10 Things Your Cat Needs: Tips For Keeping Your Kitty Happy 

10 things your cat needs - closeup of a grey cat eating cat food from a white dish

Last updated on February 4th, 2024 at 11:40 am

by Dr. WL Wilkins, DVM, PhD.

Cats are wonderful companions known for their unique personalities and independent nature, but they rely on us to look after them (especially if they are indoor-only cats). Whether you’re a seasoned cat owner or considering adopting a cat, it’s important to understand what makes them thrive.

In this article, we’ll explore the 10 things your cat needs to live its best life.  From their dietary requirements to the significance of love and attention, we’ll cover it all to make sure your cat is a happy cat. 

Read on to discover how to make your cat’s life as wonderful as they make yours.

The 10 Things Your Cat Needs For Health And Happiness

Cat Food

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they require a diet that primarily consists of meat. They have unique dietary requirements, including the need for high levels of animal protein, certain essential fatty acids, and numerous vitamins and minerals that they cannot produce on their own. 

Taurine, an amino acid found in meat, is particularly important because cats cannot synthesize it, and a deficiency in the diet can lead to serious health problems. 

Cats therefore require a balanced diet that is specifically formulated to meet a cat’s needs. A commercially available dry food that is designed specifically for cats is a popular way to make sure cats get what they need.

Some owners might be tempted to feed their pets homemade or vegetarian diets. Cats should never be fed vegetarian diets, and homemade diets should only be fed in consultation with a veterinarian first to avoid nutritional deficiencies or excesses. 

Water

Like humans and all other animals, cats require a steady, reliable supply of drinking water.  Proper hydration is needed for digestion, nutrient absorption, blood circulation, and waste excretion. 

Water is, of course, essential to life – cats can only survive around three days without water. Dehydration sets in after 24 hours, and stress and damage to the body’s organs soon follow. Cats that do not get regular fresh water to drink often develop kidney disease and urinary problems. 

While wet food provides some water, it’s not enough, so cats still need access to fresh water. Some cats prefer running water, so consider a cat water fountain if your feline friend isn’t interested in their water bowls. 

10 things your cat needs  - three calico kittens being snuggled by a woman

Shelter and Places To Hide

Indoor cats live healthier and longer lives than outdoor cats because they are not exposed to the many dangers of roaming free, such as predators and car accidents. A cat that lives indoors experiences the same benefits from a safe, comfortable home that their humans do.

However, even outdoor cats  need shelter from the elements.  If you have an outdoor cat, make sure they have access to a sheltered area that protects them from wind, rain, and cold temperatures.

Indoor cats like their own spaces too. Cats are inherently territorial creatures and providing them with a space they can call their own helps reduce stress and anxiety.  

Cats sleep up to 16 hours a day, so providing plenty of comfortable and quiet places for them to rest is vital. This could range from a dedicated cat bed, a heated pad for those cooler months, or simply a soft blanket in a secluded corner. 

Some cats prefer to go a step further, and hide in a place  where they feel secure and can observe their surroundings without being seen. This could be a cardboard box, a cat tree, or a cozy hiding spot under furniture.

A Clean Litter Box 

A cat’s gotta go when a cat’s gotta go! Outdoor cats can find their own bathroom solutions, but indoor cats rely on their owners to provide a toilet for them.

Cats are naturally clean animals and will instinctively use a litter box when trained to do so. However, cats can be very picky about their litter boxes and may refuse to use it if it’s not maintained properly. 

Most cats prefer a litter depth of 2-3 inches. Litter boxes should be scooped daily and completely emptied, scrubbed, and refilled with new litter on a regular basis. A self-cleaning litter box is a great idea if you struggle with keeping the litter box clean. Placing the cat’s litter box in a quiet, undisturbed area of the house can also help to improve litter box habits.

Having multiple litter boxes (at least one more than the number of cats) in a household with more than one cat is also recommended. 

Cat Carrier

A sturdy and comfortable cat carrier is a must-have for every cat owner. It provides a safe and secure way to transport your pet. 

Whether for trips to the veterinarian, travel, or emergencies, a carrier makes sure that your cat is safe and comfortable during these situations. It prevents them from escaping or getting injured while allowing you to manage their stress and well-being during transit. 

10 things your cat needs  - grey tabby kitten playing with a foam cat toy on white background

Toys and Mental Stimulation

Toys and mental stimulation are important to keep your cat happy and healthy. 

