Felines make excellent friends, but are a big responsibility. With a lifespan of 10-15 years, cats are among the longest living pets and are a big commitment.
The basics of cat care
If you’re sharing your life with a cat companion, it’s your responsibility to provide all the necessary care.
Cats don’t ask much of their owners, but there are some basic supplies you need for a happy cat.
- Selection of wet and dry food.
- Water and food bowl.
- Basket or bed.
- Grooming brush.
- Scratching post.
- Litter tray with litter.
Exercise and enrichment
They may want to sleep away the day, but all cats need some exercise and enrichment. Kitties naturally like to explore, so providing lots of exciting new places to scratch, climb and hide is a pawfect way to keep them occupied.
If you let your cat outside they will find their own fun, but they can also get into danger or harm native wildlife. RSPCA Victoria recommends keeping cats contained within your home, to keep them safe from cars, predators or getting lost and to limit their impact on the environment.
External cat enclosures are a popular solution, providing your cat with a secure outside space. Plenty of toys, scratching posts and hiding places will keep them happy and safe inside.
Cats have high protein and fat requirements, and can be very fussy. Feed your cat the right combination of foods for a happy, healthy feline.
- Feed your cat a range of wet, dry and raw food.
- Feed little and often.
- See that bowls are scrupulously clean.
- Give access to fresh water at all times.
- Give raw chicken/wings to promote good dental health.
- Feed cow’s milk.
- Feed a raw meat only diet – it may lead to skeletal problems.
- Feed cats dog food – it is extremely dangerous.
Cats are often independant and aren’t too interested in intensive training, but there are still some basics to cover.
The litter tray
Cats are very clean and can easily be trained to use a litter tray. Here are some top tips:
- Place the litter tray in a secluded area to provide some privacy.
- Place your cat in the litter tray several times per day, especially after meal times.
- When your cat uses the tray, give them lots of praise.
- If you cat toilets where they shouldn’t, pick them up and put them in the litter tray.
- Clean the litter every day.
- Change the litter when needed.
Cats will not toilet in an unclean tray, so keeping it clean will reduce the chance of inappropriate toileting in the rest of the house.
Cats like to keep their claws ready for action so they’ll need something to scratch. If their target is your furniture, make sure you’re providing an alternative. If your cat scratches where they’re not supposed to, say a firm ‘NO’, move them to a scratching post and reward good behaviour.
If your cat is refusing to cooperate and your furniture is showing scars, deterrent sprays or tape may help.
Cats are very clean pets, but almost all kitties still require grooming. Brushing your cat can be enjoyable for both of you and helps prevent health problems.
- Even short haired cats may require grooming in the moulting season.
- Long haired cats need daily grooming.
- Removing excess hair reduces hairballs – a mass of hair in the oesophagus.
- Regular grooming means less vacuuming.
- You should not need to bathe your cat.
Cats at the vet
Your cat will need to see a vet for check-ups, treatments and any health concerns throughout their life.
Your first appointment
If you have just adopted a cat or kitten, make sure they’re registered, microchipped and up to date on treatments and vaccinations as soon as possible.
If your cat isn’t desexed, talk to your vet. Desexed cats generally live longer, healthier lives and exhibit fewer unwanted behaviours. They’re also unable to reproduce, which helps to reduce the number of homeless or unwanted cats in Victoria.
Vet visits and home care
Consult a vet if your cat gets sick or injured. You also need to keep up with their vaccinations, worming treatments, flea control and general health checks.
Maintain a proper worming and flea regime at home (please advise your vet before administering any medication).
Your cat and the law
The law regarding cat ownership differs with each local council. Some have cat curfews, specific housing requirements or mandatory desexing policies.
All cat owners should also be aware of the Victorian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. These offences include but are not limited to:
- Abandoning a cat.
- Conveying a cat in circumstances involving cruelty.
- Failure to provide drink, food or shelter for a cat.
- Failure to provide veterinary treatment for a cat that is ill or injured.
- Ill-treating, injuring, tormenting or torturing a cat.
- Killing a cat in a cruel, unlawful, or malicious manner.
If you suspect animal cruelty, report it to RSPCA Victoria or Victoria Police immediately.