Thinking of getting a cat? Just got one? Here are some basic cat care tips to get you off to a good start and provide the best possible care for your new pet. Learning to care for your cat is fun!
Browse through the essential care guidelines below to help keep your feline friend healthy and purring.
Cats don't survive long without eating or drinking. Their basic requirements are:
The purrfect meal is a mouse. Of course, you don't have to feed your cats on mice!
Cats are obligate carnivores, though, which means they must eat meat.
Commercial cat foods aim to copy the nutrients in a mouse to provide cats with all they need. It's difficult to get this balance right, so it's best to buy food especially made for cats.
Don't use dog food. Dog food has different nutrients and isn't good for cats.
If you're buying a kitten, find out what it's been fed up to now and provide the same, at least to start with.
Kittens need to be fed at least twice, preferably three times a day for the first six months of their lives to provide for their rapid growth.
An adult should also be fed at regular times, ideally, twice a day. This way you can keep an eye on how much they're eating and quickly find out if they go off their food, which can indicate illness.
There's a huge choice of food on the market. Whichever you choose, follow the manufacturer's guidelines on how much to feed. Keep an eye on your cat's weight and adjust the amount you feed if they lose or gain weight.
In the wild, cats get a lot of water from their food – the animals they catch and eat. At home, you'll need to provide water because commercial foods don't contain enough water to meet their needs.
You'll need at least one sturdy water bowl (the ceramic ones are good) which should be cleaned and filled daily. Always keep it in the same place, ideally next to the food bowl.
It's useful to have two water bowls, one next to the food bowl and one elsewhere. My cat prefers to drink from his upstairs bowl, even though the bowls are identical. But that's Siamese cats for you!
If yours is an outdoor cat, you may find that he prefers drinking from bird-baths and puddles. An indoor water supply is still essential at all times, though.
Once you've seen to the basic cat care essentials, you'll also need to provide some comforts, too:
Provide somewhere safe and comfortable for your kitty to sleep. There are many kinds of beds available, or you could make your own basic bed from a cardboard box and cushions or blankets.
The most important things are that the bed should be warm, soft and large enough to stretch out in.
Even if yours is to be an 'outdoor cat' you'll still need to provide indoor toilet facilities for the times when he can't or won't go out.
So you'll need a litter tray or two (two is often better, even if you've only got one cat, because the more fastidious ones won't use the same tray to pee and poo in), and also a mesh litter scoop to remove droppings from the litter.
Cats like privacy, so keep their toilets somewhere quiet. You can get open or covered litter trays – closed ones are more private and have a removable lid that can be taken off for cleaning.
Take care to check that your litter boxes are large enough for your cat to stand and squat in comfortably. If you choose an open tray, the sides should be around 4" (10 cm) high to prevent litter being scattered.
It's useful to stand the litter box on a larger, shallower tray (plant trays are good) which helps to contain any accidental over-spill.
Cats need to scratch. This provides exercise, and removes the outer sheath on their claws. A scratching post will save your furniture!
Get one with a solid base that won't topple over, and is tall enough to give a good stretch.
You'll need a basket or carrier to transport your cat safely. It needs to be big enough to turn around in comfortably, and easy to clean. Line it with a towel, cushions or a blanket to keep it cosy and comfortable.
Cats are good at keeping themselves clean, but you'll need to groom them, too.
Basic grooming tools are a brush and a comb. A brush removes loose hair and helps to prevent it being swallowed by your cat when grooming, and a comb will smooth out the tangles in long-coated cats.
Food, water, comfort, and a few little luxuries - just follow the basic cat care tips above and you'll always have healthy, happy, purring cats.
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