Part One: Giving Attention
I write about dogs all the time; it is time for the cats. There are about 32 million households in the U.S. with at least one cat. Judging by the popularity of cat videos on the internet, many of us are obsessed with cats. It is said that 15% of internet content is cat related. One YouTube cat celebrity has up to 130 million followers.
But did you know that people gather in large groups to watch cat videos? There have been cat video watching festivals in San Francisco, Boston and Minneapolis. If you don’t believe me, check out catfestmn.com. According to an Indiana University Media School researcher, watching cat videos can boost energy and positive emotions.
If you are presently not a cat owner, imagine what a real cat can do to your life. A kitten we rescued (a full-grown cat now) is curled up on my lap as I type, making typing very difficult as my one hand is on her tummy, but when I look at her laying on me, snoozing, my heart melts and I can’t bear to move her.
May to October is kitten season, and it is possible that many readers have acquired a kitten (or two). Having kittens is one of the great joys in life. Though they require less time than dogs, cats still need a good bit of attention. If you are thinking about getting a cat, please, please, do not buy; rescue or adopt! The universe will thank you, and happiness and joy will rain down on you! There is absolutely no shortage of them; in fact, bags full of them are found frequently on the country roads. Also, purebred cats may come with a host of problems.
Coming home: In the beginning, we need to spend a lot of time with them. As they come to their new home, they will probably be very nervous. Settle them in a small place and offer some food. Rub their head and back like a mama cat would groom them. Kitties (and cats) like a safe hiding place. You can turn a good size cardboard box and cut an opening on one side and have several of these available in strategic places.
It is best to socialize kittens before they are 12 weeks old, but that is not a written-in-stone rule.
Food and water: We recommend that cats eat only wet food. We see cases of renal failure in older cats, and it is thought that this is because cats may not take in enough water if they are exclusively on dry food. Scientists believe that due to the unique structure of their tongue, they cannot lap up enough water. So, wet food is the way to go! You can even add a touch of water to their wet food. High water intake could also reduce chances of bladder problems and crystal in the urine.
Generally, vets are opposed to giving milk to cats. I suggest trying goat milk or maybe even cow’s milk. Of course, stop giving milk if they tend to get soft stool. My cats never had any problem with milk (I know, as I clean the litter boxes). You could give it a try (talk to your vet). Once their growth is complete, do your best to adjust food intake to keep them skinny. Overweight cats are highly likely to get diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Also, they have a hard time cleaning themselves.
I don’t recommend water fountains anymore. I bought many over the years but keeping it clean and flowing is challenging. I just give them their liquid with their food. While choosing food and water bowls, consider going with glass, porcelain or stainless steel. Some cats are allergic to plastic. Search for small serving or dessert bowls. They are very inexpensive.
Litter boxes: It is recommended to have one more litter box than you do cats; in other words, if you have 2 cats, you should have 3 litter boxes. I have a mix of covered and open litter boxes. All of them are large. I avoid any scented and clumping litters. I tried Dr. Else’s 99% dust free cat litter. I am not sure if it is much better than Frisco. I tried many other types of cat litter like yesterday’s news, wheat, pine etc. But I settled on Frisco unscented.
I am comfortable putting gloves on and picking up the clumps (all clay-based litter clumps) and cleaning all the boxes into one larger plastic bag and disposing of the bag. I feel that the scoopers are messy. See what works for you. In my experience, boy cats tend to be fussier about using litter boxes. And litter additives are generally not effective. Do your best to clean them every day or two. Try out several kinds of litter to see what works for you.
We’ll have more on raising kittens in the next column.
Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He owns High Falls Holistic Veterinary Care near Geraldine, Alabama. To suggest topics for future discussions, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org