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The Cat Owner’s Guide to a Long, Healthy, and Happy Life for Your Cat!

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: February 16, 2023 - Author: Rebekah Carter
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: January 28, 2022  
Author:  Rebekah Carter
cat owners guide for a happy cat

Becoming a cat owner is a wonderful experience. 

It's a chance to share your home and life with a loving, charismatic creature who can fill your world with love and wonder. In the United States alone, there are over 58 million companion cats. Our feline friends are second only to dogs in the rankings for most popular pets in the world. 

Of course, having a cat isn't just about adorable whiskers and playful antics. If you're going to become an amazing cat owner, then you need to plan how you're going to care for your furry pal correctly. 

cat owner in old age

That starts with the right guide to cat ownership. 

Fortunately, we're here to help.

What to Know Before You Get a Cat: Care Requirements

First, before you get a kitty of your own, you need to know you can commit the time and effort required to look after this creature. Compared to dogs, cats are often pretty simple to care for. They don't need as many large meals, as they prefer to snack throughout the day. Plus, cats are quite happy to spend time on their own if you're not around to play. 

Cats are pretty clean animals, so bathing isn't always necessary, unless you have a specific kind of cat breed. Plus, you can usually get by with restricting your grooming sessions to the occasional nail clipping and brushing routine. 

However, just because caring for a cat can be easier than looking after a dog doesn't mean you won't have demands to meet. You still need to provide plenty of human companionship and love. Plus, you'll need to be willing to:

  • Create a safe and stimulating environment with the right accessories
  • Vaccinate against common feline diseases
  • Commit to regular checkups with your vet
  • Provide cat trays and cat litter (which you clean regularly)
  • Give your kitty a comfortable place to sleep
  • Groom your cat whenever required
  • Worm regularly and apply flea treatments
  • Insure your cat with the right protection
  • Care for your feline friend with the right meals

Is Owning a Cat Difficult?

As a first time cat owner, it's worth noting that your furry pal can be quite a low-maintenance companion – but every cat is different. There are some breeds which require more care than others. For instance, long-haired cats need regular grooming, while larger cats might need special diets.

cat and owner love each other

Choosing the right breed of cat will help you to prepare for the kind of care you'll need to provide. However, different cats can also have unique personalities that affect how you care for them too. Some cats are more likely to spend most of their time on their own, while others like to snuggle up on your lap as regularly as possible. 

Certain cats can be quite active too, which means they need a lot of time playing with either you, or other pets to keep them entertained. Fail to provide the kind of nurturing environment your cat needs, and you could encounter common problems like:

On top of that, you may have extra concerns to think about depending on the kind of cat you're going to be raising. An indoor cat is less likely to have issues with things like fleas and worms. Plus, indoor cats often live longer, and have fewer injuries than their outdoor counterparts. If you let your cat go out on its own, you may not have to clean its litter tray as often, but you could spend days wondering where your feline friend has gotten to.

Questions to Ask Before you Get a Cat

Before you jump into getting your own cat, it's important to ask yourself some crucial questions. 

Just like a dog, a cat is for life – not just for those fun initial kitten stages. Before you begin coming up with names and exploring local cat rehoming charities, sit down as a family, and think about whether you're prepared to care for your cat correctly.

Questions to ask include:

1. Can You Afford a Cat?

Cats are a huge financial commitment. You're going to need to pay for everything from cat food to insurance, as well as toys, bedding, litter, litter trays, scratching posts, and so much more. If something goes wrong and your cat gets sick, you'll have vet bills to think about. Even if you're lucky enough to have an extremely healthy cat, you'll need to keep up with regular checks and vaccinations. 

cost of owning a cat

The cost of a cat will vary greatly depending on the kind of breed you choose. Purchase a Savannah cat, and you could pay thousands just to get your hands on this popular breed. After you've brought your Savannah home, you'll also need to pay for more expensive specialist diets and pet care. The more exotic the breed, the higher the costs. 

If the thought of handling a bunch of extra expenses every month seems like too much for you right now, then it's not the right time to get a cat. Wait until you know you can meet the needs of your new furry companion.

2. Is a Cat Suited to Your Lifestyle?

Cats are much more independent than dogs, but they still require regular care and attention. Some cats need more brushing than others, while some may need bathing to keep them in great condition. If you're adopting a high-maintenance cat breed, like a Sphynx, then you're going to need to ensure you have the time to properly care for it. 

If you spend a lot of time at work, or out of the house, or you tend to go on vacation a lot, you might not be well-suited to a cat. Think about how frequently you're going to be at home with your kitty, and whether they're going to need you to be around to feed them, care for them, and play with them – to a degree that you can't handle right now. 

If you have a young baby in the house, this also might be a reason to reconsider your choices when it comes to cats. Some cats are more comfortable with children than others.

3. Is a Cat or Kitten a Better Choice?

When most people think about getting a cat, they assume they're going to buy or adopt a kitten. However, this doesn't have to be the case. If you can only spend small amounts of time with your feline friend, you could consider adopting an adult cat instead of a kitten. This will ensure you don't have to spend as much time playing with and caring for a tiny animal.

And, of course, you’re rescuing a cat. Plus, if you look to adopt an older cat from a shelter, you should be able to figure out its temperament and how easily it will adjust to living with you. And that’s not always easy with a kitten!

