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rec.pets.cats: General Cat Care FAQ

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Archive-name: cats-faq/general-care
Last-modified: 16 Jul 1999

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                               General Cat Care
   Note: Please see the [1]Table of Contents FAQ for a complete list of

   Originally written 1991 & updated through 1997 by Cindy Tittle Moore.
   Maintained by the Fanciers website as of July 1999.
Vaccination and Worming Schedule

   Sources: Preventative health care schedule for cattery cats and pet
   catsPreventative Health Care and Infectious Disease Control, pp.
   391-404 in Sherding, Robert H. (ed) The Cat: Diseases and Clinical
   Management, v1. Churchill-Livingstone Inc, NY.
   All cats should be vaccinated, even strictly indoor ones. Cats may
   escape. Some diseases use mice, fleas, or other insects as vectors and
   do not require the presence of other cats. Natural disasters: consider
   earthquakes, hurricanes, etc., may let your cat out of the house.

        3 weeks         fecal exam

        6 weeks         fecal exam

        9-10 weeks      FHV/FCV/FPV vaccine
                        ELISA test for FeLV
                        FeLV vaccine
                        fecal exam

        12-14 weeks     FHV/FCV/FPV vaccine
                        FeLV vaccination
                        Rabies vaccine
                        fecal exam

        6 months        FeLV vaccination
                        fecal exam

        12 months        fecal exam

        16 months       FHV/FCV/FPV vaccine (repeated annually)
                        FeLV vaccine (repeated annually)
                        Rabies vaccine (repeated according to manufacturer's
                        fecal exam (every 6 months)

   FCV= feline calicivirus
   FHV= feline herpes virus (formerly called feline rhinotracheitis
   FPV= feline panleukopenia virus = distemper
   FeLV = feline leukemia virus
   FIP is a yearly vaccination, but its effectiveness and safety are
   questioned. Talk with your vet.
   The FHV/FCV/FPV kitten shot also commonly includes a vaccine against
   Chlamydia, which is another respiratory disease.
   A vaccine for ringworm has just come on the market in the US. It is
   said to be good for both treatment and prevention. It may or may not
   be available in your area, and it is very new, so there is not much
   data on its effectiveness. You may want to ask your vet about it if
   ringworm is a problem in your area.
What Your Vet Should Check

   On a standard annual physical/examination, your vet should check:
     * teeth for tartar/gum swelling
     * ears for ear mites and other fungus problems
     * body for ringworm (with black light)
     * standard bloodwork
     * fecal exam for worms
     * booster shots for rabies, FeLV, panleukopenia, rhino&co, etc.
     * eyes for normal pupil response and normal retinal appearance
     * weight, heart rate, temperature
   (more on cat health/medical information in [2]Medical Information;
   also [3]Internet Vet Column)
Cat Food and Diets

