Thursday, April 20, 2023

What To Know Before You Bring Home Your First Cat


Pixabay - CC0 Licence

Cats are among the most popular animals to keep as pets. Those who love cats highlight their curiosity, independence and quirky personalities as positives about our feline pals. While many people divide the world into “cat people” and “dog people”, the truth is that you don’t need to choose. Depending on the breeds, cats and dogs can share a home and often become good friends.

With that said, keeping a cat is a very different experience from keeping a dog - although both will ensure you get a lot of use out of a pet vacuum cleaner, and if you are used to being a dog owner, there is going to be a learning curve when you bring home your first cat. It doesn’t need to be a painful learning experience, but it is important to know a few things before you become a cat owner. This matters, both for you and for your new cat, and if you learn well then you’ll be rewarded with a pet that is full of love for you - despite what some people might think.

Cats enjoy affection, but it’s on their terms

After a few weeks of having a cat, some pet owners will say with deep concern: “He/she doesn’t like me! I try to pet the cat and it runs away!”. The most important thing to learn about cats is that they are plenty affectionate, but you can’t force it. When your cat wants to be cuddled, it will come to you, but it won’t trust you initially unless you’re very lucky. Provide it with food, somewhere comfortable to sleep, and a safe environment, and it will return your love with interest.

Cats have to eat meat; it’s not a matter of choice

Your dog can be a vegetarian, although they might not enjoy it. Scrape the leftovers from a roast dinner into your dog’s plate, and they’ll wolf down the meat and the veg with equal enthusiasm. And if you chose to only feed your dog non-meat products, it would be fine, as long as there was enough protein included. A cat can’t have a vegetarian diet. Cats can’t make taurine or arginine on their own, and both nutrients are essential to their survival. They can only be found in meat, so even if your household is non meat-eating, if you want to keep a cat you’ll need to make an exception for them.

You’ll need to know about the things that are toxic to cats

Perhaps because they are both popular pets, and because they share certain characteristics (like four legs and a tail), some people are confident that cats and dogs are alike in other ways, but their physiological makeups are very different. Cats have a more finely-tuned system which needs different food, and also different medications than dogs do. 

A dog in pain can tolerate a certain amount of gentle over-the-counter pain meds like acetaminophen. A cat will not, and will become ill unless it is given specific cat medication. In addition, certain plants are toxic for cats to the point of being lethal. That means you can’t keep lilies in any room a cat may be in - it’s usually best just to ban them from the house. Additionally, while poinsettia are a popular Christmas plant, they’re not something you should risk if there are cats around. They’re not as toxic as lilies, but your puss will try to eat them, and it will make them sick.

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