Bringing Your Feline Friend Home

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Bringing Your Feline Friend Home
Kitty Cat Feline Pet Cute Portrait Domestic
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Bringing Your Feline Friend Home

Bringing Your Feline Friend Home
Kitty Cat Feline Pet Cute Portrait Domestic

Whether you have had one or one hundred cats, you will want to prepare for the arrival of the new addition to your home. Make sure you have special supplies just for him or her. Fewer turf fights exist when additional equipment is supplied for the newest member of your family.

That is right – a member of your family

Companion animals, pets, whatever name you give, your critters are members of your family, not possessions. As you make decisions for you and your family, make sure you include all its members. How will your decisions affect the four-footed, finned, feathered, scaled in your charge?

You may still make the same decisions, just keep your animals in mind as you do. Make provisions for them when you go on vacation when you will be home late from work when you move when you become unable to care for them when you die. They give you so much unconditionally; give them as much as you can in return.

Before you open the carrier containing your new ball of fluff, remember to kitty-proof your home. Look up as well as down. Look up at objects hanging off lampshades, chandeliers, etc. Get on your hands and knees to see what dangers lurk under your sofa and bed, behind your desk. Protect kitty from his or her natural curiosity by removing tempting objects (this goes not just for the eight-week-old kitten but also for the eighteen-year-old cat). You may have to cover electrical outlets, especially for kittens, as you would for a human infant. You may need to tape up or cover electrical cords if kitty is showing any interest in chewing them – can burn or kill kitty.

Check for other dangers

For instance, are there shopping bags around? Kitties love to hide in bags. Make sure the handles have been removed so that kitty does not get caught in them, scaring him or her, possibly causing an accident. Are there plastic bags around? Just as plastic bags are unsafe for our human infants, plastic bags are unsafe for our feline friends. Some cats like to swallow plastic – definitely not healthy behavior. So, be careful of dry cleaning, shopping, and newspaper bags – all dangers to our kitties. Venetian blind and window shade cords can also become dangers to our feline friends if they catch a limb or their neck in them.

Keep all medicine, under-the-sink, and laundry room cabinets securely closed (some cats can open just about any cabinet so use childproof latches on all cupboard doors). We must protect our precious furballs since they do not know what harm lurks in our homes. Remember, companion animals are terminally two years old. They are infantile in their trust and in their curiosity. Keep harmful objects (solids, powders, and liquids) out of their grasp so that they can exercise their curiosity in safety.

If kitty spends time outside (more on that later), be aware of other dangers. The obvious ones are motor vehicles and predators. Less obvious are such dangers as antifreeze (its sweet taste tempts our feline friends). If ingested, antifreeze can kill our companion animals. Clean up all spills immediately.

Cat Carriers

You can get cardboard carriers (some cats, however, will tear at the cardboard until they are free). There are inexpensive plastic carriers similar to the cardboard ones and then there are the more expensive plastic ones. Also, there are shoulder-bag carriers made of fabric and there are old-fashioned wicker carriers. Regardless of your choice, make sure the carrier is large enough for kitty to turn around in, sturdy enough to hold kitty securely, well-ventilated, and properly latched.

If you are traveling by air with kitty, you must use airline-approved carriers (one style for cabin travel and one for cargo travel). Always check with the airlines to find out what is acceptable to them and what their rules are regarding transporting animals. Each airline has its own rules.

For those who have leash trained kitty, put kitty in a carrier when he or she is being transported. What would you do if you were in a car accident? Having kitty in a carrier will protect kitty against some injury and will keep him or her contained until help arrives.

Food and Water

We cannot begin to tell you specifically what kind of food to feed your friendly feline. The variety of cat food (canned and dry) is staggering. The pet food industry is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year business (8 1/2 billion dollars in sales in 1993).

A complete, well-balanced diet is essential to maintain your cat’s purrfect health. Many disease states can be traced to improper nutrition or failure to follow a prescribed diet. Name-brand commercial cat foods are formulated to provide all the nutritional needs of the cat. Premium foods (such as those purchased through veterinarians and pet stores) use higher quality ingredients and a fixed formula. Because of their nutrient concentration, lesser amounts of food are needed to maintain the cat’s weight and meet nutritional needs. Please be aware that a cat that has been on a special diet for health reasons must continue to eat that food (i.e., a prescription diet for feline urological syndrome).

