Raising a cat requires that you provide not only for its most basic needs, such as food and a clean litter box, but also for its health, its comfort, and its mind. If you are interested in raising a cat, take the time to understand the commitment you are making and learn how to raise it right. If you do this, you are more likely to end up with a well-adjusted, happy, and healthy cat. How to raise a cat?
Feeding Your Cat
Give your cat quality food
When raising a cat it is important to provide it with nutritious food. Canned and dry food are both fine as long as the food includes mostly animal protein and not a lot of filler.
- While dry food tends to be better at keeping cats’ teeth clean, it can also greatly dehydrate your cat as they have a low thirst drive.
- If you are unsure of what to feed your cat, discuss food with your cat’s veterinarian. They will likely have a suggestion for what to feed your cat for its specific nutritional needs.
Provide age-appropriate cat food
When your cat is young, you should feed it kitten food, which gives it more fat and protein for its growing mind and body. As the cat ages, you should feed it food that gives it complete nutrition without giving it so much that it gets overweight.
When your cat gets older, you may need to transition it onto senior food, which provides the type of nutrition that geriatric cats need.
Give a long-haired cat hairball-preventing cat food
If you have a long-haired cat, it is a good idea to give it hairball-preventing food, especially if it has a history of choking up hairballs. In most cases, this type of food helps to prevent hairballs by increasing the amount of fiber your cat is getting. Fiber increases the rate of digestion and moves food, and hair, through the digestive tract more effectively.
- Discuss which hairball-preventing food is best for your cat with your veterinarian. They should have suggestions for a food that will fulfill your cat’s nutritional needs, in addition to being good at preventing hairballs.
Feed your cat two or three times a day
The amount of food you give it will depend on the size of your cat. Look at the food packaging and follow the directions there for portion sizing, which is usually based on your cat’s size and age. Cats who eat too quickly should be fed smaller, more frequent meals.
- Discuss portion size and feeding schedule with your veterinarian. They may have suggestions that take your cat’s specific dietary needs into consideration so that you can keep your cat at a healthy weight.
- If you notice your cat rapidly gaining weight, talk to your vet. Being overweight can cause major health complications in cats, including diabetes and joint pain.
Give unlimited access to drinking water
It is very important to provide your cat with clean water at all times, as dehydration can make your cat very sick. Put the water in a clean, small bowl and replace it daily, so that the water is appealing for the cat to drink.
- If you want to make your cat’s water really appealing, consider getting it a cat drinking fountain. These are devices that recirculate a cat’s water in a stream, which can draw the cat’s attention to the water. Also, keep the cat’s water away from its litter box and food, as cats will see water near these areas as contaminated.
Providing for Safety, Comfort, and Hygiene
Once you bring a cat home and name it, you should get it some identification. This can be in the form of a tag on its collar, but you can also get it microchipped at its veterinary office.
Even if you plan on raising the cat to live indoors, having identification is important — remember, if it gets out, it will have no experience finding its way home.
- Your cat’s collar tag should include its name and your phone number. Keep this phone number up to date, so that someone who finds your cat can contact you easily.
- Be sure to secure the tags to a collar with a quick-release buckle. That way, if your cat gets caught on something, the collar can break off without harming the cat.
Provide and teach the use of a litter box
When raising a cat, you will need to teach it to use a litter box. For most cats, this is a relatively easy process. Once you bring a cat home, keep it contained in a small space with food, water, a bed, and its litter box.
The cat may naturally head towards the litter box to go to the bathroom, as they are naturally clean animals that like to pick specific bathroom areas.
- As your cat adjusts to its new home and you let it roam the whole house, you should keep the litter box in an area that is easily accessible and close to your cat’s daily activity. This will help ensure that the cat actually uses it instead of a handy corner.
Keep trying if litter box training is problematic
If the cat doesn’t use the litter box automatically, move any feces or urine into the litter box and clean the areas where the cat went to the bathroom outside of the box. If the cat smells feces and urine in the litter box, it will know that is where it should go.
Clean the litter box regularly
To ensure that your cat uses its litter box, you should make sure to keep it clean and tidy. Remember to remove solids daily. You should also empty it completely, clean the box, and put totally new litter in weekly.
- If you do not clean your cat’s litter box regularly, it is likely to find somewhere else to go to the bathroom.
Give your cat a cozy place to sleep
When raising a cat you should make sure to give it a cozy place all its own, where it can take a nap or just get some alone time. Typically, this is done by giving it a bed all its own and placing that bed in a quiet and warm corner.
This can be difficult to achieve if you live in a hectic or crowded home, but your cat may even pick the spot itself and all you have to do is provide the cushioning.
- Many cats love a spot that gets sun from the outside. The sunshine and the view to the outside will likely be very appealing to your cat. Even on a day that is cold outside or when your home is a little chilly, a sunny spot will suit a cat’s needs very well.
Provide a place to scratch
All cats need to scratch once in awhile in order to keep their claws healthy and agile. In order to allow them to do this without destroying your furniture, you should get them a scratching post or scratching pad. If your cat likes to scratch a lot, you may even need to buy or make one for every room.
- Once you give them this item to scratch, you will need to teach them to use it. To begin with, you can place the scratching post in front of a piece of furniture that the cat has been scratching. You can also show it how to use it by placing your cat’s claws on the post. If all else fails, try making the scratching post or pad attractive to the cat by rubbing catnip on it.
Keep your cat inside
Try to raise a cat to stay indoors, especially if you live in a city. Living indoors greatly increases their lifespan due to lower risks for disease, injury or abuse. It also helps keep wildlife in your area , such as birds, safe and healthy.
For entertainment for an indoor cat, provide boxes, cat toys, and sunny window perches for it to lounge in. You may also want to consider having at least two cats, so they can keep each other occupied when you are away.
- Make sure that all doors are kept closed and that all windows and window screens are secure if you are trying to keep your cat indoors.
Build your cat an enclosed patio
If you really want your cat to experience the sights and smells of the outdoors, consider building it a “catio,” which is a cat patio. This is an enclosed outdoor area that is typically attached to your home, and which allows your cat to get some outdoor time without letting it roam freely.
- A catio allows your cat the stimulation of being outside but limits its ability to get lost or kill wildlife in your area.
Brush your cat regularly
Depending on the breed, you may need to brush your kitty more often, but all breeds need to be brushed at least weekly. For example, Persian cats need brushing 3 to 4 times a week but American shorthair cats only need to be brushed once a week. Weekly brushing eliminates tangles and reduces spare hair that would rub off on furniture or floors, or form hairballs in your cat.
- Cats do not need bathing unless they get into something really foul and cannot satisfactorily clean themselves off. The exception to this is Sphinx cats, which are bald and need bathing once a week to keep skin oils under control.
Remember to clip your cat’s claws
When your cat is young, you should begin clipping its claws every week. This will get it used to the process and will make it less resistant to it when it becomes an adult. Trimming a cat’s nails is particularly important if the cat does not regularly go outside, where it might wear down the nails with vigorous activity.
- To trim the nails, use nail clippers made for cats, which come in a guillotine type or a scissors type, or human nail clippers. Put the clippers perpendicular to the claws. Trim only the tip of the nail. The quick of the nail, which is the back part of the nail with a blood vessel in it, should not be cut.
Getting Veterinary Care
Have your cat desexed
Most cats should be spayed or neutered at an early age. The cat will be tamer and desexing decreases the risk of your cat developing certain cancers, such as uterine tumors in female cats. Most vets will not spay or neuter your kitty until they weigh about two pounds, so discuss the right time with your vet.
- In addition to the health benefits of getting your cat desexed, you will not have to deal with a female cat going into heat, and a male cat will be less likely to spray in your home and roam outside looking for a mate.
- The only cats that should not be fixed are those that are intentionally being used for breeding. These should be purebred cats that are being bred by experienced and ethical breeders.
