Cats – Frequently Asked Questions Val Cairney
Hi everyone and welcome to this episode of Val Talk’s Pets. So I thought with this episode I would address some of the frequently asked questions I get about cats. Some of the questions are covered in Cat and Kitten care and Cats mysterious behaviour, but it’s always good to go over things again and see if I can’t take things from a different perspective.
As you know, I love cats and I’ve always had a cat since my very first cat made her way into our home when I was about 9 years old. All my cats have been strays except my handful Rory who I took as a kitten from a barn cat who had a litter. Those are the “free to a good home” kind of kittens.
So I know that there has been a substantial rise in kitten and cat adoptions lately as there has been with dogs and small animals. We have found that many of the new cat parents are actually totally new cat parents meaning they have never had a cat before. With that, there has been an increase in questions about caring for kittens and cats and questions in general about cats. Interesting, that as my colleagues and I were discussing some of the questions we get, it was still noticed that dog owners still ask the most questions. Hmm? But, I do have a list of the most frequently questions asked so let’s get started.
Because many people have been able to get kittens, the first question we get is how long to feed a kitten on kitten food?
Ideally the best way to raise your kitten is to feed it kitten food until it is a year old. Remember that kitten and puppy food for that matter have DHA which is an omega 3 fatty acid essential for brain development. Often adult food will not have the required levels of DHA for a kitten or in some instances none at all. It becomes tricky to feed a kitten, kitten food when there are more than one cat in the household who are not kittens. In this case unfortunately you will have to find a way to feed the kitten separately from the adult cat. Kittens should be fed three times a day and you can get them on a schedule if you wish by regulating the feeding times.
On the heels of this question we get asked if it is okay for the adult cat to eat kitten food or vice versa. Well, no is the answer. Adults should not be eating the extra calories and protein made for a growing kitten and kittens should not be eating adult food for the reason of the DHA and the levels of fat and protein is not what they require. The problem is that kitten food is quite tasty so an adult cat may chow down on the kitten’s food before you know it, so that is why feeding separately on a schedule works best for multi cat/kitten households.
Another nutrition question we often get is should cats eat wet food? The short answer here is yes. To get the longer answer, access my podcast on Cats and Kittens. Wet food helps get more moisture in a cat’s diet and this is a great prevention for struvite crystals. Some cats do not actually care very much for wet food, so in this case it is best to really monitor their water intake and if you need to get an automatic waterer that will entice them to drink more, put this on the list of things to get. You will have to do some experimenting with wet food for a kitten or cat to find out if they prefer pate formulas or stews or minced or the now very popular pouch food that is very liquid-y and what falls into a category now called “smooth” formulas. Imagine a pate but whipped up, this would be a smooth formula. Stews will have pieces of the meat with some veg and gravy and some cats just lick the gravy and leave the rest. If that is the case, they may like these smooth formulas. Some brands even offer a bisque formula which can be similar with a smoother texture.
And we also get asked whether a cat needs the vegetables that are in stew formulas. Well not really, because as a true carnivore they really only need meat. But, the veg enhances the flavour and texture for some cats.
Now, this may not fall into a frequently asked question, but it does pop up. Can you feed raw to your cat? The answer is yes you can, but it should be a protein only formula or pure or single protein. This means the protein does not have vegetables. And when I say you can feed your cat raw food, I mean raw food from a frozen raw pet food producer. You don’t just grab raw chicken and toss it to your cat. Cats are set up to eat prey they catch not a processed chicken that has quite possibly quite a lot of bacteria that their system may not be able to fight.
Okay, so let’s move away from nutrition questions and look at some other questions cat parents ask.
This one I find interesting because it only seems to come up when we are discussing how to stop cats from scratching things. I had a gentleman the other day who said he needed to find a solution to stop his kitten from climbing the curtains. I asked him if they had trimmed the kitten’s nails. He looked rather puzzled and said, no, should I be? Well the answer there is yes, you should. Cats are not wearing their nails down when they scratch on furniture or their cat scratchers. They are exercising their feet, stretching them which feels good, they are leaving their scent and they are working off that outer sheath of the nail, so a nice new nail is ready to scratch your furniture. Trimming a cat’s nails is very important and if you have a kitten, get them used to it right away. All my cats get their nails trimmed. They know the drill and sit quietly while I trim their nails. Cat’s nails I find are a lot easier to trim than dogs, because one, they are softer and two you seem to be able to see the quick easier. Cats still like to scratch because it feels good, but you can minimize the damage by trimming their nails. And remember, never de-claw. De-clawing is a mutilation of a cat’s paw through amputation. Finally my province made it illegal to de-claw! About time!
Another question we sometimes get is whether it is necessary to bathe a cat. The answer is not really. Cats are self-cleaning so to speak. But, if you get a kitten from a feral situation or as a stray or basically he or she is just not very clean from where it came, by all means give it a bath. Use warm water and do not fill up the sink. Just run the water gently over the cat or kitten, lather and rinse. And two people will be handy to bathe a cat. They generally will put up a fight. Be prepared. Bathing a cat is not impossible, you just have to have patience and maybe some gloves. If your cat gets a terrible case of fleas, which it could very well have if you got it as a stray, bathing for the live fleas may be your fastest recourse. I always recommend that you have a bowl of water close by to pull off the live fleas as they run from the flea shampoo and put them in the bowl of water to drown. Kitty will go into a very indignant grooming session after he has been towel dried, but that is normal. He may not talk to you for a while as well, so maybe have his favourite treats ready to go.
