CAT Behavior TIPS


Mani’s and Pedi’s, please!

Unless you have an unusual living situation, you likely have some upholstered furniture in your home. You may have some curtains, you probably have some carpet, and you definitely have skin on your person that is vulnerable to sharp objects. These are just a few motivations for wanting to keep your cat’s claws trimmed and healthy! While it’s definitely not the easiest or most exciting of tasks, it’s entirely necessary. Most importantly, however, keeping kitty’s claws trimmed is healthier for your cat, as he or she can’t get them caught in things or break them off, causing pain, discomfort, and possibly infection. We’re here to help you get through the process!

First, as with most home animal care, talk to your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about clipping your cat’s nails. It’s always better to talk to your vet if you are hesitant, rather than risk injuring your cat (or yourself, if your cat scratches you from stress!). Your veterinarian will clip your cat’s nails at regular checkups, but The Humane Society of the United States recommends trimming your cat’s claws every few weeks, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process. Your veterinarian can show you step-by-step how to clip your cat’s claws during your next visit. If you even still feel uncomfortable with it, you can take your cat to a groomer.

But for now, we’ll provide you with instructions, and you can always refer back to them in the future!

As with most cat care, it’s best to introduce unpleasant tasks to your feline friend as a kitten if you have the opportunity. At a young age, they are less opposed to being touched, poked, prodded, or groomed and then will be accustomed and used to these processes as adult cats. A familiar cat makes a calmer cat! So, if you have a kitten, gently pet and hold your cat’s paws often, and reward him or her with treats during or immediately after trimming.

To start clipping your cat’s nails, get the proper tools ready. There are several kinds of clippers, so feel free to use what is easiest for you and your cat. You can purchase a guillotine-type clipper, clippers more like a pair of scissors that contour  to your cat’s nails, or a large nail clipper for humans. Usually, a guillotine-type clipper or a human nail clipper will work best. Make sure the blades remain sharp on the tool you use, as a blunt blade will hurt your cat, and please read the directions on your tool before use! It’s also best to keep styptic powder nearby in case you do accidentally cut kitty. But hopefully, this won’t be necessary.

First, rest your cat comfortably on a table, your lap, or the floor at a time when he or she is calm. All cats will react differently to having their claws clipped, so place your cat in the crook of your arm gently, but firmly to restrain him or her from trying to leave while you’re completing the process. Then, hold one of your cat’s front paws in one hand and press a toe at the pad on the bottom of their foot with thumb and forefinger of the hand you do not write with (your less dominant hand). This will help the claw extend. Next, look closely at the claw. You will notice a pink area of nerves and blood vessels called the quick (liken the quick to the pink part of a human fingernail). If you accidentally cut this sensitive area, it will bleed and your cat will probably become very uncomfortable and likely uncooperative! So, most importantly, try not to cut the quick! To ensure your cat’s nails don’t split and fray after cutting, it’s best to hold the clipper straight across the nail – don’t cut it at an angle. With your dominant hand, use the cutter to cut the claw halfway between the quick and the end of their nail.

If you do accidentally clip the quick, don’t panic! Your cat is okay, just in some pain and needs a little care and comfort. Speak softly to your cat and stroke his or her head. After a minute or so, the bleeding will probably stop. If it doesn’t, put some styptic powder on the cut area to stop the bleeding.

Work as quickly (but carefully, of course) as you can with each of the other toes. It’s okay if your cat gets too anxious and you can’t clip all their nails – you can always try again later! Keep in mind that you will have more difficulty with cutting kitty’s back claws, as they tend to dislike that more. But because cats do less damage to their back claws, they will need trimming less, maybe only a few times a year.

Once you’re done, reward kitty (and maybe yourself, too!). You’ve just made both your lives a little easier, and your cat healthier. Give yourself a hand…or paw!

(Sources:, The Humane Society of the United States, Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine)


Happy New Year from Pawsibilities Animal Rescue!

This year, we wish lots of joyful memories for you and your families (including furry family members!). While it may be tempting to bring home a little extra joy this year with a new furry friend, PLEASE give lots of thought to getting a pet! Every year, large numbers of pets are bought from stores without proper consideration or cooperation to help introduce the pet into a new home and a new family, and are surrendered to shelters, homeless. Bringing a new pet into the home takes time, patience, diligence, responsibility, and training, and can be quite unsuccessful if not planned or thought out correctly. If you are considering getting a pet this year, do proper research and talk to your family about the responsibility involved. And please, if you do decide to bring home a new friend, adopt!





