Along with the pleasures of cat ownership come responsibilities. While cats are independent by nature, you are responsible for your cat's comfort, health and safety - and the comfort of those who are affected by your cat's presence.
To discourage your cat from scratching furniture, provide her with a scratching post. Give her treats and catnip to praise her for using it instead of the furniture. If she does scratch the furniture, tell her "NO" in a gruff, loud voice or lightly spray her with water from a squirt gun or spray bottle.
Cats are naturally clean animals. Kittens learn from their mothers to bury their feces, and so they are easy to toilet train and readily use a litter box. Litter boxes should be placed in a quiet area, be readily accessible, and kept clean.
Cats spend a great deal of time grooming themselves, but longhaired cats may need brushing and combing several times a week to remove dead hair and help prevent matting. Pay particular attention to the underline and tail. Many cats enjoy the sensation of being groomed, and this time you spend together can help create a bond between the two of you, and encourage positive interaction.
If you keep your cat inside, there is much less chance of her getting lost or hurt. If you decide to let your cat outside, you can help your cat find her way home if she wanders too far or gets separated from you. Inside or out, make sure she always wears a collar and identification tag with your telephone number on it. The collar should be elastic or have a quick-release clasp in case it gets caught on something. If your cat goes outside regularly, you may want to discuss with your vet the possibility of implanting an ID microchip under the cat's skin, which can help identify your lost cat.
Keep her indoors during thunderstorms and fireworks displays. If she is missing, check with your neighbors, local veterinary clinics, animal welfare organizations and animal shelters. Contact these organizations in neighboring areas, too, since lost animals can travel some distance.
Consider how best to take care of your cat when you are on vacation and away from home. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a cat kennel where she can be boarded. (Good kennels require that the cat's vaccinations be up to date.) If you are only away for a few days, you might ask a neighbor -- or a pet sitting service -- to visit and feed your cat.
Cats are usually uneasy away from their own environment. If you are transporting your cat away from her home, she may panic and try to escape. Be sure to keep her in a secure cat carrier. Never leave your cat in the car -- cars can become very hot, even on moderately warm days, and your cat can suffer or die from heat exhaustion.
A place to be alone
Cats like to spend some time around people; they're social and curious. But they also like to get away and be alone. A nice thing you can do for your cat is to provide her with a place she can escape to. Give her a comfy bed, either a commercially available cat bed, or an enclosed box with a folded-up blanket, perhaps in a dark closet, where she can hide, feel safe, and sleep in peace without being disturbed.
Vaccination and worming
Vaccination helps to protect your cat against potentially fatal diseases such as feline enteritis and cat flu. Kittens should be inoculated as soon as they reach a few weeks of age because they are particularly vulnerable. Adult cats should have a vaccination certificate -- if you are in doubt about your adult cat's vaccination history, consult your veterinarian about further vaccinations. Remember to keep up the booster shots, too.
Parasites are often present in your cat's intestines, and may or may not cause illness. You may see evidence of tapeworms in your cat's feces -- they are small, white bits, and look like cooked rice. If you think your cat has parasites -- or if you have a new kitten -- take a feces sample to the vet for analysis. Rid your cat of parasites for her comfort, but also for your safety. The best way to help your cat get rid of parasites is to take her to the vet.
Unfortunately, cats sometimes get fleas, which can make their life, and even yours, unpleasant. But it's possible to get rid of these insects. The best way to do this is to use flea products, closely following the instructions of your veterinarian or those printed on the container. These instructions are important, because the frequency of treatment may vary, and can be critical. You should also treat the cat's environment, such as her bedding and favorite furniture, as fleas spend a lot of time away from the cat.
Nutritionally speaking, your cat is a very complex animal. Because of this, most cat owners prefer to use a commercially prepared cat food that is nutritionally balanced and complete, as well as convenient for the owner.
Be sure to provide plenty of drinking water for your cat, particularly if you feed her dry food, because of the significantly reduced moisture level. And remember to clean the water dish and food dish frequently.