Pet Talk: General care for cats

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Bringing a new cat or kitten into your home can be exciting. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner, or you’re thinking about welcoming another animal into your home, there are many things to consider before adopting or purchasing a feline companion.

“Before adopting or purchasing a cat, you should consider the time and financial commitment of pet ownership,” said Dr. Sarah Griffin, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Additionally, you should determine if your lifestyle is suitable for responsible pet ownership.”

For example, if you are thinking about adopting a kitten, you should be able to provide the kitten with at least three wellness visits to a veterinarian for vaccines and deworming, Griffin said. Additionally, Griffin recommended kittens be spayed or neutered when they are six to nine months of age and given monthly flea, intestinal parasite, and heartworm prevention, whether the kitten lives primarily indoors or outdoors.

Cats should also be given these treatments to prevent the spread of certain diseases. Griffin recommended cats visit the veterinarian for wellness visits semiannually to annually. “It is important to treat cats for fleas and other parasites because fleas can spread disease,” Griffin said. “Some intestinal parasites can even cause zoonotic disease, meaning the disease can be transmitted from animals to people. Additionally, heartworms can cause permanent heart and lung damage to cats, so it is important to provide preventative care against heartworms.”

Another important factor to consider before purchasing or adopting a cat is diet. Providing a well-balanced and nutritious diet plays a key role in your feline’s health. “I recommend feeding cats high-quality dry and canned food,” Griffin stated. “It’s important to introduce both types of food to kittens in case they require a special diet when they get older. Look for The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) label on food before purchasing it to ensure quality.” If you have any questions regarding feline nutrition, ask your veterinarian for guidance.

If you are considering bringing a cat into your home, you should also be prepared for their natural behaviors, such as scratching. Scratching may not be conducive to an indoor domesticated lifestyle, so cat owners should give their cat an outlet for this behavior, such as through a scratching post. Other options for cat owners include declawing their cat. However, declawing should only be done after failed attempts to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when its claws present a health risk to the owner, Griffin said. Some possible ways to stop destructive scratching include trimming the claws weekly, giving the cat plenty of scratching posts or other items made for cats to scratch, or placing temporary synthetic nail caps on the claws, Griffin said.

Another factor to consider for potential cat owners is the responsibility of cleaning litter boxes. Litter boxes should be cleaned daily and fresh litter should be used weekly to every other week, Griffin said. “I recommend having one more litter box than cat in the home. For example, if you have two cats, you should have three litter boxes,” she said.

Cats should naturally use a clean litter box that is in a quiet part of the home and is well separated from the cat’s food and water. If inappropriate urination occurs, or the cat is not using the litter box, this could be a sign of a medical or behavioral condition. Talk to your veterinarian to determine the best solution to this problem.

Whether you are an experienced pet owner or beginning a new journey in the world of pet ownership, be sure to review and understand the responsibilities of a kitten or a cat. Pets fully depend on their owners for food, love, and care, so it is important to be completely committed before adopting or purchasing a new furry friend.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.

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