Scaredy Cats

 Like humans, animals can have difficulty adjusting to new surroundings, new people, and new homes. But comforting a frightened or nervous friend can be very difficult when you don’t share a common language! It can be distressing and frustrating to bring home a new cat, only to find that they spend all their time hiding under the bed. But with time, the right approach, and a lot of patience, your scared new friend will learn he or she is in a safe and loving environment.

 It is important to realize that cats need time to adjust to new surroundings, so most cats will be timid at first in a new environment, despite whether or not they are easily frightened. They may be quiet and careful around people, but after a few days or weeks you will begin to see more of your cat. However, if kitty hides unseen whenever people are around, and goes running for the hills when the TV makes a loud noise, he or she is nervous and needs some special attention to make him or her feel at ease.

 Why Kitty Is Nervous

 Your cat could be nervous and/or fearful for several reasons. Some cats, just like some people, are naturally more nervous than others. Your cat may also have had a traumatic experience in the past that makes him or her distrustful or frightened of others. His or her natural survival instincts are kicking in and telling your cat to “stay away!”. Also like people, perhaps the cat was not properly socialized when it was a kitten. Kittens are relatively unbothered by most things before eight weeks old, so it is important to get them used to people, households, and other cats and animals while they can easily adjust. If they are not introduced to people when they are very young, they are likely to be very afraid when they do finally come into contact with a human. So, in helping your cat adjust, it can be very beneficial to know your cat’s background as it may help you understand why kitty is frightened. But if you have no idea what kind of life your cat lived before, don’t worry – you can still help!

 Preparing For A New Nervous Friend

 If you know in advance that you are adopting a nervous or easily frightened cat, it’s best to prepare your house in advance to help make the transition a little easier. If you have time, try to set aside one room for your cat to “hide” in. Creating a safe haven for your cat may help him or her to feel slightly more at ease than simply letting the cat out into a large, new, unfamiliar (and terrifying) territory. Choose a small room with a door that closes and a large chair or piece of furniture your cat can hide under. Pick a room that you will be comfortable not using for a few weeks to give your cat privacy and not encroach on his or her territory. You may want to cover furniture or exposed fabrics, because stressed out cats will not be quite so diligent about using their litter box. Place some blankets or a cat bed in the room to make it a little more comfortable for your cat. Finally, place food, water, and litter in the farthest corner of the room away from the door, and try to arrange for an empty house when you bring your new friend home, so kitty isn’t even more frightened by several very frightening people (or pets!)

 You can also use a large crate for the same purpose if you don’t have an extra room. Place the crate in the corner of a room, and cover all sides but the front of the crate so the cat feels protected (but can still see out). This will be beneficial for your cat to see the workings of the house and notice what is going on around him or her from a spot where kitty feels safe.

 Getting Comfortable

 If you have been startled by the discovery that you have a very spooked cat, it may be more difficult to help him or her get comfortable, as you have not had the luxury of creating a space just for your cat to gradually adjust to your presence. It is probably best to allow kitty to use whatever room he or she ends up hiding in as the “safe space,” and to treat it as such. Set up the necessary items for a safe haven as you would in a small, private room, and try to limit your exposure to your cat to specific times a day. Try to keep the door closed.

 In order to gradually help your cat feel more comfortable, make small steps. Make sure the same person enters the room everyday! Your cat needs to feel comfortable with one specific person can trust before introducing new friends! Your cat needs to connect with one specific person he or she can trust. Enter the room and talk to your cat, but don’t go looking for him or her! Add some food, top off the water, and clean the litter. (Note: If your cat isn’t eating or using the litter box, call your vet. He or she might have medical issues in addition to fright! And, as always, get your cat a checkup either before or soon after bringing him or her home for the first time.) Repeat this routine at the same times everyday, and slowly, your cat will become a little more comfortable.

 Eventually, kitty might poke his or her head out to watch you when you visit. But remember, patience is the key! Don’t pet your cat until he or she is comfortable enough to eat in front of you. When your cat comes out to eat while you are in the room, gently scratch him or her behind the ears. That is quite a milestone! You have gained your cat’s trust. But remember, this may take weeks depending upon how skittish your friend is. Don’t rush the process! It will only make your cat less trusting and more afraid.

