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The Ultimate Guide for New Cat Owners in 2024



Cats are wonderful creatures.  Owning one can be a rewarding experience for many reasons. For one thing, they have their own unique personalities and are quite affectionate with their owners. They are also excellent companions, providing love, comfort, and entertainment.


If you’re a first-time pet owner, showing your cat love entails more than just toys and food; it's a big, life-long commitment. Cats are social animals that need daily interaction and attention. So it's important to be prepared to devote time and energy to meeting their needs.


To help you learn more about your feline friend, we've put together a comprehensive guide for first-time cat owners. From selecting the right diet to understanding cat behavior, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to care for cats.


1. Getting Your Home Ready


Cat-Proofing Your Home

Cats are naturally curious animals and will often explore their environment, which can sometimes lead to dangerous situations. By cat-proofing your home, you can keep them happy and unharmed. Here are some steps you can take to create a safe haven for your pet and prevent accidents and injuries.


  • Install a mesh on windows and balconies. Did you know that SPCA Singapore sees about 5 cases of cats falling from height every week? That's about 250 animals a year and half of them die on the spot. 

  • Secure cords and cables - some cats love to chew on cords and cables, which can be a choking hazard. Secure cords and cables out of reach or seal them with cord covers to protect your pet. On that note, don’t leave out any actual string, yarn, rubber bands, dental floss, or hair ties. You don’t want your cat playing with any of those as they can strangle themselves easily.


  • Remove toxic plants in your home – you may not know it, but common houseplants can be toxic to cats. Aloe Vera, Lilies, Poinsettias, Amaryllis, Asparagus Ferns, Jade, Snake Plant, Sweetheart Ivy, Ceriman, Cyclamen, Dracaena, and Sago Palms can all cause serious problems for your pet. Exposure or ingestion can lead to skin irritations, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. It’s best to keep these plants out of reach or consider replacing them with safe alternatives.  


  • Put away household chemicals and other hazardous materials - cats are curious and may try to ingest or play with household chemicals and other hazardous materials. To avoid emergency vet visits, sharp objects such as scissors and knives, as well as chemicals such as laundry detergents, drain cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners, should be stored in a secure location where your pet cannot access them. The same is true for antidepressants, aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen.


  • Anchor unsteady or top-heavy furniture to the wall - this is one of the most important tips for new cat owners. Consider securing flat-screen TVs, wobbly bookshelves, or anything else that could topple a cat who has attempted to scale it. A baby-proofing anti-tip kit can be beneficial.


  • Keep every receptacle covered – that includes keeping trash cans lidded, washer/dryer doors closed, and toilet seats down — basically anything a cat can jump or fall into. Plastic trash bags, for that matter, are just as dangerous. Some cats enjoy playing with them as much as cardboard boxes so don't leave them lying around after you've put away the groceries.


  • Protect your furniture – cover and reinforce the surfaces of your sofa and other furniture to prevent them from becoming scratching posts. Then, place an actual scratching post nearby so your cat can indulge their instincts in a suitable location and not your favorite couch.


  • Meshing your windows and balconies - can help to prevent these kinds of accidents and keep your pet safe. Mesh screens can be installed on windows and balconies to create a barrier that will prevent your cat from falling or climbing out. This can help them be contained within your home and prevent them from getting into any potentially dangerous situations.


2. Buying Essential Supplies and Equipment

As a first-time pet owner, you should also stock up on basic essentials before bringing your cat home. The following is a list of what your feline will need:


  • Litter box and litter - a litter box allows your cat to eliminate whenever they need to. They don’t have to wait for you anymore to let them outside or take them to a designated area. This can be especially useful if you have a busy schedule or live in a flat or other location where it may be difficult to take your cat outside. It also helps keep your home clean and hygienic by containing your pet’s waste in one place.

  • Bowl – when choosing a bowl for your feline’s food, look for one that’s made from durable materials, such as stainless steel, ceramic, or heavy-duty plastic. These materials are easier to clean and more resistant to wear and tear. Make sure the bowl is large enough for your cat to comfortably eat from. A bowl that’s too small may make it difficult for your cat to access their food and water, while a bowl that’s too large may cause spills and waste.

  • Cat water fountain – many benefits come along with using a cat water fountain. Cats are instinctively attracted to moving water sources because in the wild, moving water is usually fresher and cleaner than stagnant water. So they are more likely to drink flowing water. The fountain bowl may also provide a more oxygenated water source, which can make the water taste better for the cat. Additionally, the fountain may help to keep the water cooler, which can be more appealing to a cat on a hot day.  

