Happy cat, happy owner

(photographer Susan Papazian)

(photographer Susan Papazian)

In this section, you’ll find:

  • Give your kitten a good start
  • Natural cat behaviours – playing and scratching
  • 10 tips for a Content Cat
  • Benefits of indoor living

Give your kitten a good start

The Sydney Dogs and Cats Home has some helpful hints if you are introducing a kitten into your family:

‘Starter Kit’ – Food and water bowls, a litter tray and kitty litter, a scratching  pole and toys (such as ping pong balls).  High-quality kitten food should be fed until your kitten is one year old and raw bones are great for cleaning teeth.  Your kitten must be vaccinated, treated with flea and worm preventatives and must be desexed.

Every kitten is different – Brave kittens may be happy with the run of the house straight off, whereas timid kittens are often best confined to one room while they gain confidence.  Expose your kitten to new people, other animals and strange sensations, such as riding in the car, but make sure that all these experiences are positive ones.  This will help your kitten to mature into a happy and well adjusted adult cat.

Natural cat behaviours – playing and scratching

Dr Kim Kendall, Cat Vet, explains why play is important to cats and why they want to scratch:

Playing

Playing is a very important part of physical and mental development of all animals.  Play is always relevant to future activities essential to species survival so it comes down to food and water acquisition, escape and social interaction including sexual, affiliative (friendly) and agonistic (aggressive) behaviours.   A kitten is genetically programmed to pounce 30 times a day as this is the average number of pounces it requires to catch a full day of rodent meals!

Kittens have to learn the rules of play and if you are the only moving object in the house, then ‘Tag, you’re it’! As the playmate you had better teach and learn the rules fast or get another kitten to play tag. Learning play-rules is particularly important as we humans have been selecting for cats who remain kittenlike for a lot more of their life.   Since there is no need to hunt anything harder than the fridge to get the food, all that hunting instinct is transformed into play.

Scratching

Claws grow continuously which is why cats have to scratch! However your cat is not just filing her nails when she shreds your furniture, she is also leaving her mark for cohabitants. It is much easier to encourage your cat to use a post or something she is allowed to scratch from the start, than it is to train her off the armchair.

10 tips for Content Cats

Dr Joanne Righetti, PhD Animal behaviourist, has 10 tips for Content Cats.

1. Play with your cat. Toys can be purchased or made at home. Rotate toys around to keep your cat interested. 2. Give your cat a view. Windowsills are great and so are bookcases, shelves and benchtops 3. Scratching posts. Provide suitable scratching posts. Place these in locations that your cat likes to scratch. 4. Litter. Keep litter trays clean. Have more than one in a multi-cat household or large house. 5. Spots to snooze. Lots of snoozing spots are appreciated eg shelves of differing levels a cardboard box
6. Another cat. Try another cat for company. This will not solve behavioural problems but is good for cat-friendly cats 7. Play hunting games. Let your cat hunt by playing games or finding food. 8. Be kind. Never punish your cat, praise it for good behaviour. Cats can be trained too with a little patience. 9. Cat grass. Give your indoor cat fresh grass to chew on. Cats love cat grasses and some also adore catnip. 10. Interaction & cuddles. Interact with your cat, even train it. Pat your cat and show you care.

Benefits of indoor living

Leo

Leo

Indoor cats live longer and safer lives than cats allowed to hunt and explore outdoors.

Indoor cats need environmental enrichment to replace some of the stimulation and activity it would otherwise receive as a free-roaming animal.  Dr Kim Kendall and Dr Robert Holmes explain further about cats and the indoor life.  More

The Cat Protection Society recommends to keep cats either indoors all the time or outdoors in a securely fenced area and inside from dusk to dawn.

More resources

Cat behaviour

Cat health and well being

Cat Protection Society fact sheet on ‘Having a happy indoor cat’