If you do feel like you have the time for a kitten right now, remind yourself that they're not going to stay small forever. You also need to think about whether you can imagine yourself taking care of a fully grown cat for the next ten to fifteen years – perhaps even longer. If you only want to look after kittens during the initial tiny stages – maybe fostering would be a better idea. 

A kitten gives you a chance to care for a cat from the very beginning of its life. However, this also means that you need to train your cat not to get into trouble. A kitten can have a lot of issues (like going to the bathroom in the wrong places), whereas cats are more likely to settle down at speed.

4. Should you Get a Specific Breed?

There are nearly a hundred different kinds of cat breed, as well as all the moggies, and they all have distinct personalities and traits. A Maine Coon cat, for instance, is one of the largest breeds of cat and also among the most loving. These huge, fluffy beasts are brilliant for people who have a lot of time to dedicate to snuggles, love, and grooming. However, they require a lot of attention. 

Often, it's better to get a specific breed of cat if you're looking for specific characteristics. If you want a kitty you can take with you on walks, then you might get a Savannah. If you need a cat that's relatively easy to look after, you might prefer an American Shorthair.

size and weight of cat breeds

If you do pick a particular breed, make sure you're aware of its:

  • Size and weight
  • Dietary requirements
  • Health issues and vet needs
  • Grooming requirements
  • Personality and behavior

If you're just looking for any kind of cat, adopting a moggy will give you a chance to provide a fantastic feline with a loving home. There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing the "right cat"; it's all about finding what's right for you.

5. Can Cats Live with Dogs, or Other Cats?

Most people assume that they can't have a cat and dog in the same household. That's not always the case. Dogs and cats can definitely get along. However, it all depends on the temperaments of both animals. If you already have a dog at home, bringing in a kitten that can grow up getting used to the dog is generally a good idea.

If you're going for an adult cat, look for a breed that's known for being comfortable with other animals around the house. Make sure you introduce the animals slowly, to avoid any outright battles and territorial disputes. 

If you have another cat at home already, you'll also need to consider your options for becoming a "multi-cat" household. Cats can be very individual creatures, and they won't always like having another feline friend around. Some cats will straight-up refuse to live with another kitty, while others will only tolerate their presence. In some cases, of course, cats can also learn to love each other. 

Make sure you introduce cats slowly and carefully. It might be a good idea to think about gender too. If you have a male cat, bringing in another male cat means you could end up with two felines fighting to be the alpha. Make sure you get your cats spayed to avoid a house full of kittens (as fun as that sounds). 

Preparing Your Home for a Cat

Now that you know you're ready for a cat, and you have an idea of the kind of breed you want to bring home, you can begin preparing your property for the arrival of a new furry friend. There are a few things you'll need to do ahead of time to make sure your home is fully prepped for this new arrival. 

First and foremost, make sure your family is comfortable with the arrival of a new pet and that everyone is prepared for the day the kitty is going to be coming home. Next, you can start kitten-proofing your property (if you're getting a kitten), by making sure you remove access to all the tiny and dangerous places your cats can get into. Remember, kittens can easily crawl under cabinets and behind bookshelves, so you'll want to reduce their access to these. 

Remove anything fragile that your cat might damage for the initial few weeks of bringing them home, so you don't have to worry about broken vases. Also, it's best to get rid of any plants around the home, as many cats are sensitive to plants, and some flowers are even poisonous to them!

Whether you're bringing home your first cat, or a new cat to meet the rest of your pets, you're going to need to start with a specific small space you can get your cat used to. Choose a room in the house where the cat won't be exposed to children and other pets for a while and set it up with all the correct supplies. 

What Supplies Do Cat Owner's need?

The exact supplies you're going to need for your cat will vary depending on what kind of cat you're getting. For instance, a larger cat like a Savannah or Bengal might need a leash for walks, and more toys for exercise. A cat with long fur might need a wider range of brushes and combs.

suppulies for a new cat owner

Some of the most common products to add to your shopping list include:

