Cats As Pets: History, Behavior, Diet, Health, Care Tips & More

Discover everything you need to know about cats — including their personalities, behavior, dietary requirements, care requirements and more!
Cats As Pets

Cats have been popular household pets for thousands of years, known for their independent nature, affectionate personalities, and playful demeanor. As a pet owner, it’s important to understand the basics of cat behavior, diet, health, and temperament to ensure that your feline companion is happy, healthy, and well-cared for.

In this blog post, we will explore everything you need to know about cats as pets — from their instinctual behaviors and communication methods to their nutritional needs and common health issues, we will cover all aspects of responsible cat ownership.

Cat SpeciesAbout this specie

Family: Felidae

Class: Mammalia

Lifespan: 12-20 years

Length: Varies by breed

Weight: Varies by breed

Energy Level: Generally moderate to high

Personality: Varies by breed, but generally affectionate, independent, curious, and playful

Temperament: Usually even-tempered

Intelligence: Generally intelligent and capable of learning tricks and commands

History of Cats

Believed to have descended from the Near Eastern wildcat, the domestic cat (Felis catus) has been living alongside humans for nearly 9,500 years. Unlike dogs, who were actively domesticated by humans, cats seemingly chose to live with humans out of preference. Cats were likely attracted to early farming communities due to the influx of rodents, their primary prey.

Cats in Ancient Civilizations

Cats held a significant place in many ancient civilizations:

  1. Egypt: Cats were worshipped as deities in ancient Egypt. The lion-headed goddess Bastet was the goddess of home, fertility, and civilization. Killing a cat, even accidentally, could result in the death penalty.
  2. Rome: The Romans valued cats for their ability to control pests. Cats were associated with liberty and divination.
  3. China: In ancient China, cats were kept in homes to ward off evil spirits.

Cats and Medieval Superstitions

During the Middle Ages, cats’ fortunes changed dramatically. Superstitions led them to be associated with witchcraft in Europe. Cats were persecuted on a large scale for fear they were familiars of witches. This negative perception changed by the 17th century when cats’ popularity began to resurge.

Cats in the Modern Era

Cats have been a beloved part of our households for several centuries. Selective breeding over the last two centuries has resulted in the variety of cat breeds we see today. Cats are not just endearing companions, but they continue to serve a practical purpose by controlling pests.

Famous Cats Throughout History

Several cats have made their mark throughout history. Some notables include:

  1. Trim: This cat’s journey alongside explorer Matthew Flinders on the ship HMS Investigator is well-documented through Flinders’ journals.
  2. Muezza: The Prophet Muhammad’s favourite cat, who is revered in Islamic tradition.
  3. Félicette: The first cat to visit space, sent by French scientists in the 1960s.
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Behavior

Understanding cat behavior can allow us to forge stronger bonds with our feline friends.

Sleeping Patterns

Cats possess quite erratic sleeping schedules. It may astound many to learn that cats spend about two-thirds of their life asleep. This habit traces back to their wild ancestors who were habituated to sleep for long periods to conserve energy for hunting. Cats primarily sleep in short, light catnaps throughout the day. They remain alert to sounds and movements even in the sleep state, prepared to awaken at a moment’s notice.

Grooming Habits

Cats spend an extensive part of their day grooming. This practice serves multiple purposes. It helps to cool them down, stimulate blood flow, and serve as a self-soothing mechanism. Arguably most importantly, grooming helps cats remove loose fur to prevent matting and hairballs. If your cat grooms excessively or you notice patches of missing fur, consult with a vet, as this could be a sign of stress or medical conditions.

Hunting Instincts

Cats are natural-born hunters. This behavior is independent of whether the cat is well-fed at home or not. This is because cats hunt for recreation rather than just sustenance. They take delight in the thrill of the chase. As hunting is instinctive, even domestic cats without any exposure to hunting can exhibit these behaviors when presented with a feather toy or a laser pointer.

