All about cats
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The cat (Felis catus) has been woven into human society for
thousands of years. Cats have been alternately revered as gods (as in
ancient Egyptian culture) and feared as witch's "familiars" or
connections to the devil (as in Salem, Massachusetts during the witch
trials). Today we see them for what they really are: responsive,
intelligent animals who adapt to most living environments.
With greater than 50 million cats living in American households, it is
no wonder that cats have now surpassed dogs as our favorite pets. Cats
make wonderful companions because they are relatively easy to care for and
offer a lifetime of enjoyment.
Along with the increased popularity of cats as pets comes the
responsibility to properly care for them . . . the responsibility to make
sure that they are fed properly and have appropriate shelter and adequate
veterinary care. Cats may live fifteen or more years. They have various
personalities. Some are solitary individuals while others are more
gregarious. They are prone to certain health problems and require minimal
but routine care.
Cats are carnivorous, which means that they have an absolute
requirement for some animal-source ingredients, such as meat, poultry, or
fish, in their diets. There is no such thing as a good vegetarian diet for
a cat. Without animal-source ingredients in their diet they will become
deficient in certain nutrients which can prove life-threatening.
When choosing a cat food, it is best to choose one that is appropriate
for the life-stage of the cat. For example, kittens should receive kitten
food and adult cats should receive adult cat food. Additionally,
overweight cats can benefit from a reduced calorie diet, just like humans.
It is important to choose a food labeled as "complete and
nutritionally balanced" and that the claims be substantiated by
actual feeding trials.
There are several types of cat food available (dry, semi-moist, and
canned) and a cat owner should realize the advantages and disadvantages of
each type through a discussion with a veterinarian. Fresh water should
always be available. It is an old wives' tale that cats must have milk,
and, in fact, milk may cause a cat to have diarrhea.
Every cat should be routinely evaluated by a veterinarian who is
familiar with the species. The cat should be examined for any potential
health problems. Cats are prone to many of the same problems that people
are. Cancer, kidney disease, heart disease, and dental disease are not
uncommon. The earlier a problem is identified and addressed, the more
likely the cat will respond in a positive fashion. As cat owners, we must
help maintain their good health. Many cats are amenable to routine
brushing of their teeth with a cat toothpaste. Additionally, they should
be examined for parasites known to infect cats. Most obvious to an owner
would be ear mites or fleas, although several species of intestinal worms
can infest cats and rob them of precious nutrients. It is important that
these problems be treated, and there are very effective drugs available.
Cats allowed to roam outdoors will obviously be more prone to these
parasites, unless the parasites have become established in a household.
As a general rule it is advisable to have a cat neutered, also called
spayed (for females) and castrated (for males). Not only does it aid in
control of unwanted kittens, but it also greatly minimizes the risk of
problems associated with the reproductive tract and behavioral problems
associated with sexually intact animals.
Female cats, also called queens, generally reach sexual maturity
between four and twelve months of age. An unspayed female may be capable
of producing kittens for eight or more years. Male cats, also called toms,
usually become fertile between six and eight months of age. They may
remain so for fourteen or more years. Most veterinarians recommend that a
cat be neutered at or after six months of age, although there are
individual opinions on this issue, and interested cat owners should
consult their veterinarians during one of their cat's initial visits for
examination and vaccination.
There are several diseases for which cats should be vaccinated by a
veterinarian. Feline rhinotracheitis, calici virus, and panleukopenia
(distemper) are potentially life-threatening diseases to which a cat can
become exposed. They are caused by viruses which can easily be transmitted
from cat to cat. Some viruses can be carried on an owner's clothing after
handling a sick cat. There are vaccines available for other diseases, such
as rabies, which has become endemic in certain areas of the country.
Therefore, it is important that even indoor cats be vaccinated for these
diseases. Additionally, there are vaccines available for other viral
diseases, feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis, which are
seen more commonly in outdoor, stray cats, or in multi-cat households.
(This does not, however, preclude indoor only cats from having these
diseases.) There are no effective treatments for these diseases, and they
should be prevented. It is important for cat owners to realize that there
are numerous diseases, such as feline immuno-deficiency virus infection,
to which a cat can become exposed for which there are no currently
available vaccines or treatment.
Also important for cat owners to understand is that cats are very
sensitive to certain medications and household products. Cats do not
metabolize aspirin like people; it should only be used under the
supervision of a veterinarian. Acetaminophen (as in Tylenol) will kill
cats and its ingestion is considered an emergency. Additionally, products
containing phenol, such as Lysol, should not be used around cats because
of their unique way of metabolizing these products. Some cats may like the
taste of antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol, and, if ingested,
will cause kidney failure if not treated immediately. It is best not to
use any questionable products around a cat until you have checked with an
authority. Also, cats will often eat plants, some of which can be toxic.
It is better to offer them sprouted feed oats to nibble on when they get
the urge to graze.
Cats are often attracted to string-like objects, will eat tinsel,
needles and thread, rubber bands, and other similar materials. Some cats
are attracted to electric cords. Therefore, it is important to keep these
things out of the cat's environment or take measures to minimize their
attraction to them. Routine cleaning of kitty litter promotes good
sanitation behavior. Cat owners must also set limits for their cats. If
they are not supposed to be in a particular room or sharpening their nails
on a particular piece of furniture, this should be established from the
moment the cat is adopted. It is much easier to prevent problems than to
attempt to change established patterns of behavior.
Cats depend on their owners for the essentials of existence. Providing
them with the proper care and treatment can mean a lifetime of
companionship. Cats have much to give and ask for little in return.
Some other special care
1. Give your cat fresh water every day. You do not need to give your cat milk.
2. Feed your cat food that is made from beef, chicken, or fish.
3. Choose a cat food that is right for your cat's age and weight. For example, if you have a kitten be sure to buy kitten food.
4. Keep the litter box clean. Cats like it fresh!
5. Keep string-like objects like tinsel, needles, threads and rubber bands out of reach. These things could hurt your cat.
6. Take your cat to the vet (animal doctor) for vaccines so it will not get some deadly disease.