Online Cat Care Sheet

 

Cats are usually very independant pets that prefer to look after many of their own needs. However there are some things they will need help with. One of the biggest factors affecting your pet's longevity and overall health and happiness is proper feeding. Below are some tips related to taking care of your pet.

Feeding

Lambert having breakfast by Ben124., on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Ben124.

Feeding is one of the major areas of care where cats differ from dogs. If food is constantly available many dogs tend to over eat while most cats do a pretty good of regulating their eating. This doesn't mean that some individuals won't gorge and pack on the pounds but rather that they tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Obesity in cats is more often caused by poor diet, lack of exercise or compulsive eating rather than the availability of food.

This offers the cat owner two different feeding strategies. One is to serve food on a per meal basis and the other is to put all of a single days food in a bowl and let them feed when they want. Dry foods are the only type of food that should be left in the bowl for longer than 1/2 hour. Moist soft foods are much more susceptible to contamination from bacteria and mold so these should only be fed on a per meal basis. If you choose to feed per meal then developing a consistent feeding schedule is important as it helps to stabilize your cat's metabolism and minimizes the chances that they will eat things that aren't intended to be cat food.

If per meal portioning is used adult cats more than 6 months old can be fed a single daily meal or the same amount portioned out over 2 or 3 meals throughout the day. Three daily meals are recommended for kittens between 3 and 6 months of age and younger kittens from weaning to 3 months should be given 4 meals a day.

Cats can be pickier, or as one major food manufacturer says "finicky". This can be a problem if they are fed a single type of food and it becomes unavailable. Mixing or alternating feeds will help prevent this while at the same time giving your cat some nutritional variety.

Of course the best thing to feed your cat is foods and treats designed specifically for cats. However there are a number of "human foods" that should be avoided altogether or offered in very limited quantities. Some of the more common ones are:

Foods to avoid:

  • Onions, garlic and related vegetables - Avoid these as they can cause gastric distress and anemia
  • Alcohol, caffeine and chocolate - Avoid these, as all can be lethal to cats in small amounts.
  • Grapes, raisins and currents - Avoid these as they can cause gastric distress and kidney failure.
  • Sugary Foods - Avoid as these increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.
  • Artificial Sweeteners - Avoid especially the artificial sweetener Xylitol that can cause liver failure and is found in many baked goods and dietetic foods.
  • Raw eggs, meat and fish - Avoid as these can contain salmonella or interfere with certain B vitamins levels.
  • Bones - Avoid as these pose a choking hazard and can cut or puncture the digestive system.
  • Macadamia nuts - Avoid as these contain a toxin that affects multiple bodily systems.
  • Mushrooms - Avoid as certain varieties may contain a toxin that affects multiple bodily systems.
  • Rhubarb leaves - Avoid as these contain oxalates a toxin that affects multiple bodily systems.

Foods to avoid or strictly limit

  • Tuna - Avoid or limit as large amounts can lead to nutritional deficiencies especially in Vitamin B1 (Thiamin).
  • Dairy products - Avoid or limit including milk as these can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea especially in adult cats.
  • Dog food - Avoid or limit as it is formulated for the nutritional needs of dogs and will cause nutritional deficiencies in the long term.
  • Liver - Avoid or limit as large amounts can lead to toxic levels of vitamin A in your cat resulting in bone related problems or death.
  • Fatty foods - Avoid or limit as these can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea as well obesity and pancreatitis.
  • Salty foods - Avoid or limit as these can cause electrolyte imbalances.

Note that this list only contains some common people foods that cause problems not all. Along with these you need to be concerned with houseplants. While there are too many plants to list here realize that nearly half of all varieties that may be found in the home are toxic to cats.

Housing

Even though they share our living space every cat should have a place that it feels it can call it's own. Their space should be quiet, free from drafts or temperature extremes and contain a comfy bed. Even if your cat frequently naps on the furniture or in that sunny window their own space offers a needed retreat if they are feeling stressed or under the weather.

Larger pet carriers are sometimes used as a cat's house and have the added benefit of reducing stress if they need to travel. No matter what type of space they have any bedding should be cleaned weekly to help control odors and any shed hair.

Exercise

While cats generally get enough exercise just being cats toys, scratching post and climbing perches can help mentally stimulate your cat and help direct behavior away from undesirable activities. For their own safety cats should not be allowed outside unsupervised. Another risk to letting your cat roam is that they will sometimes choose a second owner or worse yet choose a different owner altogether. However if you decide to ignore this advice make sure to use a safety collar that allows them to escape if it gets caught and an ID tag.

Grooming

While cats typically self groom regular brushing offers a chance to examine your pet closely and reduces shedding and hairball problems especially in long-haired cats.

Bathing is rarely required unless the cat gets into an offensive or harmful substance. Nail care is also typically left to the cat and a scrathing post but regularly inspecting your cats teeth, ears and body for anything out of the ordinary is an important part of their care.

Litter Box

The litter box is the most common method used to control and contain where a cat does their business. Cats with some work can also be trained to use the commode, which is more common than you might think. There are even special perches that are sold to make it easier for them to do this. That being said most use a litter box which should be placed in a low traffic secluded spot.

The litter needs to be kept clean by scooping out solid waste daily and replacing the litter when an odor becomes noticeable but no less than weekly. A cat will find another spot if they feel the litter box is dirty, potted plants tend to be a favorite second choice. Whenever the litter is changed the litter box should be thoroughly washed with a mild detergent that doesn't contain ammonia or fragrances.