Are you thinking about getting a cat? Or maybe you got one just recently? Then we’re sure that you must have many questions, doubts and inquiries! Having a new member in your family always comes with changes and new things to learn, and being a first time cat owner does so as well! The main thing to know is that cats are amazing, cute and adorable companions and, as any pet, they require care, attention and love. If you never had a cat before, it’s likely that there are lots of things that you don’t know yet about these wonderful animals.
Even though it is true that there is a lot that can be learned by the ongoing experience of having a new cat in your family, it is always useful and very helpful to plan ahead and be prepared for the adventure of sharing your life with a feline friend! This is mainly the reason why we have developed this ultimate cat guide for all first time cat owners out there, with all the tips, ideas, must-haves and specifics that you’ll need to make the most out of the experience of having a new cat. Do you want to get ready for the adventure and learn all you need to know about felines? Then we invite you to read along to find out more about this!
First things first…a quick list of must-haves and recommended items
It’s likely that you feel curious or even anxious to know all about the wide variety of things you might need to have at hand in order to receive the soon-to-be new furry member of your family. Even though there are a great amount of different elements and items designed for the cat world, it’s certainly not essential or mandatory for you to have all and every one of them. Which things you choose or prioritize to get will depend on what your cat is like and on your own, personal criteria.
Here we will provide you with a list of some of the most important items that you should consider getting. Of course, as we said, it’s not mandatory for you to get them all, and you might even want to get some things which are not on this list, but we believe that this list can help you get started and oriented to welcome your cat. We will also be giving you more details about these elements throughout this article!
- Water and food bowl
- Food supplies, whether it’s dry or wet food
- Litter box
- Comb for grooming your cat
- Cat shampoo for the occasional baths
- Scratching post
- Cat toothbrush
- Cat carrier to ensure safe transportation of your cat
- Toys and different playing items
- A trusted and good veterinarian professional
Getting your house and your family ready for the new arrival
Having a new cat arrive home is a very exciting moment for all the members of the family. Nevertheless, it’s important to be prepared and have everything safely settled to ensure that the cat’s arrival is smooth and enjoyable for all, and also for the cat itself!
If you live alone or with other adults in the house, a few tips and essential points of information about the cat’s wellbeing can be enough. But if you have kids in your house, then it might be necessary to take additional measures to make sure that the smaller ones can coexist peacefully and safely with the new furry member of the family.
This is why we recommend you to talk to the children in advance and teach them how to treat the cat. Cats can be quite sensitive and, especially when they first arrive, they need time and space to adjust and get to know the environment and the people that surround them. With no intent of doing harm, while playing with cats children might be a bit rough or intense on them sometimes. Show your children how to gently pet and treat the cat, and make sure that they understand the importance of giving it space, and avoid being rough on them.
As for the space of your house, it’s also important to get it ready to receive your cat. This is one of the first and most essential steps prior to the arrival of the feline. Keep in mind that cats are curious, love to explore, and enjoy heights, so look around your house to see which areas might be dangerous for them.
Some basic tips and ideas to make your house cat-safe are to protect your balcony with a cat net; check windows to make sure the cat won’t have any risks of getting through them if they are high; ensure that no plants that might be dangerous for the cat are at its reach; keep small objects in a safe space; avoid leaving medications or pills on the floor; and be aware of leaving certain cat toys unattended, as some are labeled with a tag saying that they should only be used under close supervision.
Learning the basics about cat behavior
In order to better understand your new cat, one of the most important things to consider is their behavior. Cats have their own specific ways of communicating their feelings, and they also have particular habits and customs. Learning in detail about these things will definitely help you to deal with your new furry friend in different circumstances and situations. This is why here we will give you all the details and specifications about how to understand your cat’s behavior.
One important aspect of the behavior, is to know the body language of cats and what certain poses mean. Do you for example know why a cat arches it back?
Dealing with aggressive attitudes
There are times when your cat will not be adorable and cute. As happens to us humans, cats also have certain moments in which they feel angry, uncomfortable or weird. This can sometimes lead to aggressive behavior. It’s important to pay attention to these attitudes and understand the reasons behind them, as a way of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your cat and also the pacific coexistence between all the members of the household.
