Tri­cia Helfer Knows Cats—and She Wants to Help You Un­der­stand Them Too.

Tri­cia Helfer—ac­tress, su­per­model, and se­ri­ous cat per­son—an­swers your most press­ing cat ques­tions

Modern Cat - - Contents -

Your most press­ing cat ques­tions an­swered.

My cat is su­per af­fec­tion­ate with my part­ner and me, but when­ever some­one comes over, he runs straight un­der the bed and doesn’t come out un­til they’re gone. Is there any­thing I can do to help him feel more com­fort­able and be more so­cial with new peo­ple around?

Some cats are just wired to be warier of strangers than oth­ers. I have a cou­ple cats that my friends joke don't ac­tu­ally ex­ist. Make sure you don't pres­sure your cats. Don't, for ex­am­ple, keep go­ing back to the bed­room and pulling them out into the liv­ing room with ev­ery­one. With friends that visit of­ten, you can have your friend bring your cat’s food bowl in at din­ner­time and put it un­der the bed. With luck, the cat will come to as­so­ciate the friend with be­ing “safe.” You can also try lur­ing the cat out with a feather toy af­ter the peo­ple have been over for a while. If your cat does de­cide to play, you can have your friend try us­ing the toy and see if the cat con­tin­ues play­ing. But if there’s a large group of peo­ple or any­one with a big boom­ing voice, the chances of your cat re­lax­ing enough to come out are slim. Don't get an­noyed with the cat—it's just his safety mech­a­nism. Don't push, just let him ven­ture out at his pace. Hi Tri­cia! My cat has re­cently gained some weight and I re­ally want to help him get back to a health­ier size. What can I do to get him mov­ing?

As long as you’ve ruled out that a med­i­cal is­sue is not caus­ing the weight gain, there are a few ways to try and help your cat lose a lit­tle weight. Firstly, if you leave dry food out all day, in­stead try leav­ing it out only around his feed­ing times, re­mov­ing it for the bet­ter part of the day and pick­ing

it up overnight. And leave out only what your cat should be eat­ing and not a whole bowl. Some cats self-mod­er­ate and only eat what they need, but some will just keep eat­ing and be­come over­weight.

Also try mix­ing a bit of wa­ter in with your cat’s wet food. This not only helps your cat get suf­fi­cient wa­ter, which can be an is­sue for cats, but it also fills them up a lit­tle bit more so they eat less.

To get your cat mov­ing, try a dry food feeder toy like the PetSafe SlimCat In­ter­ac­tive Cat Feeder that drops the food out piece by piece when your cat bats it around play­ing with it. Use this feeder some of the time so your cat is en­cour­aged to play and be ac­tive while eat­ing din­ner.

And, of course, you should make sure that you are play­ing with your cat with toys that get him mov­ing, like a feather on a string or a laser pointer toy. I’m adopt­ing a new cat and I want to be sure that she gets along with my cur­rent cat who has been an only cat up un­til now. Any sug­ges­tions for a smooth tran­si­tion?

In­te­grat­ing cats can be easy or tricky and ev­ery­where in be­tween—it re­ally just de­pends on the in­di­vid­ual cats. But see­ing that your cur­rent cat has only ever been an “only cat,” chances are that your in­te­gra­tion will be on the dif­fi­cult side. This is not nec­es­sar­ily cer­tain, but do not be sur­prised if it is. There are cer­tainly a few tricks to help it go more smoothly though! The big thing to re­mem­ber is that for cats, smell is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant and the sooner they get used to each other’s scent, the less they'll be threat­ened by each other.

Those of you with more than one cat may have no­ticed that if you take one to the vet, the other will of­ten hiss and growl when you get home. This is be­cause the cat who was at the vet has “vet of­fice smells” on him, and the other cat isn't sure what to make of it, which makes him a lit­tle snippy.

Here are a few ways to help them get used to each other’s smell:

Have a sep­a­rate room set up for your new cat when you bring him home. Pro­vide a kitty bed or a towel for your new cat to lie on. Al­ter­nate this bed with one your other cat uses, trad­ing the beds so the cats can get used to each other's scent in ad­vance of a face to face meet­ing. If the cats don’t use the beds, you can place it un­der or be­side their food bowls so that they will smell it when they are eat­ing.

You can also tem­po­rar­ily in­ter­change the rooms they are in too. You don’t want to keep your first cat locked up too long when he’s used to the run of the house but you can give him a bit of alone time in the new cat’s room in or­der to suss out all the new smells. A brief room swap also gives the new cat a chance to roam and check out the new digs on his own. Cats are rou­tine crea­tures and a change of lo­ca­tion can be up­set­ting for them, so al­low­ing the new cat a bit of time to fig­ure out his sur­round­ings with­out fear of the other cat present is a good thing.

Once you think they’ve made progress, put your new cat in her car­rier and bring her out to “hang out” with you guys. This way your orig­i­nal cat can ap­proach the other with­out fear or the need to at­tack be­cause there is no threat when the new cat is se­curely in the car­rier. Do this a few times and then, if you think they are ready, you can for­mally in­tro­duce them. Don’t use a car­rier at this junc­ture be­cause the new cat may feel trapped if she is in the car­rier with the door open and the other cat is block­ing the en­trance. In­stead, sim­ply leave the door to your new cat’s tem­po­rary room open and let them fig­ure out that there is no bar­rier be­tween them. Once they do so, if they like treats, of­fer them both a morsel. If they eat the treats, they are likely more re­laxed and might be ready to be friendly. If they are not in­ter­ested in the treats at all (and you know they love treats), then they are not re­laxed yet and it will take a lit­tle longer.

This whole process might take half a day, or it could take weeks or months. There is no hard or fast rule as to when they'll get along. The first time I in­te­grated cats, it took four months be­fore I could leave them alone to­gether un­su­per­vised. How­ever, I've also had an ex­pe­ri­ence where, af­ter just a few hours, the new cat was part of the group. Re­mem­ber that the worst thing you can do is to just come in with the new cat and let him loose im­me­di­ately. That will put both cats on their guard from the be­gin­ning.

One last thing—it's easy to pay a lot of at­ten­tion to the new cat and slightly ig­nore the other cat, es­pe­cially if the new cat is a kitty (aren't they sooo cute?). Sort of like a tod­dler when a baby comes home, cats can get jeal­ous. Make sure you're not ig­nor­ing the first cat too much in the be­gin­ning.

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