  • Bed - cats love to sleep, and a bed provides them with a cozy and comfortable place to rest.  It can also be a safe and secure place to retreat to when they are feeling anxious or stressed. 

  • Shampoo - cats generally do not need to be bathed as frequently as dogs, as they are quite good at grooming themselves. However, there are some situations in which it may be necessary to take care of your new pet and give it a bath.

  • Deshedding brush - cats naturally shed their fur as part of their grooming process, and this shedding can increase during certain times of the year. A deshedding brush helps to reduce the amount of fur that ends up on furniture, clothing, and other household surfaces. It can also help to reduce the risk of hairballs, which can be uncomfortable for your pet and may require veterinary attention.

  • Toys – your cat needs mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Providing toys will keep them entertained and from getting into trouble. It's a good idea to have a variety of toys available for them to play with. This can include things like balls, laser pointers, and scratching pads.

  • Scratching post – as a new pet owner, you should understand that your feline friend has a natural instinct to scratch, so it's important to provide them with a scratching post. This will help keep their claws healthy and prevent them from scratching your furniture. Scratching posts can be made of cardboard, sisal, or wood. And some even have additional features such as perches or toys.

  • Cat collar – a cat collar and a dog collar are similar in that they are both used to attach identification tags and leashes to a pet. But there are some key differences between cat collars and dog collars. 

  • Cat carrier - Cats are known to be fight-or-flight animals. When they're stressed out or faced with a perceived threat, cats may choose to either stand their ground and fight or run away.  To ensure that your pet feels safe and secure, it's essential to provide them with a comfortable and secure environment. One way to achieve this is by using a carrier, which can come in handy when you're taking your cat to the vet, moving to a new home, or traveling.


3. Acclimatising

Acclimating a cat to a new environment can be a process that takes some time and patience. Here are some tips for taking care of your cat and helping them adjust to a new home:


  • Set up a quiet, comfortable space for your cat to call their own; this can be a small room or a crate, and it should be equipped with all of the necessary supplies, such as food, water, a litter box, and a bed or blanket.

  • Gradually introduce your cat to the rest of the house. Once they seem comfortable in their designated space, allow them to explore the rest of the house gradually, one room at a time.

  • Make sure to provide plenty of food, water, and litter boxes throughout the house to make it easy for your cat to access these necessities.

  • Provide plenty of attention and affection to help your cat feel comfortable and secure in their new surroundings. This can include grooming, playing, and cuddling.

  • You can also use calming sprays like Feliway to help them de-stress and adjust to their new surroundings. It’s generally safe and well-tolerated by cats.


When caring for your new pet, it’s important to be patient as they adjust to their new environment. It may take some time for your cat to feel comfortable and at home, so be prepared to give them the space and time they need to adjust.


4. Keeping Your Cat Healthy


Feeding Your Cat

Your cat is a carnivore and must be fed a high-quality diet that includes the right balance of these major nutrients: protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and water. Their food can be wet, dry, or a mixture of both.


Wet Food vs. Dry Food

Wet foods are cat food that’s typically sold in a can or a pouch. Wet foods are made from a variety of ingredients, such as meat, fish, vegetables, and grains. They’re typically moist and soft.


Wet foods can be a good option for cats, as they contain high moisture content. This can be beneficial for cats that are prone to urinary tract problems or those that do not drink enough water. These foods can also be a good source of protein and other nutrients, and they can be more palatable for some cats than dry foods.


However, wet foods can be more expensive than dry foods, and they can spoil more quickly once opened. Wet foods can also be messier to feed, and they may not be as convenient as dry foods for some cat owners.


Dry foods, on the other hand, are kibbles or types of cat food that are typically sold in a bag or bag. Dry foods are made from a variety of ingredients, such as meat, fish, vegetables, and grains, and are typically crunchy and hard.


These foods can be convenient and cost-effective options for cat owners, as they are easy to store and have a long shelf life. Dry foods can also help to clean your cat's teeth and support good dental health.


However, dry foods can be lower in moisture content compared to wet foods, and they may not be as appealing to some cats. It's important to make sure your cat is getting enough water, especially if they are on a primarily dry food diet. Dry foods may also be less nutrient-dense than wet foods, and they may contain more fillers and additives.


