Looking after a cat seems pretty simple. Food, water, a place to live, and they’re sorted! To really take care of your feline friend, there’s a little more to the equation. People often overlook, or don’t realize, the range of needs a cat has. There are physical needs, sure, like food and water. But there are also social and emotional needs to be taken into consideration. Here, I take you through a bunch of simple cat care tips that will cover all aspects of cat care and make your house a better home for your cat!
Cats don’t need to eat a whole lot, as they’re only little. It’s super easy for an indoor cat in particular to become obese, which is terrible for their health. The label on your cat food should give instructions on how much an average sized cat needs over the course of the day. Simply divide this by the number of times you feed them (and adjust for any treats) and you’ll be on the right track. Use electronic scales to measure the exact amount, as the feeding cups that sometimes come with the food are not known for their accuracy. It’s a small step that might take you a minute, but could extend your cat’s life by years!
Following on from above, a cat’s natural feeding pattern is to eat lots of small meals throughout the day. This is because traditionally they’d hunt down a small rodent or bird to eat, which would tide them over until the next course. We’re talking about ten times a day here, though I don’t expect you to be able to do this religiously. Just be aware that lots of little meals, even if you can ratchet your doable number up for four or five, is better than two big feasts.
Give the little lions a work out! Cats instinctively love to hunt. Part of this is about the provision of food when hungry, but a large part is about the thrill of the chase. Source yourself a puzzle feeder that they have to figure out in order to eat. This has the double bonus of slowing them down, so there’s no opportunity to gorge before the stomach lets the brain know it’s full. You can make them at home too. Pull a plastic bottle from the recycling and cut kibble-sized holes in it that will release a biscuit or two to be pounced on as it’s batted about. These could be filled with dry food to be revisited throughout the day while you’re at work, to let them get those ‘little and often’ snacks.
Cats spend about 10% of their waking hours grooming themselves. Understandably, a lot of people think it’s best to leave it to the experts (the cat itself) and don’t take part in grooming. In fact, brushing your cat regularly will help to remove excess fur and keep their skin in good condition. For long-haired cats, a daily brush will prevent the formation of mats or dreads that may need to be removed by a vet, possibly under anesthetic. Shorter haired cats can probably get away with a weekly brushing. This can also help stop them having to cough up furballs, as you’ve removed a lot of what they would otherwise swallow. And this is a great bonding exercise. Even adult cats who aren’t used to it can learn to enjoy a good grooming, and may even seek you out for that purpose!
Cats love a good scratch. It’s as innate behavior for them as a good stretch. They just gotta! The function of scratching is twofold. First, it keeps their claws sharp and in good condition by removing ‘husks’ (old layers of claw). Second, it is a way of scent-marking their territory. Make sure you’ve got something your cat can scratch to its heart’s content that is tall enough to allow them full stretch while doing so. If your cat is ignoring the fancy new scratching tower you bought, in favor of the settee, try putting the tower nearby and luring your cat in with catnip or some food. Once they’re hooked, you can move the tower where you like. An alternative is to put it near where they sleep so they can have a nice waking up scratch after a snooze.
For owners of indoor cats, the litter box can be a constant pain. This doesn’t need to be the case. There are all sorts of litters nowadays that require less admin to keep clean and fresh for your discerning feline. TofuKitty is dust-free, so safe for any sneezy kitties or households. It’s flushable, so you can scoop solid waste and flush it away fast. And it’s clumping, so you can get rid of soiled litter easily and just refill what you need without a complete replacement. Easy! This all makes it way less hassle to deal with, and fewer arguments over whose turn it is!
Schedule in daily playtime with your cat. A ribbon on a stick or a feather on a fishing line are great ‘prey’ that your cat can chase and pounce on. This not only simulates the hunt, but keeps them active and thereby healthier. Cats love to bat things about with their paws so lightweight balls are great for this. You can make your own from scrunched up aluminum foil or paper. Just supervise to make sure nothing gets gnawed on! Playtime doesn’t need to be long, even one or two minutes is good, and will help you to bond further.
A bored cat can become very unhappy and stressed out. This can lead to them exhibiting all sorts of undesirable behaviors like aggression or inappropriate toileting. To keep them happy, you need to keep their mind busy! Part of this can come down to the puzzle feeders mentioned above. Another part can be giving them things to do. Having toys they can play with, or accessible window sills through which they can watch the world - and its birds - go by. If possible, installing a bird feeder outside a window is great for this, providing your cat with its new favorite TV channel! Of course, Only do this if your cat is an indoor cat with no access to said feeder!
Outdoor cats have plenty of space to roam around in, but indoor cats can be more restricted. Try to give your cat access to as many parts of the house as possible. This lets them wander, explore new areas and ever-changing smells, and gives them places to hide. They may also enjoy this extra space for the odd 3am mad dash about the house. Go on, treat ‘em!
No matter how much your cat loves you and your home, it’s natural that they would want some space to themselves sometimes. Even if you don’t have a lot of room to spare, a box or cupboard or dark space that they can retreat to and from which they know they won’t be pulled out will make them feel even more safe and secure. This is somewhere they can go if you have visitors they need time to warm up to, or if they hear a sudden noise, or if they just really want a quality nap!
Being up high, like a jaguar in a tree, is a preferred position for many cats. There are evolutionary factors at play here, but simply put it’s somewhere from which they can survey the surrounding area and defend their position if necessary. This is often good for households with more than one cat, where the less dominant cat can hang out up high and feel more secure. Households with dogs and/or small children will also need to provide a perch, so they can have some unreachable chill time if needed. A high-up cupboard or scratching tower is a good option for this.
Love them heeeeeeaps, but also at their pace. Some cats love attention all the time; some cats prefer a bit more space. Let your cat run the show when it comes to hanging out, but by all means, cuddle away when they’re up for it! Playtime and grooming time are both great ways to bond with your cat, outside of pats.
None of these tips requires a great deal of money, resources or time to put in place in your house. Each is just a simple way you can take even better care of your cat, and ensure they’re the happiest mini-tigers they can be.