What You Should Know As a First Time Cat Owner

first-time cat owner
first-time cat owner

One of the most interesting times in my life was when I was a first-time cat owner. It was fascinating to observe the mysterious feline behaviors and watch the growth, interests, athletic abilities, eating patterns, play patterns, and sleeping patterns of cats, as well as the affectionate nature of cats.

As a first-time cat owner, there are several important things you need to know. There are things you need to do to prepare your home, and things to buy to prepare for your new kitty.  Below we will help you get ready for your new cat as a first-time cat owner.

When preparing for your new cat, it is important to make sure your cat is healthy, your home is safe, and you have what you need to provide good nutrition and bathroom habits.

Household Decisions

As you prepare for your new cat, there are some important decisions to make. If you have others in your home, it is important to make these decisions as a family or household so everyone is on the same page with expectations.

  • Is your new cat going to go be inside only, indoors and outdoors or outside only?
  • What are you going to feed your cat? Canned or dry? Brand?
  • Are you going to feed treats or table scraps in addition to the cat food?
  • Where are you going to feed your cat in the house?
  • Who is going to feed the cat?
  • Who is going to shop for routine cat supplies such as food, litter, and treats?
  • Where are you going to place the litter box or boxes?
  • What kind of litter are you going to use?
  • Who will be responsible for scooping? What is the litter box plan?
  • Where will your cat sleep? Are they allowed to sleep on the bed?
  • Where is your cat not permitted? Certain rooms? Countertops?
  • Which veterinarian do you choose?
  • Do you have a plan for environmental enrichment? Do you have a special window perch your cat can look outside? Scratching post?
  • If your cat is not neutered, when and where will this happen?
  • Will you declaw your cat?

When you finish answering these questions, make a list of what you need for your new cat and make a plan to go shopping.

Questions to Ask When You Pick Up Your Cat

When you pick up your cat for the first time, it is important to get a good history. First-time cat owners often regret not getting more information about their new cat when they had the chance. Depending on where you get your cat, this may be your only opportunity. Many shelters and humane societies don’t keep records for long making it impossible to go back and get a history on a stray that came in months or years ago. The amount and quality of information available will vary greatly depending on the individual circumstance.

  • When possible, ask the following questions about your new cat:
  • Where did they find the cat or where did the cat come from?
  • Has the cat had any prior medical problems?  If so, what were the problems and how were they treated?
  • How old is the cat?
  • Has the cat been outdoors or indoors only?
  • Has the cat had fleas?
  • Has the cat had any fecal tests or blood tests such as feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus testing (commonly abbreviated as FeLV/FIV testing)?
  • What has the cat been eating up to the day you get your cat? For how long?  Can you get a food sample for your cat that will allow you to feed the same thing for a few days to keep that consistent? After that, you can wean to your new food gradually.
  • Has the cat had any dewormers?
  • Is the cat spayed or neutered?
  • Was the cat scanned for a microchip or was a microchip placed? Ensure you have the number if he has one.
  • Has the cat had vaccinations? If so what kind? When? And importantly, when are they due for more?
  • Does the cat get along with other cats or dogs?

How to Prepare for a New Cat

Has the cat had any prior medical problems?  If so, what were the problems and how were they treated?

The best way to prepare for a new cat is to cat-proof your home to ensure it is safe, be prepared with the proper cat products such as litter box, litter, food and water dishes, scratching posts, bed, food, comb, brush, treats, and flea/tick/heartworm prevention products.

Some tips to help your cat include:

  • Where did they find the cat or where did the cat come from? Has the cat had any prior medical problems?  If so, what were the problems and how were they treated
  • Figure out where your litter boxes will be.  If you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes. Learn more about Cleaning a Litter Box: All You Need to Know.
  • Once you figure out where your litter boxes will be, pick one of the locations and prepare it to be your cat’s new place for a while. It is optimal to have a private room where there is a litter box, toys, bed, and food and water. Once your cat is acclimated to that room and you, you can gradually let your cat out to explore more of the house.
  • Plan the first few days by spending lots of time with your cat.  If you use a spare room for your cat, take some reading and sit with your cat while they familiarize themselves with you and the room. Talk to your cat. Let your cat come to you. Offer treats.
  • If at all possible, obtain a sample of the food or buy the same type of food the cat was eating at its previous location. If you choose to switch to another type of cat food, do so gradually during a two-week period to decrease the chance of diarrhea or other ailments.
  • Schedule a veterinary visit. It is important to ensure your new cat is healthy and has the vaccinations and dewormings required. Learn more with this article All About Your Cat’s First Vet Visit. During that vet visit, if he or sure is not neutered, make a plan to schedule the surgery. Learn about the Benefits of Neutering a Cat and Why You Should.

Learn more about How to Be Successful at Taking Care of a Cat For the First Time.

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