Firstly, they provide essential mental exercise, helping to keep your cat’s mind sharp and alert. Cats are natural hunters, and interactive toys engage their hunting instincts, providing mental stimulation.

Additionally, toys and playtime provide physical activity for cats. Exercise is important for maintaining a healthy weight and agility. Active play helps them release excess energy, lowering the risk of obesity and related health issues.

These activities also promote emotional well-being. Interactive play sessions between you and your cat can strengthen your bond and alleviate stress for both you and your cat. It’s not just about physical exercise but also the emotional connection you share during playtime.

There are various cat toys and activities to keep your cat mentally stimulated and physically active. Provide a variety of toys such as feather wands, interactive puzzle toys, catnip toys, balls, and mice to keep them engaged. 

You can even try hide-and-seek games by hiding treats or toys around the house for your cat to discover. 

Scratching Posts

Scratching is a natural behavior for cats that helps them stretch their muscles and maintain healthy claws. It’s like a kitty workout! Cats also use scratching to mark their territory and relieve stress. This is a physical need that all cats have, there is no stopping it. 

This is where scratching posts come in. Not only do they provide a designated spot for your cat to scratch, saving your furniture and carpets from damage, but they also help with their physical needs. 

Scratching posts come in all shapes and sizes, so you can find one that suits your cat’s preferences. Some cats prefer a vertical scratching post while others like horizontal ones – having multiple options can keep them satisfied. Cat trees with sisal rope wrapped posts and platforms for playing and sleeping are always a good idea.

10 things your cat needs  - orange and white cat playing on a cat tree with sisal rope posts

Proper Grooming

Cats are well-known for being clean animals that groom themselves regularly. However, they still need some help in this department from their owners. 

Regular brushing helps remove loose fur, reducing hairballs and preventing matting of their coats. This is particularly important in long-haired cats, like Persians or Maine Coons.

Short-haired cats, such as Siamese or Bengals, may not require as much attention, but grooming can still benefit them. Brushing short-haired cats helps reduce shedding, prevents hairballs, and increases their coat’s shine.

Even hairless breeds benefit from grooming sessions. These cats often need regular bathing, ear cleaning, or face washing. Grooming also provides an opportunity for bonding with your cat. It’s a great way to spend quality time together while keeping them looking and feeling their best.

A grooming session is a great opportunity to check for any signs of health issues such as fleas, ticks, or skin irritations. Regular grooming allows you to spot these issues early on and seek proper treatment. 

Regular Veterinary Care

Whether indoor or outdoor, all cats need regular veterinary care. Indoor cats may seem healthier because they are not exposed to the same dangers as outdoor cats, but this doesn’t mean they are immune to illnesses or diseases.

Annual check-ups with a veterinarian are recommended for all cats, regardless of their lifestyle. This allows for early detection and treatment of any health issues early on, often before they become serious problems. This early detection can make treatment more effective and less costly.

Vaccinations and deworming protect your cat’s health from a range of potentially life-threatening diseases. By keeping their vaccinations up-to-date and deworming, you’re providing your cat with the best chance for a healthy and long life. 

Regular veterinary care isn’t just important; it’s a fundamental part of responsible pet ownership.

Love and Attention

It’s no secret that cats are independent creatures. But even the most aloof of cats still crave love and attention from their owners. 

Cats may not be as demonstrative as dogs, but they still have unique ways of showing affection. They may rub against your legs, purr, or knead on your lap to show you how much they care.

Perhaps the most important thing that cats need is your time, love, and attention. This can be as simple as sitting with them while they nap or playing with them regularly.

Conclusion

As responsible cat owners, it’s our duty to ensure our feline companions lead happy and healthy lives. Each aspect we’ve discussed, from their dietary needs to regular veterinary care and the simple act of providing love and attention, plays a significant role in our cats’ well-being. 

Remember, cats may be independent, but they still need our care and affection. Addressing their unique needs and maintaining their physical and emotional health ensures a fulfilling life for our furry family members.

Author

  • Dr. Wendy Wilkins DVM PhD.

    Dr. Wendy Wilkins is an experienced veterinarian and epidemiologist with over 20 years of expertise. She holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Throughout her career, Dr. Wilkins has excelled in clinical practice, academia, research, and regulatory veterinary medicine. She is a respected voice in knowledge dissemination, delivering factual information in a readable and understandable manner through articles, books, and public engagements.