FloridaWild Vet Hospital

Advice to First Time Cat Owners:-Part One

My mother could hardly tolerate being in the same room with a cat. Thankfully, Bastet, the Egyptian cat Goddess intervened to make sure that my father passed along his cat-loving gene to me. But because my mother hated cats, it was not until I married that I had the joy and pleasure of sharing my home with a kitty. As soon as my husband and I returned from our Honeymoon, we adopted two adorable kittens. However, as first-time kitty owners, we had no idea about what we needed to learn to be successful kitty parents.

Without revealing my age, suffice it to say that the Internet was most likely someone’s dream when we brought the kittens home. We both were clueless about taking proper care of our cats, or what they were communicating with their behavior and body language. Not being able to get advice from “Mr. Google”, it was off to my local bookstore to get all the information I would need to become a truly knowledgeable kitty servant.

I soon discovered that being a first-time kitty owner can be extremely challenging, since there’s a lot to learn about what cats need. Becoming proficient in what to feed and how much to feed; how to play with them, what type of litter and how many litter boxes is necessary, takes time. Initially, this all seemed overwhelming. But while I was gaining my kitty-care “sea legs” I realized that learning about the kittens and bonding with them had become utterly delightful.

Today, the Internet is loaded with staggering amounts of information, support and suggestions concerning anything feline-related. Since I am an active member of the online kitty-community, I thought sharing some of my experiences and a few tid-bits that I embraced along my journey toward feline-servitude would be helpful to our readers. So, without further ado . . . .

The Indoor/outdoor cat controversy:
Cats are both highly curious and intelligent. Cats require a lot of physical and mental stimulation to keep them happy. Although some folks think that it’s cruel to keep cats indoors, considering the potential dangers to which outdoor-cats are exposed, indoor-only cats statistically live longer than their outdoor cousins.

Indoor cats can live into the golden years of 17 or older. Kept in a safe, secure and enriched environment with owners who feed their cats a healthy, species appropriate diet, play interactively with them, shower them with lots of love, provide them with regular veterinary care, and can recognize health issues that require immediate veterinary attention greatly add to a feline’s longevity.

On the other paw, considering that outdoor cats are exposed to a host of potential dangers, to which their indoor- cousins are not at risk; based on statistics, outdoor- cats generally have an average lifespan of between two to five years-of-age.

Beating the Indoor-only Cat Doldrums:
With a bit of creativity and your boundless imagination, owners can create amazing “catified” environments for their kitties. A truly “Catified” environment should contain vertical and horizontal scratching posts, sturdy cat trees, wall shelves, window boxes with a view, cardboard boxes located in strategic places, a variety of interesting toys, and regular interactive playtime. Cats are resourceful and when given an opportunity they will find ways to entertain themselves; sometime much to their owner’s displeasure. However, there are cats that will try to make “lemonade” when life throws them a “lemon”. For example: During a recent hurricane scare, my husband and I and our two cats checked into a hotel. Most cats react negatively to sudden changes in their environment. Once we opened the carriers, Aki, our 4-year-old Oriental Shorthair started getting anxious. However, while he was exploring the room he discovered the ideal solution to help alleviate his stress. He found climbing onto the high shelves on the bathroom wall proved to be his perfect “getaway” hangout.

Learn how to trim those beautiful claws:
Please do not declaw your cat. Claws are essential to cats and they go together like Romeo and Juliet. Kitties need their claws for gripping items and to stretch the full length of their body as a form of exercise. Cat trees and tall scratching posts give cats the ideal opportunity for stretching. Scratching is as normal for cats as “Blueberry pie”. Cats use their claws to climb, to leave scent marking (little calling cards alerting other cats of their presence), and for self-defense. There are many Humane alternatives to declawing

Watch this space in December that will feature part two of “Advice for First Time Cat Owners”

By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, (Ret.)

Black and white kitten: Photo credit: Flickr User: Shannon McGee
Aki, Oriental Shorthair: Photo Credit: Jo Singer

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