When caring for a new pet, it's a good idea to provide them with a variety of wet and dry foods for a balanced diet that can meet their nutritional needs. Blended or mixed feeding routines can offer the best of both worlds. You may feed your cat dry food in the morning, and wet in the evening. Apart from this, you may mix your cat’s dry food with wet cat food. Keep in mind that it is still important to maintain proper portion control so your cat can gain the proper amount of nutrients to maintain a healthy weight.


How Often Should You Feed Your Cat?

In general, young kittens must eat frequently. They require more fat and calories to grow. Kittens may need three meals per day and should be fed high-quality kitten food rich in amino acids, vitamins, and nutrients until they reach the age of one year. 


After 1 year old, they can switch to an adult diet and can be fed once or twice a day. Make sure your adult cat isn't only eating protein or homecooked food. If you intend to feed home-cooked food to your adult cat, be sure to include a multivitamin supplement too.


Visiting the Vet

Cats are generally good at hiding their pain and illness, and they may not show obvious signs of being sick until they are in the advanced stages of illness. This is why it's important to take your cat to the vet for regular check-ups, even if they seem healthy.


During a regular vet visit, your vet will examine your pet, check their vital signs, and perform any necessary diagnostic tests. This can help to identify any potential health problems early on and allow for timely treatment. 


Your vet can even recommend vitamins and supplements to boost your feline’s health. If your cat is experiencing joint pains, your vet can prescribe them an Antinol joint supplement. Antinol is made from a patented form of omega-3 fatty acids called PCSO-524. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce joint pain and inflammation in cats.


Regular vet visits can also help to ensure that your cat is up to date on their vaccinations and preventative care, such as flea and parasite control.


Getting Vaccinations

Taking care of your pet and keeping them up to date on their vaccinations is an important part of responsible cat ownership. To help protect cats from preventable diseases, several core vaccines are recommended. These vaccines may differ depending on the cat's age, lifestyle, and risk of disease exposure.


Here are some of the most commonly recommended vaccines for cats. Each vaccine should be administered 2 to 4 weeks apart, with the final vaccine administered at or after the age of 16 weeks. Vaccination can be done yearly after the final core vaccine.

  • Feline panleukopenia virus (FPV) vaccine - this vaccine helps protect against a highly contagious and potentially fatal viral disease that affects cats.

  • Feline calicivirus (FCV) vaccine - this vaccine helps protect against calicivirus. This disease can cause a range of respiratory and oral problems, such as sneezing, coughing, and ulceration of the mouth. The disease can be serious, and in some cases, it can be fatal.

  • Feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1) vaccine - this vaccine helps protect against a respiratory disease caused by the herpesvirus. It’s a common virus that can cause respiratory infections, eye infections, and other health problems in cats.

  • Feline rabies vaccine - Feline rabies vaccine - this vaccine helps protect against rabies, a viral and potentially fatal disease that’s transmitted through bites from infected animals. However, Singapore is considered a rabies-free country, so this vaccine is optional.

  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccine - Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccine - this vaccine protects against feline leukemia, a viral disease that can cause cancer and other serious health issues. This is recommended for cats who go outside or have contact with other infected cats. However, there are some controversies about this vaccine, so it's best to consult with your veterinarian before vaccinating your cat.


Vaccines are an important part of maintaining your cat's overall health and can help prevent serious and potentially fatal diseases. It’s important to consult with your vet to determine the best vaccination schedule for your cat based on their individual needs.


Deworming


Cats can be infected with several types of worms, such as roundworms, tapeworms, and hookworms. They can become infected with parasitic worms through a variety of means, including ingestion of infected prey, ingestion of contaminated food or water, and contact with infected soil or feces. These worms can cause a variety of health problems like vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and a lack of appetite. 


In addition, some worms can be transmitted to humans, so it’s important to deworm your cat to protect both its health and the health of your family. It’s typically recommended to deworm your pet once or twice a year as a preventive measure.


Aside from worms, your cat is also vulnerable to other parasites such as fleas, fur mites, and ear mites. For fast-acting parasite control and protection, you can use a once-a-month topical treatment like Frontline or Revolution.


Spaying/Neutering Your Cat


Spaying or neutering your cat, also known as sterilization, is a surgical procedure that involves removing their reproductive organs. There are several reasons why spaying or neutering your cat can be beneficial.


  • Improved health - spaying or neutering can help to prevent certain health problems that can be life-threatening for cats. These include uterine infections, breast tumors, and testicular cancer.

  • Behavior modification - sterilization can help to make your cat more manageable and easier to care for. Cats that are not spayed or neutered may exhibit behaviors such as roaming, fighting, spraying, and marking territory. These can be inconvenient or annoying for owners. And spaying or neutering can help to reduce or eliminate these behaviors.

