Cat Care Essentials
10 things to keep your cat in tip-top shape
Your cat might act independent, but he still counts on you to provide him with food, water, safe shelter, veterinary care, a clean litter box, love, and more. Take care of these essentials, and you’ll develop a rewarding relationship with your feline companion.
1. Keep your cat safe by keeping him indoors, safely confined to your property or walked on a harness and leash. Doing so is best for you, your cat, and your community. Provide your cat with safety and security. Always use a cat carrier when transporting your pet. Protect him by making certain that all windows are securely screened. Keep the washer and dryer are kept closed and check inside before each use. (Some cats like to climb in these appliances if they’re left open.) Get into the habit of ensuring that drawers, closets, and cupboards are uninhabited before you close them—a kitty may be lurking inside.
2. Outfit your cat with a breakaway collar and visible ID that includes your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there’s always a chance he may slip out the door. Your cat is more likely to get home safely if he has ID. Also, be a good citizen by complying with any local cat licensing laws.
3. Take your cat to the veterinarian for regular check-ups and vaccinations. If you don’t have a veterinarian, ask your local animal shelter, rescue group, or a pet-owning friend for a referral. Medical care is as essential for your cat as it is for you. If you already have dogs or cats at home, make sure they are up-to-date on their shots and in good general health before you introduce your new cat.
4. Spay or neuter your cat. This will keep him healthier and help decrease the number of cats put down every year because of cat overpopulation.
5. Feed your cat a nutritionally balanced diet and provide fresh water 24/7. Educate yourself on your cat’s nutritional needs, or ask your veterinarian for advice on what and how often to feed your pet.
6. Keep the litter box clean. Cats are naturally fastidious, and most will instinctively use a litter box; you just have to show yours where it is; Don’t place your cat in the box and make little scratching motions with his front paws. This will likely upset your cat and may make him leery of the box. Scoop the box at least once daily and periodically wash it with dish liquid and hot water. Because cats also value privacy, place the litter box in a convenient but quiet spot.
7. You may need to experiment with litter to find one your cat likes. Offer him several types and when he makes his choice, don’t run out of it. Cats are creatures of habit and if you suddenly switch to another litter or don’t keep the box clean, he may not use it.
8. Groom your cat often. All cats, whether long- or short-haired, should be brushed regularly to keep their coats and skin healthy, prevent matting, and reduce shedding and hairballs. They also need to have their claws clipped to keep them from growing into their paw. Grooming is a good opportunity to discover any lumps, fleas, injuries, etc., and bond with your kitty.
9. Make time to play and provide entertainment. Cats often entertain themselves, but regular play sessions with your pet will provide him with the physical and mental stimulation he needs and strengthen the bond you share.
Give him toys and scratching posts to distract him from your household goods. Cats love to play and will appreciate simple and inexpensive toys. Ping-Pong balls and opened paper bags (remove the handles) can provide hours of fun. A comfortable perch by a window can become your cat’s very own entertainment and relaxation center. Rotate toys to maintain your cat’s interest in them.
You might want to invest in a kitty condo or cat tree—a structure typically covered in carpet or sisal (a rough material cats love to scratch) where your cat can climb, stretch and hide out to his heart’s content, and watch the world go by. But the best two things you can provide your cat with are love and playtime.
10. Provide your cat with some basic training to help him get along in your home. It’s true that cats usually have their own ideas about how to do things. Even so, most cats can be taught not to scratch the couch, eat plants, or jump up on the kitchen counter. With repeated, gentle and consistent training, your cat will learn the house rules. Don’t yell or hit him.
Use a squirt gun, whistle, or other noisemaking device to startle (not scare) your cat if you catch him doing something you don’t like. Remember to provide a suitable alternative to meet his needs, for example a scratching post, cat grass, and a kitty condo.
A final note
Be loyal to and patient with your cat. Make sure your expectations of your companion are reasonable, and remember that most problems have a solution. If you’re struggling with your pet’s behavior, learn how to solve problems with humane and effective techniques. Check out our cat behavior tips for detailed instructions.