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Cat Care 101: A Complete Guide to Cat Ownership

cat laying down

So, you’ve decided to get a new pet, and a cat seems like the perfect fit for you. After all, they don’t need expensive training or time-consuming walks. Best of all, you won’t have to spend time house-training them in the snow or during a thunderstorm! However, there are some things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of adopting your first feline friend. This guide aims to provide all the information you’ll need to set your new cat up for success and provide her with an amazing forever home!

 

Pre-adoption considerations

Before rushing to the shelter because they’re having a discount on cat adoptions, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Can I have pets where I live? If you own your own home, this is an obvious yes, but if you live in an apartment or rent a house, you’ll need to check with management. Carefully go over all pet policies before proceeding further. Take special note of any deposits or increases in rent that may occur.
  2. What about family members? Are they onboard? Talk with family members, roommates, etc. Make sure they’re ready for a cat. If anyone in the home has cat allergies, be extra sure that person can take steps to live happily with a kitty.
  3. Think about other pets, if any. If you have a dog who likes chasing small animals, a cat may not be ideal.
  4. Can you afford a new pet? Your future feline is going to need quality food, regular health care, and enrichment, among other things. Be sure you’re able to afford her expenses before you adopt.

 

Cats Vs. Kittens

If you’re not sure whether to get an adult or a kitten, here are a few things to keep in mind. Kittens have much more energy than their grown-up counterparts, and they’ll be a bit more expensive to care for during the first year. Also, their personalities can change drastically as they mature.

Adults are more settled, and you’ll have a more accurate idea of their temperaments when adopting. They should also be fully vaccinated before you bring them home, which will save you some money. Adult cats cost less, generally, to adopt than kittens because kittens are more popular. Black cats, of course, have the most trouble finding homes because of their color. Regardless of what age or color of cat you choose, be sure to give the shelter details about your household and lifestyle, so they can recommend just the right kitty for you!

 

Preparing Your Home

Before adopting your new kitty, make sure your home is ready for them. Set up a special room for them, so they’ll have a safe place to spend time over the first couple of weeks. You’ll need the following supplies:

  • A litter box
  • Food and water
  • A cat bed
  • A couple of cat trees
  • A scratching post
  • Plenty of toys

Food and water bowls should be placed relatively far from the litter box. Felines oftentimes don’t get enough water when living with humans, most of their water in the wild comes from blood. If you find your cat doesn’t drink from their bowl experiment with adding a bit of chicken broth to it or investing in a water fountain.

Be patient when introducing your cat to her new home. Don’t allow her free run of the whole house right away. Remember that your home is full of new, and possibly scary, sights and scents. Your kitty may become overwhelmed by so many new things to experience and look for places to hide. If you don’t want to regularly retrieve your cat from the top of bookshelves or under the couch, place him in the kitty safe room when he comes home for the first time. Make sure other animals can’t access this room for the time being. Allow him a few hours to explore on his own, then start hanging out in the room as well, so your cat can get used to you.

Remember to be patient. It may take some time for your cat to feel comfortable coming up to you, even if he was a cuddle bug at the shelter. Let your cat enjoy his safe zone for several days before allowing him access to other parts of the house. You can do this by giving him short, supervised access to other areas in your home. Eventually, he’ll get used to his new life and routines. Once your cat is comfortable in his new home, you can gradually allow him more freedom. Eventually, he’ll be able to have full run of the house!

 

Feeding your cat

The food you choose will have a big impact on your cat’s over all health. We recommend asking the adoption center about your cat’s specific dietary preferences. Ask what food your cat ate and how much and start with those guidelines at first. Keeping your cat on a consistent diet initially will help him adjust to his new home. This is especially true if your cat is a senior or has other special health considerations. If you decide to change your cat’s diet later, transition him to the new food slowly to prevent stomach upset.

Here are few things to keep in mind when it comes to your cat’s diet. Kittens under a year old should eat food designed for kittens because they’re still growing and need a higher calorie diet. Consult your Veterinarian if your cat has special health considerations, is underweight, or is a senior. Also talk with your vet if your cat needs help losing weight, so he can diet safely.

Otherwise, choose a food that has meat listed as the first few ingredients. Consult the directions on the food label to determine how much your cat should eat based on his weight. If your cat starts gaining weight, reduce the amount of food he’s getting or try a lower calorie formula. There are formulas available for less active/indoor cats that may be a good option as well.

 

Using the Litter Box

We recommend having one litter box per cat plus an extra box for safety. Start with the standard open-sided boxes if possible. Covered litter boxes can trap odors and feel to confining for some cats. Also be sure the litter box is big enough. Regular-sized litter boxes may be fine for kittens, but cats over ten pounds may need something larger.

