Basic Cat Needs

White cat sleeps under white comforter

Housing

The only accommodation a cat really needs in the house is a good bed which may be any comfortable chair, box or basket. Igloos or beds can be purchased for your cat but quite often these are ignored, and a spot on your bed or favourite chair is preferred.

If you decide that your cat will have access to outside, ensure that a cat door is fitted to an external door of the house, to enable access to the house at all times. Some cat doors are magnetically operated, which allows your cat to enter the house but prevents the unwanted intrusion of other cats. The “modular park” cage system is an excellent and safe way for cats living in flats or near busy roads to be outdoors and have exercise.

Nutrition

Cats require a high protein/high fat diet, which can be difficult to prepare yourself. Cats often become fussy eaters, which leads to diet deficiency diseases.

The rules are:

  • Choose a complete diet, with variety;
  • Feed little and often;
  • Don’t leave excess food in bowl;
  • See that feed bowls are scrupulously clean;
  • Do not feed liver as a major dietary component as it may causes skeletal problems;
  • Do not feed raw meat as the sole diet as this can also cause skeletal problems;
  • Do not feed dog food to a cat.

Most canned cat food is specially prepared with added vitamins and minerals. Feeding dried foods requires access to drinking water at all times, without which the cat may develop a urinary tract problem.

Cats should have ready access to a plentiful supply of clean fresh water. Milk should be avoided as milk lactose is indigestible to most cats and may lead to diarrhoea.

Scratching Poles

Cats use their claws for climbing and for defence and usually keep them in immaculate condition. Cats may often sharpen their claws on a tree in the garden, but some select furniture in the house and the resultant damage can be severe. It is best to provide a scratching post or cat tree for your cat and you should place this near its usual exit from the house. The most interesting scratching posts are those which have different kinds of surfaces. Make sure the post or tree is tall enough to that your cat can reach upwards with its front paws – above its head – and still have room to stretch and grab. If the tree is too short, it may decide to use taller furniture.

Litter Trays

Cats are the most fastidious of animals and are easily housetrained to use a litter tray. There are many different styles of boxes and types of litter. Litter choices include dry earth, recycled paper, sand, clumping, clay and natural litter pellets. Cats have an undeniable preference when it comes to which litter they would prefer to use. Be prepared to trial a few, and once your cat is happy, do not change it.

Litter box placement if very important. It should be in a place where your cat can get to it without difficulty and where you can get to it easily to scoop and clean. Most cats do not like to be exposed whilst toileting and some can be quite shy and require privacy. An easy to reach but discreet corner is often the best option. Cats are creatures of habit and dislike change – once your cat is used to the location of the litter box, changing it can be difficult.

Keeping the litter box clean is of utmost importance. More cats have accidents because their box is dirty than for any other reason. Keeping the box clean is much easier than trying to retrain a cat who has decided that her box is filthy and refuses to use it. A litter tray should be scooped at least once a day, and should be completely emptied of litter and thoroughly washed on a regular basis.

Exercise and Play

Whilst cats are not nearly as active as dogs, it is important that they have the opportunity to exercise. Exercise will keep your cat’s body healthy, its mind sharp and will keep it out of trouble. Many cats will run laps around the house, up and over the furniture, around the dining room table and off the walls when they need exercise. If you have an appropriate outside area, allow your cat to exercise in the garden during the day but ensure that they are safely indoors at night.

Play is an important part in keeping your cat active and happy. Provide your cat with a variety of toys and rotate them on a regular basis to ensure that your cat is constantly stimulated. Leave some small toys, such as a little ball or a furry mouse, around for your cat to play with at any time. Take time each day to interact and play with your cat.

Grooming

Regular combing and brushing of long-haired cats is essential and most owners find that this is a daily requirement. Shorthaired cats are able to groom themselves except at moulting time when assistance from the owner by daily brushing is necessary. It may also be occasionally necessary to bathe your cat. Most cats are frightened of being bathed so great care must be taken.

When cats swallow hair it can result in the formation of a hair mass in the stomach known as a “fur ball.” During the moulting season it may be necessary to give a teaspoonful of paraffin oil mixed with food to help eliminate fur balls.

Boarding

At holiday time it may be possible to arrange for a friend, neighbour, or relative to visit your house two or three times a day to tend to your cat. Provided such regular attention is guaranteed this is acceptable since cats prefer to remain in their own home. It is not a good idea to move the cat to someone else’s home from which it may immediately try to escape.

The alternative is to place your cat at a good boarding cattery. In choosing a boarding cattery make sure you visit the establishment first and check that the following criteria are met:

  • Staffing: enough to ensure personalised attention for your cat;
  • Security: adequate precautions against the possibility of escape;
  • Hygiene: evidence of cleanliness and no smell;
  • Accommodation: dry, clean and sheltered, with heating provided for cooler months;
  • Exercise: facilities which allow for some exercise, preferably with climbing capacity and caged outside access.

A good boarding establishment will always ensure cats have correct vaccinations.

Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash

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