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Subject: rec.pets.cats: General Cat Care FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:28 GMT
Last-modified: 16 Jul 1999
The latest versions of these FAQ's may be obtained via the Web at
The multiple posted (ASCII) parts of the FAQ are all archived at rtfm.mit.edu
(220.127.116.11) in the directory /pub/usenet/news.answers/cats-faq. These
files will also appear in other sites that mirror the RTFM archives.
General Cat Care
Note: Please see the 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
12-14 weeks FHV/FCV/FPV vaccine
6 months FeLV vaccination
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 Medical Information;
also 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.
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,
* rye (but beware of ergot, which is a fungal infection and produces
* 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
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
"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.
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
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 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 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
* 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
* "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.
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.
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
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.
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.
* 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.
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.
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
* 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