If you want to feed kitty human food, make sure it is healthy for him or her and make it a treat rather than a substitute for manufactured or home prepared feline food. Human tuna does not contain all the nutrients kitty needs so avoid giving that as a meal. A stray piece that happens to fall kitty’s way is acceptable. Give kitty fresh fruit or fresh vegetables as a treat. Many of us have the image of a kitty drinking from a saucer of milk. Some cats may tolerate milk, but yogurt and Lactaid milk are better choices especially if kitty is on antibiotics (keeps the intestinal flora working in harmony). Bones of any kind should never be given to your cat. Some foods, including turkey, can cause diarrhea.


If you wish to make your cat’s food yourself, consult books and your veterinarian for nutritionally sound recipes. Home prepared diets rely on all-natural foods in their freshest state. Making kitty’s food requires time and dedication and you may be just the right person to do it.

In deciding what to feed your feline, price should not be the sole consideration. Read labels. Are there unnatural additives and preservatives that could adversely affect your kitty? Saving on your food bill may increase your veterinary bill. You may pay less for a particular brand, but your cat may eat more of it because he or she is not getting good quality nutrition. Where are the savings there? The slightly higher-priced spread may be just the right balance for your cat and your wallet. For guidance on what and how much to feed your feline, ask your veterinarian.

Along with the many regular brands of cat food, there are at least a half dozen specialized diets for felines with health problems (i.e., kidney disease, lower urinary tract disease, allergies). Feeding your feline the right food for his or her age, health, weight, and lifestyle gives your kitty the best chance for a good life.

Once you have decided on the type of food you want to feed your cat, you want to determine how and where you will serve him or her. Put kitty’s food (and water) in stainless steel or porcelain bowls without any painted surfaces (should the glaze wear, you don’t want paint leaching into kitty’s food). Avoid using plastic bowls because no matter how well you clean plastic, the residue can remain and germs can grow. Suddenly you have a sick cat or one with feline acne because he or she was eating from germ-laden bowls. Wash these bowls daily. Do you eat off dirty plates? Well, okay, once in a while – but not as a rule. Neither should kitty. Place kitty’s bowls in out-of-the-way areas so that kitty can eat undisturbed by the two- and possibly other four-footed beasties in his or her home.

Obesity is often a problem with kitties

Many cat owners feel that once a cat is spayed or neutered, he or she will become fat. What causes kitty to become fat is too much food or the wrong kind of food.

To determine if kitty is overweight, run your hands along kitty’s rib cage. Do you feel ribs? If you do (and you cannot see them), kitty is fine. (If you can see kitty’s ribs, kitty is underweight). If you cannot feel ribs, kitty needs to lose some weight.

Be careful not to radically change the amount and type of food you are feeding kitty. Such quick changes can cause tummy problems for kitty. However, if you have been leaving food down all the time (free-feeding), you may want to change to set meals (usually one in the a.m. and one in the p.m.) leaving the food bowl down for 30-45 minutes. Read the can and bag labels to determine the correct portion size for your feline.

Obese cats may face increased health risks similar to the health risks obese humans face. Unless kitty knows how to open the refrigerator door or the kitchen cupboard, you are the one in charge of his or her diet and you are the one who can create a healthy lifestyle for kitty.

Water is life

Without it, no one can survive. Make sure the water you give to the kitty is clean, fresh, filtered if needed, changed daily, and placed in a stainless steel or porcelain bowl that is cleaned daily. Water is easy to obtain; make sure kitty has an ample supply.

Some cats like to drink out of receptacles other than their water bowl – dripping faucets, tubs wet from showers and baths, and toilets. Regardless of the bowl of choice, make sure it is clean – soap residue and bacteria can cause kitty health problems.

Litter and Litter Box

If you have an eight-week-old kitten, you will want a small litter box so that he or she can easily climb into it. You will also want to keep that new baby in a small area so that he or she can find the litter box easily. As your cat grows, so can the size of the litter box.

Make sure the litter box is large enough for your cat to move around and dig in as that is what most like to do (some even like to sleep in the litter box – especially when they are frightened). The box can be open or covered.

If your kitty has been tracking litter around the house or is tossing it out of the box, or if waste material has landed outside the box because kitty sometimes hangs his or her butt over the side, place your litter box inside a larger and slightly higher box or use a covered litter box. You can use hemp doormats under the boxes to catch errant pieces of litter. These mats also make great scratching surfaces.

Clumping and clay litter, shredded paper, environmentally friendly litter, scented and unscented – all are available. Your choice often rests on what is best and easiest for you and, of course, what kitty will use! You can provide several litter boxes, some with clay and some with clumping litter. To avoid conflict, have as many litter boxes as you have cats even if the litter boxes are right next to each other. Also, have litter boxes on all floors of your home (especially in a multi-cat and/or multi-level household). Regardless of where your feline friends are, they should have easy access to a litter box. As kitty ages, he or she may not be able to make it from the second floor of his or her home to the basement without having an accident. Help kitty is the fastidious feline he or she is by making litter boxes easily available.