  Premium cat food
   Although more expensive than average brands, these foods are often
   better for your cat. They are low-bulk, which means that cats will
   digest more of the food, thus eating and eliminating less. They
   contain little or no dyes, which can be important if your cat vomits
   regularly (easier to clean up); probably also good from a diet
   Examples of these kind of brands include (but are not limited to)
   Hill's Science Diet, Iams, Wysong, Nature's Recipe (Optimum Feline),
   and Purina (One). These foods are also beneficial for the cats coats
   and many readers have attested to their cat's silky fur and good
   health on these diets.
  Cat food composition
   The Guaranteed Crude analysis provides more nutrition info than you
   can get on the vast majority of human foods. If you want more, ask the
   vendor. E.g. Purina is 800-345-5678. Any major commercial cat food is
   formulated with either natural ingredients (including meat byproducts
   which supply nutrients to cats that meat itself doesn't since cats in
   the wild eat the whole animal) or are supplemented with the required
   nutrients to make them balanced diets for cats.
  Wet foods
   Canned foods contain quite a bit of water. It is expensive. Tartar
   build-up may be a problem. Smell (of the food, the cat's breath, or
   the cat's feces) and gas may be a problem. The food can spoil quickly.
   The dishes will have to be washed every day. Stools will be softer. On
   the other hand, cats that have medical conditions requiring higher
   water intake may benefit from the water in these products.
  Dry foods
   Cats will require more water on this kind of diet, but tartar-buildup
   may be lessened as a result of crunching on the kibble. Generally less
   expensive and less smelly. Dishes will remain clean and food will not
   build up nor spoil quickly. Stools will be firmer.
  Moist foods
   These are "soft kibble". The benefits are difficult to ascertain. They
   are more appealing to humans than anything else. There is no
   anti-tartar benefit and not much difference from canned food. They are
   fairly expensive. A lot of dye is typically used, which makes vomit
   very stain prone. Some are actually bad for your cat: proylene glycol
   found in these products (as a preservative) can damage red blood cells
   and sensitize the cats to other things as well. (Source: August 1992
   edition of Cats Magazine.)
  Snack foods
   Many snack products are out there for cats. Most are fine as
   supplemental feeding, but of course they should never take place of
   regular food. Try to use treats that are nutritionally balanced so as
   to minimize any disruption in your cat's overall diet. Treats like
   dried liver, which are not balanced food, should be used sparingly. In
   addition, these products can be useful in training.
   Most adult cats are lactose intolerant and drinking milk will give
   them diarrhea. Otherwise, milk is a nutritious snack.
   Cream is even better than milk -- most cats can handle the butterfat
   just fine and it's good for them. A small serving of cream will
   satisfy the cat more than a saucer of milk and will contain less
  Homemade Food
   Check Frazier's The New Natural Cat. She gives a number of recipies
   and general information on making your own cat food and on what foods
   are good for sick cats.
   A number of cat books contain recipies for making your own kitty
   treats. These can be fun to make and give to your cat.
  People Food
   It is a poor idea to feed cats table scraps or food from your own
   meals. First, table scraps do not meet your cat's nutritional needs
   and only add unneeded calories or undigestibles to its diet. Second,
   you risk having your cat become a major nuisance when you are eating.
   Stick with prepared cat treats. Any food you give it should be placed
   in its food dish, or you can give it treats as long as you are not
   eating or preparing your own food.
   That said, there is a pretty wide variety of food that cats will eat
   and enjoy. Rec.pets.cats abounds with "weird food" stories ranging
   from peanut butter to marshmallows.
  Cat Grass
   Cats benefit from some vegetable matter in their diet. When devouring
   prey, the intestines, along with anything in them, will also be eaten.
   Many owners grow some grass for their cats to munch on, both for a
   healthy diet, and to distract them from other household plants!
   In general, seeds that are OK to grow and give to your cats (but do
   not use treated seeds, identifiable by a dyed red, blue or awful green
     * oats (cheap, easy, big)
     * wheat (not wheatgrass)
     * Japanese barnyard millet,
     * bluegrass
     * fescue
     * rye (but beware of ergot, which is a fungal infection and produces
       LSD-like chemicals),
