Top Seven Categories for Caring for Your Cat
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need to eat animal protein and a lot of it. When choosing a food for your cat, make sure it is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. Brands such as Natural Balance, By Nature, and Taste of the Wild have excellent food options for cats.
Cats do not have the same thirst drive as dogs, therefore it is extremely important to incorporate moisture into their diet to keep them properly hydrated and prevent kidney issues. Some vets even say that ANY wet food is better than ANY dry food, regardless of quality. Some cat owners opt for an all wet or raw diet, while others chose to give wet food for one meal and dry food the other.
It is recommended to feed cats meals rather than free feed them. This helps you monitor how much your cat is eating, encourages activity, and can help with training your cat (yes, cats can be trained!). If you have a cat who likes to pick at food throughout the day, only leave out one to two meal’s worth. You can also provide the food in a puzzle feeder to help mentally and physically stimulate your cat. Trixie Pet Products on Amazon has great cat puzzle feeders!
Many cat owners do not bring their cats for regular vet visits. It is highly recommended to bring your cat to the vet annually, even if they stay indoors. Cats are great at hiding illness, so having a veterinarian look at them at least once a year can help you identify problems early on. Senior cats should get blood work done annually to help monitor things like kidney function.
If you have an outdoor cat, it is especially important to bring them to the vet. Outdoor cats are exposed to many life-threatening diseases. Having them checked annually can help identify and resolve health problems, and prevent spread of disease to other cats.
Indoor only cats can be prone to weight gain due to lack of exercise. There are plenty of ways to encourage your cat to exercise. Tall scratching posts and cat trees encourage vertical scratching and stretching, two behaviors cats are highly motivated to perform. They also encourage cats to jump and climb. Finding the right toys and setting aside daily play sessions can help get your cat active. Cats do not often play on their own, but they do love playing with you! So find toys they love and start playing. You could also leash train your cat and bring them for walks. Sounds crazy, but some cats love it!
One of the most common behavior issues in cats is inappropriate elimination, so here are some general guidelines to keep your cat happy with their litter box.
The golden rule is one litter box per cat, plus one. So if you have 2 cats, you should have 3 litter boxes. Spread the litter boxes around the house. Cats sharing a space will subtly block resources from each other, so if you have all your litter boxes in the same room that only has one door in and out, this could create a problem. Do not keep litter boxes near loud areas of the house, such as next to washing machines or water heaters. If cats are using the litter box and are suddenly startled, this could scare them from ever using that litter box again. If you have littermates or cats who get along really well, it can be OK to break some of these rules (you should still always at least have one litter box per cat), but if your cats are having problems using the litter box you might want to think about the number and location of your boxes.
Cats can also be picky about type of litter and litter boxes. When given a choice, cats prefer large, open boxes with plenty of litter. You could even get a large Tupperware bin and fill it with litter and your cat would be happy. Closed litter boxes can gross some cats out (think about using a porta-potty). If you want to switch to a new litter, gradually mix it into the old type of litter and monitor your cat to make sure they aren’t rejecting the litter and going outside the box.
Most importantly, KEEP THE BOX CLEAN! Understandably, cats do not enjoy using dirty litter boxes. Some cats are more forgiving than others. Litter boxes should be scooped at least once daily. Boxes should be fully cleaned (empty out all litter, wash, and disinfect the box) at least once a month.
Here is a list of items that are toxic to your cat:
Human medications (antidepressants, cold medicines, pain relievers), alcohol, caffeine, onions, chives, garlic, chocolate, grapes, raisins, yeast, aloe, lilies, poinsettia, tulips, antifreeze, dog flea and tick medication.
There are plenty of other items that are poisonous or potentially harmful to your cat. This was just a small list of common items. It is important to monitor your cat, and to keep chemicals and other toxic items in a safe place.
Symptoms of Illness in Cats
Cats are better at hiding illness than dogs so if you are a cat owner, it is important to know the symptoms to look for to tell when your cat isn’t feeling well. To start, have a general idea of what is normal for your cat such as how they normally behave, how much they eat or drink, how often they use the litter box, etc. Knowing what is normal for your cat will help you detect when something is wrong. Sudden changes in a cat’s behavior can be the first sign that something is wrong. Cats who do not feel well tend to hide away, so if your cat is suddenly hiding in new places, you may want to monitor them more closely. If your cat is suddenly eating or drinking more or less than normal, that may be cause for concern. Cats who do not feel well may groom themselves less, so oily fur or flaky skin might be an indicator. Vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation can all be serious signs of illness. Sneezing, coughing, drooling, runny eyes, and runny nose are some additional signs that your cat may be sick. Finally, suddenly going to the bathroom outside of the litter box is usually a major sign of illness, indicating a urinary or kidney infection.
TGDS does not recommend declawing your cat. Declawing can cause permanent, painful damage to your cat’s paws, and has been outlawed in many countries. Cats who are declawed tend to bite and eliminate outside the litter box more than non-declawed cats. Taking away their main mode of defense makes them more nervous and causes them to bite when scared rather than giving other warning signs. This can be a serious problem for cat owners and any guests they have over. Digging through litter with their paws causes pain to the cat, this leads them to begin going to the bathroom elsewhere. If you have a declawed cat, it’s best to use a soft, light litter that is easy for them to dig through. Cats who are declawed essentially have to relearn to walk after the procedure. It changes their gait, and can cause early arthritis. Cats are easily trained not to scratch furniture, so there is no need to put them through this painful procedure. Keeping your cat’s claws trimmed is easy and helps minimize any damage if your cat were to scratch furniture. There are also options like nail caps that prevent your cat from scratching furniture without the surgery.