| || |
Cat Care Basics You Need to Know!
Cat Care Basics begin with the decision of whether your cat will be cared for as a family member or left to fend for himself. So does it make a difference whether he lives indoors or out, even part of the time?
Inside Cat or Outside Cat...
Is There a Difference?
Yes it does...about ten or more years of life for most felines. The average cat that is relegated to living outside has a life expectancy of three years or less compared to the cat that lives indoors that can live up to 15-20 years according to some studies.
There is an on-going myth that animals relegated to outside life are somehow happier.
This myth is especially true of cats. Some people believe that because of a cat's very nature as a hunter and prowler that he would rather be left outdoors, away from his owners and left to fend for himself. Knowing what your feline needs is important and understanding the cat care basics are key.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that cats live much longer, healthier, and happier lives indoors where they're protected from the elements and harm, there are still too many cat owners who just don't get it!
I recently met a neighborhood cat that more than proved it to me.
While in my backyard one afternoon, I was greeted by the friendliest orange striped cat. He walked up to me and began to purr and push his head against my leg as if to be petted. He wore a collar, although to small for him, and a name tag with a phone number. I wasn't too concerned about him since it was during the day and I assumed he lived nearby.
That evening I noticed he was sleeping on one of my patio chairs. The temperatures where we live had been in the 100's and I began to worry he may need water. I put a bowl out for him and he took a cool drink.
To my surprise this sweet cat was in that same chair the next morning! I decided to call the number on his name tag. The owner immediately informed me that he was an "outside" cat and would return home on his own. "What sort of breed is an 'outside' cat?" I asked, as well as reminding her of the extreme temperature outside.
He continued to hang around into the next day. I was trying to avoid the temptation of feeding him to encourage his return home, but I feared he most likely hadn't eaten much if at all. He seemed more focused on catching our attention anytime we happened to open the door.
After a second phone call and acquiring the owners address (which she gave up reluctantly), we walked him home. There were several empty cans of cheap cat food strung around the yard and it was obvious that this cat was most likely never allowed indoors. (During my years as a professional pet sitter I never allowed leftover canned or moist food to remain exposed as it can and will spoil)
The cat's owner tried making a convincing case for her lack of care, but I was less than interested in the explanations. This poor cat was not getting any of his needs met properly much less the simple cat care basics he deserved. He had scars on his head from scuffles with other animals, suffered with ear mites, had infection in both eyes, and who knows what else he might have been afflicted with.
What to do if you find a lost pet...
So why on earth do these people own cat's in the first place!
There is no such thing as an "outside" pet; cat or dog! All pet's need and deserve to be near their families (owners), and to be loved and cared for by them. It took us almost a week of walking this cat back home daily before he quit showing up. It broke my heart because it was so obvious that all he wanted was affection and companionship.
Cat's can face a variety of dangers from being left to roam outdoors. Danger from automobiles, predators, cruelty, parasites, and poisons just to name a few. In the summer they are exposed to extreme temperatures and a lack of fresh clean water; in the winter they are exposed to harsh freezing temperatures and need extra calories for protection from hypothermia.
Imagine being a senior citizen and living with the pain of arthritis and nothing but hard, cold ground to lie on. It's the harsh daily reality of many cats. I'll never forget the sadness I witnessed in the eyes of the sweet cat who wandered into my yard that day. I believe he was looking for a new family who would show him affection and let him live indoors where he felt safe and loved.
Domestic cats may be independent in nature but they are completely dependent on their humans for their needs.
Beyond the annual vet check-ups & vaccinations, cat flea control and heartworm prevention, and the decision to spay or neuter; there are some daily cat care basics to consider for your feline companion.
What does your cat's basic
daily care require:
Consult your veterinarian for recommendations based on your cat's stage of life and health history. Keeping your cat from becoming overweight is as vital to his health as the food you feed him, so treats should be factored into his daily calories and nutrition as well.
Most importantly, don't let price dictate your cat's diet. His overall health depends on your choices.
- Cat Care Basics: Exercise
Felines are naturally inquisitive and playful. They need daily exercise and mental stimulation just as humans do.
Whether you train your cat to walk with you outside on a leash, or simply provide him with toys designed for cats indoors, he will appreciate having some variety.
A scratching post or two is a must for your feline friend; there are many styles to choose from so finding one that fits your home or style shouldn't be difficult.
- Cat Care Basics: Grooming
Cat's do groom themselves but there are many reasons for you to make this a habit. Long haired cats develop hairballs more easily during shedding seasons from excess hair and need extra grooming.
Daily brushing will keep the amount of shedding to a minimum and many cats find it relaxing and soothing. Brushing provides some great bonding time with you as well. Make sure you choose grooming tools specific to the length and type of your cat's fur.
- Cat Care Basics: Cat Dental Care
Get in the habit very early on of brushing your cat's teeth daily. Begin this with your new kitten's care. This is the best way to help him avoid excess tartar and plaque build-up, periodontal disease, tooth extraction, and health issues.
Dental care is as important as your cat's nutritional needs. Good dental care is directly correlated to keeping him in good health.
- Cat Care Basics: Time for Rest
Your cat will appreciate his own comfy bed to curl up in for long naps, as well as a perch or two to view the world from (preferably close to window). There are many styles and choices to choose from and fit any budget.
His size and age should be considered when making your choice. If he's an aging cat, he may need an orthopedic type bed in case he suffers pain or arthritis. Remember comfort is key, not just affordability.
- Cat Care Basics: Elimination
It goes without saying that a cat box and litter are necessities. Here again there are many different types to choose from. If your cat is a senior he may appreciate a cat box with low walls to climb in and out of.
Some cats prefer more privacy and do better with a cat box complete with a hood for this reason. If you have a two or three story home then your cat will definitely appreciate more than one location to do his business, especially in the middle of the night!
Consult your veterinarian for suggestions on cat litter. Not all litter is created equal and not all are good for your cat.
Cat care basics certainly go beyond your cat's daily needs. You've made a lifetime commitment to care for your feline companion and he's depending on you to be prepared.
Humane Society of the U.S.