10 Things Every Cat Owner Should Know

Some things are obvious the moment you bring a cat into your home. Cats are curious. They’re snuggly. They can be shy and they can be daring. But there are a few things that most cat owners don’t learn until after months or even years of keeping a cat. Here are ten things every cat owner should know.

1. You probably already know your cat is a carnivore. But did you know he’s an obligate carnivore?

Everything about your cat’s physical being is driven by his carnivorous nature. When it comes to diet, cats don’t need anything that doesn’t naturally appear in the bodies of their prey. Keep this in mind when choosing a diet for your feline companion.

2. Cats don’t think of water the same way you do.

Cats have naturally low thirst drives and don’t have much of a desire to drink water. Instead of trekking miles across the desert in search of a watering hole, your cat’s ancestors found most of their hydration in the form of juicy rodents, birds, and lizards. For this reason, cats have very little desire to drink, instead expecting to get most of their water in their food. The cat on a high-moisture diet might spend less time at the water bowl, but he nevertheless gets about twice as much water as one who eats kibble

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On top of their naturally low thirst drive, cats prefer moving water. Still water is less aerated and more prone to stagnation. Because it tastes fresher and perhaps because cats instinctively avoid contamination-prone still water, moving water from a water fountain or faucet is an appealing alternative to water in a bowl.

To avoid the consequences of under-hydration, feed your cat a high-moisture diet and provide moving water.

3. All cats scratch—it’s your job to decide where.

Instead of growing longer like your fingernails, your cat’s claws grow like an onion—layer by layer. To prevent their claws from continuing to grow into a mangled clump, cats constantly slough off the outer layers of their claws. Outdoor cats use stumps and tree bark. Indoor cats without a scratching post use carpet and upholstery.

Scratching posts provide a human-friendly outlet for your cat’s need to scratch and are an essential investment for any cat who lives indoors.

4. Cats need vertical territory.

Imagine walking around on four little 10-inch legs. You may be more cunning than the animals around you and you may have sharper claws and stronger jaws, but you’re small and vulnerable because of your size. Wouldn’t you like to have a tall perch that elevates you above the heads of those who might hurt you, including feline housemates, dogs, and heavy-footed humans?

Vertical territory is a common term referring to any elevated areas that take your cat off the floor. Adding vertical territory is particularly beneficial for shy cats in multiple cat homes. By breaking up their territory into multiple planes, you give your cats a break from one another and any territorial spats that might break out on ground level.

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5. Dental hygiene is just as important for cats as it is for people.

Just like people, cats require regular dental care. Some think that an annual professional cleaning is enough, but it’s not. How would your smile look (not to mention smell) if you went for yearly cleaning appointments and didn’t brush, floss, or use mouthwash for the 364 days between dentist appointments? To prevent bad breath and, ultimately, periodontitis, every cat needs a toothbrush, toothpaste, and regular brushing.

6. Cats are awesome play buddies.

Your cat’s predatory nature makes him a fascinating adventure pal and playmate. Both you and your cat will feel energized by a morning spent chasing a feather wand or romping through the grass. A few toys, daily races around the house, and supervised outdoor adventures will do a lot to keep both you and your cat happy and satisfied.

7. Cats are great snugglers—and it might get even better.

Just like people, cats carry certain personality traits their entire lives, but that doesn’t mean they won’t evolve over time. Cats who never sat on laps may crawl up on their human’s lap for the first time at age five. Seemingly tense or aloof cats who rarely purred may become purring snugglers when they’re ten. Sharing life changes is sometimes a catalyst for this transformation. Moving to a new house, losing or gaining a family member, and even a bout of illness can make your cat—and your bond—evolve.

8. Slow blinks mean love!

Though humans can’t know for certain that cats slow blink to show affection, cats of all shapes and sizes use it as a gesture of trust. Lions, tigers, and Persians alike exhibit this behavior among friends.

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If your cat gives you a slow, sleepy blink, it probably means he feels comfortable and safe around you. Just as a buddy cat might return the gesture, you can express shared affection by slowly blinking back at your cat.

9. Cats spend about ⅔ of their lives sleeping.

You know cats sleep a lot, but did you know that the average cat sleeps for 12 to 16 hours a day?  If a cat lives for 15 years, he’ll only have spent about five of them in the waking world. Since there’s not much you can do to make your cat’s unconscious life more fun, you may as well make the most of the time when he’s awake.

10. Your cat can change your life in unexpected ways.

“Undoubtably, Helga has brought balance to my life. I have even become a better photographer because of her. I’ve recalibrated my relationship with time, I’ve become more engaged in the present moment but by wandering around without a specific agenda, letting Helga take the lead, I leave open the space for new and wondrous things to arise.” – Christel Moeller, writing about her adventurous ragdoll cat Helga in Kitty Karma: Big Stories of Small Cats Who Change Our Lives

You can’t predict the ways in which your cat will change your life, but if you pay attention, you’ll inevitably see them appear.

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