There are many types of litter to choose from: clay, clumping, recycled newspaper, pine pellets, and the list goes on. If you’re not sure, start with a basic clay litter. It’s relatively inexpensive, and most cats or kittens are used to it. Look for low-dust or no-dust varieties because dust isn’t pleasant for us or our cats. Once you find a litter your cat likes, stick with it! Changing litter types too often can cause finicky cats to avoid using the box. Incidentally, some cat parents like buying a special tracking mat to put under the litter box. It helps catch litter before your cat can track it all over the house.

Scoop litter boxes at least once per day. At least once a week, empty the box completely. Wash it in warm water and dish detergent before replacing the litter. It may be gross but check your cat’s stool or urine for anything unusual such as mucus, blood, or worms. Also, take note of diarrhea, hard stools, and any changes in frequency. If you notice anything abnormal, call your vet and ask about it.

 

Grooming Your Cat

It’s true that cats are usually good at keeping themselves clean, but they’ll need help with a few things. For instance, they need to be brushed at least once per week to prevent mats. If you own a long-haired breed like a Ragdoll or Persian, they’ll need more frequent brushing, two to three times weekly. For most cats, a stiff bristle brush will work well, but you can find special de-shedding tools for cats at pet stores or online if needed. Most cats enjoy being brushed and find the experience relaxing.

You’ll also need to trim your cat’s claws on a regular basis. Generally, twice per month is sufficient. Keeping your cat’s claws short will prevent him from accidentally scratching you or snagging furniture. If you’re not sure how to trim your cat’s claws, it’s best to have a groomer, your vet, or an experienced cat person help you until you’re comfortable doing it yourself.

Generally, they will keep themselves fairly clean, so they don’t need to be bathed very often. Most cats only require bathing once or twice per year. If you need to bathe your cat, be sure to use a shampoo designed especially for cats. Make sure the shampoo doesn’t get anywhere near they’re face. Dry them well with a towel and keep them warm until his fur is completely dry. Brush them thoroughly after they’re dry in order to make them fluffy and beautiful.

 

Flea Prevention

Your kitty will also need regular flea prevention, even if they live indoors. There are monthly topical formulas, collars, and flea sprays available. Collars are the most straightforward because they last for several months at a time. Topical products are the most popular form of flea prevention but need to be applied once a month. If you’re concerned about chemicals, natural flea, and tick products are a great option as well.

No matter which product you choose, read the label carefully and follow all instructions. Be sure you use a product designed especially for cats. Keep your cat’s weight in mind also. If they’re a larger cat, they’ll need a product that designed for their weight

 

Playtime and Exercise

Both Adults and kittens love their playtime, so keep a variety of toys available! Some kitties have specific toy preferences, so it may take time to figure out which works best. Some felines love toys that look like mice. Others love toys that mimic birds in flight. There are all kinds of toys out there, so spend some time figuring out what your new family member prefers. Vets recommend playing with cats a couple of times per day.

Scratching posts are important as well if you want to keep your kitty from clawing the furniture. Scratchers don’t need to be fancy. They can look like traditional scratching posts, scratching pads, or corrugated cardboard. It all depends on your cat’s individual preferences. Keeping scratchers throughout your home is ideal. If your cat doesn’t naturally take to using one, try sprinkling some catnip on it in order to attract his attention. Also, you can try giving treats or praising your kitty when you notice him using the scratchers.

Your cat will also need a dedicated napping spot. This can be a soft blanket or an actual cat bed, whatever works for you and your pet. Some kitties love sleeping in the sun, while others prefer somewhere dark and private. Climbing trees are another option. They provide a place for napping, playing, and scratching!

 

Enjoy Your New Cat!

The best thing you can do as a new cat owner enjoys your new feline family member! Spend time playing with her. Let her get to know you and your family at her own pace and in her own time. Eventually, you and your new companion will have an amazing and rewarding bond, and you won’t understand why it took you so long to get a new pet. Hopefully, this article has given you all the information you’ll need to get started with your first cat.

One thought on “Cat Care 101: A Complete Guide to Cat Ownership

  1. Afton Jackson says:

    Thank you for the heads up about contacting a veterinarian if the cat you just adopted is a senior. The cat we adopted from our sister is a really old one, and while I was ready to start taking care of a young kitten, I definitely think that older cats would have different specifications to them. I’ll consult a nearby veterinarian right away so we can figure out more about this old cat and take care of it better.

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