Four Important Tips for New Cat Owners

A new cat can be an exciting addition to a home, but you should know how to care for your new cat, preferably before you bring it home. Do your research so that you know what caring for your new cat will require. Here are some tips to help you enjoy and care for your new cat.

1. Know How to Recognize a Healthy Cat

A healthy cat has clear, bright eyes and clear nostrils. There should be no discharge from the eyes and nose. If the eyes and nose are running, or the cat is sneezing, he could have a respiratory infection.

Likewise, your new cat's ears should be clean, and there should be no discharge from the ears. If your cat has a black, sticky ear discharge, he probably has ear mites. A foul-smelling, pus-like discharge appears in the presence of yeast or bacterial infection.

Your cat's mouth and gums should be pink and firm on the inside. There should be no lacerations, ulcerations, sores, bumps, lumps or inflammation. His teeth should be clean, unbroken and free of cracks.

Your cat's coat should be shiny and soft. He shouldn't have any dry skin, bald spots, dandruff, scaly sores (or sores of any type), redness, irritation or open wounds. Your cat should be slender; if he's very thin or his abdomen appears swollen, that could be a sign of sickness or parasitic infection. If your new cat is overweight, that's a health risk, too.

Your cat's stools should be firm and well-formed. He should be friendly, at ease with people, active, alert, responsive and playful. If your new cat hides from people or seems to sleep a lot, that could be a sign of sickness or even psychological trauma.

2. Have the Right Equipment

You'll need to have some basic cat care equipment before you bring your cat home. Have a litter box handy, filled with two to three inches of clean litter. Most cats prefer a sandy, scent-free litter, which should be kept clean at all times. Kittens will need a box with lower sides so they don't have problems getting in and out.

You'll also need separate food and water dishes. You should keep these in a different room from the litter box. Keep the dishes clean and the food and water fresh. Many cats won't eat stale food or water.

You'll also probably want a scratching post or pad. Some cats like to scratch vertically, while standing on their hind legs; others like to scratch horizontally, on all fours. Observe your new cat for a few days to see which he prefers.

3. Groom Your Cat Properly

Shorthaired cats don't need as much grooming as longhaired cats; you may brush or comb them weekly. Longhaired cats will need to be brushed or combed daily. Brushing your cat helps to prevent hairballs.

You should also purchase cat claw trimmers. Keep your cat's claws trimmed to minimize cat scratch damage and prevent accidental injury to other members of the household.

4. Give Your Cat Veterinary Care

When you get a new cat, get its medical history, including vaccination records; then you'll know what illnesses to expect and what vaccinations might be needed. Kittens will need vaccinations at six weeks of age, twelve weeks of age, six months and one year. Adult cats will need vaccinations yearly.