Cats and kittens have a way of warming a cold heart or a cold foot. Anyone who has ever had a cat at one time in their life, no matter how long ago that might be, can agree that cats are very different from dogs.
Cats are misunderstood and get a bad rap. According to one source through the ASPCA, it’s estimated that there are over 78 million dog owners and 85.5 million cat owners in the United States. That is a whopping difference of ten million five hundred thousand! Cats are by far very popular at least in the North American region. China seems to have an overabundance of cats at 53 million based on WorldAtlas.com. According to this source, there is an island in Japan called Tashirojima Island where cats live and thrive in large groups. Cats are also a source for art and literature in Japan. Based on just a few of these statistics I believe that cats might have dogs beat in the proverbial cat and dog war.
This blog will not be about the attributes of cats, although they are numerous. I am writing this blog because there is so much about the health of cats as well as the caring for cats that are not easily found on the internet. Even trying to search for symptoms can be daunting. I have over 35 years of experience with cats, but I still find myself searching with frustration for answers on how to properly care for them.
Cats are obligate meat eaters, meaning that they really do not need other sources of food like fruits and vegetables as all of their nutrients are found in the food sources that they eat. A cat is able to eat a raw diet without complications. Although because many of their natural food sources like mice, rats, and birds could have worms, it is best to have your vet routinely prescribe worming treatment for your cat. The schedule is something you and your vet will agree to.
The one major nutrient that cats need that is not found in many commercial cats food brands is Taurine. Pronounced tau·rine, it is a sulfur-containing amino acid important in the metabolism of fats. Many cats who live strictly indoors will have this deficiency. Many cats who are allowed to hunt for their food will not have it. Simply because the cat food manufacturers cannot add the correct amount needed to sustain a cat’s physiological needs, or they simply do not add it to the cat food. Blindness, tooth decay, and heart issues are a few maladies that cats will suffer when they have a deficiency in taurine. My own cats have experienced diabetes and digestive issues, before I knew about this information. When I am shopping for high-quality cat food I look to see if taurine is labeled and how much is in the food. Like I said there will never be adequate amounts to equal what a cat truly needs, but this is one ingredient among others that I will list that needs to be in the food and the closer to the top of the ingredients list means that there is more of it in the food. You can also buy taurine supplements online.
Because cats are strictly meat eaters, they do not need gluten of any kind in their food. Corn is very bad for cats as well as other grains. Although in order to make a dry cat food the manufacturer must add a binder. Rice meal, as well as oatmeal, are better to choose from. Many of the more expensive brands also might add white potato or sweet potato into the ingredients. I do not care for the white potato, but I do give my cats sweet potatoes on occasion when they have diarrhea as well as rice mixed in chicken broth. They also love pumpkin puree from the can. This is a special treat for them. It’s full of vitamin A. It’s good for their digestion as well as urinary health and weight loss. And if you like to give your kitty a treat, this is the best way without causing them to gain weight. My cats adore it! On occasion, I will give them raw wild caught Alaskan salmon too. I will be working on transitioning my cats to a fully raw diet.
Cats do need nutrients if they are to be fed store-bought foods. They get all they need when they are allowed to hunt, but I do understand that some like to keep their cats inside. I five inside only cats. I do however have a feral cat who comes and goes. He likes to bring us mice sometimes. He will also eat our other cat’s food too, but he is much healthier looking and has a beautiful muscle structure from being able to climb and roam freely. Cats will need probiotics for their gut health as well as the essential vitamins that we are all accustomed to in our daily diets. Vitamin A, B, C, and D as well as the omegas 3 and 6. Many cats food brand will list these in the ingredients too. If they don’t then please do not continue to buy that brand, however the best brands to buy are the ones that cost $10 to $15 per bag. We pay $11.99 for a 5lbs bag or 26.99 for a 15lbs bag.
Please do your research when making the decision to buy pet food. Remember: No gluten and corn. Also it is very important that there are no by-products of any kind.
First, we will start with kittens, because if you have ever found an orphan kitten you know that their needs are extensive. Depending on the age of the orphan you might have to take on the task of feeding it every two hours until he is able to eat normally on his own which is usually around six weeks. Many people do not want to do this as it seems daunting as well as time-consuming. But I guarantee it is well worth it and rewarding. The kitten will grow up to be a very well natured cat if they are hand nursed by a loving human. You might get lucky and find someone who has a nursing queen who would be willing to foster your orphan for you until they are weaned. I do want to caution you that there can be some complications if you do not first do some research into the health of the queen and her litter; but also you would need to be sure that the kitten you are sending out to be fostered has a clean bill of health too, because either the queen and her litter can pass on a disease or parasites to the orphan or the orphan kitten could have a disease or parasites and pass it on to the foster mother and her litter. The other option is to find an animal rescue group that will be willing to take the kitten(s) and hand raise them.
