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CatCare 11/2004

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November's Pet of the Month: Cats

Basic Cat Care

Whether your new friend is a kitten or a full grown adult cat, this article is intended to supply you with some basic cat care info. If you have any health issues you should always seek a professional Veteranarian.
What to look for
Selecting a cat or kitten can be a difficult process but knowing a little information before you go can make a world of difference. Let's start with selecting a kitten. Make sure that the kitten is at least eight weeks old. Any younger can make for a sick kitten. The longer the young one is left with it's mother the better. It also helps the kitten to be better prepared to leave "the nest" so to speak.
The mother cat, also known as the queen, teaches the little kitten many things in such a short time. Some of the lessons they learn are pouncing and hunting, defending themselves, and most times they will litter train the kitten for you. The best lesson of all though, and for your sake, is the lesson of "manners" and the order of the pride. If you have ever watched a nature show you will see some of the traits and actions that will even relate to your typical domesticated house cat. Grooming, play amoung the young, hunting. You want to make sure that you select a kitten that seems in good health.
Trouble signs are:
  • Sore, crusty, watery eyes
  • feces on the rectum that appears as diarreha
  • black substance in the ears
  • fleas
  • no sound when it tries to meow
  • any visible sores or lesions
  • loss of hair
  • coughing or sneezing

Any of these conditions are warning signs that the kitten is not in good health. You will also want to inspect the mother for proper care and the enviroment that the kittens are kept in.

Are the kittens indoor or outdoor? If they are outdoor, you may want to avoid these kittens because of the greater risk that they have been exposed to unwanted diseases that are not usually detected unless tested for. Usually indoor kittens are more friendlier because of closer human contact. Avoid the temptation to try and "tame" a ferral cat. Ferral cats/kittens are basically wild cats that are kept for mousing in barns and outbuildings. If you have young children and you attempt to tame a ferral cat/kitten you are putting yourself and your children at risk to contractable diseases that can make you very ill.
What's Next?
Now that you have chosen your new friend and family member, whats next? Well the first thing you will want to do, and I suggest you do this as soon as possible, is to make an appointment for your vet. If the kitten/cat has recieved any vaccinations, worming, or any other treatment for medical conditions, you will want to take this information along with you. If your pet has not been wormed, the vet can do this for you at your visit along with any vaccinations they are lacking. He will get you started on a routine visiting schedule to keep your cat in good health. Some of the vaccinations that your kitten or cat may recieve are:
  • RCP (rhinotracheitis ( or feline herpes) ,
  •  calcivirus and panleukopenia (feline distemper)
  • rabies at 12 weeks of age.
  • feline leukemia

It is very important to follow any instructions that the vet gives you to keep your cat in good health. He can also suggest any flea preventitive at this time as well as the importance of spaying and neutering.

Basic Needs

Cats and kittens, in general, require very little to keep them happy. They don't always require the same amount of attention that a dog needs and as far as toys, well just about anything will work. Here is a list of things to consider when shopping for your new pet. There are other optional items but this list will name the basics to get you started.

  • Litter pan Litter preferably the scoopable type
  • Scooper
  • Food/Water Bowls
  • Food
  • Toys (optional)

If your kittens is not litter trained, don't worry! It is VERY easy to litter train a kitten and much easier than housebreaking a puppy. Simply place the kitten in a clean pan of litter and scratch the litter a few times. That's it! Unless you have a very young or stubborn kitten. Most kittens are very easily trained to the litter pan. Some prefer an enclosed pan for more privacy or if it is kept in a room with little or no traffic. There are many types of Litter on the market and range in prices. Since we have three cats we prefer to buy the multi-cat litter and definately a scoopable type such as Tidy Cat for Mulitple Cats.

My husband (luckily) tends to the litter box. On a daily basis he scoops the clumps from the litter pan and changes the litter about once a week. He occasionally will need to add a little fresh litter to the pan as some of its users get a little carried away when they are using it. One thing to keep in mind; change the litter, they will come! One day after my husband had just changed the litter, he turned around to find a line of three cats waiting to use it! As far as food and water bowls go, you can purchase a simple water/food combo dish that will work just fine.

We have to have one water dish but three bowls as the boys just don't like to share. In my opinion, the best food for my kittens/cat is Iams. It has a lot of meat content which is preferred for cats. It is also what my vet recommended because of the vitamin content. They also seem to have an easier time at digesting it. I also give them canned food on occasion. I do not recommend they have a diet consisting soley of canned food as the tarter buildup is worse on cats who are not fed hard food. I also do not recommend switching their foods. It tends to make them picky. Make sure you provide plenty of fresh water daily as well. For kittens they should have access to a food supply at all times. When they get older you can limit them to two small meals a day.

Toys and Kitten Proofing the House Safety First! Keep in mind that anything that is small enough to fit into a kittens mouth also has the chance of being swallowed. Get down on your hands and knees and view your house at your kittens eye level. Be the kitten and try to think like one. What are some of the things that "look" appealing? Wires dangling from a table, small beads on the floor, or maybe the cord from the blinds? Any of these items can be a potential hazzard to your kitten. Some plants are also poisonous to them. This link will take you to a list of poisonous plants. This site is the ASPCA and is a very reliable site to get information on poison control in animals. After great consideration to safety you will want to give some thought to toys! There are many products and toys on the market for cats/kittens. Make sure these products are used in a way they are designed. You can also find toys around the house. A ball of yarn, a baby food jar lid on a linoleum floor, or if your cats are like mine the ceiling fan will entertain them for a while. One of my cats favorite "toys" is hair bands. These are the cloth ones with elastic inside of them. He also "hunts" barbies! Every once in a while you will see him emerging from the girls room with his little trophy from the toy box. He brings his catch in by the hair and lays her at the foot of my bed. We also have fish. Another safety issue. Make sure your lid fits snuggly on your tank and your filters have covers on them. Cats love to drink water from the aquarium but this can be toxic to them too. Especially if you are treating your fish for diseases.

Above all, show your cat love. Treat him with kindness and interact with him. Build a lasting bond by playing with your cat, petting and loving him, but also showing him respect by giving him his space. Cats prefer solitude on most occasions. If you want your cat to learn his/her name, don't call them by saying "here kitty kitty" because then they will think that's their name. If you call them by their given name thats what they will answer to.

This article was written and submitted by Cichlid Lover and cannot be copied without her written permission. copyright 2004

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