Having a cat as a member of your family is so much fun! Not only do you always have someone to play with and talk to, but the bond you build between yourself and your cat by feeding her, grooming her, and taking care of her is one that will only grow stronger as you get older — your cat will be your friend for life!
So, how can you best take care of your cat to ensure she’s getting all the love she needs?
The Dodo talked to Dr. Angie Krause, a veterinarian who works with “I and love and you” holistic pet food, and Dr. Cindy Bressler, a NYC- and Hamptons-based house call veterinarian, about how kids can properly take care of their cat — and now you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to be the best cat sibling there is!
How do I pet a cat?
First, you want to approach a cat slowly and quietly, Dr. Bressler told The Dodo, “and you want to speak to them softly, in a really calm manner, with a gentle voice. And you can even get down on their level, so you don’t approach them from above,” which can make some animals nervous.
She then suggested beginning a pet session by gently petting the cat’s back and side. “You can talk to them while petting and [say] ‘Hi! How are you? You are such a good boy or girl.’ If they’re your pet, make sure that you not only pet them, but you give them a lot of attention … You want to really just create a personal bond with them that they get from you daily.”
“Dogs and cats both like to be pet in the direction of hair growth,” Dr. Krause told The Dodo. ”Cats generally prefer to be pet on their head while dogs usually prefer to be pet on their shoulders first.” And it’s important to remember that some cats won’t want to be pet at all, so make sure you let a cat come up to you and give you a sniff before you try to pet him.
Dr. Bressler noted that “there are some times [and] places that dogs and cats do not like to be petted, and it depends on what’s going on with them or if they have any conditions … Before you pet you need to know what’s their story, what’s going on with them? Do they have any issues? Is there a place [where] they’re sensitive? Cats usually are sensitive on the back above the pelvis by their tail, [but] cats love to be pet on the sides of their cheeks, under their ears, under their chin.”
How do I play with a cat?
Cats are incredibly curious, and more often than not, you can get them to play by rolling a small ball across the floor, quickly moving a cat toy around or shaking a toy that makes a rattling sound.
“Many cats like to play with a stick and string toy or toys filled with catnip,” Dr. Krause said. However, Dr. Bressler added that you want to refrain from using any toys that cats can potentially hurt themselves with — “anything with ribbons, tinsel, dental floss, bakery string, yarn, any decorations, party decorations.” So it’s best to stick to toys made especially for cats.
If you decide to play with a string toy, make sure you’re supervising her so that your cat won’t get tangled or caught. “You want to be careful with cats because their nails can be long [and can get caught on things]. You want to keep them short!” Dr. Bressler said.
You can ask your vet or a groomer to trim your cat’s nails if and when they get too long.
How do I groom a cat?
“The grooming routine depends on their breed and hair coat quality,” Dr. Krause said. “Most cats are self-grooming; however, some long-haired kitties benefit from daily brushing. My favorite brush for both dogs and cats is the FURminator.”
There are a bunch of different cat combs and brushes available online or at your local pet store that you can use to help your cat stay soft and tangle-free. Cats with longer hair might require a bit more help, as they tend to get hair mats on their sides and bottoms. Just be gentle when you comb them out, and give your cat a break if she starts to swat at you during the grooming process since it means she’s not enjoying it.
How do I feed a cat?
“Be sure to feed your pet a diet balanced by Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards,” Dr. Krause said. “The back of the bag or can should have feeding recommendations based on your pet’s weight.”
And, if you’re unsure, talk to your vet. “They know different life stages will require different things, [and] different diseases, illnesses, [or allergies] require different things,” Dr. Bressler said. “Talk to your vet about a nutrition plan.”
How do I prevent my cat from getting parasites?
Even if you keep your cat clean, she may get infested with bugs like fleas. But there are medicines you can give her that will keep her healthy — just make sure to ask your vet to help you pick the right one.
“There are many protocols available to keep your pet free of parasites,” Dr. Krause said. “Speak with your veterinarian to make a plan that best suits your pet’s lifestyle and your geographic area.” You can opt for a topical treatment, a flea collar, or an oral medicine to keep your cat free from ticks and fleas, depending on what your vet recommends.
Now that you have basics of cat care for kids down, you’re ready to start your adventure with your new best friend.