Basic cat care tips – Part 5

I was taking my cats to my parents’, and so was waiting for the train station when a couple stopped me and complimented my cats. Both of them were calmly lying in their carriers, watching the goings on, not meowing or crying, just being very good cats. They asked me how I trained them, and I told them that honestly, I just got lucky. But more than that, I think, is that they know I care about them-they know that they can trust me.

Caring for a cat is about establishing to the kitty that you care, and that even though you may do something unpleasant to her every now and then (claw-clipping, ugh!) you will never hurt her unduly, or torment her. Simple things like feeding and cleaning the litter box are simply extensions of your love for your cat.

Basic cat care therefore goes beyond feeding $9.99 kibble and scooping the litter box when it’s stinky, but it doesn’t mean splashing out for Fancy Feast and some fancy kitty litter and sparkly toys, either. It means feeding a proper diet, keeping the litterbox clean, and devoting a little time each day to remind kitty how special she is to you.

A proper diet is a species-appropriate food. If you look at the ingredient list of most cat foods, a corn product of some kind is somewhere in the first few ingredients; in some of the more egregious cat foods, corn is the only product until the later ingredients, which is kind of confusing because cats are carnivores and eat meat. Good commercial diets, such as Trader Joe’s canned cat food, Wellness brand, or Innova, have, as their first ingredients, meat of some kind.

Kibble is no longer recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Not only are most kibbles laden with carbohydrates, they contribute to urinary tract infections and the formation of renal calculi because they contribute to a state of chronic dehydration. Cats have a very weak thirst drive, so even though they are dehydraated they will not drink enough to compensate for the loss of water. Canned food is optimal; even though your cat may stop drinking altogether on canned food, you should always have clean water available.

As far as the question of the litter box goes, the most important thing you can do is keep it clean. Really, really, really, really, really, really clean. I scoop mine twice a day; not only does the apartment not-smell, the cats are more than happy to dig around in it, do their business, and bury their mess. This makes it far less likely that they’ll ever use, say, the space under my futon, or leave surprises for me in my shoes. Keeping the litter box clean goes a long way in making for a happy cat-human relationship.

And keeping your cat happy-making sure to set aside some time each day to play with her-it seems like an obvious thing, but it’s surprising how many cats are neglected until their vet visit comes up, and then they get scooped up, dumped in a carrier, taken to a big scary place where some stranger pokes them with needles. And the owners wonder why Fluffy is such a shy, timid kitty. Really, playing with your cat for even a few minutes each day is enough to keep it happy and loving you.

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