Caring for your cat: Everything you need to know about taking care of cats

Very few things can compare to the wholesomeness of having a cat as a pet. If you are new to cat ownership, you may wonder how best you can take care of your new feline friend. Below are some tips that will help you care for your new cat.

Tips on keeping your cat safe

1. Prepare your home

Cats are very curious creatures. Your cat will explore your home and play with anything that catches its eye.

Therefore, you should prepare your home, making sure that your home and your environment are safe for your cat. Look for things that might hurt your cat while exploring and ensure that they are safe.

Your cat will explore all kinds of surfaces, regardless of the elevation. It doesn’t matter if the surface is waist-height or even head-height, your cat will thoroughly explore it.

You should therefore be careful not to leave delicate items on the shelf or the table since your cat might knock them over.

As mentioned earlier, a cat will play with anything that catches its eye. As such, you should put away things that may be attractive to a cat.

This includes items such as wool, shoelaces, tinsel, sewing supplies, and strings. Make sure that these items are tidied away out of your cat’s reach since items such as wool and strings are choking hazards for your cat.

They could also cause serious bowel obstruction in your cat that requires surgery to correct it.

You should also avoid lighting candles when your cat is around. This is because your cat may knock over the candle and in the worst case scenario, start a house fire.

2. Ensure that toxic house supplies are out of reach of your cat

Make sure that toxic chemicals such as cleaning agents, insecticides, and other chemicals are locked away, out of your cat’s reach.

Most of the chemicals we use at home are severely toxic to cats. These can cause very serious problems when ingested by your cat.

Most floor cleaners, for instance, contain benzalkonium chloride. This is a toxic chemical that can cause burns to delicate tissue such as your cat’s tongue and the lining of her mouth.

This may happen when your cat walks on a surface that is still wet with the cleaning agent and then licks its paws to clean them.

This could lead to the development of nasty ulcers on your cat’s tongue which will prevent her from eating.

3. Get rid of the toxic plants in the house

Many houseplants are toxic and potentially harmful to cats. There are plants that could severely harm or even kill your cat if she eats them.

If your plants happen to be poisonous to cats, you need to get rid of them. Plants such as lilies have extremely toxic pollen that could cause severe kidney failure in cats.

Other toxic plants that you should avoid include daffodils, azaleas, poinsettias, mistletoe, and hydrangeas. There are many other house plants that are toxic to cats.

Therefore, it is very important to research your plants to make sure that they are feline-friendly before bringing them into your house.

Tips on providing for your new cat

1. Ensure you have the essential supplies before welcoming your cat home

Before you bring your new cat home, ensure that you have everything that your cat will need to live a healthy and happy life. The basic essentials that your cat will need include:

  • Food and water bowls: Preferably made of ceramic or stainless steel. These do not scratch easily and harbor bacteria, unlike plastic bowls.
  • Food and treats: These should be age appropriate since cats of different ages have different dietary requirements.
  • Litter boxes: Get a litter box with low sides for younger cats to allow them to get in and out of the litter box with ease. You can then switch to a deep-sided litter box as your cat gets older. If you have several cats, each cat should have a separate litter box.
  • Litter: You should get fine grained and unscented litter. You should also avoid clumping litter since your cat may accidentally consume the clumps, leading to a wide range of cat health problems including diarrhea, vomiting, kidney and respiratory problems, lethargy, etc.
  • A collar and identification tag with your cat’s name plus your name and phone number or address
  • Scratching post or cardboard scratching blocks
  • Comb or brush: You’ll need them for grooming your cat, especially if you have a long-haired cat
  • A cat bed with soft bedding for your cat to snuggle into
  • Cat toys
  • Cat carrier

2. Set up a room for your cat

Prepare a room where your cat will be put initially. This will allow your cat to adjust to the sounds and smells of her new home without being overwhelmed.

Make sure that the room has enough food and water, a litter box, hiding spaces, and toys. You should leave your cat in the room until she becomes comfortable in the space.

As she becomes more confident, you can start leaving the room door open and allow her to explore other rooms in the house at her own pace.

3. Prepare your cat’s sleeping space

You can encourage your cat to sleep in a designated space by preparing a comfortable space with special bedding. The bedding should be soft and comfortable.

Place the bedding in a quiet spot where your cat won’t be disturbed.

Good places where your cat can sleep include a rarely used chair, a shelf, a spot on the floor where the sun shines through a window, a basket in the corner, or next to the fireplace.

You should clean your cat’s bedding several times a week to prevent it from getting infested with fleas or ticks.

Tips for playing with your cat

1. Get toys for your cat

Cats have a natural instinct to hunt. Play hunting is a very important part of their growth and development.

Toys are important since they give your cat an outlet for this behavior in play. Give your cat several toys to stalk, chase, and pounce on.

Get a variety of toys such as ball toys, wands, catnip toys, and food dispensing toys. These will keep your cat happy, active, and stimulated.

