First Time Cat Owner | Aspen Grove Vet

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First Time Cat Owner

first time cat owner

Congratulations on adopting your new cat! Owning a cat can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it is also a large responsibility for many years. We hope this will give you the information need to provide your new cat a long and happy life.

A Lifetime of Wellness

A well-rounded wellness and preventative healthcare plan is important. Contact your cat’s vet to set up an appointment that should include:

Food & Eating Habits

Food & Eating Habits (Download PDF)

HOW you feed your cat is just as important as WHAT you feed your cat. Learn how to feed your cat, how much to feed, and how to choose a quality cat food. Additionally, learn about your cat’s body condition and how to read pet food labels.

Developmental Stages

Developmental stages in cats (Download PDF)

Learn what is normal at each stage and, as a caregiver, what you need to know about nutrition, socialization, elimination, and behavior.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats

There are three choices when it comes to the territory that you will allow your cat to explore: indoors, outdoors, and both. Click here to visit our blog for more information about indoor and outdoor cats, and the pros and cons of each.

Introducing a kitten (or cat) to a new environment

A cat is naturally inclined to investigate new surroundings. You should initially limit the area of exploration so that you can closely supervise his or her actions. After confining your cat to one room for the first few days, you should slowly allow access to other areas of the home.

Multi-cat households: the pros and cons

Cats that have feline company while you are away are less likely to misbehave out of boredom, suffer from separation anxiety or depression. If they are raised with other cats they can also be more adaptable to physical or social changes in their environment.

Cats are essentially territorial so it is important to recognize each cats individual spatial and social needs. Overcrowding can cause stress for the cats, which can often cause behavior problems. Allowing the cats to take their time with the introduction, providing the purrrfect set-up and following the introduction process are important elements of a peaceful coexistence for felines.

The purrrrfect set-up

Because cats are territorial, the environmental setup can make the difference between peaceful coexistence or strife. First, all cats should be spayed, neutered and current on their vaccinations , contact your cat’s vet for more information. Set aside a private living space for the new cat, such as a bedroom, with the cat’s own litter box, food, water, scratching surface, bed and hiding space. Make sure that your current family cats also have access to all these necessities in the rest of the house.

Introducing Cats & the Introduction Process (Download PDF)

Cat Carriers

It’s important that your cat familiarize himself with a carrier before you need to him to get in one.

Step-by-Step Cat Carrier Guide (Download PDF)

The best cat carriers are the inexpensive hard-sided carriers that open from the top and the front, and can also be taken apart in the middle. An easily removable top allows a cat who is fearful, anxious or in pain to stay in the bottom half of the carrier. Avoid carriers that require a cat to be pulled from or “dumped out.”

Play Behavior


Encouraging safe and appropriate play activities is very important. Stalking and pouncing are important play behaviors in kittens and have an important role in proper muscular development. If given a sufficient outlet for these behaviors with toys, your kitten will be less likely to use family members for these activities.

Environmental Enrichment

catinabox-276x300Providing an enriched environment for your cat can increase activity, decrease mental stagnation, and prevent many behavior problems. Cats need mental stimulation. An enriched environment will give cats the opportunities to create their own positive experiences.

  • Vertical Space: cat trees with hiding spots, cat perches, shelves
  • Scratching Post: Determine if you cat likes to scratch vertically or horizontally and provide the appropriate post to save your furniture. Locate the post next to a window, sleeping area, or another favorite area
  • Interactive toys & hunting games allow cats to stalk and catch. Play with your solitary, indoor cats several times a day
  • Predictable but not boring: keep your home environment predictable, but without rigidity or boredom. Make small changes that provide novelty. Rotate toys, provide new toys. Cats like toys which also use human interaction
  • Feeding time: Use food puzzles, interactive food toys, and/or food balls. Hide food in different places or in/around new objects to encourage your cat to hunt

Kitten Socialization

The prime socialization period for cats occurs between two and twelve weeks of age, which is at an earlier age than the dog. During that time, the kitten is very impressionable to social influences. If it has good experiences with men, women, children, dogs, other cats, etc., it is likely to accept them throughout life.

If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during this period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your cat to as many types of social situations and influences as possible.

Litter Box Needs

Provide at least one litter box per cat—and in a multi-cat house, throw in one extra box for good measure. In general, cats prefer open litter boxes in a clean, quiet environment and unscented, clumping litter. Cats are also finicky, so it’s best not to switch up the brand and type of litter you use. And be sure to scoop the box at least once a day

How to train a kitten (or cat)

  • Reward cats with treats or positive attention to encourage desired behavior
  • Redirect undesired behavior
  • Never swat, slap, or yell at your cat as a form of punishment
  • Train under calm, fun conditions using positive reinforcement (e.g., treats, toys, massage, praise)

Disciplining a cat may be necessary if its behavior towards people or property is inappropriate, but harsh punishment should be avoided. For most cats, hand clapping and using shaker cans or horns can be intimidating enough to inhibit undesirable behavior when you are present. However,remote punishment is preferred.

Remote Punishment

Remote punishment consists of using something that appears unconnected to the punisher (you) to stop the problem behavior.

Examples include using spray bottles, throwing soft objects in the direction of the kitten to startle (do not hit your kitten with the object), and using “booby traps” that make loud noises. Remote punishment is preferred because the kitten will then associate punishment with the undesirable act and not with you.

More Information

Click here to visit our blog for more information about cat (and kitten) care.