Pet World: Give cats space they need to adjust to new home
Sunday, September 20, 2020

Photo by Khanh Nguyen

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency

Dear Cathy,
We adopted a two-year-old cat. She was captured as a stray and spayed. She is very social with people. We were told she "hates" other cats but is okay with dogs. We have a 13-year-old male dog who is totally complacent about everything. The cat has started to lay her ears back, meow annoyance, and chase him from wherever she doesn't wish him to be. Thus far, our corrections have been clapping hands with a displeased tone of voice. She will exit the situation but will repeat the behavior later. I've also sprayed pheromones around sleeping areas and tried calming cat treats.
I'm getting the sense she does not want to share us or her space. I would appreciate any suggestions to curtail her behavior. A can of coins or noise correction would freak out our old dog. 
-Regina, Northampton,  Pennsylvania
Dear Regina,
It's always a transition when a new pet enters a home with other pets. Your new cat has to establish her space to feel safe, and your dog may have to give up some of his usual territory to achieve harmony.
You are doing all the right things with the pheromones, and it's okay to correct her with the hand clapping when she is chasing the dog. As long as she is not attacking the dog (or anyone in the household), let her vocalize and express her anxieties without repercussions. Talk softly to her, but don't touch her when she is stressed. Wait for her to come to you. Make sure she has plenty of places to hide, like inside baskets, boxes, closets, or under the bed, since this adds to her feelings of well-being. Keep up with the pheromone spray but add a pheromone collar for her to wear.
I think she will adjust without much interference. Her and the dog may not be best friends, but they will work out their spaces in the home eventually.
Dear Cathy,
We recently adopted a one-year-old female Yorkipoo. She has a great personality and loves to play. The problem is we cannot housebreak her. When we got her, we thought this would be a temporary situation but have since learned the previous owner permitted her to eliminate in the house. We have her peeing on paper but continue to try to transition her to outside. I take her out right after she eats in the morning and evening, but she does nothing for over an hour. As soon as I bring her in, she will go. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated. 
-Dan Smithtown, New York
Dear Dan,
A lot of little dog owners allow their dogs to eliminate in the house. These dogs are capable of learning to go outside to relieve themselves and can "hold it," as you have discovered in reverse when she is outside.
Changing this behavior requires dedication. Get a black light (available from most pet stores) to see where she has been eliminating in your home. Then get an enzymatic cleaner from the pet store to clean those areas of the floor or carpet to remove any traces of waste. When you're not home, restrict her to a bathroom, so she only has one approved place to relieve herself. Then keep that bathroom door closed when you're home, so she can't go in there to use it.
Next, start clicker training. Ask her to "sit." When she does, click (to mark the correct behavior) and give her a treat. Repeat this command and teach her a few more commands, like "down" or "come," over the next few weeks until you feel she really understands that the clicker means she did something right. When you get to that point, take her outside to relieve herself (after sleeping, playing, or eating). If she eliminates, say "go potty" as she does, then click to mark the behavior, and give her a treat. If she doesn't eliminate after about 20 minutes, take her back inside. Be ready. 
As soon as she starts to eliminate in the house, say "no" and take her back outside. If she relieves herself outside, repeat the steps above. If she doesn't, take her back in the house and repeat the steps above if she starts to eliminate.
It's a bit exhausting, I know, but if you are consistent and persistent now, you will teach her that she needs to "hold it" in the house and eliminate outside for her remaining years with you.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to  Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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