Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Kitty Checklist

It hits you when you least expect it.  Maybe you saw a picture in Critter Magazine.  Maybe you stopped at the pet store to pick up some treats and they were having an adoption event.  Maybe your child is going off to college and is putting the screws to you to take care of Fluffy while she is away.  (Spoiler alert...Fluffy never leaves!)  However it happens, when love pounces you just have to go with it.  So let me be the first to say:

Congratulations on your new kitty!

Here are a few things that you’ll need for the transition to having a well-adjusted family member.

Food – A good quality, high moisture meat-based diet is essential for your new cat’s health and happiness. An ideal feline diet contains a variety of canned or raw food. Kittens need frequent feeding for the first six months of life to support their growth and development. Introduce an assortment of tastes and textures while young so your cat won’t become a finicky eater.

Food Bowls – Cat food bowls should be shallow and wide, like a saucer, to accommodate whiskers, and made of ceramic, glass, or stainless steel. No plastic food bowls– they can harbor bacteria or cause chin acne.

Water bowl or fountain – Water is crucial to feline health and cats are often poor drinkers (they naturally do not have a strong thirst-drive). Make a water station somewhere away from their food (cats instinctually avoid water where they eat) or set up a water fountain such as the Drinkwell where the moving water will encourage drinking. This can head off urinary problems caused by chronic dehydration. But don't be alarmed if your raw-fed cat rarely drinks water – raw food contains approximately 70% moisture so your kitty won’t need to drink much water.

Collar and Tag – A breakaway collar and ID tag will identify your cat if she gets lost.

Litter, Box and Scoop – A high quality litter will help keep your house free of unpleasant odors. See our recent posts on Natural Cat Litter to learn about the variety of litters made from non-toxic, sustainable materials. The litter box should be large and deep to keep the litter inside. A large strong slotted scoop such as the Litter Lifter will make your chores go faster.

Stain/Odor Remover – Bring this home before an accident happens. Anti Icky Poo is a great enzymatic cleaner that dissolves the source of stains and odor from carpets, floors, bedding, and clothing to insure your kitty won’t be drawn back to the same spot. Take it from me, this stuff works!

Grooming Tools – Brushing is a great way to bond with your new kitty. Besides stimulating the skin, it removes loose hair and dander. Use a pin brush or a stainless steel comb for long-haired cats, and a FURminator, slicker brush or Zoom Groom rubber massager for short-haired cats. Use a scissors-style nail trimmer to keep nails short. Always have a jar of styptic powder on hand in case you nick a quick. A flea comb is an essential (and non-toxic!) tool for finding fleas and removing them.

Scratching equipment – Scratching is an essential feline function. It provides exercise, marks territory and removes the outer sheath of their claws. Channel their scratching behavior to a scratching post or cardboard scratcher in your house. More is better! They can be inexpensive and will save your furniture. Posts can be simple or elaborate and provide climbing opportunities for indoor enrichment.

Beds – Cats will always seek something soft and warm. Give your kitty her own place and protect your stuff from cat hair with a soft washable throw, mat or bed. Molly Mutt beds come with a removable cover for easy laundering. Kitty Caves are especially popular with kittens and shy cats for a safe and quiet refuge.

Toys – Keep your cat happy, interested and active with a variety of fabulous toys. Anything with fur, feathers or movement will elicit his hunting instinct and contribute to his rich fantasy world. Wand toys let you interact with your cat, alleviating boredom and preventing obesity. Laser toys are very amusing – cats will chase the little red dots until their paws fall off – but always end a laser play session with a toy your cat can actually “capture” so he doesn’t get frustrated. Catnip toys are great too; about 60% of cats respond to catnip, and kittens take time to become sensitive to it. When my cats were kittens, they loved to chase all those little pieces of plastic detritus that collects in our homes--milk carton lids, the tin foil off a yogurt container, a wad of paper. Throw it on the floor and see what works.  Or make your own Whack-a-Mole like this one.

Treats – Cats love treats, and will actually come to the shaking of the treat jar. The best and healthiest treats are dehydrated meat or fish bits. They add high quality protein to your cat’s diet and won’t put on weight like carbohydrate-based treats. There are many to choose from: Pure Bites Shrimp, Grandma Lucy’s Just Treats, Catswell Treats and many others made from beef, chicken, lamb, liver, tuna, mahi mahi and turkey. Just make sure none of the treats say “Made in China” – check the fine print on the back of the box or bag.

Speaking of cats coming to the shaking of a treat jar, train your cat to come inside by rattling something every time you feed your kitty. I put pennies in an empty can with a cover on top. Every time I fed the cats, I very softly shook the can. Like Pavlov’s dogs, they now associate that rattling with food and come running whenever I shake the can.

Carrier – A sturdy carrier is necessary for trips to the vet. Plastic carriers are inexpensive and easy to tote and will make your cat feel and be safer if you have to take her out of your home.

You're all set, then.  Above all, have fun with your kitten, and I wish your drapes "good luck!"

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