Advice sheets for the care of a new cat

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A Guide For The General Care Of Your New Addition

Diet

All animals should have clean drinking water available to them at all times. Cats should never be given milk for human consumption as they are lactose intolerant and it can make them very ill.

Wild and stray cats only eat meat. This is because they need a taurine based diet which is found primarily in meat. Some people try to provide their cat with a vegetarian diet; however this is not appropriate and will not meet the nutritional needs of the cat.

Wet and dry food is available for meals. Here at the Coventry RSPCA we only provide them with dry biscuit to eat. It is more beneficial than meat for a number of reasons:
- Dry food has a high density of energy and meets the nutritional needs to ensure they have a well-balanced diet.
- It aids in dental care - the dry biscuit naturally cleans their teeth as it scrapes the plaque off. Long term this could help prevent issues with the teeth.
- It has a longer shelf-life. As well as being better for the cats you will find it also lasts a lot longer, so the costs are less.
- The dry biscuit has been formulated to include all the taurine a cat needs.

The general rule for any cat biscuit is ‘The plainer in colour, the better quality it is.’ Any brand with additives and colouring isn’t good for them.

Wet meat is used if a cat isn’t eating biscuit; or is given to pregnant queens or kittens to provide additional nutrition (we only use kitten meat for this). Wet food is a good source to use if your cat isn’t eating as it has a stronger scent and is a little tastier which makes it more enticing for them. The problem with wet food is it is 80% water, so the nutritional value is extremely minimal.

Portion sizes & Frequency
All portion sizes will be dependent on the branding of the food. On the back of each packaging should be a guide on your cat’s weight in Kg and then the recommended daily amount in grams. You may find over time you need to increase or decrease the amount of food depending on your cat’s body size. We recommend feeding your cat twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. If a cat is a little underweight then it may be on three feeds a day, but you will be told this upon adoption.

Problems with eating

It is always a good idea to stick to using the food which the cat has been having while in the cattery for two main reasons:
- You know the cat will eat the food.
- Keeping your cat on the same food will aid in prevention of an upset stomach.
However, if you do decide to change the food (or keep your cat on the existing food) and you find that they are not eating, there are a few things you can try.
You may find moving into a new home can be extremely stressful for the cat, especially if they have been in cattery for a while. So you may find this is the reason why they are not eating, which can be completely normal. If the food is next to the litter tray then this may be another reason why they are not eating, cats are very hygienic animals and do not like to be eating their food next to where they go to the toilet, so try moving the food away from the litter tray. The best thing to do if this occurs is keep persisting, put the feeding area in a quiet place with no distractions (your cat will not eat if he/she feels threatened or scared). You could also:
- try different dry foods - sometimes cats can be very picky with food, and can go off one food for no particular reason; so it is always best to try a mix to find one which is preferred by your cat.
- provide them with a wet feed to see if they are interested in this (as said above it is more appealing, it smells nicer for them and tastes better). If you find you can tempt your cat with wet food, you can give then this for a little while; and then either try mixing in a bit of biscuit slowly to wean your cat back onto biscuit, or provide both wet and dry food.
- you can soak the biscuit with luke warm water, this also makes it smellier and more appealing for the cat.
- mix in a little bit of wet food with the biscuit.
If your cat seems uncomfortable eating or there are changes in the behaviour as well as loss of appetite then visit a vet immediately.

 

 

Litter Trays & Toileting

The litter tray needs to be the right size, it should be at least the length and a half of your cat, otherwise you may find this causes problems like missing the tray. The location of the litter tray is also important:
- It should be away from food and water.
- Away from a lot of noise.
- Away from open glass or a window as they may feel threatened by what’s outside.

There are two types of litter tray which are completely open or covered. Some people like the covered trays as they think it masks the odour and makes the cat feel protected. However, a lot of cats do not like using these covered litter trays as they only have one exit which can make them feel threatened, this can be worse if it is a multi-cat household.

Cat litter is essential to have in the litter tray. In the wild, cats would dig a hole to go to the toilet and then cover it up so that they protect themselves from predators by covering their scent. Even though cats have been domesticated, all of them still mimic this behavior in a home. They will dig a hole in the litter tray, go to the toilet, and then cover it up - this is completely normal. Some cats can be very particular about what litter they have in the litter tray, sometimes they do not like the texture on their pads, sometimes they do not like the scent; this can sometimes lead them to not use the litter tray. So it is always easier to use what the Centre uses which is wood pellet, because you know they use it.

There are two main types of litter which are grit and wood pellet. We always use the wood pellet as it is cleaner, more absorbent and masks odour better than the grit.

Cats are very particular animals, so when it comes to the litter tray they like it to be clean. It is dependent on your cat, some may only use the litter tray once, and then deem it too dirty to use again so they find somewhere cleaner to go. Others may use a tray that’s been soiled more than once, so it is just down to getting to know your cat and his or hers habits. It is recommended that faeces are removed regularly throughout the day and that the tray is scooped clean at least twice a day.

If you are finding that your cat is toileting outside of the litter tray, then the first thing to check is whether the tray is clean, if not, then chances are it’s down to this, so take extra care in making sure the tray is continuously clean. If you find you are still having problems, it can be a case of not knowing where to go for the toilet; so you could put them in the litter tray so they can get the feeling of the litter on their pads and they should associate it with toileting. You could also try picking the faeces up off the floor and putting it in the litter tray and then they can follow the scent back to the tray. Like above, you should also consider the type of litter used, the litter tray and the location. If you are finding the cat is soiling in one particular area then try and move it to that preferred spot. Some cats never have an issue when adopted with toileting, however with others (especially nervous cats) this can be a problem so it just needs persistence. If the problem persists then it would be a good idea to contact your vet for advice.

 

 

  

Behaviour

Cats are solitary animals, this means they like living on their own; this is because they are territorial and claim their own territories. So, you may find as a general rule that a cat will not enjoy another in their home - because the other cat is invading its territory! It is possible to introduce cats, but it has to be done slowly and carefully! You may know some cats which are closely bonded; this can happen especially if they were siblings.

Play
Cats love to play! It provides them with the opportunity to exhibit and practice their natural behavior of hunting. It’s very important to have regular play sessions with your cat to enable them to release some of their energy! Cats are drawn to movement, so it is always a good idea to use a feather wand which you can move from side to side; they will see this as live prey and will stalk, chase, play and pounce on the toy. It is important after five or ten minutes of intense play that you let your cat catch the toy, each successful catch releases endorphins in the cat’s brain which makes them feel good! Making the ‘catch’ too difficult can lead to your cat feeling frustrated, so they need to have a number of successful ‘kills’ to feel satisfied.
Toy mice are always good to have as they are able to carry them off in their mouths! However, you may find after a certain amount of time that your cat becomes bored of these toys - that is just because they have ‘killed’ it, and it is no longer seen as live prey!

Scratch posts
Scratch posts are a very important item to have if you are going to own a cat, especially if they are not able to go outside yet! Cats use scratch posts for two reasons:
• It helps grind down their claws.
• strengthens the muscles under their limbs
Scratch posts are also a good enrichment to have; it is always a good idea to get the biggest one you have space for with lots of the levels. This will allow them to climb - which they love! It will also provide them with height and hides to get away when they need space; cats feel more confident if they are higher up or have a space low to the ground to hide (It depends on the cat).

You may find that if you do not get a scratch post then they turn to other things in the house; so it is essential you get one. If you do find the cat is turning to furniture in the house to scratch on, it is extremely important not to punish your cat! You just have to keep picking them up and putting them on the scratch post so they begin to associate scratching with the post and eventually they will make the connection.