What to know before owning a cat for the first time – First time cat owner

Posted: August 27, 2017 by Anita

owning a cat for the first time

Deciding to become a first-time cat owner is a humongous decision.  I mean, on the surface, owning a cat seems easy-peasy.  Most people believe that cats are better pets and take less work than dogs.

That is not entirely true.

Here are some common misconceptions about being a cat parent:

  • They don’t require a lot of interaction, like dogs.
  • They don’t mess up your furniture.
  • You don’t have to exercise cats.
  • Cats don’t require much care.
  • The yearly cost to have a cat is cheaper than having a dog.  However, the cost of cat ownership is not cheap.

It is essential to make an informed decision about becoming a cat parent.  I have to be real with you.  I’m very bias. Cats are awesomely amazing companions.  Owning a cat for the first time is going to be unique for you and that special cat you decide to take into your home.

It is my opinion misconceptions are the reasons why a large portion of cats end up being re-homed or abandoned.  Being educated about cat ownership before owning a cat for the first time is essential.

In this article, I will attempt to give you a realistic view of first-time cat ownership.  I will be discussing what to know before owning a cat:

  • should I get a cat
  • how to get a cat
  • things you need for a cat (first-time cat owner checklist)
  • how to introduce a new cat to your home
  • cost of owning a cat

 

owning a cat for the first time

 

Should I Get a Cat?

Cats make excellent companions.  There’s nothing like coming home after a hard day at the office and being met with such love and devotion from a sweet furbaby.

However, there are some things to know before bringing a new cat home.  These are things you should consider before becoming a first-time cat owner:

 

  • Does your landlord allow cats? This right here is the first thing you need to find out before adopting or purchasing a cat.  Most cat adoption centers will ask this question on the adoption application.  Some centers will call your landlord to find out if having a cat is allowed.

 

  • Do you have the time and the devotion needed to have a cat in your life?  I hate to be Debbie-downer with the voice of reason, but owning a cat is a serious thing. You should look at it as a lifetime commitment because it really should be.  Please, please don’t even consider it if you’re not in a stable place in your life. In the long run, it will be the cat that suffers the most.

 

  • It also takes money to own a cat – I heard a cat adoption commercial the other day, which stated: “…all I (cat) need is a can of tuna and a cardboard box”.  Your new cat will need a lot more than a can of tuna and a cardboard box.  More on that later.

 

  • Be ready to share your space – No one talks about this, but cats are very intrusive.  At times you will feel like your home has been taken over by your cat with your sole purpose in life is paying rent and keeping the feeding dish full. Nothing will belong to you. Ever. Again. It’s the cat’s bed.  It’s the cat’s laptop.  It’s the cat’s socks.  All of your living room furniture will be the property of your cat. It’s a cat’s world.

 

  • Your cat’s litter needs will take precedence over everything – And you will stay awake nights contemplating if your cat’s litter box is in the right place and wait…” is that smell coming from the litter box?”  For more information on the best litter box for an apartment and where it should be placed, click here.

 

  • Should I get a kitten instead of a cat? – Man, this is another big one that folks don’t talk about. Kittens are a lot of work.  Kittens are a little fireball of energy, always on the move and getting into everything.  Seriously, I recommend not adopting or purchasing a kitten, no matter how cute it looks, if you work a full-time job.  A kitten has to be trained to do certain things (or not do certain things) such as litter box training, not to bite, proper socializing, etc.  And most of all, kittens demand a lot of your time and attention.  They must be carefully watched so that they don’t get into anything dangerous. The great thing about adopting a new kitten is that you will be instrumental in the development of its personality, which is kind of cool.

owning a cat for the first time

How to Get a Cat

Call me biased, but I think cat adoption is the noblest act of kindness a human can show for one of God’s creatures.  Besides, why buy a cat from a pet store or a cat breeder, spend a shit load of money on a pedigree (unless you want a show cat which could be worth the initial investment) when there are tons of cats out there who would benefit from your loving home.

And what’s the benefit for you? The reward of this relationship is having that ball of fluff meeting you at the door, greeting you with unconditional love.  Who doesn’t need that after a crappy day at work? The unbiased, uncomplicated (well, sort of) love of your cat.  Ain’t nothing like it.  Here’s how to buy a cat through adoption:

Getting a cat

I recommend checking the ASPCA website.  The ASPCA has a national database of cats available for adoption.  You can search by zip code, breed, qualities you might be looking for in a cat, etc.  Here are the steps:

  1. Go to ASPCA.org
  2. Click on the tab labeled “local shelters.”
  3. Scroll down to “Adoptable Cats in Your Local Shelter,” then click.
  4. Type in your zip code
  5. Find the cat you’re interested in, click on the picture.
  6. The cat of your choice is just a car ride away.

owning a cat for the first time

How to adopt a cat from a shelter

Now that you’ve done your research and settled on one cat (or two or a kitten), the next step is to visit the shelter to get a look at your potential cat, up close and personal.  Also, the shelter is going to want to make sure you’re a suitable choice for your new cat.  The adoption process usually goes something like this:

  • Fill out an application
  • provide proof of address
  • a copy of your apartment lease or condo policies regarding cats
  • The shelter will provide some alone time to get to know your cat. The shelter will be checking your interaction with the cat.
  • Don’t be surprised if you don’t take your adorable little feline home right away.  Some shelters require a home inspection before they release your new cat to you.
  • How much does a cat cost when adopting?  Cat adoption fees can run anywhere from $50 on up.  How much does a kitten cost to adopt? Kittens usually start at $100. There might be additional fees for identification tagging, spaying/neutering procedure, shots.
  •  Make sure to cat-proof your cat’s new home before bringing him home.

