This sense of independence is what makes cats such wonderful pets. Content to roam, explore and hunt cats don’t need the same amount of attention as other pets.
Belonging to the family Felidae, domestic cats are part of one of the oldest mammalian families which also include wild cats like lions, leopards and tigers. In fact there are 38 known species of felines in the world today.
Lifetime of love
There are so many breeds, sizes and characteristics of cat that you should be able to find one to suit your family and because they live well into their teens, they make great family pets. Children grow up with a pet and adults are left with a furry companion once their kids have “flown the nest”.
The advantage of a pure bred cat is they have fairly fixed characteristics. The mixed breeds can be slightly more uncertain, but loving nonetheless. But, ultimately, the type of cat you choose should match your circumstances.
A long haired cat for example would not be suited to a time starved individual. They require more care than other cats as they do need to be groomed regularly. It’s also important to remember that they are a natural predator of small animals and birds so it is important that you consider other household pets.
Cats and children can live happily together. But being of independent temperament, they don’t take kindly to being pulled around. So if you have small children, it is important to teach them to respect the cat and be gentle with it.
Whilst kittens are irresistibly cute, perhaps you should think about getting a cat from a rescue centre? There are thousands of perfectly healthy cats, throughout the country, waiting to be re-homed through no fault of their own. These will already be neutered, spayed and vaccinated, saving you the expense and hassle.
However, if you do decide to go for the adorable kitten, preparation is key!
Kittens love to chew, chase, climb and hide. So check your home thoroughly for potential kitten nightmares. Just as you would with a baby, get down to floor level and look out for electrical wires which may be chewed, furniture they can climb under and get trapped and small objects they may be able to chew.
When you go to select your kitten, make sure all cats look happy and healthy. If one kitten looks ill, it may be a genetic weakness or contagious disease which could then present itself in the other kittens. Your kitten should be 12 – 16 weeks before you take it home and should not be sold any younger than this. If they are, you should question the integrity of the seller.
Kittens should be alert with bright eyes and a clean coat. Look out for sticky eyes, runny noses, dirty bottoms, matted fur or lethargy as all of these indicate that the kitten is probably unwell.
Equally, if you’re looking at an older cat the same applies. They should have clean fur, bright eyes, be friendly and show no signs of aggression.
You’ll need a cat box to take your new friend home in. Don’t be tempted to carry the kitten or cat in your arms. They get scared very easily and could jump out of your arms into a busy street. It is also worth putting an item of your clothing into the cat box when collecting it as this will allow her to get used to your smell and help her settle in better.
When you arrive home show her the litter tray so she knows where to find it and give her some time to investigate and get used to her new environment. Your kitten may not be litter trained, so if this is the case then you will need to start training straight away. Cats aren’t like dogs and don’t respond to being scolded or having their noses rubbed in it. They are clean, fastidious creatures and with persistence will learn to use the litter tray quite quickly. Some will use the tray when first put in it, others will confuse it with food and try to eat it. But generally, if you put her in after eating and drinking she will get the hang of it.
Remember, kitten or cat, this is a stressful time for them so avoid the temptation to over crowd or fuss and give her space to settle in. And if the new addition is a kitten and you have older cats already in the house, it’s probably best to supervise their socialising for the first week to make sure the new kitten doesn’t get injured.
In addition to the cat box and litter tray you will also need some food, along with cat feeding bowls, and a bed. If you don’t want to go to the expense of buying bowls, old saucers, plates and bowls are just as good. Not all cats and kittens like a proper cat bed either. A cardboard box with a jumper or cardigan placed in the bottom is just as good and, for some cats, just as appealing.
Healthy and Happy
Cats tend to be fussy eaters and this is due to the difficulty they experience when it comes to vomiting, which requires a huge amount of effort for them. Small changes in diet can upset their digestion so make sure any change to food is done gradually over 7 – 10 days. They are carnivores so should not be fed a vegetarian diet and commercial cat foods are specially designed to meet all their dietary needs. If you have a kitten, pregnant or lactating queen, speak to a reputable pet store or vet about food for them as they have specific nutritional requirements and will need different foods.
If you have a kitten, you shouldn’t let her out for the first 6 months and until she has been vaccinated and neutered or spayed. Whilst most cats are immunised against Enteritis and “Cat Flu”, depending on your circumstances, your kitten may need a vaccination against Leukemia and Chlamydophilosis. Speak to your vet about this though.
There is an age old debate as to whether your cat should wear a collar or not. The main concern is due to safety and whether a collar will get snagged on trees when cats inevitably climb them. The safe solution is to go for an elasticated/safety collar, which your cat will slip out of if she gets stuck. And if you want to save the birds – put a bell on it to alert them when your furry friend may be stalking!
Cats are more independent than most pets and it is this independent, aloof nature which draws so many people to them. Affection and love is usually on their terms, but should you be honoured with a cuddle from your purring pal, it does make you feel so special!
Facts you may not know about Cats:
• Lilies are extremely poisonous to cats. Avoid including them in bouquets if you own a cat as it may kill them.
• The cat has been living in close association with humans for somewhere between 3,500 and 8,000 years.
• Cats don’t just “meow”. They are capable of as many as 100 different vocalisations, compared to about 10 for dogs.
• The nose pad of a cat is ridged in a pattern that is unique, just like the fingerprint of a human.
• Don’t pick a kitten or a cat up by the scruff of its neck; only mother cats can do this safely, and only with their kittens.