Cats love small stuffed animals that they can hunt and carry around like prey. As they play, they also get to learn basic skills.

2. Keep your cat entertained

Cats have short attention spans and get bored easily. Rotating your cat’s toys helps to keep her entertained.

Put some toys away for a while as she plays with other toys. Soon, she’ll lose interest in the toys she’s playing with.

Put those away and bring out other toys. When she sees the other toys, it’ll be like having new toys all over.

Playing with your cat not only gives her an outlet for her energy but also helps her to bond with you. That said,you shouldn’t encourage your cat to play with your fingers and hands. This may lead to her biting and scratching you as well as other people who try to play with her.

3. Ensure that your cat gets enough play time

Your cat needs to play and interact with you daily to keep her physically fit and emotionally happy. Use cat toys such as balls, play mice, laser pointers, and feather toys to engage your cat in play.

Housetraining your cat

1. Set up your cat’s litter box

Put the litter box somewhere that your cat can access easily. Avoid placing the litter box in high-traffic areas in the house or behind closed doors. A good place is a quiet corner of a room.

Fill the litter box with unscented fine grain litter to a depth of about 1-2 inches. You should also avoid clumping litter since your cat may accidentally eat the clumps.

This could harm their digestion. Once you have set up the litter box, you should give your cat some privacy to dig a hole, relieve herself, and then cover it up.

2. Encourage your cat to use the litter box

Cats will generally use litter boxes by instinct. They will prefer their litter box to other parts of the house because of the texture of the litter.

However, you can help to teach your cat by placing her in the litter box after meals and play sessions.

Carefully choose a spot for the litter box because once your cat gets used to a certain spot, she’ll probably continue to use the same spot. The litter box should be in a quiet spot where your cat won’t be bothered by people or loud noises while relieving herself.

Keep the litter box clean by scooping the litter daily. Clean the box litter weekly and refresh or replace the litter at least once a week.

3. Ensure that the litter box is comfortable

You should ensure that your cat isn’t interrupted or startled when using the litter box. This may cause your cat to form a bad association with the litter box and start avoiding it altogether.

You should also avoid switching the litter brands. This is because cats aren’t very fond of change. Switching the type of litter may upset the cat and cause her to stop using the litter box.

You should also avoid heavily scented litter since the scent may deter your cat from using the litter box.

4. Keep your cat’s litter box clean

You should keep your cat’s litter box clean. Scoop the litter box every day and discard the litter at least once a week.

Deep clean the litter box by scrubbing the inside of the box with some soap dish and warm water using a sponge. Rinse the litter box before adding new litter.

5. Take your cat’s needs into consideration

You should take your cat’s needs into consideration when buying a litter box.

Kittens and older cats will need litter boxes with lower sides that are easily accessible.

Kittens are too small while older cats may be suffering from arthritis or other health problems which may make it difficult to access litter boxes with high sides.

Alternatively, you could buy an adjustable litter box.

6. Set up scratching stations

Scratching is an instinctive behavior in cats.

Cats have a need to scratch and they do it to remove the outer sheath of their claws, to express emotions like stress or excitement, to stretch, or to mark objects with their scent. This is because they have scent glands in their paws.

To prevent your cat from scratching your furniture, set up scratching stations for her around the house.

Add a dash of catnip to these scratching stations to get your cat interested in them.

7. Discourage your cat from exploring forbidden surfaces

Please note that cats are naturally curious creatures and will want to explore surfaces that you’d like them to avoid.

A stern no or a perfectly timed mist of water from a spray bottle can correct this behavior. With time, your cat will learn to stay away from certain areas.

You should avoid throwing items at your cat since they may harm your cat.

Tips for feeding your cat

1. Develop a feeding schedule for your cat

Your cat should have a regular feeding schedule. You should feed your cat measured portions of food at specific times of the day.

You should avoid free-feeding your cat. This can cause your cat to become overweight as well as related health problems.

Most quality cat food brands have the recommended amount you should feed your cat on a daily basis.

Portion that amount into meals equally spaced throughout the day. Feeding your cat at specific times helps to establish a routine.

If your kitten is between 3 to 6 months, you should feed her three times per day.

If your kitten is between 6 to 12 weeks old, you should feed her four times a day. If you have an adult cat, feed her one large meal or two or three smaller meals per day.

You should also give your cat treats, especially when she does a trick or makes progress with her house training. You can give a few treats as a snack.

You can also get a toy for dispensing treats to give your cat the chance to work for her treats. That said, you should take care not to give your cat a lot of treats since they can cause your cat to gain weight.

2. Avoid overfeeding your cat

You should avoid overfeeding your cat since it will result in your cat becoming overweight. Obesity is one of the biggest health problems affecting cats today.

Obesity in cats can lead to the development of other health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.

To avoid overfeeding your cat, you should follow your cat food’s suggested feeding guide.

Cats are usually fed according to their age, weight, and activity levels.

