CARING FOR YOUR CATFeeding:

Feeding: Do not place the cat's food and water dishes near the toilet tray. Cats are clean animals and do not like to eat near where they toilet. Some cats like you to be with them while they eat. If you don't want to be pestered and clawed at the table, never feed your cat from your own plate. Start as you mean to go on. Even if you don't mind that behaviour, your visitors might object. If you leave food around unsupervised in the kitchen or dining area do not be surprised if your cat helps itself. It surely will! Cats which have been starved at some time in their lives are often greedy with food, so if this is the case with your cat be extra careful with your own food and do not allow your cat to become overweight. It is not kind to overfeed.

Toilet Tray: Place the tray in a quiet area so that the cat can use it undisturbed as much as possible. Clean solid waste as soon as you find it. Do not allow the tray to become wet and smelly or the cat will not use it and will toilet elsewhere in the home. Some cats do not like to wee and poo in the same place. If your cat is one of these, use 2 trays. 2 trays are advisable if you are out at work all day. If your cat is to eventually go outside to toilet and not use an indoor tray, please do not dispose of the tray. Your cat will need it if he or she needs to be kept in during illness or after surgical operation. Elderly cats and kittens are not always able to hold their waste all night and it is kinder to give them a toilet tray.

Health Care: Your cat/kitten will need an initial course of vaccination and booster vaccinations once a year. The Scratching Post will have had the initial course of vaccinations done and a certificate given to you. The consultation with the vet should include a basic health check. This is important as the vet may spot a problem you are unaware of at an early stage and this can prevent it developing into something more serious. Vaccination gives protection against the different strains of cat ‘flu and Feline Infectious Enteritis (panleucopaenia). Cat 'flu is very contagious and if contracted can damage the cat's health for the rest of its life. F.I.E. is usually fatal; if the cat survives it is likely to be brain damaged. You may also like to have your cat vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia, an immune system disease. There is no vaccine yet against FIV (the feline equivalent of HIV) but neutering goes a long way to prevent this infection. FIV cannot spread to humans or other animals, only cats.

Teeth need care and in time the cat's teeth will need descaling (removal of tartar). If this is not done when advised by the vet, the teeth get more and more heavily scaled and the cat will eventually have a painful infected mouth, be unable to eat, and the treatment will be very expensive. Toxins from the mouth can get into the bloodstream and damage the cat's heart. Do not be alarmed if you have a new kitten and you find teeth on the floor or furniture. Kittens lose their milk teeth and get permanent teeth just like human children. This usually happens around the age of 4 months.

Cats which go outside should be wormed with a multiwormer every 3 months and be regularly checked and treated to treat or prevent flea infestation. Products from pet shops and supermarkets are not the best available and may be ineffective. Ask your vet for advice. There are good wormers available off prescription that can be bought on line, e.g. Drontal. Frontline or Advantage spot on flea treatment is also available off prescription. Buying on line is much cheaper than buying from the vet.

Note: Vaccinations and routine dental treatment are not offered by the RSPCA or other charity veterinary clinics. These clinics will help with illness or accident if you are on benefits but they take the view that you should budget for vaccinations as part of responsible ownership of the animal.

Sleeping: Cats sleep anywhere they want to. You can buy a furry bed if you want but they are not like dogs and won't sleep in it just because you tell them to. They will sleep in it only if they like it and there is no guarantee that the cat will sleep in it at all. They will happily sleep on a chair, on a bed, on the carpet or anywhere they find comfortable (such as your clean laundry!). If you do not want the cat to sleep on your bed the only way to prevent it is to keep the bedroom door closed. Cats naturally sleep a lot of the time; elderly cats sleep even more.

