Here are 10 basic rules to help you to become a better cat owner (caregiver). They start with a desire to better understand the domestic cat and through understanding you can provide for their needs more successfully.
Learn about the domestic cat’s anatomical attributes
The first rule is to spend a little bit of time to learn about your cat’s anatomy, their physical abilities and senses. Domestic cats have a beautiful anatomy designed to hunt and wonderful senses. The hearing and sense of smell is superior to ours and although their daytime eyesight is less good, their eyes are geared up to night-time hunting. They have scent glands all over their bodies for scent marking.
Get into their minds
It helps to try and get into the mind of your cat. You do this through observing their body language and vocalisations (meows and purrs etc.). You learn to understand their feelings and moods. The time of day and the rhythms of life between you and your can also inform you as to your cat’s desires and mood.
Alert to dangers and hazards
Be alert to the dangers around the household including foods and plants, some of which are dangerous and which have been mentioned a lot on the Internet and the numerous household products which are dangerous to domestic cats including such innocuous things as essential oils. All the pages about dangers to cats and hazardous objects have been tagged on this website you can access that tag by clicking on this link. There are many pages because there are many hazards.
Observe changes in behavior
Jackson Galaxy calls it detective work. Ideally, a cat guardian could even take written notes in diary form so that they are fully aware of their cat’s routines and behaviours. This allows the owner to spot the slightest change in behaviour which may indicate the beginnings of an illness such as a cat walking less well which may indicate arthritis in an elderly cat.
Marking territory is natural behaviour for a cat but this behavioural trait can irritate some cat owners. It’s a source of potential conflict between cat and caregiver. I’m referring to scratching which is partly to do with scent marking and also to do with stretching and sloughing off the outer layer of their claws. Occasionally domestic cats will spray in the house if they are stressed and even defecate to scent mark. Never be angry if your cat wants to mark territory in your home. You can minimise this aspect of their behaviour and the obvious way to do it is to spay and neuter cats which is of course commonplace and to provide a good number of scratching posts and boards. Also to reduce stress levels by being with your cat as much as possible; interacting in a gentle and useful way with your cat.
Allow your cat to feel secure when she needs to. This means providing a high perch and a hiding place. It is my belief that domestic gas can feel more anxious than people believe or notice. Allow them to feel safe when they experience this emotion. Cats feel safe when they are squeezed into a narrow space or high up. And cats think vertically unlike people. This rule particularly applies to timid cats and multi-cat households.
Inside or inside/outside?
The decision to let a cat go outside is for the cat owner alone bearing in mind all the benefits and dangers. It depends upon a wide range of circumstances which have been well discussed over the years. Ensuring that your cat is safe is a cat owner’s first priority and the second is to allow them to express their natural desires and activities. These objectives clash. There are dangers outside for a domestic and as we all know. Indoor cats can be very happy and they like cat TV i.e. looking out the window. Indoor cats live live three years longer than cats that are allowed outside, on average.
Hygiene, health and bonding
Take care your cat’s hygiene to help avoid health problems that creep up without noticing them. This means brushing and combing your cat (including flea combing regularly), cleaning their teeth and clipping their claws. Cleaning a domestic cat’s teeth is difficult or almost impossible unless the cat has been trained to accept it as a kitten. The advice here is to start cleaning your cat’s teeth when they are young kittens and then it shouldn’t be difficult when they are adults. Claw clipping is particularly important for indoor cats because they do not wear down and become blunter. Be careful when you do it not to cut into the quick. Once again this is best to be trained into a cat when they’re very young as some cats won’t accept having their claws trimmed. Providing these services to your cat is very beneficial in terms of (1) bonding with your cat and (2) checking your cat for developing health issues and (3) improving her hygiene.
Play – the great solution
Playing with your cat cannot be overstressed. It achieves a hell of a lot such as (1) allowing a domestic cat to express their hunting desires (2) socialising a domestic cat to the human who is playing with her if there are difficulties in that regard (3) burning off energy and emotions so that she remains calm if she is a bit tense. Playing with your cat is perhaps the best activity of all.
Many cat guardians struggle, perhaps it is fair to say, with the cost of veterinary care. But providing veterinary care is an essential part of good cat ownership. A way to deal with this is to operate a self-insurance scheme by putting some money aside to care for her. If you save to cover the cost of veterinary care on a monthly basis and put the money into a special savings account which is ring fenced you can ease the burden of this ongoing potential costs. If this is unacceptable to you then you might go for commercial pet insurance. I favour self-insurance.
P.S. There is one overriding rule which is based on common sense: respect the cat. Respect that your cat is a different species and allow them to be their own species within the human world. Remember that they are in our world and therefore it is harder for them emotionally and very often physically because there are restrictions on how they can express their natural desires. Always do your best to allow them to behave normally.
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