Socialization

Cats are often seen as solitary creatures, but they can form deep bonds with humans and other pets. Socialization is best started early in a kitten’s life, around 2-7 weeks of age. This exposure to people, other animals, and various environments can help your cat grow into a confident, easygoing adult. Adult cats can be socialized too, but it typically requires more patience and coaxing.

Communication

Cats use a variety of ways to communicate with humans and other cats. They use vocalizations like meowing, purring, growling, and hissing. Each sound type is used in different contexts and carries different meanings. A contented purring cat on your lap sends a vastly different message from a hissing, back-arched cat.

Body language is another crucial channel through which cats communicate. A waving tail often suggests excitement, but not always of the positive variety, while slow tail flicks could indicate irritation. Flattened ears and dilated pupils might indicate fear or hostility.

Common Behavior Issues

Cats, like any pets, can sometimes exhibit troublesome behaviors. This could include scratching furniture, which can be mitigated by providing cat trees or scratching posts. Inappropriate elimination outside the litter box could be a sign of medical issues, or it could result from a dirty litter box. Aggression, another common issue, is typically a response to fear or territoriality, and it’s essential to understand its root cause to address it properly.

Temperament and Personality

Cats are enigmatic creatures, each boasting their own unique temperament and personality traits. Comprehending these traits can help cat owners understand their pets more intimately, forming stronger bonds with them. Some examples of breed-based traits include:

Siamese

Siamese cats are known for their vocal and social nature. They love to communicate with their owners and often seek attention and companionship.

Maine Coon

Maine Coon cats are famous for their easygoing, friendly demeanor. They are often referred to as “gentle giants” and are known to get along well with other pets and children.

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Ragdoll

True to their name, Ragdoll cats have a relaxed and docile personality. They are affectionate and adaptable, often going limp when picked up.

Factors Influencing a Cat’s Personality

Numerous factors contribute to a cat’s temperament and personality.

Genetics

A cat’s genetic makeup can have a significant impact on its personality. Traits like sociability, curiosity, and aggression can be inherited from the parent cats.

Environment

The environment in which a cat is raised plays a role in shaping its personality. Early socialization, exposure to various stimuli, and a nurturing atmosphere can lead to a more sociable and confident cat. Conversely, an unpredictable or stressful environment may foster an anxious and aggressive temperament.

Age and Health

The age and health of a cat can also affect its behavior. For instance, kittens tend to be more curious, playful, and energetic as they explore their world. Senior cats, on the other hand, are often more sedate and can experience cognitive changes as they age. Furthermore, underlying health issues can affect a cat’s behavior and temperament.

Temperament and Lifestyle Compatibility

When considering bringing a cat into your life, it’s important to establish whether its temperament aligns with your lifestyle. Assess your home environment, schedule, and family dynamics to ensure a harmonious match.

Active vs. Quiet Cats

Active and playful cats may require more attention, interaction, and enrichment, whereas quiet cats call for a more tranquil and stable environment.

Social vs. Independent Cats

Social cats often crave constant companionship and interaction, making them ideal for households with multiple family members or other pets. Conversely, independent cats are more self-sufficient and may suit single dwellers or people with hectic schedules.

Cat Diet

Nutritional Requirements

Cats are obligate carnivores; they require a diet rich in protein along with certain vitamins and minerals. Also vital to their diet is taurine, an essential amino acid. Water intake, often overlooked, is significantly important for their hydration.

Protein

Protein is the cornerstone of a cat’s diet. It provides the essential amino acids cats are unable to produce on their own. Meat like poultry, fish, or beef are excellent protein sources ensuring cats receive these imperative building blocks of their metabolism.

