An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tyrone the Cat Prepares for A New Puppy

Dear Greyce,
I am a gorgeous male of robust stature, weighing in at about 21 pounds (9.5 kg). There is a distinctive Maine Coon touch to my features which grace my three-year-old, neutered, and declawed self. When I jump, I land on my feet with a manly thud. I have lived with the same human family since I was six weeks old: Herself, Himself, The Calm and Quiet Teen, and The Highly Affectionate Preteen who always wants to snuggle and kiss me. We live in a house that has two levels and I have the run of the place. And now, I am told, the household will be graced with the presence of a Labradoodle puppy in a matter of weeks.
Greyce, my only experience with dogs is with the Golden Retrievers next door who hang out on their deck and stare at me. I watch them carefully. Although I am an indoor cat, I did manage to get outside one day and they chased me back inside! Still I was game to go outside the very next day. But you can imagine my concern. The only other interaction I have had with other animals is sniffing the scent from my purrsons when they have touched other animals and carried the scent home.

So I have lots of questions for you:

1. What is a Labradoodle puppy? Do you think I will like this creature?

2. The puppy will be confined to the kitchen during house training And that is where my food and water bowls are. Where should they go?

I have thought about moving their location and there are several options: a)  the dining room right beside the kitchen area, divided by the counter and its wall. b) There is a shelf under the table in the kitchen but the puppy might get at it, and the kids often put their feet up on it. c) The counter, but I am not a great jumper.  d) An entry way which is quite busy. e) A closet near the entryway but it is dark. 5) The basement, but I seldom go down there except when the family watches TV there or when I have to use my litter box.

I eat dry kibble for breakfast and dinner, and I will graze on unfinished portions throughout the day. I eat a special veterinary prescription food because I have had a bladder infection, with crystal. 

I get a fresh bowl of still water in the morning with my breakfast and another, with my supper.  I LOVE running water and am fascinated by the bathtub. Herself proposed getting a water fountain for me, but Himself is afraid I might be electrocuted.

3. The puppy will stay in a kennel in Themselves' bedroom at night. I like to stay there too - in the bedroom NOT the kennel. Will this be a problem?

4. My litter box is in the utility room in the basement. Do you think the puppy will want to use it?

5. How will this new arrival affect my status and lifestyle?

I am very social with people I know and get along with children; Herself has a day home with four preschool children. I enjoy all my family members but most especially Herself. I like to follow her around the house and have a great interest in everything she does.

If there are a lot of people around or the noise level gets too high, I will hide for a bit before venturing out. Generally I'm quite laid back, though I don't like loud noises (especially the vacuum cleaner) and will hide on my kitchen chair, under Themselves' bed or in other bedrooms.

I get lots of petting opportunities throughout the day. But I can only tolerate a minimum of petting before I start to play bite,though I will stop if told to do so. When the Highly Affectionate Preteen goes overboard on the kisses and snuggles, I leave and sit on my kitchen chair.

I like to watch whatever is happening outside and hang around the back screen door. While I'm an indoor cat, I do try to escape for some outdoor air - basically to rub my fur in the ground and eat grass. Herself would consider taking me on leash and harness but Themselves are concerned that this will increase my wish to go outside. And she fears for my safety (and the possibility of fleas).

I chase flies when they are inside. And I enjoy a work out with the laser pointer. And while I have a lot of toys, my very favourite game is to play hide-and-seek. I love to hunt, sneak up behind the wall and jump out at my purrsons by surprise. We do this daily. And sometimes I chase them up the stairs and jump on their legs. Most especially in the evening, I become a bundle of energy, running back and forth and trying to climb the walls.

I have no special furniture, but use whatever I want in the house. Herself had to stop buying me cute beds and the like, because I never use them. I never did use my cat tree when I was a kitten.

Right now, I have things as I like them. How do I prepare for this change?

I await your advice with purrs,
Tyrone (but you may call me Ty)

Dear Ty,
You are in for a big change in your life. And properly handled, it can be a welcome one. I will start with your first question.

1. What is a Labradoodle puppy? Do you think I will like this creature?

A puppy is a baby dog - a dog just like those Golden Retrievers next door though different in appearance and much younger in age. A labradoodle is a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle and is a popular family dog. 

First the bad news: The optimum age to learn about dogs is when you are between two and seven weeks of age. That is the time in your development when it is easiest for you to establish a lasting friendship with another species. Oh well, don't give up just yet.

