Cats are one of the most popular pets in the UK and make loveable and fun family companions. Given the right food, environment, and attention, they’re easy to look after and care for and will happily thrive in the household setting. They might have a reputation for being less affectionate than dogs, but anyone who owns a cat will tell you they can be just as cuddly and loving, and each with their own distinct personality.
Before you get a cat or kitten
If you’re thinking of getting a kitten or cat, there are several ways of going about it, and a few options you should consider.
Buying vs adopting
You could either buy a kitten from a reputable breeder, or adopt a cat or kitten in need of a home. There are always plenty of cats needing homes, so keep an eye for adverts in your local pet shops or newspapers, or visit your nearest animal rescue centre. Adopting can be very rewarding, though if you really want to be able to choose a new kitten, you can always go to a breeder.
Kittens should be at least 8 or 9 weeks old before they can be removed from their mothers, and you should check to see that they’re alert and active and are being properly cared for.
Getting ready for your new cat or kitten
Whether you adopt or buy your cat or kitten, it’s important to make sure they’ve had their first vaccinations before you bring them home. This is something you should ask the breeder or adoption centre. You should also check that they’ve started litter training and what litter they’ve been using, so you can use the same to start with.
You should also check what food they’ve been on so you can get the same. You can always introduce a different food later, but this should be done gradually.
To get your home ready, you should make sure you’ve got:
- somewhere for you kitten to sleep and rest
- toys to play with
- a scratching post
- a litter tray
You should also check for hazards around your home, such as sharp objects or wires than can be chewed on, and make sure there aren’t any dangerous places they could get to.
Things every cat owner should know:
- Every cat is different, from their personality and their behaviour to the routine they like to follow. It’s just as important to respect your cat’s likes and dislikes as to provide them the right care and attention in the early years to avoid behavioural problems.
- It’s essential to microchip your cat so it can always be identified if it goes missing. Many rescue centres will do this to all their cats before rehoming, so always check. You should also give them a safety-release collar with an ID tag.
- You should get your cat neutered. This can normally be done at about four months old, but speak to your vet for the best time. Neutering will make your cat healthier and happier in the long run, and make them less likely to wander too far from home.
- Cats are independent and like to do their own thing. While a dog will usually look to their owner for direction, cats are quite happy to follow their own agenda.
- Cats need to eat meat due to essential nutrients they can’t get anywhere else. They are obligate carnivores, so they can’t survive on a vegetarian diet.
- Cats love to sleep and will spend many hours of the day napping all over the house. However, they also like to be active so make sure they get plenty of exercise indoors or outdoors.
How to keep your cat happy
Every cat is unique, but there are ways to promote the health and happiness of your cat through play and attention, keeping a close eye for any health-related changes in their behaviour.
Playtime is very important if you can’t or don’t allow your cat outdoors. When they’re awake you should interact with them as much as possible, and make use of cat toys they can chase and roll around with. You should provide toys they can play with on their own, too.
Cats can seem pretty chilled most of the time, but they scare easily so it’s important to provide them somewhere they can go and hide if they feel threatened, even if it’s just under a bed or behind a sofa.
They also need places to scratch and sharpen their claws. Getting them used to a scratching post is essential if you want to avoid damaged furniture or claw marks on the walls.
The main thing is to always treat your cat with kindness and patience, as they don’t tend to understand or respond well to shouting and punishment.
What should I feed my cat?
There’s an overwhelming variety of cat food to choose from, including famous brands, not so famous brands, and dry and wet varieties of pouches and tins. The general approach is to get the best food you can afford, and check the ingredients to get an idea of quality.
A mixture of wet and dry foods is important to keep your cat’s teeth healthy, as well as make it appetising. You could add some wet food on top of dry, or give them dry and wet at different times of the day.
High quality foods will have high meat content, and specify exactly what the meat is within the food. There also won’t be a lot of additives or cereals to bulk out the food. Just as with your own food, if you can understand everything listed in the ingredients, it should be good quality!
Treats are also fine to give your cat, but they shouldn’t make up more than around 10% of their diet.
How to groom a cat
Cats really benefit from regular care and grooming of their coat, and you’ll benefit too. Naturally cats keep themselves very clean with regular bathing, but long-haired cats are prone to their fur matting.
It’ll also reduce the amount of hair you find around the house, and reduce the chance of hairballs. Grooming can also give you a chance to check them over for signs of ill-health, as well as just being an enjoyable experience for your cat!
Just be sure to use a specially designed pet grooming brush, and keep your strokes going in the same direction of the coat. Most cats will enjoy the experience, but don’t force them if they’re clearly not enjoying it. Cats usually enjoy stroking around the face and along their sides, but don’t tolerate being touched on their tummy for long, so avoid this area.
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