If you have any reservations, you should ask your veterinarian for recommendations on how to feed your cat.

3. Feed your cat high-quality food

In addition to feeding your cat the right quantity of food, you should also feed her high quality food. Go for quality brands with a good reputation.

Cats have specific nutritional needs that have to be met for their growth and development. They are obligate carnivores, meaning that they obtain all their essential nutrients from animal protein.

Good quality cat food is specially formulated to meet all of your cat’s nutritional needs.

You should also develop the habit of reading the label before buying cat food. The primary ingredient in your cat’s food should be meat.

Look for cat foods that list large amounts of beef, fish, chicken, or turkey. You should also look for important amino acids like arginine, and taurine, as well as fatty acids like linoleic and arachidonic acid.

You can also ask your veterinarian for quality cat food recommendations.

They will steer you towards the best food for your cat. They will also guide you on how much to feed your cat.

4. Avoid feeding your cat human food

You should avoid feeding your cat human food unless you have cleared the food with your veterinarian.

Foods such as garlic, grapes, onions, chocolate, raisins, and avocados may be perfectly safe for humans but are very toxic to cats.

They may cause serious and potentially fatal health complications in cats. You should therefore keep human food out of your cat’s reach.

In addition, you should be careful with candies and gum since many of them contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is toxic to cats.

If your cat accidentally consumes any of the above-mentioned foods, you should immediately contact your veterinarian.

You should also avoid giving your cat milk, cheese, cream, or any other dairy products.

Most cats are lactose intolerant, and offering them much milk may result in gastrointestinal complications.

Tips for keeping your cat healthy

1. Schedule an initial appointment with your veterinarian

You should schedule a visit with your veterinarian once you bring your new cat home.

The purpose of the initial visit to the veterinarian is to ensure that your cat is healthy and to get the necessary vaccines.

Your vet will also check your cat for worms and intestinal parasites. They will recommend a program for controlling parasites such as fleas, ticks, and heartworms.

They will prescribe the necessary medications to prevent and get rid of ticks and fleas.

2. Schedule annual visits to the vet

Your cat needs regular visits to the vet. Unlike humans, cats can’t let us know when they are feeling unwell. Scheduling annual visits to the vet for regular medical examinations will help to keep your cat healthy.

The annual visit to the vet should include a physical check up of the teeth, eyes, ears, and heart, deworming and flea treatments, and booster vaccinations.

You should get your cat vaccinated against feline leukemia virus (FeLV), cat flu, and feline infectious enteritis (FIE). If you have an old cat, you should take her to see the vet at least twice a year for optimal health.

Kittens should visit the vet even more frequently. Starting at around 8 weeks of age, you’ll need to take them to the vet twice or thrice for their vaccination series and deworming.

They’ll also need a feline distemper vaccine and a rabies vaccine.

3. Consider getting your cat spayed or neutered

Spaying your female cat or neutering your male cat helps to reduce certain health risks as well as help with behavioral problems as your cat gets older.

Desexing your cat reduces its urge to spray or mark territory. It also reduces your cat’s urge to wander or escape in order to find a mate. It also protects your cat from unwanted pregnancies and diseases like pyometra.

Neutering can be done from 12 weeks of age and should be done when your kitten is 5-6 months at the latest. Ask your vet for a recommendation on when to get your kitten neutered or spayed.

Tips for grooming your cat

1. Brush your cat depending on it’s coat needs

Although cats tend to groom themselves, you need help by brushing them. The frequency of brushing depends on your cat’s coat needs.

Long-haired cats need to be brushed several times a week and at least once a week for short-haired cats. This will help to reduce the amount of fur shed in your home. It will also help your cat avoid getting hairballs.

For long-haired cats, use a comb that has fine strands of metal. This will get deep into the undercoat and eliminate shedding.

2. Be on the lookout for skin conditions as you brush

Check for fleas or any other parasites on your cat’s skin while grooming.

Check for any lumps, bumps, unusual redness, or other skin problems. If you see anything suspicious, contact your vet and ask them for advice on how to take care of it.

3. Get your cat used to tooth brushing

Cats can suffer from dental disease. You need veterinary toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your cat’s teeth.

Start by offering your cat a taste of veterinary toothpaste. Run your fingers along the gums of your cat’s upper teeth.

Gently repeat the process with the toothbrush, making small circles along the gum lines while working from back to front. It should take you less than 30 seconds.

Alternatively, you could schedule a professional tooth cleaning. Professional tooth cleaning allows the vet to fully examine your cat’s mouth under sedation.

Some signs of dental disease include; loose teeth, bad breath, discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar, bleeding, pain in the mouth or sensitivity, loss of appetite or weight loss, drooling a lot, or dropping food while trying to eat.

Enjoy the journey!

Cats are relatively low maintenance compared to dogs. However, they still need plenty of care and attention. This will help your cat to become healthy and well-adjusted. Good luck!

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