Taurine

Among the many essential amino acids in a cat’s diet, taurine requires specific mention. This amino acid is crucial for maintaining their cardiologic and ocular health. A deficiency in taurine could lead to dire health issues like heart disease and blindness. Since taurine is not produced naturally by cats’ bodies, it has to be included in their diet.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cats need various vitamins and minerals for their overall well-being. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are necessary for their bone health, immune function, and vision, while minerals like calcium and phosphorous are required for healthy teeth and bones.

Water

Being descendants of desert-dwelling species, cats have a low thirst drive. However, water is still a vital part of a cat’s diet and plays a key role in digestion and maintaining body temperature. Wet cat food can supplement their water intake, but fresh drinking water should always be readily available.

Types of Cat Food

There is a wide selection of cat food available in the market. Each carries benefits and downsides. Ultimately, the choice would depend on your cat’s specific needs and preferences. They are as follows:

Dry Food

Dry kibble is popular due to its convenience, affordability, and prolonged shelf life. It can also be beneficial for dental health by reducing plaque. However, dry food generally has a lower meat content and lacks the hydration provided by wet food.

Wet Food

Wet cat food usually comes in pouches, cans or trays and has a higher meat content than dry food. It also provides hydration, which helps support urinary tract health. However, the higher cost and short shelf life once opened are considerations.

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Homemade Meals

Feeding homemade meals allows you to control what goes into your cat’s diet, ensuring the quality of ingredients. However, creating a balanced cat diet at home requires a thorough understanding of cat nutrition. Consulting with a vet or pet nutritionist is recommended if you choose this route.

Feeding Schedule and Portion Control

The feeding schedule for your pet largely depends on its life stage. Kittens require several small meals a day, while adults typically eat one or two larger meals.

Portion sizes are determined by the cat’s age, weight, and lifestyle. A generally active and healthy adult cat requires roughly 2 meals and 200-250 calories per day. However, portion sizes should be adjusted according to the cat’s weight and health conditions.

Health Advice & Concerns

Preserving the health of our beloved felines is a top priority for any cat lover. Understanding their common health issues, preventive measures, and the necessity of regular vet visits will help you to ensure their overall well-being.

Regular Vet Visits

Vet visits are a pivotal part of maintaining your cat’s health status. Regular visits allow for preventative care and can identify potential health issues before they escalate.

Vaccinations

During vet visits, cats receive necessary vaccinations that protect against diseases such as rabies, feline leukemia virus (FeLV), and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).

Dental Care

Proper dental care, often overlooked, is crucial. Professional cleanings and regular brushings at home can prevent dental diseases, which may lead to chronic pain, tooth loss, and can even affect other organs.

Common Health Issues

Cats are prone to several common health issues that pet owners need to be aware of:

Upper Respiratory Infections

Cats frequently suffer from viral or bacterial upper respiratory infections. The symptoms may include but are not limited to, sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, and conjunctivitis. Prompt medical attention can ensure quick recovery and prevent secondary issues.

Urinary Issues

Urinary issues, like urinary tract infections and kidney disease, are another prevailing health concern in cats. Providing a moisture-rich diet and ensuring the cat is well-hydrated can aid in preventing such issues.

Obesity and Diabetes

Obesity-related diabetes is becoming increasingly common in cats. Maintaining an appropriate weight reduces the risk of diabetes. Should your cat be diagnosed with diabetes, regular insulin injections and diet adjustments are typically the primary treatment methods.

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas can cause anemia, especially in kittens, while ticks can transmit diseases. Regular use of flea and tick prevention can help keep these common parasites at bay.

Heartworms

Heartworms are transmitted to cats through the bites of infected mosquitoes. While heartworm disease in cats is less common than in dogs, its prevention is critical since there’s no approved treatment for cats.

Worms

Internal parasites, like roundworms and tapeworms, can harm a cat’s digestive system. Regularly deworming your cat and keeping them indoors can reduce the risk.

Grooming Your Cat

Cats are known for their cleanliness and self-grooming prowess. Sometimes, however, they need a little help from their human friends to keep their coats healthy and looking beautiful.

