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Behind those cute whiskers and fuzzy fur, cats conceal an almost infinite number of mysteries that you are on the verge of discovering. In the four volumes of this online encyclopaedia, you will find many answers to the How, When and Why regarding our little feline friends. Select a volume, choose the content you want from the contents list and enjoy a great read!
Cats are very clean animals but they need all the help we can give them to maintain this excellent level of hygiene inside our homes. Do you want to know how you can help?
Good food is synonymous with a healthy lifestyle for any feline. Here you will find some excellent advice on controlling their diet.
Your pet is never going to tell you it feels sick. However, you can learn to prevent and detect any health problems it may suffer.
In many ways, cats are very similar to people: they learn, they remember and they have feelings. They do speak “another language” but it is one you can learn step-by-step.
1.1. The litter tray
Your cat is a great student!
Teach it how to use the litter tray.
Kittens learn by association; they repeat what they associate with pleasant experiences. That is why kittens should not be punished for relieving themselves somewhere other than inside the litter tray. You should never ‘rub their nose in it’, tell them off or physically force them! Kittens need to be trained and won over with true feline cunning. The important thing is for the litter and the tray to always be kept clean and somewhere accessible but quiet; somewhere the kitten can enjoy some privacy.
During the first few months, make sure to use a fine grain litter that will not damage the paws of your pet. As the kitten grows up, you can try litters with different characteristics, such as clumping, scented, etc. until you find the one that your pet prefers.
If your cat defecates outside of the tray, you need to collect part of the deposit and bury it in the litter so that the animal smells it and recognises the tray as the correct place to relieve itself. Feed your kitten on a regular schedule and place the food near the litter tray during the housetraining period. About 20 minutes after eating, your kitten will feel the need to relieve itself and this is the time to show it the tray. After each successful visit to the litter tray, reward your kitten with affection, a treat or a favourite toy. Over time, you need to begin moving the food bowl further and further away from the litter tray.
Important note: the use of a litter tray reduces the transmission of any possible disease the cat may suffer from because it sets a boundary around the toilet area. As you can see, a hygienic litter tray is synonymous with the health of your family.
During the first few months, it is recommended to use a fine grain litter that will not damage the paws of your pet. When it grows up, you can change the litter to one that best suits his or her needs.
Your cat will never tell you why it does not want to use the litter tray.
But we can tell you why.
If your cat decides not to use the litter tray, it is a sign that something has changed in its feline world. The most common cause is because the owner has stopped paying as much attention to cleaning and the tray or the litter is no longer attractive to the cat. It is also possible that your cat will reject any relocation of the tray, the surrounding atmosphere or its level of maintenance, for example if you change the type of litter or use overpowering disinfection products. Be warned that such rejection can be a gradual process, which makes resolving the mystery sometimes difficult. Often, the cause is a traumatic one: a sudden shock, a fight with another animal in the house, the arrival of a visitor or a new member of the family... If your cat is of an advanced age, such insecurity can increase and this type of factor will have a larger impact. If, after observing and testing out these theories, you are still unable to uncover the reason for the rejection, you should consult your vet; it is possible that a urinary infection or diarrhoea is the underlying cause.
1.2 Bathing and brushing
Cats do not love water but neither do they hate it.
Here are a few tricks for bathing your cat.
Although cats are not overly passionate towards water, neither is it true that they are absolutely aquaphobic. They do, however, tend to steer clear of intense experiences and the unknown. If you get your cat used to bathing as a kitten, it will usually accept the process as natural. Bathing is healthy; it eliminates parasites and impurities. The best age to introduce a kitten to bathing is at two months, this is when they begin socialising. Bathing your cat should be a bit of a ritual: you need patience and time, choose a quiet location, stroke its neck to relax the animal and reward it when you have finished. The water should be warm, about 30ºC, and shallow. Never pour the water directly over its face, this will only frighten the animal. Scrub your cat gently with a sponge, as if you were stroking it. You need to use a soap that is specifically-formulated for feline skin; never use human shampoo. The process of drying with a towel or hairdryer and subsequent brushing is essential for making your cat feel comfortable and not averse to repeating the experience.
Bathing eliminates parasites and impurities. The water should be warm (about 30ºC) and shallow. Drying with a towel or hairdryer and a brushing concludes the cat bathing process.