     * ryegrass (annual ryegrass is cheap and easy to grow, but small),
     * alfalfa sprouts or bean sprouts in SMALL amounts (these have anti-
       protein compounds that reduce the protein value of other things
       fed to the animal -- or human!)
   Seeds that are NOT okay: sorghum or sudangrass, which have cyanogenic
   glycosides, and can cause cyanide poisoning. These are commonly found
   in bird seed and look like smallish white, yellow, orangish, or
   reddish BB's, or the shiny black, yellow or straw colored glumes may
   be intact.
  Dog food
   Dog food is not suitable for cats since it does not have the correct
   balance of nutrients. Cats need much more fat and protein than dogs do
   and will become seriously ill if fed dog food for an extended period
   of time.
   "Ash" in cat food is the inorganic mineral content left over when the
   organic portion has been removed. It generally consists of potassium,
   magnesium, and sodium salts, along with smaller amounts of other
   minerals. It used to be thought that the total "ash" content of food
   contributed to FUS, but recently, attention has focused on magnesium
   as the culprit. Many commercial foods now list the magnesium content
   as a separate item in the list of nutrients on the bag, box, or can.
  Feeding Schedules
   You can feed your cat in one of two ways. One is to put down a set
   amount of food at specific times of the day. This is necessary if the
   food will spoil (canned food, for example) or if your cat will
   overeat. Some cats *do* overeat, do not be surprised if this is your
   situation. Put it on a fixed schedule to avoid weight problems. Do
   *not* assume a cat will only eat what it needs: if it starts putting
   on too much weight (check with your vet), give it two feedings a day,
   putting down half the recommended daily amount each time. The other
   method (called "free-feeding") is to leave food available all the
   time. The food must be dry to avoid spoilage. There is no preference
   between the two; it will depend on your cat and the food you give it.
  Special Diets (incl. vegetarian diets)
   You may need to change your cat's diet for any number of reasons.
   Often, you will find that your cat refuses the new food. Don't worry.
   Leave food out and keep it fresh until your cat is hungry enough to
   eat it. Your cat will not be harmed by several days of low food
   intake: as a carnivore, it is biologically adapted to going without
   food for several days between kills. If you give in to its refusal to
   eat the provided food, your cat has just trained *you* to feed it what
   it wants.
   If you need to decrease the total amount of food the cat normally
   eats, the best way to do this is to reduce the amount of food
   gradually. This way, you don't have an upset cat after its meal.
   If you have a cat that bolts its food down (and throws it back up),
   you can slow its eating down by placing several one to two inch
   diameter clean rocks in its food bowl. Picking the food out will slow
   it down. Be sure the rocks aren't so small it could eat them by
   If you have multiple cats, and one of them requires special food (from
   medical to weight-loss diets), then you must go to a fixed feeding
   schedule to ensure that that cat not only gets the food, but doesn't
   get any other food. If you have been free-feeding, switch them over.
   Don't put out any food the first morning; that evening, put out the
   dishes and supervise the cats. They will most likely be hungry and eat
   most of the food. Take the dishes up after 1/2 hour or so and wait
   until morning. Thereafter, remain on the morning/night- or even just
   night- scheduled feedings and your cats will adapt quickly enough. If
   you have trouble with one cat finishing quickly and going over to feed
   on other cats' food, you will have to put them in separate rooms while
   As for vegetarian diets, cats require the aminosulfonic acid taurine,
   which is unavailable in natural vegetable except for trace
   concentrations in some plant sources like pumpkin seeds; not enough to
   do a cat any good. Lack of taurine can cause blindness or even death
   by cardiomyopathy. There are also a few other similar nutrients, such
   as arachidonic acid (a fatty acid only found in animals), but taurine
   is the most widely known.
   Some small manufacturers claim to have produced synthetically-based
   supplements that when combined with an appropriately balanced
   all-vegetable diet will provide the complete nutrition required by
   No one has been able to find studies which demonstrate that cats which
   eat such a diet over the long term stay healthy.
   Some references (books, articles, and mail-order companies) are
   included at the end of the [4]Resources FAQ.

