Safer Birds and Cats
Snowed in! Now is a good time to acclimate your cat into a perfectly content indoor pet. The American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org) has tips, abstracted below, on how to make your outdoor cat a happy indoor cat. The key is to provide lots of attention and stimulation while the cat is indoors. Cats need human companionship to be happy, and an outdoor cat may welcome the indoors if he or she gets more love, attention, and play.
Provide your cat with a window to look out and acceptable places to lounge, play and scratch. You should provide scratching posts, corrugated cardboard, or sisal rope for your cat to scratch, and praise your cat for using them. Trim your cat's claws every two weeks to keep him from damaging furniture, rugs, and drapes, or glue on artificial nail caps called "Soft Paws" every six to eight weeks. Scoop the litter pan at least once daily.
To encourage your ex-outdoor cat to exercise, provide toys, especially interactive ones such as a long pole and attached line with fabric or feathers at the end of the line. If the cat likes to explore the house for "prey", hide the cat's toys in various places to be found throughout the day.
Provide your indoor cat with fresh greens. You can buy kits with containers and seeds to grow, or you can plant pesticide-free alfalfa grass, bird seed, or catnip in your own container.
If you have just adopted an outdoor cat, you should keep the cat inside from the beginning - otherwise you risk losing your cat. Using a long-range water pistol or a shake can when the cat asks to go out is a very successful and harmless way to curb a cat from wanting to go outside. And give your cat extra attention during the transition. Most behavioral problems can be attributed to an abrupt change in routine, to boredom and loneliness.
If cats were kept indoors, or in outdoor enclosures, the lives of millions of songbirds would be spared each year. The goal of the "Cats Indoors Campaign for Safer Birds and Cats" is to have cats as responsibly managed as are dogs, even if this responsibility must be legislated with a local cat ordinance. New Jersey has a start with a nuisance law (4:19-15.16 on impounding or taking dogs or other animals into custody) that provides for the impounding of any animal off the premises of the owner and reported or observed to be, among other things, interfering with the enjoyment of property. Neighborhood cats do not have the "right" to harass birds in your yard.
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