Cat Ownership 101 – The Essentials to Keeping Your New Cat Happy and Healthy
Nervous about getting a new cat? Here's everything you need to know to best acclimate your cat to their new home and ensure they're happy and healthy.
Did you just bring home a new cat for the first time? Congrats! You’re in for a lot of fun getting to know and care for your new fur baby. And as a responsible pet owner, you’re probably wondering how to best acclimate your new cat to your home, and what sorts of items you need to give them a happy and healthy life. We’re here to help.
Make Your Cat Feel Safe and Comfortable
When you bring home a new cat or kitten, you need to make sure that they feel safe and secure. Your new fur baby may feel shy and nervous as first. Cats are creatures of habit, and change can make them feel stressed.
For the first week or so, keep your new cat to their own separate room so they can start to feel safe and associate you with positive feelings. Make sure they have a cozy bed, some blankets to nuzzle up to, or even a place where they can hide if they feel extra nervous.
You can even use calming diffusers anywhere you cat plays, eats, and sleeps. These diffusers send out pheromones that mimic the chemicals mama cats produce to help calm their kittens. Stressed out cats may scratch at furniture or even spray. These diffusers will help your cat understand that they are safe, and bring them back to the security they felt as a kitten with their mom.
Healthy Food and Fresh Water Are a Must
When bringing your cat home, whether from a breeder or a shelter, be sure to continue feeding them the food they currently eat. Suddenly switching up their diet can cause stomach upset. It’s good to have a mix of wet and dry food. When bringing your cat to the vet for the first time, be sure to ask what they recommend.
Never feed cats human food. Always avoid chocolate, raw meats, dairy products, raisins, and grapes, as well as any food containing xylitol.
Set up multiple bowls of water around your home as cats tend to drink less water than they need. Some cats love drinking from a sink or a tub—they love running water! Try out a water fountain to entice kitty to hydrate. Since they can hear the water running, it lets them know it’s fresher, and they’ll be more likely to drink more.
It’s recommended to have one litter box per cat, plus one extra box. Try out different styles of boxes and types of litter to see which your kitty prefers. Some may like covered boxes, or ones with low edges. There’s even kitty-friendly furniture that can hide the litter box as a fashionable side table. Keep the litter box in an area that’s quiet and away from loud noises—like humans, they like their privacy. Incorporate scooping the litter into your daily schedule. Once a month, take the box outside and do a thorough scrub.
Cats are smart—they keep themselves clean and need their home to be tidy, including their litter area. If your cat starts using the bathroom outside of the litter box, they aren’t being spiteful. It could indicate a medical issue, so make a vet appointment to see what’s going on.
It’s Play Time
Cats are known for being sleepy—they sleep up to 18 hours a day! However, during the times they’re awake, they can get bored. A bored cat can get destructive if they aren’t physically moving and mentally stimulated.
Set up kitty condos and cat trees so they have a place to relax, play, and climb. You can even set up window perches so they can see what’s going on outside. Put a bird feeder outside and they’ll be entertained for hours. Get toys that’ll allow them to run and use their natural hunting instincts; they’ll love to play with you!
Your cat can even be trained which is great for their brains. Clicker training is a fun way to teach your cat how to shake, jump through a hoop, or even roll over.
Since cats have an instinct to scratch, get multiple cardboard scratchers for them. If they start to focus their claws on your expensive couch, direct them to the right place for their paws to scratch. You can get a variety, such as vertical or horizontal scratchers, as some cats prefer one type over the other.
One of the greatest joys of owning a cat is getting to know their unique personalities and create a connection that will lead to a beautiful companionship. By following these tips, you can ensure your cat will have a happy and healthy life, and they’ll thank you with their friendship.
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Aimee is a New Jersey native currently living in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and crew of four cats. She has an English degree and when she isn't writing for AKC Pet Insurance, you can find her drinking seltzer, painting, watching reality TV shows, and trying to wrangle her cats into sweaters.READ MORE ARTICLES