All about Cats


January 29th, 2013

Solitary Nature

Our domestic cats are ancestors of the African Wild Cat, and as such have retained many of their characteristics. Firstly, unlike dogs, cats are primarily solitary animals; this means we need to take into account their needs in the home or they can become stressed, particularly in multi-cat households. If cats are well socialised when young they can often get on well with other animals, although some will only tolerate others. If considering adding another cat to the home, try to introduce a cat of the opposite sex to the current resident for maximum success.

Tips for multi-cat/pet homes

  • Always provide at least one set of resources per cat. This means food and water bowls, cat scratcher, toys, beds, litter trays and so on. This can help reduce rivalry and stress.
  • Provide hidey holes and elevated positions, one of cats primary defenses is to hide.
  • Try Feliway; this is a mimic of the cats facial pheromone (have you seen your cat rubbing his face on objects?) cats release this pheromone to mark objects/areas as safe and secure, so releasing this into the home can reduce stress.
  • Provide plenty of stimulation – toys and interaction.

Feeding

We like our food little and often

  • Cats are hunters; they would typically eat 10-12 small meals per day (prey).
  • Cats have very small stomachs and are not designed to tolerate large meals.
  • Dry food left down is a great way to feed as the cat can graze when it needs to.
  • If you have a greedy cat and can’t leave dry food down, then try a timed feeder, or a treat ball to offer meals little and often.

We recommend: Automated Feeders, Cat Treat Ball.

We are Carnivores!

Cats thrive on a meat based diet! Many cheap commercial diets contain large amounts of indigestible cereals; these can cause loose stools, poor skin and coat condition, obesity and many other health issues. Check your food packaging, the first ingredient in the food should be meat. Check out our Truth about Cat and Dog food page for more information.

We can be fussy about where we eat, and what we eat from.

  • Always place the cat bowls in a low traffic area away from the litter tray as smells can contaminate the food and water.
  • Water bowls should be placed away from the food bowl to avoid cross contamination. Cats have an incredible sense of smell and will be put off drinking water if it has been contaminated by food
  • Many cats prefer to eat from an elevated position as they may feel safer
  • Plastic bowls aren’t ideal for cats as plastic is porous and absorbs smells of food etc. this can make the bowl smell stale.
  • Ceramic, stainless steel and melamine bowls are good materials for cats. Bowls should be shallow to allow space for the cat’s whiskers.

Playtime

Cats of all ages love to play, it has many benefits including exercise, bonding, fulfilling hunting instincts, stimulation and de-stressing. For kittens, playtime also helps to develop motor and social skills.

When cats play, they demonstrate their true hunting genes; you’ll see predatory ‘play aggression’ behaviours such as:

  • Stalking
  • Pouncing
  • Chasing
  • Wrestling

When playing with your cat, remember that the toy represents prey, so to maximise the cat’s enjoyment the toy needs to act like prey trying to escape. Cat’s success rate when hunting is only around 1 in 6, so don’t make it too easy for them to capture the toy or they may lose interest! Remember cats are hunters, so they have short bursts of energy and then long periods of rest. Make play short, fun and rewarding.

Kittens Kittens need interactive toys, as this enables them to bond with their new owners. Be careful not to present them with anything too loud or fast as it could startle them. When playing kittens are learning about their environment and improving their cognitive and motor skills. Fishing rod toys, balls and tunnels are great for kittens.

Adult Cats Adult cats are generally more confident and can play alone, but love to play with their owners. An adult cat’s hunting skills are more developed so toys that provide a higher level of activity are ideal. Cats have their preferences, so try a variety of different toys to find out which are your cat’s favourites.

Senior Cats Senior cats may need more encouragement to play, as they are generally less active. Playing helps to stimulate cats mentally and physically; it can also help keep joints healthy and keep waist lines trim!

Hunting Increasing indoor playtime could help reduce your cat’s actual hunting time, making you less likely to find ‘presents’ brought into the home.

Catnip

Catnip (Nepeta Cataria) is a herb from the Mint family; it is widely known for its stimulating properties for many cats; the active ingredient is thought to be an essential oil called nepetalactone. Catnip is not harmful and cats react in different ways – some drool and roll around lovingly, others become very hyperactive, effects tend to last around 10 minutes. Not all cats react to catnip, and those that do vary in their response.

