Some basic things you need to know before adopting a cat/kitten

Owning a pet can be one of the most rewarding experiences in one’s life. Being owned by a cat is no different. I mean, who doesn’t want to be trained to wake up at 4.30 in the morning just so the little fuzzypants can have her ears scratched and belly rubbed, right? I’m kidding about the belly rub. Unless you want to have your hand shredded by a bear trap, don’t do it.

Who can say no to that, right?
Awww, belly rub! Wait. Don’t do it!

Cuteness aside, I’m going to list down the things you would want to consider doing before getting yourself a cat or a kitten. I had plenty of help when I first rescued Peaches from the side of the road, so I’m going to pass on what I’ve learned from the cat-gurus and my own experience.

Health

One of the first things you should do after getting your furkid is to bring him/her to the vet. There is no way to be certain what shape, health-wise, your kitty friend will be. So a visit to the vet will help with plenty of things and get you started and give you the low down on the cat’s:

  • Age
  • Gender – If the kitten is too young it may be a bit difficult to tell what gender he/she is.
  • Overall physical status – Cats are masters at hiding pain. It would be a good idea to get a physical done on the cat just so you’ll know what state the kitty is in.
  • Worm status – If you’ve rescued your cat from the streets, chances are, he/she has worms. Even if your kitten/cat comes from a breeder, it’s good to get it de-wormed just to be sure. Cost of de-worming in KL/PJ (RM 30). I had to have Peachy de-wormed three times before she was finally clear of the infestation. And after a de-worming, expect to find a new wriggly, slimy friend in your kitty’s litterbox the next day. Hookworms are EW.
  • Fleas/Ticks – These buggers are ninjas at hiding (especially fleas).
  • Vaccine requirements (3 times for kittens aged aged up to 11 months old, with the yearly vaccine shot at 1 year). Cost of vaccination (RM 30 – RM 50 per shot). Vaccines are CRUCIAL. Young kittens are particularly predisposed to catching the flu and other ailments, even from passing cats.
  • Spaying & Neutering – This is a given. Unless you want your cats to breed, and unless you have guaranteed homes for all the kittens your cats will produce, please spay and neuter your pets. There are way too many unwanted pets at shelters and out on the streets. Even if you don’t have other cats around, and if your cat is an indoor cat, please spay and neuter your pets. There are many benefits to spaying and neutering and it helps prevent certain types of diseases. Cost of spaying/neutering (RM 120-160).   
Cats are masters at hiding pain and illness
Cats are masters at hiding pain and illness.

Time

If your cat is an indoor cat, you HAVE to spend time with it. You’re basically the only other sentient being in the house with them, and they will want to follow you around and be with you. You have your friends, your job, your family, etc. They have you and sometimes only you. Young cats, particularly, have loads of energy, and you have to channel that energy out with play time. With Peachy, neglecting play time means getting bitten (a soft, warning bite at first. It turns to play-aggression if I ignore her, and this can lead to a shredded hand). She has so much energy in the mornings and evenings that if we don’t drain it out, she’ll start acting out and become destructive. I give Peachy intense play time whenever she’s at that high-energy state. The teaser toy works wonders, and I’ll have her leaping, running, climbing, doing flips and fetching toys until she gets tired and flops down on the floor. If I haven’t played with her enough, she will usually drag the teaser stick with her teeth and place it next to me.

Basic Grooming Needs

Now some things, you shouldn’t have to go to the vet for. There are basic grooming needs that you can do at home, and you should start your cats young when you’re doing them:

  • Ear cleaning – Get an ear cleaner from the pet shop, and clean your cat’s ears once you see the wax building up. You can google online to see how this is done.
  • Nail trimming – This isn’t particularly necessary, but Peachy can get very bitey and scratchy at times, so I trim her nails every couple of weeks. It’s pretty easy to do. Get your kitty used to having his/her paws handled even when you’re not trimming nails and….I was going to say “I guarantee it’ll be easy!”…but it really depends on the cat’s temperament.
  • The occasional bath (when kitty gets herself into something nasty that has to be washed off) – In most cases, cats rarely need a bath. They’re pretty good at cleaning themselves. Peachy’s accident led to a nerve damage that had her soiling herself when she was a kitten and she couldn’t bend around for the first few months she was with us, so we had to bathe her on an almost daily basis. Now, she still soils herself occasionally, so her bathing routine isn’t as frequent. Use warm water please, not cold water.
  • Monthly de-flea/de-tick. You can get a de-flea gel from your vet or at the pet shop. I use Advantage once a month on Peachy, but most people are recommending Revolution because it kills worms as well. Check with the vet or pet care consultant at the pet shop to see which product would work best for your cat. This varies depending on the cat’s age. One tube of Advantage costs RM 13 and will last a month. One packet of Revolution will cost around RM 80-90 and last for a couple of months, if I remember correctly, and it kills worms as well. 

Wet food, or dry?

There are pros and cons to dry kibble for cats. For one, it’s easy and quick. Wet or raw food requires a bit more work. Yet on the other hand, if you’re feeding your cat dry food, you also have to make sure that the cat is hydrating enough. Dry food is also high in carbs and cats can’t really digest them properly. They need protein for energy, not really carbs. I’m at the phase of transitioning Peachy to a wet/raw food diet. She requires prescription kibble to help her eliminate, because of the accident, but I found that mixing the prescription diet (small amount each day), and having her diet consist mainly of wet food, to be quite helpful. And she’s a much happier cat now that she gets wet food every day.

So there’s the basic guide to owning a cat/kitten. I am fairly certain there is a whole lot more out there! If you’ve adopted or rescued a cat, thank you! You will have many many years’ worth of love and companionship for sure.

A writer and her cat. A cat and her hooman.
A writer and her cat. A cat and her hooman.
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