Finding the Right Pet: Cat Edition
The sound of purring as you stroke your kitty's fur...it's one of the most comforting sounds in the world and it's all to easy to be tempted to take a 'cat nap' when they crawl into your arms and fall asleep there themselves. Rubbing against your leg affectionately as you make dinner or are walking through the house. Playfully batting at feathered toys you dangle above their heads while lying on their backs and watching them try and catch the laser as they dash through the house...these are some of the fond experiences familiar to the cat lover. Known as the 'independent' pet, cats pretty much just do their own thing until they see fit to bestow you with some affection and many of their natural behaviors are endearing to watch from a distance. But despite this attitude, cats cannot entirely fend for themselves without some assistance. This is what allows us to form a bond with them, but it also means that, like any other pet, you need to consider the responsibilities that come along with being a cat owner before investing in a feline friend.
Pretty much everyone is aware that living creatures need food and water to survive. But beyond that it's important to know what kind of food and water is best for pets. Cats shouldn't be fed with self-feeders, as far as domestic animals go, cats are one of the closest to their wild roots and will eat what's in front of them regardless of their hunger as an instinct left over from wild cats who couldn't guarantee their next meal. They are obligate carnivores and need food that's high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates. The cheapest bag of cat food you find is probably cheapest for a reason. Carbohydrates and fillers may not harm your kitty with one bowl, but continuing to feed them bottom-self food will harm your kitty over time. It can also lead to obesity, since they'll need to eat more food to gain the same nutrients. Consult with your veterinarian and check nutritional labels before purchasing food for your cat, and in the meantime, buying mid-cost or better food should be a safe bet. As for water, it's proven that cats prefer running water to a water bowl, and cats often end up chronically dehydrated due to this preference. Invest in a pet fountain to provide a cat water that is cleaner and appeals to them more so they'll be lapping it up as often as they need it as opposed to avoiding it as much as they can.
When it comes to waste we associate cats with litter boxes, which is true enough, but cats don't naturally start using a litter box, they need to be trained. And as very clean animals (who groom their entire body between two and three times a day) they prefer a clean waste area. A litter box should be checked and shoveled once per day (or they might start seeking out a 'cleaner place' to use the restroom) and cleaned thoroughly once a week. An accepted guideline is to have one more litter box in the house than the number of cats.
Food, water, and waste aren't the end-all be all of basic care, though. Because we generally keep cats as indoor pets (and advisably so), we tend to forget that cats need exercise. They are hunters by nature, so dedicated interactive play time with you playing the part of 'prey' toys such as feather wands for one or two fifteen minute sessions a day should keep them from trying to take their mischievous nature out in less acceptable ways.
Scratching is a natural instinct that helps maintain the health of their claws. To save the furniture you should provide at least one scratching post per cat, and if you choose to use claw caps on your kitty (a humane alternative to declawing), then you will need to have your cat's claws trimmed to make up for the upkeep.
Another cost some cat owners forgo is vet visits. Just because your cat's indoors doesn't mean they're immune from developing illness or pests. Ticks can travel in on humans just as well as other animals without you even realizing it, and taking them to annual check-ups gives you a heads up if any diseases such as internal organ problems or even cancer are developing. It also helps keep you updating to your cat's changing needs as they age. Please have your cat checked up at least once a year and vaccinate your cat, both for their own sake and also to prevent expensive emergency visits.
If you that all sounds perfectly reasonable to you, provide a few perches and a view and you're all ready to be a proud cat owner.