Explore the Great Indoors
Cats may sometimes act cocky and independent, but they are as defenseless as toddlers in the concrete jungle. Cats allowed to roam outside unattended may be attacked by dogs, stolen by dogfighters to use as bait or poisoned by neighbours who don’t like them digging in the flowerbeds or climbing on their cars. Cats who roam outside are also exposed to deadly diseases like feline AIDS and feline leukemia, for which there is no cure.
Cats can adapt nicely to life indoors if they get plenty of playtime and other ways to exercise their agile minds. From paper bags and rolled up balls of paper to motorized mice and laser pointers, toys perk up even the laziest feline.
Cats can safely explore outdoors on a leash—just be sure to use an ultra-lightweight, retractable leash attached to a harness, not a collar. Let your cat get used to the harness for short periods indoors, then pick a safe outdoor area to explore. If your cat does go exploring outside unattended, be sure to microchip him/ her at your vet so that if they do go missing and they’re found by someone else, your contact details will be available to bring kitty home.
Nobody likes to use a dirty bathroom, which is why it’s important to scoop out your cat’s litter box at least twice a day, especially after meal times. If you have more than one cat, a good rule of thumb is to have one box per cat. Avoid scented litters, since cats are sensitive to smells. Place the litter pan well away from the cat’s feeding area and in a place that is quiet and feels safe to your cat.
Any cat who is urinating outside the litter box should be taken to a vet right away to rule out a urinary tract infection, which is very common and can be fatal, as they can become blocked and die from a build-up of toxins very quickly. If a urinary tract infection is ruled out, your cat may be unhappy with the cleanliness of the pan (or lack thereof), the type of litter used, the location, or with the box itself (some cats prefer covered boxes and vice versa).
Decline to Declaw
Cats love to scratch. It helps to remove broken claws, stretch muscles, and mark territory. Declawing is definitely NOT a good way to protect your furniture—in fact, it’s the most expensive and painful one. Declawing is actually 10 individual amputations, since it involves chopping off the last joint of each one of the cat’s toes. Declawing can make cats insecure, moody, and more prone to biting because they can’t use their claws to defend themselves.
The best way to save your furniture is to provide lots of “approved” places to scratch. Cat scratching posts and cardboard scratching boxes are big hits. Sprinkle catnip on them weekly to keep cats interested, and be sure to replace cardboard inserts when they get worn out. Trim your cat’s claws once every two weeks—you just have to remove the sharp hook at the end—and put double-sided tape on places that you don’t want your cat to scratch—cats don’t like the sticky feeling on their paws.
Making Fleas Flee
Fleas don’t just make cats uncomfortable, they can also cause skin allergies and tapeworm infestations (when cats ingest fleas through grooming). Cats who stay indoors are less likely to get fleas, but they can still catch them from you if you accidentally bring fleas inside on your pants or shoes. Monthly treatments with flea killers such as Frontline are recommended. A nontoxic alternative to flea treatments is to use a flea comb, which catches the fleas in its fine teeth, and then dunk the fleas into a container of soapy water.
Spaying and neutering doesn’t just prevent the births of unwanted kittens, it also prevents cancer of the reproductive organs and, if performed before the cat reaches sexual maturity (at about 6 months old), can also prevent other cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer. Sterilisation will also minimize the risk of your cat wondering into neighbours gardens. Talk to your vet to get cost estimates and times that you can book your cat in.