If you don’t already know I’m a crazy cat lady, you’ve probably been living under a humongous rock. Like, a massive, huge, gargantuan rock. Cats are my life. I’ve always been surrounded by kitties since I can remember (we have about 15 or so of them when I was a child), so it was only a matter of time that I grew up to be a Cat Momma of my own. As you probably already know, I have 4 cats – Richard, Bingo, Ebi and Pudding. They keep me occupied all day long, since they’re indoor cats, and I thought I’d write up a little guide for other Cat moms and dads out there. Whether you already have Cats of your own, or are looking to introduce some new buddies to your home, you’ll probably have questions about how to raise them and how to ensure they’re kept happy at all times…if that’s even possible. Do you need a carpet shampooer? Do you need 20 little boxes? The questions I get are somewhat endless, so I thought I’d just write down everything that I know and have learnt over the last few years.
Now, disclaimer – if you’re a fanatical, extremist type Vegan who thinks having cats as companions is “cruel” or that feeding them meat makes me a “fake vegan”, then please note where the door is and don’t slam it on your way out. I strongly believe that we as humans are allowed to choose the diets we want to adhere to, but in no way do we have the right to force these changes upon creatures that are obligate carnivores, as cats are. I won’t go into the science of it here because I’m not a veterinarian but just a word of caution for those who disagree with feeding cats animal products – this may not be the article for you. Let’s get on to the real stuff. Once again, I’d like to stress that I’m not a professional or a vet, and these are simply opinions of mine on things I have learnt or picked up over the years. I’m trying to give advice that is both practical and useful, but if your fur buddy is experiencing behavioural or health issues, please bring them to the vet clinic ASAP!
2 Is Better than 1
Aside from being a late 2000s banger by Taylor Swift and Boys Like Girls, I really do believe 2 is better than 1 when it comes to having cats in your home. We’ve always had more than one cat, but I do know of friends who only have one and tend to notice that their cats actually seem pretty lonely when they’re left alone at home all day – I mean, this happens…people have to go to work/school and can’t be expected to be there all day long. This is why having more than 1 cat is beneficial (in fact, I’d never recommend someone have only one!), as a home of multiple cats can keep all their minds stimulated. Cats, contrary to the popular belief of them being loners, actually need social interaction, and when not given enough, could even “act out” and show signs of behavioural issues in the long run.
Having multiple cats also ensures that toilet training isn’t a nightmare, as they adhere to the “monkey see, monkey do” way of life. If you’re not home all day long like me, having a household of multiple cats is a fantastic way of ensuring that your little buddies keep active. Most days, my four end up chasing each other around the house and getting into wrestling matches (nothing violent, of course), so I have zero worries when it comes to their activity levels. Keeping pets active when they’re kept indoors can sometimes be a challenge, and I would never ever recommend you let your feline friend out of the house, so keeping them physically and mentally stimulated with the company of another cat is always my top recommendation. Of course, do take note that cats a fussy little creatures when it comes to who and what they get along with, so it’s best to adopt 2 at the same time (preferably ones that already get along in a shelter), in order to prevent them from trying to claw each other apart.
The Litter Box Conundrum
Now, if I’m to give you true and scientifically accurate advice, I’ll say you need one litter box per cat, plus one extra. That means if you have 1 cat, you’ll need 2 If you have 2 cats, you’ll need 3 and so on. If you’re someone like me who lives in a shoebox of an apartment with 4 cats, chances are you don’t have enough room for 5 entire litter boxes. I know I don’t. If I were to have 5 litter boxes, I might as well just fill the entire home with kitty litter and call it a day. What do I do instead? Well, I have two LARGE hooded litter boxes in my bathroom (I find that my 4 prefer to be in a dark, enclosed space whilst they do their business, instead of out in the open with a normal litter box) and what I do is empty the boxes out fully every 2-3 days. I scoop their “droppings” at least 3 times a day, and refresh the boxes with brand new litter every few days. Yes, that’s extra work. Yes, that may be extra money, but trust me, it keeps them happy! I’ve seen people online who say they only entirely refresh the kitty litter once every 2 weeks, and how this is possible is a complete mystery to me because it frickin stinks. I personally don’t want my furry children using a dirty box either, so I’m willing to put in a little extra effort to keep them comfortably.
Because I have so many cats, I opt for recycled newspaper litter which is cheap (not the cheapest – clay tends to be the cheapest but also the biggest mess). I used to use Litter Crystals, but they prove to be a little too expensive and they also really hurt your feet when you accidentally step on it…Cat Lego of sorts.
Now, if you have a problematic cat that refuses to do potty in its litter box, you may have to experiment with different kinds of litter, as well as shifting the litter boxes to different locations. Cats are fussy. Cats are prissy. Cats do as they please, not as you want them to. With Richard, I had to finally settle on the hooded litter boxes because after an entire year of him insisting on doing a poo on the floor and me trying everything possible to rectify his behaviour, this was the only option that actually worked. Please also note that a cat that suddenly refuses to use the litter box could actually be feeling unwell, and you should always check with your vet immediately should you notice changes in toilet habits. For example, Pudding started urinating in the sink everyday when she had a UTI, which was how I realised she wasn’t feeling well. Very important, so take note of this! Cats can’t speak, so they have all these ingenious ways of trying to let you know they’re not feeling the best!