Petting can be one of the situations which can possibly trigger aggressive behavior. Even though most cats do enjoy being pet by humans, there are some situations or some ways of petting that they dislike. If this is the case, they will certainly let you know about this, by expressing discomfort. If you are petting your cat and you notice they have dilated pupils, ears which look flattened, a twitching tail or a sudden and sharp turn of their heads in direction to your hand, then it’s possible that aggression might follow. Knowing this in advance can help you to prevent it.
It’s also possible that cats express aggressive behavior amongst each other. Have you ever seen or heard a cat fight? These are quite frequent, and are also triggered by specific situations or circumstances. For example, adult cats which are new to a household where there already is another adult cat might be a bit aggressive towards its new companion, because of territoriality and because they are not used to sharing spaces with another cat.
In this sense, if you are bringing a new cat to your house but you already have another cat, or another animal, it’s useful to be aware of this and take action to avoid possible aggressive attitudes between the animals. Giving each their own food bowl, their own toys, their own beds or their own spaces can be a way of ensuring that they feel safe and comfortable.
What if they still fight and show aggressiveness?
Despite these preventive measurements, fighting might occur anyway. If this happens, try to intervene carefully. A good idea is to make a loud, strong and clear noise, as could be clapping your hands, and then separate the cats.
Sometimes, cats can play rough, and this can also lead to some types of aggressiveness. Rough play is quite common in kittens of up to 2 years old. Nevertheless, it’s important to be attentive to how rough the playing is. When it translates into scratches, things broken around the house or bites, then it’s a sign that you must take action, because the playing is being too rough and becoming aggressive.
Biting the nails
Nail biting can be a sign of many different things, such as boredom or nervousness, as happens also with humans; or it might indicate that it’s time for a trim. If you believe it has more to do with stress, anxiety or nervousness, it’s also useful to know that the nail biting in this case represents a way of channeling these emotions. The key recommendation in these cases is to look deep into what can be the root of the issue, or what’s triggering the anxiety or nervousness in your cat.
Knowing when your cat is stressed
As happens to humans, cats can also feel stress. A few signs and things that could show you that your cat might be stressed are too much self-grooming, too much hiding, too much growling or hissing, changes in their drinking and eating behaviors, and not using the litter box.
When you notice any or some of these attitudes in your cat, try to identify possible sources of stress in order to understand what might be triggering this feeling. Some of these sources might be related to having too many visitors or strangers at home, fights with other cats, or having a new pet arriving at home.
A very usual and common cat behavior, self-grooming is something that you will surely find your cat doing quite often. Licking their paws, their faces and their bodies is a way cats have of keeping themselves clean, and cats are very serious about their self-care!
In this sense, it’s good for you to know that self-grooming is normal and regular in cats. Nevertheless, pay attention if you find that this becomes a bit excessive, as it may be a sign of possible issues such as allergies, fleas or a skin condition.
Chewing-related habits and behaviors
It’s quite common to find that cats chew on many things that are not food, especially if they are kittens. Plants, chords, carpets, wood, paper, plastic, leather, rubber or wool are some of the materials or elements that you might find your cat is chewing. Chewing on things such as houseplants or chords can be considered normal behavior, as they attract the attention of most of the cats.
Nevertheless, it may be an issue of concern if you find that your cat is also chewing on other elements, as can be the ones mentioned above. In fact, there is a specific word to describe this cat behavior of chewing in excess non-edible elements: the word is “pica”. The breeds which are most prompt to display this kind of behavior are Siamese, Tonkinese and Burmese cats. It’s possible that this is an hereditary habit for them.
It’s important to pay attention to see if your cat is displaying a “pica” behavior. Chewing non-edible materials can be dangerous for them, as they could swallow something that they are not meant to. In this sense, some points of action or measures that you can take to prevent or treat possible cases of “pica” can be using a bitter apple or a little bit of eucalyptus oil in the item or items which the cat usually chews, as a way of making it less appeal for it.
Keeping the overall environment of the house with low levels of stimulation can also be a way of calming your cat’s urge to chew on everything. Finally, try to keep the elements that your cat chews the most at a place where it won’t find or reach them, and also add more fiber to your cat’s diet.
