"A home with a cat needs no art" - Japanese Proverb
Cat care is not hard! Cats make great pets. They have the softest fur - cuddling and petting your furry cat-friend can help reduce stress by releasing happy endorphins in your brain. Felines are a fine-tuned grooming machine because licking their fur distributes natural oils around the coat. Their rough-surfaced tongue, sharp teeth, comb-like paws, and forepaws help with grooming.
On average, a cat spends nearly 2.5 hours licking its fur every day. They are low maintenance, independent, and will keep your house and yard free of rodents. The lifetime resources needed to feed a cat have a smaller carbon footprint than dogs, so that makes them an eco-friendly pet choice!
A cute fluffy kitten soon becomes an adult cat that will be part of your family for many years. Cat care will include providing food, water, litter, regular grooming, exercise, play, veterinarian check-ups, vaccinations, flea control, heartworm prevention, and the decision to spay or neuter. And the nice thing about cats, is there are so many cat breeds and personalities to choose from!
With a lot of patience, dedication, and time many cats can live peacefully with dogs. It's best to introduce them when they are both young, and the time involved might be just a few weeks. However, it generally will take several months.
Why, When, and How Do Cats Purr?
Cats purr when content, nervous, worried, or hurting. Purring helps with mother-to-kitten bonding. Research has shown that cat muscles move the vocal cords and as they breathe in and out, the air hits the vibrating muscles, which creates the purring sound. Purring is a soft buzzing sound, similar to a rolled "r" that is low in tone and sounds slightly like a rumble.
Most species of wildcats can purr, including the cheetah. Big cats, like a lion, tiger, jaguar, and leopard have voice boxes that are modified so that they can roar. Cats that purr can't roar, and cats that roar can't purr because of the small bone found inside the vocal cords, which in roaring cats, is a flexible bone. Cats have about 16 sounds including meows, hisses, and shrieks to show aggression.
Pet behavior counselor and veterinarian Francesca Riccomini says: "Most cats do purr, although the readiness with which they offer this behaviour varies, as does the volume and intensity of the sound. However, some cats never purr at all. If your cat doesn't purr it doesn't mean his life is lacking in any way, that he is unhappy, or has endured any emotional trauma."
A very important part of cat care is the litter box. The most common reason adult cats are brought to shelters is for unresolved litter box problems. Make sure that it's large enough for your cat to be comfortable. Use a good quality cat litter for odor control that is easy to clean.
Place the litter box in a quiet private area that your cat likes to frequent, and if you have multiple cats provide at the very least 1 litter box for each cat. If your cat is a senior he may appreciate a litter box with low walls to climb in and out.
Some cats prefer more privacy and do better with a covered litter box. A home with several stories should have a litter box on each floor. Clean feces from the litter box daily.
How often should you wash a litter box?
You should do a deep clean every 2-3 weeks. Empty out the litter. Use a combination of dish soap, warm water, and vinegar to clean the box. Do not use bleach! It can be dangerous because cat urine smells like ammonia, and bleach and ammonia do not mix well due to it releasing a very pungent smell when chloramine gas is released. This can cause watery eyes, coughing, runny nose, and chest congestion.
Use paper towels to wipe the box dry. After the box is completely dry, put fresh litter in. Regular washing will prevent the material of your litter box from absorbing cat odors, and you won't have to buy a new litter box as often.
Why is my cat urinating outside of the litter box?
Urinating outside the litter box is known as inappropriate urination. Inappropriate urination can be a behavioral problem or have a physical cause. If your cat is urinating outside the litter box, have your veterinarian perform an examination to eliminate the possibility of a medical problem or physical illness.
Cats are clean animals. Urinating outside the litter box is usually a sign that there is something wrong with either the cat or the litter box. A common physical problem causing inappropriate urination is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), but can also be caused by bladder stones, urinary tract infections, or diabetes. Physical problems can be life-threatening if not treated right away.
Spay or neuter your cat. This may solve the urinating problems in just a few months. Avoid ammonia-based products to clean because they smell like urine, and will encourage your cat to urinate in the same spot again. If you want to clean urine marks and odor, put equal parts of white vinegar and water, with a bit of dish soap into a spray bottle. This is inexpensive and it works.
Gently place your kitten inside the new litter box and allow him to sniff its contents and walk around. If he doesn't start pawing at the litter, take a paw and tenderly move it through the litter.
Continue to set your kitty inside the litter box after he wakes up from napping, after playing, and after meals or drinking water. If you notice your cat sniffing around, digging, or you think he has to go potty, pick him up and place him in the litter box.
After your kitty goes potty or urinates praise with words and a treat. Scoop out feces as soon as you see it and put in some more fresh litter.
