So you are the proud
servant – parent – of a cat: congratulations! May you revel in everlasting joy and happiness as you bestow snuggles, scratches, and treats upon your feline master friend. Cats really do make great companions. Aside from offering your limitless devotion and servitude for all of eternity to your cute and cuddly feline, there are some important things every cat owner should know. We’ve rounded up ten helpful tips to make you the World’s Best Cat Parent.*
*This is an entirely arbitrary title that no one can actually validate.
1. Clean up Your Act
If you’re not neat by nature, you might want to step up your game on account of your new house master…err member. Cat’s are known to be very particular about their litter box situation, so make sure to scoop that poo every day! The not-so-fun consequences of not doing so may result in your cat finding other non-litter box places to find relief. You only have to discover this once to find that extra motivation you were looking for. If you can’t stand the thought of daily scooping, invest in one of the self-cleaning litter boxes that are slightly reminiscent of The Jetsons. I bet Elroy never had to scoop cat poo. Good Housekeeping has even done the legwork on finding the best ones out there! You can find their list here.
If you are neat by nature and the thought of Kitty flinging litter everywhere has you cringing, opt for an enclosed box and a litter tracking mat to help keep the debris in its place. And don’t forget, one box is never enough. You should always have at least one additional litter box than the number of cats you have. Two cats? Make sure you have three boxes. Space them out around your home, and be sure never to place them near Kitty’s food and water sources (I mean, would you want to eat where you poo?).
A successful litter box set-up will keep you and your feline friend happy and healthy!
2. The Grunge Look is Out
One of the things cats are known for is their constant grooming. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to gloss over hygiene. Cats need regular nail trimming and teeth brushing. Be sure to check with your veterinarian to get tips on doing these things at home, especially nail trimming. If the thought of giving your cat a pedicure is just too much for you, you could always take him to a groomer. You should also check Kitty’s ears once a month or so. If you notice any debris or gunk in there, they may need a cleaning. It’s best to take them to the vet to be sure, but here are some tips from PetMD about keeping those adorable ears spic-and-span.
It’s also important to note that regular hairballs aren’t normal. Cat’s systems are made to help them digest the hair they ingest while bathing, and it should pass through their digestive tract and out the other end. Occasional hairballs are normal, but if fluffy is coughing ’em up left and right, something may be awry, so be sure to check with your vet. One way to help with hairballs is by regularly brushing your cat, especially if she’s got long hair. Here’s a recent review of the 10 Best Cat Brushes.
3. Do Not Open an All You Can Eat Buffet
Free feeding is a major cause of feline obesity, which can lead to lots of health issues. While some cats can self-regulate, it’s not a good idea to have an endless supply of food out for Kitty to munch whenever she feels like it. Cats are known for being a bit dramatic about the whole “you don’t feed me enough” thing, so stay strong. An “over-fed” cat can lead to costs like unnecessary vet bills and loads of extra cat food purchasing, and the good stuff doesn’t come cheap. Check with your veterinarian to see how much food you should be offering, what type, and stick to it. While your cat might be a know-it-all…the vet knows more.
Fresh water is also a MUST. Cats love running water, and the aeration helps keep the water fresh. There are some excellent water fountain options out there for Kitty these days, but if you opt for the regular water bowl, be sure to change the water and wash the bowl daily. It can be helpful to set an alarm while you are adjusting to the habit.
4. Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite
Fleas and ticks are always a threat to our furry friends, but indoor cats are often overlooked when it comes to preventing these pests. Don’t forget to keep your feline protected, even if His Royal Highness prefers to rule his kingdom from inside the castle.
5. There Will be Scratching
Scratching is a natural instinct for cats; it helps keep their nails filed, works muscles in their paws, and is just something that feels good for them. And if you don’t want your leather recliner or basically every single piece of furniture in your house to play the role of “scratching post,” you may want to invest in an actual scratchpad or post made for cats. When you find her scratching somewhere she shouldn’t be, redirect her to the scratching post until she gets the hint. The closer the scratchpad/post is placed to your cat’s favorite spots to scratch, the better.
6. Two Paws up for Cat Proofing
Cats are very intelligent creatures, but they’re also very curious. I won’t mention that saying about curiosity and cats… but let’s just say you should cat-proof your home! Get down on her level and see what hazards you may overlook from your typical vantage point. Make sure any strings, cables, cords, or wires are out of reach. They can be so tempting for your cat to play with, and she could get tangled up in them, bite through one and get a shock, or ingest one and need assistance getting it out the other end. Ensure that any high-up places that kitty can access are adequately anchored. Some cats think plants were put there as a fun chew toy. Be sure to put away any toxic plants that could be mistaken for toys and ingested.
