Cats were domesticated by humans thousands of years ago. Through this process, they have become totally dependent on us to meet their daily needs and to protect them from harm. Because we have socialized them to live with human families, they require regular attention and love in addition to the basics of food, water, shelter, and health care. The quality of your relationship with your cat depends on you meeting all of his or her needs, such as:
Food and Water. Kittens (up to one year old) should be fed three to four times throughout the day. Adults (one year and up) should be fed once or twice a day. Feed only brand-name cat food formulated for your cat’s age, and follow your veterinarian’s advice as to the amount to feed your cat. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. Do not feed: generic cat food, table scraps, dog food, bones, raw fish, or milk (which can cause diarrhea).
Litter Box Training. Place the cat’s litter box in a low traffic, low noise area, separate from the food and water dishes. Show your kitten or cat where it is located a few times. Keep the box clean by scooping out the waste daily and changing the litter every few days. Use mild detergents to clean the box. NOTE: any urinating or defecating outside of the box could be a sign of a serious health or behavior problem. If this happens, do not get angry with your cat–call your veterinarian or an animal shelter for advice.
Health Care. Take your new kitten or cat to the veterinarian right away. Your vet will give your cat a complete physical as well as all of the necessary inoculations that will protect your cat from a variety of life-threatening feline diseases. Thereafter, an annual visit for a complete check-up and shots are necessary. In the event of an injury or other health problem, seek the advice and care of a veterinarian immediately.
Outdoor Dangers. All cats and kittens should be kept indoors at all times. Cats allowed to roam outside are not “free”–they are in great danger from cars, other animals, poisons, excessive heat and cold, and abusive people, to name but a few. Furthermore, make sure that all windows in your home are securely screened so that your cat cannot slip out or fall from great heights.
Supervision. All cats need socialization and supervision–kittens more so than adult cats. “Pet proof” your home by keeping all household cleaners, electrical cords, garbage, and breakable objects safely away from your cat. Also, many common household plants are poisonous to your cat. You may obtain a free list of these plants from The Anti-Cruelty Society.
Spaying and Neutering. Cats have no emotional or physical need to reproduce, and therefore should be spayed or neutered. These simple, routine operations can be safely performed from as early as eight weeks of age. In addition to ensuring that your cat cannot reproduce (thereby adding to the severe overpopulation problem), spaying and neutering also help prevent certain common cancers and may help to alleviate some behavior problems.
Identification. All cats should wear a collar and name tag at all times. Make sure the collar is not too loose or too tight, and remember to adjust or change the collar as the animal grows. Even though cats who live indoors are far less likely to get lost, they may accidentally get outdoors. If this happens, a name tag may help them if they are found in time by a responsible person. Another form of identification you may consider is the microchip. With this method, a tiny microchip is injected just under your cat=s skin. For the life of your pet, the information on this chip can be read by animal welfare agencies using a special scanner.
Scratching. Cats need and use their nails for exercise, fun, and agility. Before declawing is considered, try teaching your cat to use a scratching post. Furthermore, trim the nails on all four paws every few weeks. If you would like more information on scratching posts or cat scratching, you may contact The Anti-Cruelty Society.
Grooming. Cats clean themselves by licking their fur. In the process, however, they swallow a lot of hair which can cause hairballs. Regular brushing will help to prevent these and will keep their coat clean and shiny. Baths are not recommended, but, if necessary, use only a shampoo formulated especially for cats. Check your cat’s teeth and gums every couple of weeks. Clean teeth with cotton, gauze, or a small toothbrush soaked in baking soda and water. This will help prevent tartar build-up. Furthermore, check your cat’s ears for excessive wax build-up or infection.
Exercise and Play. Cats and kittens can get plenty of exercise safely inside the home. Scratching posts, paper bags, boxes, catnip toys, and rubber balls (large enough so they cannot be swallowed) are safe. Avoid small, sharp objects as well as string or yarn (which cats can swallow and choke on).
Bedding. Provide your kitten or cat with its own bed away from heavy traffic areas. Remember, cats and kittens take frequent naps throughout the day and should not be disturbed. Because they are nocturnal animals, they may be active during the evening and night time hours.
Transportation. Always transport your cat or kitten in a pet carrier for safety and security. Holding your cat in your arms outside the home or in the car can lead to your cat getting loose. Cats that are loose in a car may get under the driver’s feet and cause an accident.