Captivating Cats & Their Characteristics to Consider

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Dr Dhananjay Pandit
If you want to be a feline pet parent or are one you are lucky to share your life with the captivating feline, read on and get to know more of how to make your feline family comfortable, loved and healthy.
Being a pet parent comes with responsibility involving adopting a cat, making the house cat enabled, bringing home your feline family, house rules some to be broken some to be adhered too, play time which is the key to bonding, litter box knowledge, nutrition, vet, scratching post and so much more.
 
ABC of adoption
Congratulations on your decision of adopting a cat. It will indeed be one of the best decisions of your life. Consider these few things beforehand and it’ll make the entire process super smooth. Kitten or a cat – what would you like? Male or female? Purebred cat with long or short hair? What breed excites you the most and is most suitable for your lifestyle? Can you bring home a shelter cat? Are you adopting the cat based just on photos and advertisements? Do you know the temperament of the cat? Does the cat have any special needs? Do a physical check of the cat. Check for paperwork and documentation.
 
Making house cat enabled
Just like you baby proof your home, it is essential to cat proof your home before you bring home a kitten or cat. From a kitten’s point of view, if it’s not nailed down, bolted to the ceiling or glued to the wall, it’s a potential toy. You need to work on electrical and phone cords, any lose strings, get rid of random things around the house, and put mesh on windows. It is best to go room by room to make the task easier. Also, don’t forget the laundry room, basement, garage, and balconies.
 
Time for a warm welcome
Start by preparing the sanctuary room. Create a safe space for your cat where she can retreat and spend time alone. Make sure you have someone at home with the cat (especially during the initial few days) if you are leaving the house for some time. When you have guests over, you can keep your cat in a room or allow her to socialise depending upon her temperament.
 
Rocking those house rules
It is best to have a set of ‘house rules’ that everyone follows to ensure your pet is safe, happy, and healthy. Here are some things to consider when setting house rules for your cat – clicker training and what are the benefits and when to start; teaching to respond to her name; how to pick up and handle the cat; leash training; behaviour training; determining boundaries; and letting your pet have her own space.
 
Importance of play time for your pet
Do talk to your vet about playtime techniques and behaviour modifications. Define play sessions and let your cat know when to play. Play sessions are not only important for your pet’s physical health but it also helps with mental wellbeing and keeping them happy. And play sessions are not just for kittens but for adult cats as well. Try interactive playtime in a multi-cat household. For single cat households, solo play sessions are of course really beneficial.
 
Patience for behaviour issues
Behaviour problems are common among pets. If you are a pet parent, the one quality you need to imbibe is patience. Understand your pet and you’ll be able to notice any change in her behaviour. Ask your vet how behaviour problems begin and what are they. These are some signs and symptoms that you should look out for – destructive chewing, over grooming and self-chewing, plant attack, invading the trash can, being fearful and anxious, excessive vocalisation, attention seeking behaviour, begging and biting, and showing aggression.
 
Learning litter box etiquettes
One of the most important things for cats is their litter box. If you are planning to become a pet parent, consider these things for litter boxes – Which litter box will suit my cat? Do I need a covered litter box? How do I introduce my cat to the litter box? How much litter to use? Do I need to use deodorisers? Where should I put the litter box? When and how often to clean the litter box? Litter box aversion. You can talk to your vet to know about all these factors and get expert’s help.
 
Itch to scratch is real
Cats and their need to scratch! If you are a feline pet parent, you would know this. Choose the right scratching post, know where to place it, understand tricks and ways to restrain your cat, teach your pet horizontal scratching, replace old and worn out scratching posts. To keep your cat engaged you can also place water fountains and indoor plants (but only those which are safe for pets).
 
The doctor is in
Visiting a doctor is never fun for you. Your cat feels the same when visiting the vet. Make sure the vet visit is least stressful for your pet in all ways possible. Take a prior appointment to save time,
be with your pet all the time and be patient. Make your pet understand that visiting the vet is important and for their good health.
 
