Your cats may not require gifts upon gifts this holiday season, but there are certain essentials they should have. Even though cats act independent, they still rely on us to provide them with care. Here is a list of the 10 essentials your cat should have.

1. Outfit your cat with an identification tag and collar. Even the most careful pet owner may allow their cat to slip out the door. In the chance that this happens, make sure your cat is always wearing a break-away collar with an ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. A break-away collar prevents your cat from choking if he should happen to catch his collar on something while jumping. Another good idea is to have a microchip implanted by your veterinarian. This will increase the chance that your cat will be returned home safely. For tips on finding your pet should she become lost, check out a previous Pet Chat column Homeward Bound.

2. Obey your local cat laws. Some local governments require cats to be licensed, though the County of Santa Barbara does not require it. However, Santa Barbara County does have a leash law that applies to cats-which means cats technically need to remain on their own property.

3. Keep your cat indoors. Keeping your cat safely confined at all times is best for you, your pet, and your community. For more reasons to keep your cats indoors, refer to Pet Chat column Keeping Cats Inside.

4. Take your cat to the veterinarian for regular checkups. Prevention is the best medicine. By taking your cat to the vet once a year for regular checkups, you will catch diseases in their early state. For more advice on veterinary care, check out a previous Pet Chat column Vet Visits.

5. Spay or neuter your cat. Spaying or neutering helps your cat live longer, it eliminates many undesirable behaviors, plus it helps prevent animal overpopulation. A pair of unsterilized cats can multiply into more than 400,000 cats in just seven years! For more information on spaying and neutering, read Pet Chat column Multiplying Cats

6. Give your cat a nutritionally balanced diet, including constant access to fresh water. When you purchase cat food, make sure the ingredient list contains “meat” and not “meat by-product.” This will ensure your cat is getting the best nutrition.

7. Train your cat to refrain from undesirable behaviors such as scratching furniture and jumping on countertops. Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained. Buying an appropriate scratching post is key. Make sure the scratching post is tall enough for your cat to stretch out full length on the vertical surface. If all else fails, check into Soft Paws, rubber caps that fit over the cat’s nails and prevent destructive scratching. For more tips on preventing your cat from scratching, check out Pet Chat column Cat Scratch Fever.

8. Groom your cat often to keep her coat healthy, soft, and shiny. Longhaired cats may require more brushing, but even short-haired kitties need to be groomed to remove loose hair. Cats groom themselves, but all that ingested hair can lead to hairballs, so the more help they get the better!

9. Set aside time to play with your cat. While cats do not need the same level of exercise that dogs do, enjoying regular play sessions with your cat will provide him with the physical exercise and mental stimulation he needs, as well as strengthen the bond you share. Try using a Cat Dancer with your cat for at least 10 minutes a day.

10. Be patient with your cat. Make sure the expectations you have of your companion are reasonable and keep in mind that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved. And remember that the best pet owner is an informed pet owner. The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier is one of my favorites. Bookstores have entire sections on just pets, so there are many to choose from.

By taking care of these 10 essentials, you’ll develop an even more rewarding relationship with your cat.

(Next week’s column lists the essentials for your dog.)


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