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Essential cat care information from RSPCA Pet Insurance
Your cat needs a clean, comfortable and safe environment to live in that meets your cat’s behavioural and physiological needs. Make sure your cat has a good bed – a comfortable chair, box or basket is great. You can buy igloos or beds, but quite often your cat will ignore them in favour of a comfy spot on your bed or favourite chair!
The RSPCA encourages the containment of cats in an enclosed area, at a minimum from dusk until dawn. Containment during this period can help to protect cats from disease and injury through fighting and accidents and increase the opportunity for owner-cat interaction.
Where cats are contained, steps must be taken by owners to ensure that adequate exercise and environmental enrichment are available. Access to an escape-proof run (non-electrified) can greatly increase the opportunity for activity and stimulation for confined cats. RSPCA shelters use Catnip enclosures. Another strategy is to consider the use of an Oscillot fence to help keep your cat within your own backyard.
Offer a high quality premium commercial food appropriate for your cat’s life stage (e.g. adult, kitten etc) and health status. You can also offer some natural foods occasionally for variety. Natural foods include fresh human-grade raw meat and raw meaty bones. Raw food offered to cats should always be fresh. Always choose human-grade raw meat and raw meaty bones because pet meat/pet mince/pet rolls and bone products can contain preservatives that can be detrimental to the cat’s health (for example, sulphite preservative induced thiamine deficiency which can be acute and fatal). It is important to provide some moist foods in the diet regularly as these have been associated with greater urinary tract health.
Human-grade raw meaty bones help to keep teeth and gums healthy. Suitable raw meaty bones include raw chicken necks, chicken wings, chicken drumsticks and lamb shanks. Too many raw bones may lead to constipation. Generally 1-2 raw meaty bones may be provided per week with a few days in between each serving. The bone must be large enough so that the cat cannot fit the whole bone in its mouth or swallow it whole. Always supervise cats when they eat raw bones. Never feed cooked bones as these may splinter and cause internal damage or become an intestinal obstruction. Please check with your vet that raw bones are suitable for your particular cat.
For growing kittens, avoid feeding too much raw meat off the bone. This is important to help avoid certain cat nutritional deficiencies during growth.
Provide cats with access to grass, but do avoid chemically treated grass and toxic plants. Be aware that large amounts of certain types of ‘cat grass’ can cause hypervitaminosis D.
Adult cats tend to prefer to eat several smaller meals throughout the day and night. Ideally, they should be offered food at least three or four times per day. Eating smaller frequent meals has been associated with greater urinary tract health. Please ensure clean fresh water is available at all times.
For more about feeding, see the RSPCA Australia knowledge base.
Cats use their claws for climbing and for defence and like to keep them in immaculate condition. They may often sharpen their claws on a tree in the garden, but some may choose furniture in the house. To avoid damage, provide a scratching post or tree (one that isn’t toxic to cats) for your cat.
Your cat will prefer a scratching post with different kinds of surfaces. Make sure the post or tree is tall enough so that your cat can reach up above its head with its front paws and still have room to stretch and grab – if it’s is too short, your cat may use taller furniture.
Cats are fastidious animals and are usually easily housetrained to use a litter tray. There are many different styles of trays and types of litter, including dry earth, recycled paper, sand, clumping, clay and natural litter pellets. You will need to clean the litter box out and add new litter regularly (at least once a day).
Place the litter box where your cat can get to it easily. Most cats want privacy for toileting, so an easy to reach but discreet area is often the best choice.
For more tips about litter trays, please see the RSPCA Australia knowledge base.
Exercise and play
Cats need regular, daily exercise for physical and mental health. Where cats are contained, steps must be taken by owners to ensure that adequate exercise and environmental enrichment are available. Access to an escape-proof run (non-electrified) can greatly increase the opportunity for physical activity and stimulation for confined cats. RSPCA shelters use Catnip enclosures or you may consider the use of an Oscillot fence to help keep your cat within your own backyard.
Play is an important part of keeping your cat active and happy and enhancing the owner-cat relationship bond. Take time each day to interact and play with your cat, and give them a variety of cat safe toys that you can rotate regularly to keep them stimulated. Avoid small toys, string toys or string objects as these can become intestinal obstructions.
If you are away for holidays or work, you may need to arrange for your cat to be cared for at a boarding facility.
Before choosing a boarding facility, we recommend that you visit the site first and check it has:
- Enough staffing to make sure your cat gets personalised attention.
- Adequate security to prevent your cat from escaping.
- A clean, hygienic environment.
- Dry, clean and roomy accommodation, with good ventilation and temperature control.
- A safe, secure area for daily exercise and play.
- Friendly and competent staff.
A good boarding cattery will only accept cats that are up to date with their vaccinations and will ask you for proof of vaccination.
Signs of health
A healthy cat should display the following signs:
- A bright, alert and responsive demeanour.
- Moves easily, without lameness.
- Eating and drinking normally.
- A clean, glossy coat in good condition, free from parasites and skin disease.
- Urinating and defecating normally.
- Ears that are alert, without discharge or irritation.
- Clear eyes with no discharge or inflammation.
- No sneezing or abnormal discharge from the nose.
- Breathing normally, without coughing.
- No vomiting.
If you notice any changes in your cat’s eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, breathing, demeanour, movement or activity levels, or if you see any other abnormalities please contact your vet immediately.
Cats can be vaccinated against feline panleukopaenia and cat flu. Please talk to your vet about vaccinations.
Cats can get roundworm, hookworm and tapeworm. These can be prevented with cat worming treatments. Your vet will be able to prescribe the right intestinal worming products for your cat.
Cat fleas are a common external parasite. They may cause severe itching and inflammation of the skin, leading to dermatitis. Ask your vet to recommend a suitable flea product for your cat.
Desexing effectively prevents unwanted pregnancies. In addition, desexed cats:
- are better protected from certain illnesses and diseases,
- are less inclined to roam and therefore less likely to be injured by a car,
- are less inclined to fight other cats and therefore less likely to suffer from cat fight injuries or catch diseases from other cats, and
- are less inclined to mark their territory.
The RSPCA practises early age cat desexing from the age of eight weeks when the surgery is simple and recovery is rapid. If your kitten was not desexed prior to sale, they should be desexed before they are able to produce any unintended litters of kittens. There is absolutely no benefit in letting females have one litter before they are desexed.
It is vitally important to register and permanently identify your cat by microchipping. Please ensure you contact the microchip database register if you change address or contact details so that if your cat becomes lost, you can be found and reunited with your pet.
RSPCA Pet Insurance can help you cover the costs of taking care of your cat.
Get a free pet insurance information pack sent to you today.