Cats make great pets and are relatively low maintenance, but they still require some special treatment and care. Cats, like all animals, come with basic care instructions regarding feeding, grooming, housing and training. If you want to raise a fun, loveable, smart and healthy cat, refer to these basic care tips at every stage of your cat’s life.
Basic Cat Care Tips
Every kitten is different, but your veterinarian can help you find the best food for its breed, size, activity level and age. He or she can also help you decide how much your kitten should eat to maintain the best possible health. Some considerations to make when feeding your kitten include:
- Tourine: Cats need tourine, which is an essential amino acid for eye and heart health. The best cat foods contain all the fundamental ingredients that your cat or kitten needs at every stage of their life.
- Water: Cats need fresh, clean water at least twice daily.
- Treats: While treats are great for teaching your cat tricks and training them, they should really only be 5-10 percent apart of their diet.
- Baby Food: If you want to feed you cat or kitten baby food, make sure that the baby food doesn’t contain any garlic, onion or garlic powder, all of which are bad for cats.
- Visit the Vet: Always consult with a veterinarian if your cat shows signs of diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia or lethargy.
Also, make sure that her food bowl is placed far away from her litter box, as cats—like most animals—do not enjoy eating where they defecate.
Spaying and Neutering
Female cats that still have their reproductive organs howl and become restless during heat, and are at a greater risk for mammary cancer. Male cats that are not neutered are aggressive and tend to spray urine. For these reasons, you should always opt to spay or neuter your cat unless you plan to enroll them in a breeding program.
If you adopt a kitten, wait at least six months before having the procedure performed. However, some veterinarians suggest having the surgery done earlier in life; talk with your veterinarian to see what they recommend.
Though cats don’t require an enclosed space as other small animals such as rabbits do, they still need their own place within your home to go to for peace and quiet. Get your cat her own bed, and line it with soft, warm blankets. Wash her bedding often. Keep your cat indoors at all times, if possible. Though there can be perks to having an indoor-outdoor cat, outdoor cats don’t live nearly as long as indoor cats do, as they are susceptible to ticks and fleas, both of which carry infectious diseases. They also risk falling prey to neighboring dogs, coyotes, foxes and other predators.
If you do allow your cat to wander outdoors, make sure that she has a collar with an ID tag on it. The collar should have an elastic panel that will allow you cat to wriggle loose if her collar should become caught on something. The tag should not only include your cat’s name, but also, it should include your name and contact information.
Microchips are a new and safe option for cats, as they include all of your contact information without the risks that come with collars.
Cats are able to groom themselves, so they stay relatively clean without needing baths. However, you should still brush your cat regularly to ensure that her coat is free of tangles. Combing her will also reduce the amount of shedding and can significantly cut down on hairballs.
If you bring a kitten home, establish a grooming routine early on. Bathe and brush her regularly, and trim her nails often to prevent scratching. If you instate these pet care tips right away, she will grow used to them and not fight you as she grows older.
If you plan on your cat being a strictly indoor cat, she will need a litter box in a private but easily accessible area. If you have multiple floors in your home, you should ideally have a litter box on each floor. Once you establish a place for your cat’s litter box, try not to move it around. Cats become accustomed to going in the bathroom in the same place each time, so if you move her box around, she may just go where her box used to be. If this happens, you would need to clean the area with a special cleaning solution in order to get rid of any traces of her urine or feces, otherwise you may have an ongoing problem.
Clean your cat’s box daily, as cats will refuse to use a messy litter box. Scoop solid chunks of litter and waste every day, and dump the entire box once a week. Clean it with a mild detergent, and then fill with fresh, clean litter. Do not buy litter with ammonia, deodorants or any other scents.
Scratching is a normal behavior for cats, so if you want to keep your furniture and carpets in good condition, get your cat a scratching post. Cats have different preferences for what they like to scratch though, so wait until you’ve learned their preferred materials and orientation before going out and purchasing a post. For instance, if your cat likes to scratch furniture, a vertical scratching post would be your best bet. However, if your cat tends to scratch at your carpet, a horizontal post or log would be a great choice for them. Once you’ve purchase a suitable post, introduce your cat to it and reward her with treats when she uses it.
When you first adopt your cat—whether it is a kitten or an adult cat—take them to the feline vet right away. Your vet can screen for any potential health issues as well as advise you on what vaccinations your cat needs to live a long, healthy life, what parasite control methods you should implement and what type of food to work into her diet. If you have other cats at home, it is not recommended to introduce them to the new cat until any potential contagions are ruled out. If your new cat doesn’t have a known health history, your vet will likely run tests to ensure she is disease free. Though a knowledgeable vet knows which tests to run, make sure that he or she at least runs tests for feline leukemia virus (FelV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Also ask your vet to check for internal and external parasites.
Vaccines are just as important for your pets as they are for people, as they protect your cat from deadly infectious diseases. Your veterinarian will place your cat on a vaccine schedule, which you should strictly adhere to.
Entertainment and Training
Cats are naturally playful animals, so make sure that you cat has plenty of entertainment and physical and mental stimulation. Provide her with a scratching post, as well as some simple toys such as Ping-Pong balls and paper bags. Rotate her toys to ensure that she never grows bored.
When playing with your cat, try to teach her how to do fun tricks. This will not only be entertaining for her, but also, it can strengthen the bond you share with your kitten.
Owning a cat can be a lot of fun, but when you implement these pet care tips, it can be even more so. If you are thinking about adopting a kitten, bookmark this page and share it on social media so that you can find it more easily when it’s finally time to take home your new pet. For ongoing tips for caring for your kitten at every stage of her life, subscribe to our email newsletter; include your cat’s age and details regarding its breed for reminders about when it’s time to visit the United Veterinary Center.