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Purrballs FAQ's

Please note: we can no longer personally answer any questions with regard to your cat's health or behaviour. We present here an archive of previously answered questions we have received here at Purrballs, but regret that we cannot answer any e-mails personally. We feel this is best since we are not veterinarians and can only offer an opinion that may or may not be of help.

If you have any questions about your cat's behaviour or health, it is always best to consult your veterinarian, who can examine your pet in person and give you the best advice from directly assessing your cat.

Many thanks to all our readers who have contributed to this section in the past.
Read the disclaimer before taking any advice from this FAQ.

Spaying and Neutering
Indoors / Outdoors


Urinating / House Soiling





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Spaying and Neutering
Q Does neutering a male cat make him incapable of spraying? If not, does it curtail his urge to spray? Our cat is two years old, is it too late for neutering to do any good? We are also interested in anything we can do after he is neutered to help control this problem.
A A cat of any age (5-7 months+) can be castrated safely, the earlier the better but it's not too late. Following the operation, the hormone levels drop off gradually over a period of six weeks. These hormonal changes affect his behaviour which is evident after approximately one month - he calms down, becomes more affectionate, docile, and usually wants to have more human companionship. Your cat will not spray after the operation, unless the spraying is due to a behavioural problem.
Q I have a mommy cat and I just gave her three kittens away. I want to have her spayed. What is the correct amount of time I should wait before I have her spayed? She is in heat at this time. Also I have one of her female kittens from the litter before. She is 9 months old. Is she ready to be spayed?
A Please call and ask your veterinarian. Since she's in heat now, I don't know when the best time is. The female kitten is ready to be spayed. You're making the right decision. Getting your cat fixed will minimize many medical problems during its lifetime and will make the cat become even-tempered.
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Indoors / Outdoors
Q I would like to know how long my female American tabby can live on average?
A American indoor cats live about 15 years. On average, those who are allowed outdoors live about five years (due to accidents, diseases and fights with other animals). Keep your tabby indoors if you can!
Q I am recently moving and I would like to know what I need to do in order to keep my cat in the new house so that he doesn't run away or get lost.
A It's great you want to keep your cat indoors - she will more likely be healthier and live longer. My suggestions to keep your cat indoors is to think in terms of making life very interesting inside your house:
  • Put shelves under window sills with something cushy so that he can look out to the great outdoors and fantasize a little :-).
  • A bird feeder outside viewable from a window inside is always entertaining for cats.
  • Grass grown indoors in pots is good for their health (you can buy this at a seed and feed store or other).
  • Make sure everyone in your house knows to close the doors behind them.
  • When your cat asks to go out, always say NO and distract him by playing with him, giving him attention or sometimes a treat.
  • Have lots of toys around the house.
  • Ensure he has comfy hiding spots when he wants to be left alone.
  • Have a scratching post or cat condo.
Q I have a cat that is a real outdoor animal. Do you have any idea what he does outside, especially at night when the birds are sleeping? I know that he hunts during the day, and takes in all the sights and sounds of the outside world. I used to worry about him outside but I no longer worry quite so much since he always comes back and seems so happy to go out.
A Tisha doesn't go outside. My cat Cedric (previous to Pashu and Tisha) was hit by a car and died, it was an awful sight. Cats who are allowed outside don't usually live as long those who stay indoors. Since they are deprived of the natural outdoors, I make sure she gets plenty of exercise, lots of love and attention, and that she has pots of grass to munch on. I don't know what a cat does outside at night. I know that mine (indoors) snoozes a lot in frequent periods during the day. During the night too, sometimes I can hear her playing and running throughout the house! I assume that a cat outside during the day will play, but mostly snooze under a tree or in a sunny spot. During the night, they probably look for playmates, get into fights, chase bugs and rodents, and snoop.
