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A cat is a great companionship source and an ideal furry friend to add to your family, but getting any pet isn’t a decision to take lightly.
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Cats can easily live 20 years–or even longer–if kept indoors and cared for properly, so you need to understand what to expect and how to handle your kitty.
It’s essential to educate yourself about cats to ensure that you can make an informed choice and that your new pet has a safe and comfortable home.
Cat Care Basics
Regardless of your cat’s specific breed or personality, there are a few aspects of cat care relevant to every cat.
Litter box usage is one of these aspects, and you will need to be prepared to have a litter box in your house for your cat to use.
You will also need to be comfortable with cleaning it regularly, because a dirty litter box can be the cause of offensive smells in the area it is located.
More significantly, it can put your cat’s health at risk if you leave it filthy for an extended time.
A cat also requires access to clean, fresh, water, and healthy food. Water and wet food should ideally be replaced every day if there is any left after 24 hours.
Never allow them to sit for an extended period because this can enable the growth of harmful microorganisms.
Dry food can be left out for longer, but it will eventually become stale and unappetizing to your cat.
Proper management of your cat’s nutrition and hydration contributes to a happy, healthy feline.
Hygiene is another part of the care that is relevant to every cat. Your cat will clean themselves very well, but if you have a long-haired breed, you should brush them regularly to ensure their coat doesn’t become matted.
Brushing also dramatically reduces the incidence of hairballs.
Despite being skilled at grooming, cats sometimes require a bath, especially if they manage to get into something they shouldn’t–like a toilet bowl.
While this is not a pleasant experience for either you or your cat, you will have to be prepared to deal with it if the need does arise.
Feeding A Cat
Some people prefer to feed their cat only dry food or wet food, while others provide a constant supply of kibble, supplemented with wet food once a day.
The way you choose to feed your kitty is highly dependent on their eating habits and your budget.
A diet exclusively based on kibble is the most inexpensive option, but it’s not the healthiest choice for your cat.
It’s always best to feed them the highest quality food you can afford and provide at least a few regular servings of wet food each week because this is closer to what they would naturally eat.
If you must only use dry food, pay close attention to their water supply because they will drink more water to compensate for the lack of moisture from their diet.
Cats have evolved to be very intelligent, picky eaters. Most will graze throughout the day and only ever eat the amount they require to meet their energy needs.
You can leave a bowl of kibble out if your cat manages their weight and appetite properly.
However, some cats do binge, requiring you to set out controlled portions to prevent over-eating and vomiting.
However, if a cat doesn’t like the food you’ve given them, they may not even eat it at all.
You can leave it out to see if they will at least try it when they get hungry enough, but never allow your cat to not eat for several days.
Doing so can lead to distress and damage to their liver. In this situation, it’s better to try a new variety of food.
Changing their food gradually by mixing it with the previous variety is another way to adjust to a new food if necessary.
As a pet owner, you are responsible for your cat’s health. Vaccinations, regular checkups, and parasite prevention are all important aspects of their healthcare that you need to understand.
Unless you’re planning for kittens or entering purebreed shows, your cat should also be de-sexed as this will reduce the potential of some of the more troubling cat behaviors like marking, fighting, and roaming, as well as the potential of acquiring several kittens that will need homes and families of their own if you can’t keep them.
To maintain excellent health, your cat will need their vet to provide vaccinations and check their general health on each visit, including dental.
Your vet will also be able to give you the correct recommendation for preventing parasites like fleas, ticks, and worms.
Even if your cat is exclusively kept indoors, they can still get any of these.
You don’t necessarily need to treat an indoor cat with a preventive spot-on or a similar product, but you do need to be vigilant and understand what to look for.
If your cat is allowed outdoors, you must provide regular parasite prevention. Even one flea can lead to an infestation throughout your house.
It can also lead to harmful health conditions like anemia in your kitty, and a tick can prove fatal if left unnoticed and untreated.
Cat Hygiene and Grooming
It’s relatively common knowledge that cats hate water, but this isn’t always the case.
Some breeds–like the Turkish Van–enjoy swimming, and any cat can tolerate a bath if they are introduced to the process early in life.
If you choose to adopt an older cat who may not have been exposed to bathing as a kitten, they will most likely despise it and be very fearful.
This doesn’t mean you can’t slowly acclimate them to it, but bathing should generally be seen as a last resort.
Expect to have to bathe your cat perhaps once a year to supplement their grooming, but only if they genuinely need it.
You may also need to bathe them if they accidentally get into messy things like syrup or if they get fleas, and you need to wash them with a medicated shampoo.
You can brush your cat regularly to aid their grooming, and this is a great way to keep them clean because it helps to remove shed hairs, dirt, and tangles.
Not only does this help improve the health and condition of his coat, but it allows you to bond with your cat.
If you introduce brushing slowly, they will eventually start to see it as a treat and willingly let you brush their fur.
Cats don’t respond very well to negative reinforcement. Try as you might, no amount of yelling or water spray will protect your sofa or get them off the kitchen counters.
Drawing emphasis on these things will make them more likely to continue doing it if they decide to treat it like a game.
Instead, the best way to discipline your cat and handle poor behavior is to practice positive reinforcement from a young age, if possible.
Reward your cat with a treat when they’re exhibiting correct behavior, and they will continue doing it.
Some behaviors–like furniture scratching–can be incredibly challenging to iron out because they stem from instincts or natural needs.
Your cat scratches upholstered furniture because it’s necessary to keep their claws healthy and sharp, and you need to be aware of this before getting one.
Providing a scratching post is the best way to prevent them from destroying your sofa, but there’s no guarantee they’ll use that instead of the couch.
A cat can cause damage to your furniture and carpet, and you won’t be able to watch them every hour of the day to ensure this doesn’t happen. If you know you’ll be overly distressed to find claw marks on your sofa, a cat won’t be the right pet for you.
Indoor Cat or Outdoor Cat?
Whether to allow your cat outdoors or not is a critical choice, and you should think about this before you even get one.
Indoor cats live longer, healthier lives because you can control everything they eat and the conditions they are exposed to.
The world outside your house contains many serious hazards like predators, poisons, and diseases.
Even other humans can be a significant danger to your kitty.
Keep your cat indoors if possible, especially if you live near any busy roads. This may not be easy if you adopt an older cat that has been allowed to roam around outside as much as it pleases in the past, but even then, it is possible to have them adapt to a new life inside.
Your new cat is a member of your family, just like the humans in it, and they deserve a happy, safe home.
Taking proper care of them will result in them returning a great deal of affection and enrichment to your life in the way that only a pet can, but you will need to be diligent and understand the commitment you’re making first.