Earlier this year, the Clear the Shelter campaign managed to match shelter pets with forever homes at a higher rate than ever before! Tons of families have added a feline friend to their family — and many are now first-time cat owners.
Cats have a reputation for being low-maintenance pets. In some ways, they can be low-maintenance. They’re good self-groomers, don’t need to go out to the bathroom, and are often good at entertaining themselves for much of the day.
That said, taking care of a cat does come with a learning curve. Each cat is unique and it can take time to get to know their special quirks and needs.
With this guide, our goal is to make things a little simpler for you. Read on for eight tips that every cat owner should know!
1. Schedule a Check-Up with Your New Vet
First thing’s first: it’s time to get your cat set up with a regular vet!
Schedule a wellness examination with your local vet so that you can learn more about your cat’s health and needs. This is also a great way to start a relationship with a vet that can help with caring for your cat years to come.
2. Consider Spaying and Neutering
These days, most shelters will spay or neuter cats before adopting them out to their forever families. However, this isn’t the case across the board, nor is it the case when buying cats from breeders or independent fosters.
Spaying female cats will prevent them from going into heat and reproducing and neutering male cats will prevent them from roaming and impregnating other cats. Unless you’re prepared to take care of a litter of newborns, it’s best to spay and neuter, which you can do as soon as they’re five months old.
3. Give Her a Diet of High-Quality Food
Some of the most popular cat food brands consist of more filler than protein. When you’re picking out cat food, make sure to look for quality ingredients and age, weight, or health-appropriate formulas.
For example, kittens benefit from eating nutrient-rich kitten food that promotes growth, while medium and long-haired adult cats benefit from eating cat food formulated for hairball prevention. Some cats may need wet food to stay hydrated, while others will drink plenty of water and can stick to dry food.
4. Learn the Basics of Grooming
As we mentioned earlier, cats are great self-groomers, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to intervene. Even if your cat has short hair, invest in a good de-shedding brush that will help remove dead or loose hair and dandruff. Brushing them once or twice a week can keep their coat smooth and tangle-free while limiting the amount of shedding they do around the house!
While most cats won’t require many baths in their lifetime, ask your vet about bathing if your cat has skin conditions or parasites. Your cats will also need regular nail trims, something you can do yourself or have a groomer do, for you.
5. Offer Scratching Posts and Toys
While cats may not seem quite as rambunctious as dogs, they’re very curious and playful creatures that love mental stimulation. It may take some trial and error to find out what kinds of toys your cat likes — some love those little felt mice while others prefer to chase around string toys — but when you find the right match, your cat will be more than appreciative!
In addition to toys that your cat can chase and pounce on, you’ll want to get at least one large scratching post for your home. While it is important to clip a cat’s nails, they’ll do some regular maintenance on their own by scratching. Without offering a scratching post, your cat is all but guaranteed to turn to your furniture to get the job done.
6. Develop Good Litter Box Habits
Many cats and kittens seem to know instinctively how to use a litter box, while others require a bit of training. Make sure that you have at least one litter box per cat in your household, as well as one litter box per floor of your house. Locate them in calm, quiet, but easy-to-access environments.
Your cat isn’t the only one who needs to develop good litter box habits. You will need to keep those boxes clean by scooping out clumped litter at least three times a week (and preferably every day). If your cat decides that their litter box isn’t hygienic, they’re more likely to start “going” elsewhere in your home.
7. Check for Signs of Illness or Discomfort
Cats, like most animals, are likely to hide cat illness, discomfort, and injuries. The good news is that there are some key signs that your cat would benefit from a checkup, including (but not limited to):
- a drastic change in appetite
- a change in bathroom habits
- excessive grooming
- hair loss
- excessive vomiting
- a change in energy levels
These behaviors may indicate a temporary problem, like an upset stomach or short-term stress, but they can also indicate an underlying ailment that needs to be addressed.
8. Talk to Your Vet About Behavioral Problems
It’s rare to come across a cat who never misbehaves. In fact, one study found that almost 95% of cat owners cite at least one behavior their cats exhibit that they don’t love. This can include somewhat typical bad behaviors, like scratching up the furniture, but it can also include more serious behavioral problems.
If your cat is showing signs of severe anxiety or aggression, talk to your vet. There may be steps you can take or even medications you can try to improve your cat’s behavior. We urge you to give these steps a shot, rather than bringing your cat back to the shelter.
Taking Care of a Cat Is One of Life’s Greatest Joys
Taking care of a cat isn’t difficult once you get the hang of it and understand your cat’s unique quirks and needs. However, these eight tips are important for any new cat owner to know to provide the best care and raise healthy cats.
Are you looking to schedule a vet appointment in Charleston, SC? Contact us today.