Total Cat Care For a Happy, Healthy Cat
Cats are so remarkably self-reliant and independent that many people don’t really think much about their care, aside from feeding and the occasional cuddle. Yet domesticated cats can be quite dependent on their owners for a healthy, happy life.
There are some very simple things you can do to help keep your cat’s health at optimum levels, at the same time as ensuring he is content with his living arrangements within your home.
These things can include providing the right food, the right environment to facilitate good bathroom etiquette and the right kind of stimulation to keep your cat safe, healthy, active and alert.
Of course, your cat will enjoy nothing more than being allowed to curl up on your lap whenever possible for a good cuddle and some quality time together. This can be an important bonding time for you and your cat, but it also keeps him reassured that he’s still loved and still considered part of the family.
This book will give you some insight into simple, but effective, ways to ensure your cat is happy and healthy, both inside and out.
Training a Cat to Use a Litter Box
The majority of kittens should already understand that they need to do their business in a private place away from their food bowl by the time they leave their mother. Cats are fastidious by nature, and they will learn quickly from their mother what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Unfortunately, if your kitten was taken away from his mother before he has learned these things, you may need to spend some time training your cat to use a litter box.
Ideally, you should place the litter box somewhere private – the laundry is usually ideal. Cats don’t appreciate an audience when doing their business. Place a sheet of newspaper down on the bottom of the box and sprinkle a little bicarbonate of soda across this before putting the cat litter down. The bicarbonate soda will help to reduce any ammoniac smell the tray may produce.
Then begin to encourage your kitten to use the tray. Place him in the tray and gently move his paw to simulate scratching in the litter. He’ll understand quickly enough that the litter box is where you want him to go.
If you see the kitten scratching around in a corner or on the rug or in a pot plant, pick him up and take him back to the litter box. Kittens learn very quickly and will return to the box very quickly.
Remember to clean out the litter regularly, as your kitten may decide to use a convenient rug or pot plant if the existing litter is full of previous toilet attempts.
It’s also very important not to punish a kitten that has an accident and goes to the bathroom in the wrong place. Punishment won’t teach it to use a litter box, but it will teach the cat to fear you.
The Importance of Cat Toys
Don’t think that only kittens enjoy playing with toys. Even older cats will happily engage in a little playful activity with a bit of encouragement.
There are plenty of good reasons why you should provide your cat with suitable cat toys to play with. Aside from providing some exercise for your cat, playing together can also be a very important bonding time for you both.
Cats have very strong hunting instincts, so give them something to pounce on and chase. This is also excellent for alleviating boredom and stress. A cat that is bored or stressed with very little to do will end up sleeping far too much or eating more than usual, both of which can lead to obesity problems.
What Type of Cat Toys?
Always ensure you use approved cat toys. Not every type of cat toy available at the pet store or in the pet section of your local Walmart will be suitable, although they may look like fun for your pet.
It’s also very tempting to allow kittens to play with items from around the house, such as a ball of wool, string or elastic, but these may be potentially harmful. Your cat may chew on these or choke on them if swallowed. There is also a risk of a particularly active kitten becoming tangled in wool or string, which could potentially strangle a young cat.
The cat toys you choose don’t need to be elaborate. A simple toy mouse or catnip toys or even cat balls will do fine and provide plenty of amusement for any cat of any age.
Introducing a New Cat Into the Home
If you already have a cat and you’re considering bringing a new kitten into the home, be prepared to exercise a little patience.
Cats can be extremely territorial and may not appreciate a new kitten entering their home. In fact, an older cat may become resentful of you sharing your attention with another kitten, instead of lavishing it all on him.
Rather than subject your older cat to stress and jealousy, think about some ways you can introduce a new kitten into the home more gently.
Ideally, if you’re choosing a new kitten to bring home, consider choosing a cat of the opposite gender to your existing cat. Rub the new kitten with a towel and leave this somewhere near your older cat’s bed so he can get used to the smell first.
When you bring the kitten home for the first time, leave the box or crate you brought him in open for your older cat to smell. This will familiarize him further with the smell of a new addition to the family.
Don’t immediately put the two cats together in an effort to force a meeting between them. Let them find each other in their own time and on their own terms. This will be far less stressful on both cats. You should also aim to have completely separate food bowls, bedding and litter box prepared for the new cat.
Be prepared to separate the two of them if the older cat begins to display threatening behavior. It can be awfully traumatic for a kitten to be on the receiving end of an angry swipe from a much bigger cat with much bigger claws. However, if your older cat is only hissing or growling, this is just his way of warning the younger cat away.
Of course, having a new kitten in the house can be a lot of fun for other family members. This will mean the new addition will receive plenty of playing and cuddling. Yet this can make your first cat feel unloved and unwanted. Always try to spend time with your existing cat as well to reassure him that he’s still special to you.
