Old possum's book of practical cat care

Kya de Longchamps has purring advice on the facilitation of one’s feline overlord in the home

THE trouble with a kitten is that, unlike a dog when it’s upset, (droop at the shoulders and a sulk for a few minutes with its back to you) — if you upset a cat, it’s quite likely to defecate in your shoes and disappear for several days.

Famed for being less emotionally taxing than their main companion pet rival — cats are surprisingly fragile and reactive creatures when their routine needs are not met, or when even slight changes are rudely imposed on them.

Remember what cats already understand — it’s always your fault. Never truly tamed, it’s up to you to detail your surroundings and schedule to the tiger in the living-room — I’ll leave feeding and care to the advice of your vet.

Scratch that:

Damage to furnishings from scratching is one of the primary complaints against cats as pets. From kitten to full grown mog, cats really do need to scratch and pluck, to shed the outer sheaths of those retractable claws, revealing the fresh new nail below. It also satisfies their instincts to leave their mark on their territory visually and with a cat detectable musky pheromone from scent glands in the paw pads.

During scratching, the cat also gives its body a deeply relaxing and healthy stretch, working out from nose to tail. It’s pussy Pilates. So, provide a suitable surface and they will (in general), stay off the chenille and linen.

A stable, roughly-textured post using rope, corrugated cardboard or hemp woven material that the cat can grip and slightly rip, is ideal. It needs to be high enough for the cat to grab and then bow down. If you find your cat is attacking the carpet, seduce them away with a horizontal or slightly ramped scratching mat.

Look for products baited with cat-nip to stir interest. Mats can also be run up walls and worked around corners. Place the post or mat where the cat appears to like it, and if you have multiple cats, ensure they have their own private place to tear the house down. Yelling as discipline just rewards an outraged cat with the treat of a loud human meow. A water pistol (used lightly), is a last resort. Expect to be ignored for weeks.

Purr-fect Buys: Multi-Scratch Cardboard Scratching Pads (in retaining box and fully recyclable), €3.29, zooplus.ie. Badalona Scratching Post (with hiddie cave and two decks) €37.99, pet-bliss.ie.

Baskets and Trees:

Dander, unspeakable blots and an unweilding, duvet-pinning squatters by night — cats make poor bedmates. Starting with the bed — choose a place to sleep over a wonderland of play. Ensure your cat’s tray position is known to them, otherwise the first thing you’ll find in the bed is a fragrant display of the cat’s displeasure.

Measure the cat if it’s an adult, and bring this to the retailer. Plastic beds lined with a blanket offer an easy change out, but it’s safe to say that the soft sided, rounded plush nest is favoured by curled up cats everywhere. Limbs can be loosely draped over the sides. If your darling sleeps tightly in a ball and prefers the dark, look out for new designs in bamboo and wicker shells.

Textile baskets should wash entirely at 40 degrees, not just the bottom pad. The base should be thick and supportive enough to shield the cat from hard surfacing and the weave should be tight enough to prevent snagging and holes as the cat kneads and settles. Concave pillows will suit some cats, but high sides keep out draughts — important if the cat is relegated to a cooler, north facing utility-room or hall. Look for a bottom cushion that flips from cooler fabric to plush to suit the season. I keep my cats’ baskets on a deep shelf where they can avoid the dogs’ embarrassing carry-on and feel more autonomous and protected.

Don’t spend a fortune on a ‘cat tree’ — many self-realised cats and even mysterious kittens turn their noses up at designated quarters, no matter how plush or funky. Your entire house is a heady playground and the windowsills a luxuriant solarium with a view of the local ornithology.

What a cat gymnasium can provide is height to scale other than an unstable standard lamp. Kittens will certainly enjoy a tunnel and new things to swing out of, but many trees sit dusty after the first four months of a cat’s life. In a clattering house, an enclosed cat ‘cave’ can be a welcome private retreat — ensure young children respect it and keep their faces and fingers away from the entrance.

Purr-fect Buys: Jolly Moggy Radiator Cat Bed (rounded covered in eco-friendly attractive bamboo), €22.99, zooplus.ie. Hooded Cat Bed, €27.99, shop.ispca.ie. Wicker Cave (with top bed) removable washable cushions, €59.99, petstop.ie.

Tray Talk:

With 24 hour access to the outdoors via a cat-door, your adult cat may not need a tray, but most cats appreciate their availability for when locked inside or feeling insecure in their wider environment. Passing stools and urine is a vulnerable and important moment for a cat (sorry, you’ll just have to project some trusting empathy here) — so privacy, cleanliness and ease of access are crucial for the cat (and you) to get to grips with this necessary feature of cat life. If you have two cats, they should have a tray each.

Two cats, one tray? Expect spills, smells and potentially revolting spoils of civil war acted out in the laundry basket. Large cats need large trays or they simply squat and drop ghastly doings over the sides, or even worse step in the mess and wander the white wool mix carpeting.

Tray technology has gone a long way to separating the solid stuff from expensive, lightly soiled litter, consider spending a little more if the tray is going to stay past kitten-hood.

The cat would of course choose the Litter-Robot III Open Air Automatic Self-Cleaning Litter Box with Automatic MoonGlo NiteLite, a mere €539, robotshop.com.

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