Recently adopted a cat or kitten? Congratulations! Your life is about to change for the better. Cats are majestic and have no trouble asking for what they need.
However, our observation skills should be sharp enough so that we know exactly what they are asking for. Many times products in the pet market are designed more to attract the owner rather than the pet. So in this article, we will explore the science of shopping for your pet.
There is an ocean of cat products out there but it’s NEVER about a brand or a single product. It is about what your cat needs and how that product can fulfil it.
I browsed through the Bark Butler x FOFO catalogue ( they have been a personal favourite because of their variety and quality) these are my favourite picks based on my understanding of cat behaviour and my observation of my own cat.
*Every Cat household should have the following:
Shallow (non-plastic) bowl x2
A scratch post (chosen by the cat)
Vertical and/or Hiding Spaces
Enriching Cat toys
Litter-box (this will be covered more in-depth in the next article)
* Multi-cat households should have more resources than the number of cats (e.g. 4 cats = 5 litter boxes)
The right shopping list can be a blessing and I'm going to show you how to listen to the meows. Their needs are simple but it's the details that make all the difference. For example, cats generally have multiple small meals rather than 3 large meals. Based on your feeding schedule you will probably notice leftover food or meowing for food many times day and night. Some cats have a preference for a shallow bowl and some don't mind. If your cat scoops food out of your bowl, it may be time to switch that up. Cats also prefer their water bowl far away from their food bowl. Your cat is always telling you what he/she needs. If you take note of your cat's preferences you will have a happy cat and your money's worth.
Safety, Security and of course, Naptime.
Vertical spaces and hiding spaces are non-negotiable. Before you get a cat, clear space above a fridge, cupboard or shelf. Kittens might need a stepping stool nearby. Having a cat means having a little hunter who needs to see the world from the safety of a tree or bush. If you cannot plant a full-grown tree in your living room, there are some practical alternatives.
A personal favourite of mine is the FOFOs Pet Bed Snail or Rabbit. This bed is snuggly, dark and enclosed. It is perfect for those who like a colder room. The anti-skid base adds to stability under the cat's paws. The velboa fabric is pet safe too.
Place it in a safe corner or securely higher up on a cupboard/fridge/desk. You can also use it as a warmer alternative to sitting on your laptop. Pro Tip: NEVER disturb a sleeping cat. If you pet your cat up during a nap, this reduces the safety of that spot.
If you have a warmer room, your cat will want a cooler alternative. The FOFOs Comic House Cat Scratcher is the definition of cool.
It doubles up as a horizontal scratch post and has a double entry/exit point which is perfect for multi-cat households. This prevents an ambush around important resources. It can also be used as a tunnel during a play session so that the cat can hide and stalk its prey. Once your cat starts to scratch something it will continue to do so in the future. Scratching can be encouraged when they paw the object during play or roll around on it due to catnip (if your cat reacts to it).
Pro tip: Never use food to get a cat to use a scratch post or hold the cat's paws to try and scratch that area yourself. This can result in an aversion towards that area and harm your cat.
Scratching is actually a need rather than a hobby. The purpose of scratching and bunting (the gesture of rubbing the head/cheeks on an object or person) is to deposit pheromones. Pheromones are olfactory communication for cats that help a cat relax in its territory. If your cat scratches in front of you, he/she feels happy and confident to do so.
Your cat's scratching isn't bad behaviour at all which means you cannot and SHOULD NOT punish a cat by spraying water or shaking a can of coins.
Even though it's a 'need' there is 'no need' to redecorate your furniture. When your cat doesn't use the scratch post you bought it's because he/she is telling you it's not the one. Don't you want to help them find true love?
Stability: Scratch posts that are lightweight or oddly shaped will move when scratched and spook your cat. This is why they tend to scratch sofas, door frames and anything sturdy.
Location: Cats tend to scratch where they sleep and they stretch when they wake up. This keeps their muscles in tip-top shape.
Pro Tip: Look at your cat's preference for features instead of objects. E.g. Stability, location, horizontal/vertical instead of a cardboard box, sofa or cat tree.
When your cat is not sleeping or grooming they will be playing. Human-cat playtime needs interactive play that mimics hunting and food puzzles for exploration. When we domesticated cats over the years, we bargained with them. They would grace us with their presence but we would provide them with an outlet for all their predatory needs. They need at least 20 minutes of active & interactive play per day.
This means adding movement, dimming the lights of the room, giving them places to stalk from like curtains, cardboard boxes or cat appropriate tunnels like FOFOs Cat Boy Tunnel.
The key to interactive play is exclusivity. This means all these things ONLY come out during playtime and that's what makes them so special.
Tiny toys always win because you can tie them to a string and they just come alive. I find the size of FOFO's Turtle with Lobster Cat Plush Chew Toy Set serve the purpose. The size is excellent and can be tied to any scratch post too since it has US grade catnip inside.
Their 100% biodegradable teaser toy is great for the environment and has cat attracting materials like feathers, wood etc.
Food puzzles teach the cat to manipulate their environment to get food. It could be as simple as pawing some kibble out of an empty egg carton or it could be complex like retrieving food from a hanging bottle with a hole in it. Studies show that puzzles improve welfare, boost confidence and reduce behaviour issues. Food bowl feeding has little to no effect on your cat well being. You can learn more about how to teach your cat to solve these puzzles here.
Litter Box and Cat chosen litter
Security in the home comes from highlighting the right smell and covering up the potentially harmful ones. This means properly covering the odour with a litter that has fine granules and clumps well. The litter box needs to be 1.5 times the size of the cat and should be cleaned daily or twice a day in a multi-cat household. I could go on and on about the location of the box, open or closed, types of litter, litter box satisfaction etc but we will dive deeper into a litter box (a clean one) in the next article. Drop a comment if you want to know. more about cat litter and litter box choices.
Regardless of whether you have a cat already or you plan to get one... the top 5 things are just as important as the details about how they have to be implemented. All creatures eat but a fish would eat differently from a lion. A deep understanding of our species can help our cats thrive rather than just survive.