Caring for your cat – An owner’s guide

Many of us have enjoyed spending more time at home with our cats over recent months. But have they enjoyed spending that time with us? Cats have evolved over thousands of years to live with humans but is there still more we could be doing to create the ‘purrfect’ home for our cats?

1) A safe place
Cats can adapt to small changes in their routine and environment but they prefer consistent feeding times and their own quiet, safe place in which to sleep.

Top Tips
Here are a few ideas for feline-friendly hide-outs:

  • Top of the cupboard – cats feel safe when they’re high-up in a room; if it’s safe and spacious, cupboard tops are ideal. (It also means your cat is out of reach of younger members of the family!)
  • Underneath the bed – clear away the dust and make a space for your cat!
  • A raised shelf –a high shelf or the top of a chest of drawers make ideal, high resting places.
  • Inside of a box – kittens and cats love cardboard boxes; they can easily be turned into luxury cat accommodation. Try cutting an entrance hole in the side and lining the base with fleecy blankets.

Involve the children
Why not challenge the kids to make your cat a new hide-out? It’s a good way to teach them why cats need uninterrupted, quiet rest. Cats seek attention when they choose to and can react with sharp claws and teeth if they’re disturbed. They could:

  • Turn a cardboard box into a ‘hidey-hole’
  • Use a tepee tent (if you have one) and create a cat-friendly camp
  • Create a nest by putting a long cloth over a breakfast stool

 

2) Playtime and predatory behaviour
Playing with your cat is a fun way to get to know their personality and deepen the bond you share.  Both kittens and cats love to play with a variety of interactive toys. Playtime helps kittens develop physically while teaching them social and communication skills. Even the youngest kittens express predatory behaviour when playing; it’s quite a sight watching a six-week-old kitten ‘stalk’ a table tennis ball!

Indoor cats need plenty of opportunities to play and climb allowing them to exhibit their natural behaviours. Homemade fishing rods are great for dangling furry toys near your cat while keeping your fingers safe. Providing a stimulating environment helps prevent your cat becoming bored and developing behavioural problems such as over-grooming and inappropriate toileting.

Top tips – food foraging
Problem-solving toys and puzzle feeders can entertain your cat and stimulate their senses. If your cat is new to puzzles, keep them easy to begin with and increase the difficulty over time.

Involve the children
Raid the recycling box and challenge the kids to make some feeding games for your cat. Let their imagination run wild with toilet roll tubes, egg boxes and yoghurt pots. Use child and cat friendly materials to decorate them; avoid toxic paints and small craft pieces. (No pom-poms!)

 

3) Resources
‘Key resources’ are the amenities that all cats need to stay happy and healthy. They are: litter trays, feeding areas, water and resting spaces.  If you have multiple cats, provide separate feeding and rest areas. The golden rule for litter trays is ‘one per cat plus one’. For example, if you have three cats you need at least four trays in different areas!

Top tips- food
It’s important to provide food in a cat-friendly way. If your cat wears a collar, a constant clinking noise against the side of a stainless-steel bowl could be off-putting. Some cats are allergic to plastic bowls and prefer food and water bowls made from ceramic or glass.

Water
Wild cats feed and drink in separate locations. Domestic cats share this preference so place water away from feeding bowls. A wide, full-to-the-brim, glass bowl allows your cat to drink comfortably without getting their whiskers wet while keeping an eye out for ‘predators’. (All cats are wild at heart!)

Litter Trays

Litter trays are essential for housecats but outdoor cats also enjoy the option of an indoor toilet. Place litter trays in quiet areas away from food bowls and water. Cats prefer privacy and can’t relax if a neighbour’s cat is watching them ‘in action’ so keep trays away from glass windows and doors.

 

4) Respect your cat’s sense of smell
A domestic cat’s sense of smell is about twenty times stronger than ours! Cats use their sense of smell to gather information about the movements and location of other cats. They communicate with each other, and mark out their territory, by leaving their scent in communal areas. You’ve probably noticed your cat rubbing their face along furniture edges or your leg! Scratching and urinating are also ways of leaving scent behind.

Top Tips

  • Avoid using strong-smelling cleaning products, scented candles or room sprays.
  • Provide scratching posts or mats for your cat to use (and help save your sofa!)
  • Remove your outdoor footwear when you return home, especially if you’ve visited another house with cats. This prevents bringing new, challenging smells into the house.
  • Plug-in pheromone products replicate the scent produced by cats. Consider trying them to help your cat feel secure and calm at home.

 

5) Human-cat social interaction
Consistent, gentle handling from a young age helps your cat develop life-long, positive behaviours. Cats have strong bonds with their humans and enjoy interacting with us (on their terms of course!)

Cats tell us they’d like attention by:

  • Purring
  • Facial rubbing
  • Chirruping
  • Head bunting
  • Holding their tail vertically
  • Rolling around in a relaxed fashion

Top Tips
If you’re working from home, you could try helping your cat adjust by:

  • Setting up a cosy bed for your cat on your desk if you both like spending the time together
  • Maintaining your cat’s normal routine; ignore demands for food and attention-seeking behaviour. (Bribing your cat with food can just make them more persistent!)
  • Working in a separate room to your cat.

 

Give our ideas a try and your feline-friend will, quite literally, think you’re the cat’s whiskers!

Information source: Vicky Halls RVN DipCouns Reg. MBACP (iCatCare/ISFM)

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