Now the good news: That said, many of us have to learn with live with other species well after we have past the critical developmental period.

You have three factors in your favour:

1) There is time to prepare before the puppy arrives (and as you know, we cats do best when change is introduced s-l-o-w-l-y). Territory is our most important treasure. And changes to it (like the arrival of someone new) can be stressful. Making the changes in a way that allows us to slowly get use to them at a pace we can accept, is the very best way to go about things.

2) It is a puppy rather than an adult dog who will become a family member. Puppies can be trained. They are more flexible and willing to learn (because they don't have to un-learn old behaviours).

3) That Highly-Affectionate family member of yours may very well transfer her need to hug and carry a fur purrson to the puppy (who will likely be a more than willing participant) and thus take some of the burden off of you.

Now whether or not you and said puppy will become friends is anyone's guess. But at the very least, we want the both of you to be relaxed enough in each other's presence that household harmony can be maintained. And to do that requires advance preparation and a slow, safe introduction process.

Start Preparing NOW!

Right now I want to deal with advance preparation because the puppy is not yet on the scene. And you and your family have a LOT of work to do, so we might as well get started.

As I have mentioned in countless of my entries, the preservation of our territory is fundamental to our well-being. Changes in territory, including the introduction of a new family member, can be stressful even if they turn out to be in your best interest. And with someone such as yourself, said stress could lead to a recurrence of that urinary tract infection you had (even though you are eating prescription food). So I want you and your folks to take my preparation suggestions seriously, so we can minimize the stress on a great guy like you and make this a positive experience for everyone. 

You see, your purrsons may have not fully realized what a BIG change this will be in their lives. Puppies require a lot of attention; they need house training (unlike we members of the superior species who are consummate users of the litter box). And because they have small bladders, they need frequent potty trips (about every three hours). The puppy needs to know his status in the group which is at the bottom of the hierarchy with you much higher up; to reverse this order is for you to live a life of constant intimidation. The puppy will adapt quite happily to lower status; for you, it would be hell. Puppies also need proper socialization, training (so they can sit or stay on command and so they can walk on a leash), and daily exercise (more than just being let out on the yard to run around). Believe me, Ty, Themselves are in for a lot of work!

The purrsons in your household will go 'puppy crazy' for the first while, that is, they are likely to devote a lot of time and attention to the puppy because it is a baby (and quite cute) and because of the novelty. But the  combination of the novelty of a new household member plus the need to give the puppy proper care, could very well lead to neglecting you. I don't want that to happen. So they need to think now, about ensuring regular play sessions and other positive forms of contact with you. And you need to make sure they follow my advice.

I want both you and your purrsons to learn about dogs (and puppies) in advance.

Actions for You

If you haven't done so already, listen carefully to the barking of those Retrievers next door. If possible, have someone get you a CD (or equivalent) of dog sounds to play at LOW volume, just to get you used to what a puppy will sound like in your home.  Okay, you probably wonder where you could get such a thing. Try something such as Dog Sounds which you can download for about $1.00 US.

LOW volume is important because I don't want it to scare you. With low volume you have a chance to get used to new parts of your auditory territory. Start with the entire 3-minute loop a few times a day and then increase it a bit (using replay, of course) every day until puppy arrives. By that time, you will have integrated dog sounds into your auditory repertoire like a pro.

While you are listening to this, someone should be playing with you so that you associate dog sounds with the good things in life while working off any pent up anxiety. And I don't mean that they should just wave a mouse in front of your nose. I want real, terrific play sessions here and so I urge you to consult my tab on Interactive Play Therapy for suggestions so we can expand your repertoire beyond hide-and-seek. It may not be possible to have a play session each and every time the dog sounds are played. BUT it should be possible to have such a play and sound session at least once a day. And I'd even go so far as to advise extending the play session well after the sound session has been completed.

If possible, get some of your specific puppy's scent from your about-to-become family member. This may or may not be possible, depending upon where said puppy is living right now. But if the puppy is nearby, then it should be possible for Themselves to take a small, clean towel (or rag) and rub it over the puppy, put it in a clean (meaning new, not washed) plastic bag and bring it home. They can leave it in a place you will likely encounter it. I know you are curious and like to inspect shopping bags, so why not have a sniff of this? They might even refresh the scent by visiting said puppy a few more times before arrival at your home.

With these two actions, you will know what puppy sounds like and smells like before puppy arrives.

