Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Outdoor Cat Cottage and Garden Ideas

An outdoor cottage with a plant friendly garden for your cats will provide your pets with an area where they can play and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. 

Cats love being inside when it rains or when it is cold outside. However, when the sun is out and it is warm weather, cats all dream of going outside to play in the yard. 

Normally I allow my 5 cats to lounge on my sun porch however they are always scratching at the door to get outdoors.  From the looks on their face I know that they would prefer to roll around on the grass and watch the birds and butterflies.

I talked it over with my husband and we decided to install an enclosure and cat garden for our cats. Our yard has a privacy fence, however wildlife still enters our yard so we needed to install a cat enclosure, which would serve the purpose of a cottage for our beloved kitties.  

My husband did a cost estimate; he totaled up the price of wood and all supplies needed to make the enclosure and decided that it would cost less to modify a chicken coup kit. 

What we like about the chicken coup is that it made from quality lumber and galvanized wire that will keep our cats paws inside and will prevent outdoor cats or dogs from having access to our cats. Also there is a covered shelter for the cats where they can go to get a bite to eat or drink of water and to rest.

My husband thought the Ware Manufacturing Premium Plus Chick-N-Pen that we bought at Amazon.com was a  good savings because for him to buy products and then install it would would end up costing him more plus time and labor.

We set up the outdoor cat enclosure for our cats in a shady area in the yard that was close to our flagstone patio.  This location would allow us to interact with the cats while resting on patio and I could also view the cats from the kitchen window.  

 Before installing the outdoor cat enclosure, I designed a garden for the cats.  This garden would be inside the chicken coup. 

Installing Outdoor Cat Enclosure
After we finished the design for the cat garden we then set up the chicken coup around the cat grasses and other cat friendly plants.  Assembly was easy and because the grass was planted as a seed under soil we did not worry about walking on it. 


Tips:
  • We insulated the indoor section so that the cats would be protected from extreme heat or cold.  The shelter is where the cats could lie or get a bite to eat or drink. We needed to modify this section so that it was comfortable for cats.
  • The cat grass grew in and was rather tall.  We did not clip it back because it provided the cats with a fun area where they could hide.
  • In the summer we provided the cat's with an oscillating fan on the outside  of the coup to provide the cats with air circulation.
  • The cats loved going outdoors to play in their cat garden and enclosure.  We would allow them to spend the morning outdoors but on days when the heat was extreme we brought them indoors. 
  • Clean sandbox daily and change the sand one to two times monthly. 
  • If you have a small yard you could consider a small safety playhouse for the cats.  This cat enclosure will provide your cats with fresh air and will keep them safe provided stray dogs do not enter your yard.  It is best to set up the this playhouse in a yard that has a fence or in an area where you can keep a watchful eye on your cats.  This cat playhouse is not recommended for cats with claws or for aggressive cats that do not like to be confined. 
  • Be creative and paint your cat cottage so it will be eye appealing for your neighbors.


 





 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Setup Cat Room - Socializing New Cats


Setup a room for your cats and benefit by knowing that they are in a secure area.  This cat room will provide new cats with comfort and security.  The cat room can be an over-sized crate-cage or it can be a separate room or closet in your home that is for cats only. 

When I am away from my home or when I have guest coming to my home I will put my 5 cats in the safe room and shut the door.  I then know that they are out of harms ways and that they won’t sneak out an open door.  My cats enjoy their time in their room.  In their minds I am certain that they think of it as a playroom.  When it is time for me to go to work, I will open the door and use my clicker to call them.   All of the cats will run into the room and sit patiently for their treat.




Setting up Cat Room

Make a list of the requirement for the room; no furniture of value; add a chair, futon or old sofa to the room, cover the floors with Berber carpet or tile and provide the cats with heat and air-conditioned.   A room with a window would be nice as all cats enjoy looking at the world outdoors. 