1. Preparing for Grooming

Before beginning the grooming process, it’s important to get your cat comfortable with the idea. Here are some tips to prepare your cat for grooming:

  • Create a calm environment: Ensure the grooming area is quiet and free of distractions or loud noises.
  • Introduce tools gradually: Show your cat the grooming tools one at a time, allowing them to sniff and investigate.
  • Begin grooming during their relaxed state: Start when your cat is calm or sleepy to help them associate grooming with positive experiences.
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2. Choosing the Right Tools

Having the appropriate grooming tools is essential for a successful grooming experience. Some tools you may need include:

  • Brushes and combs: These vary depending on your cat’s coat type; it’s essential to choose the right brush or comb to prevent discomfort and effectively remove any loose hair.
  • Nail clippers: Specially designed for cats, these clippers trim your cat’s claws safely and painlessly.
  • Ear and eye cleaning supplies: Use cotton balls or pet-specific wipes to clean your cat’s ears and eyes.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste: Opt for a cat-specific toothbrush and toothpaste to maintain good oral hygiene.

3. Brushing Basics

Brushing your cat regularly helps to remove dead hair, minimize shedding, and prevent mats. Follow these steps for a successful brushing session:

  • Brush in the direction of hair growth: Always start at your cat’s head and work your way down the body, making sure to brush in the direction of hair growth.
  • Use gentle, even strokes: Avoid pressing too hard or pulling on your cat’s fur.
  • Reward positive behavior: Offer treats and praise your cat throughout the grooming process.

4. Bathing Your Cat

Cats usually require infrequent baths, but if needed, follow these tips for a successful and stress-free bath:

  • Fill a sink or tub with warm water: The water should be shallow enough for your cat to stand comfortably.
  • Hold your cat securely: Gently restrain your cat while you lather them with a mild, cat-specific shampoo.
  • Rinse thoroughly: Make sure to remove all shampoo residue from your cat’s coat.

5. Dealing with Mats

Mats, or tangled clumps of fur, can be uncomfortable for cats if left untreated. Follow these steps to safely remove mats:

  • Use a comb to gently loosen the mat: Start at the end furthest from the skin and slowly work your way towards the skin.
  • Try using a mat splitter: These tools are designed to cut through thick mats without causing pain to your cat.
  • Seek professional help: In severe cases of matting, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian to avoid injuring your cat.

6. Trimming Nails

Trimming your cat’s nails promotes their overall health and helps prevent accidental scratches. Follow these steps for a smooth nail trimming experience:

  • Hold your cat securely: Provide gentle restraint while holding your cat’s paw.
  • Expose the nail: Gently press on the paw pad to extend the nail.
  • Trim only the tip: Use cat-specific nail clippers to trim the tip of the claw, avoiding the quick (the pink area inside the nail).
  • Reward your cat: Praise and offer treats throughout the process to encourage cooperation.

7. Cleaning Ears and Eyes

Cats can be prone to ear and eye infections, so regular cleaning can help prevent health issues. Follow these tips for proper cleaning:

  • Use a cotton ball or pet-specific wipe: Gently clean the outer ear, avoiding the inner canal.
  • Wipe away eye discharge: Use a clean, damp cloth or pet-specific eye wipes to gently remove any discharge from the corners of your cat’s eyes.

8. Oral Care

Maintaining your cat’s oral health is essential for preventing dental diseases. Follow these steps for proper oral care:

  • Introduce brushing slowly: Gradually get your cat used to the idea of having their teeth brushed by first allowing them to taste and smell the cat-specific toothpaste.
  • Begin brushing gently: Use a cat-specific toothbrush and gently brush the outer surfaces of your cat’s teeth.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups: Consult with your veterinarian about routine dental exams and cleanings to maintain your cat’s oral health.
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9. Grooming Tips for Specific Breeds

Different cat breeds have unique grooming needs based on their coat types. Here’s a quick overview for some common breeds:

  • Long-haired cats (e.g., Maine Coon, Persian): Frequent brushing (daily or every other day) is essential to prevent mats and tangles.
  • Short-haired cats (e.g., American Shorthair, Siamese): Weekly brushing is typically sufficient to remove loose hair and maintain coat health.
  • Hairless cats (e.g., Sphynx): Regular baths and frequent skin care are necessary to keep their skin healthy and clean.

