You’ve watched the top 10 cat movies. You’ve fawned over kitty Instagram accounts. You’ve stared at kittens through the windows at your local pet store. And now you think you’re finally ready to get a cat.
Congratulations! Cats are wonderful companions beloved by the whole world over. But before you run to your local shelter, there are some things you need to know about owning a new cat. That’s why we’ve put together this first-time cat owner guide, so you have all the information you need to be an excellent pet parent.
Ready to get started? Read on!
What to Consider Before You Get a Cat
Before you think adopting a cat ask yourself, “Am I ready for a cat?” If you’re unsure, here are some questions that can help you figure out if it’s really time for a kitty in your life.
- Does my home permit cats? If you live in an apartment or rent, you need to check with management before getting a cat. You may have to pay “pet rent”.
- Do my other animals get along with cats? If you have a dog who loves to chase kitties aggressively, getting a cat may cause issues in your home.
- Can I afford cat ownership costs? From vet visits to pet rent to buying food, toys, and other cat gear, owning a cat can be expensive. Make sure you’re in a financially stable place before getting a cat.
Choosing Between Cat vs. Kitten
Kittens and cats are like day and night, so it’s important to know what age cat you want to adopt. Keep in mind that kittens have A LOT more energy than their older counterparts and will require more attention and playtime.
Kittens can also be somewhat unpredictable when it comes to their personality — the happy furball in front of you can grow up to be a totally different adult. Older cats who are at least two years old are more known what you see is what you get!
Another thing to consider is adoptability. Kittens are picked up quickly, but cats over three years old can have a tough time getting adopted. Black cats over three years of age are the hardest to place, aside from seniors with special needs. Consider getting an older cat who really needs a home, rather than a kitten who will most likely be adopted with ease.
How to Get Your Home Ready for a Cat
Before adopting a cat, you want to make sure your home is ready. You’ll want to start by making a “cat room” where your cat can get used to her new surroundings. This is where your cat will spend her time for the first week or two that she’s home. Fill this room with all the cat essentials, including:
- Cat toys
- A cat tree (or two!)
- A scratching post
- A cat bed
- A litter box
- Food and water
Be sure to place the food and water away from the litter box. You may also want to consider getting a tracking mat for under your litter box, as this helps reduce litter tracking and cleanup.
Introducing Your New Kitty to Your Home
Here’s a big first-time cat owner tip: Don’t bring your cat home and immediately let them have run of the house! Remember, your home is a completely new environment for your cat, full of foreign sights and smells. Most cats will be fearful of such a large space at first, which can lead to your kitty hiding in some inaccessible places while they come to terms with their new home (read: it’s tough to get a cat from under the couch).
Instead, place your cat in their kitty room when you get home. Make sure other animals cannot access this room for the time being. Give your cat a few hours alone to explore the room, then start spending time in the room with them.
Remember to be patient. It may take your kitty time to be comfortable enough to come to you, even if they were a cuddle bug at the adoption center!
Let your cat enjoy their safe space for at least a few days and up to a week before expanding their world. You can do this by giving your cat short, supervised “visits” to other parts of your house. Once they are comfortable with your home, you can slowly extend the amount of time they are out until you can confidently let the cat be anywhere they want!
Cat Ownership 101
Pet ownership comes with lots of hidden lessons, from “what to do about a counter-surfing cat” to “what to do about my cat eating food they shouldn’t.” But luckily we can help you prepare for them. Here are some new cat owner tips to help you get off on the right paw.
Feeding Your Cat
All cat food has to be reviewed by the FDA and pass certain standards before hitting the shelves. Unless your cat has health problems, nearly any cat food will be fine. Before choosing the right food for your kitty, consider any food preferences they have and check with your vet for a recommendation.
Depending on your cat’s size and breed they will have different food needs, so be sure to check with your vet on how much to feed and how often. You can also check the back of the food bag for feeding recommendations based on weight.
How to Handle the Litter Box
There are lots of different litters available on the market and they’re all great in different ways. The most popular option for kitty litter is clumping clay litter. This type of litter clumps around urine and feces, making it easy to pick up.
Another popular option on the market is PrettyLitter, a subscription cat litter service that delivers right to your door! This innovative litter changes color to indicate common cat health problems, such as urinary tract infections, helping you to know when it’s time to see the doctor. Plus, one bag lasts a whole month!
When filling your litter box, make sure the litter is about 2-3 inches deep. Too much litter will end up over the sides of the box as your kitty covers their waste. Too little litter may not absorb all the urine from your cat, causing awful odors and potentially making your cat not want to use that litter box!
You should clean out your cat’s litter box at least once per day, making sure to be thorough. If you have multiple cats we recommend at least one litter box per cat, plus one more to make sure your cats are never prevented from using the box when they need it or forced to use a dirty one.
Generally speaking, cats are excellent at self-grooming. Therefore, you won’t need to bathe your cat the way you do with your dog. Brushing can help with tangles and shedding, but how much brushing your cat needs depends on their breed and your tolerance for cat hair. Most cats should be brushed at least three times a week, though it’s fine to give your cat a short brushing every day.
The other big part of grooming for cats is nail care. Your cat keeps their nails in good condition by scratching. This is great when they are using a scratching post but a nuisance when it’s your couch or curtains. Keeping your cat’s nails a reasonable length helps protect your furniture from holes (and yourself from kitty scratches). The American Humane Society recommends trimming your cat’s nails about every two weeks.
Exercise for Cats
Just like dogs, cats need exercise to get out their energy! Vets recommend playing with your cat for at least 10-15 minutes a few times a day. The best way to exercise your cat is by making them chase their favorite toys around the house. However, walking your cat is becoming more and more popular and you can get harnesses specifically for your kitty!
The Last Step: Love Your New Cat!
You’ve made it through our first cat owner’s guide, so now it’s time to celebrate by getting a cat! If you have more questions about cat care, make a list of your concerns and bring them to your vet who can provide expert advice on every facet of cat ownership.
The best cat is a healthy cat. Keep your cat in good health without paying high out-of-pocket veterinary costs by getting pet insurance! Cat insurance reimburses you for certain medical costs so you don’t have to worry about exorbitant medical bills. Get a free quote to see how pet insurance can easily fit into your budget.