Domestic cats are related to tigers, lions, bobcats, mountain lions, and lions. Cats have been domesticated for over 5,000 years, since humans first began farming and needed cats to control rodents in their homes and grain storage areas.
Before You Bring Your Cat Home
All of the following items are required: food, food dish, water bowl, interactive toys, brush, comb, safety cat collar, scratching post, litter, and litter box.
An adult cat should be fed one large or two smaller meals per day. Kittens between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks must be fed four times per day. Kittens between the ages of three and six months must be fed three times per day. Feed specific meals, discarding any leftover canned food after 30 minutes, or feed dry meals at your leisure (keeping food out continuously).
Feed your kitten or cat high-quality, brand-name kitten or cat food two to three times per day (avoid generic brands). If kittens refuse to eat softened kitten food from soaking in warm water, they can be fed human baby food for a short time. For children six months and older, use turkey or chicken baby food. Gradually combine with cat food. Cow’s milk is not recommended for kittens and cats because it can cause diarrhea. Always keep clean, fresh water on hand. Wash and refill water bowls on a daily basis.
Most cats are clean and rarely need to be bathed, but they must be brushed or combed. Regularly brushing your cat’s coat keeps it clean, reduces shedding, and reduces the likelihood of hairballs.
To pick up your cat, place one hand behind the front legs and the other under the hindquarters. Lift gradually. Never lift a cat by the scruff of the neck (behind the ears) or the front legs unless the back end is first supported.
Cats should have their own spot in the house that is clean and dry. Line your cat’s bed with a soft, warm blanket or towel. Make a point of washing the bedding on a regular basis. Keep your cat indoors at all times. If you let your pet out, he may contract diseases, become infected with ticks or parasites, become lost or hit by a car, be injured in a fight, or be poisoned. Cats also hunt wildlife.
If your cat is allowed outside (which we strongly discourage! ), it must wear a safety collar and an ID tag. A safety collar with an elastic panel will allow your cat to escape if the training collar gets caught on something. If your cat goes missing, an ID tag or an implanted microchip can help ensure his or her safe return.
Container for Litter
A litter box is required for all indoor cats and should be kept in a quiet and easily accessible location. Your cat’s litter box would be ideal in a bathroom or utility room. In a multi-level home, one box per floor is recommended. Avoid moving the box if at all possible. Then take it slowly, a few inches at a time. A soiled, stinky litter box will not be used by a cat. Scoop solids from the box at least once a day. Dump everything, wash it with a gentle detergent (no ammonia), and refill it at least once a week, or less frequently if you use clumping litter. Neither virus has the ability to infect humans.
Cats enjoy stalking phantom prey. No vaccine is 100% effective. Your cat will take on the role of predator by pouncing on toys rather than people’s ankles. Never use your hands or fingers as toys when playing with kittens. This type of play may result in biting and scratching as your kitten matures.
Give your cat a scratching post that is at least 3 feet high and stable enough to allow the cat to stretch completely when scratching. It should be covered with rough material, such as sisal, burlap, or tree bark, to prevent further household destruction. Cats enjoy using scratching pads as well. To train your cat to use a blog post or pad, rub your hands on the scratching surface and then gently rub the kitty’s paws on it. When your cat starts scratching your furniture or rugs, gently tell her no and lure her to the scratching post. Recognize your cat when he or she uses the scratching post or pad. A monthly or bimonthly catnip sprinkle will keep your cat interested.
Your cat should go to the vet at least once a year for an exam and annual shots, and more frequently if she becomes ill or injured.
Mites in your ears
These microscopic parasites are a common issue that can spread from cat to cat. Your cat may have ear mites if he scratches his ears or shakes his head. A veterinary appointment is required because your cat’s ears must be thoroughly cleaned before medication can be administered.
Urological Syndrome in Cats (FUS)
Both males and females can be affected by this lower urinary inflammation, also known as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). FUS symptoms include frequent trips to the kitty litter box, crying, blood in the urine, and straining to urinate. If your male cat appears “constipated,” he may be suffering from a urethral obstruction (inability to urinate). This can be fatal if not treated promptly. Female urethral blockages are rare. FUS affects about 5% of all cats. Special diets may help to prevent this condition.
