In his latest book, “Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual,” Dr. Marty Becker offers his expert advice for new cat owners. From his tips on how to prevent health problems to how to stop cats from scratching the furniture, this book covers any cat-related question you might have. Check out Dr. Becker’s top ten surprising cat-care tips from his book below.
Cats Dig Running Water
A pet drinking fountain is one of the best investments you can make in your cat’s health. Cats find cool, running water to be appealing — it’s a natural behavior, because stream water is less likely to be contaminated than a stagnant pool. Cats tend to be chronically dehydrated, and feline fountains are proven to get cats to drink more water. Many feline health problems can be aided with proper hydration, and it’s more efficient than leaving a faucet dripping to entice your cat to drink.
Pick a Pretty, Allergy-Easy Kitty
While no cat is guaranteed to not be an allergy trigger — and people with life-threatening reactions are better off without a cat — it’s possible to pick a pet who might be less of a problem. Black, unneutered males are purported the worst choice for people with allergies, since they typically have higher levels in their saliva of FelD1, the protein that triggers sneezing and wheezing. Some breeds of cat, most notably the Siberian, have a high number of individual animals with low levels of FelD1. If you’re paying for a “hypo-allergenic” cat, insist on saliva testing. If you’re choosing a kitten, choose a light-colored female, and get her spayed.
Panting Is a Problem
Dogs pant up to 300 times a minute to cool themselves, but if you see your cat panting it may be a medical emergency. While sometimes it can just be from extreme anxiety, it can also be a sign of respiratory or cardiovascular problems, warranting an immediate call to the veterinarian.
Canned Cat Food Is Preferred
Veterinarians recommend feeding canned cat food over kibble. Canned foods have a higher percentage of protein and fat than dry foods and are significantly higher in water content than kibble (70 percent vs 10 percent). Also, canned foods tend to be more palatable to cats that are finicky, elderly or have dental problems. Better health for your cat can start by closing the all-day kitty kibble buffet and feeding measured amounts of a good canned food. Talk to your veterinarian.
Want a Cat to Love You? Look Away!
What can you do to get a cat to come to you? Avoid eye contact. Cats don’t like eye contact with strangers, so will almost always go to the person who’s not looking at them. This also is the answer to the age-old mystery of why cats always seem to go to the one person in the room who doesn’t like cats. It’s because she may be the only one not “rudely” — in the cat’s view — staring.
Tale of the Tail
You can tell a cat’s mood by watching his tail. Tail upright, happy; tail moving languidly, keep petting me; tail low, twitching erratically, I’m on the prowl; tail swishing rapidly, beware and leave me alone. If you’ve ever been surprised when a cat you’re petting suddenly grabs you angrily, you missed a tail tale: The unhappy twitch of the tail tip would have told you to stop petting, now.
Surprising Signs of a Cat in Pain
Chronic pain is not uncommon in cats, especially as they age. Cat-lovers miss the signs of a pet in pain because cats are good at hiding it. Any cat observed as being hesitant to jump up or climb, not using the litter box, not able to groom themselves as well, more aggressive or more withdrawn need to see the veterinarian. These are classic signs of discomfort, and need to be addressed.
What Litter Do Cats Really Prefer?
Forget the people-pleasing scents. Forget special formulas or alternative ingredients. Your cat is more likely to prefer unscented clumping litter, according to preference tests. And if you want to keep your cat using “the bathroom,” be sure to keep it clean, place it in a quiet, cat-friendly place and don’t use any liners in the box — cats don’t like them. None of these changes will address a cat who has stopped using the box because of illness. Urinary tract infections and other health issues need to be addressed by your veterinarian before box re-training can commence.
How to Prevent a Finicky Cat
Feed your kitten a few different foods so he or she will experience different textures and flavors of food. Just as people typically stick with the toothpaste they start with as youngsters, cats who are only exposed to one type of food will be less likely try other brands and kinds. That can be a real problem if the favored food goes off the market, or your cat needs to eat a special food for health reasons. So mix it up on your kitten.
Don’t Toss That Ratty Scratching Post
When a post starts looking worn is when a cat starts liking it best. Get a new one and your cat may switch to the arm of the couch. Instead, refresh your cat’s post by adding some coils of fresh sisal rope — it’s cheap, easy to add and cats love to dig their claws into it.