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So You Want a Cat or Kitten?

by David the Dogman

A cat or kitten makes a very worthwhile pet, providing that it is properly cared for. If you have taken, or are about to take a stray or rescued feline into your home, then you are actively helping such organisations as The Cats Protection League in their work. There are many more such cats than there are homes available. Before you take on the responsibility of owning a cat or kitten please think carefully about what it will involve.

 Cost of feeding and veterinary treatment (including the cost of vaccinations and neutering).

 Making time for play, grooming and companionship.

 Being prepared to accept that it may catch birds and other prey.

 Ensuring adequate arrangements for when you are away from home.

 Making sure your cat or kitten will not become a nuisance to neighbours.

Kittens are old enough to leave their mother at eight weeks.

A pretty, lively kitten can be an attractive proposition. Remember, however, that he or she will become a cat after six months perhaps for the next 14 years. A kitten should be yours for life!

One female cat can, in five years, be responsible for some 20,000 descendants and many of these must inevitably become homeless, with a life that offers only misery, hunger and disease. I strongly recommend neutering of all cats not required for breeding in order to keep down the number of strays.

Both male and female cats can be neutered at six months or older (please be guided by your vet). In the case of the male, a simple routine operation only is involved. The female requires a longer operation which, although routine, usually necessitates a return to the veterinary surgery after seven to ten days for the removal of stitches.

Neutering produces a much more satisfactory and enjoyable pet. A neutered male should refrain from spraying about the house and leaving an unpleasant smell; he should also be disinclined to wander or to fight. It is not correct that a female cat should be allowed, on humane grounds, to have one litter before neutering.

No matter how well we provide for our felines in terms of warmth, safety, companionship and health care, the one thing that finally attracts and binds a cat is the food we provide. Throughout his life a cat will have a variety of of dietary needs according to its age and state of health. A cat who does not receive a balanced and varied diet may well move elsewhere!

Cats are great preservers of energy and spend about two thirds of their life asleep. Provide a basket or cardboard box, raised from the floor to exclude draughts and line it with a small blanket.

Give a kitten a chance to sleep for a good deal of the day. Remember, he is a young animal, not a toy and children should be taught to respect him as such and allow him to sleep.

Cats are naturally clean animals but a new kitten needs to be shown what is required. Provide a litter tray, filled with commercial cat litter (the wood-based litter is flushable). Keep it in the same place, easily accessible to the kitten, and make sure it is cleaned regularly. Take the kitten to the tray after meals and on waking up from sleep.

Contrary to popular belief, it is quite wrong to pick up a cat or kitten by the scruff of his neck; this can damage the muscles. Hold the cat or kitten with one hand under the chest and with the rest of his weight supported by your other hand. Kittens particularly must be handled gently as their bones are fragile.

Regular grooming of your cat is advised, especially for long-haired cats. Brushing and combing will remove loose hair, dirt and dust and the occasional flea that he may pick up. Grooming also helps to prevent fur-balls which can be harmful and form in the cat's stomach when he constantly licks loose fur. Daily grooming also ensures time devoted exclusively to your cat, which is important with today's frantic pace of life. Your cat can be forgotten amidst the many other demands on your time.

All cats need exercise and, to keep your cat fit and to protect your furniture, a scratching post is a good investment; alternatively, you might bring in a log or make a scratching board to help your cat to keep his claws sharpened. This will assist him to flex his muscles and to shed old claw sheaths. Scratching posts also enable the cat to mark his territory as a scent is deposited (undetectable by humans) through his claws - this makes him feel at home and usually stops the need for him to do this on the furniture.

Toys, such as table tennis balls, cat-mint mice or a cotton reel, are usually acceptable and keep him active.

Fresh air and sunshine are necessary to us all and, if your cat or kitten is confined to a flat without an enclosed balcony, fit a wire frame into one window to admit air and sunshine without the risk of his falling from a height.

White cats however are very susceptible to the harmful rays of the sun and should be kept out of it as much as possible especially during the hours when it is most damaging.

It is unsafe to allow cats out on narrow ledges or open roofs several floors above the street. Many animals are injured and killed every year through lunging at a bird or butterfly and missing their footing. It is not true that a cat will 'always land on its feet'.

Cats should never be shut out at night. Apart from the callousness of picking him up from a warm, comfortable snooze on the hearth rug and putting him out in the cold, there are the risks of road accidents and stealing. Most road accidents to cats take place during the hours of darkness. Cat stealing, unfortunately, does go on and mostly at night. Keep your cat safely in at night and provide him with a litter tray.

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