  Kinds of Litter
   There are various kinds of litter available.
     * The traditional clay based litter is composed of clay particles
       that will absorb urine to some extent. In general, you need to
       scoop out solid matter regularly, and change the litter entirely
       once a week or so. Variations on clay particles include green
       pellets (resembling rabbit food) or shredded cedar (like hamster
       bedding). Examples include [5]Tidy Cat, etc.
     * There many varieties of cat litter that clump into little balls.
       This way, the urine can be scooped out along with the feces. In
       theory, you never need to change the litter again, you only add a
       little more to replace the loss to cleaning out the urine and
       feces (which offsets the initial cost). Sometimes the clumps break
       apart and there are some "extra strong" varieties to address this
       problem. The litter is usually sandy and tracks rather easily.
       Some cats seem to develop diarrhea with this litter; some people
       are rather allergic to the very fine dust from this type of
       litter. Currently, this appears to be the most popular type of cat
       litter, judging by what is available at pet supply stores.
       There is a non-sandy clumping litter called "Booda's Ultra Clump";
       a drawback includes the clumps sticking to the pan itself (baking
       soda, pan liners, or small amounts of sandy clumping litter will
       remedy this). But it eliminates the tracking problems of the sandy
       kind of clumping litter. (It looks like regular clay-based
       litter.) There are now several brands similar to this.
       There exist some warnings about the safety of clumping litters.
       While some are extremely vague and unverifiable, such as the dust
       causing "immune system problems", one warning to take more
       seriously involves cats that ingest clumping litter. Since it
       swells into a solid mass, this can cause obstructions. Cats most
       at risk include kittens (who do not have to ingest very much to
       create a problem), and those who lick off large amounts of
       clumping litter from their paws or bodies. However, many cats have
       used clumping litter for years without problems, so whether
       clumping litter is a problem probably needs to be made on a case
       by case basis. Some references (all of these references are
       anecdotal and do not represent any serious studies of the
       potential problem):
          + [6]
          + [7]
          + [8]
     * 4060 grade sandblasting grit made out of corncobs is an
       inexpensive alternative to clay-based clumping litter. It clumps
       as well as the flushable kind of clumping litter, and also smells
       better. It isn't available in all areas. In Ohio, The Anderson's
       General Store chain carries it for around US$10 for a 50 lb. bag,
       comparable to plain clay-based litter.
     * Coarse corncob litter (commonly sold as "animal bedding and
       litter" by pet suppliers) about the size of peas, can be used.
       This is used in conjunction with a litter pan that has a screen
       and a drain pan underneath, into which the urine drains (and feces
       are removed as normal). It is almost completely dust free, unlike
       clay-based litters.
     * "Good Mews." It is pelletized organic cellulose fiber ("scented
       with cedar oil--a natural flea and tick repellent"). It absorbs up
       to 1-1/2 its weight in water. According to reports, it is not
       dusty, sweeps up/cleans up easily, does not track, and does not
       cling to the tray when moist.
     * There is at least one brand of litter that is intended for
       multiple cat households. This is Max Cat's Multi Cat, and it comes
       in both traditional clay and clumping forms.. Reports are that it
       pretty much works as advertised. Another way to control strong
       ammonia smells is to mix baking soda in with the litter.
     * A litter called "PineFresh" is a natural pine wood litter that
       comes in little pellets. The pellets disintegrate in the urine and
       solid waste is scooped out. It's a bit expensive, plusses are
       described as: you don't have to change the litter as often
       provided the solid waste is cleaned out daily and the
       disintegrated stuff is sifted out twice a week. There is virtually
       no odor and no dust and it comes with a money back guarantee. It
       flushes just fine down non-septic systems. The product is
       manufactured by: Cansorb Industries 555 Kesler Road Cleveland, NC
     * Plain sawdust or wood shavings can be used as litter. Some cats
       may not like it, since it doesn't absorb as well and may feel wet.
       But it is very cheap.
   Some cats seem to prefer certain kinds of litter over others, you may
   need to experiment. A cat displeased with its litter box generally
   makes its feelings abundantly clear by finding a "better" litter box,
   such as your bed or sofa.
   When disposing of litter, it is best to wrap it up in two bags and tie
   securely, for the benefit of the garbage collectors. For disposal of
   solid matter, it is best to put it in the trash in a bag as well. Some
   people flush solid matter, but be aware that septic tanks will not do
   well with clay litter pieces (even the small amount clinging to
   scooped items). Clumping litter is supposed to be flushable, except
   with septic tanks.
   Do not use kitty litter as a fertilizer in your garden. It is not a
   manure since cats are not vegetarians and should not be used as such.
   It can be incredibly stinky, can attract neighborhood cats, and
   there's a chance that it would be unhealthy for your plants and for
   you (if you eat fruits/vegetables which were fertilized by it). Keep
   in mind that when an outdoor cat "uses" your garden, it usually varies
   its poop-place and so there's not a concentration of feces, whereas if
   you dump litter, it's usually concentrated in a single spot.
  Litter boxes
   Cats can be fussy about the cleanliness of their litter box. Many
   people scoop solid matter out on a daily basis. If a cat is displeased
   with the litter box for a variety of reasons ranging from cleanliness
   to the type of litter used, it may well select another spot in your
   house more to its liking!
   Litter boxes are shallow plastic pans. Some cats have a tendency to
   scatter litter outside the box when they bury their stool. This can be
   solved by getting a cover for the cat box, commonly available at pet
   stores. Another way to minimize litter tracking is to put a rug,
   especially a soft rubber one, just outside the litter box.
   For easier litter-changing, some owners will use litter box liners.
   Some cats rip these while burying their feces; if the problem
   persists, just don't use liners.
   To contain litter tracked outside the box, it is often worthwhile to
   put the litter pan in a larger shallow cardboard box that will collect
   most of the litter stuck to the cat's paw pads when it jumps out. Keep
   the area around the litter box as clean and free from spilled litter
   as you can. This helps the cat distinguish from outside and inside the
   litter box. Guess what can happen if this distinction is not clear.
   If you have multiple cats you may have to put out several litterboxes.
   If you have a young cat and a large house, you will either need to
   place several litterboxes down so that there will be one near enough
   at any point or you will have to confine the young cat to an area of
   the house within easy reach of the litter box.
   Disinfect the the litter box and top (if any) on a regular basis to
   prevent illness and disease. Bleach is a good disinfectant around
   cats, although you should be sure to rinse thoroughly and air out all
   the fumes. Do NOT use pine-oil based cleaners as these are toxic to
   It is possible to train a cat to use the toilet rather than a litter
   box. One book is How to Toilet Train Your Cat: 21 days to a
   litter-free home by Paul Kunkel, published by Workman Publishing, 708
   Broadway, New York, NY 10003, and simultaneously published in Canada
   by Thomas Allen and Son Publishing (no address given). ISBN no.
   0-89480-828-1. Cost, $5.95.
   The cat must be well trained to the litter box first. Move the litter
   box into the bathroom next to the toilet. Little by little (2 inches
   every two days) raise the litter box until the bottom of the litter
   box is at the level of the toilet (seat down, lid raised). Then slowly
   move the litter box over to the top of the toilet. This accustoms the
   cat to jumping UP to the toilet to eliminate. When the cat is
   comfortable with this, cover the toilet (under the seat) with strong
   plastic wrap like Saran wrap and fill the middle with litter. Decrease
   the amount of litter until the cat is peeing into the plastic and then
   make a hole in the middle of the plastic so the cat gets used to the
   sound of urine and stool hitting the water. Sooner or later you
   eliminate the plastic.
  Placement of litter box
   Beyond making the litter box readily accessible to your cat, there is
   some consideration as to an aesthetically pleasing placement. Utility
   closets that the cat can always access are useful. Laundry rooms work
   well, bathrooms less well (especially in guest bathrooms). One
   suggestion was to build a chest with an entrance at one end big enough
   to contain the cat box. The chest can be displayed like furniture and
   yet be discreet. If you can't build a chest yourself, it should be
   relatively easy to saw an opening in the side of a pre-made chest.
Trimming Claws

