Taking care of cats is one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences you can arrange for yourself in life.
What’s even better, it’s a two-way street. Cats take care of your emotional needs while you take care of both their emotional and physical requirements.
Here are 11 tips about caring for and living with cats, some of which you won’t find in those cat-keeping books at your local bookstore.
1. If you have multiple cats, spend time with the one you’re neglecting.
You won’t regret it. Even fat, lazy cats deserve and want attention. Cats that don’t beg for attention are the ones most likely to be neglected, and since you’ve made a deal with each of them to take care of them, make sure you’re meeting all the needs of all your cats. The cats you’ve been neglecting may offer hidden personality surprises.
2. Feed them better than you feed yourself.
Humans have big bodies with big stomachs and junk food may not hurt us much if enjoyed in moderation, but cats get bloated and even ill from eating things their bodies can’t process. One of those is corn, and it’s the primary ingredient in many cat foods. Cats require meat and very little else, so choose a food that’s mostly real meat.
3. Take extra care to make sure their teeth are healthy.
You’ll be sorry if you don’t look inside your cats’ mouths. Red, irritated gums are a sign of tartar buildup around teeth that will eventually lead to infection and extraction. Cats that don’t have to tear and rip at real meat are likely to develop problems with their canines — those long fang-like teeth. Dental cleanings can cure these problems if they’re caught early enough.
4. Don’t treat your cats for problems they don’t have.
Have you ever used one of those all-in-one medicines that you rub on a cat’s neck to eliminate fleas, ear mites and parasites in the stomach and intestines? Did you know that some cats die or get ill from these treatments? While these medicine cocktails might be appropriate for a stray off the streets with multiple, life-challenging problems, it’s better for most cats to use low-strength individual medications and treat only the problems the cats have.
5. Keep your cats inside.
It seems cruel at first to keep a roaming animal confined, but domesticated animals are intended to live with people, not with predators. While the average lifespan of a roaming cat is six years, indoor cats often live to 20 years or even more. When you take in a cat, you’re agreeing to take care of it. Leaving it out on its own isn’t taking care.
6. Give cats places to hide and new places to explore.
A cardboard box with a toy or fun object inside is a great thing for a cat. Put a box on the floor with two door holes cut in it — some cats won’t go in a place if they can’t see an escape route — and watch them explore. Move the box, turn it around and then throw it away, replacing it with another box, scratching post or toy. Cats like familiar surroundings, but they also like opportunities for new experiences.
7. Eliminate behavior problems by giving in.
Cats don’t understand why they can’t scratch on a tablecloth, so eliminate the cloth and you’ll eliminate the problem. If a cat wakes you up in the night, find out what she wants. Part of taking care of a cat is trying to understand actions and respond appropriately to them.
8. Decide for yourself when to go to a vet.
There’s no reason to take a cat to the vet because of a few sneezes — and there’s no reason to get certain shots for cats who live inside unless a city ordinance or other law requires it. Vets are best considered consultants, not dictators. Everything they say should be taken as advice, not instructions.
9. Forget about catnip.
Here’s the reality: About half of cats don’t react at all to catnip. The other half get high. Avoid cat toys that contain catnip and don’t buy or grow any of it. Having a cat that uses catnip is like intentionally putting a child on mood-altering drugs. A drugged cat is a sad thing indeed.
10. Don’t prejudge a cat’s abilities or desires.
Some cats will fetch a ball, just like a dog. You won’t know if yours will unless you try it. Some cats will sit in laps and some won’t. Rather than reading guides that tell you what cats do and what they don’t, get to know your cat and see what experiences you can have together.
11. Finally, enjoy every moment with your cat.
With a lifespan that’s often less than 20 years, a cat won’t be with you forever. Enjoy every moment as if you only have a little more time together. That works for human relationships too.
When you keep these 11 tips in mind, living with cats is a unique pleasure. In fact, there’s no pleasure greater than a life spent with happy cats.