There are quite a lot of things you learn over the years being a pet parent to a whiskered feline. You learn plenty of things about cats themselves (like the fact that they’re real lazy), things about yourself (like you find it hard to live with even an hour or two less sleep), and everything in between (such as it being a lot easier to sleep when you have a cozy feline cuddled up to you).
Taking in a new, second cat has brought back quite a few memories of what my life was like those first few months being a new cat owner. It took years, to an extent, to find my rhythm with Avery, and adjusting to life with a cat. Honestly, I remember Thomas and I remarking for months after we’d taken our first cat, Avery, in – we couldn’t believe we owned a kitty. It may sound odd, but even though we owned a pet before him – a ball python – neither of us had a furry like a cat or dog before. Needless to say, cats and dogs engage with you on a more personal, emotional level. They can feel almost like little people living under your roof. So for a long time we couldn’t get over how surreal it was that we even had one of these cute, gorgeous, adorable little things with us.
Picture from Post Avery’s Baby Pictures
Avery was a feral/stray we took in back when we lived in Canada. He found us, we gained his trust with food, then he cried his way into our hearts by begging for company and cuddles when his belly was already full.
Our newly adopted cat, Bjorn, is a stray/feral cat we took in here in Portugal, a few months into keeping him company and refusing to feed him outside because we were convinced (initially) he had a home of his own. He literally would not leave our property, and waited until we pieced together the clues that meant he was all on his own. Once we did, we immediately took him in, so he and Avery are now indoor-only cat brothers, and have recently begun to get along swimmingly well (I’m talking naps together without us placing them by each other levels of well – too cute!).
There are a lot of things I wish I knew now, a lot of ridiculously stressful things I learned to remedy quite slowly. Nowadays, especially thanks to this blog, I’ve learned to tackle problems straight away. The process of hiccups with behavioural and/or health related issues is still quite stressful, but less so, and so I’m here to share a little bit of general advice with those of you just starting out in your journey as a pet parent to a furry feline. You’ve got this, and chances are real high it’s going to be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made in your life.
I’m going to write this out as though it’s advice to my past self, and if you’re a cat owner of few or many years, feel free to chime in with your own tips, advice, & guidance to your past, first time owner self, or to those just starting out on their journey as a cat owner. Now let’s begin.
A Letter to My Past Self as a First Time Cat Owner
That feeling of falling in love? You’re going to get that with your cat.
It’s a strange but true experience, and it’ll sound silly if you say it aloud, but you’re going to get that sense of falling in love with someone – obviously in a completely platonic way – about your cat. You’ll have heard some people say this about their children before, that they got the feeling of falling in love with this tiny amazing human. The same wonderful feeling is going to accompany getting to know the remarkable little furry you’ve taken under your roof.
You’ll feel excited to come home, you’ll be overjoyed at your shared connection, you’ll see the world through rose coloured glasses. You’ll be completely smitten and it’ll be swell.
You’re also going to resent your cat sometimes. It’s just how things are.
There are going to be plenty of times your cat does things you dislike. Or really hate. Or cannot stand to live with for months of your life let alone the remainder of it. You’ll get a sense sometimes that you really resent your pet for being a physical life that you’re responsible for. Maybe it’ll come about two months in when you realize you forgot to find somebody to take care of your cat while you’re away for a road trip. Maybe it’ll be out of frustration over the fact that work asked you to move, and you’d love to and are happy to move with a cat, but you know it’s not easy to rent a place where cats are allowed by a landlord.
Then there’s those times where your cat whines and cry all night, for instance, or runs away from you when you go near, eats so fast he or she vomits up food, or even climbs up onto the counters to lick the dishes you were too tired to wash and put away yesterday. Your cat will drive you up a wall. You’ll be so annoyed you will fleetingly wonder why the heck you took this little guy in. If things stay bad for long enough (usually for months, and it doesn’t come to this often at all, but sometimes it does), you may grow to hate your cat. Don’t worry though…
For *nearly* every cat related problem, there are a metric tonne of solutions to try.
You can and will if you’re stubborn enough find a solution to the vast majority of problems you have with your cat. And even you can’t find the most perfect solution, chances are real high you’ll find some way of handling the issue both you and your furry can live with.
A lot of times, all you need to do is invest in a cheap and straightforward solution. Cat throwing up because he or she eats too quick? There are slow feed cat bowls for that. Hate litter box related smells? Plenty of things you can grab to keep litter odours at bay. Cat have accidents on the couch every once in a while? Throw on a couch protector cover and call it a day.
Other issues, usually you’ll typically fix cat related problems with a combination of two things:
- Training your cat to stop doing what you dislike.
- Figuring out why your cat was doing what you hated in the first place, then supplying your feline with a replacement, a thing you approve of him/her doing. If your furry is happy enough with the substitute, he/she won’t go back to old habits, doing the thing you dread.