   As an alternative to declawing and to help stem the destruction from
   scratching, many cat owners keep their cats' claws trimmed. This is
   easiest if you start from the beginning when your cat is a kitten,
   although most cats can be persuaded to accept this procedure.
   Use nail clippers available at pet stores. Look for the guillotine
   type (don't use the human variety, this will crush and injure your
   cat's claw) and get blade replacements as the sharper the blade is the
   easier this procedure is.
   There are also clippers that look like scissors with short, hooked
   blades. These may be easier for some people to handle.
   Set your cat down securely in the crook of your "off" arm, with the
   cat either in your lap or on the floor between your knees, depending
   on the size of your cat and your own size. Pin the cat to your side
   with your arm and hold one of its paws with your hand (this is
   sometimes a little much for an "off" arm, you may wish to practice).
   With its back away from you, it cannot scratch you, or easily get
   away. With your "good" hand, hold the clippers. If you squeeze your
   cat's paw with your off hand, the claws will come out. Examine them
   carefully (you may want to do this part before actually trying to trim
   them, to familiarize yourself with how the claws look).
   If the claws are white (most cat's are), the difference between the
   nail and the quick is easy to see (use good lighting). The quick will
   be the pink tissue visible within the nail of the claw at the base.
   This is comparable to the difference between the nail attached to your
   skin and the part that grows beyond it. DO NOT CUT BELOW THE QUICK. It
   will be painful to your cat and bleed everywhere. When in doubt, trim
   less of the nail. It will just mean trimming more often.
   Clip the portion above the quick for each nail and don't forget the
   dewclaws. On cats, dewclaws are found only on the front paws, about
   where humans would have their thumbs -- they do not touch the ground.
   Some cats are polydactyl, and have up to seven claws on any paw.
   Normally there are four claws per paw, with one dewclaw on each of the
   front paws. Rear claws don't need to be trimmed as often or at all;
   they do not grow as quickly and are not as sharp. You should be able
   to hold any of the four paws with your off hand; it will become easier
   with practice.
   If you have too much trouble holding the cat still for this, enlist
   someone else to help. You can then pick up a paw and go for it. Be
   careful; this position often means you are in front of its claws and a
   potential target for shredding. Older cats generally object more than
   younger ones; this means you should start this procedure as soon as
   you get your cat if you intend to do this.
   Trimming claws should be done weekly. Different claws grow at
   different rates; check them periodically (use the same position you
   use for clipping: it gives you extra practice and reduces the cat's
   anxiety at being in that position).
   Claws grow constantly, like human nails. Unlike human nails, however,
   to stay sharp, claws must shed outer layers of nail. Cats will pull on
   their claws or scratch to remove these layers. This is perfectly
   normal and is comparable to humans cutting and filing their own nails.
   You may see slices of claws lying around, especially on scratching
   posts; this is also quite normal.

