It was never in my plan to own a pet cat because of my cat allergies. But here I am now, free from cat allergies and living with my domestic, short-haired, orange and white cat, Phi. I adopted Phi from a neighbor last November of 2015, and it still baffles me that I put so much effort in raising him well.
As a dog lover at heart, it took me months to understand and accept cat behaviors. Because, let’s face it, dogs like being called a “good boy” or “good girl” and offer bigger hugs than cats. However, that didn’t stop me in understanding what my feline companion wanted and needed. And thanks to my cat-loving friends, the internet, and personal trials and triumphs, Phi now sleeps with me on my bed whenever I’m home.
Yes, taking care of a cat seems daunting, but it has its rewards too. Like when your cat rubs her/his head under your chin, or when you see your feline companion look at you when you are calling her/his name. Of course, the responsibility is not going to be that easy. That’s why I’m imparting my knowledge and tips for first-time cat owners, since I have been in your shoes once before. Without further ado, here are the 10 things you should remember when caring for your cat:
1. Always Keep the Litter Box Clean
Cats are finicky when it comes to the cleanliness of their litter box. Before they do their business, they always check if the litter box is free from urine and poop. If it is not up to their standards, they’ll hold off until the box gets cleaned. And I cannot stress how bad it is to let your cat do that.
When you let your cat wait for her/him to urinate or defecate, not only will it be a hazard to your companion’s health, but s/he might make it a habit to do her/his business somewhere else. The next time your cat needs to go to the bathroom, s/he might hide it under the chair or on your couch. So clean the litter box as much as possible. I recommend cleaning the litter box once s/he is done using it.
2. Cat Baths are Necessary Evils
Phi hates the water, but he needs to be given a bath every few months or so. Why, you ask? Because even though cats have their own way of cleaning themselves, cats love to tumble around dirt and the floor. My cat’s still young, so whenever he gets a chance to spring out of the door, he immediately covers himself in soil. A dirty cat attracts bugs and parasites.
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Thus, to ensure that his fur stays clean, I bring him to the groomers twice or thrice a year or whenever he starts to smell. It is highly advised that you let a professional take care of your cat’s hygiene. The groomers know how to handle a cat who’s afraid of water. You can, however, try to give your own cat a bath. But be prepared to get nicked in the ear or on the nose once the faucet is on.
3. Don’t Let Your Cat Get Bored
Cats may not be as social or as playful as dogs, but that doesn’t mean that they should be left in total boredom. Your cat will tell you if s/he is getting impatient when s/he starts pushing things off the table or scratching or biting you for no reason at all.
The best way to remedy these types of behavior is to allot some play time with your cat. You can use an old rag, a small toy, or laser pointer to entertain your feline friend, or even give her/him walks (if s/he wants to). You can also leave your cat’s playthings on the floor, so that s/he has something to bite on and fidget around with while you’re gone.
4. Don’t Skip Checkups and Shots
Visiting the vet for checkups, shots, and other health issues is crucial in keeping your cat happy and healthy. And this applies to all kinds of cats, be they adopted from a friend, neighbor, or just picked up from the side of the road.
Bringing your cat to the vet will ensure your cat is in tip-top form. What’s more, this gives the vet the opportunity to give your cat all the vaccinations s/he needs. Do your best not to miss any appointments. These vaccines, like the ones for deworming and anti-rabies, must be consistently administered in order for them to work.
5. Don’t Swap Cat Food for People Food
Seeing your cat act cute when begging for food might be funny, but you need to restrain yourself from giving your cat human food. Swapping cat food for human food will completely change your cat’s appetite. This makes your cat dislike the taste of cat food, which makes it harder for you to keep your cat away from your meal.
Blindly giving your cat a bite of your own food can be also dangerous, as some foods are poisonous to your cat. These include chocolate, onions, and coffee.
6. Integrate Wet Food in Your Cat’s Diet When You Can
Speaking of food, there are two types of cat food you can give your cat: dry food (kibble), and wet food (canned or packed). Generally, dry food is more economical than wet food because it feeds your cat longer and costs less in the long run. But do your best to feed your cat food some wet food whenever you can. Wet food has a higher percentage of protein than dry food and is more palatable to cats.
Wet food is also an alternative for elderly cats or cats that have teeth problems. If wet food seems to be out of your budget, you can just give your cat wet food once a month. You can also mix the wet food in with the dry food to give your cat a tasty treat.
7. Cats are Still Tigers and Lions at Heart
Since cats are the smaller, domesticated versions of tigers and lions, there are still traces of their wild feline ancestry in them. For example, cats have more energy during nighttime compared to the morning. Therefore, it’s going to be normal seeing your cat skid around the room and be busy during the evening.
Jumping on high places, plus hunting or prowling underneath the tables and chairs, are also regular behaviors. So don’t be afraid if your cat suddenly springs on a bug and eats it right in front of you.
8. A Panting Feline is a Stressed Out Cat
Dogs pant because it’s their version of sweating. But when cats pant, it means that they are super stressed out. Usually, cats get stressed when they are afraid. And let me tell you right now that a stressed cat does not look pretty.
In Phi’s case, he gets scared when he’s travelling to unknown territory or when he’s about to get a bath. Once I bring him out of the house in his kennel, he immediately starts panting, and his nose and paws become damp, turning into a shade of bright pink.
If you see your cat panting and looks genuinely terrified, the best thing for you to do is to leave her/him alone. Cats hide in dark places or stay in corners to feel secured. And when your cat feels better or when the threat is gone, s/he will calm down eventually. It’s not going to be an immediate transition, but s/he will calm down.
9. Spay and Neuter Your Feline Friend
It is important to spay or neuter your cat, especially if you are not planning on having kittens. But aside from controlling your cat population, spaying or neutering your cat stops the behaviors your feline companion performs when s/he is ready for sexual activity.
When your cat is in heat (for females) or knows a female is in heat (for males) s/he becomes more rambunctious and loud. S/he will also have a tendency of leaving or “spritzing” her/his scent indoors, which leaves a sour and pungent odor. However, by spaying or neutering your cat, your cat’s need of finding a mate stops because s/he no longer has the energy to do so.
10. Give Your Cat Some Space
Cats are not dogs. They are not the type of animal companion who loves to be cuddled and be constantly petted, or have their belly patted while being baby talked to. If you try to do that, don’t be surprised to receive a few scratches and bite marks in return.
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However, this doesn’t mean that cats aren’t affectionate. They just like to show their love differently. If you want to be in good terms with your cat, leave her/him alone and let her/him come to you.
During the first few days, your cat will approach you only because you serve her/him food. But in the future, your cat will realize that you are more than just someone who magically makes food appear. Your cat will start purring when s/he is happy, meow when s/he wants to communicate with you, and even rub her/his sent all over you (claiming the s/he owns you). But the best form of affection is when your cat is always in the same room as you are. S/he might not be beside you, but s/he is sleeping or observing you on a desk nearby.
I’m not going to lie—following these 10 tips will be difficult during the first few months. But as long as you keep doing your best and not annoy your cat, your relationship with your feline companion will grow strong and harmonious.