  • Cost-saving - spaying or neutering your cat can save you money in the long run, as it can prevent expensive medical treatments for certain health problems and behaviors.

  • Population control - sterilization helps prevent unwanted litters.  This reduces the number of unwanted cats and prevents overpopulation.


Most cats can be safely spayed or neutered at around 6 months of age, but some veterinarians may recommend waiting until a cat is older.


5. Keeping Your Cat Clean


Litter Box Cleaning

Cleaning your pet's litter box regularly is important for maintaining their health and hygiene. Cats are picky animals, and they rely on a clean litter box to do their business. If the litter box is not clean, your pet may avoid using it, which can lead to inappropriate elimination and other behavioral problems.


Cleaning the litter box regularly helps to prevent the build-up of waste, which can produce unpleasant odors and attract flies and other pests. It also helps to prevent the spread of bacteria and parasites, which can be harmful to your cat and to other pets and humans in the household.


To keep your cat's litter box clean and healthy, it's important to scoop the waste out of the box daily and to completely clean and refill the box with fresh litter at least once a week. When cleaning the litter box, be sure to use a litter scoop and a disinfectant specifically designed for use in litter boxes. Avoid using harsh chemicals, as they can be toxic to your cat.


Grooming Your Cat

Cats are naturally clean animals, and they typically groom themselves by licking their fur and paws. However, there may be times when they need a little extra help, especially if they have long hair or are prone to matting.


Grooming your cat helps to remove tangles, mats, and dirt from their coat. It also helps to prevent hairballs. On top of that, it stimulates circulation and distributes natural oils throughout the coat, which can help to keep your pet's fur healthy and shiny.


There are several tools that you can use to groom your cat, including a slicker brush, a comb, and a pair of grooming scissors. It's important to choose the right tools for your cat's coat type and to be gentle and patient when grooming them. It's usually best to groom your cat a few times a week, but you may need to groom more frequently during shedding season.


In addition to grooming their coat, it's also important to keep your cat's nails trimmed and their teeth clean. Trimming your cat's nails prevents them from becoming too long and causing discomfort or injury. And cleaning their teeth prevents dental problems. 


If you’re unable to take care of your pet yourself, or if you prefer to have a professional handle the grooming process, you can consider taking your cat to the best mobile cat groomer near you. Professional groomers are trained in the proper techniques and tools for grooming cats, and they can help to keep your cat's coat and skin healthy and well-maintained.


6. Training Your Cat


Litter Training

By training your cat to use the litter box consistently, you can avoid the need to constantly clean up accidents around the house, making litter box maintenance more convenient. It also allows your cat to eliminate without your assistance, giving it more independence. You can be away from home for longer periods of time without worrying about accidents. Cats that are trained to use the litter box are less likely to develop urinary tract infections and other health problems related to improper elimination.


To litter train your cat, first, choose a location for the litter box that’s easily accessible to your pet and not too far from its food and water dishes. Then gently place it in the box and let it explore. You can also gently scratch the litter with your finger to show your cat where to go. Also, use positive training methods when your cat uses the litter box.  Be sure to praise and reward it with treats or verbal praise. This will help reinforce the behavior.


It may take some time for your cat to learn to use the litter box consistently. Just be patient and remember that every cat is different, so it may take longer for some cats to learn than others.


Furniture Scratching

As a new pet owner, you should understand that scratching is an instinctual and natural behavior that’s important for your cat. If your feline is scratching your couch, the best way to correct this behavior is to provide them with plenty of other equally or more appealing scratching surfaces. Use positive reinforcement training to encourage them to make the correct choice.

Place the scratchers in various areas of your home. Put them beside the piece of furniture they tend to gravitate towards and make them as enticing as possible, for example, with catnip and using your clicker to reward your cat.


You should also cover your furniture so you don't get frustrated with your cat during the training process. Fortunately, today, it's so much easier to find beautiful couch covers to protect furniture and make your home more cat-friendly.


First-Time Cat Owner Tips

Cats undoubtedly make some of the best companions for humans. By following these new cat owner tips and working closely with your vet, you can help ensure that your cat lives happily and healthy with you for many years to come.


For more pet care tips and guides, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Pawkit connects Singapore pet owners to a variety of pet-related resources and services. Get everything you need in one place, from the latest pet care tips to your pet’s details and medical history, as well as a directory of on-demand pet services in your area, such as veterinarians, groomers, and daycare. 



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