Tips for First-Time Cat Owners
So you've decided you want to get a cat...What now?
Before you make the commitment, there are a few things you should know and consider:
Cats can be very energetic and do require attention, so be prepared to dedicate some of your time every day to play with them.
Your furniture will likely get scratched. There are ways to curb this behavior, but not at a 100% success rate.
Do NOT declaw your cat. Declawing a cat is the equivalent of cutting off a human's finger at the last knuckle. Cats need claws for protection, balance, and climbing. Not only is this procedure incredibly inhumane, but it can also cause many health problems such as joint stiffness and sore paws.
Veterinary bills can add up. Be prepared for the costs of standard checkups, vaccines, and neuter/spay. Also start setting savings aside for an emergency pet fund; you never know what will happen.
If you aren't prepared for all of the above, then do not get a cat. If you've gotten to here and still want to get a cat, it's now time to decide on a few things.
Rescuing from a Shelter vs. Buying from a Breeder
We are firm believers in adopt OR shop responsibly. It's a great thing to rescue, but it's also okay to want a specific breed. A few things to remember when making your decision:
Going through a breeder is not the only way to get a kitten. There are a lot of kittens available for adoption in shelters. From Spring to Fall (known as kitten season), you will see an influx of kittens in shelters who need homes.
When you rescue from a shelter, you save two lives: the cat you adopt, as well as the cat that will take his/her place at the shelter now that a spot is open.
Buying from a breeder is not the only way to get a specific breed. There are various rescue groups for purebred cats. Be sure to check if any are near you!
If buying from a breeder, remember to do your RESEARCH. We cannot stress this enough. Don't be afraid to ask questions! If you are able to, visit the cattery to inspect it yourself. Some warning signs of an irresponsible breeder:
The price of the kitten is suspiciously low. Purebred cats are expensive, and can often range from $1000-$2500+. If the breeder is selling kittens for less than this price, keep your eyes peeled for other signs below.
Excess eye and nose discharge, matted fur, lethargy, limping..the list goes on. If you see any of these symptoms in the cats or kittens, look for another breeder.
Dirty living conditions (i.e. filthy litter boxes, piles of cat fur in corners, pungent smells)
Refusal to share health records and genetic test reports
Refusal to let you meet the parents of the kittens OR parents are visibly unhealthy
No registration papers
No questionnaire/application to fill out, so the breeder can learn more about the prospective owner
Cat vs. Kitten
Both cats and kittens have their own pros and cons. Regardless of which you choose, you will still have a wonderful companion!
You can clearly tell their personality (i.e. lap cat, super cuddly, independent, playful, etc.) and can decide if it is suitable to your lifestyle.
If adopting from a shelter, you are doing a great thing, as often times adult cats are harder to adopt out than kittens.
You can skip the crazy kitten phase. Adult cats are usually much, much calmer.
Adult cats can do very well as a solo pet.
You have no idea what this cat has been through. He/she may have specific habits or anxieties that you will have to work with.
You will likely have less time with your feline friend.
Adult cats are much calmer than kittens. If you're looking for a more active cat, a kitten may be a better choice.
You get to raise your kitten for his/her entire life and provide the best life possible.
You can influence your kitten much easier than you would an adult cat. They can grow accustomed to leash walking, going outside, etc.
If you have other pets or kids, kittens can adapt more easily to their surroundings.
Kittens are usually much more energetic and playful than adult cats.
You are responsible for training your kitten. This includes correct usage of the litter box (most kittens will come trained, since they learn from their mama), learning not to scratch, learning not to bite, learning not to climb curtains, etc.
Kittens do not do well when alone most of the time. If you don't already have a pet that can be his/her companion, it is highly suggested to adopt another cat or kitten at the same time. If you work 5 days a week from 9 to 5, please consider getting your kitten a companion. If you are home most of the time, then getting just one kitten will be fine.
You won't know what sort of personality your kitten will develop.
preparing for your new companion
There are quite a few things you will have to do and buy before bringing your cat or kitten home. We will include suggestions of items that have worked well for us.
Litter boxes - The common rule of thumb on how many boxes to get is the number of cats plus one. If you have one cat, get two boxes. If you have two cats, get three boxes.
Litter - There are two common types of litter: clumping and non-clumping. Sometimes cats have their own preferences, but that's for you to discover. It is best to start with whatever litter the shelter or breeder was using, then slowly transition to a new litter if needed.
Food bowl - We have an auto-fill feeder for dry food, and separate bowls for wet food. Depending on your cat's eating tendencies, you may not want an auto-fill feeder.
Water fountain - Cats often prefer running water to still water. We find that the cats drink more water when using a fountain instead of a bowl.
Food - Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they are strict meat-eaters. We feed wet food twice a day, and always leave dry food out available for snacking. Be sure to read the ingredients on the bag/can of food before purchasing and lean towards options that are grain-free. Remember, ingredients are listed from highest to lowest concentration.
