Your Cat: An Owner's Manual

Your cat is a unique and complex animal. She has a variety of physical needs. She also has a psychological and emotional life that bears consideration throughout the life span. Every cat is different but here are some basic guidelines for a healthy and happy feline life.

Basic Physical Needs

Cats need good food, clean water, and a clean litter box. It sounds simple but when you consider complex health needs and the preferences of each cat, it's good to consider the following.


Cats need regular veterinary visits to keep up with their vaccination schedule and to monitor their overall health. Most vaccinations are on a yearly schedule and are crucial for helping to prevent serious diseases. A monthly flea and tick treatment is very important for skin health and allergy prevention even if your house is impeccably clean. Enrolling your cat in a healthcare plan will help lower these costs as well as costs during illness or an emergency.

The Best Cat Diet

A diet that best meets your cat's nutritional needs will help prevent illness and disease and behavioral problems. Cats ingest water best through the intestine so moist food is much better for them than kibble. Even if fresh water is always available as it should be, your cat can develop urinary tract problems and bladder obstruction on a purely kibble diet. Your cat's teeth and gums aren't helped by kibble, either. Regular brushing and a healthy diet are best for the teeth and gums.

The best diet for cats is a raw formula specifically formulated for cats. Cats in the wild hunt animals and their diet is made up primarily of whole animal protein including all the fluids therein. The raw meat is perfectly safe for the cat's digestive system but does require proper handling and room in the freezer at home.

If you prefer not to go raw, choose a high quality canned food. Look for a formula that is high in lean protein, low in grains, and low in minerals. The more natural the formula, the better, so you want to choose a food that lists meat as the first ingredient. Avoid grocery store cat food or food with corn, soy and meat by-products.

Litter Box Management

Cats are generally fairly particular about the litter box. Most cats prefer litter that is like sand or dirt but some will tolerate litter of other consistencies. The litter box is a private, territorial matter for a cat. Some cats will not share a box with other cats. Most cats will share a box if it is cleaned out every day. Self-cleaning litter boxes work in a single cat home but can be problematic with more than one cat because the box may be making a cleaning noise when the second cat comes to use it. The best practice is to have one box per cat, to use a natural, clumping litter, and to clean it out daily.

Stress Management

Cats develop stress, and when this happens, they tend to eliminate outside the box or become aggressive. Make sure your cat gets regular exercise that includes some interactive play time with you. Cats also develop stress if there's overcrowding in the home and no territory just for them. If you live with other animals, make sure your cat has her own spot where she can escape and sleep.