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Paw prints

Q: We recently adopted an adult cat from the shelter and she is begging to go outside. I always believed that a cat will live longer if it was kept indoors, but she is making me crazy! What do you suggest?

A: First, thank you for adopting an older cat from the shelter. It can sometimes be more challenging to adopt older animals as they can come with established behaviors that might be difficult to manage but if you are prepared to handle the issues they can be wonderful pets. I also believe it is our responsibility to provide our older animal population with nice homes to live out their later years rather than living in a shelter environment.

Similar to you, for many years, I believed that it was beneficial to make all cats be indoor pets as they are safer and are not exposed to possibly deadly infectious diseases or trauma. However, my opinion changed drastically when I adopted a cat that was originally a feral outdoor cat.

Initially, I tried to force this cat to live strictly indoors and it resulted in some very destructive behaviors such as inappropriate urination, fighting with our other cats, and endless meowing and crying. Finally, after months of cleaning cat urine off our carpets and breaking up daily cat fights, we let her go outside and if a cat could smile, laugh and skip, she did it!

So, going against my own beliefs, I let her go outside regularly and was prepared for devastating consequences. However, she always came back, never got hurt, and is now a grumpy 17-year-old cat who no longer wants to go outside. I understand now that there are some cats who simply cannot be forced to be indoor cats as it significantly affects their quality of life. However, if you are thinking of letting your cat go outside, there are a few things you must do to help protect her.

First, I recommend that you take your cat to your veterinarian yearly to keep her up to date on vaccines and deworming. Secondly, make sure your cat has a microchip that has been updated with your most current information. I prefer micro chipping over collars as collars can fall off. Third, I would never let a cat outside that has had any claws removed as they are unable to fully protect themselves from danger. Most importantly, you must be prepared to pay for extra veterinary visits for possible injuries that might occur while your cat is outside.

So, although most cats are happy as indoor only pets there is a percentage of cats whose personalities or experiences won’t allow them to live as strictly indoor cats. As long as you are prepared to manage the associated issues your cat can still have a long and happy life.

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Q: My cat has started to urinate in one specific spot on the carpet and it’s driving me crazy! The only change in our household is that we just adopted a puppy. Could that be a cause of her behavior and how do I get her to stop doing this?

A: Any changes in a cat’s life can instigate a stress response that leads to inappropriate urinations.

First, it is important to determine if a medical condition might be causing your cat to urinate inappropriately.

Once that has been ruled out, here are some tips for redirecting the behavior. Depending on your cat’s age and personality, she may be intimidated by your puppy’s exuberance so it is important to make sure that she has a “safe space” where she can get away from the puppy.

It is also important to make sure that all the litter boxes are in places that the puppy cannot get to so that your cat feels safe using the litter box. Placing a litter box on top of the area where the cat is urinating to redirect the behavior back into the litter box can be helpful.

Lastly, using pheromone sprays or oral behavior modification medications can also help. Good luck!

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Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com

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