   Start early with your cat. The younger it is when you begin grooming
   it, the more pleasant grooming will be for it. A cat that fights
   grooming may need sedation and shaving at the vets for matted fur; it
   is well worth the time to get your cat to at least tolerate grooming.
   Start with short sessions. Stick to areas that it seems to enjoy
   (often the top of the head and around the neck) first, and work your
   way out bit by bit. Experiment a bit (and talk with your vet) to find
   the brush and routine that seems to work best with your cat. Even
   short-hair cats benefit from grooming: they still shed a surprising
   amount of hair despite its length.
  Thick, long fur
   Inexpensive pin-type (not the "slicker" type) dog brushes work well.
   You may choose to followup with a metal comb; if you use a flea comb,
   you will also detect any fleas your cat may have.
  Silky long fur
   Soft bristle brushes work well.
  Short hair
   Try an all-rubber brush, often sold as kitten or puppy brushes.

   You should not ordinarily need to bath a cat. Cats are normally very
   good about cleaning themselves, and for most cats, that's all the
   bathing they will ever need. Reasons for giving them a bath are:
     * The cat has got something poisonous on its fur,
     * It doesn't take care of its coat as normal cats do,
     * You are allergic and need to bathe it to keep allergens down,
     * The cat is a show cat and about to be shown,
     * You are giving it a flea, tick, or lice dip,
     * It is unusually dirty for some reason (perhaps bad weather).
   If you just trimmed your cat's claws, now is a good time. Having
   someone help you hold the cat definitely helps.
   If your cat is long haired, groom it *before* bathing it. Water will
   just tighten any mats already in the coat.
   Bathing methods:
     * Get everything ready. Warm water, selected bathing place (you
       might consider the kitchen sink as being easier on your back and
       facilitating control of the cat). Having water already in the tub
       or sink reduces the potential terror to the cat at the sound and
       sight of the water coming out of the faucet. Put a towel or rubber
       mat on the bottom of the tub or sink to give your cat something to
       sink its claws into. If you have spray attachments, either to the
       sink or the tub, those will help you soak the cat efficiently. You
       want to use soap formulated for cat skin, as human-type soaps will
       remove all the essential oils and leave the cat's skin dried out
       and susceptible to flea infestations or skin breakouts. There are
       some soaps formulated for allergic pet owners. Use sparingly and
       rinse well after working through coat.
     * The garden sprayer can also be used. Fill an ordinary pressurized
       garden sprayer (try a hand-pumped type that does *not* hiss) with
       warm soapy water, put cat and sprayer in empty bathtub, and use
       the trigger wand to soap the cat with one hand while hanging on to
       the scruff with the other. Put the sprayer wand down and work the
       soapy water into the fur, and finally follow with a bucket of
       water as a rinse. This procedure results in low moans from the
       cats, but no shrieks.
   To dry the cat, towel dry first. You can try hair dryers on low
   settings depending on your cat's tolerance. Otherwise, keep them
   inside until they are fully dry. If your cat is longhaired, you will
   want to groom it as the coat dries. Give the cat a treat after the
   bath, this may help them tolerate the process.
   If the problem is greasy skin, you may wish to try a dry cat shampoo
   If you are attempting to remove grease, oil, or other petroleum
   products from your cat's fur, try using Dawn brand detergent first to
   remove it, and follow up with a cat shampoo. Dawn is used by
   volunteers who clean up birds after oil spills. Also reported to be
   successful is Shout laundry stain remover.

