Cats, compared with many other popular pets, require very little attention from their owners. They are instinctively clean and fastidious. However, all cats, especially the long-haired breeds, do require some regular care.
Most people start with a kitten. You have a wide variety of breeds and types from which to choose, ranging from the lordly Siamese to the common alley cat.
If you buy a pedigree cat you will know exactly what it should be like when it matures. You will also be able to enter it in shows.
On the debit side, a pure breed can be costly. However, once the purchase price is paid, your veterinary and food costs will be the same, no matter what kind of cat you own.
Don’t bring a kitten in to your home unless it seems healthy and active and is from 8 to 9 weeks old. At that age it is old enough to be independent of its mother.
Provide a basket or box in a sheltered, draft-free corner, preferably with access to the outside. All cats like to be able to come and go as they wish. Line the basket or box with an old blanket or something similar.
Give a kitten four small, daily meals of milk and minced food – lean meat, fish, or proprietary cat food. As the kitten grows, make the meals bigger, but less frequent.
An adult cat, depending on size, will eat about 8 oz of food a day, usually in the form of two equal-sized meals.
Water should be available at all times and don’t forget a sanitary tray.
Give a new kitten or cat time to settle into your home. If you have another pet, especially a dog, don’t force the two together. Let them become accustomed to each other in their own time.
Every kitten should go to the vet, for a check-up and vaccination early in its life. At 6 weeks old is the earliest you can take it, but it does not matter if the visit is left a little later.
If you don’t want to breed, arrange for a desexing operation when the cat is between 4 and 5 months old.
Everyone likes to stroke a cat, but both you and your pet can be hurt if you pick it up incorrectly.
- The correct method is to place your left hand across the cat’s chest, with the thumb below the cat’s left front leg and one or two fingers below the right front leg.
- Rest your remaining fingers on its chest. At the same time, put your hand under the cat’s rump.
- When you lift a kitten or cat in this manner, it sits on your right hand, while being supported by the left.
- A firm hold will reassure your pet – an insecure one will make it frightened and likely to scratch as it scrabbles for a foothold.
Regular grooming is also important because all cats shed hair continuously.
Groom your cat at least twice a week, more frequently if it is one of the long-haired breeds. Use a steel comb to remove any knots, then finish with a good brushing.
Every cat, no matter how attentive you are, will swallow some hair as it cleans itself. A teaspoon of liquid paraffin, given twice a week, will prevent any accumulations of hair in the animal’s stomach.
When grooming, make it a habit to examine the cat for any disease or pest symptoms.
Cats are basically hardy but can develop medical problems. Regular check-ups and early treatment can prevent distress for you and your pet.
A final point: Cats kept indoors most of the time are very likely to try to shorten and sharpen their claws on your good furniture! Prevent damage by teaching your cat to use a small log or tree branch – preferably still covered with bark – as a scratching post.