It’s easy to think that cats don’t need much care because most people believe they are independent. While true to some extent, cats still need proper care from their owners. Some are more “low maintenance” than others, but they all need attention to meet their needs.
It helps to think of them as being in the same category as a small child. You’ll need to “cat proof” your home in much the same way as you would child-proof it. This means putting things out of reach that might harm them. It’s easy to set small items on a high shelf to keep toddlers from eating them, for example, but cats are great jumpers and even love high places, so you will need to put those things inside a drawer, cabinet or another room.
Learning about your cat’s personality goes a long way toward understanding her needs, too. Watch for signs of distress, discomfort, and even how she walks. Note any changes in behavior, appetite, or sleeping habits. If you see something she’s never done before, or appears uncoordinated or in pain, it’s time for a visit to your vet for a professional evaluation.
Also watch for signs of dental problems. If she is eating only on one side of her mouth, for example, there may be a bad tooth, or a gum infection on that side, or possibly even a tiny object that has lodged between the teeth or into the gum. If she won’t let you look, take her to someone who can… such as the vet!
Providing a proper diet is critical to health and longevity. Be sure to buy appropriate food that it is formulated for your cat’s age and health. Some companies even make breed-specific foods, as some breeds may have unique needs. Your vet may be able to advise in this area. But be cautious… not all vets are well-versed in pet nutrition, often selling a certain brand in their office because they get a commission on it.
Avoid feeding your cat dog food. It’s not balanced for feline nutritional requirements and will, over time, result in malnutrition, even if they eat a lot. Use dog food (if you have some) only in an emergency… such as when you are out of cat food and can’t get to the store because you’re trapped in a snow storm. Well, you know what I mean.
Keep dangerous household items and chemicals completely out of reach. Since some cats are quite adept at opening cabinets and you may have no other place to store kitchen supplies, put child-proof latches on the cabinet doors.
Grooming is another critical need for cats. The short hair breeds usually don’t need much help from you, as they lick themselves often. But cats with longer hair will need daily brushing to prevent matting. Allowing their fur to mat can lead to “hot spots” on their skin, a type of painful rash that develops because air can’t get to it and oils, dirt, and possibly fleas will get stuck in there and irritate the skin.
Bathing a cat can be an adventure, but don’t worry about neglect in this area. Unless they are show cats, they seldom need to be bathed anyway. As long as they are healthy and grooming themselves, they never go outside, and you are able to brush them regularly, they will be clean enough.
Last but not least is to have important phone numbers on hand, preferably near the phone. If you just got the cat, keep the previous owner’s number ready so you can ask questions or get help if needed. Other numbers to have ready are your vet’s, the poison control center for animals, and a friend, should you need some assistance with driving or holding the cat. Also, if your cat gets out, be sure to call your local animal control department so they don’t pick him up as a stray and take him to the pound. Find out what their policies are and be sure to check with them to see if he’s there.