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Q We had to evacuate our apartment complex of a family of stray cats. There was a momma and 3 kits. My wife decided that we should adopt one of the kits, so we did and took her to the vet's. She was in perfect health. No problem so far. Now it has been around 4 weeks and she still will not come around us, we can't hold her or pet her. She will run and hide if she feels you are even thinking of trying to come towards her. Why would this be? I can pet her when she is in her hiding spot, if I am very persistent about it. Help me!
A Since you had her checked out by the vet and everything's ok, my advice would be to try the following:
  • Be very patient around her and give her quiet time, a new cat will be wary if there's too much activity around or it's too loud in the home.
  • Make sure she has various hiding spots for when she wants to be alone and quiet, and don't approach her in her spots at first.
  • Start a playing ritual with her on a daily basis, maybe one of you can do this with her at a specific time of day - find out what she likes to play with (cats love routine and they respond to care and love).
  • Make sure her litter boxes are out of the way.
  • Make sure she has access to fresh water bowls out of the way.
  • Place shelves under window ledges to allow her to view the great outdoors.
  • Don't stare at a cat, it's a form of aggression to them. However, you can look at at length by winking slowly, by closing your eyes slowly, like what they do when they are relaxed.
  • Speak in a soft tone to her.
  • Have toys scattered around the house.
  • At first when you do get her to purr, end the 'mush session' before she does (i.e. before she stops purring), this can make her think of asking you for more attention on her own.
  • Basically try to be patient and give her lots of space and love, maybe she is very shy but she will more likely come around eventually, once she trusts you will not hurt her.
  • Possibly consider getting a second cat, they get lonely without interaction.
Q We have a cat that does not understand that he should not get on the speakers. Whenever he feels the need to hop on them, he goes to it, meows, and when convinced the speaker wants him to hop onto it, does so. We have tried to squirt him with water to deter him but he does not care. Do you have any suggestions?
A Try putting foil on top of the speakers for a while with a bit of tape underneath (Martha wouldn't approve). Cats hate foil! A simple loud NO along with a water spray aimed at his body should help along with that. You may have to leave the foil there for a while or something else on top of the speakers. Also give him a place of his own to perch on with a similar view near that same spot and others. Cats love to perch high and to look down at us.
Q I have two cats, both males around a year and a half old, with a very odd fetish! They suck clothing like a kitten would feed from its mother. As soon as I put on a toweling dressing gown, they run at me salivating, then suck all over me! They will settle for jumpers and other soft materials, but it's the dressing gown they go crazy for. Any ideas what causes this, especially as they are getting older?
A It's difficult to say without knowing more history but I believe that your cats think you're their mother (as many do). Apparently, kittens that are bottle fed by humans often knead their clothes as they suck, as they would knead their mother's tummy, then as adults they tend to suck on clothes. Siamese cats are predisposed to suckling and chewing wool. Cats sometimes indulge in obsessive-compulsive behaviour and it is difficult to figure out why. Ask your veterinarian about this, they could be lacking a certain vitamin as well.
Q My kitten won't stop biting! He is constantly launching himself at our faces, biting our chins and noses. He attacks our feet and arms, chewing on our ankles and wrists. We can't figure out what is going on. He is just over 4 months old.
A Is it possible that someone or you may be playing with your kitten with your hands and/or fingers? If so, this may be the reason your kitten is doing that. If you don't correct the problem now, you may have a bigger terror on your hands later on! :-) The cat needs and likes to play, and thinks you play like another cat,with paws and claws! Change your playing habits with your kitty by not letting him play with your hands or body parts - a simple loud NO is all that is needed when he does it - but you need patience as this could take a little while. Play with him a lot, but with objects only. You can get somes ideas on the fun for kitty page.
Q How do I get my cat to stop scratching up the furniture? I've used that spray bottle but he doesn't seem to get the idea. We've got a scratching post that he loves and does use it to scratch. But he also uses the couch, the entertainment center, my fiancés speakers... and whatever else he can find.
A Cats stratch to serve many functions:
  • To remove dead surface layers from their claws.
  • To leave a visual marker of their presence.
  • To stretch their front legs and upper body.
  • It feels good to them and it's instinctual.
  • Sometimes cats may also scratch to help relieve anxiety (marking their territory increases in times of stress).