  • A litter tray: Yep, your cat's going to need a litter tray – and you might even want to consider getting more than one if you have a large house – just in case. Multiple cat litter trays are also necessary if you have a multi-cat household. Consider whether you want a hooded litter tray (to reduce smell), or an open one, and whether you're going to be using smart or manual litter trays.
  • Cat litter: Cat litter is what you'll be filling those trays with so your cat doesn't poop or go to the bathroom where you don't want it to. You can choose between clumping and non-clumping cat litter or get specialist litters that can actually show you the PH of your cat's urine (as odd as that might sound). Cat litter needs to be cleaned out and replaced regularly, so consider getting something like a Litter Genie to help, and a reliable scoop. Also, if your cat ends up having an accident on wood floors, you’ll want to clean it as quickly as possible to avoid dark spots.
  • Bedding: Bedding isn't always necessary for some cats, as certain felines will prefer to sleep on their scratching posts, on your lap, the sofa, or on the floor. However, it's nice to have a bed available in case your kitty does want a relaxing place to call their own. Often, cave-like cat beds such as the Meowfia cat cave bed, which give your cats the freedom to hide from the world when they want to, are a good pick. Choose something washable so it will last longer.
  • Food and water bowls: Food and water bowls come in a huge range of shapes and sizes, depending on your cat's needs. It's best to choose bowls that your cats can reach and use easily. Cat water fountains are great for cats that prefer having access to running water. You can also look into automatic cat food dispensers if you're worried about leaving too much food out for your cat throughout the day. These regulate how much your kitty can eat so they shouldn’t gain weight.
  • Grooming supplies: The most common grooming supplies to purchase for your cat will be brushes and combs. However, you can also look into other options like cat wipes, and shampoos for cats with longer fur which may need regular washing. You'll also need nail clippers to deal with cat claws that are getting too long, and even cat nail caps if you're worried about scratched up furniture.
  • Scratching posts: A scratching post or two will stop your cat from going to town on your furniture with its claws. Your scratching post should give your cat plenty of places to stretch and put its paws to work. Remember, regular scratching is part of a healthy cat life – it's something they just need to do. You can start with a simple cat tree and work your way up to a range of cat climbing frames.
  • Toys: Cats love to play. If you're not stimulating your cat with regular playtime and toys, they're going to end up getting bored and restless, particularly if there aren't other cats around to help them work off that extra energy. There are huge selections of great cat toys out there, ranging from laser pointers, to sticks with feathers on the end, toy mice, and interactive electronic toys too.
  • Food: We'll come back to feeding your cat in a while, but you'll need a diet that's designed specifically for your breed and age of cat – so it's worth talking to your vet. Cat food often includes a combination of wet and dry food. You can also look into things like treats – particularly if you want to train your cat to show certain behaviors.

Other investments can range all the way from leashes and collars for outdoor cats, to cat patios where your feline friends can explore the outside world in a safer environment. You might also need to look into the cost of things like flea treatments and worming options if you haven't arranged for an initial appointment with a vet where you can get this done.

Bringing Your New Cat Home

Bringing a feline friend home for the first time can be a wonderful experience, but it's also challenging too. The first thing you need to do is make sure that you arrange a vet visit, where you can have your kitty checked over, and get some top tips from your vet. 

When you first take your new cat to the vet, they'll be able to provide flea and worming treatments which are crucial for a new kitten or re-homed cat. They'll also offer information about the breed, so you know what kind of health conditions you might need to be aware of. Vets are great for giving guidance on the kind of nutritional demands your cat might have too, and they can walk you through options when it comes to things like the best cat insurance and protecting your kitty. 

When you first bring your new cat home, it's important to restrict their space. 

Don't give a new kitten or cat free reign of the house straight away, as they can get overwhelmed and stressed. Most cats will prefer to start with a small world, where they can adjust to sights, smells, and sounds slowly. Providing a single room for your cat to get used to is much easier. 

Gradually, you can introduce your kitty to other parts of the house, and even other family members (like children and other pets). Your cat will have a sense of where their "safe space" is – the place they first got used to when they came to your home, but they'll become more confident as they explore. 

introducing a new kitten to your cat in your home

If you do have another pet, or several in the household, don't rush the introduction process. Some of the ways you can reduce the risk of problems include:

  • Giving each pet its own space: Make sure your cat and your other pets have their own "safe spaces" to stay in when they're getting used to each other. This should reduce fights. If you have pet fish, think about adding crinkly aluminum foil around the aquarium to startle the cat if it tries to get too close.
  • Start with scent swapping: Start by taking a pillow your other animals often rest on and introducing it to the cat so they can get used to the new smell. You can also take an item from your cat's room and introduce it to the other animals.
  • Introduce slowly: When letting the cat and other animals get to know each other, start by letting them see or smell each other through a door or baby gate. Gradually, when you bring them into the same room, make sure they're fully supervised and only together for a short period before they're moved back to their spaces.

Feeding Your Cat: Creating a Healthy Diet

Looking after a cat means making sure they get the right nutrition every day.

If you have a specific breed of cat, you should definitely speak to your vet about the kind of special meals they might need. Some cats have a more sensitive stomach than others, and some need special ingredients to help them go to the bathroom. 

It's also worth thinking carefully about "raw food" and whether you want to explore that route with feeding. Many cat parents are beginning to invest more in raw cat foods, but this kind of feeding won't be right for everyone. Raw foods are expensive, and it's easy to get the mixture wrong if you're beginning, which means your cat's nutrition suffers. 

To get you started, let's look at some of the food considerations you'll need to think about when you're feeding your furry friend. 

Feeding a Kitten

Kittens are quick to start on solid foods, usually eating kitten meals at around 3 weeks of age. The first food you give your kitten needs to be easy to digest and soft. Most experts recommend soaking any dry biscuits in milk or water to get them nice and moist before the cat eats. If you are using milk, make sure it's milk specifically designed for kittens, as regular milk isn't good for cats.

From eight weeks, the number of meals your kitten has should reduce gradually. When your kitten is young, you'll feed them small amounts more frequently. When it starts to grow up, you'll train your cat into expecting meals at specific times throughout the day. Six-month-old kittens should generally get enough food for 2 meals per day.

It’s important to know that cats of any age might not eat all the food you put out for them in one sitting. Some will, but others will keep coming back for small snacks. Your task is to ensure that you don’t just keep topping up and that you stick to an overall amount of 2 meals.

Special kitten foods are always the best choice for younger cats, as they often require smaller pieces of food that are easier to digest and have different nutritional needs. As your kitten settles in, you can consider looking into new diets for him or her as she grows up. Talk to your vet about your options.

Feeding an Adult Cat

As your cat makes the transition from kitten into adult cat, it will likely spend more of its time "grazing" on food throughout the day rather than waiting specifically for mealtimes. Cats like to take their time with food rather than eating everything at once. 

If you want to allow your cat to graze, then you might leave a small amount of dry food out for them throughout the day, and occasionally provide wet food meals for the "main meal" of the day. You can also stick just to dry or wet food, depending on your preferences. However, giving a fully dry food menu means making sure your cat also gets enough moisture.

If you're not sure exactly how much food your kitty needs, most types come with measurements to help you. Measuring your cat's food at the beginning of the day should mean you're not tempted to overfeed. Most cats are great at knowing how much they need to eat, but some really like their food and will keep asking for more. 

cat with food and water bowls

When feeding your adult cat:

  • Remember they need constant access to clean, fresh water at all times
  • Choose shallow bowls, cats will often prefer these as they can see around them as they eat, which helps them feel safe
  • Shallow bowls will also prevent cats from brushing their whiskers against the sides of the bowl, which causes whisker fatigue
  • Keep bowls clean, and make sure you have separate food and water bowls
  • Avoid plastic bowls which could be harder to clean
  • Always remember your cat will need separate feeding areas to other pets

Feeding a Senior Cat

As your cat gets older, it'll need another new kind of diet. Again, the exact requirements of your cat will depend on a few things, so it's important to talk to your vet if you're not sure what to go for. Generally, more mature cats will need food with less fat in it because they'll be less active, which means they won't be able to break down fat as quickly.

Another problem is that many older cats will often begin to struggle with dental problems which might affect their ability to eat their usual diet. If you notice any changes to your cat's eating behavior, such as growling when they eat, not chewing and swallowing foods correctly, or eating to one side of their mouth, speak to your vet.

If you're concerned your cat isn't getting enough water, you may need to look into switching to a wet food, as giving your senior feline plenty of hydration is essential.

Quick Tips for Feeding Your Cat

When feeding your cat, it's important to remember a few key things.

  • Choose a quality cat food: Even if you're on a budget, you should be able to find high quality cheap cat food which is low on grain and filler and high on nutrition.
  • Keep water, food, and litter trays in different locations to convince your kitty that their water and food sources are clean.
  • Keep water fresh and change it regularly to ensure cats stay happy. Try a fountain if a bowl doesn't work.
  • Allow cats to eat separately from other cats if you're living in a multi-cat household.
  • Cats must have meat. They're obligate carnivores, and they cannot survive without a regular dose of meat.
  • Check your cat's necessary nutrients. Certain breeds of cat need specific vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy. Speak to your vet about choosing the right foods.

Dry or wet food?

You're free to feed your cat dry or wet cat food, or you can give them a combination of both. Ultimately, it's up to you to find out what works best for your cat. 

dry cat food or wet cat food

Dry cat food is a popular choice with many owners because you can leave biscuits out all day or place them in feeding balls to give your kitty a bit of a challenge. If your cat has a medical condition, you may need to get special dry or wet food. It's also crucial to give your cat plenty of water if they're eating dry food because they won't be getting moisture from their meal.

Wet foods will give your kitty a wide selection of delicious ingredients, including meat. There’s a huge selection of wet foods that appeal to cats, and they're great for getting extra moisture into your feline friend. 

How much, and how often?

Choosing the right quantity of cat food is essential. Check the label on your chosen food for quantity advice, and make sure that you check your cat's weight to ensure you're not over or under feeding them. Preventing your cat from gaining weight is much easier than helping them with losing weight.

Neutered cats will often expend less energy, so it's worth reducing the amount of food you're going to provide. In terms of how often you should feed, most cats like to eat small meals frequently, rather than large meals in big chunks. Fresh wet food needs to be replaced around twice a day. 

What about treats?

You can also give your kitty a handful of healthy treats when they behave well, or when you're trying to strengthen your bond. Make sure you limit the number of treats given, as many contain ingredients which will cause your cat to gain weight.

Some treats feature special ingredients which are great for cleaning your cats teeth or helping with other common conditions like hairballs. 

Be cautious about giving your cat any dangerous foods from your plate. Some human foods are unsuitable for cats and may cause health issues.

Raising Your Cat: Grooming

Grooming is a commonly overlooked part of raising a healthy cat, but it's something you should be starting as quickly as possible. Grooming is how you keep your kitty looking its best. It's also an important tool to keep fur, nails, and even skin healthy. 

Cats naturally groom themselves most of the time, but they can't always get every matt out of their coat or deal with every sticky substance. This is especially true of long-haired breeds. With that in mind, it's worth setting aside some time to develop some good grooming habits. 

brushing a cat

Ideally, the aim should be to get your kitty comfortable with grooming from an early age. If you're adopting a fully-grown cat, this might not be as easy as it would be to simply train a kitten to feel comfortable with grooming. 


The most important part of grooming for many cats is regular brushing. Your cat needs a brush or comb on a regular basis to keep their coats looking great, get rid of loose hair, and remove any dirt that might be lingering on your cat's skin. 

