DEAR JOAN: In a couple of weeks we will be moving from our house in Berkeley to an apartment in Pleasanton, and taking Danny Mo, our beloved cat, of course.
Mo came to us as a starving stray in 2008. He was so small and skinny we thought he was a female kitten maybe 8 or 10 months old. Turns out he was a 6- to 8-year-old male, fixed and declawed in some earlier life. It took him awhile to start coming in off the deck into the house and then finally to admit he lived with us.
Because his gums were badly infected, we had to have all his teeth removed, but he still enjoys kibble and the occasional wet food. We have a cat door so he can roam around our yard, and he never goes far, but we have never had a litter box for him, either.
The question is, what can we do to make this radical move as easy as possible for Danny Mo? Our apartment is set back from the road so we think if we are home he can probably be outside, but we don't feel like we can leave him outside while we're gone, or even let him out at night as there are raccoons around. The cat door isn't an option in the apartment anyway.
Is there a certain kind of litter box you would recommend for a kitty who's not used to using one? Any special things we can do to make his adjustment happier? He is fairly skittish by nature -- no wonder -- but has indicated he likes to be with us, just not to be held a lot. We are taking his blankets and favorite chairs, and may buy him a low cat tower as it is hard for him to climb with no claws.
DEAR ELAINE: A declawed, toothless cat is in great danger being outside. They have limited defenses and, as you noted, it's difficult for them to climb. Danny Mo will probably be much happier and safer indoors.
Cats, especially when stressed, seek out small, cozy and safe places. I'd introduce Danny Mo to the apartment in stages.
Prepare a place for him in one room, with his familiar items and the new litter box. Let him out to get his food, then put him back in the room. Don't isolate him, just give him a chance to explore his new home in small bites over the course of a few days. Eventually he should feel right at home.
Most cats "get" the litter box. I'd start with a basic box that is big enough so that his rump doesn't hang over, and I'd use an unscented litter.
You may need to be patient with him, but chances are good he'll take to it right away.
Good luck with the transition, and let me know how it goes.
DEAR JOAN: We discovered a black widow spider in our doghouse. How can we get rid of it and prevent a repeat appearance without endangering our dogs?
DEAR KAREN: Black widow spiders can be of concern, although the dogs and spider probably been living in harmony for a while. Like most spiders, black widows prefer quiet, undisturbed places, so by simply sweeping down the webs every day, the spider will soon decide to move on.
If you want immediate eviction, then use a vacuum with a hose and nozzle, and suck it out of its corner. Then maintain the house, keeping it free of webs.
There is no natural repellent that I'm aware of, and the use of pesticides could be a bigger threat to your dogs than the spider.