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Caring for Your Cat
Ahh. Felis catus. The house cat At once aloof, lovable, demure and spoiled, finicky or fit for revenge. Cats can be the perfect pet for those of us who need our space, but that doesn't translate into caring for themselves. When you take a feline into your home, you commit not only to petting and admiring, but feeding, combing, clipping, scooping and the occasional trip to the vet. Of course, depending on the choices you make, you can make your obligations as an owner much easier (or more difficult).
Cats are not dogs. Cats have expectations. They do not give brownie points for meeting those expectations. Owners who expect to have a good relationship with their pet house cat need to know their basic needs are minimum requirements. You must provide adequate food, litter and shelter. You must protect them from bugs and disease. You will not bond with your pet if you do not provide the right amount of physical care, and they will not be swayed by apologies after an angry outburst.
Your cat can also develop serious behavior or health problems if these basic needs aren't met consistently. Litter box troubles cause more shelter surrenders than any other problem, and most of them can be prevented early on by keeping your litter box clean. You can do this by scooping litter, or using an automatic cat box. Keep in mind that kittens shouldn't have access to clumpable litter of any kind as they will eat it, requiring surgery to remove the resulting blockage.
Besides dirty litter, crystallization in the urinary tract can cause cats to miss the litter box The issue is pain, and if left to itself, this condition can lead to serious complications. It's amazingly easy to prevent, however, by minding another basic care issue. Cats should be fed a mix of wet and dry food. This keeps crystallization at bay. A cup of dry food served with half of a can of wet food put out in the morning, and again in the afternoon works well for most cats. Clean, cool water should be provided whenever you put out new food. Especially hot weather may warrant keeping water available throughout the day.
Most house cats live indoors, and for good reason, but if you have an outdoor cat, you need to be especially careful when feeding. Pests like opossums have acquired a taste for cat food and will fight off your pets to get it. It's important to make sure your cat has a safe place to hide if wild animals – or the neighbor's dog – tries to attack. You can prevent these kinds of problems by keeping your cat indoors.
Having an indoor-only pet also greatly reduces the chances of your pet picking up ticks and fleas. Fleas can bury deep into your furniture and carpet and become a real nuisance. They bite and feed off the blood of our pets, but without a cat to munch on, fleas will often turn to humans for sustenance. This can lead to painful allergic reactions and red, swollen and itching bumps for both you and your cat.
Even if you have your cat outdoors, you can avoid fleas, ticks and other pests through the use of preventive medication. Your vet will have a list to choose from, although they usually sell these items at a considerable mark-up. Online pet pharmacies can save you hundreds of dollars, while a trip to the vet just for flea meds can add up fast.
Your pet should visit the veterinarian at least once a year anyway to get vaccinations, and certain blood tests. These tests can get expensive, so you may want pet insurance. Look for a policy that is affordable while still covering regular care like check-ups.
Veterinarians often provide services for pet owners that you can do yourself at home. These may be very affordable or higher priced, but regardless you are paying for convenience. Grooming, nail clipping and teeth cleaning are among the basics. The benefit is that you can observe these tasks being done by a trained professional, making it easier for you to do them later on your own. Another quick, and relatively painful service the vet can provide is placing a microchip under your pet's skin that identifies you as the owner, and gives people a way to contact you if your cat goes missing.
Not every cat is purebred, but every cat has features found in purebred lines that leave them vulnerable to problems. Persians need regular grooming to prevent painful snarls and messy tangles, and Scottish Folds need to have their ears swabbed regularly to stave off infections. It's important to have a prevention assessment done on your pet house cat when you first acquire it. As with anything, it is much easier to prevent these problems than to cure them.
Some common cat maintenance issues include wiping down ears and eyes, applying stain remover to eyes, mouths, paws and tails, and paying particular mind to weight and cat-friendly structures in the home.
From Health to Happiness
Basic needs are minimum requirements to a cat. If you want a partner you can enjoy for the extent of its life, you'll need to focus on health and happiness alike. Though they aren't anything like dogs, cats do enjoy playtime. They love to hunt, to pounce, to capture and conquer. While most wouldn't be caught dead playing fetch, the average feline is a huge fan of classic cat toys.
Balls containing bells, feathers on strings, carpet-covered shelves and tunnels to crawl through are all great toys for your cat. Any toy that is sturdy and challenging will keep your cat entertained.
House cats have been hailed for centuries as wonderful companions. More than mousers, they command respect and instill tranquility in the home. Just remember, it takes an investment. Providing appropriate food, shelter, toys, toiletries and more will help create a lasting bond with your feline.