Four Things Every First-Time Cat Owner Should Know
Many first-time pet owners decide to adopt a cat because they believe that they are much easier to handle than dogs - and in some ways, that is correct. Cats do tend to be easier pets in many circumstances. But cats are not “hands-off” pets. Cats need love, exercise, and plenty of special attention - and not all cat breeds are the same. Here are some things every first-time cat owner should know.
Not all cats are the same
We all like to focus a lot on dog breeds, and we seem to inherently know the many differences between them when it comes to disposition, behavior, energy level, etc. There’s a tendency (especially among those unfamiliar with cats) to think of all cats as the same thing. A cat is a cat, right? Not exactly.
Some cats are more vocal, while others barely make a peep. Some are very playful, while others tend to be more docile. Some are better around other animals, while others prefer not to be bothered. Some cats are better with children. The point is, cats differ just like dogs. Check out this handy tool that shows you which cat breeds fall into the criteria you want in a pet.
Your new cat needs exercise
Another common misconception about cats is that they are “set it and forget it” pets - so independent that they basically fulfill their own needs. You know how important it is to walk a dog everyday, but what about cats? Do they need exercise?
Absolutely. While it’s less common to see someone walking a cat, putting a leash on your new feline friend and letting them walk around the neighborhood with you is a good form of exercise. If you have a fenced-in backyard, let your cat run around outside (supervise if you please). Indoors, play with your cat. Cats love to chase things, so string-based toys and laser pointers are handy tools to have around. Cats can even learn to play fetch. Check here for more cat exercise ideas.
You can’t just leave your cat alone for long periods of time
If you must be away from your new cat for an extended period of time (a few days or more), leaving a large bowl of food and water is not an adequate plan. Cats not only need food and water, but they need attention. Having a friend or a cat sitter check up on your pet will ensure that they get the attention they deserve. They are also a safeguard against the unexpected, like your cat needing medical attention.
Your cat may be slow to bond with you
Many cats have a particular way of bonding to their new owners, and if your cat does not immediately begin to show you affection don’t panic. This is especially true for rescue cats that may be fearful. Your cat may not act “normal” around you until they’ve fully surveyed their new living situation and determined that they are safe and comfortable. If your cat seems like they need some time to explore and get the lay of the land, let them. While in this transitional phase, don’t inundate your cat with too many loud sounds and erratic behaviors. Try to give them a safe space free of children and other pets for a while. Let them come to you. They will, eventually.
There’s no getting around it: cats can be weird creatures. But their peculiarities are what make them great, and when you get a cat for the first time you are accepting that they are special animals with special needs and desires. In the end, it’s important to understand that cats are not dogs, but they do share some common needs - exercise, attention, companionship, and love.