Friday, May 5, 2006

Cats have special needs

Paws for Thought by Christine Ferguson

Christine Ferguson

Adopting your first cat is a huge step, not to be taken lightly. Although cats have a reputation for taking care of themselves, that fact does not equal "no care is necessary." Before rushing in to bring that darling kitten home, do your homework to avoid common mistakes made by new cat owners. The result is a happier and healthier cat and a long-term companionship.

Adopting a new cat should be for keeps, so consider carefully before you make that decision.

· Do not impulse-buy. Adopting a living, sentient creature such as a cat and kitten, to gain a family member.

· Spay or nuter your new cat. The overwhelming cat population problem society faces is reason alone to spay and neuter. It will stop a male cat from spraying every available surface of the house or escaping outdoors to fight other male cats. It will make certain you have no "surprise" litters of unwanted kittens.

· Don't delay in choosing a good veterinarian. Although cats may quickly recover from minor illnesses, they can just as quickly die if an emergency isn't recognized. Cats need certain vaccinations, they need annual examinations, and they definitely need and deserve immediate veterinary care when they become sick or injured.

· Supply your cat a good quality food. Money saved by buying cheap cat food will be spent hundreds of times over on veterinary care. Cats are obligate carnivores, and need a good source of meat protein. They do not need large amounts of grain fillers. Learn how to select the best brands you can afford. You'll find your cat may eat less of the high quality food because they don't have to gorge to get the nutrients they need.

· Learn the facts about declawing. Many an innocent new cat owner has been led down the declaw path. Some vets consider declawing a routine surgery, while cat advocates consider it cruel, inhumane, and unnecessary in almost every case. Painless alternatives are available.

· Understand the potential dangers of having an outdoor cat. Many people believe cats deserve the freedom, fresh air, and sunshine of an outdoor life, while others offer proof that cats are very happy and healthy living totally indoors. That the outdoors offers dangers not found inside simply cannot be debated. Fortunately, there are a number of compromises that will give you and your cat the best of both worlds, while keeping him safe and happy.

· Do not neglect litter box maintenance. Cats will consistently use a litter box, if it is kept scrupulously clean, and if the litter is not scented or unpleasant to the cats' feet. Carefully maintaining your cat's litter box will almost guarantee you that you will not be faced with litter box avoidance problems. If your cat suddenly starts urinating outside the box despite your careful maintenance, you should immediately suspect a urinary tract problem, which is a veterinary emergency.

· Allow your cat to be a cat! A cat is not a child or a dog. Cats' unique ways make them the endearing creatures they are. On the other hand, some of their traits may cause frustration because we don't understand their needs. Cats instinctively seek out high places and sharpen their claws because they are cats, not because they are stubborn and disobedient. Our job is to accommodate those needs in acceptable ways.

Cat lovers soon find that while our cats are family members and may legally be considered property in some jurisdictions, the term ends there. You can no more "own" a cat than you can own another human being. If you haven't figured out the distinction by now, your new cat will let you know in quick order. In fact, many cat lovers describe themselves as being owned by their cats!

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