Getting Started: Cats

Luna close upCats are fairly self-sufficient creatures.  They don’t require walks, are extremely adept at keeping themselves clean and don’t require a hutch or cage when you’re out as they can generally be trusted not to chew through those expensive phone charger cables or scare the postie, although there are some videos on Youtube that suggest otherwise!  For those looking for a low maintenance companion, cats fit the bill perfectly.

The humble domestic cat makes for a pretty lethal predator, however they are fairly small creatures and can be quite skittish so need plenty of safe spaces to retreat to.  They are also very particular about how and where they eat and relieve themselves, so care must be taken when setting up litter boxes and food bowls. Although their requirements are minimal, there are still several essential pieces of equipment needed before your new cat joins your household.

Litter Boxes

The great thing about cats is that they generally don’t need to be litter trained – mummy cat takes care of that at the age of around four weeks.  The ideal litter box will be deep enough to accommodate a litter depth of at least three centimetres and situated away from areas of high traffic.  Cats love their privacy and, just like us humans, prefer to do their business in peace and quiet.  Litter boxes come either as a simple tray or with a cover. Cats prefer to do their business uncovered, however if you do plump for a covered litter tray buy one with a filter and a removable door as many cats don’t like them.

Some people recommend one litter tray per cat plus one extra, however having at least one per cat should suffice. I cut my total down to two for my three cats as I found three trays to be excessive, however they all tend to use the same one anyway while the spare hardly gets used!

Litter boxes need to be cleaned regularly, at least twice a day.  If your cat is of the outdoor persuasion you’ll find that job an awful lot easier as they’ll do most of their business outside, however if your cats are kept indoors more care needs to be taken to keep things clean.

When it comes to the type of litter used, that is likely to be dependent on your cat’s preference.  Some cats prefer the traditional clay varieties such as Catsan, whereas other cats are equally happy with wooden pellets.  The main things to consider when choosing a good litter are odour control and disposal.  Litter that clumps is highly recommended as it makes cleaning so much easier.  I personally prefer to use litter made from wood and swear by Cats Best.  Odour control is fantastic, it lasts much longer than other brands and is also compostable, cutting down on landfill waste generated by clay varieties.  It can also be flushed down the toilet, making cleaning numerous litter trays a much easier task.

Sleeping Arrangements

Luna curled upAs we all know, cats love to sleep.  They’re so good at sleeping, they spend around two thirds of their lives doing it.  Cats are also notorious for picking the most absurd sleeping spots, so it’s understandable that many people decide not to invest in an expensive bed when their cat prefers to sleep in the box it came in!  However, it’s still important to set up comfortable, secluded areas for your cat to escape to for a snooze or some quiet time, whether that be a cat bed, old blanket or the ubiquitous box.

Aim for a variety of cosy dens for your cat – they’ll appreciate it.  My cats are spoiled for choice and have a mixture of traditional cat beds, an old blanket in the corner, a snood bed, sleeping bag and custom built dens.  One of them decided to start sleeping in the wee one’s old toy doll pram so it’s now equipped with a cosy old pillow – waste not want not!

Playtime and Exercise

Outdoor cats have more opportunities to amuse themselves than indoor cats do, so if your cat stays in it’s extremely important that they have a variety of toys for their mental and physical stimulation.  A bored cat will quickly make short work of your upholstery, curtains, rugs, door frames…

It’s difficult to recommend a specific toy as what one cat adores will likely be ignored completely by another, however anything that resembles prey will most likely go down well.  All cats are huge fans of the humble laser pointer, so much so that even the click of the button will have them alert and ready for a game of Hunt the Dot. Teaser toys are also a good investment, especially those with feathers or leather strips. Puzzle feeders are also a good idea, giving the cat mental stimulation as they have to work for their food.

One piece of equipment that is an absolute must is the scratching post.  Cats use them to mark their territory through sweat glands in their paws and keep their claws in shape.  They also like to use scratching posts for a good old stretch, so it’s a good idea to buy the tallest one you can.  Buy several and place them around in high traffic areas, so your cat can have a quick scratch while they’re passing through.  When my household grew from one cat to three, a painful lesson was learned when there was a bit of trouble with territory issues and the door frames and couches bear testament to the cats’ power struggles.  However, by strategically placing scratching posts in the worst areas the house has stopped looking like a war zone and the cats are less likely to tear lumps out of the fixtures and fittings (and each other, thankfully).

Food and Water

Misti and dinner

Fish? For me?

Last but not least, it is time to discuss the catering arrangements. It is important to provide your cat with good quality food, which will ensure they get all the nutrients they need. The added bonus is that a well fed cat will hardly ever need a visit to the vet, so it’s definitely worthwhile spending a little extra on food.

Whether you decide to feed your cat wet, dry or a mixture of both, do your research. The most important thing to remember, however, is that cats are obligate carnivores – they must eat meat – so stay away from the mainstream brands as the meat content is low while bulked out with grain. Dry food high in grain is not good for cats as their biology is not suited to it at all, plus it will eventually result in painful conditions such as kidney stones and crystals in the urinary tract (amongst others). Opt for a grain free brand with a high meat content – your cat will thank you for it. As for wet food, cats can thrive on brands with a low meat content but I would recommend you buy the best quality wet food you can. If feeding exclusively wet food, check that it is nutritionally complete and not supplementary.

Cats are much happier when their food and water bowls are kept separate as they associate food beside water with being contaminated or unclean.  If your cat is on a dry food diet, they will require a lot more water than a cat on wet food. Have two or three bowls of water around the house for your cat, well away from their food bowls and litter box.

Your cat’s food bowls should also be kept well away from litter boxes and in an open area where they can see what’s going on while they eat.  As previously mentioned, cats are skittish by nature due to them being small predators and so like to have a good vantage point while they eat.

One extra thing to take into consideration is the size of their food and water bowls.  Cat whiskers are extremely sensitive and the act of eating from a small bowl will actually hurt your cat’s face, so when choosing a bowl make sure it’s nice and wide.

If you would like to discuss how to prepare for your new cat in more detail, please do get in touch.