How to Care for Your Cat

Three Parts:Keeping Your Cat HealthyFeeding and Housing Your CatSocializing Your Cat

Cats may seem like some of the most independent pets, but they do need some care to become good feline citizens in your home. While they're more self-sufficient than dogs, they can become just as loyal if you put in the effort and a lot of love. Make sure to keep your cat healthy, get preventative treatments, feed, and nurture your cat. Your cat will feel loved and appreciate her place in the family.

Part 1
Keeping Your Cat Healthy

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    Take your cat to the vet for annual check-ups. This will help catch medical problems before a condition becomes severe. At the exam, you can talk with the vet about any concerns you have about your cat's health or care. Mention if you notice anything different with your cat, such as the way she's meowing, walking, eating or acting. At the exam, your cat's vaccines will be updated and a stool sample will check for internal parasites. Your cat will be treated for any conditions.[1]
    • Your vet may recommend more testing to check for other parasites, heart function, kidney function, or for diabetes.
    • Older cats should be examined twice a year, since they're more prone to diseases.[2]
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    Take kittens to the vet early for preventative care. If you've just gotten kittens, taken them to the vet within the first week of getting them.[3] They need to see the vet more frequently than adult cats starting at around 8 weeks old. They'll need 2 to 3 visits for their vaccination series (distemper and rabies at a minimum). At the first visit, the vet will talk with you about particular risks your kittens face for other diseases, like feline leukemia.
    • Your kittens probably have roundworms, which can stunt growth and may be transmitted to people. Your vet will recommend treating them with oral medications.
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    Know when to get special medical treatment for your cat. If your cat becomes sick, you may need to take her to the vet. It's a good idea to save up money for such illnesses or emergencies. Some vets accept pet insurance, which provides some coverage in the event of an unplanned medical visit. While signs of illness can vary between cats, contact your vet immediately if you notice changes in:[4]
    • Eyes: discharge, redness, squinting, rubbing at eyes, cloudiness
    • Ears: itchiness, discharge, foul smell
    • Breathing: sneezing with discharge, persistent cough, difficulty breathing/catching breath
    • Skin: lumps or bumps, swelling,excessive/persistent itching, wounds, redness, yellow discoloration
    • Urination: bloody urine, straining when urinating, excessive urination, spraying
    • Digestion: vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation
    • General: malaise/lethargy, restlessness, seizures, confusion
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    Get your cat spayed or neutered. Spaying a female cat and neutering a male cat will help with behavior issues such as roaming and the tendency to spray urine. It can protect your cat against a number of diseases including mammary gland tumors, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and testicular cancer.[5] Also, it will decrease the number of unwanted litters of kittens.
    • If you have kittens, your vet will probably recommend that they be spayed or neutered anywhere from two to six months of age.
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    Groom your cat often. If your cat has long fur, use a pin brush to work through the long coat. A flat and slicker brush works better for short fur. You can also use a smaller, triangular shaped brush for smaller areas, like around her face and ears. If you want to use a comb, choose a wide-toothed comb for long fur, and a fine-toothed one for short fur. You may want to buy a smaller and gentler brush for a kitten.
    • This is a great time to check your cat for fleas and check for lump and bumps on the skin.
    • Grooming is very important since it strips out dead hair, prevents hairballs, stimulates your cat's' blood flow, and provides good bonding time for you and your cat.[6]
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    Brush your cat's teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and veterinary toothpaste (not human, since fluoride is toxic to cats). Start by offering your cat a taste of the vet toothpaste. The next day, let her taste the toothpaste and run your finger along the gums of her upper teeth. Do this again the following day with the toothbrush, making small circles working back to front. Gradually, brush a little bit at a time, working the bristles along the gum line and slightly angled up and under the gum line. It should take you less than 30 seconds to brush your cat's teeth.
    • Dental care is important for good health, since many diseases are linked to poor teeth care and gum disease. Bacteria and plaque can enter the bloodstream and rest of the body, leading to heart and kidney disease,[7] mouth pain, poor eating, and tooth loss.
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    Get your cat's teeth professionally cleaned. Even with tooth brushing, some cats may still need an occasional professional cleaning. While brushing reduces the plaque and buildup on the visible surfaces of the teeth, it cannot get to the buildup just under the gum line.[8]
    • A dental cleaning also gives the veterinarian an opportunity to fully examine the cat’s mouth—an impossible task unless the cat has been sedated which happens during a dental cleaning.

