What You Need to Know Before Adopting Your First Cat

“I know, I know – this is a blog for dog people. No worries. We can all show a little love to the cat people.” – Blue Belle the DogBlog Canine Contributor

This guest post was contributed by Brandon Butler. Thanks Brandon for your contribution.


Preparedness is key when bringing any new pet home, especially if you’ve never owned a pet before. While cats are relatively easy to care for, understanding the basics makes life with a feline a lot easier. If you’re planning to adopt your first cat, here’s everything you need to know.

Cat Care 101: The Basics

Are Cats Really Low-Maintenance?

Cats have a reputation as a low-maintenance pet. And compared to high-energy dog breeds, that’s true. Cats don’t require long walks and can be left alone for most of the day. However, cats aren’t a no-maintenance pet. Just like dogs, cats bond with their owners and enjoy interaction. Cats can also be finicky when their living environment isn’t kept to their standards.

Most importantly, cats are a lifetime commitment. And that can be a long time: Cats live for 14 to 16 years on average, and many indoor cats live 20 or more years! In addition to the daily responsibilities, make sure you’re ready for a long-term commitment when you adopt a cat.

Litter Box Rules for Cats

One cat equals one litter box, right? Not so fast. Even with daily scooping, one litter box may not be enough. According to feline behavior expert Jackson Galaxy, the rule of thumb is one litter box per cat plus one extra. Instead of hiding litter boxes in the garage or basement, put them where your cat spends most of its time.

Feeding Your Cat a Balanced Diet

Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for cats. Just a few extra pounds can push cats into obesity, where they’re at increased risk of arthritis, hip dysplasia, and diabetes. In addition to choosing a high-quality, vet-approved food and controlling portion sizes, cat owners should pay attention to their pet’s digestive health. Digestive problems can manifest in vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and poor coat quality. While some digestive problems are caused by underlying health conditions, in many cases a cat’s digestive health can be improved with high-quality, well-balanced wet food, though it’s important to do a little research before you dive in.

All About Feline Health

The Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

If you adopt your cat from an animal shelter or rescue group, it may already be spayed or neutered. If not, you’ll want to schedule this procedure soon. Spaying (for females) and neutering (for males) reduces pet overpopulation, improves cat behavior, and reduces the risk of cancer in cats. The best time to spay and neuter cats is before they reach sexual maturity around five to six months of age.

Core Cat Vaccinations

In addition to spay/neuter, your cat may need vaccinations for its health. These are the core vaccines recommended for cats:

  • Rabies
  • Panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper
  • Calicivirus
  • Rhinotracheitis, also known as feline herpesvirus
  • Feline leukemia (for outdoor cats)

What About Declawing?

Many first-time cat owners wonder if they should have their cat declawed. However, this procedure is more than a nail trim. Declawing involves amputating the last bone of a cat’s toes. In addition to risks associated with surgery, declawing causes long-term complications and behavior changes in some cats. Most veterinarians recommend cat owners avoid declawing and instead look to alternative ways to redirect their cat’s natural scratching behavior. With training and appropriate scratching surfaces, you can keep claws off the furniture without surgery.

Everyday Cat Care

How to Play with Your Pet Cat

Cats need exercise and mental stimulation just like dogs (and you!). However, don’t expect your cat to go for a run. Instead, cats prefer games where they can exercise their instincts. These include fetch, hide and seek, and chasing feathers, laser pointers, or string.

Cats are also great at entertaining themselves when given the right tools. Few cats can ignore a busy bird feeder in the window, while a catnip-stuffed toy offers endless fun. Keep your cat’s toys interesting by rotating toys in and out so there’s always something novel to enjoy.

Should Your Cat Go Outdoors?

Is your new cat crying at the window? It’s common for cat owners to feel guilty keeping their pet outdoors, but think twice before letting your cat out unsupervised. The outdoors poses a lot of danger to cats. Your cat could get hit by a car, in a fight with another feline, or end up lost. Cats also threaten native wildlife, especially small critters like lizards and songbirds. If you want to take your cat outside, do it safely. If your cat is more interested in sunbathing than roaming, try building a catio.

Every cat’s personality is unique. Your new cat may want to play all day (and all night!) long, or it may be content with cat naps on your lap. While it will take time to learn your cat’s likes and dislikes, there are some things all cat owners need to know. Now that you understand the basics of caring for a pet cat, you’re ready to be the amazing owner your new cat needs!

For more tips for pet owners along with reviews for toys and pet products, be sure to visit A Dog’s Eye View!

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