Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The beginner's guide to taking care of cats - revised

It’s been slightly over a year since we first started on this wonderful adventure in the feline world. We have learned a lot within this short period of time, from the frantic search for a kitten and the purchase of our first kitten Boboy and his sidekick Dusky, to our decision to start a cattery to breed maine coons and finally to our first litter between the union of Putra and Citrus. We cannot forget the frantic drive to the vet because Boboy and Dusky were sneezing, only to be told that there’s nothing wrong with them but only suffering from being stressed about being in a new environment and not really the dreaded flu virus, to the wonder of five new born kittens and the close monitoring of the kittens over a 24 hour period for the first month – okey we overdid it, we took turns to sit in front of the babies and their mum. Sara was on day shift from 8am to 6pm, Liza took over from 6pm to 1am and me from 1 am to 8am just to make sure that Citrus does not accidently sit on the babies and smother them and that all the babies had enough milk. We took their weights on daily basis between 8pm to 9pm after they have had their dinner at 7pm to monitor their growth rate. The first month, I was a zombie at work.

We are now at the next stage of the journey – learning how to let go of our kittens. We have to let go of four of our kittens to make room for future litters or expansion of the cattery. Sigh, this is the hardest part so far……..

Ok, recap of lessons learned which appeared in my earlier blogs but have been updated based on our experiences to date. Again I would like to remind everyone that everyone has different ideas or ways of doing things :

1.      In the beginning …..
(a)    Do your research and read, read, read about cats and which breed you'd like to "grow up" with. I rushed into the feline world head first so did not really read about which breed suits me and my life style best. But I believe I have made the right choice in choosing maine coons as I love their temperament (gentle giant) and being a medium haired category, they don’t need constant daily grooming like the Persians.
(b)    Ask yourself whether you want to start a breeding programme or just enjoy the cats that you have. Initially I only want cats as pets but I have now decided to breed maine coons.
(c)   If there's a cat association or club, join them or at least get to know a few of the members before plunging into the ravine so to speak :) There are a lot of cat registration associations in the world but Malaysia only recognises FIFE (Federation International Feline, Luxemburg), CFA (Cat Fanciers' Association, US) and TICA (The International Cat Association, US)

2.       Where to buy ….
(a)    Don't go cat searching during a long weekend break, most of the shops would be closed. In my haste to get a cat, I had to choose the long Chinese New Year holiday weekend! (rolled eyes) 
(b)   If the petshop is offering a kitten before he/she is three/four months old - WALK AWAY! Unless they are orphans, they still need the mother and most likely have not been potty trained. A responsible breeder would only sell their kittens after they are four months old or so.
(c)    If you want to buy pedigree cats, it is better to get from a reputable breeder. You can check out whether the breeder is reputable or respectable by doing your homework ie talk to other cat lovers/owners, search the internet, read blogs, join Facebook groups and finally, based on your search, draw your own conclusion.
(d)    For pedigree cats, make sure that the breeder shows you the registration slip for your kitten/cat first before making your purchase. Better still, bring along a friend who knows what to look for. Make a copy for your records as the breeder needs the slip to change the ownership. I made the mistake of not making a copy of Pearl's registration slip and had to keep chasing the breeder until in the end he relented and gave me the slip for me to change the ownership myself. For the other maine coons that we’ve purchased, there was no problem with the certificates so the name transfer was relatively painless.
(e)    Adoption is also another method of getting a cat as a companion. There are many organisations here in Malaysia that takes in stray cats and put them up for adoption such as the SPCA etc.

