Building a better future for all Earth's inhabitants and habitats
Cats may be perceived as low maintenance pets, but in terms of cost, both in comparative pricing for similar items as well as in the range of products they require, they are in many respects more costly to maintain than your average dog.
This may come as a surprise to some prospective pet owners, but if you think about it, while both types of pet require beds, bowls, collars, food, and toys, a responsible cat owner will also need to fork out for a cat carrier, cat flap, scratch post, toilet tray, and a regular replenishment of cat litter. Cat food tends also to be more expensive than dog food, owing to their requiring greater levels of high quality protein in their diet.
It is therefore important to spend your money wisely, buying not only what is necessary but also what will last.
Before microchipping, it was recommended that every cat should have a collar and tag, regardless of whether it was an indoor or an outdoor cat, for cats are crafty creatures, and even an indoor cat may get out.
Even with microchipping, though, that advice has not changed. Should your cat wander too far, get trapped, or – God forbid – injured, there would be the means to reach you directly. The alternative would be that your cat would have to be taken to a veterinary surgery for the chip to be read and for you to be contacted, and that might take some time.
While you could fit your cat with a traditional buckle collar, our recommendation would be that you invest in a breakaway, or quick release, collar, which is designed to snap apart more readily to avoid strangulation in the event that the collar should snag on something. Bear in mind, though, that if you do follow this advice, you should regularly check to see that your cat still has his collar on, for if lost he will also lose his tag, and with it the ability for quick identification should he be lost.
Selecting the right size collar is vital. You should be able to slide two finders between your cat’s neck and the collar to ensure it is neither too tight nor too loose. Ideally you would also want sufficient length on the strap either side of the catch to allow for adjustments as your cat ages or if the collar becomes stretched.
You can now get flashing or reflective collars, which help not only potential prey see your cat coming but also motorists if your cat were to wander onto the road. To this end, reflective collars are great, but take into account the type of cat you own. If he has long fur, like a Maine Coon, then chances are the collar will be covered by his fur and so this potential benefit may remain hidden from view.
Alternatively you can try placing a small bell on the collar to alert birds and other prey to your cat’s approach. It should be noted, however, that cats are not only crafty creatures but also extremely adaptive, and there is strong evidence that a cat will quickly learn to change its approach (both literally and figuratively) so that it will move without ringing that bell!
With regard to the tag, you should include your name and a contact phone number – preferably a mobile number so that you are reachable even if you are not at home. It is generally not advisable to put your address on the tag, as not only will it require you to change the tag should you move home but by including a phone number and address you run the risk of someone unscrupulous finding out where you live and then calling to see if anyone were at home!
While your cat will not doubt be happy to settle wherever it wishes, be that on your bed or sofa, or even in your laundry basket, you should nevertheless consider providing it with a space that it may consider all of its own. In fact, it is probably worth investing in multiple cat beds so that you can place them in different locations.
Cat beds come in all shapes and sizes, from tent beds that provide a hideaway for your seclusive feline, to hammocks that can be mounted onto radiators, thus providing your cat with a vantage point from which to survey its surroundings. They are also comprised of a range of materials, from bean bags, to soft fabric, to wicker baskets.
Cats prefer beds that are fairly compact and with raised sides, as it gives them both something to snuggle into as well as a sense of security. Be sure, though, that the rim is not to high so that your cat can have easy entrance and egress.
You should have at least one bed for each cat that you own. While some cats are happy to snuggle together, some prefer their own personal space.
© Busy Animal / courtesy of BusyAnimal.com
Whatever bed you select, be sure to consider your cat’s age and mobility, as those with mobility issues may not be able to reach a mounted hammock or jump into a bed with high sides.
Be sure to check the washing instructions, as invariably the bed will need a clean from time to time. One way to keep your cat’s bed clean would be to drape a towel or blanket over it, which can be swapped out for another when in need of a wash.
A Cat Knows Its Place:
Just accept that regardless of how many cat beds you acquire, your cat will invariably make himself at home on those things designed for you, be it your bed, the sofa, or a deckchair outdoors.
And why not, when your cat is actually the real power behind your throne, simply exerting his soft power?