1.3 How to avoid hairballs
Fur is not a part of the diet for your cat.
Learn how to avoid this bothersome phenomenon.
It is impossible to avoid your cat ingesting fur as it preens itself; this is the price for being so clean and meticulous. However, it is possible to stop them swallowing an excessive amount and to help the natural expulsion of any hairballs that are created. Regular brushing is essential to straighten out any knots and remove already-dead hairs so that they do not end up in the diet of the animal. For long-haired cats, this brushing should be performed daily and exhaustively, and even more so during periods of moulting. It is a good idea to wipe the animal down with a damp towel afterwards to remove even more unwanted hair. Food is fundamental: various malt preparations and specific fibre-rich foods exist in the market that encase the hairballs and help process them more efficiently. Be warned though, you should take care not to exceed the recommended dose and thus cause the opposite effect. If your cat shows signs of discomfort, cat grass is a natural remedy that can be used to provoke vomiting.
Careful brushing is essential to straighten out knots and remove any dead hair so that it does not end up in your cat’s diet.
2.1. Vaccination schedule
A healthy and long-living cat
is a vaccinated cat.
Vaccinations are a guarantee that your cat will enjoy a long and healthy life. Do not hesitate to consult your vet as many times as necessary to be clear on the vaccination schedule (times may vary in each specific case), especially when it relates to the first series of vaccinations and if any other vaccinations are recommended besides the basic set. If the time periods are not followed, the protective effect of the vaccination may disappear. Furthermore, applying a parasite treatment product to your cat first can help the vaccinations work more effectively. The first series is called the Feline Triple Vaccine and will immunise your pet against rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia. This is applied at the age of about one and a half months. When cats reach two to two and a half months, it is time for the vaccine against feline leukaemia (leukaemia is often fatal). The second dose of this vaccine is applied at three months. In Spain, the rabies vaccine is compulsory and is administered at three and a half months.
1 ½ months: Triple Feline
2 ½ months: Feline Leukaemia (1st dose)
3 months: Feline Leukaemia (2nd dose)
3 ½ months: Rabies
2.2. How to avoid parasites
Avoid these unwelcome visitors.
Learn how and when to treat your cat against parasites.
Cat health demands good parasite treatment from an early age, from the second or third week of life. Remember that certain diseases or unwanted visitors, such as fleas, can also attack the human inhabitants of your home. Your vet should study each case and establish the treatment plan according to the weight of the cat in question. Generally-speaking, the dose is repeated 15 days after the first session. The protection should be boosted once a month during the first six months and then every three months after that if the cat spends a lot of time outside, or every six months if it is more of a house cat. The treatment is injected or administered orally in the form or tablets or droplets, whether it be for internal or external parasites. Lotions and sprays also exist that are specific to external parasites such as mites or fleas. Some people prefer to use a natural remedy: diatomaceous earth (fossilised algae).
Parasites can be either external or internal
and there are solutions for both problems.
These aggressive creatures that can create discomfort or threaten the life of our pets make their home in two habitats: external parasites live in the fur, ears, eyes and skin; whereas internal parasites live in the digestive system, mainly the intestines. The most common of the former type are the mite (they usually cause a highly uncomfortable form of scabies that attacks the ear) and the cat flea (which can easily migrate to the human body). The tick is also a common pest, especially in rural areas. Cats that have lived for extended periods of time in the wild can often present injuries caused by dermatophyte fungus.
The tapeworm and the roundworm are the most frequently encountered internal parasites and cats can become infected in the womb, through maternal milk, the ingestion of raw food or flea bites.
Be careful with the protozoa that cause toxoplasmosis because they present a serious danger to human pregnancies, especially during the first two months.
Be careful with the protozoa that cause toxoplasmosis (an infectious disease) because they present a serious danger to human pregnancies, especially during the first two months.
2.3. Is my cat sick?
Your cat will never tell you it feels sick.
But it can “speak” through body language.
Prior to the appearance of clearly visible symptoms (spasm, breathing difficulty, pain, diarrhoea, etc.), we can be mindful of and vigilant for any early signs of sickness that may be noticeable in behavioural changes, especially if your pet stops eating or seems listless and weak. The opposite - unusual excitement or a tendency to hide - can also be early signs of a health problem.