Unfortunately, stopping your cat's scratching behaviour in bad places is tricky. Declawing being the alternative though, it's definitely worth a very hard try! Here are some tips:

  • Put catnip on the scratching post, and praise him when he uses it.
  • When using the water bottle, don't say anything and hide the fact that you are spraying him - otherwise he may figure out that he only gets sprayed when you're around.
  • Get scratching posts and place them near your cat's favourite scratching area, near the sofa, near the bed etc. Some kittens and cats love cardboard-type scratching posts too.
  • Whenever he scratches something bad and you are there to see it, say a loud NO with a look of disapproval as soon as it happens. Or use the water bottle. Don't scold 5 minutes after the fact - it's useless - they have a short attention span and will be confused.
  • Make sure that any everyone in your household in your house does these things too.
  • Clip his claws regularly.
  • Once your cat stops the bad behaviour, place the posts where you want them. When you move the posts, get your cat involved in a cheerful way, showing him where you're moving it, maybe give him a treat.
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Urinating / House Soiling
Q Bogie my ten year old male cat has been urinating outside the litter box intermittently for the past 2-3 years. We have taken him to the vet several times for testing and have ruled out any diseases (like crystals in the urine). We therefore have concluded that his problem is behavioural. The problem is that he is seldom caught in the act so a water bottle behaviour modification method will not work. He re-sprays the same spot in the basement but he also urinates in other parts of the house (i.e. in empty toy boxes, on the sofa, on cushions, etc.). What's there to do?
A Your cat's behavioural problem is a tough one to deal with - with lots of effort on your part though, possible to overcome. Here are some tips. If you're already doing some of them, simply continue to do so and incorporate the others.
  • Read the excellent article by Susan Little, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Feline Practice) - A Practical Approach to Feline Houseloiling
  • You can try putting the food where the cat soils for a while, cats dislike that scent where they eat and may stop going there.
  • Clean all spots he voided on. You can get a number of professional products meant specifically for urine stains at a vet's or pet shop. Use a black light for spots that you can't see.
  • Clean and disinfect all loose rugs, clothing, toys etc. that your cat voided on (with very hot water).
  • Clean and disinfect litter box(es). Soak in bathtub and brush. Ensure the boxes are then washed with a regular soap (dish soap) and rinsed well to get rid of all the harsh disinfectant odours.
  • Get a second and third litter box if you only have one. The rule is one box per cat + an extra one. They can be territorial when it comes to litter boxes.
  • Position the litter boxes in quiet places, where there's no traffic, out of the way, convenient for the cats. They like their privacy. Try to place them near or where the cat soils the most.
  • Fill litter boxes with a different type of litter (they usually prefer a loose, fine-textured sand-like clumping litter, some dislike the scented ones). The litter boxes should not be deep and should not have a lid or under-litter liner. When you move the boxes, involve the cats, cheerfully tell them what you're doing (I know it sounds crazy but it's best).
  • Ensure the litter boxes are scooped on a daily basis and cleaned thoroughly with hot water and replaced with fresh litter weekly.
  • After you see the cat urinating in the litter box, you can praise him, kiss him, treat, say 'good', whatever he likes!
  • Play games with him and pay more attention to him than usual - sometimes soiling is a cry for attention (do the same for his sister of course so that she doesn't get jealous).
  • Don't punish your cat when you see another soiled area once in a while unless you catch him in the act - a loud NO usually does the trick. Clean the spot again and eventually, he should stop doing it. Placing furniture or objects over the cleaned spots often helps.
  • You can also purchase a sssCAT, a cat repellent device, to prevent the cat from going in a specific area.

It sounds like a lot of work but it could be well worth it. Once the problem is rectified, another advantage is that you will be able to notice if ever one of your cat is not urinating due to possible medical problems.