How to Feed a Kitten 1 to 5 weeks Old:
First, it is extremely important that the kitten is warm before you start to feed him. A cold kitten will not want to eat. There are other complications that can occur if a kitten is cold and you start to feed him. To warm up a kitten, take an old sock and put rice or dear corn into the sock. Tie it up nice and tight. Place the sock in the microwave for only 5 seconds. This should be warm to the touch, and not burn your skin. Place a towel around the sock and lay it next to the kitten to warm him. Once you feel that he is warm enough, you can begin to feed him with a pet bottle and pet-milk. Never feed with cow or goat milk. You can find pet milk at most PetSmart and PetCo shops. Sometimes Walmart will have it too.
If you are going to bottle feed the kitten and they are 1-5 weeks you will need a pet bottle feeder along with kitten formula (not human infant or cows milk) Most Petcos and Petsmarts will have what you need. But you can also ask your local vet for formula and bottles. It is best to buy canned pet milk, but it can become expensive so the powder is fine. Follow the directions for mixing the formula.
When you feed your kitten be sure that the milk is at room temperature. I fill a ceramic coffee cup with water and heat up in the microwave. Then I place the pet bottle into the warmed up water and let it sit until it is warm (not hot) on my wrist. You test this just like you would for a human infant. Kittens will need to eat every 2 hours around the clock until they are 3 weeks old then it will be every 3 hours until they are 5 weeks old.
Wrap your kitten in a small cloth and hold him upright and place the bottle into his mouth. He might not take the nipple right away. You can try to gently squeeze the bottle to get some of the milk into his mouths so that he can taste it, but do not force him, as he will aspirate and you will lose him. If he struggles to suckle, you can puncture a bigger hole in the nipple. Do not lay the kitten on his back! He is not able to cough if he gets too much milk and it gets into his lungs he will die. If you are still struggling to get him to feed then reach out to a local animal rescue for help. It is important to make sure that the kitten is feeding. Otherwise, he will develop FKS (Fading Kitten Syndrome) and will die.
After feeding your kitten you will need to wipe his bottom so that he can potty and have a bowel movement. The mother cat will lick her babies bottoms until they go to the bathroom. Use a warm cotton ball and wipe his bottom until you see both pee and poo. You must do this after every feeding until he is 4 weeks old. And then it is still best to watch and be sure that he is eliminating on his own. If you do not see your kitten eliminating then there is a problem and he will need to see a vet.
Blood in the urine or the stool is not normal and you will need to take your kitten to the vet.
If your kitten seems lethargic and will not eat you can try to give him a small dab of corn syrup or honey on the tip of his nose where he can lick it off. This will jumpstart his digestive juices and raise his blood sugar so that he will want to eat. But if you notice that he isn’t interested in food please take him to the vet ASAP. He might have developed FKS.
There are a few other illnesses that kittens may get. One is the coronavirus. This can also be fatal and you need to get your kitten to the veterinarian. Symptoms range from following:
Wet/Effusive Fever that doesn’t respond to pain reliever or antibiotics Weight loss Anorexia (lack of appetite) Lethargy Sneezing Watery eyes Nasal discharge Diarrhea Abdominal distension (nonpainful abdominal swelling) Breathing difficulties Fluid in chest cavity Granulomas that form on different organs of the body
Dry/Non-Effusive Fever that doesn’t respond to pain relievers or antibiotics Poor growth (in young kittens) Eye inflammation Jaundice Depression Anemia Diarrhea Depression Neurological symptoms, which include loss of sight, loss of balance or inability to properly run/walk due to loss of coordination
Read more at https://wagwalking.com/cat/condition/coronavirus
Feline Calicivirus is another nasty virus that can be fatal. If you notice your kitten with any of these symptoms please take him/her to the vet too.
These symptoms will usually show up suddenly:
Loss of appetite (anorexia)
Development of ulcers on the tongue, hard palate, the tip of the nose, lips or around claws
Difficult breathing after the development of pneumonia
Arthritis (inflammation of joints)
Bleeding from various sites
Once your cat is two years old he/ she is an adult. Cats can live up to 15 years or more. Please know the commitment you are making before you decided to get a kitten. They are cute and cuddly, but will eventually grow up. A lot of times this is when people decide to “rehome” their cats or to surrender them to shelters. This is not wise. Many times older cats do not make it out of the shelters alive. They are euthanized to make room for more disowned pets. This is a sad phenomenon in our country.
