With the weather changing and snow coming down, there wasn't any sense in having access to the outdoor 'catio'. With that and the addition of a "new" cat (my brothers old cat), everyone was getting a little antsy.
I guess you can say the timing was perfect with everything happening at once, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. As most of our clients know, earlier this year I turned a spare room into a Cat Room. I re-purposed old cabinet draws and DIY'd some new perches and enrichment objects for the cats to help keep them mentally and physically stimulated while I am to the clinic helping you with your pets. It's perfect because no one can stay home with their animals all the time, and they don't have the opportunity to go out with their friends like we do.
Well, the best part of the cat room is it's changeable - and with a new cat interrupting the delicate balance, it was perfect. A big part of introducing a new cat is obviously a slow integration. Since the cats already new each other, I lucked out and got to skip the slow introduction through the bathroom door and swapping blankets etc. Instead of having the 'Upstairs Cats' and the 'Downstairs Cats' it just became 'The Cats', but that doesn't mean we are out of the woods yet! Since everyone was used to their own space and their own environment, I needed to balance the playing field a bit.
The first thing I needed to do was empty everything out; all toys, cat trees, cat litters, dishes - if it wasn't screwed into the wall it was out. I emptied everything from the room that I could and gave it all a good vacuum. I then sprinkled that Pet Carpet Odour Eliminator on the floor and vacuumed again. The idea here is simple - new space, new smells. I don't want anyone to have 'ownership' of the space from any scents they have may have left behind. If a space or item smells like a specific pet it can reinforce that territorial behaviour and that is exactly the kind of mindset I am trying to avoid.
I wouldn't be a vet tech if I didn't take this opportunity to remind you when cleaning to only use pet safe products. Something so common place as Lysol can actually be incredibly toxic to cats, so always make sure you are using an appropriate product. For all the toys and trees I took out I also gave them a good clean.
Since the carpet deodorizer kind of left a perfume like smell, I didn't want to use that on the cat trees. So I vacuumed everything really well to start with. Next I completely emptied out the litter-boxes, all brand new litter and made sure the pans were clean as well. I actually ended up getting a few new cat litter pans since I was now accommodating another cat and, honestly, its just good to replace them every once in a while. I usually replace them every year or sooner if needed. These ones I just get from the dollar store, since I know I'll be replacing them soon and really, they all do the same thing so no need to go fancy. It was also the perfect opportunity to do my weekly deep cleaning of the Microchip Pet Feeders (I LOVE these things!).
Once I had everything cleaned up and ready to go back in, I made sure to rearrange everything. This was duel purpose:
1. It provides more stimulation for the animals when their environment offers something new
2. I wanted that equal playing field where nobody had 'their spot' that they needed to defend
To provide even more stimulation, I like to regularly switch out toys. An item provides more enrichment if it is perceived as new and interesting. From the original picture you can see I have a cabinet in the cat room which is where I like to keep their food and, of course, new toys to switch out and play with.
Once I had everything placed where I wanted it, I still had to try and remove any 'markings' left behind from the cats before. I like to use a catnip spray because it is such a powerful smell for cats and provides such a positive response. I sprayed it on the scratching posts, the cat trees and the toys, as well as on the wall mounts and ladder.
I also wanted to makes sure everyone would have a nice place to call their won, so when I was choosing items to use this time around I made sure to provide lots of hidey-holes for them to choose from.
Of course, while I was working on all of this, I couldn't keep the cats out all together - especially with Lyra being so curious. So once I was happy with everything I re-scooped the cat litters and made sure no one had made too big a mess over the last hour to throw off the new dynamic of the room.
Everyone was pretty good at staying out since I made sure to keep the vacuum out even after I was down with it to warn them they may not want to come in. Once I was sure I was ready, I put away the vacuum and scattered some food around the room for encouragement. I wanted to make sure they all had a reason to investigate and explore - especially Misty who wasn't familiar with the room yet.
Slowly though, they all made their way into the room, especially after they smelled the catnip!
It may sound silly, but the environment really does play a huge role in our pets behaviour. We can help keep their minds alert and active, we can minimize stress, and we can make introducing new pets easier just by making a few adjustments in our environment.
As long as you understand your pets natural instincts and behaviour, you can provide an enriching environment that keeps them happy and deters unwanted behaviour.
Stay tuned to find out how I stopped my cats from scratching furniture just by changing one thing in my apartment.