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A beginner's guide to owning a cat

4 minutes

Although cats are independent, they still need care and attention. Here's everything you need to know about looking after your new cat. 

Cats are intelligent, agile and playful creatures, so it's little wonder there are around 8 million pet cats in the UK.
 
Looking after a cat is a long-term commitment, with many cats reaching 14 and others living well beyond that age.
 
So it's important to know what to expect when you decide to become a cat owner, although many people say their cat owns them, not the other way around! 

Many people say their cat owns them, not the other way around! 

A healthy cat is a happy cat

Cats are fiercely independent, but they still need to be checked over regularly for signs of illness or injury. Even the most agile cat can slip or get into a neighbourhood brawl, or your kitten could eat something they shouldn't.
 
Take your cat for a health check with a vet once a year. In between visits, if you notice any changes in your cat's behaviour or feel a suspicious lump when you're grooming, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
 
Speak to a vet about having your cat microchipped. This way, if it wanders off, you'll be easily reunited. Also, get your cat spayed if you're not planning to breed from it, and make sure all your cat's vaccinations are up to date.


 

Provide a well-balanced diet

This can be easier said than done if your cat's visiting the neighbours for treats in between meals at home.

Cats are carnivores, and should always have a meat diet. 

Some cats prefer 
small meals spread throughout the day, rather than one large meal once a day. Keep their food and drink away from their litter tray, and remember, milk is a no-no as it can upset a cat's stomach. Water should always be available. 

Speak to your vet if you're concerned about a change in appetite as it can be an indication of ill health. If your cat needs treatment, check whether your 
pet insurance will cover the cost.


Create the perfect cat pad

Cats love to snooze and can sleep between 12 and 18 hours a day. Make sure your cat has a warm, dry place to curl up and sleep.
 
They should also have access to a safe place, where they can escape if they feel frightened. They'll often feel most secure when they're high up - a safe place may be on the top of a shelf or wardrobe.
 
If your cat has a litter tray, empty it every day. Cats generally won't use a dirty litter tray. If your cat goes to the toilet outside, make sure it can come and go freely.


 

Understand your cat's behaviour

Cats are naturally playful and active when not asleep. They are very territorial so will spend much of their time around their home turf, patrolling and hunting.
 
Cats will scratch to mark their territory and sharpen their claws. If you don't want your sofa legs ruined, provide a scratching post for your cat to use.
 
Find time to play with your cat, but also give them time to play by themselves. Many cats love toys they can stalk or chase. 
 
If your cat is frightened or stressed, its behaviour may change. Speak to your vet or a qualified animal behaviourist about what you can do to help your cat relax. Our Lifetime pet insurance covers the cost of some behavioural treatment.



Enjoy their company

As most cat owners know, you can't make a cat love you. Cats will come to you when they want your company.
 
If a cat has a positive experience of humans, other cats, and even dogs as it grows up, then it can learn to be relaxed around people and other animals.
 
However, most adult cats are only friendly to their siblings and other cats they have grown up with, so introducing a new cat in to the family can be tricky. They may need separate areas to eat their food and space to avoid each other.
 
Lots of useful information about how to care for your cat can be found on the RSPCA website.