Fleas and ticks
Fleas are a serious problem that needs to be addressed. These tiny parasites feed on the skin of your pet, transmit tapeworms, and irritate it. Once a week, check your cat for fleas and ticks. Fleas will be present in your home if your cat has fleas. All animals in your home may require the use of flea bombs or premise-control sprays. The phone numbers are (888) 4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435) or (900) 680-0000. Every year, cats die as a result of flea and tick control products that are not properly applied. Consult your veterinarian. Several new flea and tick control methods are now available.
Poisons and pharmaceuticals
Tylenol is FATAL to a cthet, and aspirin can be fatal as well! Only take medications that your veterinarian has prescribed. Keep rat poison and other rodenticides out of your cat’s reach. If you believe your pet has consumed a poisonous substance, contact your veterinarian or The ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA/APCC) for 24-hour animal poison information. Check to ensure that any sprays, powders, or shampoos you use are safe for cats and that they can all be used together. There is a fee for the consultation.
Females should be spayed and males neutered by six months of age. Neutering a male (removal of the testicles) can reduce urine spraying, the desire to escape outside and find a mate, and man-to-man fighting. Spaying (removing the ovaries and uterus) a female helps prevent breast cancer, which is 90% fatal, and pyometra (uterine infection), a serious problem in older females that requires surgery and intensive medical care. Because cats can breed up to three times per year, spaying your female feline is essential to avoid unwanted litters.
Scratching is necessary for cats. When a cat scratches, the old outer nail sheath is torn away, revealing the sharp smooth claws beneath. Cutting your cat’s nails every 2 to 3 weeks will keep them relatively blunt and less likely to cause harm to human or furniture arms.
- Vaccines provide protection against specific viral and bacterial infections in both animals and humans. They are not a form of therapy. If your companion cat becomes ill due to a lack of vaccinations, vaccinations should be administered after your pet has recovered.
- Kittens should be vaccinated with a 3 in 1 combination vaccine at 2, 3, and 4 months of age, as well as annually thereafter. This vaccine protects cats against panleukopenia (feline distemper), calicivirus, and rhinotracheitis (flu-like viruses). If your cat is over 4 months old and has not been vaccinated, he will need two vaccinations given two to three weeks apart, followed by a yearly vaccination.
- There is a vaccine available against the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). This is one of two immune system viruses (retroviruses) that attack the immune systems of cats. The other is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). There is currently no FIV vaccine available. Cats can be infected with either virus for months or years without exhibiting any symptoms of a fatal virus. To determine whether or not a cat or kitten is infected, a blood test is required. All cats should be tested for these viruses. Infections can be passed down from mother to child or acquired through the bite of an infected cat. Do not use deodorants or scents in the litter or litter box (especially avoid lemon scent). Many stray and outdoor cats and kittens are infected. Because these diseases are fatal, bringing in untested cats or kittens should not expose the cats already in your home. Keep your cat inside for his own safety, but if he must go outside, he should be immunized against the feline leukemia virus. The best toys are those that can be made to jump and dance around and appear to be alive.
Various worms can infect kittens and cats. A microscopic fecal examination can detect these worms if they are present. Deworming should only be done under the supervision of a veterinarian.
- The average lifespan of an indoor cat is 13 to 17 years.
- Many houseplants and garden shrubs poison cats. For a list of these dangers, please write to The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, 1717 South Philo Road, Suite 36, Urbana, IL. 61802. A reference book will set you back $15.
- Keep antifreeze out of the reach of your cat. If you believe your cat has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA/APCC right away (see HEALTH, Medicines and Poisons).
- More information can be found on our website, www.aspca.org, in the cat care section.
- Contact the ASPCA Animal Sciences at 424 East 92nd St., New York, NY 10128 for a list of free behavioral literature.
- “The ASPCA Cat Care Handbook”
- “The ASPCA Cat Guide Complete”
- “ASPCA Pet Care Guide for Kids Kitten” For more information, contact the ASPCA Humane Education Department at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4410.
- “Cat Love,” Pam Johnson, Storey Publishing.
- “Cornell Book of Cats” by Mordecai Siegal, Villard
- Perfect Paws, Inc., Gwen Bohnenkamp, “From the Cat’s Point of View.”
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