Every cat is blessed with a unique personality but all cats share some basic characteristics. Understanding your cat will help his adjustment to a new household. Although most cats are curious and somewhat playful, cats tend to be loners (as opposed to animals that live in groups or packs). Socializing your new cat should be done slowly, especially in a busy household with children and other pets. Your cat will feel most secure if confined to one room or a small area of the house with easy access to his food, water and litter box. Allow him to become familiar with the remainder of the house slowly (say, over a period of 3 – 4 weeks) and at times when the house is relatively quiet. Similarly, socializing the newcomer with resident dogs and cats should be done slowly and only with supervision. Virtually all pets, dogs or cats, will eventually learn to cohabit and many even become best buddies. Remember that, because cats are basically independent creatures, other cats create stress and this stress increases with the number of pets in the household.
Play is an essential part of every cat’s development. In kittens, play helps develop strength and endurance. In mature cats, play is essential for exercise and mental stimulation. Other pets in your household may provide adequate exercise, but you should also be alert for your cat’s playful moments. Some cats enjoy games of chase or fetch. Toys can be simple; large foil balls and milk jug rings can be great entertainment. Whether toys are homemade or purchased, inspect all toys for small parts that could be accidentally swallowed. Toys dangling by strings are hard for kitties to resist, but strings by themselves can be very dangerous if ingested.
Most cats and kittens will use a litter box with minimal training. There should be 2 litter boxes if you have 1 cat, 3 litter boxes for 2 cats and at least 4 litter boxes for 3 cats. Because there are so many kinds of litter on the market, we recommend using one that your cat prefers, keeping in mind the following points: 1) dust should be minimal; 2) many cats have an aversion to scented litter; and 3) many cats prefer sand in a litter box. Because cats are fastidiously clean, every box should be scooped daily for solid waste, with a complete litter change every 5-7 days. Make sure the litter box is easily accessible (can your young kitten or old cat easily get into it?), and in a private area, preferably not near your cat’s food and water bowls. When a cat starts urinating or defecating outside the litter box, quickly evaluate environmental changes. Have you changed brands of litter? Is the box kept clean? Are there stresses in the household (especially a new pet)? If none of these seem to be a problem, then run, don’t walk, to your veterinarian for a complete examination. Even if no physical problems are found, this nasty habit can become a lifelong struggle for you and your cat.
Feeding your cat what he likes and what is nutritionally sound can become a difficult decision if you listen only to manufacturers’ advertising. Dry food, semi-moist packets and canned cat foods offer enough variety for any finicky feline. A nutritionally complete economical diet should be based on a dry food, which is also helpful in controlling tartar on the teeth. Semi-moist and canned foods are higher in calories and should not comprise the basis of the diet; balance a dry food with occasional small amounts of other foods. Since many cats tend to become obese as they age, 2 or 3 small meals fed each day may help regulate appetite and weight gain. Sometimes, specific disease conditions require specially formulated foods. These prescription diets may actually prolong the length and quality of your cat’s life. Some feeding practices may actually harm your kitty. Tuna, raw meat, table scraps and milk are common causes for a poor hair coat, vomiting, diarrhea and other digestive disorders. Don’t vary from a balanced diet and your cat will thrive.
Your cat cleans himself by licking. Loose hairs that are picked up and swallowed cause formation of a ball of hair in the stomach. Most cats will gag or vomit when they have a hairball. Brushing your cat regularly will help remove loose hairs before they are swallowed. Teach your cat gently but firmly to submit to regular grooming such as brushing and nail trimming, but be careful when grooming sensitive areas like the ears, toes, belly and sometimes the back. Your kitty will purr his pleasure.
If you have specific questions or problems, please call our office for more information.