and FeLV?

FIV and FeLV are two important, but often misunderstood, feline viruses that affect cats’ immune systems. If you have a cat who tests positive for either virus, it is important to learn as much as you can in order to keep them healthy.

FIV stands for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. It is most commonly found in unneutered, free roaming male cats as it is transmitted through deep, penetrating bite wounds associated with true territorial aggression. Once neutered, this level of aggression is uncommon and most FIV+ cats can safely live with FIV- cats. While the virus does affect the immune system, many of cats live symptom free for most, if not all, of their lives.

To learn more about FIV, read FIV – Catching a Bad Case of Rumors.

FeLV stands for Feline Leukemia Virus. It is passed between cats through prolonged, casual contact or from mother to babies. Some cats who are exposed to the virus fight it off while others become persistently infected. Persistently infected cats may live months or years in a healthy state, but many succumb to FeLV-associated disease. Cats who are persistently infected with the virus should not live with FeLV- cats unless they are fully vaccinated against FeLV.

More information about FIV and FeLV is available from Best Friends Animal Society.

For Animals tests all our cats for FIV and FeLV prior to adoption, and we do not euthanize cats based on the presence of the virus alone.

My cat has a urinary tract problem. Now what?

If your cat has urinating outside the litter box, the first thing to do is rule out a medical cause. Urinary tract infections, crystals in the urine and bladder inflammation can all cause inappropriate elimination. The best way to prevent feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is to feed strictly wet food that is primarily protein (several brands have a “95%” line or the label indicates 95% meat), and avoid fish in your cat’s diet. FLUTD can lead to urinary tract obstruction, also known as a blockage, which can be deadly within 24-48 hours in male cats. If your cat is straining to urinate or making frequent trips to the litter box without producing urine, this is a medical emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention.

If a medical cause for your cat’s inappropriate urination has been ruled out, see “Common Behavior Problems In Cats” above.

More information about your cat’s urinary tract health is available from CatInfo.org.

Do cats get colds?

The most common disease affecting multiple cat populations, an upper respiratory infection (URI) produces cold-like symptoms such as sneezing; runny nose; red, watery eyes; congestion; and loss of appetite. Many of the kittens rescue from the streets by For Animals suffer from URIs and eye infections.

More information about URI is available from VCA Animal Hospitals.

What’s wrong with that cat’s eye?

Eye infections are very common in cats, and can be a chronic condition. Left untreated, an infection can cause permanent corneal scarring or rupturing. Corneal scarring causes a cloudy hue to cover part of the eye, while a ruptured eye generally must be surgically removed. Every year For Animals adopts out cats and kittens with imperfect eyes, and they go on to lead perfectly normal lives!

Read more about eye infections in cats on Petfinder.

Spaying and Neutering Your Pet

Why should I spay/neuter my pet?

Nearly 10 million animals are euthanized in shelters each year. Contrary to popular belief, these are not all offspring of stray or street cats. Many animals that wind up in shelters are the offspring of purebreds or family pets who have not been able to find a good home, despite the owner’s and then shelter’s best efforts. By having your pet neutered, you are ensuring that you are not contributing to this enormous burden on our nation’s shelters.

For more information, read about additional reasons to spay or neuter your pet, and learn to separate the myths from the facts.

What if I can’t afford to spay/neuter my pet?

This is now such a standard procedure that it is much less expensive than you’d think! There are also many shelters and veterinarians who offer discounts for rescue cats and kittens.

The Mayor's Alliance keeps track of many options available in New York City. More information about low-cost spay/neuter options in other parts of the country is available from the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States.

Trap-Neuter-Return

What is TNR?

Trap-Neuter-Return, commonly referred to as TNR, is a humane method of managing and reducing feral cat populations. In this process, feral cats are humanely trapped, transported to a veterinarian for evaluation, vaccination, ear tipping, and sterilization (spay/neuter) , then returned to their colony. Ear tipping, the practice of cropping the pointed end of the ear, is used to identify feral cats who have been sterilized.

Read more about the Feral Cat Initiative underway in New York City.

How can I participate in a TNR program in my community?

You can help reduce the number of feral cats in your community by trapping them and bringing them to our veterinary partners to be spayed or neutered, then releasing them back to their colonies. Visit our Volunteer page for more information about becoming a TNR volunteer.

Additionally, there are many TNR efforts currently underway throughout New York City and the rest of the nation. Contact Neighborhood Cats or fill out Alley Cat Allies' Email Assistance Form to find TNR help in your community.

How can I keep my colony warm in the winter?

A properly maintained feral cat colony must have adequate shelter for the winter. You can make your own or purchase a well made shelter from a number of experienced architects.