If your cat has short hair:

  • Brush around once a week to distribute healthy oils through the fur
  • Use a metal comb to loosen dead fur
  • Start at the head and work your way down to the tail
  • Use a bristle or rubber brush to remove dead fur
  • Be careful around the cat's face, chest, and belly

If your cat has long hair:

  • Brush up to once per day
  • Start around the legs and belly and work your way up
  • Use a detangling brush to deal with knots
  • Brush the fur in an upward motion to clean and lift it
  • Be cautious when brushing the tail


Most cats won't need regular bathing sessions. You'll know your kitty is in need of a wash if he or she feels oily or greasy when you pet them. In some cases, you may need to bathe your cat if they get into something that's smelly or sticky. Do make sure you use a shampoo made specifically for cats.

Many cat owners avoid giving their cat a bath because they fear that their kitty will hate it and they will make it pretty much impossible. However, this is not always the case and there is an approach to bathing a cat that should work:

  • Brush your cat to remove dead fur and stop it from clogging the drain
  • Place a rubber mat in the sink or bathtub for grip
  • Fill the sink or bath with a few inches of warm water
  • Use a pitcher or gentle hose to get your cat wet
  • Avoid the ears, nose, and eyes
  • Carefully lather up a small amount of shampoo all over the cat
  • Rinse off all the soap
  • Get your cat dried off with a warm towel

Nail clipping

Nail clipping is one of the more common parts of cat care. Remember, you should never have a cat's nails removed, as they need to scratch for good health. However, you can trim a cat's nails occasionally if they seem to be getting too long. 

To make nail trimming easier, get your cat used to playing with their feet when you're not trimming the claws. When the time comes to cut the nails, make sure you have a pair of safe cat nail clippers to help you avoid mistakes.

  • Gently squeeze the bottom and top of the cat's foot for the claws to emerge
  • Use a nail trimmer made for cats to clip the very tip of the nail
  • Never cut too far, or to the pink area in your cat's nail
  • Reach out to a vet immediately if anything goes wrong

Cat Health: A Quick Health Checklist

As a cat parent, it's important you keep an eye on your cat's health, and make sure that your feline friend isn't suffering from any issues. But how do you know if your cat is sick? Every so often, it's worth "playing vet" and performing a quick check-up on your cat to ensure that everything looks okay. 

Obviously, if you do notice something wrong, like a fever, you'll need to take them to an actual vet straight away for the correct treatment.

cat at vets

Here's a quick checklist to guide you.

  • Body condition: Check your cat's body condition score, and ensure they're not struggling with obesity. When you pet your cat, you should be able to feel their ribs quite easily with a small covering of fat. Your cat should usually have a well-defined waist when viewed from above, and a small amount of fat on their belly.
  • Ears: Cats have extremely sensitive and delicate ears which need treating with care. Ears should always be kept clean, with no waxy or thick discharge, and there shouldn't be any offensive smells or itchiness to worry about. If your cat has thin ears, you might need to check for any cuts or scrapes from time to time. If your cat starts holding their head to one side, or shaking their head, then this could be a sign they have an ear problem.
  • Eyes: A cat's eyes should be clear and bright with no sign of redness, runniness, or soreness. Your pet shouldn't squint or keep their eyes semi-closed. If your cat starts bumping into objects as they walk around the house, this could mean they need a vet checkup.
  • Nose: Your cat's nose should be clean, soft, and slightly damp to the touch. Bleeding, crusting, discharge, excess sneezing, and other unusual behaviors are signs that something isn't right. Make sure you take your kitty to the vet as quickly as possible for a health check.
  • Mouth: Cats with terrible breath often have issues with their teeth or mouth. Sometimes, bad breath will also indicate a kidney issue. To check the quality of your cat's teeth, gently open their mouth and look at the teeth and gums. Teeth should be cream or white without any thick brown lines. Gums should be pink or black depending on your cat's skin, and not swollen, bleeding, or red. Keep an eye out for excess drooling and bad breath.
  • Skin and coat: As you pet your cat, you should be able to check for common skin issues, such as scrapes and cuts, dandruff, bald patches, and even potential flea bites. Cats can also suffer from acne, like humans, which may show as pink or black dots. If you notice spots, speak to your vet about your options. Your cat will shed its hair regularly around the year, and, as we covered already, it's important to have a good grooming process in place to help keep fur healthy.
  • Claws: Your cat’s nails should be smooth (and often sharp). Flaky or rough nails may indicate the need for a quick trip to the vet. Check your cat’s nails regularly by squeezing their paw pads carefully to encourage the claw to emerge. Check claws look healthy and consider trimming them if they seem too long and sharp. You can also check your cat's dew claws (found in the inside of the leg, just above the paw). 
  • Paw Health: While checking your cat's claws, take a closer look at their paws too. The paw pads should be clean and healthy, with no cuts or scrapes. Make sure that your cats don't seem to have anything stuck in their paw, or flaky skin indicating dryness.
  • Digestion: Like humans, cats can be pretty picky with their food. That's because being sick isn't fun for a cat. It's normal for cats to cough up a hairball from time to time, but they shouldn't be vomiting or showing a reluctance to eat. Keep a close eye on your cat's appetite, and whether it changes with new foods and treats. If you notice particularly bad smells coming from the litter tray, or a different consistency of waste, this also means you need to speak to a vet.
  • Breathing: Issues with breathing need to be addressed immediately. Your cat should not breathe with an open mouth like a dog. Any signs of wheezing, coughing and panting should be investigated as quickly as possible. 
  • Thirst: Cats don't drink nearly as often as most dogs, but they do need regular water to keep them healthy. Your cat will happily drink out of cups and mugs left around the house, or lick water from a dripping faucet. Don't be too concerned if it seems like your cat isn't drinking too much from their bowl, unless you notice other health issues cropping up. Speak to your vet if you think your cat isn't drinking enough. And consider getting a water fountain so there’s always a fresh supply of water available.