The response is genetic, so some cats may not react at all. However, before writing it off, make sure you buy high quality catnip toys/leaves/sprays as some are more potent than others. Catnip is a great way to energise less active and senior cats; it is also an enjoyable way to introduce cats to new items such as scratch posts and beds.

We recommend: Great&Small Catnip Bag Cat Toy.

Scratch Posts

Cats like to scratch, it’s part of their normal behaviour; so to avoid your furniture being targeted, it’s best to choose a suitable cat scratcher. Before you do so, there are a few things you should know:

Why do cats scratch?

  • It sharpens and shortens their claws
  • Cats use scratching as a method of communication; it shows other cats/animals where they are and what they’ve been doing. Cats also have scent glands between their pads, which allow them to leave a message via smell. This all relates back to cats’ solitary existence where they would rarely come into contact with another cat. Cats are most likely to scratch in prominent places in the house to make sure their message is received. Cats do not scratch out of spite and are not being ‘naughty’.
  • Some cats scratch when playing, they can also turn to scratching due to frustration when they are stressed or prevented from doing other things.

Scratch post dos and don’ts

  • Do buy a good quality cat scratcher. Cat scratchers need to be tall and heavy enough for the cat to stretch out and lean against it while scratching; if the post is too light it will fall over and startle the cat, if it’s too short the cat won’t be able use the post.
  • Do place the cat scratcher in an area the cat uses regularly. There is little point putting the post in an area the cat doesn’t use as it won’t feel comfortable in that location.
  • Do introduce the cat to the scratcher by spraying it with catnip or Feliway (cat facial pheromone), or play with toys and treats with your cat on the post to associate it with positive rewards.
  • Don’t hold your cat’s paws and force it to use the post; this will only create negative feelings toward the scratcher and your cat may well avoid it in future.
  • Don’t expect cats to share; if you have more than one cat, you should have more than one scratcher, located in different parts of the home.

What do I do if the cat is already scratching the furniture?

  • Start by discouraging your cat from the area being scratched using an indoor scratch repel spray, or anti scratch stickers which can be attached to your furniture.
  • Put the scratch post next to the area being scratched and reward your cat for using this rather than the furniture!
  • Ensure the scratch post is large enough for your cat; many designs are only suitable for small cats and kittens.
  • Try to determine the cause of any excessive scratching, if this could be stress, ensure all cats in the house have their own resources, your cat is adequately stimulated and try introducing Feliway into the home.

Bedding

Cats spend on average 13–14 hours sleeping a day, but many up to 20 hours; therefore a cosy place to rest is essential. This intense resting is due to cats’ hunting background; they need to preserve as much energy for hunting as possible as not all attempts would be successful. Cats often rotate their sleeping locations (this stems from their wild ancestors who used rotation for parasite control), therefore you need to provide cats with a variety of sleeping spots. Place beds in favourite spots, including at least one elevated position as cats feel safe up high. Cats can be cautious of new items so try spraying the bed with catnip spray or Feliway to introduce in a positive way. Don’t be put off if the cat doesn’t use the bed straight away, it may take some getting used to, or the position might not be quite right.

Litter & Litter Trays

Cat litter – Quality vs quantity Cat litter varies hugely in terms of quality, quantity that needs to be used, and cost. Use our cat litter info sheet to compare performance.

Common issues with some cat litters

  • ​Foul smell
  • ​Lack of absorption
  • ​Dust
  • ​Sticks to tray
  • ​Getting through lots of litter

Swapping to a different litter can help solve or reduce ALL of the problems above. Most of us tend to stick to what we know, however trying a new litter may resolve issues. One of the biggest issues with litter is due to lack of absorbency; the urine tends to go to the bottom of the tray and saturate the litter underneath, this means you need to clean the whole tray and the tray tends to smell. Some litters appear expensive: World’s Best litter 3kg is two to three times more expensive than a basic Pettex litter of the same size, but should last at least two to three times longer! One 3kg bag (if used correctly) will last one month, for one indoor cat. It also absorbs smells more effectively, it doesn’t stick to the tray and is flushable etc. Similarly Pura cat litter creates a perfect clump, so you’re only ever throwing away soiled litter. Changing cat litters If you do decide to change your cat from one litter to another, remember that cats are habitual creatures and sometimes find change difficult. If your cat does react badly to the new litter, change the litter gradually by introducing it in strips in the tray an inch or two at a time.

Litter tray tips

  • Ensure the tray is big enough for the cat; a kitten litter tray is often only big enough up to the age of around 4 months. The cat needs to be able to comfortably squat in the tray, without falling over the edge!
  • Position the litter tray in a low traffic area of the home; cats are private animals and don’t enjoy an audience. Bathrooms and utility rooms are great options.
  • As with all cat equipment, you need at least one tray per cat, placed in different areas of the home. Don’t expect your cats to share their toilet
  • If you don’t have a private area for the tray, try a covered/walk in tray. Cats can be suspicious of these at first so remove the door or tape it up to begin with. These trays also help to reduce the amount of mess caused by cats covering their mess.

Litter tray comparison

Brand Type Clumping? Absorbancy Smell Eco-friendly? Sticks to tray Comments
Yesterday’s News Paper Pellet No Excellent Good Yes No Good, medium weight
Nature’s Own Wood Pellet No Excellent Good Yes No Good, but leaves a dusty residue
Bio Catolet Paper Pellet No Excellent Good Yes, even the bag No Good, medium weight
Catsan Natural Wood Wood Based Pieces No Good Good Yes No Good, light weight
World’s Best Corn Granule Yes Excellent Pleasant Yes + Flushable No Excellent, no waste. Light weight
World’s Best Corn Granule Yes Excellent Pleasant Yes + Flushable No Excellent, no waste. Light weight
Trixie Fresh & Easy Silica Gel No Good Poor Yes + Biodegradable No Antibacterial, suitable for allergies
Catsan Hygiene White Mineral Pieces No Poor Poor Natural mineral Urine runs to the tray Hard to remove all the urine patch
Pettex Grey Mineral Pieces Yes Good Poor Natural mineral Most of the time Most of the time sticks to tray. Heavy
Pura Grey Mineral Granule Yes Excellent Pleasant Natural mineral No Excellent, no waste. Heavy
Catsan Clumping Grey Mineral Granule Yes Excellent Pleasant Natural mineral No Excellent, no waste. Heavy
Thomas Grey Mineral Pieces No Good Poor Natural mineral No Hard to remove all the urine patch
Natural Sand Grey Mineral Pieces Yes Excellent Pleasant Natural mineral No Excellent, no waste. Heavy
Clean Paws Grey Mineral Pieces Yes Excellent Good Natural mineral No Excellent, no waste. Heavy

Grooming

Grooming is a vital part of cat ownership; the benefits:

  • Bonding
  • Health checking – feel for lumps, bumps, scabs, parasites
  • Improves skin and coat condition and improves circulation
  • Removes dead hair
  • Reduces the occurrence of hairballs
  • Prevents matting
  • Less hair on your clothing and furniture!

Grooming is vital for longhaired cats. When the hair is left unbrushed, it twists together. If left for long periods of time, more and more hairs twist together forming a ‘matt’. These matts can tear the skin as the twisting pulls at the roots. The grooming equipment we stock can help to remove knots and matts, although we would always recommend prevention rather than cure. Smooth and shorthaired cats should also be groomed regularly to receive the benefits above!

Anti-shedding brushes such as the FURminator are available in pet stores. These fantastic brushes can help to reduce shedding by up to 90%; they work by removing some of the thick undercoat in addition to loose coat. They are easy to use and extremely effective, they also reduce hairballs.

We recommend: FURminator Small Short Haired Cat DeShedding Tool.

Hairballs

Hairballs are caused by a cat ingesting its fur while grooming, this then becomes a solidified matt of hair in the stomach. Cats ingest up to two thirds of their shed hair! Hairballs can be dangerous, not only are they unpleasant for you and your cat, they can also cause irritation, intestinal obstructions, constipation and other issues. The best way to prevent hairballs is to groom regularly to remove loose hair. You can also purchase cat foods with hairball remedy built in, or hairball remedy lick sticks.

Bathing

Most cats aren’t great fans of being bathed, so if you find you need to clean your cat try a dry foam shampoo or some pet wipes instead.