Never punish your cat for accidents. Don't scold - just clean up the solid waste with a paper towel and clean the area with equal parts white vinegar and water, with a little bit of dish soap. This mixture will prevent your kitty from going in the same place.
To cats, the odor of their food is particularly important, and they prefer their food to be around body temperature when they consume it. Glass or ceramic bowls do not absorb externals odors and are the best choice for feeding. They also like to be able to see their surroundings when they eat and not backed into a corner.
Cats naturally prefer grazing on small meals so a dry cat chow with free feeding is a popular choice. Protein and fats are the tastiest types of food for cats, and they much prefer the texture of meat to anything else. You can also have set mealtimes when you feed your cat moist food.
Feed your cat premium cat food. High-quality cat foods meeting AAFCO cat food standards will make sure that your cat gets a balanced diet with the right nutrients.
If you make a change to your cat's diet, do it as gradually as possible. Many cats are fussy eaters, so introducing new food has to be done gradually. The best way to transition your cat to a new food is to do it slowly by combining your new food with the old food, and gradually changing the ratio of new food to old over a period of 7 days. It may take longer so be patient.
How to Transition to New Cat Food
If at any time during the transition your cat has symptoms of an upset stomach, decrease the new food and increase the old food to give your kitty's stomach time to adjust to the new food.
Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loose stools, or a decreased appetite.
If moist pet food goes uneaten for 2 hours, refrigerate it. Consult your veterinarian for food and amount recommendations based on your cat's stage of life and health history. Keeping your cat from becoming overweight is important for their health, so treats should be factored into daily calories and nutrition.
Provide your cat with fresh, cold water every day. Cats do not enjoy the scent of food while drinking water - keep cat food and water bowls in 2 different locations. In the wild, cats search for food and water separately. Have more than one water bowl filled with fresh water in different locations to encourage your cat to drink water. Don't place food or water bowls near the litter box!
Most adult cats are lactose intolerant, so they can get diarrhea after drinking cow's milk. Plus, it has a high-fat content. If you want to give your cat small amounts of milk to drink, there are alternatives you can buy that are easy to digest and will not upset their stomach.
Cats Need a Predictable Life
Cats are especially sensitive and enjoy a predictable life - a simple thing like rearranging the furniture can send them into a panic. Keep them indoors where they are least likely to be attacked by predators or exposed to diseases. Domestic pet cats may be independent in nature, but they are very dependent on their owner for their needs. If you have moved to a new place put the same things in the new house (same food and water bowls, toys, bed, and litter box), so they have comforting and familiar scents around them. Put treats around the room to encourage them to explore while they're in there. Cats love boxes, so leave some moving boxes around for them to hang out in.
Cats face a variety of dangers from being left to roam outdoors. Outdoor cats are not happier - this is a myth! Danger from automobiles, predators, cruelty, parasites, and poisons are only a few of the things that are bad for a domestic cat. Outside during the summer, they are exposed to extreme temperatures, and a lack of fresh, clean water; in the winter outdoors they are exposed to harsh freezing temperatures and need extra calories for protection from hypothermia.
Cats that are left to fend for themselves outside have a short life expectancy. Indoor cats that have good care by their owners can live 15-20 years or longer.
All pets deserve and need to be near their owners, so they can be loved and cared for properly. Cats make wonderful, delightful pets.
Allow your cat to choose favorite spots to hang out around the house, and then make it more comfortable with blankets and pillows or a cat bed. Provide your cat with toys, scratching posts, cat trees, window perches, and condos.
Spaying and Neutering
Spaying and neutering are important for many reasons - if not altered, male cats are at risk for testicular or prostate cancer, and females are at risk for mammary or uterine cancer. Additionally, neutered males are less likely to mark their territory, and female cats can't get pregnant.
Altered cats are less aggressive, easier to handle, and more friendly with their owners. Also, spayed or neutered cats are less likely to spray and have inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating outside the litter box.)
It is easier to prevent spraying by early neutering than to stop your cat from this behavior when older and the habit is formed.
Females in heat will try to scratch through window screens and howl endlessly.
Spraying and Marking
Cats spray to mark territory and for mating. It is also called marking and is not malicious or sneaky behavior. Punishing or yelling at your cat will not help and may increase stress levels. When a cat urinates it squats down, but when a cat sprays it stands upright and sprays against a vertical surface. Your cat will back up to a vertical area with an intense look of concentration, tail twitching and lifted, and spray a small amount of urine from beneath its tail in short bursts.
