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Whether your newly acquired cat is old or young or has previously had a home or not, if you’ve never owned a cat before, taking home your new furry friend could be both exciting and potentially intimidating. To do it well, being a cat owner will mean giving your cat a lot of love, care, and attention. With our knowledge and experience as animal caregivers and also as cat owners, the staff at East Valley Animal Hospital (serving Gilbert, Chandler, and Mesa) would love to share our cat care 101 tips for new cat owners.
The first step to feeding your new four-legged friend is to choose a well-balanced cat food with all of the essential nutrients your cat will need to grow and stay healthy over its lifespan. To ensure that a cat food is balanced, look for a statement on the packaging by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
By nature cats are crepuscular, which means that they are most active at dawn and dusk. These are also the times during each daily cycle when they prefer to eat. We recommend feeding them the appropriately-sized portion for their age and weight twice a day. Since they aren’t the best judges when it comes to hunger, leaving food in your cat’s bowl throughout the day isn’t a good idea. Lastly, it’s okay to feed your cat treats, but treats should not exceed 5-10% of their daily food intake. It’s always a good idea to speak with your local vet when deciding how much to feed your cat and what specific food to buy for each stage of their life.
The number of cats you have will determine the number of litter boxes you will need. A general rule of thumb is at least one litter box per cat. If you have a multi-level house, you will want boxes on each floor of the house. Cats are private creatures, so select a discreet and quiet location where they can do their business. Additionally, cats have extremely strong olfactory senses and will refuse to use a box that smells bad. This means, if you don’t want your cat relieving itself in a fresher-smelling corner of your home, you’ll need to regularly scoop out its box.
Cats are experts at grooming themselves and will rarely require a bath. In fact, most cats have an extreme dislike for being in water. One thing you can do to help your feline’s cleanliness is to brush them. Regularly brushing your cat not only helps keep their coat clean, but it will also cut down on the number of hairball incidents they experience.
Cats are typically solitary creatures, preferring to have their own space and the freedom to interact with their humans whenever they choose. Select a cool, dry place for your cat’s bed and line it with a soft towel or blanket. If you’re debating whether to make your cat an indoor or outdoor cat, we highly recommend you keep them indoors. Exposure to the elements, potentially traumatic experiences and vulnerability to ticks and fleas make the outdoors a less desirable environment for your cat. And with temperatures soaring in Phoenix over the summer, your cat is much safer indoors.
Having proper identification on your pet is essential for both an outdoor cat and an indoor cat, since indoor kitties are famous for trying to escape from their safe abodes. Your cat’s ID tag should include your name, address, and phone number. When picking a collar, we recommend a breakaway model that easily unhooks, to prevent your cat from being strangled if it gets stuck on a piece of furniture or on a tree branch. You may also want to consider microchipping your pet, which would make finding it an easy process if it happens to run away.
Scratching is a normal and even essential part of being a cat. While it’s understandable that you might try to train your cat not to scratch anything in your house (because no one loves destroyed furniture), the better option is to provide them with a scratching post. Scratching allows for the outer, dead part of a cat’s nail to be removed and exposes the new growth underneath, so it’s a healthy activity for every feline. If your ball of fluff is still preferring to scratch the curtains and furniture after you give them the post as an option, try placing a few drops of Feliscratch on the post. Contact us at East Valley Animal Hospital to find out more about this product.
Cats are an ideal option for the pet owner who wants a low-maintenance, fluffy companion. But remember, they are particular about their environment and will require specific care. As your local veterinarian clinic in Gilbert, our team would be happy to answer any of your additional cat care 101 questions!