The Complete Guide To Being A Beginner Cat Parent
“Uh oh! We got a cat home. Now we are petrified! What should we do?”
That’s a phrase every animal lover dreads to hear. Without proper planning for raising pets, pet care can quickly become difficult.
Here, at Wagr, we like to believe in the philosophy of preparing with care for being a pet parent. Not for us hasty adoptions or ad hoc decisions. For pet owners, there’s no better way to prepare for a pet in your house than...prepare.
That adorable fluffy ball of fur is finally home
You have 100s of cat memes on your phone
You have several friends who tell you exactly what raising a cat involves
You bought cat food
You have a ball of twine even
Sounds amazing, right? You think you can nail this whole petcare thing.
Cats are cute. Kittens even more so.
But if this is the first time you are raising cats, then it’s likely you may be intimidated.
If you're a beginner cat parent, you're going to need to know a few things to keep your cat happy and healthy. Let's start by talking about the basics! This complete guide is designed to help you learn everything you need to know about caring for your cat, from the basics of food and litter, to how to keep your cat healthy.
Before you get your cat home
Are you new to the world of cats? As a beginner cat parent, it's important to start with the basics. Here’s the lowdown: not all cats are the same. Cats have unique personalities, and all respond differently to each situation. Here is a list of questions that help you pick the right kind of cat:
Have the answers ready? Now, let’s delve right in.
The Cat Group has a fantastic checklist to consider before you get a kitten home. The checklist is easy to use, and we highly recommend you take a copy with you before you go to get your pet.
For the purpose of this guide, we use the term ‘cat’ to refer to cats of any gender. But know this:
Quick cat glossary:
Male cats are known as tomcats
A sterilized male cat is called a gib
An unaltered female cat is called a queen
Female cats are usually molly
How to set up a cat-friendly house
Before your cat or kitten comes home, it’s important that you cat-proof your home. Cats are highly territorial, so they will likely be quite uncomfortable when coming to a new place.
So, remove all potential toxins.
Wagr Pro Tip: Most beginner cat parents don’t realize that many house plants such as lucky bamboo and begonias are toxic to cats. Do cats eat plants? Sadly, they do. This resource is handy to identify all the plants that may be harmful to your cat.
Next comes the actual cat-proofing. Cats like to chew on wires or cords. So, make sure that you secure all power cords in the house. Tie up any loose ends from curtains, including tassels. Identify and close any crawl spaces that your cat or kitten can escape into.
Get a litter box
Buy the food and water dishes. This will ensure that your cat’s most basic needs are taken care of. Keep this litter box in a relatively quiet place. Cats need to feel that they are safe and secure when they are littering. Don’t try to place the litter box near the washing machine or the dryer, as sudden noises might spook the cat.
Get tools such as a cat brush, cat shampoo, some cat toys, and nail trimmers.
Experts also recommend getting some scratch pads so that your cat can safely sharpen their nails instead of on your furniture. Remember that a cat’s nails need to be worn down.
Wagr Pro Tip: Use some sticky tape on the corners of any of your favorite upholstered furniture to prevent scratching.
Unless you live alone, your family should also know the basics of taking care of your cat. Petcare should not be the sole burden of any one person in the family. Let them understand all the basic know-how so that they can be a source of support for you and the cat.
Cats, like dogs, rely on their sense of smell. So, life would be much easier for you if you can make their new home as familiar as possible. Some cat owners take a piece of clothing such as a blanket from their home and leave it with the cat to get used to the smell before bringing the pet home.
If you aren’t able to do that, then we suggest you buy feline facial pheromones from your vet or pet store. These are sprays or plug-in diffusers, which can create a reassuring environment and reduce stress for a cat. Keep the home environment calm the first few weeks. You can plan that great house party much later. Avoid having too many news faces until then.
Cats Protection has a great video right here on YouTube to get you home cat-proof as fast as possible.