Various places may include a wall, couch, bed, countertop, drapes, or piles of clothing. Spraying is marking behavior, not a litter box problem. It is an important part of nonverbal communication among cats, helping to establish and define boundaries and reassure cats what area (territory) belongs to them. Sprayed cat urine contains pheromones, a substance produced by animals that are used for communication. Combinations of pheromones are like human fingerprints.
Several different pheromones are secreted by different regions of a cat's body. By signaling to other cats, they affect many behaviors, including attracting a mate. Some pheromones mark objects and boundaries, while others send a signal of familiarity and well-being.
Cats have other methods to mark territory, such as scratching or rubbing against something, or not covering their feces. But spraying is the most common method of marking. Intact male cats (not neutered) mark because of their testosterone, but neutered male cats also spray if aroused. Females cats spray, especially intact females when in heat.
You can make a mixture in a spray bottle of equal parts water and white vinegar with a little bit of dish soap to clean urine spray odors. Don't use any products with ammonia, because it smells like cat urine and your cat may do it again in the same spot.
Grooming tools include a brush, flea comb, and nail clippers. When grooming your cat it not only provides bonding time but also stimulates your cat's blood circulation, removes loose hair, prevents hairballs, and matting of the coat. Groom weekly (or more frequently if possible) and use this time to examine your cat for common health problems as well. Check your cat's gums, teeth, eyes, ears (look for signs of ear mites), skin, legs, and paws. Most cats learn to enjoy the grooming process! For longhaired cats and to minimize shedding, you can brush your cat daily.
- Begin touching and holding your cat's paws when he's a kitten.
- A good time to trim nails is after a meal, after playtime, or when he's very relaxed, or sleeping.
- Sit down in a chair and put your kitty on your lap.
- Show your cat the clippers and it will become less threatening.
- Press gently on the pad so claws are showing and trim the tip of the nail. Give a treat and praise.
- If your cat is wiggly, you can burrito (wrap) him in a towel if he will let you.
- Do one paw, then take a break.
- A good schedule for nail trimming is about every 2 weeks.
Check your cat's nails regularly and clip them as needed. You can provide scratching posts or pads to help keep your cat's nails trimmed naturally. However, if your cat's claws get too long, they may curve back into the toe pad. They are also more likely to get caught on something if they're not kept trimmed. Use good quality clippers designed for cats to trim the claws.
Make sure you clip away from the outside of the tiny darkish pink vein, called "the quick" or kwik. If you clip too short and cause bleeding use pet styptic powder as a coagulant. If you don't want to clip, then a Dremel rotary nail grinder can be used.
If your cat has a lot of fur around his nails - put a knee-high nylon stocking on each foot. Then poke the cats’ nails through the nylon so that the stocking holds back the fur, leaving the nails fully exposed.
Checking your cat's ears should be done weekly as well. Clean them as needed, using a small amount of veterinary ear cleaner.
Position your cat comfortably in your lap. Rest the forearm of your non-dominant hand across your cat’s body and gently cradle your cat's head in your non-dominant hand. Or wrap your cat safely in a towel like a kitty burrito, keeping their pointy bits inside and their head poking out. If that doesn't work, get a cat-loving friend or family member to gently and firmly hold your cat.
Use gauze, cotton balls, cotton makeup rounds, or a tissue to clean, wipe, and dry the inside of your cat's ears. Don't use Q-tips swabs to clean out your cat's ears, as you could damage their eardrums.
Offer a treat for good behavior!
Get in the habit of brushing your cat's teeth daily. Begin with your new kitten's care. This is the best way to help your cat to avoid excess tartar and plaque build-up, periodontal disease, tooth extraction, and health issues.
Only use toothpaste intended for dogs or cats. Never use human toothpaste because it can contain ingredients that are toxic (fluoride) to pets and cause severe illness. Choose an enzymatic toothpaste because they work by killing some of the bacteria that form plaque and stopping bacteria from turning into tartar. They come in different flavors that are tasty for pets ranging from fish, vanilla, peanut butter, poultry, meat, and more.
Ask your veterinarian for information on what kind of toothpaste to use (never use human brand toothpaste for pets.) Toothbrushes made for dogs or toddlers can be used for cats. Dental care is as important as your cat's nutritional needs. Good dental care is vital for good health.
A professional dental cleaning is often prescribed for cats. While under general anesthesia scaling will remove tartar above and below the gum line; polishing to smooth the surface of the teeth; and flushing to dislodge tartar and bacteria. If any loose teeth are found during the process, they will be extracted.
Your vet will let you know how often your cat requires a dental. The charges are based on the the time and skill involved, plus the cost of anesthesia which is based on weight. If your cat's teeth have not received regular care, and need extra treatment including extractions, the cost may be more. Schedule other care that may require anesthesia at the same time.
