Caring for your Cat
CAT CARE #1 - Diet
Cats should be fed a complete, balanced, good quality meat-based diet; they are not meant to be vegetarians. A vegetarian lifestyle can lead to fatal health issues down the track.
Cats generally don’t need to drink lots every day. However, always ensure fresh, clean drinking water is available at all times. This is best placed away from their food, as cats generally prefer not to eat and drink in the same place.
CAT CARE #2 - Play
Keeping your cat amused with toys can help to keep them happy, provide good exercise and strengthen your bond with your cat. Toys don’t have to be expensive. A cardboard box with holes cut into it provides a fun hiding place. Even a ball of tin foil makes a perfectly adequate toy, as long as the cat can’t swallow it.
Older cats will love playing three or four times a day, while younger cats will be happy to play ten times a day or more. Swap toys around regularly to keep them interesting, but don’t leave your cat unattended with toys which can be swallowed or cause entanglement.
CAT CARE #3 – Safe place to hide
It is important to provide your cat with a place to hide which will help to make them feel safe and secure. There are many things that can cause a cat to feel anxious or fearful, such as fireworks, building work in the house, unfamiliar visitors or conflict with other cats. A hiding place can be something as simple as a cardboard box on its side, an igloo style cat bed, a space under the bed, or in a wardrobe with the door left ajar. The cat shouldn’t be disturbed while they are in their hiding place.
CAT CARE #4 – Vantage point
Cats feel safer if they can view their surroundings from a height. This is another important coping mechanism for cats that feel anxious or fearful. You could place a cosy blanket on top of a wardrobe and provide access by placing a stool or similar item next to it. Cats also love to sit on window sills and shelves. Extra consideration should be given to elderly cats, as they will have more difficulty reaching higher vantage points.
CAT CARE #5 – Sleeping
On average, cats spend about 16 hours a day sleeping. Cats generally rest or sleep intermittently throughout the day and will prefer to sleep in a warm, comfortable and safe place. There are a range of cat beds available, such as igloo beds or hammocks for the radiator, or you could simply provide a cardboard box on its side with a soft blanket inside. Cats often rotate their preferred sleeping area and they shouldn’t be disturbed when sleeping.
CAT CARE #6 – Scratching
Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats and shouldn’t be discouraged. They simply need to be provided with options to scratch away! A scratching post will provide exercise, claw maintenance and a focal point for your cat to express this natural behaviour – it will definitely help to protect your furniture too. Cats like to stretch and scratch after they wake up so try placing the scratch post near where they sleep.
CAT CARE #7 – Eating grass
Many cats like to eat grass, which may help to clear furballs. Cat grass can be grown indoors and seeds are usually readily available from garden centres and pet shops. If no grass is provided, your cat may try to eat other household plants which may pose a risk as some plants are actually toxic for cats.
CAT CARE #8 – Toilet habits
Being clean creatures, cats don’t like using dirty or soiled trays, so make sure the litter tray is cleaned at least once a day. If using clumping litter you can remove solids once or twice daily. With some other types of litter, you may need to replace all the litter on a daily basis.
CAT CARE #9 – Grooming
Cats are very clean animals and like to groom themselves, but sometimes they may need a little help. Long-haired cats should be brushed daily to stop their coat becoming tangled. If they are not regularly groomed fur can become matted and uncomfortable. Short-haired cats will probably only need to be groomed once a week. Older cats may struggle to look after their coats and require gentle grooming to help to keep their skin healthy. Grooming also gives you some valuable bonding time with your cat.
CAT CARE #10 – Fleas and ticks
Fleas are very common in cats but can be hard to spot. It’s advisable to consider treating your cat regularly for fleas, whether they have them or not, as it is far harder to deal with an infestation than to prevent one. Many different flea treatments are available and the most effective products to treat and prevent fleas are available from your vet, so seek their advice. Never use a dog flea treatment on your cat as some can be rapidly fatal so don’t let your cat come into contact with a dog that has been treated for fleas until the product has dried.
CAT CARE #11 – Worms
Cats can become infected with various internal worms. There are many different treatments available and your vet will be able to advise you about how often to de-worm your cat and the most suitable, effective product to use, which may depend on your cat’s lifestyle.
CAT CARE #12 – Dental care
Dental disease is quite common in cats, especially as they get older. You should get your cat’s teeth regularly checked by your vet. Many cats do not show obvious discomfort, although signs of dental disease may include:
- reduced appetite
- halitosis (bad breath)
- dropping food or difficulty in eating
- blood-tinged saliva or drooling
- unusual face rubbing or pawing at the mouth
- behavioural changes, such as becoming quieter or more aggressive
- reduced grooming
- sneezing, nasal discharge or facial swelling
Dental disease can be painful and seriously affect your cat’s health and welfare. Bacteria can enter the cat’s bloodstream and affect its heart and kidneys. Consult your vet for more advice.