Whether you’re considering buying or adopting a cat for the first time, already own a cat but just want to make sure you’re doing everything right, or simply want to find out more about cats and their care requirements, it can be hard to know where to turn!
Everyone has their own unique ideas about the best way to care for our feline friends, so if you’re having problems sorting the wheat from the chaff and want to make sure that the information you’re reading is reliable and accurate, search no further; read on to learn more about the basics of good cat care, and where to go to improve your knowledge and understanding.
Responsible cat ownership
Before you make the commitment to take on a cat, you should be sure that you will be able to afford to care for it, and intend to own it and look after it appropriately for the duration of its hopefully long life.
You should review your home and surrounding area critically to ensure that it is a safe and suitable environment to bring a cat into, and also, ensure that if you rent or live in a leasehold apartment, you are permitted to keep cats within your home.
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When you actually get your cat, you should take steps to make sure that your cat is not a nuisance or inconvenience to others, and also, that you spay or neuter them as soon as possible, if this has not already been done for you.
All cats should be vaccinated against all of the core communicable feline diseases, and receive an annual booster and vet check every year. It is also important to be able to recognize other times when your cat may need to see a vet, such as if they become sick or injured. You will also need to budget for flea and worming treatments, and preventative care such as looking after your cat’s teeth. Finally, you might want to consider insuring your cat, to help with the cost of any unexpected and potentially expensive veterinary treatments.
Cats need to feed little and often, and so should be given free access to the appropriate food, and also clean, fresh water at all times. What you choose to feed your cat is up to you, and the like-for-like price of different cat foods can vary considerably across different ranges! When making your decision, you should take into account your cat’s life stage and lifestyle when picking the right food, and you will also need to decide if you wish to feed wet food, dry food, or a combination of both. Wet and dry food each have their advantages and disadvantages, and no one can tell you what is best for your own cat! Make sure that the food that you feed to your cat is a complete food, rather than a supplementary one, as only a complete food will take care of all of your cat’s nutritional requirements. Also, go easy on the treats; too many treats can soon cause your cat to pile on the pounds, which can lead to a whole range of potential health problems.
Cat communication is complex, and very different from that of humans! You will need to make sure that you understand the basics of cat communication, how to interpret your cat’s moods and needs, and how to tell if something is wrong with your cat, such as if they are stressed or unhappy. You should also learn how to provide a safe, comfortable environment for your cat, which includes considerations such as where to locate their beds, food bowls and litter trays, how to make your cat feel secure, and how to recognize when they want to be left alone!
Enabling a natural lifestyle
Most cats are indoor/outdoor cats, meaning that they have a warm home to stay in when they want to, but also have free or regular access to the outside world. This will help your cat to live a natural lifestyle and manifest their natural behaviors, as well as helping to keep them both fit and entertained. In some cases, certain breeds of cats may do better with an indoor-only lifestyle, such as the very un-streetwise Ragdoll, or hairless cat breeds that are apt to get too cold in the winter, or get burnt in the summer. If this is the case with your cat, you will have to go a lot further when it comes to enabling a natural lifestyle for them, and keeping them entertained.
The natural behavior of cats will change as they age, starting with a boisterous, fun-loving kitten who is into everything, through your calmer, adult cat, to the specific traits and care requirements of the feline old-timer. Learning to recognize what is normal and appropriate for your cat at every stage of their lives, and knowing how to provide this, is also essential information.
If your cat suddenly starts urinating in the house, clawing the furniture, acting aggressively or otherwise doing something out of the ordinary that indicates unhappiness or an underlying problem, you should learn how to recognize this, and develop a good understanding of the potential causes of problem behaviors and how they can be resolved.