Actions for Themselves

If your purrsons have yet to read a book about raising a puppy (or watching an equivalent DVD), then urge them to do so now. Purrhaps you could watch the DVD together. (Sorry, living alone with humans does not put me in a good position to make a specific recommendation.) You see, many people believe that they know about puppies because they had a dog when they were young, or that there is really nothing to it because it is common sense. Ha, Ha, Ha! Try your public library (or interlibrary loan) if you don't want them to use up your catnip allowance.

Knowledge is power. They need to know in advance about puppy behaviour, proper socialization and training; because said puppy is going to have to learn how to sit and stay on command (so puppy doesn't lunge or chase handsome household cats and scare the fur off them) and to walk on a leash. They need to learn about the energy level and play and exercise requirements of said puppy, so they can plan in advance exactly who in the household is going to do what to raise a happy, healthy dog.

In addition, your purrsons need cat communication education. You'd be surprised at the number of purrsons who think that when we wag our tails we are like dogs and that tail wagging means we are happy. Are they ever surprised to learn that slow motion feline tail wagging means indecision and if it speeds up, anger. They need to be able to spot the changes in your body posture that indicate that indicate trouble could be brewing, and by trouble I mean stress. Encourage them to get a basic feline stress education by consulting Pam Bennett-Johnson's blog entry, Stress In Cats. They can learn about cat talk by consulting Amy Shojai's entries on Cat Fur TalkCat Talk: Eyes, Understanding Cat Tail Talk and Cat Talk: Ears.

And if they cannot get enough of this, then have them look at photo books that capture cat communication by authors such as  Roger Tabor and by Bruce Fogel Tabor is famous for his careful studies of the feline world. Fogel is a well-respected veterinarian. I like Tabor's Understanding Cat Behavior and his 100 Ways to Better Understand Your Cat. And I enjoy the photos in Fogel's Know Your Cat. Both authors are prolific writers and have many other relevant books from which to choose.

Keeping Your Food and Water Safe

Until house trained, the puppy will be likely confined to the kitchen during the day - the place in which you now dine. So NOW yes NOW I want you to start moving your food and water dishes to another location at the rate of no more than 6" (15 cm) per day. Do NOT allow Themselves to increase the distance just because it seems tiny to them. This is a very large change of territory for a cat and I would like it to be done at a pace you can easily handle.

If at any time you seem to become disturbed by the change in location, it is a signal for them to slow the process down - by moving the bowls back to the location they were just before you got turned off, then leaving them at that location for a day or so before continuing to move them; but this time say in 3-inch increments instead of 6.

Of all the possible locations you suggested, my prefurred one would be the dining room. But since there are young children about during the day, you need to have you food and water dishes sectioned off so they don't trip over your valued items. For example, your food and water area could be set up in the dining room under a low, small table - to provide your dishes some protection from running feet.

This may have to be re-considered when puppy is ready to venture beyond the kitchen because you don't want puppy in your food. And puppies like cat food because it is higher in protein. So you may be looking at a two-step process here:
1) Moving your food and water dishes from the kitchen to the dining room.
2) And once you are really used to that AND at least a few weeks before puppy is allowed out of the kitchen unsupervised, moving your food and water dishes UP.

Yes I know Herself might be concerned about your ability to jump but I'm not talking about raising your stuff to the ceiling - just out of dog snout reach. You might need staggered levels on which to achieve this. Consult the entry on Cat Feeding  from  A House Full of Cats which describes feeding stations in a multiple cat household. No, I don't mean you should expect more cats in your family but rather that some of the ideas might work in your case.You can get another idea from the climbing wall shown on Hauspanther; while I don't expect Themselves to necessarily have the cash to want to buy this system, they can troll the site for other ideas. And have them also look at Catification a term used by behaviourist Jackson Galaxy to describe changes purrsons make to their homes to make them more suitable for our exalted species.

Once you have moved your food and water to your new location, have Themselves put up the baby gates or x-pen (whatever they plan to use to keep the puppy in the kitchen). Said gates or pen should be in place for only a short time each day, just to get you used to the idea. You should still have lots of time for access of your favourite kitchen chair and the like. They also need to observe if you have an interest in entering the area when it is sectioned off. Do you attempt to jump it? If so, they should consider a step of piece of furniture on either side of the barrier that could make it easier and safer for you to do so.

