CHOOSING AND CARING FOR A CAT
Before taking any kind of pet into a home, the prospective owners must be sure they are willing to accept full responsibility for the care and well-being of the animal. Although cats are less demanding than some other kinds of pets, they do need attention and care.
Choice: Purebred or Domestic?
The old term "alley cat" has been replaced with the term "domestic cat." Domestic cats may be either long-haired or short-haired. Short-haired domestics are the most common types. Among the short hairs, the "tiger-striped" cats are prominent.
Persons who wish to breed cats for profit or to whom appearances and status are important should choose a purebred cat. The animal should be obtained directly from breeders, who should supply pedigree and registration papers. Purebred cats usually are kept indoors because of their value and the risk of accident or theft. For this reason, most owners prefer the less valuable--and sometimes hardier--domestic, or mixed-breed, cat.
Domestic cats are best obtained from a known neighborhood source where there has been a single litter, where other cats in the household appear healthy, and where the mother's temperament is known. Many an attractive and healthy cat or kitten has been adopted as a homeless waif from an animal shelter, or pound.
Choice: Kitten or Cat?
Almost all kittens are attractive, but some grow up to be uninteresting or ill-natured cats. In choosing a kitten, look for one that is lively, friendly, and gentle. The body should be plump, the coat clean, and the eyes and nose free from discharges. The older a cat is when you adopt it, the more you will know of its temperament and personality. Depending on the cat, even a mature animal may adjust well.
Adjusting to a New Home
Cats that have never known the pleasures of the out-of-doors make excellent indoor pets. Those that from infancy have gone in and out freely may adjust poorly if required to live strictly indoors.
When a cat is taken into a new home it should be allowed time to adjust to its new surroundings and to humans and other pets with which the cat will be living. Since this experience can be overwhelming for most cats, introductions to individuals, to strange surroundings, and to other pets should be gradual. While cats of all ages are quite curious, older cats that are put into new surroundings can be very frightened. They often react by seeking out a hiding place and may well remain there for many hours--perhaps more than a day. The kitten, having had little chance to become acclimated to one place, will take a great deal of time inspecting a new home. It will take less time, however, in making itself at home.
Feeding Your Pet
Domestic cats that can hunt extensively provide themselves with a good diet, but many domestic cats rarely hunt. Their diet combines in varying degrees commercial pet foods and table leavings. Ideally, the composition of their diet should correspond approximately to the composition of the cat's body; that is, about 60 percent water, 20-25 percent protein, 10-15 percent fat, a small amount of carbohydrates, and about 2 percent mineral (ash). In dry food the proportions would be about 10 percent water, 25-50 percent protein, 15-50 percent fat, and 5 percent ash. It is important for cat owners to remember these figures when reading cat food labels. Commercial meat- and fish-based food generally provide well-balanced diets, especially if a cat has been brought up to accept a variety of the products and is not permitted to become accustomed to only one or two foods. The dry and semidry foods, although well balanced nutritionally, are low in moisture, and cats eating them will require additional fluid. Treats of meat, fish, or fowl should be cooked well. The great majority of cats, if properly fed, do not require vitamin or mineral supplements. These should be given only on a veterinarian's advice.
Milk--fresh, canned, or powdered--is an excellent food; however, it disagrees with some cats. Although few cats consume much liquid when in good health, fresh water should be available at all times. Cats should get enough food daily to keep them in good flesh but not fat.
Most cats never need a bath. A cat is naturally fastidiously clean and spends much time grooming.
All cats, however--short-haired as well as long-haired--need regular brushing. This prevents the fur from matting and removes loose hair that might be licked and form "fur balls" in the animal's digestive tract.
Virtually all kittens are born with a strong instinct for cleanliness and soon learn to use a litter pan. The litter should be changed daily, and the pan should be washed frequently with mild soap and rinsed well with boiling water.
Most kittens make friends easily--even with dogs. There are many instances of unusual attachments between cats and a variety of other creatures including cows, chickens, rabbits, rats, and horses. Despite firm attempts at training, however, few cats can be trusted alone in the vicinity of pet birds or fish.
main page - an anatomy of the cat - cat breeds - a cat's life history - some diseases of cats - the cat in history
the cat family - general breed standards - famous cats