How to feed your cat as a beginner cat parent
For the first week, it’s best to continue to use the food the cat has been used to. Get your vet’s suggestions on what kind of diet works best for your cat, and then slowly switch the cat to your favorite or recommend cat food.
Make sure that clean and fresh water is always available.
Always keep the cat’s feeding and water bowls away from the litter box.
Cats are obligate carnivores, so they are used to meat to survive. This means that their metabolism and gastrointestinal tracts have adapted to them eating meat. Cats cannot absorb certain proteins, especially taurine, themselves. They need to source it from food rich in protein, such as beef or fish.
In Indian settings, it’s common to think of making a cat ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan.’ It’s not usually recommended to force-feed a cat a diet they are not used to. A plant-based diet may not be the best idea for your cat.
If you have a kitten (under 1-year-old), please use a kitten formula as kittens need more calories.
Let’s take you through a quick introduction to the different kinds of cat food:
This is also called ‘wet’ food. Most cats like canned food. Check the labels carefully to ensure that you are getting canned food with a higher proportion of meat. Most canned food will come as chunks or slices floating in a sea of gravy.
Wagr Pro Tip: Don’t leave canned out longer than 20 minutes, especially in summer. It can quickly spoil. Keep any leftover food in the refrigerator, and do not reuse any food your cat left behind in the bowl.
Dry food has one major advantage: you can leave the food out for long periods and not worry about it spoiling.
This is also helpful if your cat likes to eat when they want rather than at fixed mealtimes, which is what you might have if you use only canned or wet food.
If you have a kitten, it’s ideal that you give the kitten both dry and wet food so that they will be receptive to both the textures of food. Don’t try to give too many treats. This is a common trap that many beginner pet parents fall into, thinking they can win their pet over with as many treats as possible. We suggest that treats should not be more than 5% to 10% of the overall diet.
This handy guide lets you know the kind of foods you should not be feeding your cat. Top of that list includes chocolates, coffee, and milk.
How to play with your cat
A cat that’s often kept indoors needs far more stimulation than a stray cat. Your cat needs to hone their exploratory and preying instincts. As a pet parent, it’s up to you to provide the right toys that will train your cat’s natural instincts. Some of the most common toys for cats:
Cat tree so that your cat can practice jumping and perching skills
Plastic rolling balls
For the first few days after you get your cat home, don’t try to force the cat to come to you. Give your cat time to get used to everything and everyone. It will take at least a week or two for your cat to adjust.
We urge you to be patient. If and when your cat allows you to, pet your cat. If your cat starts to trust you, they will express their affection for you by licking you, curling up in your lap, or twirling around your legs.
When you approach your cat for the first time, do the following:
Crouch down and get down to their level
Open your hands and show them your empty palms
If they have a name already, call their name softly
Keep practicing this until they accept you. Wait until they come to you. It’s also perfectly normal for a new cat to hide for a few days until they get used to their new home. As long as they are eating and using the litter box, there is no reason to panic.
How to raise a healthy cat
A week or so after your new cat has settled in, it’s time to visit the vet. Check for previous vaccination records, if any.
Your vet will also be able to check your cat and see if they need any booster shots. They will also determine the best diet and lifestyle for your cat based on the breed and temperament. Your vet will also be able to give you helpful hints on monitoring your cat’s health.
Most cats do well indoors. We suggest that you don’t let your cat go outside until they are completely adjusted to their new environment, AND you are confident about what awaits your cat outside.
Never let a kitten roam outside without supervision.
Also, remember to discuss with your vet about spaying or neutering your cat.
Cats are also quite easy to groom as they stay relatively clean and rarely need a bath. However, do brush or comb your cat with care. This reduces the number of hairballs. Just one or two brushings a week will help keep your cat’s coat clean. An exception would be long-haired cats who shed through the year and need brushings as frequently as every two days.
In the end, being a beginner cat parent can appear to be daunting. But cats grow on you, and as they adjust to your home and start to display their unique personality, you would often find many hours of pleasure just watching them gambol around. Your cat’s first few weeks and months are precious, and we are here to make it as purrfect as possible.