3.       Accommodation
(a)    Do you have the space to keep them? We have several areas where we keep our 12 cats. The Cats Room now houses Boboy, Dusky, Citrus, Pearl and Bianca. The Lagenda kids and Kandi are housed in my bedroom with Putra staying in the adjoining balcony which has been closed up with windows. We have also set up another cage in Sara’s room to serve as the “hospital” or isolation area for new cats.
(b)   Do you want to keep them in cages or let them roam free in the house? For safety reasons (and my peace of mind), I initially kept the babies in their individual cages when I go to work but will let them out once I get home. Furthermore, it is easier to keep the boys away from the girls as I don't want the girls to get pregnant before they are one years old. However now, since we have several rooms for them, the cats are free to roam in their rooms with food and litter boxes placed in the open cages. When we are home, the adults are let out of their rooms to roam freely within the house, while making sure the female are kept separated from Putra.
(c)    Do you want to keep them indoors or outdoors? I prefer indoor cats as at least I can keep them safe and minimise the risk of infection.
(d)    Buy the biggest cage you can afford in terms of size to fit your home as they will grow bigger. We bought the largest kitten cage (36"L x 22"W x 29"H) for both Boboy and Dusky as the petshop had only one. After scouting around, we found a small sized dog cage (48"L x 30"W x 36"H) which is the biggest sized cage that could fit our house. We now have four of the dog cages, two in each room to house the litter boxes, food bowls and bottles plus another two-tier cage which acts as the “hospital” or isolation area in Sara’s room.

4.      Health care
(a)     Do you have a good vet within your neighbourhood? We have two vets located within 15 minutes drive from my house.
(b)    Visit the vet immediately you feel that something is wrong with your cat, it is better to be safe than sorry. When we first started, we visited the vet almost every day just because either Boboy or Dusky sneezed and we thought that they had a runny nose as their noses were wet. Our vet was very patient and nice but finally managed to convince us that there was nothing wrong with the kittens, they are just stressed out because they have just been rehomed and wet noses are normal. We laugh about it now but at that time, we were really, really worried. J.
(c)     Vaccination – there has been a lot of talk on the net with regards to vaccination and whether we need to do the annual boosters. IMHO, kittens need to have their vaccinations as they have to develop their immune system and we should give the adults an annual boost, especially show cats as they will definitely meet other cats.

5.      Food
(a)    To give raw food or the processed food (dry or canned) – the jury is still divided on this so my advice is to read all about the pros and cons of raw, processed, dry or canned food and make you own conclusion.
(b)    Choose the most suitable food for your cats ie species appropriate and age appropriate food. There are kibbles suitable for new born babies upto 4 months, between 4 months and 12 months, adult cats, older cats, breed specific kibbles such as for maine coons and persians
(c)   Read the labels and choose those which have more protein content than carbohydrate, especially the first three ingredients listed.
Our cats are given a combination of kibbles, canned food and boiled chicken or meat. The kibbles are provided all day long and changed on daily basis to keep them fresh. We give them canned food for breakfast, lunch and dinner mixed with either kibbles, boiled chicken or meat for variety. We have tried to give them raw meat or chicken but they did not like them. For the canned food, we buy different flavours and different brands eg Fancy Feast, Avoderm, Evo, Royal Canin etc as we find that the cats tend to get bored if fed the same brand and flavour for long periods of time.
(d)    Don’t forget to give them water, especially if they have kibbles served all day. The best method is to use a feeding bottle instead of an open bowl, it is more hygienic as the water is not exposed to the outside elements. However, don’t forget to change the bottle on regular basis. All our maine coons except for two of the girls are trained to drink via the bottle.
(e)   The type of feeding bowls used are also important, it is better to use ceramic or stainless steel for hygienic reasons.

6.     Toys
I am a firm believer that cats, like children, need toys to keep them happy and keep them from getting bored and picking fights. However, don’t be surprised to note that they will turn up their pretty little noses at the most expensive of items but will pounce on the cheapest of them all namely the good trusty crumpled paper or drinking straws. But nothing could beat the good old ball that has bells in them. My kittens would be playing “paw ball” all day long if you let them. They will stop only because the ball has rolled under the bed or we picked them up.

7.      If you need more info, please go to :

 Please note that I am NOT a spokesperson for any of the products that I use.

No comments:

Post a comment