Nom Nom Nom, Let’s Talk About Food!
This is where I get into trouble and have 100 people leaving comments about how terrible and disgusting I am for feeding my cats meat based pet food. Like I said above, if this is what you think, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I am in no way going to endanger the health of my cats by not feeding them exactly what their bodies need. Long story short, cats are obligate carnivores – they can only meet their nutritional needs by consuming meat and have a much higher protein requirement than many other mammals. There have been numerous stories of cats dying due to being malnourished on plant-based diets, and as much as it pains me to purchase the flesh of another living creature, I cannot impose my own views/values/dietary choices on another creature.
Now that that’s settled, let’s get into what to feed these furry creatures. I want you to stay away from commercial pet food that you get at supermarkets – they’re full of fillers, preservatives and sometimes chemicals, which do not belong in your cat’s body. Many cheap brands of cat food also contain a bunch of fillers in the form of carbohydrates (barley, oatmeal, wheat), which are not unhealthy for your cat per se, but shouldn’t make the bulk of your cat’s diet. Meat (unfortunately), should be the primary base of your pet’s diet. I stick to high end and vet recommended brands when it comes to both Kibble and wet food – Royal Canin, Advance, Applaws, Hill’s Science Diet and so on. Yeah, they cost a bit more, but the benefit of these brands is that your cats won’t consume as much due to their nutritional density. I also believe in feeding primarily wet, because I just personally don’t believe one can live on kibble alone, just as I couldn’t live on dry cereal alone. In the long run, my personal and unprofessional opinion is you’ll help prevent any kidney or bladder issues if you feed primarily wet (just based off one of my cats that constantly gets a UTI due to her kibble obsession).
You can always give kitty some of the cheaper brands as a treat once in a while (honestly, they love Fancy Feast – it’s like cat crack), but try not to make this their primary source of nutrition in the long run. Also, once you find a brand that all your cats will eat, try to stick to it. Getting cats adjusted to new brands or types of food is really quite frustrating because they’re so fussy, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Don’t Forget Play Time
One of the common misconceptions with cats is that unlike dogs, they don’t need any play time. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Richard loves playing fetch, and will always yell out for play time at least once a day (or bring his little mouse to me – adorable!). Cat toys are not a waste of money, like some may think. For starters, it keeps them entertained (especially automatic toys that keep them occupied when you’re busy), it keeps them mentally stimulated and it keeps them active which is very important for indoor cats that often end up lazy and slightly overweight. There are a heap of different cat toys and activities available online and at pet stores, and what one cat enjoys doing or playing with may not interest another, so always keep a wide variety of toys for your furry friends. Yeah, pretty much like having a household of multiple kids, I feel you. I personally don’t think you need to dish out hundreds of dollars on cat toys because 1) they’ll end up ruined anyway and 2) I’ve always noticed that the cats derive the most pleasure from the stupidest and most inexpensive of things such as a water bottle cap or a bouncy ball. Don’t fall into marketing gimmicks, cats are fussy but they’re surprisingly very easy to please when it comes to toys! Who woulda thought!
Claws: To Trim or Not To Trim?
Now, before I even get into the topic of trimming claws, I want to make a point that declawing cats is NEVER an option. It is one of the most cruel things you could do to a cat, and can lead to behavioural problems and just general f*ckery in the long run. Cats require their claws to climb, scratch and defend themselves – so don’t go pulling them out! Most vets will never carry out this procedure, and if you’re considering doing it because of your furniture, or because you have children, perhaps don’t have a pet instead of pull the claws out of an innocent being.
Now that I’ve mentioned that, lets get into how you can keep your cats’ claws trimmed and neat for their own safety and in a bid to prevent them accidentally scratching or injuring you. You can purchase cat nail clippers online or at the vet, but I personally just use a small human nail clippers which does the job perfectly. The whole process is pretty simple – unless you have a super stubborn or wriggly cat – and all you have to do is get kitty relaxed, sit him or her on your lap and slowly pull back at their paws to reveal their claws. Gently cut them off and NEVER go too deep or too close to the blood vessel. You can identify where the blood vessels are located because that will be the ‘pinker’ part of their claw. If your cat hates this process (one of mine does), don’t force them to sit there. Instead, clip one nail at a time throughout the course of a day. Trust me, that’s a lot easier than dealing with a screaming cat who is trying to claw your eyes out!
If you don’t know how to trim their claws or feel nervous about it, visit a groomer or the vet who will be more than happy to assist you in the process and teach you how it is done. Never do anything you are uncomfortable with or unsure about as you may end up injuring your cat!
