This article is one that is long overdue. Our Feline Friends often get overlooked as a smaller version of their canine counterparts. This just isn’t so. Cat care goes way beyond an endless supply of food and a clean litter box. I’ll go into detail below and hopefully it will serve to change your mind about these curious creatures.
It all starts with these tiny, cuddly, cute little balls of fur. It is safe to say that the reason that most people get a cat is because they encounter a kitten. Even I, a hard-core dog person, can’t help but to fall under their spell.
Just like dogs, it is important for kittens to undergo socialization. This will make them acclimated later in life to different stimuli. Unfortunately, if you are adopting a kitten, that window has already passed (between 2-7 weeks). This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, it just means that kittens have already gained a lot of their socialization skills before you adopt them.
This is a great website for showing you some tips on socialization of different areas. This is also a good video for nail trimming. Another area to consider is crate training. Many cat owners don’t think about this because the likelihood of them having to travel with their indoor only cat seems rare. Cats can be strongly affected by change and stress. So if you ever do have to travel with them or they develop even a short-term illness that requires trips to the veterinarian, having your kitten crate trained will be a life-saver. By crate-trained, I mean comfortable in a crate. When not in use, the crate can be set in a common area and outfitted with a comfy bed, maybe some toys, so that it is an appealing space. When you have some free time on a weekend, making short trips with your cat closed in the crate out to your car and back (always using rewards) will help them get acclimated to being carried around in the crate and taken outside. Always evaluate your cat for signs of stress and don’t push them if they seem like they are afraid. Some cats respond well to a towel draped over the crate to help block stimulus. This training can be employed to even adult cats. Use a crate that is sturdy and has an opening on the top as well as the front, like this.
When kittens are little, they should be fed a combination of canned kitten food and dry kitten food to help acclimate them to the sensation that both are food items. As funny as it sounds, I’ve had adult cats who have never had canned food in their life, refuse it when offered. I had thought canned food was the best of the best in the cat’s point of view. Not so if they have never had it before. Current diet recommendations for cats are leaning toward a canned diet. The reasoning for this is that canned food has more protein than a dried kibble. The process of making the kibble actually puts more carbohydrates into the food. Cats are carnivores and need the protein. Feeding an adult cat Free Choice (having food out all the time) can lead to obesity. Obesity in cats is a serious disease, not only because of the health issues associated but because of hard hard it can be for that cat to lose the weight.
If you are going to switch your cat’s diet, do it gradually over the course of about a week. This is to help prevent any GI upset from a dietary change. Also, make sure to take not if your cat is not eating the new food. Cats aren’t like dogs. Dogs seem to eventually eat when confronted with a new food source they might not like. Cats who don’t like their food won’t eat. Period. And they can become very ill from not eating.
The image below is taken straight from the website from a large pet food manufacturer. Most quality foods out there will have a similar way for you to look up your pet’s recommended diet intake. I selected a canned diet (make sure the can size is equivalent to the one you are looking up since they can come in different sizes).
These weight ranges go in increments of five pounds, which I don’t love since it makes it harder on you to come up with a recommendation. Your kitten is all grown up and when you take your cat in for it’s first set of annual vaccinations, your cat is nine pounds and your veterinarian says that this is a healthy weight for your him, I would feed somewhere around the 2 1/2 can mark. Increasing is easier than decreasing. Always monitor your cat’s weight (either at home or at the veterinarian) while determining what quantity to give.
Since changing an adult cat’s diet while they have been on a certain diet for years can be tricky (especially if they are overweight), please consult your veterinarian for the proper recommendations. The above is meant as an example for a kitten who is transitioning to an adult formula.
There are so many commercial treats out there for cats that it can be hard to choose. The one thing that they seem to have in common is that they are all in some type of kibble form. Using canned Tuna (with only water) added can be a nice source of protein and a healthy treat for your cat.
Stimulation for the Indoor Cat
I’m not even going to go into the details of having an outdoor kitty because I don’t believe that cats do well outdoors. They have a shorter life-span and you are introducing them to the potential of many, many dangers. Cat fights, diseases, and hit by a car are only a few of the most common negatives for letting them go outside. Just like you would formulate some sort of exercise plan for your dog, creating an environment indoors for your cat to be stimulated and exercised doesn’t take that much effort.
The most creatives ideas I’ve seen are shelves that are put up for cats to lounge on. This is only one neat example that I found when doing a search. People can get crazy with this, but that isn’t what it’s about. Even if you only have one or two areas where your cat can perch to survey the room, that is far better than none. You can also select a window where there is a tree, hang a bird feeder in the tree and put a nice pillow next to the window. That’s hours of enjoyment for your cat. Laser pointers, feather sticks and little balls are only a few toys that cats can appreciate. There’s also scratching posts and cat “trees.” Now, just because you get a handful of wonderful toys doesn’t mean your job is done. While cats are solitary creatures, they benefit from play sessions with you. Not only does this serve as a form of exercise, but it’s great for bonding. Pick a time, at least once per day, where you take a few moments to play with your kitty. I suggest in the evenings. Your cat will love you for it.
If I can impart any “nuggets” of information, heartworm prevention would be a big one. Keeping your indoor cats on heartworm prevention (especially in Texas), year ’round is essential. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. I don’t want to hear that no one has ever seen a mosquito in their house, because I know you’d be lying. A major thing that they are attracted to is body heat. Your cat’s body temperature ranges anywhere from 100.5 degrees to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This is way higher than your body temperature. So if a little flying vampire gets into your home, your cat is like a beacon in the night. There is no treatment for heartworms in cats. It is a very different disease in cats than in dogs and the tests for it aren’t completely accurate because of the nature of the disease. I won’t go into a lot of medical details, if you don’t believe me, visit this website . It will go into a lot of detail about the disease in cats. Another advantage to keeping them on heartworm prevention is that a lot of preventatives out there are also labeled for fleas and some internal parasites (crickets and cockroaches can carry Roundworm eggs in on their legs and up to 20% of potting soil has Roundworm eggs — ew!).
I tried to not make this a series of random facts. My goal was to scratch the surface, to pique your interest. Basically, there is a lot more to owning a cat than an endless food bowl and a litter box. They are wonderful pets and they have specific nutritional and emotional needs that many aren’t aware of when they pick that little kitten out from the shelter. The above is what I consider some of the most important aspects to cat ownership. Have additional questions? Let me know! I have access to great resources. Utilize my links! They are great.
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