While we are on the subject of food, I wonder if you have tried or like wet food? I know you are on a special veterinary diet and have had a urine infection. While a special diet is in order, it could be made even better by adding wet food into your diet. My reason? Cats eating exclusively dry food tend to drink less water - and there is very little moisture in dry food. Lack of hydration can contribute to urinary stress. And since the changes you are about to undergo can be stressful, you might want to consider adding moist food to help increase your water intake easily. As you know, wet food has a very high percentage of water so you are, in a way, drinking while you are eating. Of course, you still need your water bowl.

If you were to try wet food, I'd suggest the wet version of whatever veterinary dry product your currently eat. Just try a can or two. First, combine say, half your morning portion of dry food with a small amount (perhaps a tablespoon of wet) - just enough to make it look like you are having granola with a scant amount of yogurt. This serving should be separated from your dry food - that way you have a choice. And if you don't like it, you still have something to eat. If you don't like it, cut back on the amount of wet that is combined with the dry until you find a portion you can handle. And then, slowly, day by day, increase the portion of wet. Your vet should be able to give you instructions on how to balance the amount of wet and dry so that you don't over- or under-eat. And consult my recent entry to Mihijo, about how to present, prepare and safely store wet food.

Another way to increase water intake is with a fountain. I'll reserve my thoughts on that for a further entry - because a fountain will likely be shared with your canine companion.

The Kennel in the Bedroom at Night

From what I understand, puppy will spend the night with Themselves, kenneled in their bedroom. You, of course, will want to continue to sleep at Herself's feet (as you should). Be prepared.

If they can, have Themselves purchase said puppy kennel now and figure out where, exactly, it will go in the bedroom. If at all possible it should be placed so you do not have to directly stare at puppy's face, or have to climb over or even pass said kennel, in order to get to your favourite spot. I don't know how the bedroom furniture is arranged so I have to rely on the common sense of your purrsons. In general, further away from you is better than closer; unobstructed access is better than having you have to either pass by or over said kennel.

And to help you out even more, I suggest Themselves purchase a Feliway  (also sold as Comfort Zone with Feliway) diffuser (from the pet store or vet) and plug it into an outlet in that bedroom - starting when the kennel is added or just before puppy arrives (whichever comes first). Make sure it is the diffuser and not the spray bottle. The first expense will be the greatest because they will buy a diffuser and the Feliway. It will last about a month; after that they only need to buy the refill; and you won't need it forever - trust me - though it will come in handy in times of change and stress.

While I receive no money or incentives for doing so, this is one case where I recommend a specific brand and suggest that you stick to it. There are other things on the market that may cost less but I have heard from too many cats that they are not as effective. 

Feliway is the synthetic version of the facial pheromones we use to rub against things, that tell us they are ours and give us a tremendous sense of comfort. They will not comfort the puppy because the puppy will not respond to them; there are synthetic pheromones for dogs (called DAP) but they are different. Have no fear, the puppy will have the security of being near Themselves. And Feliway will comfort you, because it is you who are enduring the change to your valued territory.

According to the DAP website, the refills of either Feliway or DAP will fit in the Comfort Zone diffuser; and if they want to use both Feliway and DAP at the same time, they should be put in different outlets in the room. But that may be overkill. Purrhaps they should check with the vet or the puppy's mom's purrson, first. And make sure they read all the instructions so they don't insert it upside-down or behind furniture or curtains or make silly mistakes.

Your Litterbox

Consideration should be given to access to your litter box once the puppy wanders through the house. Because this may involved the expense of a baby gate or modifying a bit of the household, it's best to start thinking about it now.

Why? Again because we eat higher protein, our poop also contains higher protein and this can be of great interest to dogs. You don't want the puppy to visit your litter box, particularly when you are using it, looking for a 'treat'.

Exactly how access is restricted depends on your household set up. Many households use a baby gate to keep the dog out of the litter box area. In this case, an opening is made near the bottom of the gate for you to go in and out - an opening that is suitable for you but too small for the dog. There are gates available that are easily modified in this way because they are not made of metal. And there are some gates (usually metal) made with a smaller entry (just for cat and dog, or for baby and pet households); check the Internet as well as local pet stores for more information. And don't forget that whatever it used, it needs to be big enough for you (at 21 pounds) but not so big that puppy can get through it.

Ty, this is NOT the sum total of my advice but it is certainly enough to get you started. I'll continue in my next entry to you very soon.