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Cat Care Essentials

Keep your cat or kitten happy and healthy by following our tips

  • Feed your cat a nutritionally balanced diet and provide fresh water 24/7. iStockphoto

  • Regular veterinary visits and vaccinations are a must. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • Regular nail trims are good for the welfare of both your cat and your household furniture. Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Your might think your cat's independent, but she still counts on you to provide her with food, water, safe shelter, veterinary care, a clean litter box, love, and more. Take care of these essentials, and you'll develop a rewarding relationship with your feline companion.

1.   Keep your cat safe by keeping him indoors, safely confined to your property, or walked on a harness and leash

Doing so is best for you, your cat, and your community. Here are other ways to keep your cat safe and secure:

  • Always use a cat carrier when transporting your cat.
  • Make certain that all windows are securely screened.
  • Keep the washer and dryer closed, and check inside before each use. (Some cats like to climb in these appliances if they're left open.)
  • Get into the habit of ensuring that drawers, closets, and cupboards are uninhabited before you close them—a kitty may be lurking inside.

2.   Outfit your cat with a breakaway collar and visible ID that includes your name, address, and telephone number

No matter how careful you are, there's always a chance she may slip out the door. Your cat is more likely to get home safely if she has a collar and ID. Also, be a good citizen by complying with any local cat licensing laws.

Visit our Cat Answer Tool to learn how to prevent or solve common cat-related problems » 

3.   Take your cat to the veterinarian for regular check-ups and vaccinations

If you don't have a veterinarian, ask your local animal shelter, rescue group, or a pet-owning friend for a referral. Medical care is as essential for your cat as it is for you. If you are having trouble affording veterinary care, investigate our list of financial resources. If you already have dogs or cats at home, make sure they are up-to-date on their shots and in good general health before you introduce your new cat.

4.   Spay or neuter your cat

Spaying and neutering your cat will keep him healthier and help decrease the number of cats euthanized every year because of cat overpopulation. If you can't afford the operation, look into low-cost options.

5.   Feed your cat a nutritionally balanced diet and provide fresh water 24/7

Educate yourself on your cat's nutritional needs or ask your veterinarian for advice on what and how often to feed your pet.

6.   Keep the litter box clean

Cats are naturally clean, and most will instinctively use a litter box; you just have to show yours where it is. Don't place your cat in the box and make little scratching motions with her front paws. This will probably upset your cat and may make her leery of the box. Scoop the box at least once daily and periodically wash it with dish liquid and hot water. Because cats also value privacy, place the litter box in a convenient but quiet spot. We can help you get things off to a good start.

7.   Groom your cat often.

All cats, whether long- or short-haired, should be brushed regularly to keep their coats and skin healthy, prevent matting, and reduce shedding and hairballs. They also need to have their claws clipped to keep them from growing into their paws. Grooming is a good opportunity to discover any lumps, fleas, injuries, etc., and to bond with your kitty. If you want to find a groomer, read our advice on choosing one.

8.   Make time to play and provide entertainment

Cats often entertain themselves, but regular play sessions with your pet will provide her with the physical and mental stimulation she needs and strengthen the bond you share.

Give her toys and scratching posts to distract her from your household goods. Cats love to play and will appreciate simple and inexpensive toys. Ping-Pong balls and opened paper bags (remove the handles) can provide hours of fun. A comfortable perch by a window can become your cat's very own entertainment and relaxation center. Rotate toys to maintain your cat's interest in them.

You might want to invest in a kitty condo or cat tree—a structure typically covered in carpet or sisal (a rough material cats love to scratch) where your cat can climb, stretch, and hide to her heart's content while watching the world go by. But the best two things you can give your cat are love and playtime.

9.   Provide your cat with some basic training to help him get along in your home.

It's true that cats usually have their own ideas about how to do things. Even so, a positive approach can teach most cats not to scratch the couch, eat plants, or jump up on the kitchen counter. With repeated, gentle, and consistent training, your cat will learn the house rules. Don't ever yell or hit your cat.

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