“Dogs have masters, cats have “staff”. So, as the staff, what pet cat care do you need to implement to keep your feline master or mistress healthy and happy at home?
A cat in your urban home can be the most rewarding and comforting addition to your busy life. And unlike dogs, cats don’t require as much attention. Rest assured you will never have to experience taking your fussy feline to school to learn how to behave, constantly demanding to be walked whatever the weather, or throwing endless balls when all you want to do is look at the scenery.
However, smart, adaptable, and independent as cats are, they are NOT low maintenance. They have physical and emotional needs that sometimes manifest in the most inappropriate ways. I write extensively about this in my Cats Revealed ebook series.
Take care of those needs and the benefits include a happy cat that isn’t scratchy or tetchy, does not urinate in the wrong places and lives harmoniously in the household bringing joy to all the family.
Below are my 6 simple pet cat care practices that you need to do to create a home where both the cat and you can live happily together.
1. Make your home a home
As obvious as it may seem, a comfortable home is as important to your cat as it is to you. She needs somewhere to sleep, climb, play and go to the toilet. Cats will sleep anywhere they feel safe and are certainly willing to amuse themselves given the right environment. As for their toilet habits, they are fastidiously clean.
If your cat is an outdoor cat it will happily accommodate its own needs, but indoor cats are also quite happy using a litter tray. If is important to you can also experiment with a natural cat litter tray.
As if to prove their adaptability, if an outdoor cat suddenly finds a litter tray in the home, give it a couple of days and you may well find him sitting there one day reading the paper!
We all worry about busy roads and other outdoor hazards, but a cat being indoors doesn’t mean the risks are removed. Flowers, plants, cleaning products and even human foodstuffs can all be harmful when ingested in even small quantities. You may not realise that although it’s not a part of the feline diet, they have something of a sweet tooth but things like chocolate can prove fatal to both cats and dogs, so don’t be tempted to give them a “treat”.
If in doubt, don’t feed your best mate anything that wasn’t intended for the bowl on the floor.
You know how cats just love a window sill?
Well, what else you put there should only be after careful consideration. Many common plants and flowers are extremely hazardous to cats, including several which are common in store-bought arrangements such as tulips, chrysanthemums and lilies. Flower heads are an inviting toy to a cat, so make sure your only problem is picking up the odd stray petal when you come home.
These days many cats live totally happy and fulfilled lives, completely indoors, so the fact you are in an apartment need be no barrier to having a happy cat. But you may need to check the air quality in your home, especially if you have air conditioning. Cats can develop allergies to toxins in the atmosphere just as humans can.
2. The way to a cat’s heart…
It’s widely believed that cats are really fussy eaters, but anybody who actually has a cat will tell you that it’s really nothing more than a rumour put about by dogs to make cats look bad.
When you’ve seen a cat ignoring a bowl full of the finest kitty chow to merrily crunch through the bones of a freshly killed mouse, you know they’re not really all that fussy after all. They certainly know what’s good for them though!
Indeed, the only thing you really need to think about is “how much”? This is where cats differ from dogs. Whereas a dog will eat every scrap of food you put in front of it, a cat will simply eat what it needs and then wander off. It’s simply a case of making sure your cat is eating a healthy amount of both wet and dry food.
All serious cat ailments have weight loss as a symptom, so knowing the eating habits and being able to judge whether your cat is maintaining a healthy weight is good practice all round.
In summary, this one is easy pet cat care. Unless you can provide Flufffy with an endless supply of natural cat food (i.e. mice) all you have to do is buy cat food where you buy human food. Feed as directed on the pack and make sure you also provide plenty of water. And that’s it!
Just about the only other consideration is not to have the food next to the litter tray. After all, you don’t eat your dinner sitting on the toilet, and nor should your cat.
3. Stay calm and provide a safe haven
Despite their obvious independence, cats are actually quite prone to stress and aren’t particularly strong, emotionally. They won’t like shouting whether it’s directed at them or not, and taking out your problems on the only creature guaranteed to still love you in the morning, will solve nothing.
Having said that, she will easily understand the meaning of a firm but gentle “No”. Of course, whether they choose to acknowledge it is another matter altogether!
Cats will sleep anywhere and hide somewhere. If something happens which startles her, or that they don’t understand, they will retreat to a place in the home where they feel safe. This may be somewhere as simple as the arm of a chair where they can see what’s going on or, it might be on top of the curtain rail where they know they can’t be reached.