© Busy Animal / courtesy of BusyAnimal.com
As with beds, bowls come in various sizes and made from a range of materials, including plastic, metal, and porcelain. The latter tend to be heavier and therefore less likely to tip over or nudged along a counter to drop off the edge.
The downside with porcelain bowls is that they tend to have steep sides, and cats generally prefer shallow bowls that slope inward. The reason for this is that food tucked into corners are uncomfortable to retrieve, owing to their whiskers being pressed back against the bowl when trying to reach there. You may find that when serving food in deep bowls or with steep sides that your cat will only eat the food at the centre of the bowl.
If you decide on a plastic or metal bowl, be sure to get one with a rubber base, as these will be less likely to slide or tip as your cat is eating. Alternatively, place it in a corner from which it can’t be easily moved.
In multi-cat households, you should have separate bowls for individual cats. Cats are by their nature solitary animals, and even those that generally get along with others would prefer to eat alone. You should not congregate bowls at feeding time, but rather spread them around so that each cat has its own personal feeding space.
Some bowls come as a joined pair, but we would advise against placing food in one and water in the other, as the risk of the water becoming contaminated with foodstuff is greater.
All bowls should be washed out regularly to avoid the spread of bacteria, but be sure to rinse out and dry before the next feed.
As technology advances, so do food bowls! Nowadays you can purchase both automatic and microchip feeders for your cat. Automatic feeders are not suitable for multi-cat households if you are aiming to maintain strict portion control over each of your pets. Never leave more food in a feeder than should be provided over the course of a normal day. Microchip feeders are suited for multi-cat households where one cat is on a prescription diet.
As a cat owner, there is a broad selection of food types to choose from, including wet food, kibble, and raw food. And within each of these types there are varying degrees of quality. Not only does the food need to satisfy your cat’s satiety but also its nutritional requirements. It is incumbent on each and every cat owner to be able to properly read pet food labels and to ensure that the food they are providing has high quality ingredients and is nutritionally balanced. Not only that, but also that their cat is fed a proportionate amount each day, for poor food management can affect both a cat’s health and wellbeing, leading to an unhappy feline and a hefty veterinary bill.
Almost as important as the food we give our cats is with what and how often we treat our cats. Both safety and good nutrition need to be taken into account when doing so. The more natural the treat, the better it is for our furry companion. Too often, these days, we tend to over-treat our cats and not take these additional caloric intakes into account when feeding them their regular meals. Treats should be saved for special occasions and not fed ad-lib to our beloved feline. In fact, the best time for treats is when they are saved for training sessions, for it is then that the cat is working for them as a reward, as opposed to simply being given as a means of distraction.
A lot of treats on the market today have little to no nutritional value. Some, in fact, can act counter to your cat’s overall health and wellbeing. On the other hand there are both natural treats and cat chews out there that promote good health, such as dental, anti-hair all, and urinary care treats.
For more information on types of cat food and how best to feed your cat, please refer to our ‘Cat Feeding and Nutrition’ page.
Grooming is an essential requirement for all cats, not only for general maintenance but for their hygiene, as well. An added bonus is that it is also a great way for you to bond with your furry feline.
There’s a range of cat brushes on the market, each designed to serve a different function. To summarise:
In addition, there are anti-parasitic combs and pincers, designed to remove unwanted critters, such as fleas and tics, as well as grooming gloves, which help you to run your hands over the body of your cat, grooming them whilst also being able to feel for unwanted lumps or signs of injury.
And don’t forget the indispensible hair, or lint, remover – for yourself! You may find yourself in need of a general groom after a cuddle with your favourite furry chum.
A pair of blunt-headed scissors may be useful to cut away any matted fur that can’t be untangled. If you decide to use an electric clipper, please be sure that you have desensitized your cat to both the sound and the vibration of the clipper before doing so. For more information on desensitizing your cat, please visit our page on ‘Training Your Cat’.
If will be very rare if ever that you should need to bathe your cat. Cats are generally do a good job of cleaning themselves, and by frequent washing you may be stripping them of their natural oils contained within their coat. However, if you do need to bathe your cat, please be sure to use only shampoo specifically formulated for a cat, as both human and dog shampoos contain different pH levels that are ill-suited to feline hair and skin.
