Updated: 08 May 2020
How to Look After a Cat
Cats are affectionate, playful pets to have around the house. They are warm, cuddly, and love being petted. They are also independent, territorial, and possessive. They thrive when taken care of, and are known to remain healthy if provided with a warm, secure home, a steady diet, regular health check-ups, and playful interaction. Felines can be litter trained from an early age, and are known to keep themselves spotlessly clean at all times.
If you love animals and want to add a kitten or full-grown cat to your family, you should consider specific points. Here are a few things to help you decide whether you can be a cat person and how you can look after a cat.
Am I a cat person?
Cats are independent. They can usually take care of themselves. However, leaving them alone for long periods and abandoning them for days is not a good habit. Cats can become extremely destructive if left to their own devices. They need constant stimulation in the form of cat scratching posts, catnip toys, and soft and hard chewy toys. If they are left alone for too long or become bored, they can easily scratch the furniture, doors, door frames, and chew through carpet and bedding.
Some cats shed a lot of hair and dander (dead skin). They can leave stray bits of their fur on sofas, kitchen counters, ceiling beams, beds, and other areas that you may frequent in your house. If you have small children and senior citizens, you should ensure that they are not allergic to cat hair and smells. Cat saliva and urine contain proteins that can activate allergies in some people. These symptoms can be as mild as a small itch or as serious as a respiratory/ breathing issue. You should train your cats using cat litter from an early age to avoid any unnecessary incidents around the house.
Cats are highly unpredictable and get irritated quite quickly. When annoyed, they have a tendency to lash out by scratching and hissing very loudly. If you have toddlers and small children in the house, you should avoid getting a cat.
Do I have enough time for a cat?
Cats can take care of themselves; however, kittens require care and assistance. They also require constant training and supervision. The first twelve months are crucial for a kitten, and that is when they need maximum protection, love, and nurturing.
You need to make sure you have enough time to devote to your kitten for a year after getting her. Some of her needs would include proper dental care with the help of cat toothbrushes, flea treatments for cats and kittens, microchipping with an ID tag for a virtual environment with the help of microchip cat flaps, and so on. Being aware of these needs is crucial in the first year of development.
Once you are confident that your cat can take care of herself, you could speak to a friend, your partner, a pet sitter, or a cousin to check on your cat once a day. If doing this is not an option, and you need to be away for the whole day, you could install an automatic cat feeder that controls the proportion of cat food dispensed throughout the day. You could also put up cat cameras throughout your house to keep an eye on your feline. These cat cameras can give live feed to your smart device for 24/7 surveillance in case of emergencies.
What does the cat eat?
Proper nutrition is of utmost importance for your cat. Like any other pet, cats need a healthy and balanced diet to keep the coat shiny, organs functioning correctly, and maintaining overall health. Keeping your cat on a nutritious diet also increases their longevity.
For kittens, you should start off with a diet of wet food (which is easy to swallow), and as they grow older, switch them to dry food. Cat food dispensed through an automatic cat feeder can help you control the quantity of food delivered per meal. Doing this can help you track the health and dietary requirements of your cat.
As a cat owner, you should avoid home-cooked meals, and instead stick to dry foods as they have the necessary nutritional quantities that cats require. Dogs do not face this issue and can be kept on a diet of home-cooked meals. Dry foods also help keep your cats’ teeth clean and sharp at all times. Most cats have good teeth, but you should invest in a cat toothbrush to remove any food particles, fibres, and other substances that could get stuck while eating.
Cats don’t only stick to fish and chicken, they also enjoy the occasional meaty meal, and require a variety in their diet. Without proper nutrition, they can fall sick and develop severe health conditions.
How do I care for a cat?
If you want to be a responsible owner, you should take care of all the needs of your cat. Here are some useful tips in looking after your cat.
Microchip: Most cats tend to wander when left alone. If your cat manages to find a way out of the house, her curiosity may take her far from your home. If this happens, you will find it challenging to track and keep her safe. Microchip your cat with an ID tag and keep your contact information updated at all times. In case your cat wanders and is found by someone else, you would be contacted immediately.
