General Question

camertron's avatar

What should I know before adopting a cat for the first time?

Asked by camertron (2095 points ) March 6th, 2011

I’m going to be adopting a cat from our local shelter in the near future and I’m wondering if there are any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with a first-time cat owner. While our family had cats growing up, it’s a bit different to get one on your own! Specifically, what items would you buy for your new cat (besides the obvious ones like food, a bed, and a litter box)? What other tips could you impart to a guy like me? Any recurring medical/hygienic concerns besides nail clipping/ear cleaning?

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33 Answers

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I know for cat food, do not buy anything that has corn or any corn related products.

anartist's avatar

1 a cat is a permanent commitment
2 have a good vet [maybe one that has cat wellness plan]
3 clear out a few nice easy-to-find hidey holes for her/him
closet kitties
[little blanket under the bed, basket in the closet]
4 cat may end up sleeping with you [cat bed could then be used for hidey holes]
5. don’t forget flea ointment on the neck once a month
6 ID tags [and rabies tag] and collar especially if cat goes out
8. Interactive toys at first [wand-with-feather sort of thing] then toys for cat to play with alone
9. grow some catnip
jilly’s catnip patch

KateTheGreat's avatar

One thing I learned about cats: ALWAYS watch where you walk. When you first bring a cat into your house, it won’t be accustomed to the litter box area. You’ll end up stepping in excrement if you don’t watch it.

Afos22's avatar

@KatetheGreat I thought you were going to warn of stepping on the cat, but I guess the feces is just as important.

KateTheGreat's avatar

@Afos22 Don’t step on the cat, by all means. But I just remember having cats and waking up one morning and proceeding to step AND slip into a giant mess cat feces. It was not a pretty day.

SamIAm's avatar

Aww! Good for you, cats are awesome. But keep in mind that they can get quite expensive. I recommend getting pet insurance if you can. I’ve had my babies for a long time and they’re getting older and things like dental issues (needing teeth extracted) etc… are very expensive. Also, try to not let your cat get overweight, it’s a pain to undo.

camertron's avatar

Thanks guys, these are great tips!

Afos22's avatar

Big tip for you: Cats have sharp nails. It will tear up your furniture if you do not get it a scratching post. So, I suggest getting a scratching post. But, don’t “de-claw” the poor thing. De-clawing is actually de-toeing the cat.

Ladymia69's avatar

PLEASE spay or neuter your cat. It is the humane thing to do, in order to avoid litters and litters of unwanted kittens, and it will keep your cat from performing territorial and hormonal behaviors (which will test you surely). Get a great vet. And do not ever discipline a cat by hitting it. The water bottle is the best, most humane, and most effective disciplinary tool for a feline.

gondwanalon's avatar

When you select a cat make sure that the cat looks healthy and is not too shy or gives indications of aggression. Pick the cat up and pet it and if it purrs then that is a good cat.

I have two cats and they love the “Turbo Scratcherâ„¢” that I paid about $20 for. I wish that I would have bought that before they destroyed parts of the carpet.

SamIAm's avatar

Oh, also! I hear that cats love the running water drinking fountains so you may want to look into that too

Pandora's avatar

Don’t get your cat use to playing rough with you. What is cute at first won’t be so cute when he’s grown and can bite really hard or scratch the crap out of you.
If you can get your cat chipped, than do so, collars can be easily lost. Cats are roamers and may try to escape. Most can find their way home no problem but sometimes they lose their way.

Kraigmo's avatar

@Pandora is right about avoiding rough horseplay. Cats at a young age learn to grip and bite, and the easiest way to avoid an attitude problem later is to not tolerate the gripping and biting when they are younger, and just being playful. Show dominance by grabbing the scruff and hissing in displeasure.

Some of my advice applies to younger kitties, so if you get an older one, then great, but just bend the advice a bit to work for a more experienced cat.

Change the litter every other day, or the cat will have behavior ticks.

