A First-Timer’s Guide to Caring for a Cat
By Cindy Aldridge
As it was once so succinctly put, “Everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at.” Although being a cat may be out of our reach, having one might just be the next best thing. If you’re preparing for your first cat, you’re in for an exciting journey. Cats are curious creatures, and they’ll spark plenty of joy and laughter for years to come. Here are some tips for getting your first cat and making it feel at home.
Choosing a Cat
Your first step is figuring out what kind of cat you want to adopt. A first-time cat owner might be tempted to pick up a kitten, but that’s probably not the best call. Kittens are cute, but they’re also very high energy and tons of work. Moreover, it’s pretty impossible to tell what a kitten’s adult personality will be like, so a young cat is more of a gamble.
An adult cat, however, is more mature and settled. When you meet them, you can get a good sense of how cuddly or distant they’ll be, what kind of play they’ll like, and generally what you can expect from them. This will help you find a cat that suits your lifestyle. Cat personalities run the gamut from high-energy hunters to lazy lumps, from lap cats to the look-don’t-touch variety. Spend some time with different cats in the shelter to get a sense for who you click with best.
You’ll need some supplies to help your cat feel at home. In addition to the basics — food, bowls, litter box, etc. — you’ll want to get some extras for your new pal. Cats love to go into small, cozy spaces, especially when they’re in an unfamiliar environment. A cat bed, from fancy self-warming models to the old-fashioned types, will give them a safe space to chill out while they adjust, and to nap once they’ve settled in.
Another great gift you can give your cat is a cat tree. These are tall structures with lots of levels of seating, usually made of a nice, scratch-safe material. Think of these as kitty jungle gyms. They’ll give your cat the chance to climb, jump, scratch, and lounge.
Finally, get plenty of different toys to ensure you’re satisfying your cat’s hunting instincts. Even the laziest cat will need playtime. Not only does this keep them physically healthy, it also helps reduce feline anxiety and aggression. Without playtime to work out energy and instincts, cats can be prone to biting, poor litter box etiquette, and other destructive behaviors.
Your New Roommate
It’s important to have the right expectations when you bring your new pet home. Cats have instincts of both predator and prey creatures, and they tend to be skittish in new environments. Many people barely see their cats for the first few days or even weeks after they’ve brought them home. This is okay! Your kitty needs time to adjust and feel safe around you.
The best thing you can do during this period is to give your cat distance and let them come to you. It may take some time, but being patient will pay off. By following your cat’s cues and allowing them to define the relationship, you send off signals that say “I’m safe!” Earning your cat’s trust will allow a positive relationship to blossom. Before you know it, you’ll be getting plenty of head boops and slow blinks — sure signs that your cat is in love.
Cats are great pets. When you get your first one, it may take you a little while to understand their style of communication and learn their personality. Once you do, however, you’ll see why so many people are obsessed with these wonderful creatures.