A pet is a wonderful thing…. except for when they’re hyper and out of control. If you live in an apartment with a misbehaving cat (or two), you stand a risk of not getting your full security deposit back. To help you out, here are some tips for keeping your cat happy, healthy, and well behaved.
Maintaining the Litter Box: The Cornerstone of Saving your Carpet
No, you don’t have to take a cat outside to go potty, but you do have to maintain the litter box(es), and if you get a kitten, you have to teach it how to use the box. A dirty litter box could lead your cat to pick the carpet as its potty instead, so scoop daily and change litter weekly. A mixture of boiling water and vinegar is a cheap method for cleaning the box, just make sure you scrub all the nooks and crannies and let the mixture sit long enough to do its job. If your box is clean but your cat refuses to use it, it could mean the cat is sick and needs a visit to the vet. Nipping health issues in the bud is cheaper than paying to replace the carpet in your apartment. Sometimes, healthy cats are picky, or have behavioral problems. It’s still cheaper to try every kind of litter on the market, maintain multiple boxes, and replace kitten-sized boxes as your cat grows than to gamble on your security deposit. Finally, if you have multiple cats, you need multiple boxes: at least 1 box per cat.
Keep Houseplants Safe from Felines
Vinegar is a powerful and versatile cleaning agent (you can even use it on carpets and upholstery), but its other super power is that cats hate the smell of it. Spraying vinegar on houseplants will keep cats from eating them. Also, don’t keep houseplants that are potentially toxic to felines. After all, eating something they shouldn’t can make cats vomit, and you don’t want that mess on your carpet. You can also distract your kitty from the plants it shouldn’t eat by giving it access to cat grass on another shelf. Find a way to secure potted plants and other objects so your cat doesn’t accidentally (or intentionally) knock them over. The fewer breakables and other knickknacks, the better (and the easier it is to dust).
How to Handle Scratching
First things first, never declaw a cat. Here’s why: declawing is equivalent to removing a human’s fingertip down to the first knuckle of each finger, cats naturally walk on tip-toes so when you remove the tips of their toes they walk differently and develop arthritis much more easily, and they can be in such excruciating pain that they stop using their litter boxes because it hurts too much to dig. Treating all the health issues related to declawing will empty your wallet much faster than humane methods of deterring scratching.
Obviously you need to provide your cat with a scratching post. A kitten needs to be taught to use it, and once they know how, you’ll find they routinely use it. Keeping a variety of posts—traditional vertical posts wrapped in twine, horizontal pads with refillable cardboard, soft wood, and variously angled posts and pads with all kinds of materials—will keep things as interesting as scratching trees and bushes in the great outdoors.
Sometimes even regular use of a scratching post can’t keep your cat’s claws short, and scratching can cause a lot of damage to your apartment and belongings. Claw trimmers come in a variety of styles and price ranges, and getting your cat used to this process early will make it an ordinary part of your routine. If you’re not comfortable trimming claws at home, ask your vet to do it or take your cat to a groomer.
If your cat insists on scratching your upholstery, you can give it the same vinegar spray treatment as your plants. You might also consider a pheromone plug-in as a last resort (they’re a bit expensive).
Groom, Groom, and Groom Some More
It’s certainly true that cats keep themselves quite clean with regular personal grooming sessions, but shedding + personal grooming = hairballs. The best way to prevent the hacking up of hairballs—and an excellent way to spend quality time with your pet—is to brush kitty regularly, daily if possible.
Get Kitty Some Exercise
Cats need exercise for their bodies as well as their brains. Use an interactive toy for 15-20 minutes of play each day during the times you find your cat is most active. To keep your cat busy while you’re out or asleep, have some toys for individual play laying around. Puzzle toys are especially stimulating and easy to make at home:
Cut some paw-sized holes into an empty box or or oatmeal container, stick a crinkle ball inside, tape the lid shut, and let kitty go at it.
Or: Cut some kibble-sized holes into a water bottle, fill it with a handful of dry food or a few treats, screw the cap back on, and see how long it takes kitty to get the goodies out.
Giving your cat vertical space to explore in the form of cat trees will offer more benefits than just mental and physical exercise. Cats like having a good vantage point from which to watch over their territory, and having that high outlook post will give your king of the apartment jungle added confidence and contentment. Also be sure your cat has a comfortable view out as many windows as possible with either store-bought or home-made shelves, if necessary.