Make sure you remove the waste matter from the litter box daily. Would you want to use a toilet that has not been flushed for several days? Wash the box frequently with hot soapy water and a vinegar-and-hot-water rinse (if cats lick surfaces that have a soapy residue, they can get diarrhea).

Keep litter boxes in out-of-the-way places

You do not want an audience when you take care of your personal needs; neither does kitty. There are some beautiful screens that can be put in front of the litter box for privacy from both the cat’s point of view and from yours. You can make your own screen of cardboard and a brace and then decorate the cardboard with photos of a kitty in more socially acceptable poses.

Generally, kittens are litter box trained by eight weeks of age (some even younger), and most cats use the litter box for the rest of their lives with few mishaps. However, breaking litter box use is one reason cats are given up at shelters or simply let go. First, determine why kitty is messing outside the box. Then, look for a cure. Health problems, such as lower urinary tract disease, could cause kitty to miss. So, your first action is to take the kitty to your veterinarian. Once kitty’s health is restored, kitty should go back to using the litter box. Young kittens may get so excited playing that they have accidents; older cats may not be able to get to the litter box easily. Make personal hygiene easy for them by having several litter boxes near their favorite places. Changing the brand of litter or moving the box to a different location may cause kitty to miss. Make all changes slowly. Keep a box with the old litter next to the box with the new litter so that kitty can adjust. Of course, make sure that all boxes are cleaned daily. Kitty may be using the laundry basket because his or her litter box has not been scooped or washed recently.

Cats have been known to leave “calling cards” as a way of marking territory. If you find pee and/or poop on your bed, kitty may be telling you to come back to his or her favorite place. Do not be angry with kitty for leaving you such gifts; kitty just does not understand that his or her scent is not enticing to us.

Remember: never shove your cat’s nose in his or her mess or force him or her into the litter box. Such actions on your part will not produce the desired results on your cat’s part. In fact, forcing kitty into the litter box may have just the opposite effect – kitty will connect the litter box with negative feelings from you, so he or she may stay away from it permanently!

Toys

Inexpensive toys are everywhere. Ball up a piece of paper and let kitty chase it, take the plastic rings from milk jugs and toss them around, roll empty toilet paper rolls on the floor and watch kitty charge them. Tie a lightweight toy to a string and the string to a stick and you have an instant kitty teaser. Tie a string with a toy at the end to a doorknob for another source of kitty fun. A hand inside an oven mitt can be a fun attack toy (never play with a kitty with your bare hands as kitty may bite and scratch you, and you do not want him or her getting into the habit). Play a flashlight on the wall or make shadows on the wall and see kitty pounce. Put an empty paper bag on the floor and watch kitty investigate. Put a toy inside the bag and watch kitty wrestle with it. If you think like a cat, you will find endless games to play with your friend.

Of course, you can always buy or make toys for your friend. Many have catnip in them to keep kitty happy. Some cats do not respond to catnip and others go nuts (some go so nuts that they probably should be kept away from catnip!). You can buy catnip lose and make your own toys or simply spread the catnip on kitty’s favorite resting place.

As with human infants, you have to monitor the toys with which your cat plays. A string is a definite no-no unless you are holding onto the other end (a swallowed string can wrap itself around or block your cat’s intestines with deadly results). If you play with a string, put it away after your game. Keep rubber bands, paper clips, needles, thread, and small objects out of your feline friend’s reach. Remember, you have to protect kitty just as you would a human infant. But remember too, your kitty can get to places no human infant ever tried!

The best toy for your kitty may be another kitty. Yes, cats can and do love other cats and they may need the companionship of their own kind. Dogs, rabbits, birds, etc., may also be good companions for your feline friend. How you introduce them to each other is often the key to a successful sibling experience.


Furniture and Bedding

Cat furniture (store-bought or made) will give kitty a sense of having his or her own place (and your furniture a reprieve). A scratching post, well-made, is a must – not just for scratching but also for stretching. The back of a carpet can be just as enjoyable for kitty to scratch on as the nap (try gluing carpet squares to your walls – makes for an easy scratch/stretch surface). Sisal and cardboard are wonderful surfaces on which to scratch.

Scratching is a natural act for kitty; it is kitty’s way of planting his or her scent on an object and claiming the object as his or her own. That is why kitty scratches your favorite pieces of furniture because kitty wants to claim your place as his or her own. After all, you are the most important human in his or her life.