Of course, our homes cannot be completely sterile and void of decor, so if you have a particularly curious feline, consider a room that’s just for her while you’re away. We even had one friend convert his apartment patio into what he called a “catio.” He built shelves going up at different angles up the wall, screened in the entire area, put out all their toys and an extra litter box. They loved being out there close to nature, and it helped him feel better knowing they were in a safe space while he was at work all day.
7. King of the Castle… and the Mountain
Cat’s love to climb and be up high. Curtains are a cat’s playground. Top of the kitchen cabinets? Easy-peasy. If you don’t want your kitty friend climbing the walls, consider getting him a place of his own to hang out up high. It could be a cat tower or a securely mounted shelf – anything that gets him that bird’s eye view of his kingdom. Here are some unique options that go beyond the typical carpeted towers. Once he has his own space to climb, chances are he’ll leave your curtains alone…ish.
8. Hesitate to Medicate
Not all pet meds are created equal! Something that you or your friend gave to a pup will have a vastly different reaction for a cat. The same goes for human meds. Always check with your vet if you suspect something is wrong with your feline friend, and don’t give medicine unless directed by your cat’s doctor.
9. Naps are Essential
Cats love to sleep. They typically will sleep from 12-16 hours a day and are usually nocturnal. If you’ve had your cat for any period of time, you have probably figured this one out. And you’ve also probably noticed that his favorite time to race around the house “and hunt” like he drank a catnip cocktail…or 10 is approximately 3:00am. Don’t worry, this is entirely normal and kind of hilarious unless it disrupts your sleep…then, not so much. The only time to be concerned is if you notice a significant change in your cat’s sleeping patterns. This could indicate that something is up, and a quick visit to the vet might be in order.
10. What She Really, Really Wants
There are hundreds of options out there when it comes to cat toys and gear. But what does your cat really want? Probably a cardboard box. Seriously. I have yet to meet a cat that doesn’t love a cardboard box. Any size will do; she will try to stuff herself in it regardless. Ours would even let our infant push him around in the box like a king on his chariot.
Aside from boxes, make sure Kitty has something to scratch, something to climb/get up high, something to bat around, and something to chase. Our cats have always loved the rings that come off of milk cartons. It was like Christmas morning every time we tossed one out for them to play with. His second favorite toy was a thing on a string attached to a stick. He would get it from wherever it was in the house and drag it to us, lay it at our feet and stare at it until we played with him.
Whether you buy the cutest squeak toy from the pet store or use the ring off of a milk carton, make sure YOU are playing with Kitty too. They crave attention, and it’s a great way to bond with your furry friend.
Bonus: What Kitty is Trying to Tell You
Cat’s are great communicators, even if we don’t always know what they’re trying to tell us. Sure purring is a sign of comfort, calm, and happiness, but what about all the other weird things cats do? Here are some common kitty communications, so you don’t get lost in translation:
Kneading (aka making biscuits)
When cats use their paws to knead at something, they’re marking their territory. They have scent glands in their paws that leave behind their signature. Does your cat knead you? It’s a good sign. He’s saying, “This is my servant person whom I will always control love,”… or something like that.
If your feline friend rams you with his head, he’s showing you that you’re friends. It’s his way of bonding with you and another way he leaves his scent behind.
If you’ve ever been sitting watching TV and your kitty hops up and offers a staring contest, blinking ever-so-slowly, it may feel like he’s trying to stare into the deepest parts of your soul or control your mind. Really all he’s doing is showing you that he trusts you and loves you. Give him a little scratch behind the ear and a head-butt to reciprocate.
When Fluffy goes belly up, she’s saying that she feels safe. It may also mean she wants attention, so grab that string toy and see if she’s up for a game of chase.
The Booty Call
This might be the weirdest one yet, but if you’ve been a cat parent for a while, you’ve likely had cat-butt in your face. Don’t be offended. She’s not telling you to kiss her… well, you know. She’s actually telling you to sniff it. When cats put their butt in your face, they’re showing that they trust you and are offering you the chance to take a whiff to get to know them better. Don’t worry. You don’t actually need to do it. Just give them a scratch behind the ears or a friendly pat on the back.
With a little attention to the details, a lot of affection and care, and maybe a side of catnip, your feline friend will grow to be fiercely loyal to you.