Get Serious About Cat Care
Getting a new cat or kitten is a major decision. Being a responsible cat parent can be difficult and challenging at times. It is time and money consuming, too. However, at the end of the day, the rewards are definitely worth the effort.
To help you be a more responsible and devoted cat owner, we have compiled a list of 10 important tips on how to take care of your feline.
Although cats groom themselves and are very strict about their hygiene habits, from time to time they can use some assistance. Cats need to be brushed and bathed. How often depends on their fur type. Long-haired cats need regular brushing or their coat will become matted and lose its quality. Bathing is not something that cats need very often, but it should not be neglected either.
Young kittens need to be vaccinated against feline immunodeficiency, feline leukemia, herpesvirus, calici virus and rabies. Un-vaccinated cats succumb to the mentioned diseases at extremely high rates. Usually the first vaccine is administered when the kitten is around eight weeks old and then boosters are given every few weeks until it is 16 weeks old.
The exact vaccination schedule depends on where you live and what diseases are common in your area. Talk to your trusted vet and make a vaccination schedule together. If needed, the vet will suggest some additional vaccines. Once again, depending on the frequency of some diseases, the vet may eliminate certain vaccines as unnecessary.
Cats are extremely prone to acquiring intestinal parasites, more commonly known as worms. The most common types of worms in cats include roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms and whipworms. Usually cats get worms when ingesting feces from other infected cats. Some types of worms can be passed by the mother to young kittens through the placenta or through the milk.
Worms can cause a plethora of symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, enlarged tummies, pale gums and poor coat quality. If untreated, the effects may progress and more serious signs will become apparent. Those signs include anemia, intestinal blockage or prolapsed rectum.
The main problem with worms is that in most cases the cat is asymptomatic up until the point the infestation becomes so severe that the cat’s life is threatened and the treatment options are limited and inefficient. Instead of treating worm-related issues, it is better to prevent them. The simplest solution is to regularly use cat dewormers.
Hairballs are the expected outcome of your cat’s grooming routine. Their development is normal and predictable, especially in long-haired cat breeds. However, hairballs are nasty to clean and even nastier for your cat to get rid of. Not to mention that they can cause serious and life-threatening issues like intestinal blockage.
If your cat has troubles with hairballs, it is likely to show signs like vomiting, gagging, retching, lack of appetite, lethargy and constipation or diarrhea. If your cat has hairball issues there are several things you can do to help:
- Groom your cat regularly
- Feed your cat special "hairball formula" cat food
- Use hairball products and laxatives
- Discourage excessive grooming
When choosing the ideal diet for your cat you need to consider your cat’s age, gender, breed, body composition, neutering status, temperament, activity level and taste preferences. Perhaps the most important factor is the cat’s age. It is important to never buy kitten food for a cat or the other way around. Different developmental stages require different nutrients and in different amounts.
Kitten food is designed to support intense growth needs and contains high percentages of easily digestible proteins. Growing kittens usually need several meals a day. Another option is to always leave their food bowl full and let them eat when they want and as much as they want. At first it is advisable to use the same food formula as the breeder.
Also try sticking to the kitten’s old feeding schedule. All food switches must be gradual. Sudden changes in the dieting regimen may lead to stomach problems.
Choosing the right diet for an adult cat is relatively easy. Unless the cat has medical issues that can be addressed through the diet, any high-quality adult cat food will serve its purpose.
Senior cats are a bit trickier. Cats start showing visible age-related changes at about seven to 12 years of age. Since every cat undergoes a unique set of physiological changes, senior cat food is not available in a one-size-fits-all bag. A senior cat’s diet should be discussed with a vet and carefully adjusted.
Introduction with Other Cats
Introducing a new cat to an old, resident cat can be quite challenging. The process requires both time and patience. Cats are placed in positions where they are either a resident cat faced with a newcomer or they are a new cat coming into an existing cat’s territory. To be honest, it is not much fun being in either position.
However, with a carefully planned introduction and if provided with the right environmental conditions, two cats can learn to cohabit and realize that life is better in pairs.
Cats can be super picky when it comes to their bathroom habits and rituals. Fortunately we all know that cats like doing their business in litter boxes, which is great for cat parents. All you need to do is buy a litter box, let your clean and self-sufficient cat do its business and scoop the poop.
A cat considers their litter box their own personal space and it must meet their standards — not yours. Even though any box is good enough from a human perspective, cats do not share the same point of view. Picky, witty and independent, cats know what they like. You can purchase the best litter box, but it will not serve for anything if your cat prefers using flower pots as a toilet.
In a nutshell, the best litter box is the one your cat approves of.
The key to raising a well-mannered and well-behaved cat is socialization. Socialization with people is important for raising your new kitty into a confident, curious and playful adult cat. You need to make sure your cat meets other cats, new dogs, smaller rodents, children and unknown people.
The more new people your kitten meets, the less fearful and more comfortable and social it will get. Cats also need to be exposed to new and interesting experiences, sounds and smells. Socialization should start from the earliest age possible and should be quite extensive.
Unless you want your new cat to have its own offspring when it grows up, it is advisable to have it spayed/neutered. By spaying and neutering you not only prolong your cat’s life, you decrease its risks of developing certain medical conditions.
Additionally, when in heat, cats kept indoors will vocalize, try to escape or show undesirable sexual behavior (more common in males) such as urine marking, aggression and humping. Cats kept outdoors get in fights and risk severe injuries.
Another major problem is the constantly rising population of stray cats. By spaying or neutering your cat, you help solving this issue. Female kittens should be spayed before their first menstrual cycle, preferably when six months old. Male kittens can be neutered at any point of their lives.
In spite of their barely noticeable size, fleas are problematic creatures that, depending on the severity of the infestation, can be highly irritating or even life-threatening for your cat. They can cause skin issues or transmit other more serious diseases.
It is a popular misconception that house cats cannot get fleas. Strictly indoor cats get fleas through other indoor/outdoor pets, from opened windows and from your clothes.
The most common flea in cats is the cat flea — Ctenocephalides felis. Fortunately, flea issues are easy to prevent, detect and address. Depending on where you live, it is advisable to use anti-flea products all year round or at least during the flea season.