Owning Your First Cat
Cats are amazing creatures and extremely comforting pets. So if you’ve made the decision to own your very first feline friend, you can look forward to sharing many great moments together.
However, one important factor to remember is that you must provide your new pet with love, care, and attention to ensure they live a happy life. It’s also your responsibility as an owner to provide them with sufficient living conditions too.
If you care for your cat and you look after them, then the reward is certainly worth it. So to brush up on your knowledge or to learn the essentials from scratch (no pun intended) take a look at this very owner guide.....
Training Your Cat
Although most people believe that it’s not possible to train a cat, this is not actually the case.
Cats aren’t as responsive as dogs because they’re not as social and they were bred and domesticated primarily to kill vermin. However, if you train them from an early age then it is possible to achieve - with a little patience and creativity of course! Training any animal will stimulate their body and mind, keep them healthy, and also build and strengthen the relationship between yourself and your pet cat.
First of all, you need to use tasty treats so that the cat can be rewarded for carrying out the desired action. Small chunks of tuna or cat treats are a good choice in this instance.
With repetition and reward it’s possible to make your cat sit and also come to you on command when called – but remember, practice makes perrrrfect (pun intended, this time).
Never lose your temper with your cat as this can cause them stress, behavioral problems - such as compulsive grooming, and even make them more vulnerable to disease.
Persuasion, as opposed to punishment, is the best way to train your cat.
Equipment and Supplies
Before you decide to bring your cat home to their new surroundings, remember to buy the necessary equipment for them first, allowing them to live in comfort.
Here are some of the essential items you’ll need:
- Food bowls/dishes
- Drinks bowl
- Flea spray
- Cat carrier
- Cat furniture
After the first couple of weeks as you become more acquainted with your cat, you will start to realize which additional items, if any, you need.
Additional supplies can be purchased at a later date, once your cat has had time to familiarise themselves with their new home.
The new world you provide for your kitty needs to be fun, safe, and stimulating too. Whilst your cat is being kept indoors, they still need to engage in natural instinct activity and behavior.
Without engaging in these actions, your cat can become depressed, irritated and bored.
Providing your feline friend with a safe and active environment is easy to achieve if you follow these tips.
- Place cat toys around the home to encourage stimulation of the mind and regular playtime sessions
- Clear valuable items from shelves and work surface so that your cat doesn’t knock them over
- Make sure that sharp objects are not left on display as they could cause injury to your pet
- Use a scratch post so your cat can release energy and clean their paws and mark their territory too
- Place a few treats around the home so that your cat can hunt for them
- Hide all cleaning products and medicines away in a locked cupboard so your cat can’t gain access to them
- Keep windows and doors shut if your cat is not meant to go outside until they are vaccinated (More info in below)
- Shut all appliance doors when not in use – a washing machine can seem like the perfect sleeping place for a cat
- Keep toilet lids shut to avoid your feline friend falling in
- Use covered rubbish bins in the kitchen and around the home
- Hide electrical cables behind furniture or use a cable protector to store them safely
If your cat has been vaccinated to explore outside the home you will also need to follow a few simple steps to make sure they are safe when out on their adventures.
Whilst the outside world is a cat’s playground, it’s also a place where dangers and disease can lurk.
So, to make their environment as safe as possible:
- Install a cat flap in your home so that they can roam freely and gain access inside when needed
- Keep your cat away from your garden if you’ve used herbicides and chemicals until the area is completely dry
- Make sure that they are not exposed to rat poison in your garden as this can be fatal
- Remove lilies, azaleas, daffodils, tomato plants and hydrangeas as these can be toxic
- Check with the vet that the correct vaccinations have been provided before your cat starts exploring outside
- Make sure that the area is clear before reversing your car off the drive – cats will sometimes sleep under the car or near to the wheels
- Neuter your cat (more information under ‘Neutered and Spayed’ below) to reduce the risk of fighting, transmitting disease, and pregnancy
Other Cats In Your Home
Although this guide is targeted towards owners of their first cat, it might not be all that long before you introduce another feline friend to your family.
Introducing another cat into your home requires time and patience. To start with, keep them separated initially.
If you keep the new cat in a separate room, it needs to have all of the essential equipment within it so that they can acclimatize to their surroundings.
When it comes to feeding both cats, do so near the closed door where the other cat is being kept so that they can adjust to the smells and sounds of one another.
After a few days, switch the cats over so that they become even more aware of each other’s environment and smell.
From here, start to play and interact with both cats in the doorway so that they can associate positive experiences with each other.
