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Are You a New Pet Parent? 10 Tips for Taking Care of a Cat for the First Time


Written by Adam Lee-Smith

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 01/14/2021, edited: 10/26/2022


Becoming a pet parent for the first time is stressful, especially with you're picking out a new feline friend. While many people think cats are independent and low-maintenance compared to their canine compadres, this isn't the case. Mischievous, inquisitive, and full of energy, there's a lot to consider to make sure Tigger is happy in their new home. Check out these 10 tips for taking care of a cat for the first time.

Research your new cat's breed and personality

Whether you're adopting from a shelter or getting an adorable kitten, research your new feline's personality and breed to ensure they're the ideal fit for your home. If you're adopting, check with the shelter staff to see if the cat has a playful, social, or independent personality. Your cat's breed can also make a difference — for example, Abyssinian cats tend to be extroverts with a "dog-like" attachment to their parents, while Ragdolls are easy to handle and are generally docile.

Give your feline a safe space

Moving to a new environment will be overstimulating for a cat, and as territorial animals, they may be wary of new spaces. Keep Molly happy by providing a safe space for them during their first few days in their new home. A small, dark space like a closet filled with cozy blankets and familiar toys will give them time to adjust. Try to leave enough room in the safe space for you to visit, so you can spend some time with your family's new addition.

Choose the perfect litter box location

New pet parents will no doubt be aware they need a litter box for their new kitten. While this may seem straightforward, you'll want to pick the right spot for your purring pal's potty. You should have one litter box per cat and place it in a quiet location so your feline doesn't feel threatened. If your cat doesn't feel safe going to the bathroom, they may find a different place to do their business around the house.

"Purrchase" the perfect cat tree

Cats feel safe sitting high above the action, and they also need somewhere to shed their claws. A heavy-duty cat tree will go a long way to ensuring your cat is calm and doesn't wreck your furniture. A high-quality cat tree gives Felix a perch to climb and a scratching post, so they don't use your expensive leather sofa to stretch and remove old nails. Scratching posts are a natural way for a cat to trim their nails; pet parents shouldn't cut or cap their cat's claws.

Make a vet appointment

A few days after Oscar has settled into their new home, make an appointment with your local vet. All cats, especially outdoor cats, will need flea and worm treatments and vaccinations to keep them from picking up anything during their adventures. You can also ask your vet if they have any recommendations for caring for your new fur-baby. Have a pressing question about your kitten? Chat with a vet through Wag! 24/7 via the app.

Socialize your cat

If you have frequent visitors or another fur-baby, socializing your new cat is essential. Once they've settled, consider inviting a couple of friends over to meet your new feline, for a friendly drop-in visit! Give your cat plenty of space, don't overcrowd them, and allow them to return to a safe space if they're unhappy. 
Related: Busy pet parent? Get a friendly, vetted cat sitter through Wag!

Introduce your new feline to a canine slowly in a controlled environment. Try feeding them together on opposite sides of a closed door, giving your cat a dog-free zone, and introducing them face-to-face with your pup on a leash. There are also several ways you can train your dog to accept a cat.

Set aside time to play with your new feline

While your cat doesn't need regular walks, it's still important you take time to play with your new little lion. From balls of yarn to puzzle games, you'll find tons of toys that will help your cat exercise their hunting instinct. If you don't play with your cat regularly, their hunting instinct may lead them to nip at your hands and claw your ankles.

Move any toxic plants

Like dogs, cats love to chew on things, including household plants. Many new pet parents don't realize that certain household plants can be toxic to cats and dogs. Snake plants, aloe, and peace lilies are just a few examples of common household plants toxic to cats that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If you have any plants considered toxic to cats around your home, be sure to move them out of reach of your feline friend or remove them altogether.

Train your cat to stay off furniture early

Cats are notoriously difficult to train, so you'll need to quickly and decisively iron out any behavioral issues. If you don't want your new kitten to get up on your sofa or sleep on your bed, reinforce this behavior right away and from a young age. Letting your cat on your bed and then changing your mind after a few weeks will cause conflict with your kitty, and they'll most likely ignore you and get on your furniture anyway.

Stick to the same cat food and routine

To keep your cat healthy, make sure you keep them on a strict feeding schedule. Feeding your cat at random times and changing their diet could upset your feline's stomach and cause them to put on weight. If you're giving your cat some tasty treats, buy a treat-dispensing puzzle that will keep them active and entertained.

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