Plenty of cat owners have lamented the damage caused to furniture or carpets when cats decide they want to sharpen their claws. This usually leads most owners to head out to the pet store and buy a cat scratching post.
Take a moment to look at the scratching post from your cat’s point of view. If the post you choose is covered in carpet, of course your cat is going to think it’s quite natural to scratch at any surface that feels the same.
Instead, look for a scratching post that is covered in rope or fabric or even hessian carpet backing. Gently assist your cat to stretch up along the scratching post until he digs his claws in on his own. He’ll figure out quickly what to do.
Your choice of fabric covering the post will distinguish it as being for scratching and claw-sharpening use, at the same time as showing your cat that your furniture, carpets and rugs are off limits.
You may also need to make sure the post is tall enough and sturdy enough to handle the weight of an adult cat. Smaller posts may topple over, frightening a cat enough to make it avoid going near it again.
Declawing Your Cat
While it might seem like a way to stop your cat scratching, don’t even contemplate this for a moment. It is simply cruel and inhumane, and can cause your cat to suffer from some severe psychological problems.
Instead, spend a bit of time encouraging your cat to use the scratching post. Make the post fun by attaching a toy to it. This way scratching becomes a game. You might even rub a little catnip on the post so it becomes suddenly very appealing to climb it.
Neutering Your Cat
Regardless of whether your cat is a male or a female, if you don’t intend to breed kittens, you should be a responsible owner and spay your cat. Have him or her de-sexed as soon as they’re old enough. Many cat owners will automatically consider this if they have a female cat, but it’s surprising how many male cat owners don’t think it’s necessary.
You’ll find that a neutered male cat has a far lower tendency to stray, fight, or spray that irritatingly awful smelling spray all over everything.
Speak to your vet about the appropriate age to neuter your cat. You’ll avoid adding to your cat family if your kitten is female, and you’ll have a more pleasant cat if your kitten is male.
Common Cat Health Issues
Vets report seeing many of the same common cat health issues that could be easily prevented. In most cases, these can be addressed by altering the food your cat eats and including ingredients that are more optimal to good health.
Diabetes in cats can be notoriously difficult to treat well and can definitely be life-threatening. Yet studies have shown that cats that have their dietary carbohydrate levels decreased also require a greatly reduced level of insulin to help them cope with the disease.
In order to reduce the onset of feline diabetes or to help in controlling and existing diabetic problem, it may be wise to check what ‘fillers’ are included in the commercial tinned food you feed your cat. Many brands will contain high levels of cornstarch, grains, cereals as these are cheaper than meat. You may also want to cut dry kibble from the diet completely as well.
Many cats are allergic to grains and cereals in their diets. Yet far too many commercial canned foods contain high levels of grains or cereals. This can be enough to cause allergic airway disease, such as feline asthma.
If you speak to your vet about this debilitating illness, you’ll learn that many cats lose their symptoms almost immediately upon being put on a grain-free, high protein diet. This includes removing any dry kibble from the diet.
Obesity related illness and disease in cats can be potentially life-threatening, and yet the advice often given is to reduce the amount of food given to the cat in an effort to reduce the calories they receive.
Unfortunately obesity in cats can often be attributed to a poor diet that is too high in carbohydrates, such as wheat grains or corn starch, and too low in good quality animal protein. Dry kibble is also very high in calories and can lead to even further weight gain.
Blocked Urinary Tract/Cystitis
Cystitis is a very common health problem in cats that is also extremely painful. This type of inflammation often causes cats to urinate in places they normally wouldn’t. If left untreated, cystitis can lead to blockages within the urinary tract that could rupture the bladder and cause other potentially life-threatening problems.
Removing dry kibble from a cat’s diet and increasing the amount of water given with food can go far in avoiding this painful problem. Finding a well-hydrated source of protein-rich food will also help alleviate symptoms.
Your Cat’s Current Diet
Cats tend to hide health problems until the symptoms are quite advanced. By that time, whatever ailment is disturbing them may be too late to treat effectively.
Many veterinarians report that owners come in with their sick cats, telling them the cat was “just fine” prior to displaying symptoms for the first time. Those symptoms include many of the serious illnesses mentioned in the previous chapter, like diabetes, blocked urinary tract, kidney stones, but can also include cancer or tumors.
This is because the disease may have been progressing silently and below the surface, until it’s gotten so bad that clinical symptoms can no longer be hidden.
The key to helping your cat remain healthy and to reduce the risk of disease and illness that could easily have been avoided is to feed your cat species-appropriate food.
Food to Avoid Feeding Cats
Cats are natural carnivores. They need far more animal-based protein in their diet than dogs – or even humans – do. This means overloading your homemade cat food with grains or vegetables simply won’t do your cat as much good as you hope it will.