Nutrition – good food is complete mood
Nutrition is such an important part of your pet’s health. Just like you don’t compromise on your health and nutrition, make sure you do the same for your feline friend as well. Know about the nutrients and ingredients of the cat food that you are feeding your cat. Ask your vet which food will be best suitable for your pet –home-cooked, cat food, or a mix of both. You can also ask your vet about how much food to be given and how often to be given. Some other things to consider related to feeding your cats are – food and water bowl placement, type of bowl, how often to replace the water in the bowl, use of automatic feed dispensers and food bowl size.
 
Rumours concerning cats
Your cat is independent and loveable, let’s look at some of the rumours which surround them.
Cats steal breath from babies: Long ago, before SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) was identified, the cats were blamed for unexpected death of sleeping babies.
Cats are aloof: Cats are independent and are motivated by territory and food. They are solitary hunters but can hunt collectively. They can live happily with each other. They are known to take care of each other’s kittens in the wild. The amount of care, love, and socialisation kittens get defines the social behaviour of the cat. Stop comparing your cat with dogs and you will start observing the uniquely wonderful traits. Cats shouldn’t be viewed as acceptable and sociable only when they act like dog.
 
You must get rid of a cat if you are pregnant
There are precautions one must take concerning the litter box, especially if you are pregnant or a new mom. The litter box could be a health risk to pregnant ladies and newborn babies. But there’s always a solution. You don’t need to get rid of your beloved pet.
 
Who can be affected?

  •  People with AIDS/HIV
  •  People on chemotherapy or receiving radiation therapy
  •  Elderly people or those who have chronic diseases
  •  People born with congenital immune deficiencies
  •  People who have received organ or bone marrow transplants
  •  Pregnant women (the fetal immune system is not fully developed, and the pregnant woman’s immune system is altered during pregnancy)

 
If you fall into one of these categories, it does not mean you have to give up your pet. It simply means that you should take some basic precautions such as monitoring your cat for any signs of illness, washing your hands after handling of your cat, and avoiding direct contact with your cat’s feces. Numerous studies prove that the benefits of having a pet far outweigh the risks.
 
Common zoonotic diseases in cats
Current evidence supports the fact that pet cats pose a minimal zoonotic risk to their human companions. Indoor casts are exposed to fewer diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Risk may be slightly higher in people with a compromised immune system from disease or medications. Some of the most common zoonotic diseases (diseases that are caused by harmful germs like virus, bacteria, fungi, and parasites) in cats are – ringworm, toxoplasmosis, salmonellosis, campylobacter infection, giardia infection, cryptosporidium infection, roundworms, hookworms, cat scratch disease and rabies.
 
What can I do to reduce the risk of contracting a disease from my cat?
Proper litter box cleaning is the most effective way to reduce the risk of contracting a disease from your cat. Here are simple guidelines you should follow if you fall into a risk category.

  • Place the litter box away from the kitchen and other areas where you prepare or store food.
  •  If possible, have someone who is not at risk clean the litter, otherwise, clean the litter box daily, since the organism that causes toxoplasmosis takes at least 24 hours to become infectious.
  •  Use disposable litter box liners and change them each time you clean
    the litter box.
  • Do not dump the litter. If you dump litter, you could potentially aerosolize an infectious agent and inhale it. Be sure to slowly pour the litter or simply twist and close the litter box liner.
  • Clean the litter box at least twice a month with hot water, letting the hot water stand in the box for at least five minutes. This simple cleaning technique will kill the toxoplasma organism.
  • Wear disposable gloves and discard them after each use. Thoroughly wash your hands after cleaning the litter box.

 
Litter boxes always stink
Of course, cat litter box will stink if you don’t clean it regularly. If a regular clean up schedule is maintained, no one coming into your house will have to hold the nose.
 
Cats ruin furniture
There is truth in this statement, but there is a reason also. One should think why my cat is scratching the furniture. Is the cat trying to say something? Is the scratch pad provided incorrect? Or do I need to place the scratching post at a more accessible location?
Hope these tips make your bond with your cat stronger!
(Dr Dhananjay Pandit is National Vet Affair Manager at Scientific Remedies Pvt Ltd. He is a vet with more than 20 years experience in food, hygiene, animal nutrition and pet care)