Keeping your cat safe and healthy
Now that you know a bit more about cats’ regular habits and behaviors, we will tell you some of the main things you need to be aware of and take care of in order to keep your cat safe and healthy. As you might imagine, the wellbeing of your cat is essential, and these things will certainly help you to ensure that your new feline friend is in its best condition and health situation.
Access to fresh water
As happens to all living beings, access to fresh water is the most important thing for their health and wellbeing. In this sense, be sure to provide your cat with a bowl of fresh water, and replace it once or twice daily to keep it clean and new. If you notice that your cat is not drinking enough water, we recommend you to consider replacing the bowl for a tall glass or even a cat fountain, as it can happen that some cats dislike drinking water from bowls which are too low. Fun fact: did you know there are cat breeds that like water more than others?
As we mentioned earlier, cats are very clean and tidy, and they enjoy grooming themselves very much. But it’s also important that you take part in this and groom them too! A regular routine of combing, grooming and brushing is very beneficial for your cat, whether it has long fur, short fur, curly fur, soft fur or a more thick fur. Regular grooming is a way of ensuring that the dead hair from the cat’s coat is kept off, so your cat won’t swallow it when it grooms itself.
Grooming your cat is also a way for you to pay attention to its body, skin and overall state of its body. While grooming your cat, you can easily notice possible issues or irregularities such as bumps, lumps, allergies or sore spots.
The importance of litter boxes
As you might imagine, litter boxes are a very important element for the hygiene and health of your cat. What is usually common and recommended is to have one litter box for each cat you have, plus one more. So, if you have one cat, 2 litter boxes can work perfectly; and if you had 2 cats, then you should consider having 3 litter boxes.
Keeping the litter boxes clean is essential to ensure that your cat will develop good and stable box habits. As we mentioned, cats like to keep themselves clean, and they likewise find it important to have cleanliness in their environments. The litter box is no exception to this. A general recommendation is to scoop the litter box at least twice a day or more times.
This habit of regularly cleaning your cat’s litter box is also a way for you to keep track of your cat’s urine and stool, to see if you maybe find something unusual. In this sense, it’s also a way of being attentive towards possible health issues in your feline buddy.
Using scratching posts
Scratching posts are a very important element of your cat’s wellbeing. They are not only great for keeping your cat entertained and ensuring healthy leisure moments, but they are also a way of protecting your household items from possible cat scratches or bites. Even though, as you may have noticed, not every cat owner gets a scratching post for its cat, it’s still very recommended to do so.
Scratching posts can help your cat to take care of its claws and stretch and keep its muscles in good shape. The posts, as they are tall, are also a way of keeping your cat exercised and ensuring it is having good leisure moments because, as you probably know, cats usually like heights and enjoy climbing and jumping around tall places.
Healthy and clean teeth
As happens with humans, dental health is also very important for your cat. In this sense, keeping your cat’s teeth clean and polished is essential for its wellbeing. Failing to take care of your cat’s teeth can lead to issues and diseases, such as tooth decay or even gum disease. Even though it’s not essential to brush our cat’s teeth as frequently as happens with teeth in humans, it’s important to keep this matter in mind.
In order to ensure that your cat’s teeth are clean and healthy, you can brush them yourself or schedule an appointment with your trusted vet, in order to have them cleaned by the professional. Regarding the frequency, try to do this at least once every year.
Visit your trusted veterinarian
One of the first and most important things that you definitely need to do when your cat arrives (or even before that!) is to find a veterinarian that you trust and like. Your cat will need a vet that knows it and that gets to understand its body and its particularities. This person should be someone that you can come to when your cat is feeling ill or when you notice something is wrong. We also recommend you that the vet you choose is specialized in cat and feline health.
Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that you should bring your cat to the vet at least once a year, even if everything seems to be all right with it. These annual health checks are important to keep up to date with the vaccination calendar, and they will help you ensure that everything is indeed all right with your cat’s health.
The matter of neutering
Neutering your cat is recommended, whether your cat is a male cat or a female cat. This is mainly because it’s a way of preventing several diseases and medical conditions, such as can be ovarian cancer, breast tumors and uterine infections for female cats; and prostate issues or testicular cancer in male cats.