When releasing the cat into the garden or allowing her to roam freely, activating the chip with a microchip cat flap is another good idea. Whenever your cat enters or exits the house, the cat flap would make a record and will help you track her whereabouts easily. An automatic cat flap also helps keep other pests, dogs, and cats out of the house.
Vet check-ups: Like any family member, your cat will also need regular health check-ups. Contact an experienced vet and sign your cat up for regular checks. Keep track of her medication (if required), and keep up with all annual vaccinations. The health of your cat is entirely in your hands. If you want to be a responsible cat owner, keeping your cat healthy at all times is essential for her wellbeing.
Cat vaccines: Your cat should be vaccinated annually to avoid health concerns. Flea treatments for cats, deworming, and other areas should also be taken care of. Booster shots, anti-allergy treatments, and regular full body check-ups are some of the things that you need to keep track of, apart from routine vaccines.
In the UK, cat vaccines include herpes and calicivirus (for flu). They also have vaccines for feline leukaemia virus and panleukopenia (infectious enteritis).
Neutering your cat: Neutering your cat at an early age will help prevent a lot of unwanted pregnancies and litters. Cats have strewing seasons in the year where they attract mates. To avoid unwanted attention from other cats, you should consider having your cat neutered. While this may seem harsh to some people, neutering the cat helps in the overall wellbeing, safety, and health of the cat.
Neutering also helps control aggression towards children and other people in the house. It reduces the risk of testicular cancer in bobcats and uterus infection in females. Neutering helps reduce roaming in male cats. Male and female cats urinate less to mark their territory if they are neutered. Spayed females can protect themselves better during mating season. They also do not have to worry about the mess they make during mating. In this time, cats may bleed up to a month and cause havoc in the household. For them, bleeding is not natural and can cause stress and confusion, leading to anxiety and heightened wailing in the middle of the night.
Pet insurance: While this may seem like a foolish concept, the medical bills, medicines, and regular health check-ups with the vet can cause a drain on your pocket. Veterinary fees may skyrocket if your cat needs additional medical attention, hospitalization, or surgery. Different pet policies offer varied coverage. You should speak to several agencies before finalizing on any one. Choosing a policy based only on the premium price is not a good idea since some plans have restrictions on time and money.
Playtime: Caring for your cat does not only mean providing her with toys. You must make time to play with your cat, shower her with love and attention, pet and cuddle her, and take her on outings with you. Cats that do not get stimulation and exposure to the outside world can get anxiety, depression, and stress-related issues. They can also get bored, become irritable, or highly destructive. These behavioural problems can easily be tackled if you make time to play with them daily.
Additional stimulation through a cat scratching post and catnip toys can help you fend off some of the boredom your cat might experience. Ensuring your cat is cared for and played with also helps take her mind off destructive thoughts like scratching the bed, furniture, tables, and so on.
Grooming: Cats need regular grooming. You need to ensure their nails are clipped, ears are cleaned, they are dewormed, they are treated for fleas, and their coat is brushed at least once a day. Flea treatments include spot-on vials that can be applied directly to the nape. Long-haired cats need brushing up to twice a day. Not brushing them will lead to matted fur and tangled hair. If you allow mats to form, brushing may be painful, and your cat will scratch, bite, or run from you during her daily grooming. If matting forms on your cat, you will have no option but to get her completely shaved.
You also need to perform a daily body check for ticks and fleas during your playtime. While petting your cat, you should keenly check for small insects on her body, between her claws, behind her ears, near her tail, and so on. Clean eyes and ears should be a priority. You should also check her teeth daily.
Pet passport: If you enjoy travelling, you could also take your cat with you. Going to Europe from the UK requires a pet passport that has all the vaccines updated to avoid quarantine of your cat at customs and immigration. The primary requirements for a cat passport are rabies antibody test, rabies vaccination, and a microchip. The vaccine for rabies must be regularly repeated and updated on the pet passport for a quick transition.
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