The attitude of a cat can tell you a great deal about how they feel. A cat's behavior is an indicator of how they're feeling. If your cat isn't feeling well, then you'll probably be able to notice this in their body language. For instance, a cat sleeping more than usual might not be feeling his best.

Poorly cats are more likely to stay away from human contact and may even begin urinating or going to the bathroom in unusual locations. If you notice any changes in your cat's behavior, it's best to speak to a vet as soon as possible.

Cat Behavior and Attitude

One of the things that makes cats so compelling is they all have their own unique attitude and personalities. Some cats are fun and lively, while others are snuggly and affectionate. It's impossible to know what your cat is going to be like until you adopt and spend some time with them.

The first thing you need to know is that all cats have their own requirements when it comes to love, care, and attention. Just because your cat doesn't sit on your lap doesn't mean it doesn't love you. Maine Coon cats may not be lap cats, but they're extremely warm and cuddly. 

Here are some common cat behaviors to be aware of:

  • Saying hello: Cats have a few different methods they use to greet people. If a cat comes to you with their tail pointing upwards, this means they're saying ‘hello’. A cat rubbing its head, tail, and body against your leg is a classic greeting, and a gentle headbutt indicates trust and extra affection. Your cat has scent glands on its head and ears, so if it rubs its cheek against you, it's marking you as "mine". 
  • Petting and stroking: Your cat won't always be open to being petted – no matter how enticing it might be to snuggle that soft belly. If your cat rolls on its back and exposes its tummy, this indicates that they trust and feel comfortable around you. However, you shouldn't necessarily dive in with the tummy pats. Cats don't always love having their belly scratched. Figuring out where to pet your kitty is a process, and you'll get used to it over time. 
  • Biting: Biting and scratching is common among cats. It isn't necessarily a sign that your kitty is actively trying to hurt you. Most cats bite and scratch when playing with their litter mates too. The best thing you can do is teach your cat not to bite when still young. You can do this by playing with toys, rather than encouraging play with hands.
  • Check the eyes: Cats say a lot with their eyes. Large, dilated eyes indicate that your cat is excited, or ready to pounce. Many cats stare their prey down when waiting to pounce. You might notice them hunkering down and gazing at your toes when they're ready to jump in and attack. Dilated pupils, combined with a relaxed body and purring can also mean contentment. If your cats pupils shrunk, this indicates fear. If your cat stares at you and slowly blinks their eyes, this is a sign of trust and love.
  • The ears: A common sign your cat isn't happy is when they flatten their ears down to their head. This is often something many cats might combine with raised hair on their back and tail. Stay clear if your cat seems to be particularly distressed.
  • The twitching tail: A cat's tail is very expressive in a cat. If your cat holds its tail high, but keeps it relaxed, this shows familiarity and confidence. A bushy and high tail means a cat is scared, or sometimes excited. Your cat may also tuck its tail between its legs if its nervous or running away. A twitching tail when your cat wraps around your legs could indicate excitement and friendliness.
cat tail behavior

One of the easiest ways to tell how your cat is feeling is to listen to the noises they make. Many cats purr to show their contentment, while some specific breeds are more likely to chirp. Chirping or chattering in some cats is also a sign that your feline friend is on the hunt. Keep an ear out for the sounds your kitty makes when gazing at a bird out of the window. 

A short or single meow is usually a greeting, while lots of meowing indicates your pet is thrilled to see you. Longer pitch meows are often quests for food and attention, while high pitch meows could be signs of pain or shock. Some cats meow in a low tone to show that they're ready for a fight, whereas others are more likely to spit, hiss, and growl. If your cat sounds a little scary, take a step back and give them their space.

Understanding Your Cat

As you're raising your kitten, it's best to handle them regularly, playing frequently to help keep them entertained and focused. Picking up your cat can help to create a bond and make it easier when you need to groom and bathe your feline friend in the future. However, you should try to avoid using your hands to play with your cat – no matter how small their teeth and claws might be when they're still a kitten. Playing with hands encourages biting. Those bites can really hurt when the cat grows up. (We know this is hard - we all want to play with our furry friend and they want to play with us too!) 

As you raise your cat, you'll gradually get to know their unique behaviors a little better. 

A few tips to keep in mind include:

  • Nibbles: If your cat bites you gently while playing, this is usually a sign that your feline friend has had enough of playtime, and it's time to cut back.
  • Growling: If your cat growls when you pick them up or pet them, they may be in a bad mood and want some time alone.
  • Running: If you approach your cat and they bolt in the other direction, this is usually a sign that you moved towards the feline too quickly.
  • Affection: Just because purring, rubbing its head against you, and cuddles are common signs of affection doesn't mean your cat doesn't love you if you don't see these behaviors. Cats show their affection in different ways.

