Cats make delightful pets, even though they are very independent. But before buying or adopting a cat, you must ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want a male or female cat? Generally females are cautious, gentle, and quiet but unless you have your cat spayed, you will have to contend with heat cycles. Males are larger and more outgoing, though unneutered males tend to spray urine to mark their territory, roam, and are prone to fights with other cats.
- Do you want a long- or short-haired cat? Long-haired cats are glamorous, but it will be someone's job to keep it that way. Long-haired cats shed a great deal and tend to get hairballs more frequently.
- Do you want a purebred or mixed-breed cat? If you want a purebred cat, make sure you buy it only from a reputable breeding establishment and know what you're looking for before you actually buy.
- Do you want a kitten or a cat? Kittens are cute but they require more time and patience. Older cats require more socialization but generally are easier to care for.
In the next section, we examine three important components of caring for a cat: bathing, feeding, and grooming.
Bathing, Feeding, and Grooming
Proper bathing, feeding, and grooming of your cat can lead to a longer, happier relationship. Here are details:
- Cats normally don't require bathing, but if your cat does need a bath, get a friend to assist. Place a small washable rug or towel over the side of the basin or tub for the cat to cling to. A cat gets panicky on a slippery surface where it can't get a foothold. Hold the cat with one hand and lather quickly with the other.
- Before bathing a cat, put a drop of mineral oil in each eye to prevent irritation from soap.
- Make certain the water temperature is roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer or cooler water will cause your cat distress and may make it difficult to handle.
- Wash the head, ears, and neck first. If you don't, any fleas that are on the animal will take refuge there while you clean the rest of its body. Be careful not to get shampoo in the eyes.
- To avoid colds, keep your cat inside for several hours after a bath.
- Never offer your cat bones -- they can splinter into sharp pieces and catch in your pet's throat.
- If moist pet food is not eaten within two hours, refrigerate it. Dry food and biscuits are the only foods that can be left out for any length of time.
- Do not feed dog food to a cat.
- If you're going to change your pet's diet, do it gradually. A sudden change may be a shock to the animal's system.
- Don't worry if your cat eats grass; many animals actually graze.
- On a hot day, be vigilant about a cat's water supply. Fill your pet's bowl with cold tap water and freshen it often.
- When your cat starts to shed hair, usually after the cold-weather months, massage its coat with your hands, then stroke the animal from head to tail with your palms. You'll have less hair all over the house.
- If you encounter matted or tangled fur when combing a long-haired cat, use your fingers, not a comb, to separate the tangles.
- When brushing short-haired cats, be sure to brush between the shoulders where the cat can't reach to groom itself.
- Your cat's claws will be easier to trim if you press the paw to expose the nails. Use special clippers from the pet supply store -- never use human nail clippers on a cat. Cut the nail well clear of the quick -- the pink line you can see running through the nail.
- Your cat's ears should be cleaned monthly. Clean only that part of the ear canal that you can see, using a cotton swab soaked in mineral oil or alcohol.
- Don't leave your cat in a car in hot weather, even if the windows are open. Heat builds up very quickly in a car and can cause collapse or even death.
The final section of this article focuses on important health issues you need to consider when caring for your cat.
There are numerous cat-health issues that an informed cat-owner must know. Consider these suggestions:
Worming medications are dangerous if used incorrectly. Never worm your cat with any medication not prescribed by your vet.
If a cat is too sick to clean itself, keep it brushed and rubbed down. Wipe runny eyes often.
To give a cat a pill, hold the animal firmly on your lap or between your knees. Grasp the head on either side of the jaw so that the cat has to open its mouth. Place the pill as far back in the throat as possible. Close the cat's mouth, and rub its throat gently to stimulate swallowing.
Cats are prone to diabetes. If your cat is diabetic, have your vet show you how to give the required insulin injections. If you do this faithfully, diabetes will not shorten your cat's life.
If a cat appears malnourished even though well fed, has frequent loose stools, a lackluster coat, and a bloated stomach, you should suspect worms. Consult a veterinarian.
Ear mites are a common problem with cats. If you notice black, brown, or gray waxy material in the ear instead of the usual clean pink surface, the cat may have mites. Consult the veterinarian for medicine. If you have more than one cat and one gets ear mites, chances are the others will, too.
If a cat's membranous eyelids half-cover its eyes, it's usually a sign of an intestinal illness that should be treated immediately.
Constant discharge from your cat's eye can be a symptom of either local infection or systemic disease that should be treated.
If a kitten dies suddenly with no sign of illness, it probably had feline distemper. Your other cats should be vaccinated immediately.
The easiest way to treat hairballs is to give the cat a preparation that will coat the stomach and combine with the hair so that it can be passed in the stool. White petroleum jelly is an excellent coating agent. Put a teaspoon or two on the cat's mouth and paws, and let the cat lick it off.
Cats love to play with yarn or string but such games can be fatal. If your cat has swallowed yarn or string, give it white petroleum jelly to ease the passage of the material through the system.
Keep cats away from the poisonous houseplants, such as dieffenbachia, mistletoe berries, and poinsettia.
Cats can be complex creatures -- but if cared for correctly, they also can provide enormous pleasure.