 Ready to Explore

 When you begin to notice that the cat has come out of the hiding space and wanders freely around the room he or she is confined to, your cat may be ready to be offered the rest of the house to explore. Kitty might look past you out the door when you walk in, or sit on the windowsill. At this point, leave the door open and let the cat decide how far he or she wants to wander. Make sure other family members don’t approach the cat, but let the cat come to them. Encourage other members of the household to speak the cat’s name so your feline friend will get used to their presence.

 With the right frame of mind, you can help your cat feel loved and comfortable in an unfamiliar and scary environment. You’ll be well on your way to being a happy family!


(Sources: The Feline Advisory Bureau (, The Blue Cross (, and


Cat Scratch Fever

 In last month’s newsletter, we mentioned the importance of providing your kitty with scratching surfaces. But some cats might love that couch or those curtains so much, they just NEED to scratch them! But while your cat might feel a particular fondness for exhibiting such behavior, it drives YOU crazy! We’re here to help you determine why your cat has an itch to scratch some of the things you love most.

Why Cats Scratch

 The first thing to realize, as is the case with any feline behavior, is that your cat has a specific reason for scratching, and it is not to bother you! Try to keep calm and do not punish your cat. Cats need to scratch, and we cannot prevent them from doing so. But we can try to change what they do and do not scratch. Your feline friend is scratching for several reasons, but primarily, cats scratch to communicate with other cats. By scratching up an object, they are not only creating a visible sign that says, “Hey! I was here!”, they are leaving a smell from scent glands in their paws that informs other cats that whatever they have scratched is theirs and cannot be touched. Cats also scratch for exercise and because it just plain feels good! Scratching for cats is like a good stretch for humans, and is a great way for them to relieve frustration, too. So, your cat is not trying to destroy anything, he or she just doing what comes naturally to them: communicating and exercising.

Don’t Declaw!!

 If you can’t keep your cat from scratching, how can you keep your cat from destroying furniture? First and foremost, DO NOT declaw your cat! While this may seem like the easiest and most effective way of keeping your cat from scratching up valuable items, it is also terribly inhumane. Claws are essential for your cat to function, and declawing them can cause medical problems, behavioral problems, difficulty balancing, and of course, emotional distress. Declawing does not simply remove a cat’s nails, but actually removes part of each of their toes. It is the equivalent of having the last joints of all your fingers cut off! There are other effective and much kinder ways to keep your cat from scratching. It is also important not to punish your cat, either. Your cat will not understand, and it will only damage your relationship with your cat and make getting along more difficult if you are having problems! We’ll provide some advice on humanely training your cat if he or she is very stubborn about scratching furniture or carpet later in the newsletter, but physical violence is always inappropriate.

Scratching Posts

 The most basic way to help guide your cat away from scratching furniture is to provide him or her with at least one proper scratching post.  Contrary to whatever the feel of the furniture your cat is scratching, cats generally like rough surfaces and will opt for something rough over a smoother surface. Look for a scratching post that is tall or long enough for them to stretch well on when using (at least 28 inches), and is rough enough to really shred up. Also make sure that the post is very stable – if it falls or moves while your cat is scratching at it, kitty isn’t too likely to use it again. It is best to place scratching posts in areas your cat uses the most, such as where he or she most likes to rest and play. Cats enjoy scratching when they wake up, as it helps them stretch out. And while one post is okay, two or three posts are ideal. You can even use old pieces of carpet, reverse side up, well-attached to areas where your cat normally scratches if you cannot buy several scratching posts.

Dos and Don’ts

 After acquiring a lovely new scratching post, there are some specific ways you can entice your feline friend to use it. First of all, it is important to remember that cats are independent and do not like to be forced to do anything. Do not pick up your cat’s paws and make scratching motions at the post with your cat’s legs. Kitty will not appreciate this and will probably get annoyed. They know how to scratch. The trick to getting your cat to use a scratching post is to entice him or her to use it, and to give them a reason to want to! When your cat is near the post, scratch at it yourself to set an example for him or her. Make sure your post or posts are in areas well-used by family members. As cats are marking their territory, they don’t want to be back in a corner somewhere.