   Most cats will love playing with you. There is the usual string or
   ball chasing; a few will even retrieve thrown items. "Hide and seek"
   and "Peekaboo" are also popular. Cats commonly display interest by
   dilating their pupils; look for this to see what catches its
   Try a small pencil flashlight or a small laser light for a game of
   "flashlight tag". Cats love to chase the light across the floor, over
   furniture and up walls. The lower-wattage laser pointers (0.1mW or
   less) are quite safe for something like this. It would take many days
   of non-stop direct exposure to the beam to even *start* to do any
   damage to eyes.
   Cats will often display behavior commonly called "elevenses," since it
   seems to occur most often around 11PM. This consists of the cat's eyes
   dilating, its tail poofing out, and alternating between hopping
   sideways and racing all over the house. Your cat wants to play. Take
   it up on the challenge. Chase after it, play hide and seek. This can
   also be useful; playing with a cat just before bedtime reduces the
   chances of your cat wanting to play with you at 3AM.
  Other Toys
   In general, cats perversely favor the cheap homemade toy over the
   expensive supermarket toy. Toys commonly mentioned foil or paper
   balls, superballs, little plastic rings from milk jugs, ornaments on
   christmas trees, pencils, paper bags, cardboard boxes, Q-tips, cat
   dancers ... the list is nearly infinite.
   A new "cat toy" seems to be the production of videotapes for your
   furry feline. Tapes of birds and mice complete with intriguing noises
   have kept several reader's cats entranced. If your cat seems to like
   watching TV (some do), this might be fun for your cat. Don't give it
   access to your remote, though.
   Take sensible precautions with toys that can injure the cat: avoid
   toys small enough to be swallowed or choked on; avoid toys with loose
   or potentially sharp parts; avoid toys that can strangulate the cat or
   shred the intestines if swallowed (including string and rubber bands).
   Put strings away when you are not at home.
  Scratching Posts
   You can order a large catnip tree from Felix (1-800-24-Felix),
   especially if you cannot make one on your own because of lack of
   skill, time, or workspace. Cats especially enjoy being able to climb
   up and down these structures. Big ones should be bolted to the wall
   for stability. Most pet stores sell these things. Expect to pay no
   more than US$100 for a good sized one. Look for sturdiness and
   Sisal has been recommended over carpet for a scratching post cover.
   Cats seem to like the texture better, and it helps avoid confusion
   over which carpet is the "right" carpet to scratch.
   You can also buy rectangular chunks of catnip-treated corrugated
   cardboard scratching 'posts', available at pet supply stores for about
   US$8 each. They can be either hung from a door, tacked to a wall or
   just laid flat on the ground. You might have to "show" them how to use
   them. Most cats love the texture of the cardboard (as well as the
   You might try used automobile tires placed upright and tied securely.
   Cats that like horizontal scratching posts jump up on it and scratch
   and cats that like vertical scratching posts stretch up and scratch.
   The tires can be bare or themselves covered with scratching material.
   In addition, cats have fun going through and around the tire.
   Other readers have reported using wooden boards wrapped several times
   around with burlap. The burlap can be replaced as it is shredded.
Cat Safety in the House

   Besides some of the more obvious things like electrical cords, here
   are some other things to watch out for:
     * Recliner chairs. Many cats will go underneath these chairs as a
       hiding or resting place. Cats that are caught in the mechanism
       when the chair is opened or closed can be seriously injured or
     * The dryer. Many cats find the small enclosed space with warm
       clothing especially inviting. Check your dryer before turning it
       on; your cat can be killed this way. A little aversion therapy: if
       you see your cat slip in, close the door and bang on the top of
       the dryer for a few seconds. Let the cat back out.
     * Drapery and blind cords. Most cats love to play with the cords;
       unfortunately it is easy for cats to be entangled and
       strangulated. Coil the cords up to the top of the window and pin
       it there with a clothes pin or clip.
     * Bags with handles. Cats can become stuck in the handles and panic.
       If this happens when you are not at home, the cat may injure or
       kill itself. Keep such bags out of reach of the cats, or cut their
       handles off.
     * Stove tops. Gas or electrical stoves can present problems. One
       preventive measure is to obtain burner covers, available for both
       kinds. Most cats will stay away from anything that is actively
       hot, but you may wish to train them away from the stove by
       spraying with water, or trying other measures used to keep cats
       off the counters.
    General Cat Care FAQ


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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM