Cats are mysterious animals and are sometimes, even for the most experienced cat owners, hard to understand. They are fussy creatures especially over things which we, as humans don't think about. For example - the position of their water bowl in relation to their food; where to sleep and their litter trays. Hopefully this article will give you some insight in to how your cat sees the world and the people in it.
Setting out your home in a cat friendly manner.
Food and Water –
When you are considering the happiness of your cat, you need to think like a cat, not like a human. For example, we humans quite often eat and drink at the same time. We have wine or water with a meal; the glass and plate sitting next to each other on the table. We think that this is normal. So let me ask you a question – have you put your cat’s water bowl by its food? Most likely you have. Does your cat drink from that water bowl? Or does she prefer the puddle outside, or the dripping tap in the bathroom? Again, probably. Here’s why – in the wild cats kill prey for food. Their instinct tells them that if the prey is near water, it’s quite likely that that prey has urinated or pooped in the water therefore contaminating it. Secondly, any dead animals left near water are also likely to contaminate it by the decomposition process. So, in the cat’s mind water near food is neither healthy nor clean. Therefore, it won’t touch that water. This is even more true if the water is stagnant i.e. a water bowl. So back to the original point; what we consider normal (our drink next to our food) our cats see as dirty.
This is solved by simply moving the cat’s water away from their food. Ideally put it at the other end of the room or even in a different room.
Do you remember that I mentioned stagnant water? Some cats aren’t so keen on that either. The solution is a water fountain. These can be easily bought from pet stores for a few pounds or if you want to spend a bit more, a ceramic one from Miau Store is a good option. They’re easier to clean than plastic ones especially if you have hard water that leaves limescale deposits.
Of course, that is not the end of it. Cats are fussy about the shape of their bowl as well. They do not like deep bowls with high sides. That is because they do not like their whiskers interfered with while they are eating or drinking. So, the best shape for a cat to have is a wide flat bowl. Both for their food and for their water.
Try to keep wet food separate from dry food. Also, if you have more than one cat, it is advisable that they should have their food in different places. The exception to that rule is if two cats have been brought up together from kitten-hood and are used to eating together. I have four cats. The two kittens who are from the same litter are happy to eat together. They share a space for food and they share a water drinker. The two other cats have separate food and water stations. In total we have three food areas and three water drinkers.
A note about how much your cat should drink - in the wild cats drink very little. They can actually get most of the moisture they need from their food. Dead prey is, after all, mostly water. If your cats get fed wet food then you will probably notice that they drink very little. On the other hand, if your cat’s diet is mostly made up of dry biscuits then your cat will need to drink water. DO NOT feed your cat cow’s milk. Cats cannot digest it and it can therefore cause stomach upsets. If you would like to give them milk, then there are several ‘cat milks’ available in supermarkets. That goes for all dairy products such as cheese. My cat loves cheese and I occasionally give her a very small amount (a piece the size of my finger nail) and this seems fine.
Some food manufactures split the Kitten stage into three. 1st age kitten, which is up to 3 months old, 2nd age, which is up to 6 months old and then 3rd age, over 6 months.
The importance of these different stages are due to the differing amounts of protein and minerals in the food. Kittens and older cats need more protein in their diets than cats of middle years.
Supermarkets sell many brands of cat food and some of these can be very cheap. I’m sure you’ve heard of Felix, Whiskers and GoCat. Supermarkets offer their own brand as well. Cats can be very fussy. Our cat George will only eat two brands of dried food. I think it’s to do with how many different foods a cat was introduced to during their kitten-hood which is why I have been careful to feed my two kittens a range of brands and food types.
However, I am not a fan of the foods you can get from supermarkets and neither sometimes are the cats. (when my husband bought the cats some Co-Op own brand biscuits, my cats would not eat it. “What is this cheap muck?” they said. Even the local ‘Hoover’ cat, who goes into everyone’s houses and eats everything that he can find, didn’t eat it. Even the foxes didn’t eat it!!! We didn’t get that again.)
I have owned quite a few cats over the years and they all, as they get older suffer with kidney disease and urinary problems. This is the ‘weak’ spot in cats. Unfortunately, most cats will eventually die from failing kidneys and even in their middle years, they are prone to urinary tract problems such as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (or FLUTD). This is a build-up of crystals in the bladder and urethra. I will write more about this is another blog post. For this reason, I make sure that I feed all my cats a food that is optimised for urinary health and I’m not sure that the cheap brands are.
Since my cat, Lewis, suffered from FLUTD, I have always bought my cats’ food from a pet store either online or in person. Some of the brands that have urinary friendly foods are Royal Canin, Hills and Purina. Royal Canin has by far the largest range. Always buy a food which states that it is optimised for urinary tract health.
Litter Trays -
If your cat has a litter tray, the positioning of this is also important. Ideally it should be in a different room to your cats’ food and water. If that's not possible, then position it as far away from the food and water as you can. You wouldn't want to eat your meals in your bathroom, would you? And it's the same for cats.
A lot of articles online recommend that you have one more litter trays than you do number of cats. So, for example, if you have two cats, you would have three litter trays. But I have never found that to be necessary. Of course, it depends on how often you clean out the trays, but if you do them twice a day then an extra tray is not really needed.
I recommend a compostable, clumping, unscented litter. Now-a-days there are lots of natural based litters on the market made from a variety of products such as paper, wood pellets and plant based materials. Two of my favourites are Catsan Natural Biodegradable Clumping Litter and World’s Best Cat Litter. (I think that the original Catsan, and others like it, is evil stuff. It’s not compostable so contributes to landfill, and it’s really dusty. It makes my nose stream so goodness knows how it affects the poor cat who has to dig in it several times a day. AND it doesn’t clump. It’s so difficult to keep the tray clean and it ends up smelling. If you use the original Catsan, I strongly recommend that you look for an alternative.) The Catsan Natural and World’s Best are very low dust and they clump which makes it so much easier to keep clean. The World’s Best is made from corn and the Catsan Natural from wheat. The dirty litter can be but on your compost or in your green bin (so long as you don’t put it in a decompostable poo bag) so you are not contributing to landfill. Both these litters are also suitable for kittens, having small granules and a soft feel on paws. I have found that sometimes kittens don’t like the pellet ones. I think it’s because the pellets tend to be quite big and can hurt their small paws. Biodegradable litters are freely available on Amazon or any pet websites such as Medic Animal.
I love cats but one of their behaviours that annoys me the most is clawing the furniture or carpet. You can not stop a cat from clawing. It’s a natural behaviour that is instinctive. Cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paws so they’re not just scratching to sharpen claws but to put their mark on that particular place. It is territorial behaviour for which you should not punish them. Instead, make sure that you provide lots of places where they can scratch. Outdoor cats will find many places of their choosing such as fence posts, trees, decking; but if your cat is an indoor cat then it’s even more important that you provide areas in which they can claw. Again, as with beds, it’s a bit of a gamble trying to decide which sort of post your cat will take to and much money can be wasted. The cat trees that I mentioned earlier normally have scratch posts incorporated into their structure.
These are just a few of the practical things that you can do to ensure that your home is cat friendly. If you get these few basic things right then you will be off to a great start to having a happy cat.
If you would like your home to receive a Happy Cat Makeover, then please don't hesitate to get in touch. I offer Happy Cat Consultations. There is information available here.
I am not affiliated with any of the above brands. I have recommended them because I have used them and genuinely think that they are good.