Cat Care Guide

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So you've decided to bring a kitty cat into your life. Perhaps this is the first time you've owned a cat, and you are completely lost. Maybe you've had dozens of cats before but you are looking for new tips or products. Whatever your situation, we have everything you need to know about caring for cats right here.

The First Step

Take your kitten or cat, whatever their age, to a veterinarian right away. Never expose a cat or kitten that hasn't been to a vet to any other cats or kittens in the house. Feline leukemia (FeLV) doesn't show any outside symptoms, but it is easily spread from cat to cat. FeLV is fatal. Have your new cat examined and make sure it gets all the necessary shots. It is also a good idea to fix cats during this first vet visit, if the cat is old enough to be spayed or neutered.

Make sure you have all the essential supplies for your new cat or kitten. That means buying cat food (or kitten food ), a litter box and kitty litter, a cat carrier (for trips to the vet or a cat-friendly holiday), a cat brush  (especially if you own a long-hair), a cat dish, bowl, or feeder, and a few festive cat toys.

If you just took in a small kitten, check your house for any holes or dangerous products before allowing the kitty to run free. Try to block off under and behind the refrigerator , as this area can be especially harmful for kittens. Watch out for fireplaces -- cats, no matter what their age or size, love to climb, and it is possible for a cat to get stuck in a chimney (trust me).

Set up a nice comfortable place for your new cat. It may be a good idea to limit the cat to one room for the first day or so. This will allow you to not only train the cat how to use the litter box  (a rather simple task) and show it that it is in a safe environment, but it will also give you and your new cat some bonding time together.

Basic Cat Care

Taking care of the average cat is not difficult. Cats do not need to be walked like dogs or have a temperature-controlled environment like lizards.

  • Food-- Obviously cats need food . Ask your veterinarian about how often to feed your particular cat and whether or not he recommends dry food  or canned food . If your cat is between 6 weeks and 12 weeks of age, it will need about four or more small meals throughout the day. At 12 weeks of age, it is normally fine to increase the size of each meal and spread the meals out to three meals a day. At 6 months, gradually spread out the meals to equal two meals a day. Of course it is best to listen to your veterinarian, as he knows your particular cat and its needs. Always make sure the cat has fresh water (usually the water needs to be changed about twice a day, but it varies. Change the water at least twice a day and whenever the bowl is empty or the water is tainted in any way). See our guide to cat bowls and feeders for advice on the type of bowl  or feeder  you should use.
  • Litter-- Cats need a litter box filled with kitty litter  to do their business. Depending on how many cats use the box and your own personal tolerance for odor, it is usually best to scoop out the litter box  one or more times a day and thoroughly clean the litter box once a week. Do not fill the box with dirt or sand, as this could contain materials or toxins dangerous to felines. Only use kitty litter.
  • Toys-- Giving your feline friends a toy mouse  not only increases their happiness, but also decreases their urge to use your leg... or your hand... or Grandma's antique ring as a toy. Cat scratching posts  are a great idea to minimize furniture damage!
  • That Special Spot-- Anyway who has ever owned a cat knows what I mean. Cats will find a spot or two in the house that they make their own. Don't be surprised if you open your sock  drawer and find Fluffy curled up and sound asleep. Although it is difficult and often pointless to try to create this type of spot (I know many a feline owner who has spent a great deal of cash on kitty condos  and the like to have their cat turn its nose up and choose to sleep and play on a cardboard box instead), it is nice to at least give your cat an inexpensive cat bed  or put down a fuzzy blanket  or towel .
  • Love, Affection, and Attention-- While cats usually prefer to spend the majority of the day sleeping (or taking cat naps) or daydreaming, don't forget to give your cat an affectionate stroke or pat on the head once in awhile!
  • Check-ups-- Make sure to take your cat to the veterinarian at least once a year. Your vet will be able to monitor your cat's growth and other areas of its health.

How To Make Sure Your House is Kitty-Proof

  • Check for small holes-- Get on your hands and knees and observe your place from your cat's level. See any holes? Block them by actually repairing the holes or temporarily stuffing towels  in the hole to block the opening. Make sure the cat or kitten cannot crawl under or behind the refrigerator.
  • Unplug dangling cords-- Many cats adore chewing on electrical cords . Take away the risk of electrical shock by unplugging as many cords as you can. Unplugging unused electrical pieces also cuts down on your electrical bill and helps the environment out!
  • Beware of poisonous plants-- Many common plants, such as Easter lilies , can be harmful (even fatal) to cats. Click here for a thorough list of common poisonous plants.
  • Cover garbage disposal switches-- Cats love, love, love to climb! They will eventually find their way on top of the kitchen counter, whether you allow it or not. Special covers  are available for all sorts of switches.
  • Close the dryer door-- Make sure your cat isn't inside any appliance before closing the door. This may seem strange, but it is easy to not notice a cat slyly sneaking its way into the refrigerator while you search for that soy sauce  you know you bought.
  • Remove tablecloths wherever possible-- Cats, especially young kittens, will be fascinated by tablecloths  and try to use the edge of it to climb their way on to the table. We all know what happens then; your good dishes  and vases  come crashing to the ground. Not only will it be a big mess and heart-breaking to pick up all three hundred tiny shards of your antique soup bowl , but your cat could be seriously injured from the accident.
  • Keep drapery cords out of reach-- Don't let your cat get any cords from drapes  or window blinds . Cats can strangle themselves by getting tangled! Be careful, Kitty!

Other Cat Guides

Check out these guides on more aspects of keeping your feline friend healthy and happy!

Bowls/Feeders
Food

Litter Boxes
Litter

Grooming
Cat Toys

Bedding
Scratchers
Stain Removers

Collars
Transport


International Resources

For this resource in your home country, please see:
FR: chats
DE: Katzen
NL: Kattenbenodigdheden Shopgids