Cat care can be a mystery to people who’ve never had a cat, especially those who’ve grown up with dogs. Many people think that cats are aloof and aggressive or that, once you adopt one, your house will never smell fresh again.
A coworker of mine was telling a sweet story about spoiling her dog yesterday. Naturally, I related, so I told everyone how spoiled my pets are.
Another coworker turned to me and asked, “but you have cats right?”
Confused, I said, “Yes! and I spoil them like crazy!”
The same coworker then hesitated before asking, “and…are they friendly to you?”
Of course my cats are friendly! Percy, my orange tabby, is the most affectionate animal I’ve ever met, and my other two fur-babies, though not as affectionate, are still sweethearts most of the time.
In my experience, Dog People only learn how wonderful cats can be if they stumble into cat ownership. (Side note: I also really love dogs; if I lived in a bigger place, I would definitely have one.)
I know quite a few people who’ve taken in abandoned cats or who’ve started dating a cat lover, and they aren’t sure how to properly care for their new pets.
If either of those situations describes you, or if you like cats but have only ever been around dogs, here is a beginner’s guide to cat care for those who’ve only ever had dogs.
Cats Need Just As Much Playtime as Dogs
It’s a common misconception that cats are lazy or that all they want to do is sleep. Cats need to exercise every day to keep them happy and healthy, like dogs, but they play differently.
Unlike dogs, cats need short bursts of playtime, and they need their natural instincts to be engaged. Slow movements with a cat wand help cats to simulate the hunting they would be doing in the wild.
Cats Can’t Be Disciplined–But They Can Be Trained
A lot of people think of cats as indifferent towards humans and anything they have to say. Cats, however, can be trained like dogs can. It just takes a different approach.
Cats don’t respond to negative actions. No amount of yelling or scolding them is going to make them understand that what they did was wrong. Instead, the key is positive reinforcement.
With the right treats and techniques, cats can be taught to shake hands, come when called, or any other traditional “dog” trick.
Petting a Cat is Different Than Petting a Dog
Many people say they prefer dogs because they are easier to be affectionate with, but plenty of cats love scratches. I know mine do!
The key to petting a cat is to let them guide you. Cats will show you where they want to be scratched by rubbing your hand. Let the cat do most of the work first, and then pet them in the ways they want to be pet.
Some cats, like Oli, actually enjoy belly rubs as well! It all depends on the cat.
Cats Have Different Dietary Needs Than Dogs
Cats break down nutrients differently than dogs. Part of proper cat care is making sure they are getting a healthy, balanced diets, and for cats that means smaller meals, but more frequently throughout the day.
Monitoring the portion size is important because cats can easily become overweight, but it’s harder for them to lose weight than dogs. Dogs are similar to humans in that their bodies will break down fat cells when their hungry.
Cats, however, will not break down stored fat, and they can actually see organ damage if their portion sizes are dramatically changed too fast.
It’s also important to note that, while cats and dogs are both carnivores, cats need meat more than dogs do. Dogs are also scavengers in the wild, and can, if they need to, survive on plants. Cats will die without meat, though, so make sure the food you give them contains plenty of protein.
Cats Can Be Taken for a Walk
If properly trained, just like dogs, cats can be taken for walks on a leash. It can be a longer training process than with a dog, and they will need to positively reinforced to keep their harness on, but it is possible!
Many cats love being outside, and walking them on a leash is a great way to give them exercise and let them claim a larger territory. This can help them feel more confident in their environment.
Cats Love You Too–They Just Show It Differently
It’s a common misconception that cats don’t care about their humans. Cats are independent animals, and this independence is often mistaken for indifference.
Cats are affectionate creatures, but they express their love differently than dogs.
Cats look at their humans as part of their territory, their safe space. When a cat trusts you, they will often rub against you or lay on top of you. This makes marks you with their scent and is their way of saying “This is my human.”
Cats will also purr when their happy, although they purr for lots of reasons. It’s their special way of communicating with humans.
My cats favorite way of telling me they love me is by spending time with me. Percy is laying in my lap right now as I write this blog, one paw resting on my hand, and I can hear him purring.
Every once in a while he will pat me on the arm to say, “Hey, human, I want your attention.”
Cats are solitary creatures, so them choosing to be near you is the number one sign that they enjoy your company.
Are you new to cat ownership? What are the main differences you’ve noticed between cat care and dog care?