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Measure Twice, Buy Once!

Every good Carpenter knows the saying “Measure Twice, Cut Once” to prevent costly mistakes, and this rule of thumb applies to buying items for big cats. Measuring your cat before making purchases is the first step in ensuring a good fit. The second step is paying attention to the dimensions of the product you are looking to purchase.

Last week I came across a social media post from an owner of two exceptionally large Maine Coon cats, who was disappointed in a recent purchase. She ordered a cat scratcher on Amazon. It was really cute, in the shape of a cat’s head with little ears on the sides that formed a lounge on the top. When she received it, it was way too small for her cats to even use as a scratcher, yet alone a lounge. She said dimensions were not listed but she assumed that because the photo showed 2 cats sitting on it, that it was large. I’m certain that every big kitty owner can relate to her situation. Looks can be very deceiving. Here are a few things that we have learned over the years as owners of big cats, and as buyers for Big Kitty Store:

  • Many cat products are produced in countries where miniature cat breeds are extremely popular and therefor used in photographs. The Singapura breed for example, looks like an average cat but are typically no more than 5-6 lbs. Munchkins when laying down look like big fluffy cats but typically weigh 6-7lbs. Three of these cats collectively still weigh less than my big cats. 
  • Look out for photoshopped images. They are a red flag. If the cat is photoshopped into the picture, we first question the integrity of the company selling the item, and then scrutinize the product itself. In the end, we usually find that the photos weren’t the only issue, so it’s best to move along.
  • Never rely on a photo alone. Always look at the size specifications. If they are not listed, then contact the company and ask for them. If they don’t answer, or can’t answer, I simply would not purchase the item.

Measuring your cat and then comparing his or her size to the item's dimensions is always the safest way to ensure a good fit.

Measuring How-To:

When purchasing a collar or harness, look at the manufacturers size guide, as size can vary from one brand to the next. Take a soft sewing tape measure and go around the widest part of your cat’s neck. Choose a collar larger than that measurement so you have room to adjust for a comfortable fit. When putting the collar on, allow for 2 of your fingers to go between the collar and your cats neck for comfort. For a harness, you will also need to measure their chest just behind the front legs. Look for the size harness that can accommodate the combination of the largest neck and chest measurements. 

When measuring for a carrier, weight alone isn’t the only factor to consider. You will need to measure your cat’s length and height to be sure that the carrier offers enough space for your pet to turn around comfortably, but not be so large that the kitty can bounce around inside it (which could lead to injury). The pet carrier rule-of-thumb is to add 4 inches to the length and height of your pet and look for a carrier that is about that size.  Cats are very flexible and enjoy snuggly spaces, so for short trips to the vet, a carrier that doesn’t allow them to fully stand up is fine, but for long trips they need room to stretch. You also need to think about food, water and litter.

If you are purchasing a carrier for in-cabin airline travel, bear in mind that the carrier will need to fit under the seat in front of you like any carry-on. It can be tricky finding a carrier big enough to fit your big cat while also meet airline rules. ALWAYS contact the airline to determine travel requirements. 

For Strollers, your pet will most likely be sitting up to look around, so you need enough head room for them to do so. Measure your cat in sitting position and add a few inches to determine proper height requirement.

When purchasing items like beds and perches where your cat will be napping, size is extremely important because if your cat is not comfortable on it, they won’t use it. Here are a few easy ways to get the right measurement. 

If there is a spot that your cat likes to sleep now, simply measure that spot. Our Maine Coon is a side sleeper and loves to sleep on an ottoman in our family room. When we were looking for a window perch, I needed to know how wide it would need to be for him to rest comfortably on it, so I measured the ottoman to determine that the perch needed to be at least 24" wide. 

Our itty bitty kitty Isabel sleeps like an Olympic diver, tucked into position just before releasing into a full pike. I used a tape measure while she was asleep to determine her longest measurement while in this position, which was 10 inches, and used that to determine the inside diameter that I needed when purchasing her round bed. Be sure to pay attention to inside vs outside dimensions on product listings. This bed would be listed as 20”, but that is an outside diameter. The inside diameter is only 11". This is perfect for Isabel, but not for Sonny who would require at least a 22” inside diameter round bed which would have closer to a 30" outside diameter. 

Henna is a little trickier to shop for. She looks small and compact when curled up, but she is very long, and much heavier than you’d expect. This style of bed simply doesn’t work for her. Henna twists, turns and moves constantly, typically ending up on her back with her arms and legs stretched out. She also has silky fur, so she eventually slithers out this bed and ends up on the floor.  We measured her length while she was stretched out to determine the minimum length bed we needed for her to be comfortable (which was 30”), and looked for a bed with higher bolstered sides to keep her from falling out.  

Measuring for a cat door: If you are installing a cat door leading to your catio, you will need to 2 measurements to determine how big the flap opening should be.

Remember to allow extra room in case your cat grows or gains weight. Then check the manufacturers size chart to choose an appropriately sized door. 

We hope this information helps you make better buying decisions and enables you to find items that your Big Kitty will love for years to come!  

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