Dear Dr. Schelling,

I've heard about cats developing aversions to the litter box and having bad elimination habits. I don't want this to happen to my kitty, Bella, who's been with me for about a month now. Is there anything I can do to make sure Bella continues to use her litter box properly? She can be finicky about things and I sure don't want her to get finicky about her box.

– Attempting to be litter-ate about cats

Dear Attempting,

One of the most important things you can do for Bella is to provide a litter box (or two!) for her with which she feels comfortable and likes to use. You can prevent most litter box problems by understanding Bella's (and for that matter all cats') basic nature and needs. It is far easier and more comfortable to prevent inappropriate elimination in cats than to deal with them once they occur.

Please read my article, LITTER BOX SUCCESS STRATEGIES, to better prevent elimination problems in your home. Bella will be glad you did.

Click here to read full article


My family is planning on adopting a kitten sometime in the next few weeks. We are a family of six people, with four children. My sisters and I are in high school, and my younger brother is in elementary school. We are very involved in extra-curricular activities, and my dad travels a lot for work also. My question is, will the kitten miss out on bonding time with us, if we are busy after school for a couple hours? I read somewhere that cats learn the schedule of their household. Is this true? Thank you very much for your help.

– Busy Cat Owner

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Dear Busy,

Congratulations on the imminent arrival of the new leader of the household.

My short answer is: Two hours a day, don't worry about it. In fact, the kitten may relish the quiet time. We do sleep a lot, you know.

Now for the longer answer. Adding a kitten to your family is the beginning of a 50-50 cooperative venture between humans and kitty. Well, more like 60-40, with kitty getting the upper paw. Cats do tend to fit into the schedule of the household, but only up to a point! A kitten's natural rhythms and needs are similar to those of a baby: sleep, eat, play, repeat a few times each day. Kitty will do his best to adjust to human household cycles, but there are some aspects to being a cat that are fairly non-negotiable. Let's look at this more closely:

– Kittens need lots of playtime. One advantage of having young kids in your household is that they may have the stamina for extended and frequent play sessions with kitty – although supervise at your discretion. Playing should build kitty's skills but above all should be fun. Invite kitty to play but never force him. Reward him with praise and/or petting when he executes a nice move (cats appreciate praise) and give him some tasty food after a play session.

– Cats tend to grow close to their human family. If you've all been out of the house for a while, expect a kitty to greet you at the door when you return. Give him an enthusiastic greeting back; let him know you missed him and that he's a special guy. Indulge him in some play and food if that's what he wants (and he probably will).

– Remember what I said about babies? Kittens don't usually sleep eight hours each night. Play with kitty before you go to bed and then give him a snack. Leave some toys here and there for kitty to discover during the night. Often cats like to sleep with their humans. If a furry feline in your bed keeps you awake, make or buy a perch near your bed that overlooks the yard. There's a good chance kitty will sleep there, near his humans but not literally on top of them.

– Make sure the kids know that kitty needs peace and privacy when he's napping and using the litter box.

Lastly, let me just throw this out: Many shelters these days are requiring that kittens be adopted in pairs, unless there is already a resident cat in the home. Kittens gain a lot from having a cat buddy with whom they can do cat stuff: speeding around the house, grooming each other, sleeping in a heap. This way, if the humans in the house are tied up for more than two hours, they'll know that the kitties have each other.

In future issues, I'll be talking about other important kitten considerations, such as scratching posts (the more, the better), food, choosing a vet, and more . . .


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CAT CATCHER WAND CHASE-TOY: So simple, so sublime– yet irresistible. I go through my whole repertoire of moves in pursuit of this elusive mouse: leaping, pouncing, chasing, stalking. Sometimes he's just clever enough to evade the "paw of dominance" but I always out-maneuver him, and the capture is so sweet. I know my people hide the Cat Catcher in the closet (do they really think they're fooling me?), so I often have to lead them there, to tell them, with some distinctive meows, that it's time to play another round of "super cat chases the flying acrobat mouse."

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UNDERCOVER MOUSE: Being a cat, when I first saw this large round piece of material (below which the undercover mouse lives), I thought, "Oh good, a new thing to sit on as I wash up after dinner." Which I did; so there was a "delay of game." Once I was freshly cleaned, my person set things into action: A tail suddenly started darting to and fro, moving this way and that, peering out from under the cover. Of course I had to pounce! Many times, in fact – stopping the secret mouse-like agent in his tracks. Sometimes the little guy would speed up, so I countered with a turbo-charged full-body pounce. All this fun eventually wore me out, so I took a snooze – partially on top of the aforementioned cover, just to make sure the wily would-be escape artist didn't try any tricks. A perfect ending to a great game.

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According to the Washington Post, the most popular
cat names in the US are: Kitty, Max, Misty, Patches, Sam, Samantha, Shadow, Smokey, Tiger and Tigger.
Cat Catcher Wand Undercover Mouse