If both cats are displaying positive signs of behaviour then start to let them interact. However, never force them to interact if they don’t want to.
Over time they should start to interact more and more and become comfortable in one another’s company.
Eventually, you won’t need to keep them in two separate locations and the cats should be able to live together in harmony within one space.
Meeting Other People
Allow your cat time to settle into their new surroundings before you invite people over to say hello.
A week is a good amount of time and once they have acclimatized, friends and family can visit you to see your new cat.
When they arrive and they are in the company of your pet, keep a handful of treats in the palm of your hand to reward your cat for positive behaviour.
Most pet cats should feel relaxed around other people, although if there are any issues then move the cat away from the environment.
If you’ve recently got a young kitten, this is going to cause a lot of interest, but remind your guests not to pull, grab, or be too forceful with them.
Without any issues, your cat should feel relaxed and your guests will love interacting with your new furry family member.
Cats and Children
Children are likely to be fascinated by your cat. However, if they wish to interact with your feline friend, you need to make them aware of a few rules first.
Remember to tell children that they should never:
- Scream at your cat or intentionally make them jump
- Grab or pull them by their fur or tail
- Be aggressive or forceful with them in any way
- Run towards or startle them
If children are relaxed and gentle in their approach to your cat, there is less of a chance of your pet scratching and biting as a result of forceful or aggressive behaviour.
Registering With a Vet
One of the first priorities, when you bring your new cat back home, is to register with a local vet as soon as possible.
Make an appointment straight away. When you go and see the vet, they will be able to advise you on a suitable cat care programme.
It’s likely because this is the first cat that you have owned, that you will have a number of questions to ask regarding your pet’s health. Due to this, before you go, write down a list of questions you have in mind.
Registering with a vet is hugely important and is as vital to your cat’s health as registering with the doctors is to your own health – so make sure this is done.
Injections and Vaccinations
To avoid illness and the spread of disease and infections your cat should be vaccinated at the earliest stage possible. This will prevent them from becoming unwell and will give you peace of mind that they are safe when roaming outside.
Kittens will need to receive injections at the age of nine and twelve weeks, however, it’s advised to check what injections your cat needs when you register with your local vet.
Vaccinations can protect your cat against:
- Feline infectious enteritis – cat plague
- Feline herpes virus – upper respiratory infection
- Feline leukemia virus – a virus that can cause cancer
- Feline calicivirus – cat virus that can cause respiratory infection and oral diseases
Without vaccinations, diseases can cause pain and distress to your pet and in some cases the outcome can be fatal. Make sure that you prevent the spread of disease by getting your cat vaccinated at the earliest stage possible.
Infections and Symptoms
Cats can catch a number of infections, so if they haven’t been vaccinated then look out for any of the following signs and symptoms of illness. The table below highlights some of the most common cat infections.
Feline infectious enteritis
Accumulation of fluid within the abdomen or chest, breathing difficulties, lack of appetite, fever, weight loss, diarrhea, difficulty in standing and walking
Feline herpes virus
Sneezing, eye and nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, fever, loss of appetite, depression, ulceration of the mouth and tongue, pneumonia
Feline leukaemia virus
Pale gums, yellow colour in the mouth and whites of eyes, poor coat condition, weakness and lethargy, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties
Loss of appetite, eye discharge, nasal discharge, ulcers on tongue and tip of the nose or on claws, pneumonia, fever, arthritis
Lethargic, diarrhoea, vomiting, lack of intake of food and drink, dry skin, dehydration, dull and lifeless fur, and coat
If at any time you suspect that your cat may have caught an infection, seek veterinary advice immediately.
If infections are discovered early and vaccinations or medication can be provided, your cat can return to full health without any further problems.
Neutered and Spayed
To stop unwanted breeding and litters and to reduce the risk of developing diseases, cats can be neutered or spayed. When male cats are neutered it can cause them to stop engaging in fighting.
Male cats are neutered, whereby the testicles are removed and in female cats, the ovaries and uterus are removed.
Male cats should be neutered between five and six months of age and female felines can be spayed at the same time, however, it is possible to complete the operation when your cat is older.
Speak to your vet if you wish to proceed with this option.
Cats need to be given regular treatments to stop them from suffering from fleas. Your vet can advise you on a suitable flea treatment and these can be purchased from supermarkets and pet supplies stores as well as the vets.
Remember, NEVER use a dog flea treatment on your cat as this can be fatal. Instead, use specific cat flea products for the best results and to avoid your cat becoming unwell.