To Declaw or to Not to Declaw:
Cats need to scratch hard surfaces to help keep their nails healthy and useful. I will not go into a lot of detail here about why cats scratch. Just know that it is natural and they will use anything in your house (mainly your couch and favorite LazyBoy chair) to scratch. If you do not want them to scratch your stuff then read this article by Jackson Galaxy and help your cat find other healthy ways to care for their nails. https://www.jacksongalaxy.com/blog/how-to-stop-your-cats-from-scratching-furniture/
What is up with all that fur!
Cats shed. That is a fact. If you cannot handle this widely known fact, then do not get a cat period! They shed, and unless you get a sphynx you will have hair EVERYWHERE!
You do need to help keep Kitty’s coat looking it’s best though. I personly give my cats a bath at least once a month. Usually not more because it is not their favorite thing. I usually do it more often if I notice fleas. This is another thing with cats. Especially outdoor cats. There is medication now that your vet can prescribe. DO NOT buy any over the counter flea and tick products for your cats. These products are highly toxic to cats even though they might be marketed for cats. Please save you and your cat the heartache of pain and death, and just ask your vet for advice or for the medication. And plan to give your cat a bath. There are YouTube videos on how to safely and easily bath your cat.
So Much Information Who Do I Trust?
Youtube is a good source for many things as is the internet; but you must tread cautiously too. Not everything on the web is accurate. I came across a page that said it was ok to put Apple Cider Vinegar into a cat’s ear. NO! That is harmful. Please do not do this. Also, do not put it onto their skin. It is highly acidic and will actually cause 2nd-degree burns, and could lead to skin break down, as well as deafness in the ear. I know they are expensive, but please do not delay in taking your cat to the vet if you suspect that there is something wrong and you are out of your element to care for your pet. I promise you that if you harm your pet although by accident not with any malice intended, you will have to pay more for the care than if you just take your pet in at the first on-set of something that is off in your cat.
Essential oils are all the rage now. BUT they are not for your cat. Please do not use them on or near your cat. Their liver cannot break down the chemicals and they will suffer and die. There are some essential oil companies that swear you can use them on your cat. Please don’t. I have taken several aromatherapy classes, and they all say the same thing about essential oils and cat. And there were very sad testimonies of where the cat did not survive. I am pleading with you for the sake of your cat to not experiment on them with essential oils.
The Older Wiser Cat:
Your cat is considered a senior citizen at the age of 10. You might notice that they sleep more than they play. You also might notice that their appetite is not what it used to be. Some cats will experience upset stomachs and might throw up more, or start to exhibit weight loss. You need to take your older cat to the vet for a senior care check-up. If you notice that he has foul breath or is losing weight or anything else that seems off, then he needs to see the vet as soon as posable.
I began to feed my older cat a softer diet because he developed abscess from eating hard food and having bad teeth.
There was a time I did have his teeth cleaned, as it is recommended by any vet. But I will admit that because it is so very expensive, and without pet insurance, I was not able to afford it a second time, I did not keep up on his oral health.
That is something I will let you as the reader decide, what is best for you and your pet.
I do suggest that once you see your cat losing weight and struggling to eat hard food that you find a very high quality wet or soft food for your senior cat.
At the end of life, you will have to make the tough decision of saying goodbye. I have had to make this heart-wrenching choice too many time to count. As I have a seventeen-year-old cat now, I am leaving it up to him, unless he is just in too much pain and distress. I have put him on “hospice” which gets me a few sideways looks and laughs. But you can do this for your cat. You make the commitment to not interfere with nature and only make your cat comfortable. My cat is not on medication. He is given adequate warmth, care, food, and water, and is able to move to any spot in the house where he is most comfortable. He has decided his feeding schedule. There are days that he won’t eat or drink. I do not force it. Where before I would make a mush of wet food and water and feed him through a syringe. I would also get a SubQ IV from the vet to hydrate him. Now I let him decide when it is time. I have thought many days would be his last. But he always surprises me and perks up.
Cat are very special creatures and deserve our love and respect. I hope that by reading through this blog you will have a better understanding on some basic care as well as dos and don’t.
If you have
I recomend reading Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Cat Care