Also, place the post or posts on or over the spots they normally most like to scratch, at first. Play with your cat near the post, or rub some catnip on it. When you see your cat use the post, reward him or her with a treat. If your cat is reluctant to give up scratching at his or her old spots, try to remove your cat’s scent from the areas. Some pet odor remover from a pet supply store, followed by some citrus-scented spray or potpourri of lemon and orange zests will discourage your cat from wanting to use the old spots (cats are adverse to citrus). If your cat still persists with scratching, you can blow a loud whistle or gently and quickly spray your cat with a water bottle set to a steady stream while your cat is scratching the undesired area. He or she won’t want to scratch there if they’re always sprayed with water when they do! This is the best way to train your cat to stay away from those areas. Remember – no physical violence or yelling! Covering the area with thick plastic may also help, as the texture won’t be as desirable to your cat.

Other Options

 Last, but not least, there are also actions you can take to minimize scratching damage to your furniture and carpet during a transition period, or if it is difficult to be home enough to help change your cat’s behavior. Making sure your cat’s nails are trimmed regularly can be helpful in preventing damage. While we will cover nail care in another news letter, it is safest for you and your cat to take a trip to the vet for a nail trim if you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with clipping your cat’s nails. Your vet can do this safely and will explain the best way to do it in the future if you wish to do it yourself. You can also purchase lightweight plastic caps for your cat’s nails that will prevent the sharp points of their nails from damaging surfaces. Soft Paws® caps should only be used on indoor cats (outdoor cats need their claws to defend themselves!) and will last about three to six months after your cat gets used to them. For more information on Soft Paws®, go here.

 With time, patience, and proper persuasion, you and your cat can live happily in a lovely carpeted and upholstered home!

 (Sources: Veterinarian Dr. Christine Schelling for, and Daniel Q. Estep, Ph.D. and Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. for

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Bringing Home New Friends

Are you a new cat-parent, or are thinking of bringing a furry friend into your home? We are here to help! This month’s newsletter is all about properly handling your cat and making sure your home is cat-friendly. Getting the basics down is important to building a healthy, loving relationship with your cat, and making sure they are comfortable and safe is very important!

Properly Picking up and Holding Your Cat

One of the most basic and important things you can do to make sure you and your cat get off to a great start is to know how to properly pick up and hold your cat. If you and your furry feline are just getting acquainted, or your cat seems upset and stressed, start by approaching him or her slowly. This gives the cat time to adjust to the sound of your voice, your scent, and to make sure you’re not a threat. Make sure you don’t get too close, or immediately get face-to-face with your cat. You’d get spooked, too, if a very large head appeared in front of you! Put your hand near the cat and let him or her sniff you, then gently pet behind the ears. Once the cat is used to you being around, you can pick up your cat.

It’s best to pick up a cat from above, rather than from in front of them. First, you can place one hand under your cat’s stomach, and one hand on your cat’s behind. Gently lift the cat up close to your torso, steadying him or her against you with the hand that was on the cat’s stomach. Keep your other hand on the cat’s rear end for support. Then, pet your cat to show him or her a little love!

Creating and Maintaining a Cat-Friendly Home


When making sure that your home is cat-friendly, it’s important to keep in mind that your cat’s environment should be both safe and exciting for them. You don’t want your cat to get bored! Boredom can lead to emotional distress, sluggishness, and health problems, so keep your cat interested in his or her surroundings.

First, as you would with a small child, make sure there is nothing easily accessible to your cat that can cause him or her harm. Store all medications, breakable ornaments and decorations, pest control items (like mouse pellets, ant traps, and sprays), dangerous cleaning agents and chemicals, small objects, and food sealed away from where your cat can reach with them. You may want to consider latching cabinets that hold such items, or keep them in a closet that fully shuts, as cats can maneuver into unlatched cabinets. Also make sure all plants that are poisonous to cats are way out of reach. For example, lilies can cause kidney failure in cats, and are very dangerous to them! If you keep plants in your home, look at the ASPCA’s List of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants to determine if you have any harmful plant life that may be hazardous to your furry friend. Cats love plants, so make sure to have some non-toxic plants around, or buy some Cat Grass.

It may be helpful to actually get down and look at the world from your cat’s level – where can your cat jump to? What cords, window pulls, or trash containers can he or she reach? Can your cat reach any electrical appliances that may harm them? It is also important to make sure all windows have screens in them, so your cat won’t fall out!

Now that safety is taken care of, it’s time to make sure your cat has everything she or he might need in terms of comfort and entertainment. Make sure food, water, and litter are easily accessible, and that your home gets fresh air. Since cats instinctually hunt for food and look for water separately, you may want to place your cat’s water somewhere away from their food, as it will be more rewarding when they find it.