Feline eyes have the unusual capacity to reflect certain types of viral diseases through the presence of scabs, irritation, inflammation or ulcers. If the third eyelid becomes visible, this is not a good sign. If a cat ceases to be as meticulous with caring for its fur, this is also a warning sign and further observation will be required to uncover the origin of possible sickness. The ears and nose of a cat should be pink, secretion- and scab-free and the mouth should be free of blisters, inflammation and excessive salivation. Halitosis or a colour change to the faeces or urine are also signs of a digestive problem. Remember, you should never medicate your cat without first consulting a specialist.
If a cat stops eating and seems listless and weak or, on the other hand, if a cat is unusually excited, this is generally an early symptom of sickness.
The ears and nose of a cat should be pink and free of secretions and scabs. The mouth should be free of blisters, inflammation and excessive salivation.
3.1. Kittens and adult cats
There is a specific type of food for each age.
One piece of advice: make sure to buy an established and reliable brand of pet food. Maternal milk is sufficient for the first month. If necessary, an artificial milk that is specific to kittens can be used (cow's milk does not cover a kitten's needs and also contains so much fat that it is often not tolerated by young kittens). After the first month, kittens can start to be given solid food (in combination with milk) but it should be wet food and easily digestible. It is important to vary the diet during this early stage so that the cat does not become a fussy eater in later life. Between the second and sixth months, they eat plentifully due to accelerated growth and need triple the nutritional intake of an adult; a specifically-enriched preparation is required at this age. It is recommended to maintain this diet until 12 months, although their reduced growth will mean they eat less. At the age of one year it is time to move on to adult pet foods, the composition of which will depend on lifestyle. Diet during a cat's old age also needs special care; a much lower calorie content and more fibre.
0-1 month: maternal milk
1-2 months: introduction of solid food: enriched food: milk + solids
2-6 months: period of maximum growth, weight triples: enriched food: milk + solids
6-12 months: growth slows. Enriched food
From 12 months: adult food
Old age: food that is low in calories and high in fibre
3.2. Choose the most suitable diet
Cats are very special,
they need it to be spoon-fed.
It is possible to create a good relationship with your cat through the organisation of eating habits to create a pleasant atmosphere: shallow bowls, always clean and separate for each food, made of pottery or metal rather than plastic and with a steady base to avoid tipping; avoid using double bowls for food and water because they can get dirty; set aside a clean and quiet area, away from the litter tray area, so your cat can enjoy its meal. Cats eat an average of 10 times per day (depending on breed) and a small amount each time. If your cat does not have a weight problem, this habit can be permitted provided that the food portions are measured appropriately. On the other hand, it is possible to condition your cat to eating at three of four specific times of the day to better control its diet. It is not always easy to introduce a new dish onto the menu. Your cat's smell-taste sensory perception must be taken into consideration and the food provided in increasing doses with patience until it is accepted by the gourmet.
Cats eat an average of 10 times per day (depending on breed) and a small amount each time.
3.3. Lesser recommended food
Cook for yourself and your family at home.
But avoid cooking for your cat.
Unless it is a diet that has been indicated and supervised by your vet, it is not recommended to feed your cat on home-cooked food and much less on leftovers from the family meal. The cat may well find this food tasty but it will not likely cover its nutritional requirements in terms of proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats. This habit runs the risk of producing a cat that prefers this type of "fast food" rather than the food specifically formulated for felines, which is more than sufficient if of a good quality, and will eventually reject it. In the long run, a bad home-made diet can cause digestive disorders (such as those caused by dairy products due to their lactose content) or nutritional malnourishment that will require long-term treatment such as vitamin supplements. Often, home-made diets are the underlying cause of both malnourishment and becoming overweight or obese; two of the most common diseases among badly fed cats. Prevention is better than cure.
Home-made diets are usually responsible for both malnourishment and obesity in cats.
Excess weight and obesity.
Two very large problems.
Although being overweight or obese can be caused by metabolic, genetic, nerve-related factors, etc., an excessive calorie intake combined with a lack of physical exercise is the most common cause. Feeding a cat with fatty home-made food, treats and a failure to properly measure the portions you provide guarantee the extra pounds. However, another possible cause is a bad balance in the diet of dry or tinned cat food. Therefore, it is important to always pay attention to the quantity tables corresponding to each weight, age or lifestyle. As soon as your cat begins to gain weight, consult your vet to establish a new diet or change of habits. Weighing your cat and keeping a record means that the owner, who sees their cat every day, will not be oblivious to the problem. It is also necessary to be disciplined enough to play with or exercise your cat (burning calories is just as important as ingesting calories), to control the diet every day and stop giving treats as a sign of affection.
Burning calories is just as important as not eating too much. Play with your pet and it will burn calories whilst having fun at the same time.
AFFECTION AND EDUCATION
4.1. First encounters
Whether to adopt a kitten or an adult…
It rather depends on your needs.
This is a question of thinking about your priorities. The majority of people prefer to take on a kitten and enjoy the playful early stages of kitten life, affection and fun. However, this period is also a demanding one due to the hyperactive nature of kittens and the constant attention, education and care they demand at this early age. Serious consideration must be given to the time and commitment you can dedicate to a kitten. Kittens do not begin to show a personality (active, loving, distant, tranquil, rebellious, etc.) until they start to mature and you will need to accept whatever comes your way. On the other hand, adopting an adult cat means rescuing an abandoned animal and returning it to the protective umbrella of a family. Unless it has been traumatised or is sick, cats tend to adapt to new environments with ease. They appreciate a second chance, although it is sometimes necessary to patiently correct the bad habits caused by previous education. Without a doubt, adult cats are calmer and their personality fully defined. If you adopt an adult cat, you can choose one that is most compatible with your own needs.
When to adopt a cat…
Do cats assume your habits?
In order to make the mutual adaptation period for both cat and owner as easy as possible, it is necessary to prepare a small number of simple but essential items. A litter tray with litter of a pleasing texture to the cat; a scratching post to avoid the destruction of your furniture; a basket with soft stuffing that can be used as a bed in a quiet draught-free location that is warm or cool depending on the time of year; a brush and gloves for grooming, brushing and removal of dead hair; stimulating toys, which might range from aluminium balls to gadgets designed to stimulate feline instincts, such as mice filled with catnip. If travel becomes necessary, a travel box or basket is essential. Hygiene accessories will also help prevent possible sickness: all sorts of specific products are available in the market (solutions, toothpastes, brushes, ear cleansing products, etc.) for looking after your cat's eyes, ears and mouth, as well as bathing gels with the pH and nutrients required by a cat's skin.
4.2. Getting the house ready
The cat is coming home!
Get ready with a basic welcome kit.
It is recommended to receive the new member of your family on the weekend or when you have time to spend helping it through the adaptation period. Besides allowing the cat to explore the house, be sure to show it the objects and places that will become a large part of its life. It is best to place the litter tray somewhere quite separate from the places it will eat and sleep in. The scratching post can be placed next to its bed so it can be used when it wakes up. If the new arrival is an adult cat, it would be a good idea to place its bed in the same place it used to sleep previously and ask about its previous eating habits; this will help the cat settle in faster. Kittens, on the other hand, will spend the day running about and exploring, so it would be prudent to hide away any sharp or otherwise dangerous objects, valuables, cables or electrical appliances, abrasive cleaning products, open windows, potted plants, etc., just as you would for a small child. Be careful; some plants, such as rosebay, azalea or ivy, can be poisonous to felines.
Prepare a Welcome Kit for the new member of your family: litter tray, scratching post, bed basket, brush, grooming glove, toys and a travel box or basket.
4.3. Early education
Learn to educate your kitten.
A mixture of knowledge and imagination.
Teach good manners to hyperactive kittens. Patience will be required from the outset. Punishment is counterproductive; persuasion through affectionate reward or the repetition of short, sharp words to stop negative behaviour provide better results. Sometimes, a little imagination and the application of indirect punishment will be required: for example, surprise your cat with a water spray (but avoid being seen; do it indirectly and without the cat noticing you otherwise it could develop a negative feeling towards you) or a loud noise if it persists in scratching furniture or climbing up where it is not allowed. Education in terms of using the litter tray (see the Hygiene section) deserves the full attention of the owner. It is essential to take advantage of the socialisation stage of cat development (two to seven weeks) to stimulate affectionate associations that will increase its willingness to learn. The continued presence of the mother during this period is recommended (she will teach the kitten basic feline behaviour and even how to use the litter tray) and gradually subject it to all kinds of stimulation: people, places, sounds and different activities.