As most of us know, cats were once worshipped as Gods in ancient Egypt. Cats also know this.
Hieroglyphics adorned the walls of palaces and pyramids depicting these revered creatures. One must wonder though – were there any carvings depicting a Pharaoh shaking a scolding finger at a cat gleefully swinging from the royal draperies?
Fast forward to modern day where much has changed for the little furry gods. Far from strolling lush palace grounds, most kitties are strictly indoors now due to the potential dangers they may face outside. Coyotes, fisher cats, dogs and raccoons are among the biggest threats to an outdoor cat’s life, not to mention cars and other cats. Fleas and ticks can be an unpleasant and costly problem too, if not treated properly.
If a cat owner is going to make the conscious decision to keep their cat indoors for life, they must provide a stimulating and happy environment for kitty to live and thrive in. Every cat is unique and owners must find ways to keep boredom at bay. A bored cat can become a frustrated, anxious cat, leading to behavioral problems such as destructive scratching, inappropriate litter box habits or over-grooming. It’s important for first time or seasoned cat owners to brush up on helpful tips to keep their feline content.
The top two things of utmost importance are yearly visits to the vet for exams, vaccines and lab-work for cats at every age, and lots and lots of LOVE.
For someone just starting their furry family, considering two kittens or littermates is a good idea so they can have company and entertainment. Kittens also help socialize one another and teach proper behavior and limits.
Touching your kittens paws gently and often gets them used to the sensation of their feet being handled and easier for the owner to introduce nail trims at an early age. Short nails reduce damage from undesired scratching and keep the cat from snagging on fabric, tearing the nail. Left unattended, cats also run the risk of having nails become ingrown, a very painful and stressful problem that requires medical treatment.
Provide clean litter boxes in a low traffic area for the kittens to use and get accustomed to. This is a must, and the rule of thumb is one more box than number of cats. This will reduce the risk of inappropriate bathroom behavior and give your cat a back-up option. Cats are fastidious animals and tend to dislike dirty litter boxes. Cleaning the boxes one to two times daily and changing the litter out at least once a week should be a priority.
A well balanced diet is equally important. Cats are carnivores. Meat is the staple of their natural diet, so a diet of mostly wet food with very little carb-laden dry food is always a good start towards steady growth, development, and a healthy coat and weight.
Providing safe toys and play time for the babies isn’t too difficult, because everything (including feet under blankets) can be a toy to them! Kittens inevitably grow up and owners need to encourage and cultivate a positive atmosphere and help turn them into confident teenagers.
Caring for a rambunctious young adult cat is fun and challenging. They have formed habits and personalities and you must cater to these to keep them active and stimulated. Consider their need for speed. Cats like to race about expending extra energy so using a laser pointer toy allows them the thrill of the chase. Being natural born hunters, it also allows them to “stalk” their prey, in this case, the red dot, and always reward them with something tangible like catnip or a small treat when they “catch it.”
We’ve all heard the expression “think outside the box,” but with cats you can think INSIDE the box. An empty box with a few windows cut out of it can provide a perfect hiding spot or a space to curl up in. Empty paper bags with any handles cut off can also serve as an impromptu toy that cats love to play in.
Cats love height and observing the world from above. A cat tree and window perches are a necessity for any indoor cat. Place the tree by a window for your cats viewing pleasure of the outside world. Most cat trees are covered in durable carpet or fabric and have sections of burlap rope for your cat to scratch to their hearts delight, reducing the need to scratch furniture.
If your kitty prefers to scratch elsewhere, there are many options to choose from for scratching posts and boards. There are even ones that can be hung from doorways to stay out from underfoot. Any one of these will help encourage kitty to scratch appropriately. Plying kitty with loose catnip on the scratching surface is never a bad thing either. Someone with high ceilings may also consider a “kitty highway”, shelves placed in a staggered fashion up and over doorways for them to use their natural agility and jump from one to another.
Just like humans, cats become bored with the same environment and toys and need a change of scenery. Haven’t we all delighted in watching our cats go wild when they find a long lost toy under the refrigerator or couch? Or discover the plastic ring from a milk container and bat it about for hours? Cats need new things every so often, just as we do, and it doesn’t mean spending a fortune on expensive name brand toys. Simply rotate and change their toy supply and they will be like new to them. Also like humans, cats may decide on a “favorite” and carry it with them through their lives, from kitten hood to adults and seniors.
As cats age, it’s important to keep up with their routine as to not introduce unnecessary stress but also make necessary changes to enhance their older years. Perhaps the most important of all, around age nine or ten, change their yearly vet visit to semi-annual visits or twice yearly. Cats are masters at hiding discomfort and often, by the time they start to show signs of illness, it has progressed further than expected. Semi-annual visits help keep your cat healthy and catch early signs of illness or disease, such as hyperthyroidism and renal disease, two very common afflictions seen in the senior cats.
Older cats tend to become more sedentary so a proper feeding schedule is of vital importance to maintain a healthy weight. Change to a reduced calorie or all wet senior diet and have scheduled, measured meal times. This will help reduce the risk of obesity and related medical issues like diabetes and arthritis.
All cats are professional nappers and loungers, but the older generation probably take first place for hours spent sprawled in the sun. Setting up a bird feeder or bird house outside their favorite window is always a hit and keeps them entertained for hours. Play time is still important, but make sure to adjust toys accordingly.
Though all cats are different and their activity levels differ, the wand they could catch with a five foot vertical leap may not be as appealing now. Instead, they may end up watching us with disdain instead of participating. If a real aquarium is not an option for the home, a screen saver on the computer of swimming fish can be a great alternative for your cat to watch “fish TV.”
Pay close attention to their habits and watch for any change. Observe whether they can still jump onto the bed or get into the litter box without difficulty. If you see any of these issues, provide pet stairs or a ramp for access to the bed and setting up litter boxes with lower sides or a walk in front is a great option. Remember, we are here to serve them and may or may not get anything in return. Such is the life of a cat lover!
All pets require a certain amount of work and attention. As pet owners, we commit to caring and loving our pets throughout their lifetime. As cat owners, we are also committing to a life of sacrifice. We sacrifice nice furniture to a blanket of fur. We sacrifice the extra hours of sleep to appease the cold-nosed, chest-kneading alarm clock at 5:00 am. We sacrifice our computer keyboards to their sprawled forms and our spot on the couch when we are foolish enough to get up for a moment. Bath mats, counter tops, beds, blankets, favorite chairs, favorite pen? Theirs for the taking. They see the world as theirs, it is their human’s job to make that world the best it can be for them.
Sound like a lot of work? The purr of a content cat makes it all worthwhile.