Here are 20 tips for a new kitten or cat owner which I have presented in a compact style. I believe people want information delivered succinctly as the world is fast moving and most people access information on their phones these days. Long pages on phones are hard to read.
- Cats are cats. Respect them as a cat and not as a little person. It’ll help the human-to-cat relationship and improve cat welfare. Critically it will help manage expectations. Expectation management on feline behaviour and costs is very important when adopting a new cat as it adds realism and prevents abandonments;
- Learn a bit about feline body language as it will help to understand your cat which in turn leads to a better relationship;
- Follow on from the breeder (if the kitten is a purebred), and in any case, ensure that the new kitten has consistent contact with people if you’ve found yourself with a very young kitten. This is socialisation which is the single most important aspect of kitten care as it affects the cat for their lifetime;
- Decide before adopting if you are going to let your cat be an indoor/outdoor cat or a full-time indoor cat. This means assessing risks and making decisions about catios and cat enclosures for full-time indoor cats. Also a decision in favour of full-time indoors begs the question as to whether you should adopt a couple of kittens so they can entertain themselves. BUT – the inevitable but – they have to get on as adults. They may not because when they become adult they become independent-minded. I am not sure how you can ensure that cats will get on! Sorry about that;
- Ensure that the cat carrier is open and in a warm place to allow him/her to become used to it which will make trips to the vet easier;
- Be a good observer of your cat. Watch out for signs in body language combined with vocalisations. Also changes in behaviour e.g. lethargy. Also check poop if they use a litter box; a diagnostic tool. And check physical condition, appearance and weight for changes. It is all about the maintenance of a healthy and happy cat;
- Set aside ten minutes per day for play, bonding and a one-on-one special moment. This should come naturally and there will be more than one occasion per day because you’ll both love it;
- Cats like routines as they reassure them and they help cats to understand human behaviour and lifestyle. Try and stick to routines;
- Provide warm spots. Inline with their wild cat heritage, domestic cats love warmth. They will seek it out but make sure it is there;
- Cats are attuned to fast moving objects as it is their hunting instinct. Use moving objects to capture their attention;
- Use reward-based training (positive reinforcement) even if it is informal. A lot of cat training is informal. Cats do a lot of informal training of humans as well;
- Training clickers can be useful if you are in to training your cat. Clickers help the cat to make the connection between the trained behaviour and reward;
- Know that your cat understands cause and immediate effect (positive reinforcement) and not cause and delayed effect (after the fact discipline). Punishment is out. Never punish;
- Know that domestic cats become attuned to the sound of your voice in order to understand your vocalisations more than the words you use. Human sounds directed at a cat should be calm, soft and melodious and not harsh or yelling no matter how stressed you might be;
- Dr Fogle recommends that cat owners should offer bones to their cats because they help to massage gums and clean teeth;
- Allow your cat to scratch as it is a vital form of feline behaviour for several reasons. Provide a big, solid scratching post and some smaller scratching boards around the home. DON’T even think about declawing your cat as it is cruel, cruel, cruel;
- Feline behaviour problems increase in multi-cat homes. Multi-cat homes can be advantageous to the cats and person but they can cause antagonism and bullying between cats. Provide hiding places for timid cats. Try your best to select incoming cats that get on with resident cats. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how you’re going to do that;
- For older cats arthritis is often an issue. Be observant on mobility including jumping;
- Watch your cat’s weight. There is a feline obesity epidemic, the vets say. It is much easier to monitor weight and make small adjustments to diet and exercise than to get weight off an obese cat. Boredom encourages therapy eating in cats;
- Never give cats dog food or human medicines. Never conduct home treatments for your cat unless you are absolutely sure of what you are doing and/or have consulted with your vet first. Pain killers can be lethal. Spot on flea treatments for dogs can kill cats. It is easy to kill your own cat through carelessness.
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