If you see any of these fillers in the top five ingredients, we advise you to find a different option: animal by-products, corn, potatoes, wheat, rice, and soy.
It is best to start off with the food the shelter or breeder was feeding, then slowly transition to a new food if needed.
Treats - Everyone loves a treat! These are also essential for bribing your cats to model for photos. ;)
Carrier - You will need one of these to transport your cat to public places, such as the vet.
Toys - A must have for your cat's playtime enjoyment. Catnip toys are especially loved.
Scratching Posts - Cats scratch for many reasons: to remove the outer layer of their claws, to help stretch their body, and to mark their territory. You will also want some of these around the home to deter your cat from scratching your furniture.
Cat Trees - This one is a must-have! Cats love to be in high places, and cat trees are the perfect way to allow them to do so. If you have other pets, it will also allow your cat to jump up and enjoy his/her personal space whenever needed.
Beds - Every cat needs a place to lounge, whether it be on your bed or his/her own. You'll find some cats like pet beds more than others.
Collars - When purchasing a collar, be sure to get one with a breakaway buckle. Since cats can jump to such high places, their collars may catch onto something. For safety, a breakaway buckle will automatically release when pressure is applied to it, ensuring no harm to your cat. There have been many instances where we've found our cats' collars on the floor.
Name Tags - This is a nice-to-have, just in case your cat ever gets lost. The most important details to include are your cat's name and your phone number.
Grooming - This process is best started as early as possible, to get your cat used to the routine. Brushing helps deter hair balls and mattes in fur. However, if your cats absolutely hate it, then you will just have to commit to vacuuming more often!
Cat-proofing your home is essential.
Strategically place scratching posts around your home near areas you expect to get scratched (probably the couch).
You may also want to lay blankets to cover certain areas of the couch to prevent them from scratching it.
If you have plants in your home, do a thorough check on if they are cat-friendly or not. Cats like to chew on plants, and many plants/flowers are toxic when consumed. A few common ones include: Ivy, Lilies, Pothos, Tulips, Jade, Aloe, and Monstera. We suggest getting cat grass to deter them from eating other plants.
For a full list of toxic and non-toxic plants, click here.
Keep easily breakable items out of reach or in cabinets. Remember that cats are capable of jumping to great heights.
Get in the habit of not leaving food out in the open. Especially avoid leaving these items out that can be toxic to cats: chocolate, grapes, onions, and garlic.
Bringing Home Your Feline
Now that your new family member is home, you want to help them get comfortable. Depending on the cat, this could happen instantly or take up to weeks.
If you have other family members (people or pets), it's best to keep your new kitty friend in a separate room until he/she warms up. You can then gradually open up the other parts of your home for exploration. Remember, be patient. As tempting as it is to smother your new baby with love, let him/her come to you, rather than you going to them. Sit on the floor and try to entice them with treats or toys. You will be the best of friends in no time!
Be sure to place your cat into the litter box, so they are aware of the location. They will know what to do from there.
It is not uncommon for your new cat to refuse food at first. Once comfortable, your cat will resume normal eating habits. In our experience, most cats cannot resist wet food! You'll soon find that as soon as the can opens, your cat will come running over and meowing to be fed.
There are also a few things you should be prepared to do and think about:
Neuter or spay your cat, if he/she is not already.
Neutered cats are unable to get testicular cancer, and spayed cats are unable to get uterine cancer.
Once your cat hits puberty (between 4 to 10 months old):
Unneutered male cats spray urine to mark their territory. This smell is a hundred times more pungent than the normal urine smell.
Unneutered male cats are always on the search for females and will meow often in order to find a mate. Unspayed female cats will also meow constantly to find a mate when in heat.
If your cat ever escapes, this can prevent unwanted kittens and help with the overpopulation issue.
Go to your first veterinary visit.
Whether you rescued your cat from the shelter or purchased your cat from a breeder, it is a requirement to get a standard check up within a few days of going home. This is just to make sure your cat is healthy, for peace of mind of both parties.
Ask to microchip your cat. This is a noninvasive insertion and does not require anesthesia. Microchips are not a tracking device, but it will help identify your cat if he/she is ever lost.
Note: If your cat is from a shelter, it is likely they are microchipped already.
Think about getting pet insurance.
This is not entirely necessary while your cat is at a younger age. However, it can be extremely useful for elder cats that are more prone to develop diseases and save you a good amount of money.
Keep in mind that pet insurance does not cover existing issues. Use your own judgment for when to start investing in pet insurance.
Flea and tick prevention?
This is not necessary if you plan for your cat to be solely indoors. If your cat is allowed outdoors, we would recommend that you look into some options.
Remember, you are making a commitment to care for your cat for his/her entire life. Please be prepared for the time and costs of owning a pet. Don't worry, these amazing creatures will give you back tenfold in the form of love, happiness, and cuddles.
Have a question? Feel free to ask us in the comments.