Cats also need scratching posts to maintain their claws and mark their territories. It’s important to provide both vertical and horizontal scratching areas so they can stretch out fully and have some variety. Cats also love to climb, so consider purchasing a multi-leveled scratching post with cubbies for your cat so they can climb up and hang out inside. If you do not wish to buy an activity center and are willing to let your cat explore your furniture, make sure to give your cat an easy way to get up and down from a safe bookshelf or mantelpiece, if they have access to it. It’s important to give them an easy way to get down from such areas, as they could injure themselves trying to jump down, or get stuck!

Finally, buy your cat some toys! The fuzzy, feathery ends of “fishing rod” toys look like prey to your cat, and he or she will find it fun to bat it around. Two-thirds of cats respond well to catnip, and most cats respond well to valerian root! Treat your cat to some catnip toys or a dry valerian tea bag (remove the strings and staples, please!) every once to relax them or create a temporarily state of euphoria. Make sure to spend quality time playing with and petting your cat, as well as giving him or her alone time away from you.

With all these tips in mind, you’ll be off to a great start with the new member of your family!

(Sources:,, Vicky Halls, VN for, Tabithia Sukhai at ThisOldHouse,com)

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Feline Advice


Every year, huge numbers of cats are surrendered to shelters all over the country because their behavioral problems are too much for their owners to bear. Pawsibilities wants to help! Look for our regular newsletters with valuable info on ways to combat common cat behavior problems, and build a better relationship with your cat!  Try to remember..What seems to be a problem is usually your cat trying to tell you something!


Litter Box Blues

One of the biggest reasons cats are surrendered to shelters is because the cease using litter boxes in the home. First and foremost, make sure your cat is healthy! For example, cats may stop using their litter box if they have a urinary tract infection or a blockage. These issues will not go away on their own, so make sure to see your vet first to rule out any medical reasons for your cat’s behavior.

If you and your cat simply can’t seem to agree about the importance of using a litter box, try seeing the box from their perspective. Because most cats instinctually like to bury their waste, there is probably something specific about their litter box or their environment they don’t like that is deterring them from doing so. Determining the reason for their behavior is the first step in changing it.

Your cat may not be happy with the box itself. How clean is the box? Veterinarians recommend cleaning your cat’s litter box (or boxes) twice a day to ensure it is comfortable for them. It is also important to look at the type of box: is it tall enough and wide enough for your cat? Did you recently add or remove a hood on the litter box? Location is also very important to your cat. If your cat has an illness or difficulty moving around, be sure to place the box in a location you know they can easily access.

Cats generally like their box to be in a secluded area, that is still easy to access (we all like some privacy, and cats are no different!). Keep the litter box away from noisy appliances, as they can make your cat nervous, and heaters, as they can magnify smell (nobody likes a smelly bathroom). Make sure your cat’s food and water bowls are away from the box, as well. If you have multiple cats, do you have enough boxes? Ideally, you should have one box for each cat, in different locations throughout the house, plus one extra. But even if you have one cat, keep a litter box on each floor of your house for your cat’s convenience. If all appears to be well with the box otherwise, your cat may be put off by the litter itself in the box. Most cats prefer litters with a finer grain (clumping litters). Once you find a litter your cat likes, try to stick with the same litter all the time.

Your cat could also be avoiding the litter box due to a recent change in their environment. He or she could be marking their territory because they are feeling anxious or unhappy about a different schedule in the household, new people, a baby, or another environmental factor. If something in your household has changed, talk to your vet about ways to calm your cat or introduce him or her to the change. It’s also possible that your cat could be associating their litter box with punishment, if you or someone in your household placed your cat in the box after reprimanding him or her.

So, if your cat is not using the litter box and you have changed something about it, change it back. If your cat has been eliminating in the same general spot, try moving a box to that spot. It is also important to thoroughly clean each area your cat has marked or defecated with pet odor eliminating cleanser from your local pet store. Without eliminating the scent, your cat will be tempted to use that spot again. A little trial-and-error and a lot of patience may be necessary, but eventually you and your cat can once again have a happy relationship and live in harmony!

(Sources: Human Society of the United States, Dr. Lisa A. Pierson for, Dr. Stephanie Janeczko for, Drs. Foster and Smith for





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