Cat Behavior and Litter Box Problems

When it comes to cat behavior issues, litter problems are often the biggest concern of many pet owners. There are a lot of factors which might convince your cat to pee (or poop) outside of the litter box – which is something no pet parent wants to deal with. While many kittens take naturally to the litter box, others may need more help to be taught about bathroom etiquette. If you have a young kitten, be patient while they learn to use their tray.

If your cat suddenly starts going to the bathroom away from the litter box, or continues to have issues as he or she gets older, this could be a sign of some more significant issues. 

cat not using litter box

The first thing you should do when your cat seems to be going to the bathroom outside of the litter box, is rule out health issues. Talk to your vet and have a checkup to ensure there are no underlying problems like urine infections to worry about. Urinary infections can be extremely dangerous for cats, so it's best to get help immediately to look out for:

  • Metabolic issues: Metabolic issues like kidney disease and diabetes can increase the amount of urine your cat produces, making it harder for them to get to the litter box in time.
  • Arthritis: Cats with joint or arthritic issues can have difficulty getting into litter boxes with high sides. Make sure the litter box is accessible to your cat.
  • Painful urination: Urinary tract disorders are a serious concern for cats and may even become fatal. Always ensure that UTIs are not a problem if your cat is defecating outside of the box.
  • Problems with elimination: Diarrhea and constipation can cause your cat to feel uncomfortable in its litter tray, making it more likely they'll want to avoid it.
  • Paw issues: Cuts, grazes, and other problems with paws making it uncomfortable to walk on litter may tempt your cat to urinate elsewhere. 
  • Older cats: Cats with poor memories may forget where the litter box is, or how to use it correctly. You may need to assist your cat more often as he or she gets older or get a litter box that's easier to use. 

Other Common Problems for Litter Box Issues

After you've carefully ruled out any likelihood of medical issues for your cat's litter box problems, you'll need to think about other reasons why your cat might not be using the box. The most common reason is that the cat doesn't like the type of litter box, or the kind of litter you're using. If you're using a smart litter tray which cleans itself, some cats may be worried about the sound of the mechanisms as the device works. 

If you have a high-walled or top entry litter box to avoid your cat kicking litter onto the floor, they may not like feeling like they need to jump into the litter tray. It can take a while to find the litter trays that work well for your kitty. Other issues may include:

  • Separation anxiety or stress: A cat suffering from various forms of separation anxiety, nerves, or stress might take longer to adjust to a new box, or even stop using the litter tray entirely. It's common to see a cat having problems with the litter tray after it moves into a new house or the owners start a new job. Litter tray problems can also arise when pet owners are away for a while, or when a new pet is introduced to the house. 
  • Behavioral issues: Some kitties develop behavioral problems as a result of things like boredom, or problems the cat had before you adopted it. In this case, your cat might have litter box issues which you'll need to address with things like regular play and litter box training. You can work with experts to improve litter box use, and even get sprays which attract cats to the tray. 
  • Litter box smells: Aside from having the wrong type or shape of litter box, there's also a risk that your cat might stop using the tray if the litter box is smelly. Cats appreciate clean bathrooms (like most of us) and will look for other places to go to the bathroom if a litter box is already full. A cat's sense of smell is a lot more accurate than ours, so make sure you keep those trays clean.
  • Location and size of tray: You could also find your cat doesn't like going to the litter box in certain locations. If the placement of your litter tray means your kitty gets no privacy when going to the bathroom, they'll look for somewhere more comfortable. Noises and the presence of people or other animals can dissuade a cat from visiting the litter tray. The wrong size of tray is a significant problem too. Kittens and small cats don't mind about the size too much, but larger cats will need a tray at least one and a half times larger than the size of their bodies. 
  • Not enough boxes: If you have multiple cats, then you're going to need multiple litter boxes too. Generally, you should have one box for each cat, plus one extra tray. It's also worth placing multiple trays around the home if you have quite a large space to explore. This will ensure that your cat will always have a tray nearby when playing or running around. It can also help as your cat gets older if they have issues getting to their litter tray in time.
  • Litter issues: Litter problems can sometimes be caused by the kind of litter you choose for your kitty. There are plenty of different litter types to consider, including clumping and non-clumping, wooden pellets, and crystals. Usually, you'll need to invest in a little experimentation to find out what your cat likes most.  

Cat Health: How to Protect Your Cat's Wellbeing

Finally, we come to one of the most important aspects of properly caring for your cat – making sure that you keep them as healthy as possible. The reality is that you may not be able to protect your feline friend from every potential injury or illness. However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't be working hard to protect your kitty whenever you can. 

The first and most important step in ensuring good health is arranging for regular checkups with your vet. Your vet will be able to ensure that your cat is growing and thriving correctly, without any ailments which might cause you a fortune in future vet bills.

cat getting vaccinated

Vets can also regularly provide your kitty with vaccinations to keep them in good condition. 