Stropping: A cat needs to strop its front claws from time to time to remove the hard sheath from the claws. This is a biological necessity, not a bad habit. Buy or make a scratching post that is heavy at the base so that the cat won't tip it over in use. The cat may use trees or fences outside as well. You can deter a cat from stropping on the furniture by saying ‘no' firmly and taking the cat to its scratching post or distracting it with a toy or in extreme cases you can squirt the cat with cold water from a water pistol or plant sprayer. Removing the claws (declawing) is barbaric, very painful, and is against the law in the UK . It is equivalent to cutting off your fingers at the first joint. Spraying or sprinkling the scratching post with catnip (ask at the pet shop) will attract most cats to use it.

Claw Care: Cats which do not go outside need to have their claws inspected regularly in case they need trimming – especially elderly cats, as the claws can overgrow and dig into the soft pads of the paws. Outdoor cats do not usually need their claws trimming except when they get very old and cannot strop because of age related mobility problems.

Grooming: Longhaired cats need frequent grooming to remove loose fur; the thicker the fur the more often it needs to be done. Comb long haired cats, brush short haired. Little and often is the best way. Make it part of a petting routine so that the cat enjoys it. If you wait until the coat is knotted the cat will find the procedure very painful, and may retaliate with scratching or biting your hands. Shorthaired cats need less grooming but may need help in spring and autumn when the coat moults ready for summer or winter. Cats have a thicker coat in the winter months, especially if they go outside. Cats swallow their fur when grooming themselves and this can result in fur balls in the stomach which are usually vomited in time. Some cats suffer discomfort and constipation from fur balls. A teaspoonful of olive oil in the food twice a week can help the fur to pass through the digestive tract. This is cheaper and is just as effective as propriety fur ball medication such as Katalax.

Senses: A cat's senses are much keener than our own. Their hearing is much more sensitive and they do not like loud music such as heavy rock. Keep the volume down! However, they do like music such as country, ballads and gentle classical music. They like the sound ‘eeee' finding it soothing and calming. They have excellent sight even in the semi-dark. Most cats love to be gently stroked but they do not like to be patted. Some cats dislike their paws or tail touched. If your cat is one of these, please respect this. Many cats hate their belly touched even if rolling over on to their back. Approach with caution and be prepared for a scratch until you know your cat's feelings on this, especially when grooming.

Identification: We strongly recommend having your cat microchipped. This is inexpensive, permanent and cannot be lost. The chip is inserted by injection at the back of the neck and can be done at the same time as neutering. Once microchipped, you will need to make sure your contact details are kept up to date if you change your address or phone number. This is easily done by post or on line, detailed instructions will be sent to you when the microchip is registered on the database. Don't forget that collars and ID tags can get lost.

Collars: If you wish to use a collar and barrel/disc instead of or in addition to the microchip, please make sure it is fitted correctly. No more than 2 fingers' width between cat and collar. Too tight and it will be very restrictive, uncomfortable and even dangerous. Too loose and the cat can get its front leg through the collar and this can cause serious injuries in the ‘armpit' area. Collars need to be checked every few days in case any adjustment to the fit is needed. This is especially important if you have a growing kitten.

Interaction: Play with your cat when you can. Allow it to snuggle up to you and/or sit on your lap. If it does not like being picked up, respect this and do not pick it up unless it is necessary. Give it time and attention. If you are out all day your cat will need your attention in the evenings. If you have a busy life and are at work during the day and out most evenings, it would be kinder not to have a cat.

Training: Cats cannot be ‘trained' like dogs. They will obey you only if it is something they are happy to do anyway.

Punishment: NEVER punish a cat. It will not understand why it is being treated that way and all you will do is make it frightened of you. You can say ‘no' or use a water deterrent as above but this will only work if the cat is actually caught in the act. Taking the cat to a broken ornament or ‘accident' on the floor is a waste of time. Rubbing the cat's nose in its mistake is cruel and it will not understand at all. If you have breakable ornaments and your cat is likely to knock them over and break them, stick them down with Blue Tack.

CHECK LIST OF EQUIPMENT FOR A KITTEN/CAT

2 feeding bowls and water bowl

secure cat carrier (top loader recommended)

1 or more toilet trays and cat litter

scratching post

brush & comb for grooming

toys

bed (optional)