De-Sexing, Vaccinations and Health Checks
If you are getting a kitten, you’ll probably be advised to give them 3 back to back vaccinations over the course of three months before settling into a yearly ritual of vaccinations. This is highly important and a great preventative step to take in keeping kitty healthy – one that I would absolutely insist any cat owner do. Once your kitten has received all three vaccinations in the first year, all you have to do is keep up with one yearly vaccination thereafter. Aside from vaccinations, it is always highly advised that you bring your cats in for a general health check at least once a year, even if they may seem in the pink of health. Just because a cat is kept indoors doesn’t mean it is immune to a host of various diseases and health issues, so I always adhere to the “better be safe than sorry” policy when it comes to having my fur children checked. If you have a mature cat above the age of 7, you’ll want to ensure you visit the vet at least twice a year as they are a lot more prone to kidney and liver issues in the long run. For those who have cats that will not endure a journey in a cat carrier, there are always options such as mobile vets available these days who will come straight to your house, eliminating the entire struggle of trying to get an uncooperative cat to the vet (this is what I’ve been doing for the last 2 years with my 4 cats and it works a charm!).
Another point I’d like to stress is that you should ALWAYS spay or neuter your cat. Some people have an issue with this, and I can totally understand why, but with 1.5 million cats being euthanised in shelters each year, there is no reason to have your cats reproduce. Want another cat? Go adopt one. Spaying and neutering is a simple process that all vets carry out as day surgery, and there are rarely any complications or reasons to not do so, so always always always ensure your cats are fixed. Furthermore, female cats that aren’t fixed end up in heat once a month (trust me, it’s ANNOYING TO LISTEN TO), and male cats end up spraying areas to mark their territory (trust me, IT STINKS).
Cleaning The House / The Fate Of Your Furniture
Lets start off with the furniture. I’m not going to lie – with cats around, you’re probably going to end up with a wrecked sofa or carpets that are sometimes covered in cat barf. This is what you’re signing up for when you adopt a cat, so be prepared. If this is something you feel you can’t deal with, chances are you probably shouldn’t be adopting a cat! Many days I wake up to fur balls that have been vomited out onto the carpet, pee on the floor when someone’s not aimed correctly in the box or chunks of my sofa cover scratched off. Again, all part of owning pets. It’s something I have accepted, and actually come to find rather hilarious (a game of what will they ruin next). Cats are simple creatures, and I won’t take their simple joys away from them, even if it means dealing with holes in my sofa. You might wonder, why don’t they use the scratching post instead? This is something I’ve yet to figure out…I have 2 scratching posts which they barely use, and a cat beds which have been left untouched because they prefer lounging in cheap cardboard boxes. Ah, cats.
When it comes to cleaning, always ensure you’re using natural, non toxic cleaning products because cats roll around all day and you don’t want them accidentally ingesting the chemicals in your cleaning products. I vacuum on the daily, but if you can deal with fur everywhere, vacuum as little or as often as you want to. I also find sticky rollers come in very handy for clothing or bedding, because vacuum cleaners are sometimes unable to get rid of every last bit of fur on surfaces. Eventually you’ll figure out what works for you and your home, so don’t stress it.
Should I Bathe My Cat?
Yes, and no. I only give my cats a bath when they’re really disgusting – which rarely ever happens. Once a year maybe someone will accidentally cover themselves in poo, but otherwise, they’re generally such clean creatures that don’t require baths. The only time in the recent years I’ve given all 4 of them a bath is when there was a flea incident (which turned out to just be a scare, thank god), but aside from that, they’re always cleaning themselves and doing the job for me. Again, if you choose to bathe your cats, always and only use cat shampoo that is made specifically for them. Also use warm water (their internal body temperatures are higher than ours), and always have a warm towel ready for them to be dried in. It’s also a good idea to bathe them in a tub as running water out of the shower tends to freak them out, and try to make the entire process as calm and peaceful as possible. ALSO, trim their nails before attempting to give them a bath. You’ll thank me for that bit of information.
Last But Most Importantly, Adopt Don’t Shop
Now, my last point, which is actually one of the most important points (blah blah blah people only really remember the ending bit of most stories), is that you should ALWAYS adopt, and never shop. Whether this be for cats, dogs or any other pets, I strongly suggest that you visit a shelter instead of a pet store. As mentioned before, around 1.5 million cats are euthanised in shelters every year, simply because no one adopts them. Instead, people are so concerned with getting ‘designer’ cats from breeders, and neglect cats that already are in pounds and need homes. Furthermore, many breeders breed pets in unhygienic and unsafe conditions, and many of the pets from such farms usually end up in poor health or having chronic illnesses due to improper care in their early life. The less we support these breeders, the higher chance of them going out of business. Please remember that pets, whether cats or any other species of sentient being, are life long responsibilities. They are not fashion statements, neither are they accessories for selfies. They are little living, breathing, feeling lives! They wand and need love just as much as any of us do, and they deserve to live a happy, healthy life.
I hope this article has given you some insight into how you can take care of your felines, and please do let me know if you have any other questions about raising a household of cats! Hope you have a purrr-fect day! BYE!