  • Watch your cat carefully: As your kitty grows, you'll get a good understanding of which behaviors are normal for him or her. If you notice a change in those behaviors, this could be an indication your cat isn't feeling as well as usual or has an injury. If you notice anything going wrong with your cat's behavior, book a vet appointment. 
  • Be aware of common symptoms: Common symptoms of cat illnesses include things like sneezing or coughing, wheezing, or panting and going to the bathroom outside of the litter tray. If your cat is making a lot more noise than usual, this could also be a sign that it needs help. Seek vet advice as soon as you notice an issue.
  • Avoid sources of danger: There are various dangerous substances and situations for your cat. For instance, a cat that goes outdoors will automatically be at greater risk of suffering from injury after fights. These cats can also end up eating a lot of things they're not supposed to, which makes poisoning more common. You can also avoid sources of danger in the home by being aware of which plants and foods your cat is sensitive to.
  • Remember the basics: When you get a cat, you should automatically have fleas and worms removed by a vet and consider neutering. Neutering reduces a lot of behavioral problems, including going to the bathroom outside of the tray. Most neutered cats will also live longer too because they're less tempted to roam. Ask your vet about vaccinations and annual parasite treatments too.
  • Care for your cat's happiness: Remember that keeping a cat healthy doesn't just mean feeding it the right food and keeping it away from danger. Your cats will also need regular play to be happy, and plenty of cuddles. Learn what your cat loves to do and work on creating a calm and peaceful environment for him or her to live in.
  • Keep certain products locked away: Always keep cleaning products and dangerous substances away from anywhere pets can access. This will help to protect your cat from any significant dangers. 
  • Get your cat microchipped: Even if you don't allow your kitty to roam outdoors, it's worth having it chipped, just in case. This ensures that if your kitty gets out of the house by accident at any point, anyone who finds the cat will be able to return it to you.
  • Groom regularly: Remember that grooming will help to keep your kitty healthy too. Brushing your cat's teeth can help to prevent teeth issues, while regularly clipping claws can reduce nail discomfort. Even brushing your kitty will help them feel their best by removing matts from their long coats. 

Keeping Your Cat Healthy

Remember, some kitties have different health requirements to others, because of their breed or background. Some cats are more likely to have joint and bone problems, while others might have specific requirements when it comes to diet. It's crucial to do your research on the type of cat you're getting before you bring one of these beautiful animals into your home. 

cats playing in boxes

Our comprehensive cat breed guide is a good place to start.

For instance, keep in mind that Persian cats are more likely to have breathing problems because of the shape of their face, while Maine Coons can suffer from joint and heart problems. Your vet will be able to give you advice on how to care for your specific breed of cat, and what you can do to reduce their chances of health issues. 

Speak to your vet about the kind of common illnesses and diseases your kitty might be subject to. It's also worth learning about some ailments like cancer in cats, or FIV. With a little luck, your cat will never fall victim to any serious emergencies or ailments, but make sure you know what to do if anything does go dreadfully wrong. 

If your cat suddenly stops playing and moving as usual, has difficulty breathing, or shows other distressing behaviors, contact your vet immediately. Usually, you will be able to find an emergency vet practice you can contact outside of normal working hours if your standard local vet isn't open

Should You Get Pet Insurance?

If something does go wrong with your cat's health, it's worth noting that treatment can be awfully expensive. This is particularly true in cases when your kitty might belong to a specific breed, or when you need to get assistance outside of standard working hours. 

protect your cat with insurance

Pet insurance can help to cut the costs of some of these treatments, so you can protect your kitty without worrying. Insurance will cover a good portion of your vet bills, although you'll generally have a small amount you need to pay yourself too. 

The exact cost of your cat insurance will depend on what kind of coverage you get, and where you are. More expensive breed often lead to higher pet insurance costs. You'll also find that you need to pay more if you have an animal with a specific range of common conditions associated with the breed. To determine whether you should get pet insurance or not, ask yourself:

  • s your kitty prone to any specific kinds of illnesses? Ongoing vet expenses for a common condition can cost thousands. This is something you definitely need to consider if you're thinking of buying a specific breed of cat.
  • What would you do if you got a huge vet bill? Do you have savings available to ensure you can always handle your cat's bill – no matter how large? Or are you concerned that you may not be able to get your feline the extra help they need due to budget problems?
  • What are the risks? Outside of standard health conditions, which may be common among certain breeds, your cat might also be exposed to other risks, particularly if it's an outdoor kitty, or it's more likely to be stolen.

If you do decide to get pet insurance, it's definitely worth taking some time to check out all the providers online carefully and ensure you're getting the right deal for your money. Take your time, and don't rush into coverage (but also don’t leave it too late!). Remember, you can always change providers later.

We think it’s a no-brainer to have it. You simply don’t know what illness or accident could be in store for your beloved cat and if you don’t have insurance the cost of their treatment (or even the chance to keep them alive) might be just too much. Better to be safe than sorry.

That said, we and our readers have found Petplan to be a fair priced and reliable cat insurance provider so do make sure to get a quote from them.

Looking after Your Cat

Caring for and raising a cat is a very unique experience which can differ for every pet parent.

With the tips above, you'll know everything you need to know about bringing your new friend home and giving them the best possible quality of life. 

Remember, you can find all kinds of guides on our cat website to help you with supporting your new furry friend with everything from the best food to the right toys.

All that's left to do now is enjoy your life with your wonderful new companion.

About the author

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated animal lover. Her Savannah cat, Roscoe, has a lot of attitude, while her Maine Coon, Dukino, is full of love. When not writing, she’s looking after her cats and researching ways to help them live their best possible life. Her passion for animals and natural skill for writing led her to pursue pet blogging.