Essential tips to care for your new cat
Getting a new cat whether it’s a kitten or an older cat is an exciting time. Today Dr. Eloise from Love That Pet discusses a few key areas that you can tick off to ensure you are prepared for your new furry housemate’s arrival.
Food and Water
Cats need a good quality food with a high meat protein content to thrive. Avoid the cheap supermarket cat foods that are full of cereal grains and go for a good quality brand, that isn’t overly processed and is full of good quality ingredients. Products such as ZiwiPeak are made with only fresh, natural, raw meat and organs and contain no artificial additives, preservatives, fillers or grains. Nothing artificial. Choosing quality food will help your cat stay healthier and live longer. Interestingly cats don’t like to drink next to their food, so set up a couple of water bowls in different areas of the home. Replace the water twice daily so it is nice and fresh to encourage your cat to drink.
Wet or Dry Food
Cats tend to love to eat small amounts frequently. A cat would usually eat an average of 7 times per day. Dry food has the convenience of being able to be left out all day. You can also let your cat ‘hunt’ for his food by hiding it or putting it in a food ball or empty drink bottle for your cat to bat around. If you decide to feed canned food too, avoid the gravy or sauce based ones that are incredibly high in sugars and go for ones with a high meat content. Eloise also recommends avoiding pet meats that contain preservatives and imported treats and foods, since there have been several recent food scares related to these pet products.
You will need 2 litter trays if you have one cat, 3 if you have two. Aim to just use 2 cups of litter in the tray, then tip the whole volume out into the bin and replace it when used. This method is much more hygienic than simply scooping out the solids and leaving a layer of urine in the bottom of the tray. There is no need to use cleaning products in a litter tray, just keep a separate scrubbing brush for litter trays only and scrub out with hot water when required. The recycled paper litter is economical and the absence of weird perfumes will make it more attractive for your cat to use. Your cat is unlikely to toilet outside of the litter tray if you keep it clean and fresh at all times.
The saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’ is incredibly true and as a vet I’m constantly surprised by the adventures of our feline friends. Falls from balconies, windows and other supposedly secure locations are common, as is turning up at a vet 5km away with mysterious injuries. My own cats can jump a 6 foot fence from a standing start and are accomplished escape artists. Secure play enclosures are such a great way for your cat to experience the outdoors in a safe and responsible way. The average life expectancy for an outdoor cat is only 5 years of age, due to attacks from dogs, other cats and run ins with cars. These incidents can lead to costly trips to the vet and much heartache if your cat can’t be saved. The average cost for a cat fight abscess is around $800, while trauma from being hit by a car could cost thousands of dollars, depending on your cat’s injuries.
Play and Toys
Cats love to hunt and pounce, climb and scratch. You can provide a scratching post to provide an elevated resting area and save the couch from claws. Cats love routine, so a regular play session at around the same time each day is ideal. Fishing line toys and laser pointers are great play things for your little hunter.
Many cats do not necessarily like to be cuddled, so watch your cat carefully during any physical contact. If your cat is actively pushing into you for more pats, keep going. If your cat is still and that tail is starting to swish, remove your hands before you get a scratch. Another commonly misinterpreted cat signal is when your cat flops down on his side in front of you. In cat language this signals that your cat feels comfortable in your presence, it is not an invitation to pat him! Touching the belly is seen as a betrayal of that trust.
Parasite control is important in cats, even indoor cats that are not killing native wildlife. As a vet, I’ve encountered 2 indoor cats with tick paralysis in the past 10 years. Those sneaky parasites will sneak in on our clothing, shoes and beach towels. The only registered tick preventative for cats is Frontline spray used every 3 weeks. For fleas, worming and heartworm a monthly preventative such as Advocate or Revolution is ideal.
Just remember that you will also need to give a tapeworm tablet every 6 months for an indoor cat, and every 3 months for an outdoor cat. Don’t waste your time and money on unsafe and ineffective supermarket flea products, they don’t work and some are quite frankly very dangerous.
Cats are amazing housemates, with very different personalities and needs. They are incredibly clean creatures to live with and once you share your home with a cat you could never imagine life without one.
Eloise is a Sydney vet working for Love That Pet. She has a particular passion for helping pets with anxiety and itchy dogs. She currently enjoys the quiet life in Sydney with her young boys, Jimmy the cat and a constant procession of stray cats and birds