By Sam Mazzotta
DEAR PAW’S CORNER: I recently adopted a stray cat. “Missy” is a year and a half old and weighed only five pounds when we got her. She was so thin we could feel all her little bones. She’s received her shots, and once she gains weight, she will be spayed. My question is, Missy is a little snippy. She’ll bite or scratch. Otherwise, she’s a nice cat. How can I get her to stop the biting and scratching?
— Sally S., York, NY
DEAR SALLY: Missy’s biting and scratching — usually when you reach out to pet her, I’m sure — is a legacy of her past. It’s clear that she had a tough time and was very stressed out before you found her.
Right now, Missy is adjusting to a new life and a new role as a member of your family. That’s a brand-new kind of stress. If Missy could talk, she might ask herself, who are these new “parents”? How will they treat me? When a hand reaches for me, what is going to happen?
For the next few months, avoid sudden moves around Missy as much as possible. When you reach out to pet her, play “meet me halfway”: Hold your hand out several inches away from Missy and call to her. Most cats will approach, sniff your hand and then rub their whiskers against it. From there, usually you can scratch Missy’s ears.
To help ease her transition to her new life, talk to Missy’s veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication. Herbal remedies are also available that might help. But mostly, continue to give her lots of love and time — two of nature’s best medicines.