What You Need to Bring Home Your First Cat
Getting your first cat is a very exciting time, whether it is a young kitten or an older cat that you are giving a new start to. By making the decision, you will have considered all the important facts to having a cat such as that you have the space, can give the cat the time it needs and can afford not only the basics but also the unexpected expenses that can come along. But do you have all the gear you need to make your new cat comfortable and happy?
Kitten Play Fighting
Food and Water Bowls
Ask a cat (if they could talk) what the most important items they will seek out when they first arrive in the house and the answer will be the food and water bowls then the cat litter. Cats tend to come in two types in their approach to food – they either eat their whole meal in one go or they graze, eating a little then returning at intervals for some more.
Regardless of whether they are grazers or feasters, simple food bowls will likely be the best choice. Plastic is a favour as they are easy to clean, come in a range of sizes and colours and are inexpensive. You can also get stainless steel versions and other materials so there is plenty of scope if you want something other than plastic.
Water consumption is another thing that varies between cats. I have four myself, one hardly ever drinks, two regularly drink from their water bowl on the floor and the fourth is obsessed with glasses of water and tries to sneak a sip whenever he sees one. Trial and error is often the way with water, leaving around a couple of different bowls or glasses to see what takes their fancy and going from there.
It may be that when you get your cat, it will come with a type of food or a diet that it is used to and this makes things easier for you. Cats can be fussy eaters and no matter how much you insist that a certain type of food is best for them, if they don’t like it they won’t eat it. And they can be stubborn, waiting it out for food they like to the point of being ravenously hungry, so trying to outwait them doesn’t always work.
The important thing to look at when it comes to diet is balance. Dry food is a great option for a grazing cat who likes to have a little munch at regular intervals as it doesn’t dry out and go stale but beware of them eating too much of this type of food. It tends to be low in water content, so if they don’t drink a lot otherwise they can risk dehydration and can also be filled with a lot of carbohydrates to make up the content. The reason this is relevant is that a cat is a prime meat eater, a fine carnivore and carbohydrates play little part in their diet. In fact, they don’t have the same enzymes in their saliva and digestive system that humans and dogs do that break down carbohydrates. So study the content of the food carefully – the first item on the list should be a named protein such as chicken, fish or beef.
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Any cat owner will tell you that the cat litter is the least pleasant part of having a cat but for an indoor cat, it is essential. Even cats that spend some time outdoors will often return to the house to do their business. So having the right litter tray and litter is crucial.
There are three main types of litter trays currently available; open, closed and automatic. The open tray is the one most commonly seen – it looks like half a plastic box, with a lower lip at the entrance and higher sides. The closed in box looks like a solid-wall pet carrier and is doubtless the most effective method of stopping cat litter spread but is not always favoured by cats. The automatic litter box is self-cleaning which can be great if your cat adapts to it but some find the mechanism and noises associated with it to be frightening.
Why does it matter if the cat is frightened of their tray? Quite simply, if it frightens them, they will avoid it and find somewhere else to deposit their waste. That could be the corner of the room, under the bed, in the wardrobe – anywhere you really wouldn’t want them to. So their being comfortable with the litter tray is very important. In fact, cat litter tray avoidance is the top behavioural reason why people abandon cats to a shelter so the best way to avoid this problem is to stop it before it starts.
Find out what type of litter tray the cat is used to and if you want to try to change this, do so gradually and not immediately after moving them into the house. There are some good articles on the subject offering advice about swapping to a new tray but the important thing to remember is that if they don’t take to it, don’t get upset with them or angry. This will only make things worse in their mind as the litter tray becomes associated with being in trouble.
A similar principle applies to the cat litter – they may not like certain types. Again, see what they are used to and follow a similar principle as with a tray if you want to adapt them to something different. There are hundreds of types of cat litter available from traditional clay based ones, flushable ones, biodegradable ones and even ones made from wood.
Finally, there are a number of litter accessories that you can try out to help with the cat litter area. One idea is a cat litter mat, which stands beside the tray and collects the litter scattered when the cat uses the tray. Good ones will also collect it from the cat’s paws as they walk across it and stop it being deposited somewhere around the house. Litter tray liners are a bit like bin liners and don’t work for every cat but can be cautiously tried, as can litter tray deodorant. Personally, I just have a scented air freshener near the litter tray to be used when the cat has been in the tray to freshen the area without bothering the cat.
Cat Litter Mats
Grooming and Sleeping
Depending on the breed of cat you have adopted, you may need to establish a grooming routine immediately. Breeds such as Persians need daily care to keep their coat in top condition while short haired cats may only need a brush once a week. Brushing a cat is a good way of bonding with them once they get used to it, as they will come to associate being groomed with love and affection.
I’ve had nine cats in my life and only one of them has ever bothered with a cat bed but he loves to sleep in his at random times. He doesn’t sleep there every night or with any regular schedule but he likes to know it is there if he needs it. Most cats will pick a spot or two and sleep there or will lay their head wherever they fancy at any time but it never hurts to provide a cat bed in case you have the one like mine who will love it.
Why Toys Are Important
Toys are important for cats, as is access to a scratching post if you value your furniture. Scratching posts come in a wide range of sizes and shapes from a single pole to an elaborate village of little houses and posts so there is something for every space.
Toys are the really fun part but are also important for your cat’s development. If they spend any time alone, toys are a good way of keeping themselves occupied and are a good way of bonding with you when you play together. Toys allow them to work on their innate skills such as running, jumping and hunting and are simply great fun.
Kitten with Toy
Having the right gear ready for the arrival of your new family member will allow them to adapt to their new home quickly and happily. It will make them feel comfortable and safe as well as allowing you various opportunities to bond with them around things like toys and grooming that will become a basic of their lives.