A big question we get asked about quite a bit, is what to do when your cat has decided to not use the litter box. There can be multiple reasons why a cat stops using a litter box. For example, did you change the type of litter used? Is there a stray cat hanging around your house? Did you get a new pet? Does your cat possibly have a urinary tract infection? Is the litter box not cleaned regularly? Is the litter box in a place that the cat finds is not very private or is hard to get to? Any one of these questions can lead to an answer to why a cat may be going somewhere where they shouldn’t. Sometimes, cats go into their litter and leave their bum outside the box and pee. This is just a logistic problem with the cat so try a hooded cat pan or one that has very high sides to prevent that from happening. Also, remember to clean the area where they have pee’d or poo’d with a pet cleaner not one you got from the grocery store. Grocery store cleaners will often have ammonia in their ingredients somewhere and this smells like pee to a cat or dog for that matter and attracts them right back to the spot. If the not using a litter box persists, definitely consult your veterinarian to rule out any health conditions and you can ask your pet specialty expert to show you the litters or additives for litter that is designed to attract your cat to it.
Now as spring comes around we always get asked about cats that want to go outside and parents are wondering about harnesses for cats. There are some great harnesses for cats so just visit your pet specialty store. Whether your cat will adapt to wearing a harness is a whole other question. The best way to introduce this to your cat is to do lots of practice in the house. Let your cat wear the harness for a little bit while you pet him or her and give treats. Every day, you should put the harness on and lengthen the time just a bit each day. After, this seems to be going well, attach a leash and let the cat drag that around attached to their harness. Again, this is something you practice every day. If you are planning to use a tie out for the cat as opposed to walking it on a leash, get your tie out and again, practice at home by attaching the tie out to something like a chair leg and let the cat get used to the idea of have some freedom but realizing that there is a limit to that freedom. I would say that about 3 weeks of practice is in order before going outside, but you can judge how well your cat is adapting. If this all goes well, come the nice weather your cat can enjoy some fresh air and sun and outside stimulus while being safely tethered. Remember to check the radius of the tie out so that kitty can’t get wedged under the house or somewhere else you can’t get them out of. And I know this sounds like an obvious thing, but dog harnesses do not really fit cats. Some people like to try and use their dog’s harness on a cat and promptly find the cat has escaped. Well that’s because a dog’s body is not the same as a cats so the harnesses are made differently.
Another frequently asked question lately is how to introduce a new cat to a house with either another cat or dog. This is a very legitimate concern as many homes are becoming multi pet homes. In my episode on cats and kittens I told the story of how I brought Rory home as a kitten thinking that Esme my female cat would find her inner mother and embrace him wholeheartedly. Well she sniffed him and then smacked him in the head. The first month was not a match made in heaven as she was not impressed that this little guy would not seem to go away. But, eventually the hissing stopped and they became best buds. And as you all know, we introduced Tundra to the two cats. Well introducing animals to each other is something to prepare for. Having calming treats on hand or Rescue Remedy can help with the initial introduction. Patience is the number one thing. Cats will growl and hiss at each other, that’s normal. If it escalates to an out and out fight, then separating the cats and doing slow introductions will need to be done. Dogs, particularly puppies need to be under restraint, meaning have a leash on, when introducing a cat to them. Dogs do not always understand that pouncing on a cat or being rough scares them to hell so, in order for things to start off on the right foot, make sure the dog or puppy can’t do that. The cat can be traumatized by a dog chasing them or thumping them with a paw and a dog can get a very nasty scratch from a cat defending itself. Neither of these are a good start for a family relationship. So, be prepared for at least 3 months of everybody sorting themselves out. If you are lucky, like I have been, a few weeks has been all it has taken, but that’s not the norm.
Now most people do understand that having a house cat spayed or neutered is the thing to do. Now, I was told recently by a cat breeder that a male cat will not spray if there are no other male cats in the house, but I don’t think I would take the chance, plus, as we know dog or cat, they are hardwired to breed, so unless you are breeding regularly you are just torturing the animal. Females, regardless, if they are not spayed will go into heat and as I said before in cat and kittens, a howling female cat for days on end can be very trying. Ultimately the best health practice is to have a cat fixed to make their life calmer, your life as well with a cat that wants to be a part of the family and prevention of cancer.
So those are the most frequently asked questions about cats. Of course there are other questions about why cats do the funny things they do, and if you are wondering why cats purr or blink their eyes at you, or meow at you etc. please check out my episode on Cats and their mysterious behaviour and for sure check out Cat and Kitten care for more details on many topics about cats.
So that leads me to my pet peeves section.
I think my biggest pet peeve about cats right now is that I am getting calls asking if we have kittens as if they were asking if we have cat litter. Yeah hi, do you have any kittens. Do you know where I can get one? I’m sorry, but this does not sound like someone who has taken into account that this is a decision to provide a loving and caring home for a cat that could easily be 20 years. The fact that people are acting all put out because there are no cats at the local shelter just appalls me. These people just want the amusement of having a kitten right now and are not taking into account the care, time, money and commitment involved. Sorry you have been inconvenienced because the shelter doesn’t have any kittens for you at this time. There is certain seasons for kittens you know? But, there are also the people who have journeyed into having a cat with a responsible attitude and these are the people who are asking questions, just as they should, because as I say, knowing is caring.
Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.