You can really help maintain a calm cat even if there are human disruptions by creating a few places where she can hide when she does feel threatened. It may be minor for you (someone’s bad temper or an over enthusiastic child) but having somewhere to flee until it is safe to come out will at least have one calm creature in the house!
Cats don’t operate a “fight or flight” policy, they operate their own “wait and see” policy. It is important that you allow her these spaces because, not being able to reach what they see as a safe haven, will only serve to add to their fear.
Also, providing somewhere up high where the cat can retreat to will also honor her basic wild instinct to flee up a tree. A high shelf or even the top of the fridge will often do.
In such situations, instinct will trump common sense. It’s part of what makes your feline friend so interesting.
4. Spot the symptoms
When a cat is sick or upset, it may not always be immediately obvious. However, if she suddenly starts peeing in the house, it’s a sure sign that something is wrong. If a stray cat wanders in and starts spraying, it’s part of the natural marking of territory, but if a cat does it in familiar surroundings, you need to investigate why. The effect of both territory marking and stress-related peeing are the same – to get attention, but the triggers are very different. You can read more about this often missed problem in my home pet cat care book: What Is Your Pet Cat Trying To Tell You?
Whatever the reason, the smell of cat pee is both unmistakable and very unpleasant. The fact that the pee goes through a chemical change over several hours also means that the cat urine odor will get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
There’s no easy way to get rid of cat pee and all the unpleasantness that goes with it. I cover how to remove cat urine extensively but even the most effective commercial urine removal products take time to do their thing. The way the cleaning products work is by breaking down the volatile components of the urine by introducing bacteria or enzymes that work to neutralise the smell. Despite what some products claim, however, one treatment is often not enough and almost all will require some degree of elbow grease on your part!
Given the often commonly available ingredients of the commercial cleaners, and assuming we’re not talking about a large affected area, it’s almost as simple to make your own urine remover.
5. Don’t force your cat to be sociable
Your cat may love you, but that’s only because you’ve proved to be a willing and enthusiastic pupil. This doesn’t mean, though, that your cat will welcome other additions – be it human or otherwise – into the home.
It will take time for them to adjust to the introduction of another cat or even a new baby.
Take things gently and don’t force your cat to be involved if it doesn’t want to be. Over time, the relationship will develop to the point where there is at least an understanding if not a full-on friendship.
And make sure you read up on how to make this a peaceful and non-threatening introduction in my e-book; Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Living Happily With A Cat.
6. Pet cat care means protection from suffering, sickness, disease…and fleas.
As already mentioned, an unhappy cat will change its behavior suddenly and unpredictably. If you can establish no obvious external reason for this, then it’s time to take a trip to the vet.
A vet who is experienced in pet cat care is worth their weight in gold, as they are more likely to perform all the necessary checks and should be able to quickly identify any physical problems that may be present. Prevention is not just better than a cure, it’s also much cheaper and less stressful for everyone! A visit in time saves (9) lives! Find out how to locate a feline friendly cat vet.
The idea of neutering causes many men to instinctively cross their legs, but it really is the best thing for your cat. Males are less aggressive and less prone to spraying when neutered and females no longer go into heat with all the associated trouble that can bring.
Also see a vet for all vaccinations, treatments and neutering. This reduces the risk of any sickness in future. Pet cat care begins from kittenhood to dowager feline status!
Finally, let’s talk about fleas. Unchecked, a single feline flea can produce potentially billions of descendants in a single year. In practice that wouldn’t happen because there wouldn’t be enough food sources to sustain the population, but you get the picture. Not only is it unpleasant for you, it’s your cat that has to suffer the real burden of fleas.
Flea bites cause itching, swelling and even infection. Add to that the fact that some cats will suffer an allergic reaction to a single bite, and it’s in everybody’s interests to try and fight the common enemy. In such circumstances, fighting the fleas becomes a lifetime commitment. If you don’t, your cat will suffer and we’re right back to the stress caused when prevention isn’t practiced.
Learning how to use a cat comb effectively is also a great way to protect your cat from fleas and the nasty conditions that can arise when they make their home on your cat and in your home.
There are several effective flea treatments available, both preventative and reactive. Obviously, your cat will know when you’re even beginning to think about it, and disappear right on cue, but it’s worth the effort to make sure your cat, your home and yes, you, are all free from the flea menace.