5 Important Tips for First-Time Cat Parents
Cats make awesome companions and will love you forever. They’re independent by nature, making them great for homes with busy Pet Parents. At the same time, are affectionate, love to snuggle, and are endlessly curious. Regardless of how many manuals and articles you read about caring for a cat, most of the knowledge that you’ll gain comes from first-hand experience. But, knowing a bit about what to expect in advance will help make the transition simpler the newest addition to your home and your family.
Tips for Cat Owners
1. Cat-Proof Your Home
Before you bring a cat home, make sure that it is safe for a cat to roam. Cats love to explore, jump and get into places that are not appropriate for them. After all, your home is its new territory, an unchartered land.
Some cats are great jumpers and some aren’t. As you prepare your home, look at all the places where your cat might jump and remove breakable and dangerous items.
Cats often view houseplants as personal salad bars. Unfortunately, some beautiful houseplants that are poisonous to cats if ingested, like peace lilies. Before bringing your new cat home, move houseplants to inaccessible shelves and countertops.
While some cats are happy to leave closed cabinet doors alone, others have the dexterity to paw them open. Keep your cat safe by using child locks on cabinets that contain harmful items, like household cleansers, medications or glassware.
As cats explore, they like to squeeze into small spaces just to see what’s there. Look for holes around your home that could trap a cat, like ductwork registers, and cover them with appropriate materials.
Some cats love being in big, new spaces. Others find the experience frightening. Ease your cat into its new home by keeping it in a small room for a couple days. Bathrooms and laundry rooms are good spots. Make sure this room has everything the cat needs, such food, water, a litter box, toys and a small Pet bed with a blanket. Visit and play with your cat while it’s in the room so it can get to know you better.
When you allow your cat to explore your home, limit its access by closing the door to rooms. Open the doors when the cat is more familiar with you and your family.
2. Let Your Cat Come to You
If you notice a cat in a room full of people, you might see that it often wanders to the person ignoring it the most. Cats are shy and picky about the attention they receive. They’re not like dogs, which seem to crave attention from anyone who will give it. When you have a new cat, it is important to remember that it knows you as well as you know it. Forming a bond takes time and cats like their space.
Don’t force your cat to sit on your lap. Instead, let it come to you. It might come close, sniff you and run away. When it approaches you, slowly hold out your hand so the cat can sniff it. Maybe pet it a couple of times. Eventually, the cat will sit close to you. Before you know it, your cat will beg for snuggles.
Sometimes cats like to sit on blankets instead of bare laps. If you think this might be the case, try putting the cat’s favorite blanket on your lap to encourage snuggles.
3. Grooming is Essential
Yes, cats lick themselves clean. This means they swallow a lot of fur. Some cats aren’t nice enough to cough up fur balls on hard surfaces that are simpler to clean. They might prefer light-colored carpeting or your bed.
Keep hairballs to a minimum by brushing your cat’s fur daily. If it seems as if your cat has too many hairballs, talk to a vet. Fur brushing also prevents matting, particularly with longhaired cats.
Invest in a scratching post or two, as well. Cat claws are like fingernails. They keep growing unless you trim them. Cats do their own type of manicures by scratching on objects, which is why scratching posts in the home are essential. The posts also give them an appropriate place to stretch and flex their paws and mark their territories. If you plan to have an indoor-only cat, you will have to trim its claws with a special clipper or take it to a groomer, as scratching posts might not file down the claws enough.
4. Tune into Body Language
Each cat has a distinct personality. While unpredictability comes with the territory when you have a cat, you can gauge a cat’s temperament better by noticing body language that’s universal among the species.
When a cat shows you its tummy, it’s a sign of affection …or a trap. When your cat is in this position, only pet the belly if the cat is purring. Otherwise, this pose might be a defensive posture that puts your hand and arm within easy reach of a cat’s claws and teeth.
When a cat walks around with its tail in the air, it’s happy and confident. It’s extra happy when the tail shakes like a rattle. When a cat wraps its tail around your arm or leg, it’s being friendly. When a cat arches its back and sticks its tail straight up, it feels threatened.
As you pet your cat, pay attention to its ears. If the ears lie toward the back of its head or flat, it probably doesn’t want any more physical attention. The same might be true if you notice the cat’s tail whipping back and forth as you pet it.
Kneading doesn’t always feel comfortable if your cat’s claws are a bit sharp, but it’s a good sign. It means your cat is happy.
A cat rubbing its face on you might be a sign of affection. If you pay attention, you’ll see the cat rubbing its face on other items in your home, like boxes, laptops, doors, remote controls and toys. Rubbing is one way that a cat marks its territory.
5. Train Your Cat
Despite what they want you to think, cats aren’t born perfect. They will do things that displease you, like jump onto tables or scratch the sofa. While cats have a strong will, they are trainable.
Use positive reinforcement to teach your cat desirable behaviors, such as use a litter box, lie down or come when called. Only discipline a cat when you catch it doing unwanted behaviors, not afterward, so it associates the discipline with the action it performed. For example, if the cat jumps onto the table. Say, “No,” loudly and clap your hands or squirt it with a bit of water. Soon, the cat will know what “No” means and will respond to your command. With time, your cat will know what behaviors to avoid.
Do not place your cat in a kennel or Pet carrier as a form of discipline. This plan will backfire when you need to use the kennel or carrier for a positive reason, like go to the vet, because the cat will have negative associations with the items.
Keep in mind that some unwanted behaviors are responses to stress. A cat might not want to use a litter box, for instance, if its box is dirty or it doesn’t like the litter’s scent. It might jump on a table if it wants to get away from a small child or playful dog.
Maximize Your Cat’s Wellbeing
The most essential aspect of caring for a cat is preventive care. If you acquire a new kitty from a neighbor, take it to the vet for its shots and an exam. If you adopt a cat from a shelter, it might have the latest shots, but it will need to see a vet within a year for a wellness exam.
All cats should have an annual veterinary exam, even if they seem healthy, because symptoms don’t often manifest until the later stages of an illness. The tests that vets perform during an exam help catch diseases in their early stages, when they’re simpler and less expensive to treat.
Getting a cat is sometimes like navigating new waters. If you ever have any questions about your new cat’s behavior or need advice about caring for it, never hesitate to call a veterinarian. Vets work with new Pet owners all the time and are happy to provide you with advice that will help you give your cat a happy, healthy life.