Caring for Cats: Basics of Food, Litter, Play, and Love

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Caring for cats is a complex task. Cats, whether in the prime of their lives or once they’ve gotten older, have very specific needs. What you feed them, how you care for them – from brushing to taking care of their teeth – and how much attention you give them on a regular basis, is all going to affect their wellbeing.

striped cat

Caring for a cat is not the same as caring for a dog, it’s not even the same as caring for a kitten. So you need to be careful about the choices you’re making for your cat.

That’s why we’ve put together a helpful guide on how to care for your cat. In this article, we’ll share all of the basic needs of your cat.

Cat Food

cat eating from a bowl

There are many different types of cat food, from dry to wet, and all different formulas promising different results. Something like the Hill’s Science Diet for adult cats will work perfectly as a starting place. It has high quality protein, vitamins to protect their skin and fur, and balanced nutrients to maintain organ function and overall health.

There are other formulas depending on the age of your cat or their specific needs:

Adult cats can be free fed, meaning you can leave their food dish out around the clock and the cat will eat when they’re hungry. If your cat begins to gain weight, consider changing to a scheduled feeding plan with specific amounts of food at each meal. Generally cats need about half a cup of dry food per day, which translates to 1/4 cup in the morning and evenings.

Feeding your cat treats can be fun, but make sure you don’t get carried away. Treats can lead to weight gain in cats, and that’s not what anyone wants. Only use treats during training with your cat, and not as a random hand out.

Some human foods are also toxic to cats. Such as chocolate, onions, garlic, grapes, caffeine, alcohol, etc. Don’t feed your cat anything that isn’t cat food, just as a general rule.

Litter

cat and litter box

There are four basic types of cat litter, and depending on your preference you may want to make the switch to a different type than you’re currently using.

  • Clumping clay litter: This is the most common cat litter, and the type that people think of when they think of cat litter. It’s made up of small pebbles of clay which absorb the urine and clump together. This way, you can scoop the cat excrement out of the litter tray. This litter is very convenient but can become smelly if the owners don’t clean the litter box frequently enough. It’s dusty, and isn’t biodegradable.
  • Non-clumping clay litter: Non-clumping clay litter doesn’t clump together when it gets wet. Instead of scooping the waste out, you dump and change the whole pan of litter. Some people like this option because it’s cheaper than clumping litter. This clay litter is also non biodegradable.
  • Crystal litter: There are multiple types of crystal litter from different brands, but it’s mostly made of super absorbent silica. This means it lasts a lot longer with no odor than other types of litter. Crystal litters are less dusty than clay litter, but some cats find crystal litter to be sharp on their toe pads and will not use this type of litter. Crystal litter is also the most expensive type of litter.
cat with crystal litter
  • Natural litter: natural litter is my personal favorite, and it’s what we use for my cat. The materials used to make natural litter vary by brand from pine to wheat to recycled paper. Generally this litter is biodegradable. Some of these are pellets, and others are the crystal or clay pebble consistency. The litter we use is a newspaper pellet called Fresh News Recycled Paper Pellets, the only downside about this is that you can’t scoop it, you can only dump it out.

What you chose for litter depends on your budget, and the needs of your cat. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what your cat likes best.

>> Read more about how to get your cat litter box trained.

Play

Cats in the most simple sense are sweet, cuddly, nocturnal predators. They have lots of energy, and have amazing skills such as climbing, jumping, and fitting into tight spaces. The best way to play with cats is to remember their instincts, and why they like to play.

cat laying down with toy

Playing for cats is a way to release energy, but it’s also the carryover of their hunting instincts. Cats love to chase, climb, scratch, and bite. Keeping this in mind, we can choose great toys for cats.

Anything that is small and mobile will catch their attention. My cat, for one, absolutely loves hair ties because they’re light and she bats and chases them around. Things like little plastic balls with bells in them will catch a cat’s attention. Things with feathers and strings are great also, as they can be quick moving and are fun to chase.

Make sure that anything you’re using to play is big enough that your cat can’t swallow it. Any toys with long strings attached need to be put away when you’re not supervising so the cat can’t accidently get tangled up.

Love

It’s easy to love a cat. One look into their precious eyes and I’m already sold. Their (usually) calm demeanor is perfect for anyone who isn’t up for running and playing with a rambunctious dog. Cuddling a cat is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life.

cat being pet

Keep in mind that cats have their own personalities. Some are calm and quiet, some can be hyper, some are very cuddly, some don’t like to be pet. Learn your cat’s personality and tailor your love to their style of companionship.

When you’re petting your cat, pay attention to what they like and don’t like. Don’t do something your cat doesn’t like because you think it’s funny. Every cat has their favorite spot to be scratched, and finding those can take time. Listen for the rumbling purrs while you’re petting them to make sure they like whatever you’re doing.

Getting a cat to bond with you can be a long process. You need to show the cat that you’re a safe and trustworthy person. Cat’s aren’t as trusting as dogs, but they are loyal once they’ve decided you’re a safe person. I recommend playing, petting, and giving them treats often to help them bond with you. You will earn their respect if you treat them right.

cat being stroked

Conclusion

Remember that you are your entire cat’s world. They live in your house, eat your food, and interact almost exclusively with you. If you take the time and put in the effort to be a good owner to your cat, they will be your companion forever.

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cat being pet

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