Raising a Well Adjusted Cat
Most cats do not bond to people like a dog would. Some say that cats live in a sort of symbiosis with humans. Cats are definitely more "wild" than dogs. In fact, stray cats usually fare much better than stray dogs. By starting off on the right foot, you can raise your cat to be a wild animal you can share your life with.
Nature Vs. Nurture
Cats are nocturnal. They usually adjust to our lifestyle, but don't be surprised if your kitten tears through the house at night. Cats are predators by nature and that drive is still very much alive in many cats. Owners often have young cats that attack their feet as they walk by. It is instinct to prey on things and kittens learn through play. Since you are their surrogate parent and litter mate, you get attacked. Cats are not all that social. In a feral setting where they can get away from one another, there will be one male at a time with several females. While the females more or less ignore each other, kittens play together. Nursing mothers will let other cats' kittens nurse from them and the kittens frequently nurse from other mothers. Indoors, cats can learn to tolerate and even enjoy the company of other animals if socialized properly.
Cats like to be up high. Many of the smaller felines climb trees. To help your cat feel more secure, give it high perches to rest on. Cats seem to love cat trees and window perches. Cat will also utilize high shelves.
Socializing your Kitten
Socializing your kitten is extremely important. We talk a lot about socializing dogs, while we neglect that need in cats. This, however, can be more difficult because we can't take our cats out in the world like we do with our dogs. Most cats only go into a crate when they are going to the vet. The cats then hide or cause a big fuss as soon as they see the crate. By keeping the crate out and allowing the cat to come and go as it pleases, the cat will be more comfortable with it when its time to take a trip. If you choose to give your cat Catnip, this could be its "catnip box." Find a treat your cat will eat. Stop around and make noise, offering treats. Take the kitten on car rides as much as possible. Many cats are terrified of the car and this is a major stressor. Taking "friendly visits" to the vet will help your cat be more comfortable with the vet. Your kitten should be exposed to a myriad of people, places and things. Exposing your kitten to other animals will give you the freedom to expand your family in the future if you wished to.
Inside Vs. Outside
Whether or not to let your cat outside is somewhat of a debate. If you choose to let your cat outside, there are additional vaccines you should give and you should also give flea (and heartworm) preventatives. You should try to train your cat to stay in your yard. If they wander, they could get seriously injured. There are outdoor "play pens" you can purchase or you can put a leash on your cat. Some people even take their cats for walks. When I worked at a pet store, there was a couple that brought their sphinx in on a leash.
If you are going to let your cat outside (and even if you are keeping it inside), it should be spayed or neutered.
True cats, are very good at grooming themselves, but there are some things they can't do themselves. Grooming should be part of the socialization process. The sooner you start, the better.
Many cats hate getting their nails trimmed. This make a simple procedure quite difficult and, in some cases, requires full sedation. Many vets will trim the kittens nails at each visit for vaccinations. However, this may not be enough to accustom your cat to nail trims. You may be able to take the tips off as often as every week. It will be a smaller trim and, therefore, more innocuous. Be calm and go slow. If they will only tolerate one nail, stop and try an hour later. Offer treats while trimming if able. When a cat becomes fearful, the procedure becomes stressful and sometimes expensive. It can become a real hassle, especially if the cat has to be taken to a vet/groomer for nail trims. Many times owners will put it off. Cats nails can over grow and get stuck in things like carpet and can sometimes can get broken. This can also increase the frequency of scratching behaviors. Cats are digitigrade animals. This means they bare weight on their toes. When the nails become too long, they are forced to walk on their nails and this can be painful.
Many gets get cruddy ears at some point, but cleaning them regularly will help avoid them as well as condition your cat to let you put things in its ears in case they ever need ear medication. There are several good ear cleaners available and you could clean your cats ears as often as once a week.
Bathing and Brushing
Cats will need the occasional bath and may need to be brushed or shaved. By starting a grooming regimen early, the kitten will grow to be an easily groomed cat. Again, this can be a extremely stressful procedure, that can require sedation. Long haired breeds, especially, should be brushed frequently from the time they're kittens. This will prevent matting and get them accustomed to being brushed and "messed with." Some owners choose to take their cat to a groomer. By starting as kittens, they will learn to stand nicely on the table and tolerate blow dryers. The groomer may be able to trim around the pads and give a "potty patch" or shave their belly (nice in the summer/ this area gets matted easily) at an early age. Some owners give their cats "Lion cuts," particularly in the summer. The cat is basically all shaved down except its head lower legs/paws and the last part of the tail. Most groomers will also trim nails and clean ears.
If you can get in the habit of brushing your cat's teeth on a daily basis, you can reduce bad breath and the frequency of dental cleaning. This is particularly important when feeding canned food. The wet food tends to stick to their teeth. When the teeth get really bad, bacteria can cause bad breath and, if it enters the blood stream (via gingivitis, etc), it can cause life threatening illness, such as renal failure. There is a special toothpaste you can buy at most pet stores. The finger brushes are the best kind to use. They usually like the taste of the paste and if you're gentle, they should have no problems with it. Even humans need periodic cleanings and so will your cat, but you can drastically reduce the number of cleanings needed and possibly eliminate extractions. You will be rewarded with fresh breath and more money in your pocket.
Most cats do not need to be taught how to use a litter box. Most kittens figure it out on their own or are taught by their mother.
If your kitten doesn't seem to "get it," you can try putting some of the kitten's feces in the box. This usually works. However, going outside of the box can be indications of other issues.
If your cat is going outside of its box, it may be stressed. Has anything changed lately?
Urinating outside of the box is a classic sign of a urinary tract infection.
Some cats are particular about their boxes and will not use them if they are too dirty (this is subjective to each individual). You should really scoop the box daily so you can become familiar with their waste and habits. This may sound gross, but increased/decreased urination/ deification, blood. etc. can all be important to note.
Multi- Level House
It is recommended that there be at least one box on each floor your cat has access to. They may not get to the bathroom in time (or be too lazy).
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