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How to Take Care of a Cat : Beginners Guide (With Care Chart)

Introduction

If you’re ready to welcome a beautiful cat into your home, read this guide! Cats might seem relatively independent and low-maintenance, but they actually need plenty of interaction and care. Whether you’re considering adopting a cat or buying a kitten and watching them grow up, you’ll want to make sure you can provide for their needs for the rest of their life.

Adopting an older cat from a shelter can be a great choice. You can visit the cats at a shelter and get a much better idea of their temperament and personality than you can if you get a kitten.

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Do Cats Make Good Pets?

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Image Credit: Piqsels

Cats make amazing pets! You’ll always need to make sure you meet their daily needs in terms of food, water, and making sure their environment is clean and enriching, but you don’t need to worry about long walks or training sessions — unless you want to of course!

There are so many cat breeds to choose from, all with distinctively different personalities. Taking the time to work out which breed will be the best fit for your family is an important step that shouldn’t be rushed. Some cat breeds will be happy relaxing in an apartment while their owners are at work, while others crave attention and prefer to have as much company as possible. Cat breeders and shelters will also be happy to advise you on what breeds could work for your home and work life.

Cats do need daily enrichment and interaction to stay physically and mentally healthy as possible. Make sure you have the time and funds to invest in making your home cat-friendly.

Where Can I Get a Cat?

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Image Credit: Pixabay
If you’re looking to become a cat owner, you have three main options:
  • Buying a kitten from a breeder
  • Rehoming a cat from a shelter
  • Buying an older cat privately

If you choose to buy a kitten from a breeder, make sure to meet both parent cats, as this will give you a good idea of the temperament that the kittens might have when they grow up. It’s also a good idea to ask for details of health checks and references from previous purchasers. Any reputable breeder will be happy to answer all your questions.

Rehoming an older cat from a shelter is an excellent way to find a cat that’s already housetrained and in need of a loving home. Shelters also often have kittens for adoption. The shelter staff will be able to tell you more about each cat and whether they may be a good fit for your home environment. you can also choose a new cat based on whether they’re used to dogs, prefer to live indoors, and are happy being left at home while you’re at work.

You may also see cats advertised by private sellers, and this is usually no fault of the cat. Families may have to move into rented accommodation where pets aren’t allowed or have another change in circumstance, which means they have to rehome their cat. Some breeders also advertise older cats for adoption. You’ll need to use a bit more caution and judgment if you decide to get a cat this way.

How Much Does It Cost to Own a Cat?

cats reflection II_ OlenaPalaguta_Shutterstock
Image Credit: OlenaPalaguta, Shutterstock

The cost of buying your new cat is generally the lowest expense! You’ll also need to budget for one-off costs like a travel crate and initial vaccinations, as well as recurring costs like flea treatments and cat food. You may not need to account for all costs, though — for example, if you’re buying a cat that’s already been spayed or neutered. Here’s a rough guideline of what to expect:

One-off costs:
  • Spay or neuter
  • Microchipping
  • Cat bed
  • Cat carrier
  • Collar, harness, and leash
  • Litter box
  • Litter scoop
  • Cat door
  • Scratching post
  • Grooming supplies
  • Toys
  • Food and water bowls
Annual expenses:
  • Cat food
  • Veterinary bills
  • Vaccination boosters
  • Flea and worming treatment
  • Medications
  • Insurance
  • Litter and accessories like litter mats and deodorizers
  • Entertainment

For any of these items, there’s a wide range of prices. You may decide to splash out on a beautiful cat bed but buy budget food and water bowls. The annual cost of owning and taking care of a cat is somewhere between $200 and $4,000 a year. That includes:

  • Healthcare: $75-11000 per year
  • Check-ups: $40-100 per year
  • Vaccinations: $0-100 per year
  • Dental: $15-500 per year
  • Treatments for parasites: $20-100 per year
  • Emergencies: $0-10000 per year
  • Medications: $0-1000 per year
  • Insurance: $150-200 per year
  • Food: $100-2500 per year
  • Environmental maintenance: $200-350 per year
  • Entertainment: $200-400 per year

What Kind of Home Does My Cat Need?

feeding cats_Dora Zett_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Before you commit yourself to becoming a cat owner, make sure you can meet their needs and provide the kind of home that will keep them safe and happy. Cats need plenty of interaction with their families, although depending on their breed, some are more self-sufficient than others.

Besides the basics, like food, water, and a litter box, you need to make sure your cat has access to plenty of environmental enrichment to keep them mentally and physically motivated. Examples include:

  • Vertical scratching posts
  • Angled or flat scratching pads
  • Bird-watching stations
  • Toys
  • Outdoor cat enclosure
  • Vertical interest like shelves

Cats also need social contact, whether that’s with other cats and pets, humans, or both. Some cats are more independent than others but every breed will need a home where people will be on hand to provide more than just food in a bowl.

You’ll also want to make sure your home is safe. If your cat lives indoors, ensure that visitors know how to enter and leave your house so your cat can’t escape. If your cat does go outside, make sure they can come back inside whenever they wish. You may want to install a cat door so they can come and go as they please.

