Owning a Cat for the First Time: Tips and Tricks
- Cat-Proof the House
- Arrange a "Safe Room" for Your Cat
- Get an Extra Litter Box
- Choose a veterinarian
Becoming a first-time cat owner is a special experience, one that you'll undoubtedly cherish for the rest of your life. Yet, getting a cat does come with a few challenges you'll need to master to ensure a happy life for you and your cat.
To make sure you provide a safe, fulfilling home environment for your cat, you'll need to remove hazards, keep your cat calm, and secure vet care for your new pet before it's too late. With the tips below, you'll learn exactly what you need to do to be the best cat owner you can be!
Cat-Proof the House
It's no secret that cats are curious little critters! Once your cat gets comfortable in their new home, they'll undoubtedly want to explore every nook and cranny to get familiar with their space. Plus, cats need to rub themselves on items around the house to fully make themselves feel comfortable and truly at home.
While your cat is doing all this exploring, they could end up getting into things that are best left for humans only. To help your cat stay safe as they move about the house, you'll need to know how to cat-proof the rooms. Here are some tips to help you ensure a safe home for you and your new feline companion.
Removing General Hazards Around the Home Interior
One of the most important things to remember when cat-proofing your home is that cats, like most pets, like to lick, gnaw on, and otherwise tamper with things to figure out what they might be. For this reason, you'll need to remove all hazards, especially those that could result in a shock (loose wires) or choking (paper clips, rubber bands, etc.).
Next, remember that your cat is a climber. Double-check that all furniture is secure, so nothing falls on your cat if it tries to scale a bookcase or shelf. It's best to shut and lock things with swinging doors, as these can trap your cat's neck, head, or another sensitive body part. Lastly, windows and screens should be secured shut, so your cat doesn't escape.
You should also remain vigilant for any items in the home that may be toxic to your cat. For instance, even seemingly harmless things like houseplants can send your cat to the ER. Do your research before buying foliage for the house. You should also put away things like detergents, house cleaners, and pest control products, so your new cat doesn't get a hold of them.
Securing the Cat's Outside Space
You might want to let your cat out from some fresh air now and then. This is a good idea if you bring it out on a leash or in a spacious catio. Before you and your cat start spending quality time outside, though, you need to make sure it's safe.
If you intend to walk your cat through an area where you keep motor vehicles, check the space for antifreeze or other hazardous substances. You never want to give your cat a chance to lick this stuff up, as it can have fatal consequences. This is true of fuel, oil, paints, and virtually any home item that can be toxic to you, too.
You'll also want to mitigate dangerous insect populations as much as possible by using cat-safe traps and preventing plant overgrowth. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), bugs to watch out for include:
- Caterpillars: No matter how cute and squishy they look, some caterpillars are quite dangerous. If your cat gets a hold of the wrong one, it might suffer headshaking, vomiting, diarrhea, and mouth, lip, or throat irritation.
- Asian ladybeetle: Cats that nibble on one or two of these critters will be fine. However, the more they ingest, the higher chance they have of developing stomach and mouth ulcers.
- Walking sticks: These bugs can excrete a chemical compound that causes drooling, head shaking, pawing at the eyes and mouth, or vomiting.
- Spiders: It's impossible to eliminate all the spiders from around your home, but you can keep a close eye on your kitty when you're out and about. Bites from venomous species like the black widow or brown recluse can be dangerous, perhaps even fatal.
Arrange a "Safe Room" for Your Cat
Even if you're a calm first-time cat owner, things can get a bit hectic around the house from time to time. Small things that you might not even notice are bound to irritate some cats so much that the stress begins to interfere directly with their health.
According to Dr. Jill Sackman, Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners' head of behavioral medicine, singing tea kettles and too many people talking at once is enough to raise your kitty's stress levels. Scientists know that cats' hearing is far more adept than humans'. This means that your cat is picking up on nerve-wracking sounds that you'll never experience, such as:
- The humming of fluorescent light bulbs
- Buzzing computer monitors
- Light switch dimmers
Our feline companions begin to tune into all these noises as early as 10 days old. Before you get too worried about your cat, know that some are more sensitive than others. Most of them will quickly acclimate to all these stimuli and won't be too bothered after a short while.
Still, this isn't the case for all kitties. If yours happens to be on the sensitive side, you should do everything you can to create a comfortable environment. To make the most out of their private space, you'll need to include the following items in your cat's safe room:
Additional Things That Might Stress Out Your Cat
Some first-time cat owners might believe that they don't need to arrange a safe space for their new kitty because they can keep a quiet home. While it is great to maintain a peaceful living space, noise isn't the only thing that can get your cat riled up.
For one, cats don't always appreciate high-energy spaces like other pets (ahem, dogs) might, so it's best to give them somewhere to escape. Additional stressors like those listed below can contribute to your cat's need for a safe space:
- Strong scents: Cats' noses are 14 times more sensitive than humans'. Candles, incense, essential oils, and similar scented items can quickly become overwhelming.
- Other pets: While many cats certainly appreciate other pets' company, it can be a bit much from time to time, especially if those other fur-babies are young. Your cat will need somewhere in the house to have their alone time.
- Storms: No matter how much you love your cat, you can't control the weather. If a thunderstorm comes up, your cat will appreciate having a hiding space.
Get an Extra Litter Box
Most first-time cat owners believe that one litter box will be enough to satisfy their pets happy and comfortable. However, it's always best to offer your cat one extra potty area. This is because they might not always feel up to relieving themselves in the same spot all the time. Of course, your new cat will eventually select a favorite litter box out of the two. Still, it's best to give them a choice.
Having too few litter boxes is one of the primary reasons why a cat would develop issues with appropriate potty behaviors. For example, suppose the cat happens to develop a urinary tract infection that causes pain during urination. In that case, it may mistakenly associate that pain with the litter box. In this case, it will seek another space to potty comfortably.
If there is no other litter box available, it may just choose to relieve itself in the soil of a potted houseplant or another location you don't want. Further, multi-cat households often have potty problems because the cats are essentially "competing" to claim their primary litter box. This can happen even if both your cats are new, so it's best to provide one extra box for a neutral option.
Choose a Veterinarian
Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of owning a new cat. Too many owners wait until it's too late to find a suitable veterinary office for their essential pet care, which leads to higher costs and potentially worsened illnesses.
For example, imagine that you've noticed your cat coughing and having a runny nose for the last few days. Before you were a first-time cat owner, you've always believed that cats are low-maintenance. So, you brush off the sniffles and assume your kitty will naturally recover. It isn't until your cat starts wheezing that you panic and call up the nearest vets.
Unfortunately, since the cat's condition has worsened, you now don't have the time to sign up for pet health insurance or research which local vet is the best option for you. This might result in you paying higher prices than you planned on or your cat getting sicker as you search for the appropriate vet office.
To eliminate the chances of things unraveling like this, it's best to select a trustworthy veterinarian before or on the very first day you welcome your cat to their new home.
Getting a cat for the first time is quite a challenge. Yet, with these helpful tips, you'll be prepared to give your kitty the most peaceful and fulfilling life possible. To make sure your new cat's satisfaction at home, head over to the Catzio store for necessities like bowls, toys, and scratching posts.
About the Author
My name is Jazmin "Sunny" Murphy, and I am a science communicator and web content writer. Since 2015, I've been producing scientific content that is written in plain English. My love for life science has influenced my professional and academic aspirations since I was a kid. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and 21 units of a Master's education in Environmental Policy & Management (concentration: Fish and Wildlife Management). You can learn more about me and my science writing and reporting work at my website, Black Flower Writing Services.