Before I adopted my first cat I had shared my life with dozens of other animals; dogs, birds, rabbits, hamsters, goldfish, and even a neut! Owning a cat is a very different experience. Cats have their own set of rules. If you are a new first time cat owner or are planning to adopt your first cat, I have some great wisdom to share with you.
Use your veterinarian as a resource.
Cats do weird things sometimes. If anything concerns you about the way your cat looks or its behavior, call your veterinarian and ask about it. There will be a lot of times they will be able to answer your question on the phone. Since cats tend to try and hide their illnesses, it is better to be safe than sorry. Trust me, if your veterinarian has been practicing for any amount of time, they’ve heard stupider questions than yours.
Let your new cat warm up to you and your home.
Unlike dogs, cats will not likely be excited to go home with you – at first. When you get them home and open the carrier, they might decide not to come out for a while or they may dart out and go straight under the bed. This doesn’t mean that the cat doesn’t like you.
Let them have their space for a little while if they want it. Eventually they will get curious and begin investigating your home, but it could take as long as a couple of weeks. Don’t try to pull them out into the open or force them to socialize. Just make sure they have an easy route to the food, water, and litter box.
Socializing with a new cat is like socializing with an introverted person.
If your new cat hangs out under your bed a lot, go sit in there and read a book or fold the laundry. Your new kitty is still figuring out if your are friend or foe. They need to learn your scent and the new scents in your home. Get them used to the sound of your voice -sing, hum, talk to yourself – whatever it takes.
If your new cat will let you interact with them, do it as much as they will allow. Pet them, pick them up, hold them, and play games with them. You want them to at least tolerate being touched and held by you. Playing games is very important because it teaches the cat that you are a positive person to interact with. Accept their affection when it is given to you even if the timing isn’t great for you. Note: Cats tend to prefer to socialize with 1 person or animal at a time.
Don’t punish your cat.
Cats may go potty outside of the litter box, chew on things, scratch walls and furniture, or knock things off of shelves. You may find it tempting to yell, throw things, or “spank” the cat when they do rotten things, but don’t. Punishing them will just make them afraid of you. All behaviors are communication; figure out what their behaviors are trying to communicate with you and go from there. Positive reinforcement of good behavior is definitely the most effective route. I can’t give you an exhaustive list of answers for bad behavior, but here are a few common ones:
- Litter box problems: needs to be cleaned, cat doesn’t like the litter or style/placement of box, not enough litter boxes (if you have multiple cats), spraying is usually a territorial issue that can be stopped/lessened by getting the cat spayed/neutered
- Aggression and sudden changes in behavior: physical illness, stress, personal boundaries being broken (children often don’t give cats the space they need), something changed in the home
- Scratching issues: lack of an appropriate place to scratch, nails need to be trimmed, marking territory (they have scent glands in their paws), attention seeking behavior
Questions of the Day:
- If you are a first time cat owner, do you have any questions you would like answered? Have you found out anything new about taking care of a cat?
- If you are an experience cat owner, what advice do you have for first time cat owners?
- If you own another type of pet, what is one interesting thing you could share with a first time owner of that type of pet?