Q My roommate and I have two cats. Both are almost two years old. They are wonderful. However, on a few occasions, the one has urinated on my roommate's comforter, jacket, and clean clothes. And it's always her stuff. We've caught the cat in the act every time and can't figure out why she is doing this. Normally she's very well behaved. Both receive a lot of affection when we're home. However, we both work long hours and sometimes aren't home for twelve hours or so. Is it possible for our cat to be suffering from separation anxiety or could there be a health problem?
A Yes to both. The best thing is to get the cat checked by a vet to rule out anything medical. If you rule this out, it is behavioural. Since the cat is always urinating on your roommate's stuff, it may be because your cat does not like your roommate for whatever reason, or wants your roommate to change something. Also, once an object (clothing, carpet, pillow etc.) has been stained with urine, the smell lingers on and the cat keeps on going back there (being attracted by the smell). In this case, removing the scents with a special product needs to be done as well as training the cat to only urinate in the litter box(es). It's unfortunate that the cats spend so much time alone but you can enhance their lives by making sure they can have fun without you. See the fun for kitty page for ideas. Some cats need more attention than others, just make sure you give them lots of love when you are at home.
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Q How do you keep matted fur from happening and how do you get rid of them?
A The only way to prevent mats (and headaches for you and your cat) is to groom your cat at least once a week (if not more) everywhere. This is also a good opportunity to check for skin lesions, bumps etc. It sounds like a lot of work but you do get used to it and so does the cat. Mine look forward to their grooming sessions, because of the way they feel after! If your cat has a lot of mats, the best thing is to get a vet or professional groomer to remove them. Afterwards, you shouldn't have any more problems if you groom your cat regularly. If there are only a few mats, the thing to do is to split them (to relieve pressure from the skin) and then comb them out, upwards. These mats are very painful to cats, it probably won't be easy to get them out. I find the best way to groom them is to put a towel on the couch and put the cat between your legs (more control this way). Start brushing the neck (their favourite), then the head, along the ears, the cheeks (moving the whiskers up/away a bit), the top of the body (gentle along the spine), then the sides (you lie the cat sideways), and then you groom the belly and legs etc. I use a metal comb on my long-haired cats, they seem prefer this type to others.
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Q I just bought some plants, and I was wondering if you could 100% confirm if they are poisonous or not to cats: Golden Pothos; China Doll or radermachera; Arabia Variegated Galaxy or dizygotheca elegantissima; Chia Pet; Majesty Palm; Spathiphyllum w/flowers; and Hawaiian Schefflera. I have been looking at lots of sites to find out if these plants are toxic or not, and I haven't been able to find those listed above on any sites.
A I looked through all my books/literature and did a search on the Internet as well, and I can't find any information that the plants you mention are poisonous. I can't confirm because I haven't done research on these plants myself (nor would I be able to) or know of a great source to confirm this. I suggest that if you do have these plants and they can't be out of reach of your cat(s), keep an eye out for anything odd. You will probably see if they are interested in them or not.
Q I have just purchased a cactus plant. It has no spines, the plant has smooth and rounded, jade colored leaves with a bit of orange around the top rim of each leaf. I do believe its first name begins with Jade... My kitten took a liking to my plant and put his teeth through one of the leaves. Nothing happened, thank goodness, but I was wondering if you knew anything about it.
A I don't know what that plant is. It is poisonous if the cactus has a milky or coloured sap. Keep an eye on your kitten to make sure he's ok. If he goes back to it, maybe you could move it out of reach. I suggest that you grow grass in pots inside your house on a constant basis. They're easy to do - I buy the quick grow grass seeds at Ritchie Feed & Seed, all you need is potting soil and pots, and to water them frequently.
Q We recently purchased a Philodendron Cordatum House plant. I have found out that Philodendrons are poisonous, but is that for all types? Could you also state how they are poisonous to cats, the effects etc.
A Your type of philodendron is poisonous too. The general symptoms of poisoning from this plant are reddening and inflammation of the skin and itchiness, to nervousness, opisthotonos, elevated temperature and trembling. Just ensure you keep it out of reach of your cat, or to not have it at all.
