12 Jul Information for New Cat Owners
Owning a cat can seem daunting if you aren’t accustomed to caring for a feline friend. But fear not! Cats are probably the easiest pets to own- far easier than fish! A cat will remind you when he/she needs feeding, and for the most part, they are very clean animals (litter tray use is instinctive in most kittens).
Cat or kitten?
There are many things to consider when deciding whether to get an adult cat or a kitten. A kitten will generally adjust to a new environment better than an adult cat, and existing pets are likely to be more accommodating of a younger animal. Many people also enjoy the experience of shaping and discovering their kitten’s personality as he/she grows.
Adult cats usually already have a set personality. This can be helpful when selecting a cat that suits your lifestyle. Most adult cats are just as playful and loving as kittens.
Where to get a cat?
There are many cat rescues looking to rehome kittens and adult cats. Most of these animals come health checked and desexed at discount prices. Often a shelter will be able to recommend a particular cat based on your lifestyle, as the volunteers and workers get to know each feline personality in their care. Mixed breed cats also tend to suffer from fewer health issues over their lifetime than pedigree cats.
If you are after a particular breed look for a registered breeder. Avoid buying purebred kittens off gumtree or from pet shops as these animals often come from dodgy backyard breeders. Breeders in NSW are listed on the NSW Cat Fanciers Association website. Always ask to visit the breeder to see where your kitten was raised. Ideally, kittens should be raised in a clean home environment. You should also ask the breeder about the health of the parents and grandparents of the kitten, as well as for information on any particular genetic issues their cats may suffer from.
Home set-up for the arrival
Cats do not like change, and your new friend will likely be very nervous on arriving at your house. Set aside one room for the cat as a ‘safe place’ for the first few days. This should be a smaller room such as a bathroom or laundry. Ensure small spaces where the cat could become trapped or hide are sealed off. Cats are very flexible and can fit through very tiny gaps- plug even small gaps with rolls of newspaper.
Provide a cardboard box with a towel as a place to hide for your cat. In one corner of the room should be the litter tray, in another food and water. Cats do not like to eat and drink near their litter tray. Speak quietly to your cat for the first few hours and don’t allow access to the rest of the house. After the first day, you can leave the door to the ‘safe place’ open to allow them to explore at their own pace. Playing with your cat with toys will help them gain confidence in this early stage.
Once your cat is exploring the house you can modify the litter tray and food setup. Ideally, multiple litter trays should be provided per cat around the house- the rule is one tray for each cat plus one extra. Food and water should be kept away from litter trays. Some cats also do not like drinking from water close to their food, food and water should be separated by at least a metre where possible.
Provide your cat with a scratching post. Cats like to scratch things that resemble the bark of trees. Carpet and lounges can easily become scratching posts- if your cat likes to scratch these then cover the post with the same material. Spraying the post with hormonal sprays such as Feliway may also encourage use.
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that a healthy diet for a cat must contain meat. Commercial cat foods found at your local vet clinic or supermarket are suitable to feed. Look for the words ‘complete and balanced’ on the packet to ensure all your cat’s nutritional requirements are met by the food.
Avoid raw and home diets. These diets may sound appealing and ‘natural’, but it is very difficult to get the balance of nutrients and minerals right. If you do want to make a home diet for your cat then consult your veterinarian on what supplements you may need to add to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Feeding raw meats carry the added risk of bacterial and parasite contamination.
Indoor or outdoor?
Indoor cats live longer and healthier lives than outdoor access cats. Outdoor cats may be injured by vehicles, people, and other animals. Outdoor cats are also at risk of contracting diseases such as FIV (similar to human AIDS), FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus), cat flu and feline parvovirus.
All cat owners should consider pet insurance. Pet insurance coverage depends upon individual circumstance, however, all pets should have basic accident and illness coverage. Pet insurance will help you afford the best possible medical care for your cat if ever required.
Microchip and registration
All cats sold or given away should have a microchip implanted. When you adopt your cat you should fill out paperwork to ensure the details on the microchip are transferred to you. If your cat was a stray go to your vet to have a microchip implanted.
All cats must have permanent registration before 6 months of age. This can be arranged through your local council. Registration fees are lower if your cat is desexed before registration.
All adult cats should receive an annual vaccination. As kittens, cats will receive vaccinations at 6-8 weeks, 10-12 weeks and 14-16 weeks of age. Indoor cats are vaccinated against feline parvovirus, feline herpesvirus, and feline calicivirus. Outdoor cats are vaccinated against the above three diseases as well as FIV and FeLV.
Flea control is performed monthly on both indoor and outdoor cats. There are a variety of different topical and oral tablets that can be used. Never use dog flea products on cats as these can be toxic.
Adult cats should be wormed with an all wormer every 3 months. Kittens should be wormed with an all wormer every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age, then monthly till 6 months of age.
All cats should be regularly groomed. You can do this at home with a soft bristled brush. Short haired cats should be brushed once a week, long-haired cats need to be brushed daily. Cats do not need to be routinely bathed. You can trim the nails of your cat using special claw clippers from pet shops. Avoid cutting too close to the pink bit of the claw, as this will bleed if nicked. Do not trim the claws of outdoor access cats- they need their claws to climb and defend themselves.
For all your cat health enquiries, feel free to contact us.