As with shampoo, so too is there dental pastes and toothbrushes designed with the kitty in mind. While certain cat treats aid in the prevention of plaque buildup, the risk of both dental and gum disease can be further mitigated through the use of these products.
A specially formulated ear rinse and cotton balls are all that is required for cleaning your cat’s ears. Under no circumstances, though, use a cotton bud or hard implement that could perforate your cat’s eardrum!
Finally, while your cat may be good at keeping his claws clean and sharp, it is up to you to keep them trimmed, so a pair of pet nail clippers is advised. Be sure to have a styptic pencil or powder available in case you clip too far back and cut through the quick, though if you trim regularly and only the sharp tips then this shouldn’t be a problem.. For more information of how to trim your cat’s claws, please refer to the page on ‘Cat Grooming’.
Just as you should have separate food bowls for each feline in your home, so too should you have as many litter trays as you have cats. Dogs may be intrigued by another’s poop, but, like us humans, cats consider their toilet habits to be a private affair.
This is also why many cat litter trays come with a lid and a swing-door. It’s not there solely to keep the odour in but to also offer your cat some much needed privacy. It is important to note, though, that for the very fact that odours do tend to be locked into such trays, it is advised that they be cleaned out more regularly. A cat finds some comfort in toileting in an area with its familiar scent, but not when that scent becomes overpowering.
Litter deodorizers may help in masking the smell, but avoid using any scented products as they may offend your kitty’s sensitive nose just as much as the smell of her ablutions offend you! Using a deodorizer does not remove the need to swap out the litter every couple of days. While a human nose contains around five million odour-sensitive cells, a feline nose has approximately two hundred million, which means kitty will pick up on any smell well before you do.
There are also open litter trays, and these should prove adequate to the task in single cat homes, so long as the tray is positioned somewhere discreet.
Technological advances have impacted all aspects of our lives, even that of our pets, and so now for those too faint of heart to muck in and pick up their cat’s do-dos you will find there are also self-cleaning litter trays available. However, these trays do come with several drawbacks.
While some operate on battery power, which will need changing every so often, others run off mains power, and so will need to be placed somewhere near to a plug point. Also, certain trays will only function properly if a certain type of litter is used, and so you will need to factor your cat’s substrate preference before purchasing such a tray.
Finally, the motor within the tray does cause some noise as it operates the automated rake within, and while this only occurs once your cat has left the tray, some cats may be put off by the sound and so will choose to avoid the area altogether.
So do take into account both your cat’s fussy nature and sensitivity to sound before forking out for such a product, or simply play it safe and buy a poop scoop!
The Right Size Litter Tray:
A litter tray should be large enough for your cat to stand and turn around in, or even slightly bigger to avoid accidents on or over the rim of the tray. Open trays should have sides high enough to prevent spillage while still allowing a cat to step into the tray. The tray in this photo is too deep. Cats prefer to enter their toilet area with care and not have to climb over a huge lip to get there!
© bmf-foto.de / courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Litter comes in many forms and composed of a range of materials, from clumping clay to recycled paper, silica gel crystals, as well as from grass seeds, pine, corn, and wheat. The latter two should be avoided, as they are vulnerable to fungal growth when exposed to moisture, and may cause allergies if ingested. Clumping clay also can cause gastrointestinal distress if ingested. What’s more, most clumping litter is made from Sodium Bentonite, which is neither sustainably-sourced nor environmentally friendly. The best two options are litter comprised of recycled paper granules or grass seeds, as both are biodegradable and gentle on pussy’s paws.
It is important, though, not to immediately switch from the litter that your cat is used to. Rather gradually add the new litter while removing an equal measure of the old so that there is a gradual change.
While not vital to any cat home, a cat flap would certainly help provide kitty with easy access to the outdoors and to get back in again. Of course, you could always leave a window open, but the benefit of a cat flap is that you can get one programmed only to open to your cat’s microchip, meaning that only your feline family members will be able to pay your home a visit. Cat flaps can be inserted into nearly every type of door, be they made of glass or wood, and they can be set to allowing two-way or one-way access. This means that if you prefer not to let kitty out at night, you can set it to only let her enter but not to leave again until the following morning, which would be far more difficult with an open window!
