A Guide to Cat Care

Feeding your cat

If you have never owned a cat before but have recently welcomed a feline friend into your home, you may find yourself intimidated by the amount of advice and information available about how to care for your cat, so we’ve put together this guide on the basics of caring for your furry friend.

It’s important to feed your cat a suitable diet - some foods for humans such as onion and garlic can be toxic to cats and so should be avoided. A wide variety of cat food brands are available in supermarkets and online, specially tailored for a feline diet. If you wish to feed your cat foods that are not specially designed for felines, make sure you check the ingredients carefully and research online if you are still unsure of their suitability.

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need to eat meat to survive. If you would rather have a pet you can keep on a vegetarian diet, a rabbit would be a better choice of pet than a cat. Cats need an amino acid called taurine in their diet, and taurine can only be found in animal-based products - without meat, cats can develop problems with their hearts, vision, reproductive abilities, and general overall health. 

Cats need water available at all times, just like any other mammal, so it is vital to have a source of water that your cat can easily access - a water bowl or dish that is regularly refilled throughout the day will help keep your cat hydrated. Despite it being a favourite drink for many cartoon cats, you should not give your cat milk - cats are lactose intolerant and it will make them sick.

Kittens require different foods to adult cats - young kittens will need to eat more liquid and wet food than their older counterparts as they require a diet that is 30% protein for healthy development.

Most cats with “normal” activity levels - a balanced mix of sleeping and playing - will require a diet at maintenance level, which gives them enough energy to function without gaining weight. A cat who sleeps a lot may require 10% below maintenance, while a cat who spends all day hunting and playing may require maintenance plus 20 to 40%.

Giving your cats too many treats between meals can cause unwanted weight gain, so it is best to limit these. Kittens should be given fewer treats than adult cats, as plenty of nutritious food is vital for their development.

Grooming your cat

Cats need grooming - though how frequently you will need to groom them will depend on the length of their hair. Brushing your cat helps keep them clean by removing dirt, skin flakes and excess hair, reduces the likelihood of furballs and also reduces the amount of shedding. It also helps to stimulate blood flow and improve the condition of your cat’s skin.

You can use these grooming sessions as a chance to check for any signs that your cat might be under the weather - for example, bald patches or areas where your cat has been excessively scratching or licking themselves may be cause for concern.

Cats are good at keeping themselves clean and so you will rarely need to give them a bath, but in the event your pet manages to get themselves seriously dirty and needs a good scrub, it is best to have a play session before bathing to help mellow them out - a tired, relaxed cat is easier to bathe than an anxious one!

General cat health

Playtime is vital for keeping cats fit and healthy, although the amount of time you will need to spend playing with your cat will vary depending on your cat’s personality - many cats are perfectly happy to play or hunt on their own (or with other cats), while others may need a little more encouragement (such as a treat) in order to get them moving.

Your cat should be taken to the vet at least once a year for a general check-up and annual shots - your vet will let you know what vaccinations your cat should get. Your cat should be taken to the vet immediately if anything appears to be wrong with their health - cats cannot easily communicate if they are in pain or feeling sick, so it is important to pay attention to any changes in how much your pet is eating, or any differences in their mood or routines. Never give your cat medicines that have not been prescribed by your vet.

Spaying and neutering is also important for the health of cats. Spaying your female cat can help to prevent uterine infections, and can also reduce the likelihood of breast tumours (which are often cancerous in cats). Neutering your male cat can prevent some prostate problems, as well as testicular cancer.

Items your cat will need

Cats need their own possessions and space, just as any other member of your household. They should have a clean and dry bed to rest in, lined with towels or blankets that are washed and changed regularly.

Cats need at least one litter box, which should be emptied out at least once a day as they will not use a box that is smelly or dirty. It should be cleaned thoroughly with a mild, odourless detergent and refilled once a week. If you have a home with multiple floors, it is a good rule of thumb to have one litter box per floor.

Cats have claws, and claws need to be scratched - cats scratch in order to remove old, outer nail sheaths and reveal the sharp, smooth claws underneath. To save your furniture, get your cat a special scratching post or pad at least three feet high. You can also cut your cat’s nails every few weeks, or use specially designed cat nail caps to cover them.

Even if your cat likes to prowl and hunt regularly, it is important to keep them inside as much as possible - indoor cats have longer lives as they are less likely to contract infections, get into fights with other animals, eat food that was not specially prepared for them, or be hit by vehicles. If you have a cat that likes to spend time outdoors, make sure that your cat has a collar with an ID tag or microchip so you can trace them if they get lost.

Cats do not tend to like change, so it is best to give them their own special items such as their own food dish and water bowl, their own allocated spaces for their bed and litter box, their own grooming brush and their own toys.

Cat insurance from Towergate

Every cat is individual, so the insurance that’s right for them, and you, needs to be equally unique. Healthy Pets can cost a bespoke insurance policy tailored to protect your cat, providing you with peace of mind so you can just enjoy their company.

Call for a quote on 01730 230 564 or get an instant quote online. Alternatively, find out more about Healthy Pets' cat insurance. Healthy Pets and Towergate are part of the Ardonagh Group.