Greetings, darlings, from the land of the crazy cat ladies! If there’s one creature that I love unconditionally, it’s cats. I have two fur babies: Yoda and Evey. They bring so much joy to my hermit-y life and I would love for you to join the “cat love” club with your very own cuddle-munchkin. BUT, before you dash over to your nearest shelter to pick up your very own fur baby, there are several things that you simply must know about our feline companions. Never fear, the resident crazy cat lady is here to guide you down the yellow brick road to cat-dom.
- Not so low-maintenance. Of my many pet peeves regarding cat care, this is one of the biggest. I don’t know who decided to advertise cats as “low-maintenance” (what does that even mean?), but I believe that it’s quite off base. Cats may not need to be walked like dogs, but they still need just as much love and attention. Otherwise you will most likely end up with an unhappy animal who will start messing up your house or runs away. Along the same lines, you can’t leave your cat at home for more than 2 days and expect things to be kosher when you get back—I don’t care how much food and water you leave them. They are going to get lonely and feel abandoned! Cats are more reserved than dogs, but once you develop a relationship with them, I believe they can be every bit as affectionate and cuddly. So please, don’t decide to get a cat just because you think they’ll be “easy” to take care of and will add another presence in your apartment—they deserve better than that.
- GET YOUR CAT’S REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS REMOVED. Let me repeat that again, get your cat(s) and dog(s) fixed. There are far too many animals that are homeless, abused, or euthanized because their owners don’t get them spayed or neutered. If you get your cat from a shelter (which, btw, you totally should), then they will not let the animals be taken home without them being fixed. The cost for fixing an animal is often included in the adoption price, so the cost burden on you is negligible. If you get your animal from a pet store/friend/side of the road/stray, then make sure to get them fixed ASAP. The last thing you need is for them to escape from your caring arms, meet a gorgeous or handsome species mate, and you all of a sudden have more fur babies than you ever originally planned for.
- Know the ins and outs of litter box maintenance. Ah, the dance of the litter box which seems daunting to the uninitiated, but can be mastered by the patient. Even if your cat goes both indoor and outdoor, you should probably still have a litter box inside for when they’re indoors—better safe than sorry, right? Make sure to change it at least every other day. You flush the toilet after you use it, so don’t expect your cats to be thrilled if they’re tramping around in their own waste. Furthermore, don’t blame them if they start deciding to go outside of the litter box—they’re just looking for somewhere clean to take care of business. For owners of multiple cats, make sure to have the same number of litter boxes (for example: 2 cats = 2 litter boxes). Get the CLUMPING litter, because yes, there is non-clumping litter for the very wee kittens that you don’t want to make the mistake of purchasing. If you’re worried about the smell, see if your cats will use a covered litter box, buy odor-preventive litter (I use Fresh Step), and put a plug-in air freshener next to the boxes. People freak out about the litter box, but if YOU manage it correctly, it’s really not a big deal.
- Cat Food. There are so many cat foods out there that navigating the aisles in your local pet store can be quite anxiety-provoking. A key point to remember: Cats are primarily carnivores and require a vastly different blend of nutrients than other animals (including humans!). Adult cats require approximately a 28% protein, > 9% fat, and < 40% carbs balance in their food. Most cat foods will have this blend, but just make sure when you look at the ingredients list that the first couple of ingredients aren’t grains. Scope out reviews and prices, and talk to your vet before deciding on a food. When starting out a new food, the cat will have some initial gastrointestinal distress, so don’t be alarmed. But if that continues for a while, then you might need to switch to a food that your cat tolerates better.
I would also recommend getting a food that says it will help prevent hairballs (in addition to regular brushing). This usually just means that there is a higher crude fiber content (8-9%). Not only does this level of fiber help prevent hairballs, it also immensely helps make your cat’s stools be nice and solid, and not all mushy and runny. You REALLY don’t want to deal with runny poos—both you and the cat will be horrified.
There is special food for kittens, because they have higher protein and fat needs since they are growing. But don’t feed your adult cat kitten food or else they will start to get pretty chunky, which can lead to a shorter life expectancy. For adult indoor cats, it’s best to get the “light” or “weight control” food because they just aren’t going to get as much movement in as cats who are roaming the great outdoors. Feed them a couple of times a day so that you have control over how much they are consuming, versus always leaving out a full bowl, which can also lead to a chubby kitty.
Finally, on the topic of food (which I could go on forever about), make sure that your cat gets adequate fluids. Cats are at high risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs) because they rely primarily on the moisture in their food to get the fluids they need. So if you are giving dry food and you notice your cat is not a big drinker, then you might need to incorporate wet food into its diet.
- Treat your cat with flea/tick/heartworm prevention medications—EVEN if it’s an indoor cat. Just because your beloved kitty doesn’t venture outdoors doesn’t mean that it can’t become the host for nasty little bugs. Pay the extra money up front to avoid the absolute horror that is a flea or tick infestation, and/or the deworming process. Most likely your animal has already been through that if they’re from a shelter, no need to put it and yourself through that again. Revolution is the mainstream treatment for cats and your vet can prescribe that for you, and then you can get refills through 1800PetMeds. Easy peasy, right?
- To keep, or to not keep, the claws? I personally feel that it’s inhumane to declaw cats because it’s actually cutting off the last joint on each of the cat’s toes. So if we did that to humans then the joint at the tip of our fingers would be missing. Get a damn scratching post and don’t partake in the socially acceptable maiming of cats.
You can actually train your cat to scratch on a scratching post, so just invest the money in that and preserve your cats wee paws. See this post from the humane society for more information.
- Adopt! I would strongly encourage you to adopt your kitty. There are always more cats than the shelters can handle (see #2), and so many are euthanized every day because there are just not enough homes for all the little fur balls. So adopt, and don’t support puppy and kitten mills by buying at pet stores. There are great deals, and tons of cats just waiting for you to come take them home. Especially black cats, since people are still superstitious so the black cats are less likely to find homes, which is just so sad. So go forth and rescue the kitties, my darlings!
There are SO many tips and tricks that I, and my fellow cat lovers, could tell you about the quirks and whims of felines, but I felt that these are some good starters to get you going. If you ever have any questions, contact your vet or your nearest shelter for more personalized advice. Also, I would recommend Complete Cat Care Manual if you want a book that is very informative and a quick resource for any of your catty problems.[divider] [/divider]
*FUN FACT* Vitamin C is not needed in a cat’s diet, since it can be manufactured in the body. Humans are the only mammals that have to consume vitamin C because our bodies can’t manufacture the essential vitamin.
What are some tips and tricks that you’ve discovered as a cat owner? OR, if you’re thinking about getting a cat, what else do you want to know? Tweet us @litdarling!
Oh, and how could she forget? She has three cats which she loves to bits and pieces.
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