If your cat develops fleas then they will display the following symptoms:
- Red or inflamed skin
- Small dark flecks on their fur/skin
If your cat catches fleas, not only will you need to treat the cat, you will also need to eradicate them from your home too.
Use a vacuum cleaner to thoroughly clean your carpets and floors before applying an effective flea spray. When cleaning the home, be sure to vacuum in places where your cat spends time and also in warm areas where fleas can thrive.
With the correct treatment and cleaning, both your home and cat will be flea free in no time at all.
To keep your cat’s health in good check, it’s important to follow a strict worming programme. Worms can cause suffering, illness and in the most extreme cases of death.
Kittens from six to 16 weeks of age should be de-wormed every three weeks. After this phase, from four months onwards, both cats and kittens need to be de-wormed every three months.
Some of the symptoms that can be observed over time for worms are:
- Increased appetite
- Dry or coarse fur
- Weight loss
- Anaemia – pale gums
It’s even possible that worms can spread from pets to humans, so make sure you wash your hands after handling your cat if you suspect they have worms.
Ask your vet what the best treatment for your cat is so they don’t end up catching worms.
Purchasing cat insurance is a wise move. Insurance will assist you with healthcare costs and the overall wellbeing of your new feline friend.
Younger cats are more at risk as they develop and learn about their surroundings. However, regardless of this, insurance is important for a cat of any age.
Without insurance in place, if your cat falls ill and requires surgery or medication, costs can quickly escalate out of control.
Insurance can protect you against:
- Vets’ bills
- Treatment costs
- Death from illness
- Death from injury
So, make sure that you’ve got sufficient insurance in place for your individual circumstances.
If anything does happen to your pet, you’ll be thankful that you took insurance out in the first place.
Food and Diet
When it comes to food for your kitty, a healthy and balanced diet is essential. Feeding your pet the right amount of food is also important for their health and to avoid obesity.
As cats are carnivores, they love to eat meats and commercial Cat Foods that contain nutrients. When you are determining what to feed your cat, their age, weight, and shape all play a part.
Remember that cats should also always have access to fresh drinking water, which should be provided daily. It is advisable to place the water in a bowl and place this next to their food bowl.
Kittens will start to eat solid foods from three weeks of age and are fully weaned at around eight weeks.
To begin with, kittens will need five small meals a day as they develop because during this stage they are extremely energetic. This pattern should change once they are six months of age where two meals a day will suffice as they become an adult cat.
Commercial cat food is a good way to provide your cat with the daily nutrients they need. With cat food of this nature, you can follow the advice on the packaging with regards to how much you should be feeding them. Remember that overfeeding can lead to obesity and reduced quality of life.
Feeding twice daily – once in the morning and once in the evening will be enough for your cat to take what they need from their food.
The occasional treat is also a good idea, although don’t offer treats all the time as your cat will soon put on weight.
Here are some of the foods that you can feed your cat and others that you should avoid.
Food you can feed your cat
Food you should not feed your cat
Cooked lean meats
If your cat eats anything that they shouldn’t have then it’s best to seek veterinary advice immediately. Intake of a small proportion of foods that they shouldn’t eat may not be a problem, however, it’s always best to check just in case.
Also, monitor how much your pet is eating. If they are skipping meals or leaving large quantities of food then there may be an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed.
With a balanced and healthy diet, your cat will consume the right amount of calories and nutrients in order to live a happy life.
Thanks for taking the time to read our latest pet user guide. The most fundamental part of owning a cat is to offer them love, care, and attention. If you look after your cat and give them a loving home, you will share many happy memories in the coming months ahead.
We hope this guide has been of use to you and we wish you the very best of luck in bonding, playing, caring and looking after your newest furry family member.
References and resources
- ASPCA, Pet Care, Training Your Cat:
- Overstock, Essential Cat Supplies for New Cat Owners:
- Web MD, Healthy Pets, Keeping an Indoor Cat Happy:
- Purina, Making your home cat-friendly:
- Petfinder, Simple Tips for Introducing Two Cats:
- RSPCA, Vaccinating your pet:
- Wikipedia, Feline infectious peritonitis:
- Cat World, Feline Herpes Virus (Cat Flu)- Causes, Symptoms & Treatment of Cat Herpes:
- Web MD, Healthy Cats, Facts About Feline Leukemia Virus:
- 10. Yahoo Voices, Five Common Cat Illnesses and Their Symptoms:
11. PDSA, Cat Health Advice:
12. RSPCA, Get worm wise:
13. Animal Planet, 5 Human Foods Cats Can Eat:
14. Cat Behaviour Associates, Nine Foods You Shouldn’t Feed Your Cat: