First-Time Cat Owner Complete Guide

From how to choose the right diet to cat care tips, here's everything cat owners should know!

First-Time Cat Owner Complete Guide

Are you a first-time cat owner? Cats are pretty awesome animals. Owning a cat can be a fun adventure and an extremely rewarding experience. As a first-time cat owner, showing your cat love is about more than toys and food – it’s a big, life-time commitment.

When we decide to own a cat for the first time, we will probably experience many doubts or concerns. You may have several questions on the daily care your cat will require. Because of this, we want to put your mind at ease – we, at Perropet, will always provide the information pet owners want to know, including cat owner guide! Follow our first-time cat owner guide, you will have a perfect set up, ready for your purrfect friend!

Here’s everything you need to know about getting and keeping a kitten or cat, from choosing a right diet for your feline friend to understanding cat behaviours.

first-time-cat-owner-complete-guide

Part A: Choosing The Right Diet

Feed your cat a nutritionally balanced diet and always provide fresh water. Your cat is a carnivore and must be fed animal-based nutrition. There are many ways to feed your cat. For a young or underweight cat, free-feeding is generally the best option, but an overweight cat may need stricter portion control. Make sure the pet food is classified as “complete and balanced” for all life stages. If you have a kitten, choose a kitten formula. This is because it’s more nutritious and better suited for the needs of a kitten.

As a beginner, your best option is to buy quality cat food at a pet store. It’s important for us to learn how to read the labels on the pet food. Prior to this, basic knowledge of feline nutrition is required.

#1: The Basics Of Feline Nutrition

According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are few essential classes of nutrients fundamental for healthy living.

Water is the most important nutrient. Cats are designed to fulfill most of their water requirements by eating fresh raw food, thus they naturally have a low thirst drive, according to Feline Nutrition Foundation. This can lead to health issues when they eat dry food products and treats. And a deficiency of water can cause serious illness or even death. 

Proteins are essential for a cat’s growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. They are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Animal-based proteins have complete amino acid profile and they can supply the essential amino acids that a cat needs. Although proteins can be found in vegetables, soy and cereal, they are not considered incomplete proteins.

Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your cat the essential fatty acids and aids in nutrient transportation and utilization. They are required for body insulation and protection for internal organs. Fats must be included in a cat’s diet as they cannot be synthesized by a cat in sufficient amounts. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid for cats. Meanwhile, arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid is also essential for cats for the maintenance of the skin and coat, for kidney function and for reproduction.

Vitamins are essential to a cat and they are catalysts for enzyme reactions. Most of them cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential in a cat’s diet. They are divided into two groups: fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Typically, water-soluble vitamins pass through a cat’s body more quickly, while fat-soluble ones are stored in her body. Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E and K, while water-soluble vitamins includes C and the B complex.

Minerals are nutrients cannot be synthesized by animals and must be included in a cat’s diet. They contribute to bone and cartilage formation, the normal function of muscle and nerve tissue, the acidic balance of the body, oxygen transport and the production of hormones.

Carbohydrates play a significant role in your cat’s diet as they provides several benefits such as providing energy. However, a diet high in carbohydrates can lead to feline diabetes.

#2: Type Of Food – Advantages And Disadvantages

You cat’s diet should include the right balance of these major nutrients: protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, and water. Her food can be canned (wet), dry or a mixture of both.

Advantages and disadvantages at a glance:

Infographic-type-of-cat-food

So should you feed your cat wet food or dry food? There are reasons for giving each type of cat food. Wet food can be a good source of hydration if your pet is the type that is reluctant to drink adequate amounts of water. Wet food is typically about 70 to 80 percent water and it may be a good way to help your cat stay hydrated if she has other health problems. According to PetMD, the higher moisture content in most canned products gives felines with urinary and kidney issues more water, contributing to flush urinary crystals more easily and reduce the risk of crystal formation as a result, as well as combating dehydration with kidney issues. Wet food has fewer calories and is better for weight loss when fed on a controlled cat diet.

However, wet food needs to be covered and refrigerated and used quickly before it can spoil. Pawrents on a strict budget may prefer dry food to wet food as wet food generally costs more for its volume.

For convenience, dry food beats wet food paws down. Statistically, cats who are fed on a diet of dry food are less prone to dental problems than cats fed on a diet of wet, according to Calder Vets . Cats who need to gain weight benefit from dry cat food as dry food tends to have more calories than wet food. On the flip side, cats on dry food-only diets are slightly more prone to diabetes and obesity than cats who eat wet food.

Typically, either of these choices should satisfy your cat’s nutritional requirements as long as they are well-balanced and are made with quality ingredients. We recommend feeding your healthy cat a variety of both wet and dry food so that she can enjoy the benefits of both food types. 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.

#3: Feeding Method

There are three types of feeding method, including meal feeding, free choice feeding and combination feeding.

Infographic-method-of-feeding

#4: How Often Should I Feed My Cat?

Generally, young kittens need to eat frequently. They require more fat and more calories for growth. “Growing kittens up to six months of age may require three meals a day,” says Francis Kallfelz, DVM, Ph.D., board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and James Law, professor of nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. And most cats will do well when fed two times a day, from age six months to maturity,

Feeding once or twice a day is appropriate in most cases. Many owners prefer to feed small meals of moist food once or twice a day and provide dry food in between meals. This is fine as long as your cat is receiving the proper amount of calories and getting enough physical activity.

#5: How To Read Cat Food Labels?

Whether choosing wet food or dry food, it should be a premium cat food with quality ingredients. The higher initial cost will be offset long-term by reduced veterinary costs. Reading the pet food label is the way to determine the quality of the food you are feeding.

First and foremost, scan the first 3 ingredients. This is to ensure that your cat gets enough good sources of protein. The ingredients are arranged in descending order according to the percentage of weight they are in the product. The first 3 ingredients should be a protein of some sort and ideally not a by-product. The undesirable ingredients on the “no-no” list, animal by-products are what’s left of a slaughtered animal after the parts intended for human consumption have been removed, according to Dog Food Advisor. Purchase of pet food products containing by-products should be avoided as you never know the source of the meat – the unamed or generic by-products can contain dead on arrival poultry and diseased and dying livestock. Look for named protein source too, such as  “chicken, turkey, lamb, or beef,” rather than “meat”. On canned food particularly, the protein source should be the first listed ingredient.

Other ingredients to avoid are:

1.Corn and wheat gluten

2.Carbohydrate fillers

3.Artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin (Keep in mind that natural preservatives such as mixed tocopherols are preferable)

4.Food dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, 4-MIE)

5.Rendered fat

Identify your cat’s food allergies too. If she suffers from a severe allergy, scan the ingredient list anyway to confirm.

Guaranteed analysis is the second thing you should look out for when choosing a good cat food. The guaranteed analysis chart lists the minimum and/or maximum percentage of nutrients in a food. Keep in mind that the guaranteed analysis for dry and wet food will look different; The wet food contains much more protein – on a dry matter basis – than does the dry food. Click here to find out more.

Last but not least, never judge a pet food by its cover. It is often misleading when pet foods are labeled as “premium”, “super premium”, “ultra premium”, “gourmet”, “natural” and “organic”. Keep in mind that those pet foods are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients than any other complete and balanced product.

Get your high-quality cat food here.

Read more: Plants And Foods That Are Harmful To Cats

Part B: What Are The Necessary Pet Supplies And Equipment?

Before you bring your cat home, make sure you have all the basics. Maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle for your cat with toys and necessary supplies! Here is the complete list of your cat basic supplies.

Read more: The Cost Of Owning A Cat In Malaysia

Basic supplies:

1.A litterbox: Preferably one with a removable lid. Some cats like privacy in the toilet, others don’t care. Let’s learn how to control smelly cat litter odour.

2.Litter: Litter comes in two types, including clay (non-clumping) and clumping. Clay litter is generally less expensive and does a decent job absorbing and controlling odors. Meanwhile, clumping litter does not need to be thrown out and replaced as clay litter does.

3.Food bowls: One for water, one for food. Stainless steel or ceramic dishes are best. This is because plastic dishes tend to get scratches that trap food particles and odors.

4.A cat carrier: You will need a cat carrier to bring the cat home and for safe travel to vet appointments.

5.Toys: Cats love to play! Don’t forget to provide a variety of toys in order to keep your cat entertained and occupied!

6.Scratching post: To discourage clawing your furniture, provide at least one scratching post for your cat.

7.A harness and leash: Get a harness and leash to train your cat for walks, if you want to walk your cat.

8.Shampoo: Bathe your cat with water and shampoo. It’s important to introduce your cat to water in a calm way in order to make bath time less stressful. Learn how often should you bathe your cat.

9.A brush: Regular brushing is essential to keeping the shedding down.

cat-care-tips-beginner

Part C: The Vaccinations, Deworming And Tick/Flea Treatment

Your cat gives you her best and deserves your best. Vaccinations and deworming are both components of preventative medicine. Here’s a quick guide to the important aspects of vaccinations, deworming and tick and flea treatment.

#1: When Should My Cat Have Her Vaccinations?

Vaccinating your cat is one of the easiest ways to ensure her has a long, healthy life. The advantages of vaccine protection far outweigh the low vaccination risks. If your cat is an entirely indoor cat, which is a good thing, it will even be far less likely that your cat will be exposed to feline infectious diseases, which are more rampant in the stray cat population. If your cat is old or has an underlying illness, talk to your vet and discuss the risks involved before choosing to vaccinate or giving your cat booster shots.

Your cat’s vaccination schedule will depend on her age, medical history, environment, lifestyle and the type of vaccine, according to WebMD. Vaccination decisions should always be made in consultation with a veterinarian so they can be tailored to meet a cat’s individual needs.

When your kitten is around 6 to 8 weeks of age, she should receive FVRCP. Your veterinarian can begin to administer a series of vaccines at three- or four-week intervals until the kitten reaches 16 weeks of age, according to WebMD. For adult cats, the primary booster course can be started at any time, again there are 2 injections 3-4 weeks apart. A booster should occur at one year of age and cats are not encouraged to receive subsequent boosters any more often than every three years, according to Catster.

#2: What Are The Core And Non-Core Vaccinations?

The American Association of Feline Practitioners divided vaccines into two categories-core and non-core. Core vaccines include feline panleukopenia (FVRCP), feline calicivirus, feline rhinotracheitis and rabies.

1.Feline calicivirus and feline rhinotracheitis are the two viruses commonly responsible for upper respiratory infections in felines. Almost all cats will be exposed to these common viruses some point in their life.

2.Called as feline distemper, feline panleukopenia is a parvovirus that can prove to be fatal for infected cats, especially young cats.

3.Rabies is a fatal disease that is contagious not only to animal but to human as well.

Meanwhile, non-core vaccines are feline leukemia (FeLV), feline AIDS (as known as FIV), feline infectious peritonitis, chlamydophila felis and bordetella bronchiseptica.

1.Feline leukemia is a retrovirus that impairs the cat’s immune system and causes certain types of cancer.

2.Known as feline immune deficiency virus infection, Feline AIDS is an infectious disease caused by an RNA lentivirus (slow-acting viruses) of the retrovirus family. It’s similar to the HIV virus in humans and it will attacks the cells of the immune system, leading to feline acquired immune deficiency syndrome (FAIDS). This compromises the cat’s ability to fight off infections.

3.Feline infectious peritonitis is a viral disease which caused by coronavirus and tends to attack the cells of the intestinal wall.

4.Chlamydophila felis is a bacterium endemic primarily causing inflammation of feline conjunctiva, rhinitis and respiratory problems.

5.Bordetella bronchiseptica is related to Bordetella pertussis and may be the primary cause of respiratory disease in cats. It is more commonly a problem in multi-cat households.

#3: Symptoms Of Worms

Worms can be severe health problems in cats, especially young cats. Gastrointestinal worms in cats are usually one of three types: roundworm, hookworm nad tapeworm. The symptoms of worms in cats include:

1.Vomiting

2.Diarrhea or constipation

3.Weight loss

4.Worms visible in your pet’s poo, vomit, or around their bottom

5.Bloated or swollen tummy

6.Blood or mucous in their poo

#4: Deworming Your Cat

Roundworms are extremely common in kittens. This is because kittens can be infected from the mother’s milk and worming should be started at a young age. According to International Cat Care, common recommendations are to:

1.Treat kittens for roundworms every 2 weeks from 3 weeks of age until 8 weeks of age, then monthly to 6 months of age.

2.Treat adult cats (greater than 6 months of age) every 1-3 months.

Generally, tapeworms are only usually a problem in older cats. Adult cats should be treated every 1-3 months with a product that is effective against both tapeworms and roundworms.

#5: Which Worming Product Should I Use For My Cat?

While worming products are available from pet stores and supermarkets, these are often old or less effective products and some of them are even less safe to use in cats. Thus, it is always better to seek the advice of your vet.

#6: Flea And Tick Preventive Medications

Not only your cat, ticks pose a threat for humans too. It is possible for your feline friend to transport disease-carrying ticks into your home where these ticks may then attach to you or your family members. There are a number of products that can help prevent your cat from getting ticks and fleas. Apart from using flea and tick prevention medication, cat onwers are advised to check their outdoor cats regularly too – keep in mind that some of the products are not 100 percent effective in keeping ticks away from your cat. It’s important for your to consult your vet for advice about what type of flea and tick preventive medication is best suited to your feline friend.

Updated: December 7, 2017.

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