Initially, a new cat owner must decide whether his cat will live exclusively indoor or be allowed outside. Keep in mind that those felines allowed outside are prone to more illnesses and injury and have a shorter life span than those kept exclusively indoors. But, if a cat does not ever go outside, the owner must provide her with adequate mental and physical stimulation, including interaction with the owner, exercise, scratching posts, and a clean toilet area. Regardless of the lifestyle of the cat, the following guidelines can direct the cat’s behavior to help ensure accord in the home.
1. Mental Stimulation: There should be plenty of opportunity for interesting, challenging play that will satisfy the cat’s natural instincts to chase, stalk, and catch, and provide her with much-needed activity. Toys that bounce and flutter are always good choices. Aim for at least one 15-minute interactive play session per day, especially if she is often left alone.
2. The Scratching Post: Scratching is instinctive to cats. In nature, scratches serve as “communication”, allowing cats to leave visual and chemical signals to other animals. Your cat will want a special space around the house to leave her mark. A sensible alternative to your drapes and furnishings is a scratching post. Remember that she may be somewhat picky about what kind of post she will deem appropriate. Most importantly, it should be taller than the cat when she stands on her hind legs, sturdy enough not to tip over, and easily assessable to her. Also keep in mind that no matter the eyesore, if your cat is still using the post, do not dispose of it.
3. Litter Box Placement: Cats are also generally choosy about their toilet accommodations, normally preferring unscented, soft-textured fine litter. Some cats may also prefer to have separate boxes for urination and defecation, so you may require more than one box. Remember that cats favor quiet, so placing litter boxes near noisy items such as the washing machine may not be the best idea. To keep things tidy, remove fecal matter (and clumped litter) daily and wash the box with soap and water weekly if you use non-clumping litter or once monthly if you use clumping litter.
4. Urine Marking, or Spraying: This is also typical behavior of intact cats (those who have not been neutered). It can also be associated with a change in the cat’s environment, other stresses, or the presence of another cat. Ask us about treatments available.