Caring for your cat – An owner’s guide
Many of us are spending more time at home than we normally would, and you may be wondering if and how this may affect your feline friends. Below we have put together some useful hints and tips to help you create the perfect home environment, with some child-friendly activities included to keep both your children and cats occupied, all year round, but particularly during the summer months.
While many cats are adaptable to changing environments, it’s important to keep your cat’s routine as normal as possible. Take a look 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 and 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 ways. Us humans are spending more time at home, and subsequently, your cat is forced to adapt its routine and share their core territory, which some may find a little stressful.
We’ve put a list of places together, where your cat may like to escape to – so you can ensure you have a few places prepared and clear, ready for them to retreat to, 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 a bed – make a small space to ensure it’s safe
- A raised shelf – clear a space on a bookshelf or on top of a chest of draws
- Inside of a box – you may have an old box in the garage or loft which you can dig out
INVOLVE THE CHILDREN
If you have children in the house, why not make a hide-out activity for them to get involved in, including:
- Turning a cardboard box into a hidey-hole by making a little entrance
- If your child has a tepee tent and happy to give it another use, this can be nicely set up for a cat
- Create a little nest by putting a long cloth over a breakfast stool
- Place a comfy blanket under the bed
It’s also important to teach children to leave and not disturb the cat when it’s hiding or sleeping. However, if the cat seeks attention then give it, but don’t seek and disturb your cat, as if it’s not on a cat’s terms, they are likely to feel trapped, and as a result, 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, you may also learn about your cat’s personality, and it may also help build a strong bond between you and them. Kittens and cats need to play and for times when you are busy, cats can entertain themselves, however it’s important that they have interactive games, or toys.
Playtime will develop their social and communication skills and improve their physical development and co-ordination, it also relieves boredom, and provides an outlet for your cat’s predatory instincts, which will prevent behaviour problems and also ensure your cat is getting exercise. Indoor exercise is particularly important for cats without outdoor access.
Below are some ideas to help keep your cat entertained:
Problem-solving toys and puzzle feeders allow cats to use their senses to forage for food or play with to release food. If your cat is new to puzzles, you may need to make them relatively easy to begin with and over time make the puzzles harder.
INVOLVE THE CHILDREN
If you’ve got children at home, why not get them to make some puzzles, using toilet roll tubes, cereal boxes, egg boxes, yoghurt boxes and let their imaginations run wild.
- Do not use paint to add colour to your homemade puzzle
- Do not use small parts that can be hazardous to your cat
Interactive play and object play are short and intense predatory games and 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, give old or unused objects a new life.
- Play sessions should be carried out at set times (this will give them back the so beloved sense of routine), cats are normally more active early morning, or evening.
- Rotation! It’s important to provide only a small selection of toys per day to maintain novelty.
- Children should be supervised with fishing rod type toys.
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: Cardboard Box Castle!
- If you have more than one cat, make sure there is more than one 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, you should never be disturbed while making use of them – except for playtime of course.
Food is an essential provision, however it’s important to consider 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 bowl could be very off-putting.
Naturally, cats look for food and their 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 – away from food, the bowl should also be big enough so that your cat can drink from its bowl without their whiskers touching the sides. They also like their bowl full to the top so they can lap without putting their heads down.
- Litter Trays
It’s essential to have a litter tray if your cat is housebound, but also highly recommended even 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 and water, and away from busy thoroughfares, and away from areas in the house that a cat 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, but also communicate.
To support your cat’s wellbeing around the house, you should avoid strong-smelling cleaning products, scented candles or room sprays. However, if you are able to provide scratching and facial rubbing areas and consider taking off your outdoor footwear when you enter your home it will elevate 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 of how to support your cat:
- Find a workstation in a room where your cat spends little time
- Or 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 to stop pestering you when you’re working (this may have the opposite effect)
The measures above are for all year round and will ensure you have a happy and healthy cat.
Information source: Vicky Halls RVN DipCouns Reg. MBACP (iCatCare/ISFM)