10. Get your kitty a scratch board. Most of them come with catnip. It helps meet their need to scratch (helps your furniture, too) and they love it. Our kitties use them sort of like comfort blankets – when they are stressed or upset, they run to the scratch board, do some scratching, and then lay on it. (By the way, if you have considered declawing your cat (and thus he or she would have no need of a scratch board), this would rank very high on the list of ways to be NOT a better cat parent. You can read more here.)
9. Take at least 10 (if not more!) minutes a day to give your little cuddle bunny your undivided attention. I find that mindless petting is appreciated, but not sufficient. Just take some time to say “You are my focus.” Rubbing, gentle combing (if they like that), playing, mixed with sweet talk (“Yes you are the queen of the household!” or “Who is the smartest cat ever?”) goes a long way and is greatly appreciated.
8. Don’t let your cat outside. It may seem like they love the outdoors and would feel restricted inside, but explain to them that cats that go outdoors have a significantly shorter lifespan than indoor cats – surely they would prefer to live longer. They may meow at the door for a while, but they’ll get used to it and appreciate that they are not hit on the street, mauled by a possum or raccoon, the object of a prank by local kids, or whisked away by a coyote. I grew up with cats I LOVED that were outdoor and if you would like to hear one of my many horror stories about the way our outdoor cats met their ends as an inspiration to keep your kitty inside, let me know.
7. New toys. The old ones get boring. I highly recommend feather sticks* and things that sparkle.
6. If it is important to you that your kitty live as long as possible, consider feeding him or her good food. It is more expensive, but so much better than regular brand name foods that you get at the grocery store (unless you shop someplace like Whole Foods). Brands our holistic vet suggests are Pet Promise, Pet Guard, Wellness and Inova, and our cats like them all (more or less). If you buy mail order, bulk orders from places like www.petfooddirect.com can help save money. Watch out for the 22% off coupons sent to people on their email list ever few weeks and order only when you have one of those. Some people go as far as feeding their feline friends raw, fresh food, including thawed frozen mice, but this is a bit too much for us. (Note: Some people argue that cats can be healthy vegetarians. We are not convinced and not willing to risk our kitties’ health to test this out.)
5. Consider what vaccines are essential for your kitty, depending on whether or not he/she is indoor only, and is exposed to other cats. Over-vaccination has become a problem and appears to reduce lifespan and sometimes cause tumors. Ask your vet to check for antibody titers before vaccination boosters. You may not need to vaccinate as often as you think or with as many vaccinations as you think.
4. An occasional can of tuna goes a long way. Just don’t let the little monsters get too spoiled or else they won’t eat their other food.
3. Most cats like having a friend, especially if they spend a lot of time home alone. Introducing a new kitty can be tricky, but worth it. Read up on it before you do the big introduction. And, of course, always adopt from a shelter or from someone who is giving up his or her kitty – never from a breeder or pet store.
2. Keep that litter box super-clean. Cats have sensitive noses and no one likes to use the restroom while having to navigate around old poop!
1. Learn about cats. They have feelings, instincts, and ways of being that are way different than humans. Understanding them better will help you be a better cat parent.
Brought to you by Henry, the happiest cat in Washington D.C.:
*Re: the feather sticks – I am not sure of where the feathers on these toys come from. I am guessing that birds are not raised and killed for these feathers, but I am guessing they are actually from birds. Which can’t be good. Bonus for someone who can find a feather stick with either synthetic feathers or from lovingly raised and unharmed birds. Which brings up the issue of mouse toys with real mouse fur. We have gotten these second hand from friends with kitties and the cats do like them a lot. But we don’t buy them. While I don’t love the idea of real mice fur on toys, this is not the hill I will die on. Do as your heart leads you.