Congratulations you are getting a cat! These fur-bulous creatures enrich our lives and provide years of companionship, but there’s more to owning a cat than providing cardboard boxes of different sizes to play in (although to be fair that does help). Here is our guide to the 10 most common mistakes of first time cat owners.
1. Acting on Impulse
No criticism meant here, and most of us have done it – which is to go and ‘look’ at a cute kitten and walk away with it tucked under our arm. However, taking time to choose a kitten wisely is important. You need to make sure she’s properly socialised so you can enjoy her company rather than have her hiding behind the wardrobe for the next six months.
Health is another big concern, because you want to be sure her mother is healthy, and the kitten doesn’t have any tummy upsets, coughs, or sneezes. And the final point about acting on impulse is it can contribute to the sad trade in kitten mills, which encourages the distress of cats being bred to the point of exhaustion, and kittens removed from their mother far too early.
2. Allowing Your New Cat to Roam the Entire House
As a proud pet parent you bring your new fur-baby home and give her the run of the house. This is a mistake because so much space can be overwhelming to a cat already disorientated by recently leaving familiar surroundings. This can lead to her going to ground and hiding for days, or else toileting where she shouldn’t (which is a difficult habit to break).
It is much better to set up a cat sanctuary in one quiet room, complete with everything she needs (food, water, bed, hiding holes, toys, and litter box). As she finds her paws and ventures out, start leaving the door open. This way she knows where safety (and the toilet) are and can bolt back there if she’s worried. Having that safety valve means she can be bolder and settle in more quickly.
3. Spraying Your Cat with Water to Discourage a Bad Habit
Your cat jumped on the counter so you spritzed her with water. It worked like magic and she jumped straight down. Feeling pleased with yourself you assume that’s one problem sorted.
Only it isn’t.
The cat associates the unpleasant experience with you, rather than what she was doing. Yes, she avoids the counter top, but only when you’re there and whilst you’re at work she’s back on the kitchen counter to groom.
This problem needs cunning and an “Act of God” deterrent that seems to strike from nowhere. For example, consider stacking empty tin cans on the worktop so she knocks them over when she jumps up.
4. Staring at Your New Cat
You’ve wanted a cat for months or years and at last she’s here. She’s a gorgeous fluff ball but she’s a bit shy and gone to ground under the sofa. You lie on the floor, offering her treats, and watching her every move.
The problem with this is that staring in cat language, is a sign of hostility. Staring is akin to issuing a challenge over territory and spoiling for a fight. Nothing is going to intimidate a nervous cat quicker than looking directly at her. Instead, face front and watch her from the corner of your eye, so she feels more comfortable.
5. Expecting Your Kitten to Sleep at Night
You have an important meeting tomorrow, but you don’t get a wink of sleep. Your new kitten chooses night time to pounce on your feet and patrol round the pillow.
Bad luck! Cats by nature are nocturnal hunters and at their most active at night. For a peaceful nights slumber you need to play hard with your new feline before bedtime, give her a feed, and then ignore night time capers. If you respond to those pounces then the play will continue…
6. Not Grooming Your Cat from Day One
That gorgeous fluff ball now has a knot and it’s time to groom it out. Only your cat isn’t used to a brush or comb, she has other ideas and your perfect purring feline turns into an intimidating hissing spitting beast.
Not only does daily grooming from the start get her used to the experience, but it also stops knots from forming in the first place. (Note: the same goes for brushing teeth and tartar formation.)
7. Deciding Against Pet Insurance
You’re utterly smitten with your new feline friend. She’s an indoor cat, so what harm can she get up to? Plenty!
You could walk feline distemper in on your shoes, she could fall from a balcony, eat a needle and thread, or develop an allergy. These days veterinary treatment is second to none, but it is costly. Pet insurance gives you peace of mind so you can make treatment decisions based on her best interests rather than your finances.
8. Placing the Litter Tray in the Laundry Room
To you the laundry room ticks all the right boxes as the perfect place for the litter tray. It has a tiled floor, it’s out of the way, and so the smell and mess don’t matter so much.
Unfortunately, if the cat is on the tray when the washing machine goes into spin cycle she could receive an awful fright. If she links the scary experience to toileting in the tray, she might pick her own safer spot elsewhere in the house…perhaps your bedroom.
Instead it’s better to place the tray in a quiet corner where she’s not going to be disturbed when doing her business.
9. Not Understanding Natural Behaviours
From scratching carpets to climbing curtains, our cats have a range of natural behaviours that need an outlet. Bringing a cat into your home and expecting her to behave impeccably and respect furnishings and furniture isn’t realistic.
Be sure to provide an outlet for those behaviours with lots of appropriately placed scratch posts and a couple of high cat towers, so she can practice shredding and climbing, but not on your prized possessions.
10. Underestimating the Power of Cat Hair to get Everywhere
And finally, it’s a novice error to underestimate how your life will become governed by sticky rollers and lint brushes. Cat hair gets everywhere so be prepared for a life spent picking cat hairs off your best outfits or wear the fur with pride!
Which ‘common mistake’ above did you find most helpful? What do you wish someone had told you before you got your first cat?