Cat & Kitten Care Basics
- An adult cat should be fed one large or two or three smaller meals each day.
- Kittens from 6 to 12 weeks must eat four times a day.
- Kittens from three to six months need to be fed three times a day.
You can either feed specific meals, throwing away any leftover canned food after 30 minutes, or keep dry food available at all times. We recommend a high-quality, brand-name kitten or cat food; avoid generic brands. You will need to provide fresh, clean water at all times, and wash and refill water bowls daily.
Although cat owners of old were told to give their pets a saucer of milk, cats do not easily digest cow’s milk, which can cause diarrhea in kittens and cats. Treats are yummy for cats, but don’t go overboard. Most packaged treats contain lots of sugar and fat, which can pack on the pounds. Some cats like fresh fruits and vegetables, like broccoli, corn or cantaloupe. You can offer these once in awhile.
If your kitten is refusing food or isn’t eating enough, try soaking her kitten food in warm water. If that doesn’t work, kittens can be fed human baby food for a short time. Use turkey or chicken baby food made for children six months and older. Gradually mix with her regular food.
Most cats stay relatively clean and rarely need a bath, but you should brush or comb your cat regularly. Frequent brushing helps keep your cat’s coat clean, reduces the amount of shedding and cuts down on the incidence of hairballs.
To pick up your cat, place one hand behind the front legs and another under the hindquarters. Lift gently. Never pick up a cat by the scruff of the neck or by the front legs.
Your pet should have her own clean, dry place in your home to sleep and rest. Line your cat’s bed with a soft, warm blanket or towel. Be sure to wash the bedding often. Please keep your cat indoors. Cats who are allowed outdoors can contract diseases, get ticks or parasites, become lost or get hit by a car, or get into fights with other free-roaming cats and dogs. Also, cats may prey on native wildlife.
If allowed outdoors (again, we caution against it!), your cat must wear a safety collar and an ID tag. A safety collar with an elastic panel will allow your cat to break loose if the collar gets caught on something. And if your pet is indoors-only, an ID tag or an implanted microchip can help insure that your cat is returned if he or she becomes lost.
All indoor cats need a litter box, which should be placed in a quiet, accessible location. A bathroom or utility room is a good place for your cat’s box. In a multi-level home, one box per floor is recommended. Avoid moving the box unless absolutely necessary. Then do so slowly, a few inches a day.
Keep in mind that cats won’t use a messy, smelly litter box, so scoop solid wastes out of the box at least once a day. Dump everything, wash with a mild detergent and refill at least once a week; you can do this less frequently if using clumping litter. Don’t use ammonia, deodorants or scents, especially lemon, when cleaning the litter box.
Bad Breath For Cats
1. The Breath Test
Go on, take a sniff. It doesn’t have to be a long one—cat breath may not smell like roses, but it shouldn’t be offensive either. If your kitty’s mouth has an abnormally strong odor, he may have digestive problems or a gum condition such as gingivitis, and should be examined by a vet.
2. Lip Service
With your cat facing you, gently push back his lips and take a look. The gums should be firm and pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. The teeth should be clean and free of any brownish tartar, and none should be loose or broken.
3. A Closer Look
Watch for any of the following signs that could indicate problems in your cat’s mouth:
- Dark red line along the gums
- Red and swollen gums
- Ulcers on gums or tongue
- Loose teeth
- Difficulty chewing food
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive pawing at the mouth area
4. Dangerous Swelling
At any sign of gum inflammation, you should take your cat in for a veterinary exam. If left untreated, gum disease can develop, possibly leading to tooth loss or inability to eat. Inflammation may also point to an internal problem like kidney disease or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
5. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay
Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause a buildup on a cat’s teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. The solution? Regular teeth cleanings, of course.
6. Your Cat’s Tooth-Brushing Kit
All you’ll need to brush your cat’s teeth are cotton swabs and a small toothbrush and tube of toothpaste formulated for felines. You can also use salt and water. Ask your vet to suggest the brushing supplies that he trusts, and be sure never to use toothpaste designed for people—the ingredients can be unhealthy for your cat.
7. Brightening the Pearly Whites
Brush your cat’s teeth at home by following these simple steps:
- First get your cat used to the idea of having her teeth brushed. Start by gently massaging her gums with your fingers or touching a cotton swab to them.
- After a few sessions, put a little bit of cat-formulated toothpaste on her lips to get her used to the taste.
- Next, introduce a toothbrush designed especially for cats—it will be smaller than human toothbrushes and have softer bristles. Toothbrushes that you can wear over your finger are also available and allow you to give a nice massage to your cat’s gums.
- Finally, apply the toothpaste to her teeth for a gentle brushing.
- A veterinary exam beforehand may be helpful to find out if your cat’s gums are inflamed. Many cats have mild gingivitis and brushing too hard can hurt their gums.
8. Chew on This
Chew toys can satisfy your cat’s natural desire to chomp, while making her teeth strong. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help floss your cat’s teeth, massage her gums and scrape away soft tartar.
9. Diet for Healthy Teeth
If your cat has dental troubles, ask your veterinarian to recommend a kibble that keeps feline teeth healthy and helps to remove plaque buildup.
10. Know Your Mouth Disorders
If your cat suffers from any of the symptoms mentioned below, please see the vet right away:
- Gingivitis: This inflammation of the gums is mainly seen in older cats. It may start as a dark red line bordering on the teeth. If left untreated, gums may become sore and ulceration may occur. May be a sign of FIV or other infection.
- Periodontitis: If gingivitis invades the tooth socket, the tooth may become loose and an abscess may form.
- Stomatitis: This inflammation of the mouth lining may result from a foreign body in the mouth, a viral disease or dental problems. The cat will have difficulty eating and the inside of the mouth will appear red.
- Rodent Ulcer: A slowly enlarging sore or swelling on the upper lip.
- Salivary Cyst: If salivary glands or ducts that carry saliva to the mouth become blocked, a cyst may form under the tongue.
- Mouth Ulcers: Ulcers on a cat’s tongue and gums are sometimes caused by feline respiratory or kidney disease.