Use expensive quality food such as Natural Balance. Do not use regular cat foods that are full of meat byproducts and corn products. Byproducts, bone meal, and corn meal are symptoms of a cheap, unhealthy cat food. Many expensive foods are not all that great either. (Science Diet is sold by vets, but it’s crappy. Don’t trust vets for nutrition advice). Don’t “switch up” your cats food for variety. Variety is unhealthy. Choose one quality dry food and one quality wet food, and feed the wet food once a week or so. A high quality food will prevent your cat from getting allergies, itches, bald spots, bumps, marks, etc. It will save you much pain and money in the long run. Nutrition is the key factor of a healthy cat.

Never feed your kitty in the morning. Always make sure he or she has food and clean water before you go to bed. This way, you kitty will never get in the habit of meowing at 5am for food or water. When your kitty goes thru a phase of early morning meowing, wear ear plugs and ignore her (but make sure she has water always). You don’t want your kitty to associate obnoxious meowing with getting whatever she wants, whenever.

Most meowing is not obnoxious. It’s usually communication, and always try to see what’s trying to be communicated. It could be dirty litter, dirty water, or a cluttered environment.

Never take the cat for granted. The cat is a gift of creation and deserves clean water and litter every day, and petting and talking, no matter how tired a human can get.

Afos22's avatar

@ladymia69 What do you do with the water bottle; throw it? Also, ’humane’ doesn’t really seem to be the right adjective to describe cutting a cat’s testicles off.

augustlan's avatar

If at all possible, adopt two cats. Trust me on this. Two cats are just as easy as one, and they entertain each other and tend to get into less mischief than one on its own.

camertron's avatar

@Afos22 I think what @ladymia69 was referring to when s/he said “water bottle” was a spray bottle that you can squirt your cat with when it does something inappropriate.

Also, since the early 1900s, neutering has not been nearly as medieval as “cutting a cat’s testicles off”. Vets for nigh on a century have used a bloodless castration technique that severs the spermatic cord, leaving the testicles intact but completely inhibiting procreation. When done under local anaesthetic, its painless and safe, with none of the shock usually associated with surgical procedures. If that’s not humane, I don’t know what is!

camertron's avatar

@augustlan good advice surely, but I live in an apartment that’s barely big enough for one cat!

coffeenut's avatar

Learn to become a good slave owner….Learn to recognize what orders signals your cat is sending to you….

Jude's avatar

Make sure that you cat is healthy before leaving the shelter. I adopted a 5 month old kitten a month ago, and soon found out that he had an upper respiratory virus. 300 dollars later…

Afos22's avatar

@camertron “If that’s not humane, I don’t know what is!” How about, not severing your cat’s spermatic cord? o_o

anartist's avatar

@ladymia69 @camertron I had a squirt gun for when Jacky jumped on the table when food was on it [he was welcome other times] and it worked for a while until he grew to love the ritualized squirt-gun game more than the food on the table. It had six or seven ritual moves before he left the room, and we both came to enjoy it very much [and I miss, now that he is gone].

Also:
Teeth scaled once every 2 or 3 years [every year is optimal]—part of a ‘wellness plan’ or “pet insurance”—Banfield, affiliated with PetSmart, has wellness plans.

Get nail clipping instructions from your vet, then buy the clippers you are most comfortable with and work on doing it yourself.

I live in a very small condo and was happiest with 2 cats and they [being littermates] were very happy too. They did everything together [except when he roamed—and sometimes brought back live prey for her], slept together, groomed each other, and kept each other active and not lonely. Of course, I have a small fenced yard and don’t have to deal with litterboxes. That makes it easier.

She is alone now, much less active, and sticks a lot closer to me. Of course she is 11 now.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Get some Feliway. It comes in a spray or a diffuser, and it mimics cat pheremones so that they think they’ve already sprayed everywhere and won’t repeat, and will also feel more at home and at ease.
You don’t necessarily need ear drops – mine just have a little wax every few days right where I can flick it off.
Get lots of scratching posts, but make sure they have the sisal rope, not the carpet. Carpet is in no way useful to cats for sharpening their claws, and no one knows why the carpet posts exist.
Get some Bitters spray for any cords they may want to chew on, and citrus smelling things for areas you want them to stay away form.