- If possible, sterilization is better than full out desexing, even if it is more expensive. By leaving the ovaries (females) or performing a vasectomy (males) on a cat, they will keep their hormones and befits. In this situation, it is advisable to have both a sterilized male and female cat to satisfy each other’s needs. Sterilized cats will still go through heats and will maintain normal cat behavior, such as roaming (if there is no mate in the house) or spraying (not all full male cats spray).
Take your cat in for preventative veterinary exams
In order to raise a cat properly, you need to provide it with regular veterinary care. When a cat is young, it typically only needs to have an annual exam, in which the veterinarian checks its overall health and updates any vaccines or medications that it needs. Once your cat gets old, it will likely need veterinary checkups more often, usually every six months.
- Veterinary checkups can seem like a waste of money if your cat is generally healthy, but it can actually save you money in the long run. Finding a health problem early on and getting early treatment for a serious illness can really reduce your costs, along with your cat’s pain and suffering.
Keep up to date with preventative medication
When bringing your cat in for a checkup, discuss flea medications and vaccinations with your veterinarian. For flea medications, they will most likely recommend a regular flea repellent treatment, such as Frontline and Trifexis, that you will apply at home. It is important to keep up to date with this medication so that your cat does not experience a flea infestation.
- Get the vaccinations and vaccination boosters that your veterinarian suggests. Your veterinarian will make suggestions based on your cat’s risk of exposure and the health history of your cat. The veterinarian may suggest vaccinations for panleukopenia, herpesvirus, calicivirus, rabies, feline leukemia, chlamydiosis, infectious peritonitis, immunodeficiency, bordetella, and giardiasis.
Giving Affection and Attention
Show your cat love and affection
When you are raising a cat it is important to show them love and affection every day. You can do this by holding it in your lap and petting it for a little while every day. You can do this by playing with it and giving it uninterrupted attention for at least a little while every day. Whatever you do, make sure that your cat knows it is loved and that it is an important member of your family.
- Many cats only want attention once in awhile, and they will usually ask for it when they want it. If your cat is like this, make sure to give it some petting and attention when the cat asks for it. These requests may not always come when you want them to, but just try to remember that your cat deserves a bit of uninterrupted attention every day.
Socialize your cat
In order to raise a happy and well adjusted cat, you should begin socializing it when it is very young. Introduce your cat to a wide variety of people beginning when it is a small kitten, so that it knows that this is a normal part of life. Exposing it to a wide variety of people, and keeping those interactions positive, will make it more likely that the cat is friendly and interested in new people and animals when it is an adult, instead of being scared or aggressive towards new people.
- Socialization can even include exposing your cat to a wide variety of noises and situations. For instance, if you expose a small kitten to the sound and activity of a vacuum cleaner early on in its life, it is less likely to be fearful of it when it is an adult.
Provide your cat with mind-stimulating toys
All cats need some mental stimulation every day. This is especially true when cats are kittens and their minds are developing. This can be provided, in part, by giving it stimulating toys to play with while it is alone. These toys could include motorized cat toys that it can chase around, but it can also include simpler toys, such as toy mice or balls with bells in them.
- To find out what type of toys your cat likes, you may need to bring home a variety. Once you give all the toys to the cat, pay attention to your cat as it plays and see which toys it prefers.
- Just like humans, cats can get bored with toys that they have played with for a long time. Provide new and exciting toys on a regular basis, so that your cat continues to get lots of mind-stimulating play time.
Interact with your cat daily
In addition to giving your cat toys for it to play with on its own, you should spend quality time playing with your cat every day. When raising a cat, it is important to spend quality interactive time with it in order to develop its mind and personality.
Use a feather on a string or a laser pointer to get the cat to run around and leap into the air. Throw little toys for the cat to chase and play other games that the cat enjoys. This interaction will likely be more stimulating to the cat than playing on its own.
If your cat is really intelligent, you can even try to train it to do things, such as tricks you would normally teach a dog.
Photo Credit: Unsplash
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