Another question you might be asking yourself is, “what kind of cat should I get?”  Cats have a great way of picking out their human owners.  Pay attention to the cat that gravitates towards you during your visit to the shelter. Then pick the cat you fall in love with.

“Should I get a kitten or an adult cat?” If you are going to be away from home a great deal, it might be best to adopt an adult cat. An adult cat doesn’t require as much work as a kitten.  They have already developed their personality (good or bad) and are usually less energetic than kittens.

Even though your adult cat is more independent, it doesn’t mean that you should slack when it comes to love and attention.  Cats are social creatures.  A cat that always misbehaves might be trying to gain the attention that it craves.

owning a cat for the first time

Things you need for a cat

How do you feel about sharing your living space with a cat? You will have to modify your house to accommodate your new cat.   There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve until you and your new cat adjust to each other.  Just like any relationship, there’s going to be ups and downs.  Be prepared, flexible, patient, and loving.

Here are some recommendations for the first-time cat owner (click on each link to be taken to Chewy.com)

  1. Iams Proactive Health Healthy Dry Cat Food or for kittens,  I like Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Dry Cat Food
  2.  Cat dish (2) for water and food
  3.  Arm & Hammer Clump and Seal Cat Litter
  4. Catit Jumbo Hooded Litter Pan
  5. Litter mat
  6. Your new cat will love Frisco Bird Teaser Cat Toy, click here.

 

 

These cat supplies will be what you’ll need when bringing your cat home for the first time to your apartment.  As time goes on, you might want to add these additional cat products:

owning a cat for the first time

How to introduce a new cat to your home

It is important to be prepared ahead of time before bringing home your new feline companion.  It is best to introduce your cat to your home in stages rather than all at once – it will be less stressful for her (and you).

  • Prepare a safe room in a spare bedroom.  This space will provide a quiet spot where your new friend can get used to your home in stages.
  • If you don’t have space, that’s okay.  What you can do is make your entire space a cat sanctuary.  You want to make sure that the space is safe for your cat.
  • Place a litter box on one side of the safe space and food dish on the other side – somewhere the cat can get to easily.
  • Create a hiding place by using a cardboard box or sheets draped over chairs.  Provide cat toys and a scratching post. I like to apply a little catnip to the scratching post to encourage scratching of the post instead of my carpet.
  • Close off any rooms you don’t want the cat to have access to yet.  Be sure to block access to space underneath the bed or couch (cats will rip a hole between the slats of box springs and hide inside).

Letting your cat get to know you

Don’t force yourself on her at the beginning.  Start with short visits to her space.  Talk to her in a soothing voice.  Read to her.

Don’t try petting her unless she invites you to do so.  Don’t over pet – again, short sessions.  Gain your cat’s trust.  Don’t rush it.

Eventually, your cat will want to explore the house.  I recommend closing off most doors of your home as she begins to explore – especially if you leave your cat alone to go to work.

Take it slow.  Take your cues from your cat.  Some cats can transition to a new home in a few days.  Other cats, it could take weeks for them to feel comfortable in a new home.

Remember, this is a lifetime commitment, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy each other.

Cost of owning a cat

Being a cat owner costs money. I read somewhere that it cost about $300 a year to own a cat.  I think it’s more like $600.  Here are some initial things you need to consider when bringing your cat home for the first time.

Cat food – one of the most important decisions you will make for your new pet. There are so many choices out there.  It can get confusing. The right choice is always to choose healthy cat food.

Cat litter – This is the second biggest choice you will make for your cat.  The first thing you want to think about is the type of cat litter.  The choices are non-clumping or clumping cat litter.

Yearly checkup/emergency visits at the veterinarian – I recommend purchasing cat medical insurance.

owning a cat for the first time

Conclusion

You’ve got to go into this new relationship thinking “lifelong commitment.”  This goes hand in hand with having realistic expectations. If you think that this is something that you can’t commit to long-term, then you need to re-think becoming a cat owner.

Owning a cat can be rewarding and fun. Cats make excellent companions.  There’s nothing like coming home after a hard day at the office and being met with such love and devotion from a sweet furbaby.

However, it can be frustrating and a pain in the ass, especially if you are dealing with a cat that has behavioral or health issues. The way to deal with this is to have patience, be persistent, and work with your cat on modifying the behavior.

As a new cat owner, there are things to know before getting a cat.  You want to make sure you are ready.  How are you going to feel about your new cat climbing up on your furniture or using your nice couch as a scratching post?  Are you going to be okay with your cat climbing into your bed?  What if your new kitten poops on your carpet? How are you going to feel about having to clean out the litter box?  And speaking of cat litter, be prepared; it gets everywhere.

How do you feel about sharing your living space with a cat? You will have to modify your house to accommodate your new cat.   There’s going to be a bit of a learning curve until you and your new cat adjust to each other.  Just like any relationship, there’s going to be ups and downs.  Be prepared, flexible, patient, and loving.

 

 

 

Read more from the Cat Mama: