Whether you are staring this new phase of your life as a cat owner with a kitten or an adult cat, there are a number of things that you need to consider and make preparation for before you bring your new friend into your home.
Cats are independent creatures, and this is one of the reasons that they make such excellent companions. Much of the time they will get on and do their “own thing” and not need constant attention from you. This will often involve sleeping, chasing imaginary mice, or one of many other things that amuse them, or – of course – if they are an outdoor cat they may spend a considerable amount of time outside doing whatever it is that they do (in summer, that will often be just lying on the lawn soaking up the sunshine).
Ready For The Responsibility
Before you decide to take on a cat, you need to make certain that the whole family is in agreement and is ready for the responsibility, for that is what it is. The responsibilities are the same as if you have a new baby: you have to take care of its every need, and the same is true with a cat. It needs shelter, food, water, and its’ own space in exactly the same way that we do. It also needs grooming, health care, and “me time” – in this case “cat time” – when you give it attention, stroke it, play games with it, and so on. You really do need to set aside a couple of ten minute slots a day when you devote your entire attention to your cat.
Of course, many a cat will happily sit on your lap for an hour or two while you watch TV.
If you are getting a kitten then you can bring him up in your own way. However, if you are taking on an adult cat – from a rescue shelter, or similar – you have to be prepared for him to adjust to you over a period of time. For example, an adult cat may have been badly treated and be fearful. In this case he may need careful handling, or even left to his own devices, while he comes to terms with the fact that you and your family are “OK”. This could take several weeks.
If you have this type of cat, you cannot let the kids play and rough and tumble with him from the outset because he may very well lash out – not because he is by nature vicious, but because he is scared. You need to make certain that you are prepared to take him on board with all his “shortcomings” until he settles down. The good news is that cats are very adaptable, and he will settle down given time.
Before you bring your cat home you need to obtain the supplies that he will need. To begin with, you need a litter tray and litter, and a scoop to clear it each day. You need food and water bowls, together with a supply of food of the type that he is used to. (You can change his food gradually if you need to).
If you don’t want your antique chairs scratched, you need a scratching post. He may prefer this horizontal on the floor, or vertical. You need a collar and ID tag, and you need a carrier in which to take him to the vets and for any other times you need to transport him.
He will also need a bed and bedding.
In addition, you should book an appointment with the vet. If you have a kitten, he will need vaccinations and boosters in the first few weeks, and an adult cat will need an overall health check.
Your cat will need a brush and/or comb for grooming, and a selection of cat toys to keep him occupied. That said, many cats can have a great amount of fun with a cardboard box or paper bag.
Your home also needs cat-proofing. Keep electric cables under rugs whenever possible, and computer cables in a cord containment device. For some reason, some cats take a delight in chewing cables – not a good idea.
Don’t leave household cleaners or medicines out. Some household cleaners can be fatal if swallowed. So can some plants, especially the pollen of lilies, so don’t grow them in the yard. You should Google a list of plants which can cause danger to cats – there are about twenty of them, including some houseplants – and ensure that they are out of reach.
Keep indoor trash cans covered so that kitty doesn’t dive in there and explore. Don’t leave windows wide open in rooms to which your cat has access, especially if you live in an apartment. Your cat may see a bird land on the window ledge and jump up to get it, which is not going to do him any good at all if you live on the fourth floor.
When your cat is due to arrive, make certain that you have set up a room for him to live in to begin with, so that he can get used to his new surroundings, before you gradually let him explore the rest of your home.
Buy or download a book or two about cat behavior. We have only been able to cover the basics here, but there is a lot more that you can learn in order to ensure that you and your new friend have many joyous years together.