Choose a room that will provide your cat with comfort.  Consider a large closet.  Remove everything from the closet; leave the shelves as cats enjoy climbing.  Install a cat climber to the backside of the door; I saw one at amazon.com that was quite nice.  The  multilevel climber will provide your cat’s with hours of enjoyment.  

Cats like to hide so provide them with cat furniture that allows them to hide. Buy them a cat playhouse or multilevel hideout.  My kitty safe room is 9 x 11 and the cat hideout provides my 5 cats with an area where they can hide or sleep in peace. 

Make sure there is a ceiling light, as well as heat or air.  The closet must be large enough to allow the cat to move around and to be comfortable.  Consider changing the closet door to a clear glass French door with kitty door or leave the door cracked so kitty can go in or out.   That way the cat can see out into the other rooms and you can check your cats without disturbing them.  


Know that the cat safe room is a blessing especially if you have company.  You put the cats in the room and you do not have to worry about a exterior door being left open and cat getting  out.

Add to the cat room the following products;  litter box, scratching post, cat tree, toys, bedding, cat food and water bowls.  Choose bouncy cat toys like a spring with a ball attached or plastic balls with bell for them to chase. 


Tips:

  • When you cannot supervise your cat then put their room. 
  • Use the cat room as an isolation room for all new cat’s coming into the household.
  • If cat gets sick, isolate them from other cats by keeping ill cat in this safety room.
  • Set up a cat crate /cage if you do not have a room.
  • If your cat is accustomed to having free run of the entire house, spray the cat room with Feliway behavior modifier (Chewy.com has the best prices on feliway cat products.)  Feliway behavior modifier will keep your cat happy, by making feel less anxious.  It is fantastic for calming a stressed out cat.
Here is a video that will show you how to set up a cat room.  Know that it is best to keep this room intact because your cat will return to this area because it is their safe space.  


Here is an excellent video that will show you how to introduce your new kitten to your cat.



    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Christmas Tree Safety Tips for Cats




    Russian Blue kitten in Christmas Tree
    8-wk old kitten in tree
    Cats are naturally attracted to Christmas trees and the heat from the lights so when it comes to decorating your home you will need to train your cat boundaries.  Stop your cats before they have a chance to hide, climb, mark or use your tree as a scratching post. 

    Christmas is the time of year when pet owners need to step up their pet training or else the cat will take over and make a mess of the holiday tree or they may get tangled up in the lights.   Learn some basic tips that will keep your tree and cat safe this Christmas.

    Step 1
    Stop your cats from climbing up the tree or using your Christmas decorations as their private playground.  Keep your tree safe from the cat by securing it to the ceiling. Achieve this by installing a ceiling hook above the tree and then tie clear fishing line to the top of the tree and then loop the line through the ceiling hook and secure with a double knot.  
    Step 2
    Purchase unbreakable ornaments and attach them to the tree with ribbon.  Buy thin ribbon that coordinates with your Christmas theme and put the ribbon though the ornament loop. 
    Tie the ornament to the branch with a bow.  The ornament is securely attached to the tree and you need not worry about it falling to the floor. You just prevented a serious accident by keeping your cats safe from harm.
     Step 3 
    Teach your cat to stay away from Christmas tree with SSSCAT Cat Training.  This product is a harmless motion activated compressed air spray with an alarm that scares you cat every time they get close to the tree.  SSScat repels the cat up to three feet.  Your cat will quickly learn the house rules. 
     Step 4 
    Another way to keep cats away from the Christmas tree is to buy Contech stay away motion detector.  It is basically the same principal as the SSS cat spray training however the quality is better as you have two different repellents; sound with the odorless compressed air spray or sound only.  The spray is long lasting as you get 200 sprays per can. 

      
    Tips:
    Fill live tree water tank with pure water.  Do not add any preservatives or chemicals to the water.  If you cat does not drink the water then your dog will.

    Your cat can harm themselves in the light wires.  It is best to buy artificial tree that has the lights securely attached to the branches or you should use plastic straps to secure lights to branches.  

