More than 73 million pet cats live in households in the United States. What is it about these creatures that has made them America’s most popular pet in the last decade? Is it their grace and beauty? Or is it their ability to be somewhat independent and fit into our busy lifestyles? Regardless of the reasons,it is definitely cool to be a cat owner. You have also decided to become a cat owner—or at least, you’d like to think it was your decision. In reality, it is often the cat who chooses you. Each cat has a unique personality and different behavior patterns,so I hope you will find the perfect fit for your household.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A HEALTHY CAT
Bright eyes, a shiny coat and an alert disposition are all characteristics of a healthy cat. Healthy cats have good appetites, groom themselves well and interact with their owners.There is no one best place to find a healthy cat,so in your search consider local shelters,breeders,neighbors,friends,coworkers and veterinary clinics and hospitals. The most important factor in choosing a healthy cat is a good personality.You can tell a lot about personality even with kittens.To test a cat’s personality,hold her in your arms and see if she is relaxed or tense.
Cradle her upside down in your arms, like a baby, and again, see how she reacts.If you are looking for an affectionate cat,and the one you are testing will not let you hold her for more than a second,you may want to reconsider your choice or plan to do some work on gaining the cat’s trust and training her to relax. Two to seven weeks of age is the period considered to be critical to a kitten’s socialization. Kittens who are handled by many people and interact with other cats and animals during this time tend to adjust better socially as adults.Ask about a cat’s early experiences when you are considering her for adoption. The next test is to touch the animal’s ears,gently open her mouth and touch her toes.Again,the more the cat is willing to let you handle her, the more likely she is to be trusting of you in general. If you put the cat down and walk away,is she interested in you? Does she follow you? I do think there is chemistry between certain cats and certain people. Is the cat alert, responsive and playful? Test this by throwing a small toy,or even make one from a ball of paper.All these little tests will give you some idea of what the cat’s personality is like. Even with a very healthy kitten,the health care costs for a kitten for the first year are generally higher than they are for an adult cat.Kittens have less well-developed immune systems than adult cats, so they are more susceptible to infections.They also require more routine health care during their first year of life than older cats do.This includes initial vaccines,viral and fecal testing and spaying or neutering.
THE LOWDOWN ON ESSENTIAL CARE
Now that you have your cat and have brought her into your home,you need to make sure you adequately provide for her essential needs.In the wild,cats adapt to their environment by hunting for food,seeking safety by climbing trees and finding shelter against the elements.Confined to our homes,cats need help to live harmoniously in our environment. If you provide the basics of good food, water and shelter, you will be starting your cat off right.Monitoring the ways in which the cat uses these basic provisions will give you a good idea about the animal’s health. Cats are creatures of habit, so any changes in their habits warrant investigation. Privacy is very important to your cat. Even the most sociable cat needs some time alone. Cats typically like privacy when they groom and when they eliminate. Some cats like privacy when they eat, but others eat more readily when their owners are around.
Cats with more timid personalities should be allowed to hide for at least some part of the day.You can work to make your cat more social, but many felines are scaredy cats by nature and no amount of training will change this trait. People often tell me they think their scaredy cat was abused before they found her,but it is more likely the cat was born that way.Timid cats will learn to trust you and can become incredibly loving companions,but they are not likely to ever warm up to strangers. Cats who have to acclimate to new cats, dogs or children in a household should be given time alone.It is not fair to expect the existing animal to be happy about and willing to accept newcomers.This is just not the nature of cats.Cats hate change.They prefer things to stay the way they are—the way they arranged them! It can take weeks to months for a new cat to accept her new surroundings,or at least to be less fearful. When a new cat or kitten is brought into a household with children, everyone is excited and everyone wants to hold and play with the animal.Being the constant center of attention is not typically what a cat wants. Parents need to control the handling of the cat and be sure the animal is given an opportunity to rest by herself.