Cats are generally known for being hardy and having independent natures. They do, however, have some basic care requirements common to all animals. One of these is the need for shelter. Some people choose to keep their cats indoors and other people choose to keep their cats outdoors. Often, people will keep their cats both indoors and outdoors; some cats spend the majority of the day outside and come inside at night to sleep or to shelter from inclement weather. The issue of which system is better is extremely controversial. While many people believe it is cruel to keep cats exclusively indoors, especially cats who have been raised as outdoor cats, the outside can hold great dangers for felines. Cars, other people, and other animals that may be vicious or diseased are just a few of these problems.
Many times neighbors, especially those who garden or raise small animals, may consider cats to be a nuisance or even an economic threat. It has been estimated that cats kept indoors may usually live for ten years longer than outdoor cats. The argument may also be made, however, that an outdoor cat knows how to take care of itself if it is out of the house. If an indoor cat escapes, it may not know to stay away from roads or how to find food. Although the chance that an indoor cat will escape is unlikely, you should always keep a collar on your cat with a tag attached. The tag should include your phone number at the very least, and your address. You may want to include your name and your cat’s name. Many people worry that their cats will choke if their collar catches on something while the cat is jumping. In order to prevent this, break-away collars are sold at many pet supply stores which will detach their clasps if a weight pulls on them. Microchip implantation is another method of marking your cat and it may be done by your veterinarian. This method is achieved by implanting a microchip just below the cat’s skin. When an animal is found by a shelter or taken to a veterinarian, it can be scanned for a microchip. If a chip is present, the animal can usually be identified quickly and easily regardless of whether or not it is wearing a collar or tag.
If you choose to keep your cat outside, it will need some sort of shelter from the elements. In some rural areas, people might keep their cats in barns to control pests. This will satisfy the cat’s requirement for shelter; it provides protection from wind and precipitation, and more likely than not has small hiding areas in which the cat can curl up to conserve body heat. In many areas, a carport or other sheltered area can be fine. You may wish to provide a box lined with a blanket or towel, or even a small doghouse for your cat to shelter in. Like any mammal, cats should probably be kept inside in extremely cold climates.
Indoors, many cats should have a quiet place they can retreat to in the event that they feel stressed or tired. Some people will purchase elaborate cathouses, but the cat may simply seek out a chair or pillow in a quiet room that can suit it just as well. You may even wish to build your own cat house or kitty gym from carpet-covered wood. If you do this, you should make absolutely sure that there are no nails poking out and that all rough edges are completely eliminated.
The lighting and temperature needs of your cat are much the same as your own. Of course, in breeds of cats with very long or thick coats, or thin-haired and hairless breeds, these requirements will vary. While some cats can become quickly overheated, others may need to be kept warmer than most, depending on the sort of coat they have. Hairless cat breeds are especially susceptible to sunburn, so you may not wish to allow them outdoors frequently if at all.
Cats need fresh water at all times. You should provide a clean bowl full of fresh water in a place accessible to your cat. Outdoor cats may have a special need for water since in the summer months they more likely to become dehydrated than cats kept in climate-controlled homes. It is a good idea to place the water in a shaded area, as this will not only keep the water cooler and fresher but it may encourage your animal to spend more time in the cooler area. In colder areas, water may freeze during the winter. If you wish to keep a bowl of water outdoors, there are bowls available that contain internal heaters to prevent water from freezing. While stainless steel bowls are preferred by many, plastic and ceramic bowls are also available. If you are using a plastic bowl, be sure your cat does not develop any adverse reactions to it. Ceramic bowls should be checked occasionally for cracks or chips which can harbor bacterial growth unhealthy to your animal.
Indoor cats will generally need a litter box. It may also be good to keep a litter box handy for outdoor cats that come inside. Because cats are generally very clean animals, they usually try to bury their wastes. This means you will have to provide some sort of substrate in the litter pan. Be sure that the litter pan is easy for your cat to climb in and out of, but that the sides are high enough that the litter or substrate will not easily be kicked out when your cat digs. There are many types of litter available, and some cats can be extremely fussy about which sort of litter they will use. If your cat appears to be having “accidents” and you have recently changed the sort of litter it is using, or if your cat refuses to be housetrained, it may simply not want to use the sort of litter you have provided for it. If you have acquired an older cat, you may wish to ask the previous owners what sort of litter it was using in their home.
The most common sort of litter is clay-based litter, which may come in clumping or non-clumping forms. These are inexpensive but may cause problems in cats’ respiratory systems. They may let off dust that can aggravate asthma or cause lung or other respiratory problems. Clumping litters are nice because they are easy to clean. Soiled areas can simply be scooped up using a slotted utensil. Clumping litters clump because they use a chemical known as Sodium bentonite. If a cat happens to ingest a large amount of this compound, serious health consequences can result. Sodium bentonite can cause intestinal blockages. This can kill kittens, although these sorts of problems tend to be rare.Other litters are commercially available made from wood shavings, absorbent pellets of recycled paper, wheat, and other fairly environmentally friendly materials. These have the advantage of being safer for your cat than dusty litters, although some cats do not like to use them. Rather than throwing some types of litter away, you can simply flush some of them down your toilet. The litter box must be changed regularly since many cats will not use a dirty litter box. Dirty litter boxes can also pose a health threat to you and your cat, and the litter should regularly be completely changed. The litter box itself should be cleaned and disinfected on a routine basis.
Everything your cat uses, from its bedding to its food and water bowls, should be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. Generally, a dilute bleach solution will work well for this. Be sure that all residue is rinsed thoroughly out of the items to avoid harming your animal.
Although cats are generally solitary animals, they may be kept in groups. However, male cats, especially those which are not neutered, may be aggressive toward other males. Cats who have been raised together tend to tolerate each other very well, and may form such strong emotional bonds that they will become emotionally stressed when separated. New cats should be slowly introduced to cats you already have and they may get along quite well; others may not. Be sure the cats have plenty of hiding places and room to escape if they are kept together.
Most cats will need a scratching post or some other rough implement on which to shape their claws. Outdoor cats will usually use a tree for this purpose. Indoor cats may use your furniture for this purpose, which is why it may be advisable to give them their own scratching area. You can construct your own scratching post using berber or other thick carpet attached to a vertical wooden post. This post should be about as high as your cat can reach with its front claws when fully stretched out. You may wish to attach it to a square base carpeted in the same material. Some cats like cords or knots of heavy duty rope on which to sharpen their claws, and others may prefer plain wood.
There are a variety of toys available to amuse your cat, from balls with jingle bells inside them to stuffed mice filled with catnip. Often, the best cat toys are made of old shoelaces, pieces of string, brown paper grocery bags, or crumpled balls of newspaper or foil.
Your cat has psychological needs as well, which may be met by your spending time with it. Cats need to be cuddled, played with, and loved. Cats also need exercise or their muscles may atrophy and they can become obese. You can help your cat exercise by playing with it. Throwing balls for it to chase, or dragging a piece of string around the room are all good ways to do this. Some people walk their cats on a harness or leash, although this may be very difficult to train your cat to tolerate. Outdoor cats usually have plenty of amusement and exercise provided to them by the changing environmental stimuli they are exposed to all day.