The Basics Of First Time Cat Owning

You've decided you want a pet to make your home a little cozier, and it seems like a cat is the perfect type pet for you.

That's great! Cats are great companions, extremely loving and playful, and will always keep you on your toes. They're a reasonably low maintenance pet, and are a great choice for a first-time pet owner, as they're easy going and don't require any extreme means to take care of them.

However, it's important to learn what your future cat is going to need before you go bringing one home and end up in over your head. Luckily a few tips to set you on your way is all you'll need to welcome an adorable feline friend into your life!



Firstly, when you're thinking of getting a pet you can't just think about the here and now, you need to think about your plans for the future and how your cat is going to fit into those.

If you're planning to travel extensively, backpack around the world, or move somewhere that cats are not welcome then it might not be the right time for you to get a cat.

Cats can live for 4-5 years on average in the wild, but indoor or pet cats have been known to live to the age of 20, so they are by no means a 'short-term' pet.

If you're thinking of getting a cat but know you want to travel or move in the future you should consider adopting an elder cat from an animal shelter, you'll have a fluffy friend for a few years, but won't be tied down for life.

*Please note that if you do keep a cat for a few years, or an elder cat and surrender it to shelter the odds of an elder cat being readopted are greatly lower than that of a kitten. Please do not get a cat if you don't know that you can care for them (or arrange a loving home for them) for their entire life.*

If you're renting you'll need to check with your landlord about their pet policies, and know that you'll always need to look for cat-friendly housing.

This can be tricky depending on where you live and if you're really struggling try writing up an introduction Resume of your pet to give to prospective landlords, and offer an extra "pet -bond" that you can leave with them if your cat were to damage any property. 

Cats are not destructive animals as long as they're well looked after, but a pet bond gives a sense of security for the property owners, and for you because if anything should happen you won't need to fork out of your pocket to fix it right away.



Now it's time for you to learn what your cat needs to feel welcome in your home. When you first bring your cat home it's important for them to learn where their food, water, and litter is. 

Show them where you plan to feed them and immediately after they finish eating put them in the litter box. Make sure their litter box has low sides and an open top as most cat's don't like to be closed in while they go.

Your box should be 1 and a half lengths of your cat long (or just a standard sized box for a kitten, don't go finding something tiny because obviously, they will grow) and around 1-2 inches deep. 

To train them to use the litter box make sure you put them in it around every 30 minutes, and after every time they eat a big meal, play, or sleep, and though their natural instincts will kick in you can help them learn by dragging their front paws through the dirt to simulate digging. 

You will most likely have a few accidents while toilet training your cat but don't scold them for it, just put them in the little box and clean up the accident using a cleaning spray made for cats. Once you get past toilet training having a cat will be a lot easier, and a lot more fun!

Food wise, choose whatever food you want to feed them (make sure it's at least a mixture of wet and dry, a cat should not live on just dry food.) and be consistent with feeding times and quantities.

If you'd like to feed your cat raw food don't start this until after your cat is 6 months old and consulting your local vet.



Learn to keep your cat entertained. If you're wanting to get a kitten you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time at home interacting with it, cats are independent but they are very social creatures and can get lonely and bored very easily.

Bored cats are trouble cats, as they will make their own fun by exploring, tearing things up, and destroying things while they're alone.

If you are a busy person or work a lot it is recommended to adopt 2 kittens or cats a once, so that they always have a friend with them, and you don't have to worry about introducing a new cat to the household later on.

You cat will hang out with you a lot to get snuggles and attention or will wander off to sleep alone when they want to be alone. However, you will need to play with your cat, and teach it that toys and human time means fun time.

Buy or make you cat heaps of toys, and by heaps, I don't mean 5 or 6, I mean a mountain of toys. Cats lose and hide toys like there's no tomorrow so be prepared to be finding toys all over your house, or possibly even your own items like hair ties or socks that you didn't even know were missing.

Try your cat out with a variety of toys and find which ones they like best! Options include balls, ribbons, feathers, mice, bells, tassels, tunnels, cardboard tubes, socks, hair ties, bottle tops, crumpled paper, or anything with catnip usually goes down a treat.

When it comes time for you to pay with your cat try running around with ribbons or shoelaces and getting them to chase you, teach them to fetch or play with a cat wand or laser light.

*Note: If you play with your cat with a laser light make sure you give them some play time with a real toy or some treats when you're finished. Using a laser is fun for you but can be torture for your cat as they are chasing something they will never be able to catch, so it is important that you reward them with something of substance for their efforts*

Most importantly for your growing cat, make sure you invest in a few boxes to have in your home, or a cat tree, as well as at least one scratching post.

Cats need to scratch, it's good for their health, so never discourage your cat from scratching, just show them where they're allowed to do it.

To encourage your cat to use a scratching post instead of your couch try rubbing some catnip on the post and presenting it to your cat, it should drive them wild!



Here are some last little things you need to know if you've never owned a cat:

  • All cats, indoor and outdoor, should always be up to date on their vaccinations, be microchipped, and wear a collar. This is both for their health and safety if they are to wander off and become lost.
  • You should be ready to look after your cat's hygiene because even though they are highly self-sufficient they do require brushing, claw trimming, and occasionally eye and clean cleaning, and bathing. 
  • Cats can have special needs, just like humans. They can have things like ringworm or allergies, they might need a special diet, or they might have been injured. Make sure you are prepared to deal with anything that might occur and have the resources to care for your animal. Remember cats are part of the family once you take them home, and you should treat them as such.
  • Make sure your indoor plants are cat-safe. Cats like to graze on greens and a lot of indoor plants that humans love are toxic to cats. Try planting cat-grass or catnip indoors for your cat to safely nibble on.
  • Set boundaries and rules quickly. If you don't want them on counters or on your furniture let them know that from the start. It's much harder to form rules for an animal if you suddenly change from letting them do whatever they want to then tell them off for every little thing. This is an easy way to confuse them and make a cat feel stressed, so consistent with your rules and let your cat know from day what's okay, and what isn't.



There you have it, the basics need-to-knows about owning a cat!

Don't stress yourself out over all the little things, cats are very intelligent and learn quickly so introducing them to your home will be a breeze now that you know what you're doing!

Enjoy your new best friend and remember, be patient, your kitty is as new to all of this as you are.

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