Care instructions for cats

Pasningsvejledning for Katte

1. Animal species

Felis (silvestris) catus (synonym: Felis domesticus/domestica )

Domestic cat, house cat

The cat is a predator (Carnivora) belonging to the family Felidae, which includes approx. 40 species of felines, of which the genus Felis includes 4-5 living, wild species.

The cat has been kept and bred by humans for many thousands of years and originally originated from the African wildcat ( Felis silvestris lybica ). Some consider the domestic cat to be a subspecies of the wild cat ( F. silvestris catus ), while others refer to it as an independent species ( F. catus ) that does not naturally occur in nature.

Today, there are a large number of bred breeds of the domestic cat with different appearance, temperament and behavior. Despite many years of breeding, the domestic cat, regardless of breed, has basic natural needs similar to the wild cat, which must be met in captivity.

2. Full grown size

Most domestic cats measure around 25 cm in shoulder height, 45 cm in body length plus a tail of approx. 30 cm, which functions as a balance organ. The weight is typically 4-5 kg, but some bred breeds can weigh under 2 kg and others over 10 kg. Within the same breed, the male is usually larger than the female. The domestic cat's wild relative has longer legs and is more robustly built (weight 3-8 kg).

In the wildcat, the fur is short, grayish/brownish on top with dark stripes and whitish on the belly. Some domestic cats have broadly the same color markings as their wild relatives, while some domesticated breeds may have longer/no fur and vary in color and pattern.

Cats' teeth are built in such a way that they can easily hold, kill (typically by biting the neck with the sharp canines) and skin their prey. The sharp claws can be pulled back and forth as needed so that they are not worn unnecessarily and are kept sharp for a given situation. The claws are retracted during relaxation and when pursuing prey, while they are forward when the cat climbs and needs to stand firm, and when its prey needs to be caught and held. The cat's tongue is covered with spike-like structures, which it uses when licking to clean its fur of dirt and scrape meat from the prey's bones.

The cat's whiskers are very sensitive to movement (both direct touch and air currents) and function for sensing and orientation. The structure of the eyes means that the cat sees well in dim light, which enables hunting at dawn/dusk. On the other hand, they are partially color blind. With mobile and sensitive ears, the cat's hearing is extremely good, and it can hear a wide range of frequencies up to high-frequency ultrasound, which is probably an advantage when hunting small rodents.

3. Life expectancy

Domestic cats live an average of 12-14 years, but they can get older. Females typically grow older. Neutralization is seen in both sexes to reduce the risk of testicular, uterine, ovarian and breast cancer.

4. Recommended size and layout of facility or cage

Wild cats are typically dusk and night active and will usually hide and rest during the day in hollow trees, thickets, rock caves, etc., although they can also be active during the day. Domestic cats that have the opportunity to go outside (outdoor cats), like feral cats, will tend to sleep most of the day and become more active after dark, where they will typically hunt. Cats that are kept permanently indoors (indoor cats) will often adapt to the home's circadian rhythm to a greater extent. Outdoor cats will typically establish a territory around their base (home), and the core area of ​​the territory is defended against rival cats.

The most optimal is when cats have a fixed indoor base (eg house or barn), where fresh food and water are available and shelter from bad weather, with access to outdoor areas away from busy roads. In this way, the cat's natural needs are best and most easily met, as it has plenty of space to move around, the opportunity to hunt and can display natural behavior (social as well as territorial) towards conspecifics. Indoor cats, which are not stimulated in the same way, require a much greater effort in terms of time and resources on the part of the owner, in order to thrive and have their natural needs met in the home (see section 6 ).

Cats must never be housed in boxes, cages or small aviaries, except for short periods during transport, transmission or treatment at the vet.

Cats must have plenty of free places to lie down and rest, from which they can also keep a lookout. Indoors, it is catered for by several shelves and platforms in height. Indoor cats that have not grown up together will often by nature divide the home so that they each have their own share. It is important here that they have space and opportunity for this.

Cats are very clean animals, and to ensure a high level of indoor hygiene, they must learn to use a litter box with gravel (unscented) from a very young age. Lumpy gravel can be used, but not for kittens under 12 weeks, as they risk swallowing lumps stuck to their paws. A litter box for each cat must always be easily accessible indoors and placed away from the food bowl. The tray must be emptied of excrement at least once a day, new gravel must be added, and the tray must be regularly emptied completely and washed.

5. Special care needs, including temperature requirements

Cats are relatively tolerant of both heat and cold and can easily tolerate being outside all year round if they always have access to a base where they can seek shelter from the weather and get fresh water and food.

