At Milwaukee Paws Pet Care, we spend a lot of time with your beloved dogs and often post pictures we have snapped while out on our walks with them, but did you know that many of our cat visits are even longer than those we spend with your precious pups? We have several clients who request us to come by for hour-long pet sits, and sometimes even longer, to spend quality one-on-one time with your beloved cats, and we can’t tell you how much we enjoy our time cat sitting them.
It seems many people say that cats are “easy” and independent animals who don’t require much attention or care and can be left alone for long periods of time. While it is true that cats can mix well into busy households and can be left alone for longer than dogs, cats do still require much more care and attention than those unfamiliar with cats may realize. Additionally, some current cat owners may be surprised to learn just how much care and attention their cats need and how important it is to watch for signs that your cat may be trying to communicate a potential problem.
How Much Attention Does your Adult Cat Need?
Most adult cats will need about twenty minutes of your undivided attention each day. While some cats may demand more or be okay with less, this is a fair amount of time for most cats. Some cat owners find it helpful to carve out a specific time during the day to devote to giving their cat attention and playtime; this can help with setting your cat’s routine as it helps them to understand their needs will be met. If you work during the day, you can divide this time while giving your cat attention in the morning and again before bedtime. Personally, I have noticed that if I don’t give my cats some attention in the evenings before bedtime, I am later woken up by cat kisses and meows as they beg for attention! While it sure can be cute, it does not help my energy levels the next day! So, carving out that special time for my cats keeps them content and much less likely to seek out my attention at inconvenient times.
While twenty minutes a day is the standard time of attention that most cats need, keep in mind that senior cats’ and/or kittens’ needs will vary. While most kittens will gladly play and interact with you for at least twenty minutes a day (and likely way more!), senior cats may not be as excited for this daily exercise. It’s important that you find some sort of activity that your senior cat enjoys, even if they don’t seem too thrilled about it. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight while keeping him/her as active as possible can help keep their heart and kidneys in the best shape possible, while also keeping obesity at bay.
*Understand that a kitten or senior cat’s needs may vary. Always follow your veterinarian’s recommendations to ensure you’re meeting their physical and cognitive health needs.
Different Ways to Give your Cat Attention and Encourage Enrichment
There are many different ways to give your cat attention and show him/her the affection and interaction he/she craves each day. The first that probably comes to mind is simply playing and giving physical attention to your cat, but there are many other “inactive” ways to enrich your cat’s life and give your pet positive enrichment experiences, as well. Below we’ll discuss the differences between active and inactive enrichment, in addition to different ways in which you can meet your cat’s needs for attention.
Passive Enrichment vs. Active Enrichment
The word enrichment makes me think of the elite, wealthy celebrities of our world who live with no needs left unmet and have all the wealth, riches, and jewels at their feet. I know most of us are not living those kinds of lifestyles, but we certainly want to give “the best life” to our pets, right? Keeping our cat’s lives enriched through making their experiences as fulfilling as they would experience in the wild may be about as close as we can get to providing that to them. Consider your cat’s visual and outdoor experiences; our indoor cats love to look out our open windows. The views of nature, wild animals, including birds and squirrels, as well as seeing other stimuli like bees and even hearing the sounds of the frogs and insects in summertime allow our cats (and other pets) to experience the passive environment around them, enriching their lives and providing them enjoyment through sights and sounds the cat or pet would experience if it was in the wild. Allowing our pets easy access to a clear view out of windows as well as keeping windows open whenever possible during warmer weather, allow our indoor cats to experience as much of the outside world as possible. My cats love their cat tower that I keep conveniently located near a window with the best view of the trees and yard below, and it is fun to see them react to the world in front of them!
On the other end, there is what’s called active enrichment, which may require a bit more from the pet’s owner. With active enrichment, a cat’s owner will find themselves looking for their cat to respond to certain toys, puzzles or movements. A few examples include puzzle feeders and other cat toys that help to stimulate some sort of response from your cat. Often times this includes working their busy minds, helping to challenge them as they learn how to navigate a new puzzle or problem, just as they would if they were hunters in the wild.
Active enrichment also encompasses the time they spend with us, their humans. When we interact with them, ask them to come, get them to play and interact with a toy, or encourage them to chase after a ball for example, we are encouraging their active enrichment while helping them enjoy the companionship with us humans.
Other Ways to Give Your Cat Attention
There are many additional ways to give your cat the attention he needs throughout the day and hopefully keep him from seeking you out at inopportune times. Playing with toys, petting them, spending time grooming and talking to them as you carry out your every-day tasks are all great ways to let your cat know he can rely on you to receive attention.
Investing in some simple toys like laser pointers, wands/ribbons, and balls can keep your cat content while also encouraging physical activity. Anytime I take out a laser pointer for my own cats, they chase it around the room and nearly try climbing up the walls! Needless to say, their little bodies get quite a work out and I can feel good knowing they had fun while also giving them some physical activity.
At Milwaukee Paws Pet Care, we take this to heart and understand that even if we can’t physically play with a cat we are caring for, we can find other creative ways to interact and show your cat attention while keeping them engaged. One sweet cat we recently did cat sitting for is incredibly shy of new people and often hides under his owner’s bed if there are people in the home he doesn’t know. One of our wonderful pet care staff members had already taken care of his physical needs including cleaning the litter box and feeding him, but he went back to hiding under the bed. While many pet sitters may simply leave him be, this staff took out a book she was currently reading and began reading out loud for the cat to hear! It didn’t take too long for the cat to come back out from under the bed and request some pets as she read her book! Sometimes something as simple as the spoken voice can help an anxious cat feel more comfortable while letting him know he isn’t alone.