Wait on buying really expensive beds, toys, medications, running water thingys, etc. Some cats won’t like them or need them, but you can’t exactly return them, so wait until you get a feel for if your cat will actually use these things.

camertron's avatar

@Afos22 well, not severing the spermatic cord would essentially mean doing nothing, which is the exact opposite of humane when it comes to cats. Cats, like all living beings, procreate instinctually and as part of their natural life cycle. Not spaying or neutering your cat will undoubtedly lead to unwanted kittens, who will subsequently learn the harsh realities of life by being eaten, run over, starving to death, or dying of disease. The ones who survive will mate and have kittens of their own, who will have kittens of their own until the cat population explodes out of control.

The United States is very good about keeping the cat population under control with no-kill organizations like the Humane Society and other governmental agencies. They focus on giving cats (and dogs) good homes where they will be loved.

This is not the same in other countries. The Peruvian city of Cusco, for example, has an unmitigated infestation of cats and dogs. I stayed with a host family in Cusco for 4 weeks and saw TONS of unwanted cats and dogs. Nobody cared about them, nobody fed them, and, worst of all, nobody even seemed to notice them. Humane Society? Yeah right. Loving homes? You must be kidding. The Cusqueñans referred to the cats collectively as “los techeros” – the roof-walkers, and the dogs as “los callejeros” – the street-walkers. It was very sad. No one in Peru would even consider having their cat neutered or spayed because an operation like that would cost serious money that they don’t have. Also, I don’t even know if vets exist in Peru… It’s sad. Very sad.

So I’ve seen it both ways – with spaying/neutering and without. Trust me. It’s way better for everyone involved (especially the cats) if they don’t reproduce.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Afos22's avatar

@camertron Yes, or he could keep the cat indoors. It would not only benefit the cat’s genitals, it would add many years to the cats life.

augustlan's avatar

@Afos22 All the cats I’ve ever owned were strictly indoor cats. All the cats I’ve ever owned have gotten out of the house at least once. That’s all it takes, too, to have an unwelcome litter of kittens. “Fixing” a cat is the right thing to do.

Afos22's avatar

Eh, right/wrong who can say?

augustlan's avatar

I’d venture a guess that any expert in domestic animals (at least in America) would agree with us on this one.

Afos22's avatar

Perhaps many would agree with you; maybe even a majority. But, others could also agree on something that they thought was right, yet many saw it as morally wrong.

chyna's avatar

@afos22 I have to agree with those that say to fix the cat. Not getting your cat spayed or neutered is why there are so many beautiful animals at the animal shelters waiting on a home or to be put down. @camertron doesn’t want to add to the animal overpopulation problem the United States has right now. As a responsible pet owner, it’s the right thing to do. Also, in male dogs, it is best to get them neutered to rid them of agressive behavior and to lessen the chances of them getting testicular cancer. I don’t know if this is true in cats.

Afos22's avatar

@augustlan @chyna I understand. I do see how it may be a responsible or logical thing to do. But, you both use “right”, and I disagree with that adjective in this instance.

anartist's avatar

When I was much younger I adopted a cat who “came in from the cold” 9 months old and having delivered a litter of kittens that were nowhere in evidence. Being young I felt all for sexual freedom and nature and allowed her to have kittens. She had six litters before I had her spayed, all of whom I placed except one I kept.

And I stalled about having him neutered. I finally decided it was the right thing to do when he was about 3. Then we moved and shared a house with someone who was breeding Himalayan cats. He tried to mount one who had gone into heat and then ran away in shame, trying to find a way back to his old home which wasn’t his any more.

I recaptured him and brought him back to the new place 3 times. He was feral outside, but his own self when I took him home. Finally, I had to ask a friend to take care of him until I could move again. The friend then took in a dog who chased my cat away. I spent many years aching about a cat who was born in love and security in my closet living in the woods as a scavenger.

moral 1 I am sorry I let him taste something that he couldn’t face having taken away
[neuter early].
moral 2 Place is so important to cats that any move within the same area ought to be considered twice for the cat’s sake

chyna's avatar

Do you have the cat yet? If so, how is it going?

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