Part 2
Feeding and Housing Your Cat

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    Create a nurturing space for your cat. Make sure your cat has some space of her own. She should have a soft, comfortable space that offers her a bit of privacy. This way, your cat can retreat when feeling overwhelmed, or have a relaxing place to sleep. Offer soft blankets or pillows so that your cat can have a warm place to snuggle.[9]
    • Wash your cats pillows or bedding on a regular basis.
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    Set up a litter box. Make sure to clean it every day, since cats prefer a clean bathroom. A clean litter box will attract a cat. But, a dirty one might repel her and make her look elsewhere to relieve herself. If you have more than one cat it is a good idea to have more than one litter box (placed in different areas of the house) in order to prevent any “turf” guarding of the box by one cat.[10]
    • For example, if you have 2 cats, you should have three litter boxes available.
    • Avoid placing the litter box in a busy area or near noisy appliances, which may scare your cat. Your cat should be able to easily access the litter box.[11]
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    Learn what your cat needs to eat. Ask your veterinarian to suggest a quality cat food specific for your cat. Follow the feeding instructions on the package of cat food you select. Cats are usually fed according to age, weight, and activity levels. They generally like to eat small meals throughout the day.[12] Don't feed your cat human food, unless you've discussed it with your vet. Some human foods can make a cat very sick or are toxic.
    • Cats need animal derived food since they're carnivores. This means they need animal derived food to get essential amino acids, components of protein. If they don't get them, they'll develop severe health consequences.[13]
    • Always offer fresh water, not milk which cats have a hard time digesting.[14]
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    Feed your cat regularly. If your cat does not have access to ad lib feeding of dry food, consider feeding 2 - 3 small meals spaced over the day. If you feed specific canned meals, throw any uneaten food away after 30 minutes. You can also choose to feed your cat dry food, which can be left out. Offer your cat treats every once in a while. Give her fresh fruit or vegetables, like cooked broccoli, corn, or cantaloupe. Avoid packaged treats which don't offer many nutrients.[15]
    • If you have young kittens (6 to 12 weeks old), feed them 4 times a day. Older kittens (3 months to 6 months) should be feed 3 times a day.

Part 3
Socializing Your Cat

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    Let your cat set the pace. If your cat is new to you, or is simply shy around other cats, never force your cat to interact or play. Instead, start slow and follow your cat's cues. Let your cat become familiar with you or the other cats. Simply spend time sitting around your cat. Avoid standing over your cat, which may intimidate her. Once your cat starts feeling more comfortable with her environment, she'll begin to approach you or the other cats.
    • When your cat approaches you, let her get closer to sniff you. You might encourage her to come to you by placing treats in your hand.[16]
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    Play with your cat every day. Help your cat get needed exercise by being your cat's personal trainer. Use toys like feathers, fake mice, or even a rolled up piece of paper to get your cat to run around. Toys are a great incentive to get your cat moving. Try tossing small toys for your cat to hit and chase. If you're too worn out to play, use fishing pole style toys or pocket flashlights to give your cat a workout.
    • Playing with your cat every day will help alleviate your cat's need for your attention.[17]
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    Offer equipment for your cat to play on. Your cat should have plenty of objects to play with on her own. A useful and fun object is a scratching post or tree she can climb. Cats love tall places and love to scratch. A large, sturdy cat tree will not only give a place to scratch, but will let her climb and enjoy a bird's eye view of her surroundings.[18]
    • Try placing a cat tree or tower near a sunny window. The view will also give your cat something interesting to look at.
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    Get your cat to play with her food. This is especially important if your cat is strictly an indoor cat and can't chase or forage for food. Try putting your cat's food in different containers and cut holes in the sides. Place some of the cat's food in the containers, letting her shake and roll the containers to get to the food.[19]
    • This keeps your cat active and engaged, which can prevent boredom and unhappiness.[20]
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    Introduce your cat to new pets. While cats are often solitary creatures, they do enjoy the company of other cats. This doesn't just mean you should place two cats together without properly socializing them. Instead, let your current cat get used to the new cat's scent by offering a cloth the new cat has slept on or letting her sniff around a room that the new cat has been in. You should also play with them separately for a while, so they learn to associate the scent with something positive.
    • Take care to offer food in separate bowls, but set the bowls next to each other. That way, the cats will spend time enjoying each others company while they eat.


  • Offer your cat lots of stretching, hiding, perching, and playing areas. Your cat will love it, and both of you will have fun.
  • Don't tease your cat when it is a kitten. This will train your kitten to become aggressive, bite, or become mean.
  • Get your cat micro-chipped. If she ever gets lost, or in case of an emergency, you'll be more likely to find her, which could save your cat's life.
  • Consult a veterinarian before introducing a new cat into the house.
  • If you have an indoor cat, make sure it has a collar, preferably an orange one. In case your cat escapes or gets lost this will give it a better chance of being found and returned to you.


  • Never leave coins out where cats can get to them. Coins can cause toxic poisoning if swallowed, and also require surgery to remove.
  • Never leave string, yarn, or ribbons where a cat can get to them unsupervised. Cats can swallow string, which requires surgery to keep it from tying up their intestines, killing them.
  • Be sure to create a safe environment for your cat. Be wary of large dogs around a new cat until they are comfortable with each other.
  • Never let your cat chew on anything small, like small toy pieces or electrical cords. It could lead to choking or stomach blockage which would require surgery to remove.
  • There are many websites offering health advice online but none of these are tailored to your pet. Seeking the advice of a veterinarian that treats primarily cats and dogs is the best way to get the best health care for your cat.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Getting a Cat