Most cats do a great job of self-cleaning by licking their fur, but it doesn't make them smell nicer, and they can't get all the debris off their coat. The National Cat Groomers Institute of America recommends a cat can be bathed every 4-6 weeks. When you give your cat a bath have all supplies within arm's reach. Place a rubber mat in the bottom of the sink or tub for stability, and a small towel over the side of the tub to provide a surface for your cat to cling onto. Hold your cat with 1 hand and lather it with your other hand. The water temperature should be approximately 100℉. Wash your cat's head, ears, and neck first to prevent any fleas that are on your cat from landing there while you clean the rest of its body. if your cat has fleas, do use a good quality flea shampoo to kill the fleas.
Play and Exercise
Playing with your cat is essential for bonding and weight control, plus it helps your cat develop muscle tone, agility, and stamina. Buy cat toys that mimic hunting behaviors like fishing, pouncing, and chasing.
A scratching post or pad is necessary for exercise and stress relief, plus it can help you train your cat not to scratch on the furniture.. Cats love to play with paper bags, boxes, newspaper scrunched into a ball, and toilet paper rolls! Your cat will appreciate his own comfortable bed to curl up in for long naps, as well as a cat perch to view the world close to a window. Don't have any cords hanging from the blinds.
Cat Proof Your Home
- Check that windows and doors are securely screened and latched.
- Look for dangling and very dangerous electrical and window blind cords - tie them up with cord tidies, cable cleats, or special clips.
- Remove heavy items that can be knocked over, remove broken glass, and other sharp items.
- Remove all toxic and hazardous plants to prevent unnecessary exposure - this is especially important for kittens.
- Put medications, grooming accessories, creams, lotions, and other dangerous items in tightly closed containers.
- Cats can be poisoned by ingesting sweet-smelling toxic things, so keep them in tightly closed containers.
- Cats like warmth, so supervise them around a fireplace or wood stove and keep lit candles far out of reach.
- Keep mechanical fluids like antifreeze, pool chemicals, fertilizers, and other toxic fluids in tightly closed containers.
Introduce a New Cat
Introduce another new cat slowly by keeping them separated with a pet gate or screen door. The new cat should have a litter box, food, water, toys, cozy hiding places, a scratching post, and clothing that has your scent.
A new environment is very stressful for a cat, and bringing a new cat is best done at a slow pace so they have time to adjust. Cats become familiar with other inhabitants through smell. Spend time with your new cat, and then give your other cat lots of love, reassurance, and treats. Introduce them with scent by swapping bedding, blankets, toys, or even laundry that has your scent and each cat's scents. This will get them used to each other in a loving, non-threatening manner.
After you have established a trusting relationship, your new cat is ready to begin exploring the house alone with your supervision. Close most of the doors so the new cat gets familiar in stages because many new spaces at once can be stressful and frightening. After a while, your new cat will be ready to venture into community spaces.
There will likely be hissing, growling, and swatting at first. This is totally normal, and it's OK if it happens during the transition period as long as it doesn't become aggressive. Like humans, every cat is different, and it can take a few days to a few weeks for the new cat and old cat to adjust to each another.
Be patient, never force an interaction, and give them nothing but love, treats, and reassurance. It may be frustrating at first, but if you are patient, it will be so worthwhile.
- Always get your cat microchipped and keep a record of the number - veterinarians and animal shelters can notify you - even if the collar and tags were removed.
- Have your cat wear a collar with ID tags.
- Keep a photo, so you can scan the photo on flyers if necessary.
- Search inside your house under a recliner, couch, and mattress box springs.
- Search outside your house (garden, yard, bushes, garage, and back porch).
- Have someone stay at your house because cats can return soon after their departure.
- Stay close to home for the first part of your search, because cats usually don't go far.
- When searching the neighborhood, call your cat's name, because your cat can hear you from a great distance.
- Tell people you are looking for your lost cat.
- Visit local shelters and humane societies - return often.
- Post your lost cat information on local social media sites like Facebook, Nextdoor, and Craigslist.
- Post LOST CAT flyers around your neighborhood, shelters, animal control, humane society, and veterinarian offices.
- Remove all flyers when your search is over.
When making the flyers list name, breed, and color. Keep the information simple - just your phone number - not your name or address. Leave out an identifying detail of your cat (crooked tail, unique marking, blue eyes, etc.). If someone claims they found your cat, ask them for a description. Be cautious of pet scams where people insist you give or wire money for the return of your cat. If you offer an award on your flyer - never pay any money until you see your cat. Check the newspaper's classifieds section for Found Pets. These ads usually change daily, so check them each day. You can also pay for a classified ad for a LOST CAT in your local newspaper. If your newspaper has a website search those listings online.