While cat flaps may be an optional extra, cat carriers are a necessity. Even if you aren’t planning to take kitty away on holiday with you or thinking of moving home any time soon, you will still need to transport your cat to and from the vet, as well as secure him while he is there.
There are a range of cat carriers available, ranging from plastic, to wire, to traditional basket work, some allowing you to ease the cat in from above while others only allowing you to do so from the front.
Cat Carrier Tips:
While cats like security, they do not enjoy confinement. Be sure to get a carrier that is large enough for kitty to turn around in and that also has a wide grill opening that gives your cat a good view of the space it is in while also allowing for adequate ventilation. Place a familiar towel on the base for added comfort and security.
© Oleg Batrak / courtesy of Shutterstock.com
The best cat carriers are those that can be split in half so that you can remove the lid while your cat remains in the base. This functionality allows a veterinary surgeon to inspect your cat without the stress of having to get kitty out onto the consulting table. The next best option would be a carrier that allows you to lower your cat in from the top, as this can be easier and less stressful for both you and the cat. But be sure that you find one that has a large enough gate on the top, especially if you own a large breed or senior cat.
If you have to get a carrier with only a front opening and you haven’t habituated your cat to entering of its own volition (see ‘Training Your Cat’ for more information), your best option is to place it in tail-end first. Never try to force a cat into a carrier, as you will only instill in your cat a negative association to the carrier that you will find hard to break.
While your cat will invariably want to share your furniture with you, there are some furniture available for your cat alone, from wall and door climbers to raised platforms and multi-level towers, some of which include hanging toys for your cat to bat and catch.. In fact, one piece of furniture – a scratching post – may help save your furniture from some unwanted feline attention.
Scratch Pads & Posts:
Some cats prefer to knead on a horizontal surface, while others prefer a vertical surface. Watch your cat to see the angle at which he scratches, and then accommodate him with a pad or post. Vertical posts need to be sturdy to prevent them tipping over, so select one with a sufficiently wide base and that is appropriate for the size and breed of your cat.
© Nadinelle / courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Finally, there is outdoor furniture available for cats, as well. Not only dogs need have kennels, for there are pussy pads, as well! You can also find outdoor gyms, along with runs specifically designed for cats that would otherwise be cloistered indoors.
Most cat toys are designed to prompt hunting and stalking behaviours in your cat, so it should come as no surprise that most toys are either mouse-shaped or feathery. However, another popular cat toy tends to be balls with a bell inside, as these prompt your cat to swat at the ball and then chase it as it rolls away.
Some toys allow you to place treats inside, or alternatively catnip, but we would suggest that you rather place part of your cat’s daily portion of food inside these puzzle feeders, instead, so that he has to work for at least some of his food and perform at least some of his natural predatory behaviours prior to feeding.
Why spend lots of money on toys, when there are plenty of items around the house that your cat will find just as entertaining, such as a cardboard box, some feathers, or a ball of yarn?
Cut a couple of holes in one side of a cardboard box and entice your cat inside, then poke a feather through one of the openings you’ve created. As your cat tries to grab the feather, switch it to another of the holes. Just be sure not to wiggle a finger there, instead!
Or stick a toilet paper roll into an old sock and then sprinkle some treats or some catnip inside. Tie a line of yarn or string to the open end of the sock so that none of the contents can spill out and then let your cat try to grab it.
© Busy Animal / courtesy of BusyAnimal.com
No one likes to spend money on a pet toy, only to see it torn to pieces after half an hour of play, and so in recent years there has been a push for more robust, long lasting toys for both cats and dogs. The flip side of this is that cats tend to bore quickly of toys that they can’t easily eviscerate. The reason for this is that, since toys are designed to elicit their predatory instincts, a toy that cannot perform as captured prey will quickly lose their interest.
Studies have shown that this is down to sensory habituation in the cat, and that were the colour, odour, or movement of that toy to change, then play would once again resume. Colour may be difficult to accommodate, but changing the odour certainly is possibly by lacing the toy with tiny amounts of catnip, mint, or basil, or even a few drops of olive oil. Altering the movement can also be achieve by tying it to a piece of string and wriggling or dangling it in a slightly different fashion.