All cats should live in a suitable environment. A cat’s home affects how the cat feels, thinks and behaves. Providing your cat with shelter and a comfortable resting area is one way you can make sure that your cat stays healthy and happy.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Freedoms is: Freedom from Discomfort. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your cat or kitten has the right environment and shelter he/she needs to be free from discomfort.
Contained cats are more likely to enjoy a longer, healthier life. This includes spending more quality time with you, while keeping them and other animals safe.
You can contain your cat by cat-proofing an outdoor area, using a combination of indoor and a secure outdoor enclosure, or keeping your cat indoors. Learn more here.
You will need to provide them with opportunities to meet their physical and behavioural needs. This includes:
For more information, see SPCA's keeping your cat safe and happy at home guide.
Your cat should have their own clean, dry place in your home to sleep and rest.
Line their bed with a blanket or towel – this way you can take it out and wash it easily and regularly.
If you have more than one cat, you will need to provide each cat with their own bed or sleeping spot.
Providing both Freedom from Discomfort and Freedom from Fear and Distress is a cat’s need for a suitable place to hide if they become stressed. Hiding places may not seem that big of a deal, but they are actually very important!
When many people think of a cat hiding, they may think of it as always being a negative thing, but it’s really quite the opposite. A cat who’s frightened will almost always look for a safe place to hide. If a cat doesn’t have a place to hide, then they will remain stressed and frightened.
Hiding places give a cat time to calm down and then they can start to make the choice about when and how to venture out again.
If your cat doesn’t have a place to hide, it will be less likely to feel relaxed enough to engage.
A cat that feels backed in a corner without any choices is more likely to lash out or bite.
When given the choice, a frightened cat will almost always seek to run and hide.
An important part of Freedom from Discomfort and Fear and Distress involves offering those hiding places to your cat or cats.
Another important way you can ensure your cat has Freedom from Discomfort, is by providing your cat with a litter tray for toileting at times they are kept inside.
Cats like their litter tray to be in a quiet area, away from their food and bed. It wouldn’t be very nice to eat and sleep in your toilet, would it?!
It is very important to keep your cat’s litter tray clean. They have to stand in it to use it, so if it’s dirty, they are not going to want to use it – just like you wouldn’t want to sit on a dirty toilet seat, or use a toilet that has never been flushed!
Keep the litter tray in the same place, so your cat knows where it is – just imagine if you were busting to go to the toilet and someone kept swapping the room your toilet was in!
If you have more than one cat living in the same household, you should provide each cat with their own food and water bowl, litter tray and cat bed for their own comfort and to reduce stress. If cats have to share things like food bowls and litter trays with other cats, they can become stressed. This can cause them to behave inappropriately like spraying urine indoors. They could also develop stress related illnesses like cat flu or feline cystitis (this causes a very sore bladder).
A cat door is a great way of giving your cat their freedom from discomfort and an opportunity to explore their own yard. Training a cat or kitten to use one is best done with patience and food!
Leave the door open for a few days (or when your kitten or cat is in the area). You can do this by attaching a peg to the top of the flap when the flap is open.
Place your cat or kitten’s food or a treat on the other side of the door so they can see it through the open door. Encourage him/her through. Practice this and gradually lower the door so the cat/kitten will get used to moving the cat door out of the way with his/her head and body.
Teaching your kitten or cat to use a cat door takes time. Never force your kitten or cat through the door as this may result in life long phobias which will cause them to never want to use it.
Cats are naturally equipped with the tools they need to groom themselves – their barbed, velcro like tongue to lick, paws they moisten with saliva and use like a washcloth, and teeth to dig out tougher dirt. Due to this, they don't usually need a bath - nor do they usually want one!
On rare occasions such as if your cat gets very dirty or gets too close to something it shouldn't (toxic sprays or oils, for example), or for medical reasons, an adult may have to give them a lukewarm bath. The adult washing your cat should only use a specialist cat or kitten shampoo, recommended by your vet. Never use human soaps and shampoos on a cat as these are unsuitable for cat hair and skin.
Don’t forget to dry your cat with a nice soft towel and keep them in a warm room until they are dry.
When it comes to grooming, you should definitely brush or comb your cat regularly. This keeps their coat clean, reduces shedding and cuts down on hairballs and matting. Grooming your cat can also increase the bond between you and your cat and it is a good opportunity to check for wounds, hair loss and inflammation. Also, look out for ticks and flea dirt (black specks of dried blood) left behind by fleas.