10. Do’s and Don’ts of Cat Grooming

Finally, here is a list of do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while grooming your cat:

  • Be patient and gentle.
  • Establish a regular grooming routine.
  • Reward your cat with praise and treats.
  • Don’t force your cat to tolerate grooming if they are agitated or fearful.
  • Don’t use human products on your cat, such as shampoo, toothpaste, or nail clippers.
  • Don’t ignore signs of irritation or infection; consult your veterinarian if you suspect a health issue.

Choosing the Right Cat

Choosing the Right Cats As Pets

Choosing the right cat involves assessing your lifestyle, financial commitments, and understanding various cat breeds and their unique traits. Age and lifestyle considerations are also key, including deciding whether a kitten, adult, or even a senior cat would best suit your circumstances.

You also have the option to adopt from a shelter or buy from a breeder, each with its considerations. Lastly, preparation for a new cat involves making your home cat-friendly and having essential supplies. All these factors contribute towards making a well-informed decision for a lifelong, rewarding companionship with your feline friend.

Knowing Your Lifestyle

Before you begin the cat selection process, it’s important to know what your current lifestyle looks like. Take some time to think about your daily routine, living situation, and how a new cat will fit into your life.

Consider factors such as allergies, family members (including children), and any existing pets in the household. Be realistic about your expectations, as some cats may be shy or scared around children or other animals.

It would be best to find a cat with an energy level and temperament that matches your lifestyle. For example, if you are quite active and want a playful companion, an energetic breed might be a better fit than a more calm and quiet one.

Financial Considerations

Owning a cat comes with a financial commitment. Costs can include food, litter, toys, grooming supplies, and annual vet visits. There might also be unexpected medical expenses or emergency situations.

Calculate the financial commitment required and make sure you are willing and able to provide a comfortable life for your furry friend before choosing a cat.

Breed Profiles

There are several cat breeds with unique characteristics and temperaments. Some breeds are active and playful, while others are quiet and low-energy. Earlier, we wrote a comprehensive post going over the best cat breeds and how you can make the right choice. Do well to give it a read.

For people with allergies, there are hypoallergenic breeds like the Siberian, Balinese, or Russian Blue cats that produce fewer allergens.

Age and Lifestyle Considerations

Consider whether a kitten, adult, or senior cat suits your lifestyle best. Each age group comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Kittens are adorable and energetic but require a lot of time and attention for proper socialization and training. Adult cats are usually more settled and may have established personalities. Senior cats, although less energetic, can still provide companionship and love. Keep in mind that your home and routine will need to accommodate the needs of the age group you choose.

Adopting from Shelters vs. Buying from Breeders

There are multiple avenues to find your new cat, such as adopting from a shelter or rescue organization, or purchasing from a reputable breeder.

Adopting from a shelter is a wonderful way to give a cat in need a loving home. Research reputable animal shelters and rescue groups in your area.

If you prefer to buy from a breeder, make sure it’s a responsible one who focuses on the welfare and health of their cats.

Preparing Your Home for a New Cat

Before bringing your new cat home, ensure that your living space is cat-proofed and set up with essential supplies like a bed, scratching post, food, and litter box. Introduce your new cat to their environment gradually, and give any existing pets in the home time to adjust to their new companion.

The End

Being a cat owner is a fulfilling adventure with countless moments of joy. Understanding and meeting their unique needs ensures a happy, healthy life for your feline companion. And remember, never shy away from seeking help from professionals. After all, happy cats make for happy homes!

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