by Tabitha Mead
Cats are a great addition to the family. Whether it’s your first or fourth cat, there’s always more to learn. Cats are usually fairly low maintenance but there are still adjustments to be made to prepare for them. They’re independent, but can be loving companions!
From vet appointments, things to buy, and cat proofing your home, we’ll cover it all to help you and your cat transition well!
THINGS TO BUY
-Collar & I.D. Tag
There’s always a chance your inside cat could get outside. Be prepared in case that happens! We also recommend microchipping. Most rescue cats already come microchipped and spayed/neutered!
-Litter boxes & Litter
A general rule of thumb with litter boxes is 1.5 litter boxes per cat. That means if you have one cat, you should have two. Two cats, three litter boxes. The litter box can be a source of stress for cats, so if they don’t feel they have enough space or clean enough space to take care of business they could misbehave.
Besides the litter boxes and litter, you’ll also need a scoop and some litter box liners! There are so many options out there and none are necessarily wrong as long as you keep them clean. Do research for yourself and find out what works best for you and your cat(s).
For help with litter box training, check out this article!
It’s natural for cats to scratch. “The trick is to teach your cat what they can scratch—and what is off limits.” Some cats like to scratching reach up above them and some like to scratch reaching out, on ground level. Some like to scratch both ways. Have a scratching post (or two!) that allows your cat to do both!
The easiest way to get your cat to stop scratching certain areas or pieces of furniture is to spray some kind of deterrent on them. For more info on this
topic, check out this article from the Humane Society of the United States.
When choosing what carrier to buy your cat it’s important to think about why/what you’ll be using it for. Typically cat carriers get used most for vet visits. Your veterinarian and vet tech will be forever grateful if you come in with a top opening carrier rather than one that just has a gate at the front.
Generally cats are more sensitive to new things so vet trips can easily become stressful. A carrier that allows access from the top rather than just the front allows you (or a veterinary professional) to remove your cat in a less stressful manner.
This is especially important if you have a long-haired cat! Even though they bathe themselves, they will get matts if they aren’t regularly brushed.
-Food and Water Dishes
A flat or shallow food dish and water bowl on an elevated surface are best for cats. Most of them like to crouch while they eat and this is easier when their food is raised up off of the ground. Also, cats use their whiskers to help them make sense of their immediate surroundings. Using a flat or shallow dish for food allows them to eat without their whiskers touching the sides of the bowl causing them to feel claustrophobic.
Not all cat food is equal, but more expensive doesn’t always equal better. Some people feed strictly dry, some people feed strictly canned. Both can be good depending on the cat. Buy something you feel comfortable with that has the protein sourced listed specifically (i.e. chicken, beef, lambt, etc) rather than just “meat”.
When you come to your first vet visit, talk to the doctor about your cat and they can help you decide something that will be good for your cat and your budget!
Cats need enrichment just like other animals, so toys are important! It doesn’t take much to make a toy that you can entertain you cat with. You probably already have things lying around that you could turn into a toy!
Yarn, fabric, & cardboard can be transformed into hours of entertainment for your furry friend! For help creating some diy cat toys check out this article from Hill’s Pet Food.
THINGS TO DO
Cats are curious and nimble. Put fragile objects away from where a cat may climb (this will take some trial and error) and check that your plants are not poisonous to cats!
Cats are notorious for playing with blinds and loose cords. Secure cords and small, hanging things.
If it’s at all within reach and you have any fear about them getting into it, put it up! It’s always better safe than sorry. It’s almost inevitable messes will be made, but you can ensure the messes won’t be anything that could jeopardize their health!
Explore New Areas Slowly
Cats are territorial. Having a whole new house to roam can be stressful, especially if there’s other pets living there. Confine them to one area for the first few days and slowly expand it.
Provide a Hiding Space
Cats will feel more at ease if they have a space to hide. This allows them to feel more in control and less stressed knowing they have an escape when things become too much or they just want to relax. It could be their carrier with a blanket inside, a covered bed, or even a box with a door cut into it and blankets inside! Your cat won’t care how much you spent on it, just that it’s cozy!
Take baby steps in introducing your cats! Once a few days have gone by without hissing or being aggressive toward each other under the door, let them see each other through something like a baby gate. If this works, the next step is letting them interact in an open area while you supervise. After success with this you can about your days normally! Remember you may need to go a step back or even two. Just take it slow and be patient!
THINGS TO DO (MEDICAL)
It may take multiple appointments after the initial wellness exam for your cat to be up to date on vaccines and preventatives. Once up to date, annual exams are recommended for cats until senior age. Typically cats age 11-14 are considered senior with 15 and beyond considered geriatric.
If you have a senior or geriatric cat, senior blood work may be recommended by your veterinarian. This isn’t recommended just to pull your leg. Cats are notorious for hiding illnessnesses and they’re prone to experience more health issues as they get older. Blood work allows us to see more clearly what’s going on with your older cat’s health.
Vaccines and Preventatives
Regardless of age, being inside, or being in a single pet household, your cat needs all recommended vaccines and preventatives. There are typically four vaccines seen as the core, or most needed; rabies, herpes, distemper, and FCV (an upper respiratory illness). Depending on yours and your cat’s situation, there may be other vaccines that your doctor reccommends.
In addition to vaccines, heartworm and flea and tick medication are a vital part of preventative care. Heartworm and flea and tick preventatives need to be purchased and administered at home even in the winter! And even if your cat is an indoor only or an only pet! Depending on age and known history of the cat a heartworm test may be necessary before purchase of heartworm prevention is allowed.
EDUCATED OWNERS ARE THE BEST OWNERS
Educated pet owners are the best pet owners. Read this article, listen to your vet, and seek out continued pet education. Even if this cat is your first pet you’ll still do great if you educate yourself!
You and your cat have good times ahead! Be patient and make the most of them!
Would you like to book an appointment online for your new cat? We offer FREE new cat and dog visits (if made in the first two weeks of ownership!) Visit nextvetvisit.com to select which Jefferson Animal Hospital location and time is most convenient for you!