In this study, multiplicity of handlers improved scores on the holding and the readiness to play tests. No significant differences
were noted between the kittens of domestic origin and the kittens of feral origin in common problem behaviors reported by
owners. There was also no difference in owners' total satisfaction with their pets between domestic-origin and feral-origin
kittens. This study supports the data found in earlier studies that the sensitive socialization period in kittens appears
to end at about 7 weeks of age. It also suggests that feral kittens can make acceptable pets if people have realistic expectations.
Socializing a young kitten to people would include having it in the home as opposed to outdoors so that the kitten is exposed
to typical household activities and noises. Daily gentle handling by people in the form of holding and petting is advised.
Engaging the cat in play with safe toys is also recommended.
7. SUPERSIZE THE LITTER BOX
Litter boxes are often designed to please cat owners instead of cats, as most people want to keep cat elimination a small
part of their cat ownership experience. So commercially available litter boxes tend to be compact. And because many cats are
overweight,11 a drastic discrepancy exists between litter box size and cat size, with the boxes being too small for cats to comfortably
move around in. A covered box further reduces maneuverability.
Suggesting that clients purchase large, uncovered plastic storage containers or similar items to use as litter boxes may help
reduce elimination problems. A good rule of thumb is that the box should be one and a half times longer than the length of
the cat. Senior cats with reduced mobility may appreciate a low-sided box or entry area to ease accessibility (Figure 1).
Figure 1. A litter box with high sides and a cut-out opening.
6. CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO CATLINESS
Cats are known for their fastidious behavior—grooming takes up a good portion of their time, only second to sleeping.12 Despite this fact, many owners do not regularly scoop out and wash their cats' litter boxes. It is no wonder that many cats
develop aversions to dirty litter boxes and seek alternative sites for elimination. I suggest that owners scoop twice daily
and routinely wash the boxes with soapy water. The frequency of washing is dictated by litter type—boxes containing litter
that clumps the urine for scoop removal will need less frequent washing (about once every two to four weeks) than boxes containing
nonclumping litter (about once a week). Since plastic can accumulate odors over time, after washing a litter box, an owner
should sniff it to check for residual odor. If the owner can detect a urine odor, it is probably time to replace the box.
5. LET CHOOSY CATS CHOOSE
To discover what a cat likes, especially concerning its litter box options, ask the cat. Set up a cafeteria-style selection
of different litters and boxes, and allow the cat to indicate its favorite by use (Figure 2). Most cats prefer finely particulate, sandlike unscented litter material (clumping litter) and large uncovered boxes.13,14
Figure 2. Offer cats a variety of options when selecting litters and boxes.
4. MORE PROVISIONS, FEWER PROBLEMS
If several cats are kept indoors, they must be given an environment of plenty to prevent and manage behavior problems. An
environment of plenty includes multiple feeding, water, and litter box locations and multiple single-cat-size sleeping perches.
At a minimum, there should be one station for each cat, but in households with behavior problems, this may be increased to
two or more stations per cat. Adding stations increases the space and decreases potential spots of conflict among cats.