    Warnings do not decorate Christmas tree with tinsel. 

    Cover the extension cords and light strands on the floor with PVC pipe this is a good way to prevent your cat from getting tangled in the cords.

    Supervise your cat while they are in the Christmas room, chances are they will be the perfect pet.  Cats usually experiment with the Christmas tree when their owners are away.   


    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Socializing Feral Cats

    All  feral cats can be socialized, however you must respect them and not push them to be tame.   If you have the time and patience to work with the feral cat, to allow them to trust you, then in time the feral cat will choose you and will want to live with you.  

    I have socialized 6 feral kittens and 9 adult feral cats. All of cats were trapped and crate trained.  To this day they all sleep in their crates at night with the door open. The crate is their safe area. 


    I trap feral cats Monday through Friday and take cats immediately to my veterinarians.  The cats are tested for feline leukemia; they received all of their vaccines, wormed and are treated with dosage of revolution for fleas, ticks and mites.  Then they were spayed or neutered.  

    When the feral cats receive their wellness checkup they are returned to me to be socialized.  I socialize all feral cats in a safe area which is either a small room with no furniture or a large cat crate.  

    The room that I use to socialize all new cats is located by my laundry room. There are four bare walls, window, cement floors, metal desk, desk chair and a lazy boy chair with cover in the corner.  

    This room will be set up for the socialization of a new cat.  In one corner I will set up a large cat crate.  The crate will house a covered bed where the cat can hide in, covered box with natural litter; pine or cedar, food and water bowls and a scratching post that is sprayed with catnip. 

    The room will also have a cat tree by the window or on the other side of the room and some bouncy cat toys and plastic balls with bells inside. 

    To comfort the feral cat and to provide a cozy safe room I will drape a fleece blanket over the crate so that the back, top and two sides are covered the front with the door will be covered half way the door that is open will not be covered.  

    Before the feral cat enters the room I will spray the cats bed, fleece blanket, the rooms walls, floor, my desk and chair with Feliway behavior modifier, I will also treat 1 cup of water with 4 drops of rescue remedy for pets.  These two products will aid in calming the adult feral cat during this stressful time.  

    When the feral cat is discharged from the veterinarian’s office, the cat will be transported in the trap.  The trap will be covered with a blanket on the way home.  The cat will be taken to the safe room and I will set the trap close to the entrance of the crate.  With gloved hands open the trap slowly. 

    The feral cat will do one of two things; charge out of the trap like a bolt of lightning and run into the crate to hide in the covered litter box, or they will charge out and climb the walls, screaming, hissing and snarling.  They will continue to climb the walls until they are exhausted and then they will look for a place to hide.  The crate with the fleece blanket is dark inside and they will run into the crate.  

    Once the feral cat is hiding I will allow them to rest.  In my experience, when it comes to socializing adult feral cats age 8 months and older it is best to let them be for 7 hours.  I will clear my desk by locking everything in the drawers; I then will set the ceiling light at dim and close the door behind me. 


     I usually check on the feral cat in 3 hours to make sure they are okay.  In my experience the cat will not eat or drink from their bowls.  They are always hiding, either behind the bed or in their covered litter box.  

    Expect the cats to mark the room as well as their bed and the fleece blanket.  This is okay; they will mark everything that you give to them for the next 30 days.


    The following day enter the room slowly with a large piece of cardboard by your feet.  This will prevent the cat from trying to dart past you.  Once inside the room set the cardboard to the side, otherwise it will scare the cat.  

    Move slowly around the cat.  Fast movement will scare the cat and they will react by tying to protect themselves; bite or scratch.  Chances are the cat will be nowhere in sight when you enter the room. 

    Slowly pull back the fleece blanket to check the food and water bowls.  With gloved hands carefully fill the bowls with fresh water that is treated with rescue remedy and cat food.  