When making your own cat food, there are specific foods you should avoid feeding your cat. These include:
Chocolate contains a substance that can be toxic to cats, causing damage to the heart and the central nervous system.
Garlic contains enzymes that can potentially damage red blood cells and cause anemia.
Grapes and raisins can cause kidney damage and even kidney failure in cats.
As much as people think cats love nothing more than a good old saucer of milk, many cats may be lactose intolerant. This can cause diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
Mushrooms contain a toxic substance that negatively affect the nervous system, may cause a cat to go into shock, and potentially cause death.
Onions contain a substance that can potentially damage red blood cells and cause anemia.
Raw eggs may contain salmonella. They may also reduce absorption of Vitamin B from other food sources, causing other health issues.
Homemade Cat Food Recipes
Many commercial cat food brands contain very high levels of preservatives and additives. The meat used in some commercial cat food may not always be of the quality you’d expect. In fact, you might find many brands are often made up of dubious contents that might not always be in your cat’s best interests.
For these reasons, many cat owners begin making their own cat food at home. Unfortunately, they don’t always research deeply enough into what will be best for a cat’s digestive system and health needs before they begin. This is why many veterinarians voice their concerns about homemade cat diets.
Yet it is very possible to improve your cat’s health, remove artificial colorings and flavourings, and still prepare nutritious, balanced food that will be good for him or her. Cats do require good quality animal protein source, but they can also have a little good quality carbohydrate, such as a little rice or pasta, and a small amount of some green vegetables. Ideally, the ratio of protein should always be a little higher than other ingredients.
You should also find that homemade cat food is far more economical than buying commercial food.
Here are some simple, quick, healthy recipes you can use for your cat’s diet:
Chunky Chicken Mix
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
½ cup cooked rice
½ cup chopped spinach
¼ cup diced carrot
½ cup chicken stock
This recipe is ideal for making good use of left-over cooked chicken. Chop the cooked chicken into small pieces and leave to one side. Boil rice, chopped spinach and finely diced carrot in water.
When rice has softened completely, drain well and place all ingredients into a food processor. Add a little chicken stock to help hold ingredients together and blend. Add the chicken chunks. Mix them in well, but don’t blend these. Your cat needs something to chew. If the mixture seems a little dry, add a little more chicken stock.
Store the chicken mix in an air tight container in the fridge until needed.
1 can mackerel or sardines in oil
1 tablespoon peas
½ cup rice
1 tablespoon bone meal
Boil the rice and peas in water until the rice has softened. Drain completely and allow to cool slightly. Put the rice and peas into a food processor, along with the bone meal and egg. Blend until ingredients are mixed well. Stir in the fish, along with the oil from the can, but don’t blend again. If you use mackerel, break up the chunks with a spoon. If you use sardines, break up the fish into smaller pieces with a spoon.
Store your fish mix in an air tight container in the fridge until required.
Turkey and Pasta Casserole
2 cups ground turkey meat
1 small chopped broccoli
1 cup macaroni
1 tablespoon gravy mix
1 cup chicken stock
Add all ingredients to a saucepan and cook over low heat until macaroni is soft, stirring occasionally. Allow mixture to cool slightly. Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend lightly.
Store casserole in an air tight container in the fridge until required.
Small can of mackerel in oil
1 cup bread crumbs
Preheat your oven to 350F (180C)
Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Add the oil from the can to help bind the breadcrumbs into the mix. Break up the mackerel with a fork until the mackerel is well mashed.
Use a teaspoon to scoop small portions of the mixture into balls. Cat-sized munchies will usually be around ¼ teaspoon in size. Drop the mackerel balls onto a greased cookie sheet. When all the mixture is used, bake them for 5-6 minutes.
Allow the mackerel munchies to cool completely before storing them in an air tight container in the fridge until needed.
3 cups flour
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup dry milk powder
1 can mackerel in oil
½ cup water
Olive oil as required
Preheat your oven to 350F (180C).
Mix the flour, wheat germ and milk powder together in a large bowl. Add in the oil from the can of mackerel and the water and mix together well. Add the mackerel and mash it well into small pieces using a fork. If the dough is very dry, add a little olive oil.
The dough should become tough to mix, so use your hands to knead it into a ball if required. If it doesn’t form a ball, or breaks apart, add a little more olive oil.
Roll the dough into a ¼ inch (1/2 cm) thickness and cut into ¼ inch squares with a knife. Put all the tiny pieces onto a greased cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Be sure to toss the kibble once or twice during the cooking process to be sure they all brown evenly. When they’re cooked, allow them to cool completely before storing them in an air tight container until needed.
This recipe will freeze very well, so be sure to put any excess portions into the freezer. Defrost these when required.