Whether you make your own (cardboard boxes make wonderful “playhouses”), or purchase fancy cat furniture (you can find some amazing climbing apparatus and jungle gym-like pieces costing several hundred dollars), or just provide safe and comfortable places for your feline friend, he or she will be infinitely grateful that you have thought of his or her size and needs for both comforts and play. Having a place in front of a window (or several places in front of several windows) gives kitty an eye on the world from a safe and sane perch. The various shapes, sizes, and structures keep cats happy, exercised, and safe.

Where is kitty going to sleep?

Anywhere he or she wants to, basically. Be prepared to find kitty on the dining room table, on your angora sweater left on your bed, on the newspaper you were just about to read. However, just because kitty has found these places does not mean that you should not have a bed (or several) reserved just for him or her. Kitty needs to have something that is truly his or hers (even though those of us owned by kitties know that everything truly is theirs!).

You do not need to spend a fortune on cute little feline fantasy creations. You can use soft fabrics and cardboard boxes as beds. They are portable, easy to clean and fit most of our felines just fine. If your cat is a heat seeker, make sure you have beds near heat sources (sunlight and radiators). Have a bed in a family member’s room; kitty is part of the family and should be allowed to sleep with his or her family members. Make sure you keep kitty’s bed clean (especially during flea season and if kitty has been sick).


Collar and Tags

For those of you who let your kitty outdoors (PAW recommends keeping cats indoors), make sure he or she is wearing a collar and tag. Many cats brought to animal shelters could easily be reunited with their owners if the owners had put a collar and tag on their friends. Some kitties would never get to the shelter because the person finding kitty could return him or her immediately to you.

You say your kitty will never go outdoors so why a collar and tag? What if you have workers in your home and one inadvertently leaves the door open, there goes kitty. What if there is a fire in your home, there goes kitty. What if you have company, there goes kitty. What if a natural disaster such as a hurricane strikes, there goes kitty.

Always, always have a collar and tag on kitty so that when that one-time opportunity that you thought never would occur does occur, kitty has some identification.

Make sure you use a break-away collar in case kitty gets tangled. Although the idea seems to defeat the purpose, we do not want kitty to hang him or herself if the collar gets caught on furniture, or, if outdoors, on a bush or post.

To avoid the problem of kitty losing his or her identification, you can permanently identify kitty through ear tattoos or microchips implanted under the animal’s skin. Talk to your local shelter personnel and your veterinarian to find out if either of these possibilities is available in your area.

Discipline

Has kitty just knocked over your Ming vase? Did you have it in a place kitty could easily reach? Often our kitties get into trouble because we have created situations just too enticing for them to pass up. Before you get mad at kitty, look around your home. Arrange objects to make them less interesting to kitty’s wild imagination.

Next, look at what kitty does in the way of negative behavior (your perception, remember). Some of kitty’s habits are purely instinctive. Be aware of what is natural for kitty to do and what is not. For instance, is your cat peeing on the inside doormat? First, determine if he or she has a urinary problem by taking a urine sample to the veterinarian. If that proves negative, observe your cat’s behavior. Maybe there is an outdoor cat “marking” your outside door mat. Your cat was simply responding naturally to the behavior of one of his or her kind.

There are some methods, however, that will work in deterring kitty from behaviors that are not acceptable. Whenever considering discipline, realize that you must catch kitty in the act of doing whatever it is you do not want him or her to do; otherwise, kitty will not connect your disciplinary actions with his or her actions of earlier in the day.

A water pistol (please, no super soakers!) or a plant spray bottle works well when kitty is misbehaving. Spray kitty so that kitty does not see you doing it. Kitty will think the kitchen counter just squirted him or her and will usually leave it alone. Of course, there are exceptions, especially those kitties who love water. They will not be deterred and may, in fact, find that being sprayed is quite a bit of fun.

You can shake a can filled with coins or marbles to startle kitty (again, do this so that kitty does not see you). Strike a magazine or newspaper against the side of a table or a wall to startle kitty. Remember: never, never hit kitty.

Do you want to keep kitty off your dining room table or other surfaces? Put double-sided sticky tape on that surface. Kitties do not like that. Or, place plastic runners upside down. The bumpy surface will feel uncomfortable to kitty’s delicate paws and he or she will go elsewhere.

Instead of deterring your cat from what he or she is doing, why not take kitty’s energy and redirect it toward positive actions? Maybe the kitty is “misbehavin'” because he or she is bored. If you are involved with your cat’s play, he or she may find you much more enjoyable than your cherished treasures (besides, isn’t kitty one of your most cherished treasures!).

