Paw prints: Cat care 101

Community Columnist

There is no need for a vitamin supplement if you are feeding an approved diet, and doing so can actually be harmful. Cats require a carnivorous diet, and they prefer to eat small meals frequently. Feeding a combination of dry and moist may be a good practice to start. If your cat develops a need for a special diet in the future he is already accustomed to both consistencies. Moist food is also beneficial for urinary tract health, and feeding primarily moist food can prevent obesity.

The litter box does not need to be fancy. Cats prefer uncovered boxes with unscented clumping litter. Avoid litter with crystals. To prevent inappropriate elimination, the rule of thumb is one box for each cat plus one (a house with two cats should have three litter boxes). The boxes need to be scooped daily with complete litter changes often.

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats and cannot be prevented. Fortunately, most cats can be trained to scratch appropriate objects. Determine your cats preferred material (cardboard or fabric) and which orientation he likes to claw (horizontal or vertical). Place the suitable scratching posts near sleeping areas, and attract your cat to these sites with treats, praise or catnip.

After bringing your new cat home, a visit to the veterinarian should be a top priority. Bring all previous records with you along with a fresh stool sample.

Your cat will need to be tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). All cats should receive Rabies and respiratory virus vaccinations, even cats that do not go outdoors. Outdoor cats should receive FeLV vaccines.

Starting at six- to eight-weeks-old, kittens will need vaccinations at four week intervals until sixteen weeks of age. After this initial series, vaccines are repeated every one to three years. At six months of age, get your cat spayed or neutered. Taking your cat to the vet yearly for a physical exam is very important for early detection and prevention of health problems.

Sadly, there are nearly the same numbers of homeless cats in our country as there are owned cats. Consider adopting a cat from a local shelter. Cats can be wonderful companions.

This column touched on only the basics of cat care. Your veterinarian can provide more information to help create a long, happy relationship with your feline friend.

Dr. Anne Weiskotten Galton is a veterinarian at Cazenovia Animal Hospital. She can be reached at 655-3409 or agalton28@yahoo.com.

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