    While you are close to the crate you will hear the cat spitting, hissing and snarling from the litter box, but it is rare for the cat to confront you.  If the cat is hiding behind the bed, they may feel you are too close and may lunge at you, and show you their claws.  It is their way of protecting themselves they think of you as a predator.


    Generally as long as you move slowly and not attempt to handle them you should be okay.  If food drops to the crate floor, leave it.  Trying to pick it up may startle the cat.  

    Once the crate is stocked for the day you would treat the room by removing outlet security covering and plug in a feliway comfort zone diffuser.  Do not spray the room because it will frighten the feral cat.


    Plan to spend a several hours with the adult feral cat.  Move your chair so that the back of the chair faces a wall.  Do not sit with your back to the cat.  Sit in the chair and read a book.  

    Plan to read a book while you are visiting the feral cat on the first day.  The room needs to be peaceful with only sounds of nature coming from a nature CD. Leave your phone outside if it should ring or even vibrate it will be bothersome to the feral cat. Plan to read a book, take a break for lunch and go back and read more of your book.  

    While you are in the room the cat will not leave their hiding place.  They are getting to know you by scent and movement.  Continue to move slowly.  Generally a feral cat will feel defensive when the predator makes eye contact with them. 

    On the first few days lower your eyes to the cat.  You will lower your eyes to show that you are not picking a fight with the feral cat.  It is best to not look at them directly or make full eye contact.



     
    Image Credit: Bombay cats in crate image credit amazon.com

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011

    Adopting Feral Kitten - First Day in New Home


    Caring for a feral kitten is entirely different from caring for a domesticated kitten. Feral kittens are terrified of humans and thus you must take baby step in socializing the feral kitten on a day-to-day basis. Prior to adopting your feral kitten read books on feral cats and contact feral cat organizations, inquire about the characteristics of feral kittens. Prepare yourself for the special needs and responsibility of caring for a feral kitten.

    If you have adopted a weaned 7 to 8 week old feral kitten then the first day will be difficult however the days will get easier as time goes by.  Remember that the kitten is afraid as you have taken them from their comfort zone and you must teach them how to be an indoor cat and live with humans and other pets.

    Feral Kitten Postcard postcard

    Get Family and Home Ready for New Kitten

    Before you bring a feral kitten into your home you will need to have a family meeting.
    Gather the family for a meeting to discuss household feral kitten rules.  Feral kittens are accustomed to outdoor sounds and household noise will frighten  them. Your home must be  quiet with no loud noises, or bickering, that means no loud volume on the TV.  Feral kittens need homes that are peaceful. During the adjustment period family members and pets cannot enter the safe room where the feral kitten is being kept. Only the person who intends on socializing the kitten must interact with the kitten for 60 days.  By doing this the feral kitten will dependent upon you as if you are the mother cat. 
    Midwest Homes for Pets - Cat Playpen

    Buy a cat crate that is large enough to hold cat bed with cover so kitten can hide, covered litter box, food and water bowls and small scratching post and a hammock.   You will also add one of your dirty sweatshirts, one that has your scent on it.  

    Picking up Feral Kitten

    Set up the crate before you go to pick up the feral kitten. A small crate or cat carrier is also needed to transport feral kitten to your home.  Line the cat cattier with newspapers.  If it is cold outside line with a warm fleece or thermal receiving blanket.  Feral kittens must be kept warm.
    Waiting for Adopter:  Image by Sgolis

    Take a small crate or carrier and a soft fleece blanket with you when you go to pick up the feral kitten. Do not handle the kitten with your bare hands.  If you must put the kitten in the carrier then wear heavy leather work gloves when handling kitten. Gently grab the kitten by their scruff and lift the kitten gently. Wrap the kitten in a warm fleece blanket and hold the kitten firmly so he cannot escape.    Set the kitten in the warm fleece blanket in the crate.  Loosen the blanket so the kitten can move around. Close the door and latch it securely. Cover the crate with a blanket. Place the crate behind the driver’s seat in the vehicle, turn off the radio and drive slowly home.