Neutering can also prevent and reduce the cats’ need to roam and even mark territory. Moreover, neutering your cat is a way of contributing to the issue of pet overpopulation. All in all, it’s good for your cat’s health and also the health of other cats around.
Why a cat carrier is important
A cat carrier is key for you to be able to safely transport your cat from one place to another. Even if you think that you won’t usually be moving around with your cat, you will at least need to transport it to the vet every once in a while, and the cat carrier is your best ally for these occasions. Be sure to choose a carrier that is big and comfortable enough for your cat, according to its size.
The choice of food
There are many different types of food that you can choose from to feed your cat. Whichever one you decide to get, it’s important that you go for one of good quality, in order to ensure that your cat will have all its nutritional needs covered. As you might imagine, the food that your cat will eat will have a very big impact on its health and its overall wellbeing.
If you are aware of which is the type and the brand of food which your cat was eating before it came to your house, a good piece of advice that we can give you is to take a little bit of the same brand and type food, as a way of keeping your cat on a diet that is consistent, and ensuring a slow and tidy transition towards the type and brand of food that you have chosen yourself. This piece of advice is also useful if, at any point, you decide to change the food of your cat for whatever reason you might have.
It’s useful to know that there are some special types of food for different stages of your cat’s life and for particular situations it might be going through. In this sense, you’ll find there is a wide variety of food specially made for kittens, for young cats, for senior cats, for bigger or smaller cats, for cats which are overweight or underweight, and so on. Do not hesitate to contact your veterinarian in order to know which is the best type and brand of food that could suit your cat.
As we have mentioned, there are many different types and brands of food, so here we offer you a quick overview of the 2 main types that you may encounter: canned food and dry food.
- Canned food: also known as “wet food”, the benefit of this type of cat food is that it also provides hydratation, due to the additional component of liquid it contains. They can come in a variety of flavors and textures. Some cats will eat and like either one of them, and some will express particular preferences for one over other. You can always try different types to see which one your cat likes best, following the advice we gave you above on slow and tidy food transitions. As a tip, be aware of choosing a brand which has meat as a main component, because they are the ones which cats tend to like the most, as they are carnivore animals by nature.
- Dry food: this can also be a choice of food for your cat. The positive thing about it is that you can leave it in your cat’s bowl for as long as you want, unlike with wet food, which gets bad if it is left for a very long time outside of the can. As happened with wet food, we also recommend you to choose an option which has meat as a main ingredient.
Bathing your cat
Unlike dogs, cats don’t need to be bathed so regularly. Moreover, as we have mentioned earlier in this article, cats are very clean and they self-groom quite often, so they know how to keep themselves neat and tidy. In this sense, usually bathing your cat once or twice a year is enough, unless they have been playing in the mud or have become particularly dirty for some reason.
Some tips, ideas and recommendations for bathing your cat are: use a shampoo especially designed for cats; avoid getting shampoo in their ears or eyes; be gentle and kind in the process of bathing them; use a towel to dry your car after the bath; brush your cat after the bath and once the fur is fully dry.
Spend time playing with your cat
Dedicating time to play and spend moments of leisure with your cat is as important as all the other things we mentioned above to keep them healthy and guarantee their wellbeing. Playing is an essential part of your cat’s health, and something that they enjoy a lot.
Always try to have at hand a few toys or items to entertain your cat, as can be balls, mice toys, wool strings or ropes. Each cat has different preferences when considering toys, so it’s a good idea to try a few of them and see which one (or which ones!) your cat likes the best.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to take into consideration and keep an eye on before the arrival of a new cat to the house. As a first time owner, many of these things may be new or unknown to you, and this is of course perfectly normal! With this cat guide for first time cat owners, we hope that you can find useful and essential information that will help you get ready to welcome your new furry friend into your life.
You may feel a bit overwhelmed by all of this detailed information, but take it easy and go step by step! The first moments might be a bit more complicated but you, your family and your new cat will all get adjusted to each other and enjoy creating new routines and spending amazing moments all together. And remember, you can always speak with your veterinarian if you have any doubts or questions about your cat.
Having a cat is the experience of a lifetime, and you are certainly on a journey of love, fun and adventure. What makes you most excited about becoming a cat owner for the first time? Let us know in the comments below!