As a veteran cat owner, I sometimes forget that I didn’t start out infinitely knowledgeable about how to care for my feline companions. Cat ownership may seem pretty basic on the surface, but there are certain things that are helpful to know, and some may not be totally obvious to people who’ve never had a cat before. With that in mind, here are 10 tips for first time cat owners.
Do You Have the Time?
Some people mistakenly assume that cats require very little care, and this simply isn’t true. Cats are typically a lower maintenance pet than a dog, but like any sentient being they still need (and crave) love and attention. If your lifestyle is such that you’re rarely at home and only have a few minutes a day to devote to your pet, then a cat is not the right animal for you.
Bringing home a new cat is similar to bringing home a new baby, in that your cat does not know what is unsafe for him to play with or put in his mouth. Going room to room looking for potential hazards can literally save your pet’s life. As you pet proof your home, it’s helpful to think like a cat, and even get down on all fours to see the room from their perspective. For more pet proofing tips, read What’s In Your Home That Could Harm Your Pet.
Have Plenty of Toys
All cats love to play. They also love variety, and they do get bored with their toys, so be sure to have a good assortment of different kinds of toys for playtime. Furry mice and catnip-laced soft toys are feline favorites. Rather than having all of the toys out at once, store them in a basket, plastic bin or some other type of container, and swap them out regularly.
Cats are what you’d call “natural born scratchers.” They not only want to scratch, they need to scratch. It’s up to you to provide appropriate surfaces for scratching because you can’t stop the behavior and shouldn’t try. A few well placed scratching posts with different surfaces will keep your kitty’s claws out of your sofa or carpet.
Most cats don’t need to be bathed because they can do this job quite well all by themselves. However, they do need to be brushed regularly which helps to remove loose fur, prevent matting and distribute skin oils. Long haired cats will need more frequent brushing than short haired cats. In warm climates where fleas are prevalent, regular combing helps to not only detect the pests but to eliminate them. You’ll also want to trim your cat’s nails regularly to remove the sharp tip.
Food is Fuel
Good food is the cornerstone of good health. Our human bodies do not function at their best when fueled with junk food, and neither do our cats. Providing your cat with a high quality pet food such as CANIDAE is one of the best things you can do for their health and longevity.
You may have heard that “all cats vomit hairballs” or a similar statement. While this is true to an extent, chronic vomiting of hairballs is not normal and could be a sign that there is a problem with your cat’s digestive system. Anything more than one hairball puke a month is cause for concern and warrants a vet visit.
The Litter Box
Cats generally take to the litter box right away with very little training. However, some cats – especially small kittens – may need a bit of help. You may need to show them where the box is a few times. Making sure the box is scooped out daily and situated in a quiet place will also help to establish good litter box habits. Some cats are quite picky about the type of litter they prefer. If they seem resistant to using the box, you may need to provide a different kind of litter. Be aware that finding one they will accept can take some trial and error.
One flea can turn into thousands in the blink of an eye. Therefore, it’s imperative to use some form of flea control year round. Natural methods of flea control are safer than chemical products, but they do require extreme dedication and consistency in order to be effective. Regardless of which method you choose, staying on top of the situation is paramount to preventing a full blown flea infestation.
Even with the very best care, your cat may become sick at some point. A pet insurance policy can help with the expense and ensure that you don’t have to choose treatment options based on price alone (Source: Canidae).