    Traveling back to your home you may want to talk softly to the kitten. Be consoling to their needs. If you sing, sing softly with a soothing voice.  When you arrive home gently lift the kitten in the crate from the car and bring the kitten into the house.  Set  the kitten in the crate in a safe-room such as a home office, or another small room where the cat will be able to watch you but will not be exposed to excess noise and movement. 


    Get the safe room ready for the kitten by sitting on the floor and look for things that may harm the kitten.  The room that I use to socialize the feral cats is in my garage.  The room as a concrete floor, concrete walls, a window a desk, chair and a CD player that is anchored to the wall. There is an overhead ceiling light with a dimmer and two electrical outlets with protective coverings and a lazy boy chair..






    Transferring Feral Kitten to Large Crate 


    I crate train all feral kittens.  The crate is their safe room.  Out of the six kittens that I have socialized all of them as an adult cat sleep in their crates and play with their toys in their crates. 

     Wear protective gloves when transferring kitten.
    1. Open the door to the large crate.
    2. Cut a piece of cardboard that is the same size as the opening of the cat carrier that houses the feral kitten.  
    3. Slowly open the cat carrier door and slide the cardboard in front of the opening, this will prevent the kitten from escaping.
    4. Move the carrier so that it is flush with the opening of the large crate.
    5. Slowly remove the cardboard that blocks the cats entrance and the feral kitten will run into the large crate.
    6. Cover the large crate with a flannel sheet to protect kitten from drafts and to provide comfort.  Leave a corner of the crate exposed so the kitten can see you.
    7. Leave the crate door shut for the first 24 hours. By leaving the door shut the kitten will hide in the covered bed and the crate will become their safe room.

    If the kitten should react with aggressive behavior; hiss, snarl, spit, chirp, note that the kitten is defensive because you are causing them great anxiety.  The kitten is terrified of you  the kitten is telling you "I am scared of you please stay away". 


    First Day Feral Kitten Socialization

    Spend time with your feral kitten by visiting the kitten several times throughout the day. Spend a minimum of 4 hours with the kitten. It is better that the kitten is able to watch you. Place the crate next to your desk so the kitten can take in your scent and see you working.  

     Sit next to the kitten and tell it a story, make eye contact with the kitten and gently exhale close to the kittens face.  Plan activities so that you can spend time with the kitten in the room.  Read a book or take a nap in the chair. All time spent with the kitten is good.The kitten is becoming adjusted to your scent and is identifying with you.

    Feed the kitten whatever they are accustomed to. You do not want to change the diet as it will upset his stomach and cause the kitten to be ill.  Gradually change the kitten's diet over the course of 10 days. 

    Feed the kitten in the morning and night.  I feed at 7 am and 7pm. I do not hold back the food.  Provide the kitten with fresh water daily.  


    Kittens are very messy inside their crate, expect them to knock over their food and their water bowl.  Also if the litter box is not covered, the litter will be all over the place.


    Tips:
    1. Play soothing music at a soft volume.  Music is a good way to relax the kitten.  I play sounds of nature, a babbling brook, birds chirping and such. Forest Sounds: with Soft Rains and Gentle Winds Sounds of Nature
    2. When you are leaving the room for the day, open the crate door half way.  Expect to hear the kitten hiss, or chirp, they many also spit. This is a natural reaction, the kitten is terrified.  
    3. Expect the kitten to run from the crate and attempt to climb your walls or drapes. This is natural and all feral cats and kittens behave like this.
    4.  The kitten will learn that the crate is their safe place.  You do not want the kitten to fear the crate.  If they are confined they may climb the sides of the crate and they may get hurt. 
    5. Wear heavy gloves to protect your hands when adding or removing things from the cat crate.
    6. Kittens can not be in a draft and the room needs to be warm.  They are use to living outdoors so I usually close off the air conditioning  vent so the kitten is comfortable.
    7. If you do not have a crate, set up a small room for the feral kitten.  This room will be the feral kittens safe room forever.