A high (min. 70 cm) scratching board/wood in soft wood (possibly covered with sisal) must always be available indoors, as it is natural behavior for cats to scratch various objects for e.g. to sharpen the claws (i.e. remove the outer horn layer of the claws) and mark the territory.

Cats ingest grass to induce vomiting, so that they can get rid of the indigestible hairs that are inevitably swallowed during grooming and which collect into hairballs in the stomach. Outdoor cats can typically find grass themselves, while indoor cats must have special cat grass (from wheat germ; bought in certain supermarkets, from pet stores, gardeners or can be sown yourself) or cat malt (can be obtained from the vet in a tube with a caramel-like consistency). Cat malt lubricates the cat's digestive system so that they can excrete the hair via the intestine. Access to cat grass or malt also reduces the risk that the cat will ingest potentially toxic plants. Long-haired cat breeds should have their fur brushed regularly so that the fur does not tangle and the number of hairballs is reduced.

Overweight cats are often unable to clean their fur properly, so in addition to health reasons, it is important to provide a well-suited diet ( section 7 ), avoid overfeeding and ensure that the cat gets enough exercise.

Certain breeds may have special care needs, which you should always familiarize yourself with thoroughly.

6. Stimulation and need for exercise

Cats are independent but curious and often playful animals that need lots of activation to thrive. Outdoor cats have many opportunities to be stimulated, activate themselves and display natural behavior outdoors, e.g. by hunting. Indoor cats that do not have the same opportunities, on the other hand, require that you give them extra activities, so that their natural behavior is stimulated and their needs are met.

Make sure to store the food in different places and in containers (e.g. an empty plastic bottle) where the cat has to make an effort to get it. Be sure, however, that the cat cannot get trapped or injured in such containers or other devices. Various toys can be bought or made/found, e.g. of things from nature. For indoor cats, it can be especially good to use things from nature, as it contains a lot of natural fragrances, e.g. from prey, which stimulates their good sense of smell. Also provide toys that stimulate their hunting instinct ie. something they can chase, grab, bite, shake and throw up in the air. Make sure to replace the toy regularly, otherwise cats quickly lose interest in it.

Cats that can play and activate each other (preferably peers) are a good environmental enrichment, and indoor cats should, as far as possible, always have the company of a fellow species.

Cats will spend a lot of time resting or sleeping, perhaps more than half of the day. This is not due to a low natural need for exercise, but because they instinctively save energy in order to be able to carry out a physically demanding hunt, which in nature is vital in order to obtain sufficient food. The wild cat is seen hunting over distances of 3-10 km every night. Despite many years of breeding, the domestic cat's physiology is largely identical to that of the wild cat, and it therefore also has a great need for exercise. Outdoor cats generally get sufficient exercise, while indoor cats need toys that they can be active with in order to satisfy their need for exercise. Different shelves must be set up to give the cat more options for movement and places to look out and rest. Cats that do not get enough exercise will typically become overweight.

Cats are agile, nimble animals that can squeeze into most places where the head can be. Many (but not all) cats are good climbers, but cannot climb vertically downwards head first. Cats can also fall from great heights without being injured, which is due to their anatomy and that they per reflex always lands on the legs (at fall heights of over 1 m, where they can manage to right themselves).

7. Feeding

Cats are exclusively carnivores and hunt rodents and other small mammals, birds, amphibians, small reptiles and insects. They are thus adapted to a protein-rich diet, while they cannot tolerate and digest plant-based food. In addition to proteins, cats are completely dependent on consuming the amino acids taurine, arginine and carnitine through their food, which i.a. found in various types of meat (beef, pork, lamb, poultry and fish) in addition to the cat's natural prey.

To ensure that the cat's natural nutritional needs are met, a good dry cat food containing both proteins (min. 20%) and the aforementioned amino acids (min. 1 g taurine per kg dry matter, as well as arginine and carnitine). Be aware that some dry food can contain a lot of fillers, which cats cannot absorb and use anyway. If a feed with many fillers is given rather than one with fewer fillers, a larger amount of feed is required to meet the cat's nutritional needs. It can occasionally be supplemented with wet food (e.g. canned), which many cats love.

Never give greens and cow's milk, as cats cannot tolerate it and can have digestive problems.

Please note that the amount of energy in the feed for indoor cats must be lower than that for outdoor cats, as outdoor cats usually have a higher activity level and thus higher energy consumption. There are special foods for cats with different needs, e.g. kittens or neutered cats. Give the type of feed that suits the individual, but as a rule always complying with the above.

Fresh water must always be available.

8. Social needs

The wild relative of the domestic cat is usually solitary and maintains a territory (males largest) that is defended against conspecifics. However, domesticated outdoor cats are often found in larger groups or gatherings, primarily where space is tight or if there are many food resources available in a given location. However, the individual cats will often still have separate territories elsewhere. However, the cat's solitary nature is expressed in outdoor cats, which typically hunt alone, even if several are kept together in the home.

The domestic cat has been bred to be more social, and most cats that have grown up together can enjoy each other a lot by e.g. to play and care for each other's fur. For indoor cats, which cannot seek out mates outside the home, it is recommended to keep at least two together as far as possible, so that they can be active with each other and show natural social behaviour. For outdoor cats, it is also recommended to keep two or three together.

Individuals that have grown up together will usually do best together, but adding a kitten to an older cat can also be done without problems in most (but not all) cases. Sexually mature individuals who are strangers to each other should, as a rule, only be put together when the space is large, as otherwise conflicts will arise in many cases. It can also be more difficult to put a young cat (over about 14-16 weeks old) to an older cat. The size of the litter in which the cat has grown up seems to have a big impact on how tolerant it will be towards newly arrived cats as an adult. With a litter of three or more kittens, the chance that the individual will accept newly arrived cats increases considerably.

If strange cats are put together, it is important that they have time to get used to each other's scent (including, for example, the gravel from each of their litter boxes), sounds and presence. They should be gradually fed in the same room, but far enough apart so that conflicts over feed are avoided. In the case of individuals who have not grown up together, it is also important that the space is large enough so that they can each have their own part of the house. Cats that frequently have conflicts should be kept separate when not under supervision.

Outdoor cats typically have a territory (adult males usually have the largest) and will chase rival cats away from the core area first by warning (staring, hissing, growling) and if this doesn't work, then by attacks, which can be quite violent. It is natural behavior for cats to defend their territory, and as long as they do not cause serious injury, they should have the opportunity to learn and adapt to each other's territories. If the cat's well-being is greatly reduced due to attacks from other cats, intervention must of course be taken. Fighting can especially occur when a new cat (especially males) "moves into" an area where the territories are already well established and respected between the cats. In the first time with a newly arrived cat, there can therefore be many conflicts until new territories are established. Sexually mature male cats have the greatest tendency to engage in fights, as they will fight over females in addition to space.

Cats have a very good sense of smell, and they release fragrances via scent glands on e.g. cheeks and foot pads (which is why cats scratch objects) and with urine (the urine) i.a. to attract the opposite sex and mark the territory. Body language and sounds are also used to a great extent in the communication of conspecifics: erect ears and tail as well as the purr are a friendly gesture, while flattened ears, wide eyes, erect fur, stiff legs, arched back, bared teeth, tail slapping, pressing against the ground and hissing are all are signs of aggressiveness or tension (e.g. in the case of threats). If the cat cannot escape in these situations, it will attack the other party (e.g. fellow species, human or dog). A contented and secure cat will often purr, miss with its eyes and make kneading movements with its front paws. However, purring also occurs in frightened, sick or giving birth cats, possibly to have a calming effect in a stressful situation.

With early and gradual adaptation, many cats can be kept with other animals, e.g. tolerant dogs that do not tend to chase cats and other fleeing animals (certain dog breeds may be more predisposed to possess the hunting instinct). Of course, the other party must also have time to get used to the cat, and composition must always be done under close supervision. The most ideal thing is for all parties to grow up together – this will increase the chance that they will tolerate and perhaps even enjoy each other's company. Smaller animals, such as rodents and birds, you have to be very careful about keeping with cats, as they are usually prey that the cat will hunt/play hunt with. Even if they are properly kept in secure cages, smaller animals will often be stressed by the presence of cats. It is therefore generally not recommended to keep both cats and smaller animals.

Note that not all cats like to be picked up and petted, and this must be respected.

9. Propagation, brood care and possible neutralization

Female cats come into heat for 4-8 days approx. every 2-3 week all year round (from January to July sexual activity is typically highest). Sexually mature male cats will roam around during the females' breeding season and typically fight over the right to female cats. Several males may end up mating alternately with the same female, whereby kittens from the same litter may have different fathers. Feral cats typically have 1-2 litters annually, while domestic cats can have up to 4 litters. However, it is recommended that a female cat has a maximum of 2 litters per year to avoid physical harm to her.

The gestation period is 64-67 days, and the litter size 1-8, usually 3-5 kittens, with the female's first litter typically being smaller than subsequent litters. The newborn kittens weigh 85-110 g, are blind (open their eyes after 7-20 days) and are completely dependent on the mother. They nurse for the first 3 weeks (the mother has 8 teats), after which they must gradually supplement the mother's milk with first soaked dry food and from 6-7 weeks of age with unsoaked dry food. After this, the kittens will actively follow the mother around. At 12 weeks of age, the kittens are completely weaned from their mother's milk, although they may continue to insist on milk, often to the mother's annoyance.

Kittens need a lot of sleep and they usually sleep around 20 hours a day. When they are awake, on the other hand, they are very active, curious and playful. The young become sexually mature at the age of 5-7 months, possibly up to 10 months of age for females. However, the age of puberty can vary depending on the breed.

By law, kittens must be mine. 12 weeks old, before they must be removed from the mother, as they are only fully independent here. It is recommended that, as far as possible, you get two or more kittens from the same litter in order to make the upheaval for the kittens in connection with removal smaller and give them greater security in their new home. Note, however, that a male and female from the same litter must not breed with each other, as the offspring will then be inbred.

Socialization with people is very important for the kittens from a very young age, so that later in life they are used to, can thrive with and can bond with people. Newly acquired kittens must have time and peace to get used to their new home, and when they go for an examination, the home must be secured so that they cannot get trapped or injured (e.g. knocked over toilet seat, wires and poisonous plants removed within their reach, doors and windows kept closed, hot hobs must be shielded).

If you do not want kittens with an outdoor cat, they should be neutered (males castrated and females sterilized) when they weigh more than approx. 1.5 kg. Neutralization will typically reduce the cat's aggressiveness, screeching and plaintive meowing (whining). Sexually mature female cats that have access to outdoor areas are very likely to become pregnant at some point if they are not spayed, and it will of course be the female cat's owner who has full responsibility for any kittens. Unless offspring are desired, it is therefore always recommended that the female be sterilized to avoid kittens that may be difficult to pass on to new homes.

10. Typical signs of illness and reduced well-being

A cat must be vaccinated against i.a. cat distemper and flu. All vaccinations must first be given in three rounds, when the cat is 8, 12 and 16 weeks old and then every year. If the kitten has not already been vaccinated upon acquisition, consult the vet about the vaccination course.

Deficiency of the amino acid taurine can cause blindness and problems with the teeth, heart, immune system and reproduction. Taurine deficiency is avoided by always giving food containing taurine, which is found in approved dry cat food, while it is also available as a dietary supplement for cats. There are no characteristic signs of taurine deficiency, but in case of suspicion, a blood test must be taken by the vet, with which it can be diagnosed and subsequently treated with a changed diet. Overweight in cats occurs relatively frequently due to too little exercise and/or feeding too much (too much) energy-rich food.

If neutered cats bark over longer periods, it may be because the cat is insecure/uneasy in its surroundings. In such cases, you should contact the vet or a cat behavior consultant who will be able to help.

When acquiring a kitten, it is a good idea to have it examined for intestinal worms by the vet, who can prescribe a wormer or other treatment if necessary. Outdoor cats should be regularly checked for worms, as there is a relatively high risk of this due to hunting of small animals in the wild. The vet should also be consulted if the ears contain a lot of dirt, secretions etc.

Cats must only be given medication prescribed by a vet and never products intended for humans containing acetylsalicylic acid and paracetamol (found in various painkillers), as even small amounts are very toxic to cats and can kill them.

11. Other information

According to the law, you have the right to capture a strange cat on your property if you believe that the cat is a nuisance. The person must then notify the owner of this as soon as possible and within 24 hours at the latest. For this reason, it is important that cats are tagged and registered so that the owner can be easily found and contacted. In addition, the cat's owner may be held liable for any damage the cat may cause.

Always be responsive to e.g. neighbors who think your cat is a nuisance, so you can find a solution together.

More information about cats
Read more about the cat in Dyrenes Beskytstel's pamphlets " Cat's behavior " ( ) and " Sex development and neutering of cats " ( ). You can read about the legislation that covers cats at:


This care guide has been prepared by Dyrenes Bysetselse. The descriptions are thus an expression of how we believe the species should be kept, so that its physiological, behavioral and health needs are met. Reservations are made that the species can be kept in other welfare-responsible ways than those described. Likewise, reservation is made that new knowledge about the biology of the species and experiences with its team may be available after the preparation of this guide.

This guide contains information on the subjects which, according to the current regulations in the executive order on commercial trade in animals, must be disclosed when selling cats.

2nd version. January 2014

Yours sincerely

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