There are things you need a little patience to train your cat to be comfortable with. Things you can really easily convince your cat aren’t threatening or scary, and that would make a huge quality of life difference if you took the time to do so – like being pet or being picked up, being put in a carrier or even driven around in a car. Take the time to train your cat to do these things – long term, it’s so worth it.
Finally, there are repeated behaviours, like begging for food, and being quite hyperactive overall, where a few really quick changes in the way you engage with your pet on the daily can make enormous differences. Basically…
Don’t just live with things and/or accept behaviours that bother you. Try to improve your cohabitation.
Contrary to popular opinion, cats can be trained, and you’ll find life is better for you and your cat if you take the time to try. You absolutely do not need to go so far as to potty train a cat, but you should take the time to train a cat who chews on dangerous household objects to chew on cat toys instead, for example.
If your cat cries a lot, try to figure out why from the beginning. Don’t just hope it will go away, or figure you’ll live with the issue. Be proactive in trying to get the problems that crop up fixed as quick as you can. Speaking of which…
Ask questions. Do research. Try to solve behavioural and potential health issues yourself, even while asking your vet.
It is really important to be as informed as you can, and look up behaviours and potential symptoms you feel may be indicative of bigger problems. If absolutely anything you feel is remotely near off or frustrating crops up Google it! Can’t find the answer to your question? Leave a comment or email someone question. [Not to me, since I’m me – if you’re reading this and end up needing an answer to a question – email and/or comment on this blog, and I’ll absolutely see what I can do to find the answer!].
The more you know the more you can help your little furry, even if it’s just by helping to rule things out, or to begin to recognize symptoms that could indicate things are off about your cat. Talk about everything – online, with your vet, with pet parents in similar situations, with a second vet if you aren’t sure about the advice of the first. Ask, ask, ask. Bring up everything that may seem relevant. Discussion is good and the more brainstorming you do, the more quickly issues that crop up are likely to be diagnosed/understood and finally resolved.
It’s going to hurt *a lot* when you see your cat anxious or unwell.
This is obvious before you get a cat, but each time it happens, the pain hits you like a sledge hammer regardless. If you have a connection with your cat, which you almost certainly will, you’re going to be heartbroken whenever he or she is unwell, even if it’s only a “little” or temporary thing. It sucks, but that’s what happens when you care so much about a wonderful little living thing.
Find a good vet, one you trust. It’s *really* important.
If you go to a vet for a problem and you don’t have faith in their diagnosis or trust them to do surgery – well, if you’re stuck; it’s god awful. Do your research ahead of time, find a great vet – “vet” them by asking a slew of questions to make sure you like them, and have clinics, pet emergency rooms – everything you can – researched ahead of time in case of an emergency. As well as a back up or two if you can.
Picture from post This One
Some pet products are worth the money. Some are absolute rip offs.
You’re going to buy a slew of cat toys your cat will never play with. You’re going to buy tonnes of stuff meant for cats that seems to be absolute junk or more work when it was intended to make your life easier. Accept this, but do your best to avoid these issues by reading reviews on what you buy and not judging a product by it’s price tag. You can 100% find really inexpensive versions of even typically expensive things like cat trees, and a lot of times your cat will enjoy these as much as or even more than the more pricey cat things.
You are going to love cats even more with time than you do now.
While you may not think it possible to love cats more than you do (after all, you love cats so much you had to adopt one!), you will. Somehow, they grow on you more and more as time goes on. You probably won’t be able to imagine life without one pretty quick.
You’re absolutely going to want another fluffy – whether or not you’ll actually adopt a second.
Even if it’s completely inconvenient, or even impossible based on your current living situation or otherwise, for you to adopt a second cat: you. will. want. to. It’s impossible to resist considering how much you’ll love the whiskered furries.
You’re likely to become “one of those” cat people & bond with other cat people.
Yup, those people who litter (pun intended!) their Facebook and Instagram feeds with photos of their cat that no one asked for – gonna be you! And when you meet another person with a cat – although there are a ridiculously high number of them around – you’ll still feel a special bond, and end up exchanging countless stories about the adorable and/or ridiculous things your cat does. Chances are real high their cats do a lot of the same weird things.
Yes, kitty’s going to make your life better (not perfect, but better).
You took in a cat because you hoped your life would be better for it, and it will be. No, your cat’s not going to completely remedy you of feeling lonely, needed, and loved, but you’d be really surprised how far the love of a cat will go insofar as these things go. A cat’s company is amazing, and way more soothing, comforting, and warm than you may be able to comprehend before you experience it firsthand.
Your Turn: Advice to First Time Cat Owners
What would you say to your past self as a first time cat owner? What would you tell others just starting out on their cat-owning adventures?
Is there anything on my list that took you a while to learn? Anything you wish you knew at the start that could’ve helped you out substantially?
Please share any and all advice, as well as any stories you have on the topic of being a first time cat owner. You could really help a beginner pet parent out!