The domestic cat is divided into two classes—the Long-Haired and the Short-Haired varieties . The Long-Haired variety are, of course, much the more attractive and much more desirable for show purposes, but they require considerable attention in the matter of shampooing, brushing and combing and are quite out of the question for ordinary domestic use. The Short-Haired variety, then, is the type dealt with here.
The adult animal is easy to feed, and as it is a much more dainty and cleanly feeder than the dog, is not subject to the same digestive and stomach troubles generally. The more varied the diet, the better, but cats are particularly fond of fish, which should be varied by meat (either raw or cooked), vegetables and gravy, table scraps, etc. There is no fear of an adult cat overfeeding, nothing will make it eat when it is satisfied. If the animal is kept entirely indoors, a pan of ashes should be put down where pussy can find it, and if not already trained, it should be taught to use it; kittens will readily learn this habit of cleanliness from the mother.
Under ordinary circumstances, kittens need not be weaned until the seventh or eighth week, after which they may be given a little cow’s milk, some proprietary children’s food, and oatmeal gruel. After the ninth week, they should be given well-made porridge, and a few weeks later, a little minced beef may be cooked with their porridge, and also a few puppy biscuits (also cooked therewith). By the time they are nine months old, they should be able to take the ordinary adult food.
All cats require a certain amount of grooming, and care should be taken to free them from fleas and lice; the former may be removed by well spraying the cat from head to foot with spirit of camphor, and then combing the fur over a basin of boiling water; lice are destroyed by spraying with a concentrated infusion of quassia and vinegar, equal parts.
Sometimes a particularly cleanly cat gets what is known as ‘fur-balling,’ due to the loose fur swallowed while cleaning, forming in a ball in the stomach. Do not give a purgative; give the cat a pigeon’s wing, with the feathers feathers on. This is usually effective.
It is not always realised that cats require water just as much as dogs. It is a good plan to put a little flower of sulphur in their water, as this is an excellent tonic.
A pregnant cat needs wholesome, but not fattening food, and not too much at a time. Her thirst is greater than usual. She needs fresh air and gentle exercise. A kick or a blow, or lifting her by the front paws only, might be fatal to her. The less she is handled, the better. Leave her to her own devices, with a warm, snug bed accessible at all times. Give no aperient; give more sloppy food instead, with green vegetables in her meat, and the raw juices of carrots, tomatoes or apples if she will take it. Treat her for worms during the first five weeks—not later; groom her extra gently and keep insects at bay.
A few days before the kittens are due, the cat begins to arrange her nest. This can be a large wooden packing case, with wire netting stretched across the front, and doors at each end; one high enough for her to go in and out of easily, the other low and shallow, for introducing the sanitary utensil and withdrawing it without disturbing the family. A cheap cheese tub, well scrubbed and a piece of blanket will do, but all bedding must be changed every few days and the tub or box wiped out and dusted with a non-poisonous insect powder.
Let her lie in warm quarters. It is cruel to banish her in her hour of need to a cold stable or outhouse, even with a warm bed. Protect her from glaring light and draughts.
As a rule ‘Nature, the kind old nurse’ will manage everything connected with the birth, after the cat’s great restlessness has induced you to leave her for some hours undisturbed. But keep a watchful eye on her in case of hitches, such as dead kittens— to be taken away quietly. If she fails to lick her babies, declines food and seems in pain, give her five to ten drops of brandy or gin in water or milk, and send at once for the vet. If however, all is well, she must be fed without delay: milk, Lactol, Benger’s Food, semolina boiled in milk, etc., just a little but often. Do not worry her with the thermometer unless she seems poorly; if it then shows 104 degrees Fahrenheit, she needs veterinary help.
After a couple of days she may have boiled fish, such as hake, or cod; Spratt’s Cat Food; and by degrees small quantities of raw minced beef. The more kittens she has to suckle, the more good food she will require.
Only one person should attend to the family until all the little eyes are opened, about the ninth day. Take away superfluous kittens soon after birth, keeping only as many as you can find good homes for. But one kitten must always remain to draw off the milk, or the mother will get abcesses in the breasts.