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A beginner's guide to owning a cat

Your introduction to becoming a responsible cat owner

A white and grey cat asleep on a table

Although cats are independent animals, they still need your care and attention. Our simple cat owning guide sets out what it takes to care for your cat.

Cats are intelligent, agile and playful creatures so it's no wonder there are approximately 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.

That's why it's important to know what to expect when you decide to become a cat owner. Although many owners would argue that the cat chooses who owns them, not the other way around!

Many owners would argue that the cat chooses who owns them, not the other way round!

A healthy cat is a happy cat

Even though cats are independent, they still need to be checked over regularly for signs of illness or injury. Even the most agile cat can slip occasionally or your kitten may eat something they shouldn't.

Take your cat for a health check with a vet once a year. But in the meantime, if you notice any changes in your cat's behaviour or feel a suspicious lump when you're grooming, take them to the vet straightaway.

Speak to a vet about having your cat microchipped. This way it can be returned to you easily if it gets lost. Also, get your cat spayed if you're not planning to breed from it and make sure all its vaccinations are up to date.

Provide a well-balanced diet

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

Cats should always be given a meat diet. As carnivores they need meat as their main food source.

You may find your cat prefers smaller meals spread throughout the day rather than one large meal once a day. Also, keep their food and drink away from their litter tray. And milk is a no-no as it can upset a cat's stomach. Water is fine.

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 for 12-18 hours a day. So 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 safest when they're high up so a safe place may be on the top of a shelf or wardrobe for example.

If your cat has a litter tray, empty it every day. Cats generally won't use a litter tray that's already dirty. 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 awake 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. Fun toys include things for them to 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 another cat in to the family can be tricky. For example, they may need separate areas to eat their food and may need space to avoid each other.

Lots of useful information about how to care for your cat can be found on the RSPCA website.

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