Just as this cat found temporary comfort hiding under the bed when new people came into his space, other cats who aren’t getting the attention they need will become stressed and anxious and may also hide under a bed or in other dark, quiet places. Making sure your cat’s needs are being met is important to help them from feeling ignored, which can cause some serious stress and anxiety in your cat’s life. If your cat isn’t getting the attention it seeks, your cat will likely find ways to let you know.
Signs Your Cat isn’t Getting the Attention It Needs
Most cats are pretty patient and won’t seek your attention if it’s needs are already being met, but if you find that he is trying to get in your face and won’t leave you alone, it’s likely your cat is not receiving enough of your personal time. Other signs that your cat needs you can include pawing at your face or hands, walking in front of you at your feet, and nibbling at your hands and/or feet. Cats may also meow for a longer duration than normal, often a bit higher pitched to get your attention while others will go so far as to purposefully knock over personal belongings of yours or breaking other “rules” such as jumping onto high tables or furniture to get at your eye level. If you instantly cave in and give your cat attention when it does these things, your cat may begin to feel in control of you, so be careful how you handle these situations. It may be best to wait a little bit before giving your cat some love and attention while also considering how you can carve out some regular playtime going forward to prevent the unwanted behavior.
Cats are loving creatures and if you are already giving your cat at least twenty minutes of your undivided attention each day, you have probably already experienced the joys of these feline family members. When your cat’s needs are met and he feels loved and well-cared for, the companionship and time spent with each other will add contentment and joy to your entire family!
There are additional needs cat owners will want to ensure their meeting, as well. Many seem obvious such as cleaning the litter box; however, skimping on some of these “chores” can cause serious issues down the road, so making sure to meet additional pet care needs of your cat will help ensure the best life possible for your feline.
Other General Needs and Tips
Cats should be taken to their veterinarian’s office at least once per year. Kittens will need additional visits and vaccinations as well as being spayed or neutered, depending on your wishes and the pet’s age when you adopt him or her. Senior cats may also need additional vet visits each year, but follow the recommendations from your pet’s veterinarian.
Getting your cat on a regular feeding schedule will also be beneficial to their daily routine and health. Many cat owners leave dry food out at all times, however, if your cat is overweight or eats too quickly, it may be best to feed two to three times per day at specific, set times. When a cat knows he will be fed around the same time each day, it can help take away unneeded stress and anxiety. Your cat’s specific dietary needs may vary, especially from breed to breed and by age, so again, check with your vet to know just how much and what kinds of food and nutrients your cat needs for optimal health. And while speaking of food, make sure your cat is also taking in enough water. Keep an eye out for signs such as loose skin, sticky gums, loss of appetite, a decrease or drastic change in activity levels, and/or vomiting and diarrhea. If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, seek the care of a veterinarian as these could signal health complications such as dehydration or malnutrition.
When caring for your cat, you will also need to: provide a comfortable place for him/her to sleep, give him a safe, stable environment, groom it on a regular basis (especially long-haired cats), treat for worms and fleas at the recommendations of your vet, take it to the vet whenever it shows any signs of illness or disease, and of course, provide the most human interaction you can! We also can’t forget the litter boxes. While this is certainly not a favorite past-time of mine, I make sure to scoop the litter daily. If you have more than one cat and/or have more than one floor in your home, place additional litter boxes in the house. Your vet may be able to recommend how many you need based on the number of cats and square footage of your home; however, a good rule is to have one box per cat and at least one box per floor of your home.
What To Do When You Go Away on Vacation or Travel for Work
Do you work long hours or travel once in a while and think your cat is okay hanging out on their own for a day or two? If so, you’ll want to really consider all the things that can possibly go wrong when leaving your cat(s) on their own for longer than usual. I’m going to be honest here; when I first got my cats, I thought it was okay to leave them home on their own when my family and I would go away for two days to visit family. However, now I have learned and know better that all cats deserve attention each day, no matter what the circumstances. Consider this example below.
We recently began cat sitting for two very adorable cats, one of which is very shy. While the cat’s owner was away, we went in and arrived to see a heavy container had been knocked off of a shelf. Since one of the cats often hid during our visits, we wanted to be sure he was okay! Our pet care staff at Milwaukee Paws Pet Care stepped in and made three extra drop in visits to ensure that both cats were safe and uninjured from the accident. Thankfully, they both were just fine. We have also heard of several other examples where Murphy’s Law came into play. We recently even heard of a cat who got stuck underneath a fridge! If there is not a pet sitter going in each day to check on your pets, anything can happen, and as much as we hate to think about it, serious and sometimes deadly accidents can occur.
Our clients become a part of our Milwaukee Paws Pet Care family and we will step in and do whatever it takes to ensure your feline (or canine) family members are safe and well-cared for, going the extra mile whenever needed to give you peace of mind while you’re away. We will continue to stay creative in the ways we meet the needs of your pets and will send you updates and photos at every visit so you can see what your furry feline has been up to while you’re not at home! Reach out today for more information on how we can help improve the quality and care of your pet’s life when you can’t be there!
Disclaimer: This information is based on the experiences for indoor cats and does not necessarily apply to cats that live primarily outdoors. Please reach out to your local veterinarian if you are seeking additional info about providing the best care to your outdoor cats.