Cat ownership 101: A guide for new cat parents
Bringing home a new cat can be an exciting experience for the entire family. To best prepare for kitty’s arrival, keep this list of cat care items and needs in mind.
We tend to think of cats as low-maintenance pets. And it’s true—a cat doesn’t require walks, a leash, or poop bags. They don’t fly or swim or live in a tank or a cage, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need care. From basic immunizations and regular checkups to feeding, grooming, litter changes, and entertainment, cats do require attention if they are to live happy, healthy lives. In this blog, we’ll look at the basics every responsible cat owner should know.
Cat Health Basics
Basic cat care begins early. Veterinarians typically give healthy kittens their core vaccinations (including those against feline distemper, feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I, and rabies) beginning at 4 to 6 weeks of age. Spaying and neutering are commonly performed when a kitten is between 8 weeks and 4 months of age. A cat’s initial physical exam costs about $130, and a spay or neuter procedure costs about $145. Plan to budget for a regular annual checkup for your cat, and research ongoing costs of pet ownership as well. Your vet will be able to give you precise rates for each procedure and can answer questions about cat healthcare insurance or financial assistance in your area.
The Cat “Starter Kit”
While there is no official “starter kit” for the first-time cat owner, you can plan on a few basics. You’ll need to provide food and water bowls, a collar and ID tag, a grooming brush (especially for long-haired breeds).
Kitty will also need a litter pan and litter. There are various cat litters on the market—everything from clay and recycled paper to wheat and walnut shells—so find which one appeals most to your cat and your environment.
Provide your new cat with a safe, comfy place to sleep or just chill out—away from family activity. Cats may not show it, but they can get over-stimulated and stressed, so providing a comfy spot for them to decompress is essential. It could be as simple as a box lined with a blanket or sweatshirt, or a pillow on a windowsill.
And if you already have other pets, be patient when introducing the new kitty to his housemates. Keep cat safety in mind: human medications and foods, plants and possible choking hazards around the house should be addressed prior bringing your cat into your home.
Here are some additional recommendations for introducing your new cat into your home:
Feeding Your Cat
Cats are carnivores and natural hunters, so that means they need a diet rich in protein. In general, a brand of dry food that lists meat (chicken, fish, etc.) before carbs and fillers is your best bet. (Note: Diabetic or obese cats may have specific food restrictions, so check with your vet about unique dietary needs.) Canned or “wet” cat food offers a way to add variety to the menu, and can reduce kidney disease, as well as help older male cats from experiencing potentially dangerous urinary tract blockages. Treats are fine, in moderation, but are not a substitute for a nutritious diet. Water should always be available.
Cat Cleanliness and Grooming
While cats do groom themselves, you should brush your cat regularly. Most cats enjoy it, and a thorough brushing helps prevent matting of the fur, which can lead to skin infections. The occasional bath can also help remove dander (a help to those with cat allergies) and can reveal any problems, such as fleas or ticks, which can occur in cats that spend time outdoors.
Cat Exercise And Play
Cats may sleep a lot but they also play hard, so you might want to invest in a scratching post and some cat toys to keep them active and entertained. Indoor cats do need exercise, and playtime is a great way for you to bond with your cat. Your local pet shop is likely well stocked with a wide range of cat toys— from feather teasers to laser pointers—that are sure to keep your cat active.
Of course, you’ll want to give you cat lots of love! Most cats will seek out physical affection and a good cuddle is not only pleasant, but is healthy for both you and your cat. Simply petting a cat can help reduce your blood pressure, decrease your heart rate, and release brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that help boost your mood.
We hope that with these tips in mind, you and your new cat will live happy healthy lives together.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.