Cats also need grooming, and some longhaired breeds have high-maintenance coats. Make sure that whichever breed you choose, you can keep up with their grooming requirements. That might be a daily brush or a biweekly one.

Fleas and other parasites can be picked up by cats, even indoor ones! Make sure you can keep your home clean with regular vacuuming, and keep up to date with flea treatments.

What Should I Feed My Cat?

cats eating_bollection, Pixabay
Image Credit: bollection, Pixabay

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means their digestive systems are designed to work with a meat-based diet. They need a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in order to stay healthy.

There’s a great amount of choice when it comes to what to feed your cat. Some cats may prefer canned wet food, others will like kibble, and still others will enjoy both. The most important thing is to choose a food with real meat as the first ingredient and an overall high percentage of protein. If your cat has a specific health condition, then prescription diets are available.

The amount of food that your cat needs can be calculated by taking their age, health, and weight into account. You can use the manufacturer’s guidelines as a starting point, but you may need to adjust this. Always feed a food that’s been designed for your cat’s life stage. Adult cats shouldn’t be fed kitten food or vice versa.

Some cats, including those with joint problems, may benefit from a food with added supplements, like glucosamine. Or you can buy these separately and add them to their food as required.

All cats need a constant supply of fresh water. Many cats prefer to drink from a moving water source and will love cat fountains that filter and circulate the water.

How Do I Take Care of My Cat?

Feeding

cats eating_Taras Vyshnya_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Taras Vyshnya, Shutterstock

Cats need feeding at least twice a day, although you may decide to free-feed and leave kibble out for your cat to snack on throughout the day. If you’re away from home, you can buy an automatic cat feeder to dispense small portions at predetermined intervals.

However often you decide to feed your cat, make sure they always have access to water.

Grooming

Some cat breeds require more grooming than others. Longhaired breeds may need a daily brush to keep their coats free from tangles and mats. Shorthaired breeds will often only need a brush once a week or biweekly. Make sure to choose a breed with a coat that you have the time to maintain.

Cats rarely need a bath unless they got something on their coats that they can’t clean off. They may also need a medicated bath if they pick up a skin infection.

 You’ll also need to keep an eye on your cat’s teeth, ears, and nails. Periodontal disease is common in domestic cats, so it’s a good idea to get into the habit of brushing their teeth if you can. Every time you groom your cat, check their teeth, ears, and nails too. You may need to trim your cat’s nails if they get too long and sharp.

 cat's grooming_Madhourse_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Madhourse, Shutterstock

Socialization

Some cats will love hanging out with visitors, while others prefer the company of their families only. If your cat is shy, then respect their desire to hide away when strangers come calling. If they’re outgoing and confident, then prepare for them to take over the visit!

Litter box training

Most cats easily work out how to use the litter box, and by the time they’re just a few weeks old, they will happily use their litter box without any training.

Vet treatments

Make sure you take your cat to the vet at least once a year for any vaccine boosters and a general health check. Your vet will let you know if your cat needs to come in more often. Of course, if your cat has an accident, like eating something that they shouldn’t or injuring themselves, call your vet and explain the situation. Whenever you’re worried about your cat’s health for whatever reason, it’s always best to call your vet.

How Do I Know If My Cat Is Sick?

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Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

You’ll soon get to know your cat’s usual behavior and temperament. If anything seems out of the ordinary, book an appointment with your vet. Most cats will have at least one annual check-up for vaccine boosters and an overall wellness check. If your cat has an illness that needs more frequent monitoring, your vet will let you know how often to come in.

Here are five of the most common illnesses in cats:
  • Cats can get a few different types of cancer, which can either be generalized and spread throughout their bodies or localized and limited to one area. Make sure you get any lumps and bumps that you may feel on your cat checked out as soon as you notice them.
  • This is either caused by a cat’s body not producing enough insulin or failing to respond to the insulin that’s being produced. Untreated diabetes can lead to hyperglycemia or elevated blood sugar levels. If you notice that your cat is lethargic, is losing weight, has a change in appetite, or has breath that smells sweeter than usual, those are all possible symptoms of diabetes.
  • Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). This virus is slow-acting but will eventually weaken your cat’s immune system. Cats can have FIV yet not show any symptoms for many years. Symptoms to look for include a fever, weight loss, poor appetite, skin redness, and wounds that take longer than normal to heal. There’s no specific vaccination for FIV, but your vet can advise you on how to keep an infected cat comfortable and healthy for as long as possible.
  • Feline Leukemia Virus (FelV). This transmissible virus weakens the immune system and can cause a range of secondary illnesses. Some cats may show no signs, but symptoms including jaundice, respiratory infections, fever, and loss of appetite can sometimes be present. A vaccine is available, and it’s recommended to speak to your vet about whether to vaccinate your cat.

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Conclusion

Owning a cat is an awesome experience and has the potential to make your life better! Cats might have a reputation for being standoffish and independent, but most cat owners know that it couldn’t be further from the truth. Cats are affectionate, loving, and maybe a bit demanding if you forgot to feed them!

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Featured Image Credit: Katarzyna Kosianok, Pixabay