Caring for your cat – An owner’s guide
Many of us are spending more time at home than usual, and as a result, you may be wondering if and how this may be affecting your feline friends. Below we have put together some useful hints and tips to help you create the perfect home environment all year round, but especially during the summer months. We’ve even thrown in some child-friendly activities too, to keep the ‘little ones’ occupied!
While many cats are adaptable to changing environments, it’s important to keep your cat’s routine as normal as possible. Take a look below at some of our advice and top tips for supporting you and your cat.
1) A SAFE PLACE
While there may be a lot of movement in the house, with it being a little busier than normal, it’s important that your cat has somewhere quiet and secluded to rest, sleep, escape, and most importantly, feel secure in. Our feline friends are most likely to be set in their own routine, and with us humans spending more time at home, your cat is subsequently forced to adapt its routine and share their core territory, which some may find a little stressful.
We’ve compiled a list of places where your cat may like to escape to – so you can ensure you have a few places prepared and ready for them, including:
- Top of the cupboard – make sure it’s safe and there’s ample amount of room for them to rest and reach safely
- Underneath the bed – make a small space and ensure it’s safe
- A raised shelf – clear a space on a bookshelf or on top of a chest of drawers
- Inside of a box – you may have an old box in the garage or loft which may come in handy
Involve the Children
If you have children in the house, why not make a hide-out activity for them to get involved in, such as:
- Turning a cardboard box into a ‘hidey-hole’ by making a little entrance
- Using their tepee tent (if they have one) and are happy to give it another use, as this can be nicely set up for a cat
- Creating a little nest by putting a long cloth over a breakfast stool
- Placing a comfy blanket under the bed
It’s also important for children to learn when to leave and not disturb the cat such as when it’s hiding or sleeping. If the cat seeks attention then give it, but seeking and disturbing your cat, when it’s not on their terms, could lead the cat to feel trapped, and as a result, it may become stressed.
2) PLAYTIME AND PREDATORY BEHAVIOUR
While you’re at home, your cat may enjoy playing with you. Not only will both you and your cat enjoy this time, but you may also learn about your cat’s personality, which could help build a strong bond between you and them. Both kittens and cats need to play and, although cats can entertain themselves during the times you are busy, it’s important that they have interactive games or toys.
Playtime will develop their social and communication skills, and whilst improving their physical development and co-ordination, it also helps relieve boredom and provide an outlet for your cat’s predatory instincts. This will prevent behavioural problems and ensure your cat is getting the exercise it needs. Indoor exercise is particularly important for those cats without outdoor access. Below are some ideas to help keep your cat entertained:
Top Tips – Food Foraging
Problem-solving toys and puzzle feeders allow cats to use their senses to forage for food or play with/ release food. If your cat is new to puzzles, you may need to make them relatively easy to begin with, increasing the difficulty over time.
Involve the Children
If you’ve got children at home, why not get them to make some puzzles using items such as toilet roll tubes, cereal boxes, egg boxes and yoghurt boxes – let their imaginations run wild! A couple of things to be aware of though:
- Do not use paint to add colour to your homemade puzzle
- Do not use small parts that can be hazardous to your cat
Top Tips – Interactive/object play
Interactive play and object play are short and intense predatory games that will also burn some of their energy off too.
Involve the Children
Make your own fishing rod for interactive play, or a furry, feathery catnip toy. Be creative and give old or unused objects a new life. A few things to consider:
- Play sessions should be carried out at set times (this will give them back the sense of routine). Cats are normally more active early morning or evening.
- Rotation is key! It’s important to provide only a small selection of toys per day to maintain the novelty factor.
- Children should be supervised with fishing rod type toys.
Top Tips – Exploring
Cats are naturally curious, so why not look at your house through the eyes of a curious cat and make sure there are plenty of different things for them to explore.
Involve the Children
Take a plain box to the next level – a Cardboard Box Castle! Just remember:
- If you have more than one cat, make sure there are multiple entry and exit point
- Decorate your castle with pencils or felt tips but avoid using paint.
3) MULTIPLE AND SEPARATE KEY RESOURCES
Key resources are essential necessities that cats need to be happy and healthy in the home, including food, water, toileting areas, scratching areas, play areas, and as mentioned above, safe resting and sleeping areas. If you have multiple cats, it’s important to ensure they have their own ‘key resources’ in separate areas of the house. Also, they should never be disturbed while making use of them – except for playtime of course!
Food is an essential provision, however it’s important that it’s provided in a cat-friendly way. There are a variety of different bowls available, including glass, ceramic, plastic and stainless steel. However, if your cat wears a collar, a constant clinking noise on the side of a stainless-steel bowl could be very off-putting.
Naturally, cats look for their food and water separately. Therefore, locating their water bowl away from their feed will promote hydration, and finding water can be extremely rewarding! It’s also important to have one water container per cat in the household and the bowl should be big enough so that your cat can drink from it without their whiskers touching the sides. They are also known to like their bowl full to the top so they can lap without putting their heads down.
It’s essential to have a litter tray if your cat is housebound, but also highly recommended if your cat is free to explore outside too. When considering the location of your cat’s litter tray(s) they should be situated in a discreet corner away from their food, water and busy thoroughfares, as well as areas in the house that they might find stressful – i.e. Near a busy door.
4) RESPECT THE CAT’S SENSE OF SMELL
A domestic cat’s sense of smell is about twenty times stronger than ours! Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell as they use scents to gather information and communicate.
To support your cat’s wellbeing around the house, you should avoid strong-smelling cleaning products, scented candles or room sprays. By providing scratching and facial rubbing areas, and by taking off your outdoor footwear when you enter your home, it will alleviate any new challenging smells in the house. It’s also important to provide places for appropriate scent marking (aka feline communication).
You could consider using pheromone products, such as plug-ins, as they may help to give your cat a sense of security and calm.
5) POSITIVE, CONSISTENT AND PREDICTABLE HUMAN-CAT SOCIAL INTERACTION
Consistent and positive handling of your cat from a young age promotes positive behaviours, such as reduced fear and stress, but also initiates a strong human bond. As companion animals, cats benefit from friendly, regular and predictable social interaction with humans. Ways to recognise if your cat is receptive include:
- Facial rubbing
- Head bunting
- Vertical tail
- Relaxed roll
And remember… cats like:
- To be in control
- A gentle touch and voice
- Low intensity and high-frequency contact
If you’re working from home, below are some top tips for how to support your cat:
- Find a workstation in a room where your cat spends little time
- If your cat enjoys being with you, set up a cosy bed on the table/desk
- Adopt your normal working hours, and if possible, ignore your cats’ demands and attention-seeking behaviour during those hours.
- Do not use food to treat or bribe your cat into not pestering you when you’re working (this may have the opposite effect)
The measures above can be used all year round and will help towards ensuring you have a happy and healthy cat.
Information source: Vicky Halls RVN DipCouns Reg. MBACP (iCatCare/ISFM)