Q I purchased a hydrangea plant and put it on the window, how dangerous is it?
A Dangerous, apparently the major symptoms are seizures, dizziness and rapid breathing. I suppose if it's really out of reach it would be ok but remember that cats may go places we don't know about when we're not around, maybe you shouldn't have one at all.
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Q Today both of my four year old Himalayan kitties walked through a wet floor of oil based paint (forgot to close the doors)! I called the vet and asked if mineral spirits were ok to use on their paws and she said yes as long as I washed their feet with soapy water afterwards. I did just that but it didn't come out all the way, and now I am clipping the hairs after the paint has dried. Little by little I'm doing it. In the meantime, do you know what I can use to remove that fumes from the paint and the thinner? Even though I washed the feet, it still smells. Not a lot, but I'm sure to the cat it is even stronger.
A I suggest another (or several other baths) for their paws. Maybe you can try to keep the cat comfortable while you're doing it by putting it in a pillow case with its head stuck out as well as the paw you're working on... The more you clean, the less they ingest. This is probably a two-person job too. Check that their belly hairs are free of paint. You'll need a bucket with warm soapy water, another one to rinse the paw in and lots of towels to dry. You'll have to put the towels through one or more hot washes, what you use to clean will smell strong and everything else around it. Make sure they always have lots of fresh water to drink and keep an eye on them for a while, to make sure they are ok.
Q My cat has started to lose her hair on her tail and now the tip is starting to bleed. What could have happened? This seems as if this has happened overnight.
A My advice is for you to call your veterinarian and try to visit with your cat asap. It needs to be looked at because it can be due to an accident, something medical, behavioural etc.
Q My cat has been diagnosed with asthma. She's currently on Prednizone. Can you give me any helpful hints to ease her discomfort.
A I don't know very much about asthma but since you saw your veterinarian and it's under control, my only suggestions would be to not smoke around your cat (if you do) and to ensure your cat has a shelf or place to perch near windows (cracked open) for fresh air whenever she needs it. Maybe you can purchase a good air purifier too.
Q Lately my cat has been vomiting up all her food (for the past 3 days) and we are trying to feed her only little at a time which results in her wolfing down what we give her. I have found complete pieces of food in her vomit, which proves she is starving and isn't even chewing her food. Is this because of a hairball? I have heard that a cat will vomit a lot before actually coughing up a hairball. Is there any truth to this? And is there any way to help her not get these hairballs?
A It's normal for cats to vomit once in a while but when it's all of a sudden like this (and going on for three days) I think it's best to check with your veterinarian, she could even have gum disease or problems with her teeth. It could be caused by the cat ingesting something it shouldn't have or it could be medical. If it's a hairball (and to lessen them in the future) there are great products like Hairball Remedy sold at pet stores and veterinarinary offices. You usually give this to your cat once a week to prevent or lessen hairballs and its discomfort.
Q I have a question about my cat, her nose has changed color and I was wondering if that can be serious? It was pinkish but now it's white. Just doesn't seem right.
A Apparently it could be completely normal due to pigment or it could be a sign of anemia or some other medical condition. The best thing is to check with your own veterinarian and bring your cat in for a check-up.
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Q How can you tell the differences between a female or male kitten?
A To tell the difference between a female and male kitten, look at the kitten's genital area - a female will have a slit running vertically and a male will have a round opening, testicles may be visible by two months. Remember, if you get a new kitten, make sure it gets a full check-up and booster vaccinations.
Q I would like to get some information of pet suppliers wholesale, I spend a lot of money on my cats, buying food at PetMart. I feed about 30 cats!
A see these search results for "pet supplies wholesale" from Google.
Q How many cat years in one human year?
A One human year equals approximately 18 cat days! See the How old is your cat compared to you? page.
Q I am going to be adopting a three year old female cat from someone that is moving. I don't know her history and want to ensure she has all her vaccinations. She will be an indoor cat. What do you recommend? Are there annual shots she should receive thereafter? Do you know what the standard vaccinations are that a cat needs to receive? The same ones annually?