Health Cats Care

Veterinary care is critical if Felis domestica is to live through all proverbial nine lives. Ideally, you will have researched a few veterinarians before you bring kitty home since he or she should be seen within a few days of joining your family. If possible, visit these veterinarians with your cat to see how they handle you and your animal. Ask for a tour of the clinic including the operating room, the hospital/boarding room, and the lab. Most veterinarians will be grateful for your interest.

Vaccinations are a must to keep kitty feeling fine

The two important ones are rabies and distemper. If you have a multi-cat household or intend to let your cat go outdoors, discuss with your veterinarian vaccines against feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis. If you want kitty to prosper, make sure he or she has the very best protection against feline diseases. And, make sure you keep kitty’s vaccination record up-to-date. At a minimum, kitty should receive the following:

Rabies vaccination

This vaccination is required by local law. In addition, if your pet bites someone and is not vaccinated (even if the animal is strictly indoors), he or she may be subject to quarantine or seizure by local authorities which may result in your cat being euthanized. Don’t take chances. Vaccinate against rabies.

Feline distemper vaccination

This combination vaccine helps prevent several diseases in the cat (distemper and agents of upper respiratory disease). The initial vaccination is given in several doses (depending on kitty’s age) three weeks apart with a yearly single-dose vaccination.

Usually, a once-a-year veterinarian appointment is all that is necessary. However, do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you see any changes in kitty’s behavior (especially if kitty cuts back on or increases considerably eating or drinking water), if you see any changes in kitty’s bathroom habits (urinating and/or defecating outside the litter box, blood in either the urine or stool, diarrhea, etc.), lethargy (sleeping sixteen to eighteen hours a day is normal – mode may be a sign of illness), or if kitty shows any abnormalities whatsoever.

At the yearly physical, a fecal examination should be performed to screen for intestinal parasites. Even though kitty never goes outside, he or she is still subject to worms. A cat’s stool is usually firm. Any change in bowel consistency, appearance, frequency, or the cat’s habits may be caused by parasites or other health problems.

Kitty cannot tell you what is wrong; you have to be observant of his or her general health and well being so you know when something is amiss. If you suspect anything, do not wait, take the kitty to your veterinarian. Cats can be very good at masking illness. Sometimes a simple health issue can become quite complicated, leading to serious health problems or even death, if not dealt with immediately. You and kitty will be better off if you make that appointment now. Along with the standard emergency numbers (fire, police, doctors, etc.) listed by your telephone(s), list the number of your veterinarian and of any after-hours/emergency clinics in your area.

Consult with your veterinarian on proper dental care. Just like kitty’s two-footed owner, he or she can lose teeth, get gum disease, have an abscess, have halitosis. You can brush kitty’s teeth (have your veterinarian show you how) or have your veterinarian do the job while kitty is under general anesthesia. At kitty’s yearly checkup, your veterinarian will let you know what needs to be done. In between checkups, be on the alert for any problems kitty may have eating or swallowing.

Disease

Kitty may live to a ripe old age – like T. S. Eliot’s Old Deuteronomy – without ever having any health problems. However, there are three common health issues you should be aware of upper respiratory infection, lower urinary tract disease, and toxic substances. Keep your cat healthy and he or she will reward you with years of fun and frolic.

Upper respiratory infection:

a common health condition that often occurs in cats adopted from multi-cat environments (shelters, in particular) is an upper respiratory infection. Basically, the cat has a cold. However, without treatment, serious complications can occur. If your cat starts sneezing or if there is any discharge from the nose or eyes, take the kitty to the veterinarian immediately.

Lower urinary tract disease:

kitty may suffer from the formation of crystals in his or her urine. In a male, these crystals can block his ability to urinate. When that happens, kitty must be taken to the veterinarian immediately as he can die from this blockage. Keeping your kitty indoors allows you to observe him or her in the litter box. If your cat squats in the litter box frequently or for periods of time without producing any urine, he or she is a good candidate for a trip to the veterinarian. The crystals form when the urine is too alkaline. Urine can turn alkaline because of the type of food kitty is being fed (the lower the magnesium, potassium, and protein levels the better), genetics, and stress. If you suspect kitty is having a problem (some kitties will urinate outside the litter box as a way of letting you know they are having a problem), take kitty immediately to your veterinarian. The delay of even a few hours can be fatal.

Toxic substances:

kitty grass (a mix of grains sold in pet stores) is healthy for the kitty but many other green plants and shrubs can kill kitty. The following is a list of the more common plants toxic to kitty (unless otherwise noted, all parts of the plant are poisonous



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