A I recommend you get your new cat to a veterinarian's soon for a complete check-up and vaccinations if they think it is needed. Afterwards, you only need to go once a year for a check-up and vaccinations. Congratulations on having her be an indoor cat. My cats usually get the Annual Health Exam/FVRCP and Rabies Immunization and/or FeLV Immunization. Depending on the year, your veterinarian will know exactly what your cat needs. Vaccinations depend a lot on where you live and what problems (viruses/diseases/coyotes etc.) are lurking around in your area. If you don't already have one, you should get a cat carrier for when you take your cat to the vet's. Put a t-shirt with your scent on it (not clean) in the carrier. Having your scent around will be reassuring to your cat.
Q I'm interested in finding out if I can bring another cat into my home. I have a tabby who stays home alone a lot and I want her to have a friend to hang with. I'm not sure if it's a good idea to introduce another into her domain or whether it would be advisable to do so. If so, should the new cat be an adult or a kitten? Luna is three years old now and I've had her since she was 6-7 weeks old. She's an indoor-outdoor cat.
A It may be a good idea. Cats do get lonely. If you do, I suggest you get a male cat since you have a female, they tend to get along better. More so if the male cat is smaller than Luna. When it happens, you should give lots of extra attention to Luna - just to make sure she doesn't feel like she's being replaced or loved less. Let her know often that another cat friend is coming (sounds crazy but it worked for me). When Tisha came to live with us, Pashu was not at all surprised - toys were scattered all over the place in anticipation of her arrival, I had been telling him that he was going to get a new cat friend to play with.
Q I have a boy and girl and about a month ago, they mated constantly for three days straight. We wanted her to have babies. Anyway, I can't tell if she is pregnant or not. Her nipples are growing and protruding a bit and she is really affectionate. (She is a very loving cat). Does it sound like she is pregnant?
A She should go to the vet for a check-up. It sounds like she may be pregnant.
Q I was taking care of a friend's female spayed cat for 4 weeks. I took many precautions during her stay such as covering all sofas/chairs with bed sheets, and never allowing her access to my bedroom. I kept her litter and litter area clean (inside a ceramic floor closet). After she left, I discarded the sheets, and washed all my floor mats/area rugs. I swept and mopped my floors too (I don't have carpeting). Then I took a rag and cleaned all low surfaces, walls and table/chair legs (because she grazed against them so often) with some ammonia cleaner. Even after all of this, people who come to my home that have cat allergies still have a reaction, and some have said my home smells like a pet even though she has been gone for a month. Please tell me what I can do and where I should target to get rid of the smell, and the mites or dander causing allergies.
A Sorry to hear the troubles you are having due to your furry visitor. Sounds to me like you did all the right things. I have no other suggestions short of having the house ducts cleaned. Eventually the vacuuming should get rid of all the dander etc. Ensure you open all your windows while you are cleaning, and that you target all hidden corners high and low.
Q My son has bought home a stray 6-8 week old kitty which he intends to keep. He has managed to keep it hidden for almost 2 weeks now (and taken it to the vet) but we are wondering if there is any information on how to potty train a cat. Have you got anything?
A Here is a link to check out (assuming that by potty training you mean for the cat to go on the toilet): www.edork.com/TopicToday/PottyTraining/introduction.asp

Otherwise, a few litter boxes placed in quiet areas of the house will do. Simply show the cat where the litter boxes are.

Q Just became aware of the FUR-L and FELINE-L organization. Is there any info you can send me about this group?
A Here is the info you requested about FUR-L and FELINE-L, the newsgroups I followed where I eventually got a beautiful cat (Tisha) sent to me from Pennsylvania to Ottawa this way via the FUR group, part of FELINE-L. Both these lists are owned by Bill Gorman, to subscribe:
  • FUR-L is an organization point for transporting cats in need of rescue and rehoming across the country. "FUR" is an acronym for "Feline Underground Railroad".
    Send an email to: listserv@psuvm.psu.edu
    Subject: subscribe FUR-L your name

  • FELINE-L is a general purpose mailing list for cat owners. This is a high volume list.
    Send an email to: listserv@psuvm.psu.edu
    Subject: subscribe FELINE-L your name

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