Cats are so rewarding to have in your family, and they take a lot of work, despite the common misconception that cats are completely independent.
So aside from getting a cat on impulse, people who have just brought home their first cat often make many other common mistakes.
Here are the first 10 mistakes in my top 20 list.
1. No Parasite Control
While most people with cats are familiar with fleas, other pests — such as tapeworms, mites, hookworms, roundworms, ticks and even heartworms — can affect cats. Heartworm treatment options are limited; the disease is not as treatable as it is with dogs.
Some of these parasites can be transmitted to humans, so talk with your veterinarian about preventive care based on your location and cat’s habits (e.g., indoor versus outdoor cats).
2. Not Spaying or Neutering Your Cat
Do yourself and your cat a favor and have her fixed. Cats can become pregnant as early as 4–6 months of age, so don’t delay in discussing the procedure with your vet.
3. No Litter Box Training
Not every cat is born with the instinct to use the litter box, and stray or feral cats may not be familiar with it at all.
Some cats may need training to associate waste with this location, and others may avoid using the litter box due to other health issues. Work with your vet to rule out medical or behavioral issues and start training.
4. Ignoring the Claws
A cat’s claws are sharp and can grow to painful lengths without scratching posts or regular trimming, so implement a grooming regimen as early as possible. I’ve had the best success with waiting until the cat is tired or just woken from a nap.
Declawing is not recommended, is painful for the cat and is considered illegal in some areas..
5. Buying Cheap Food
Just because Purr-Paw Chow is on sale for $1 per bag doesn’t mean it’s good for your cat.
Check the ingredients for high-protein and low-carbohydrate ingredients. A lack of necessary nutrients and high-carb diets can cause myriad health issues and obesity in cats, so think twice before grabbing the cheap chow.
6. Cleaning the Litter Box Once a Month
Cats are very clean animals, and they appreciate a clean area for their waste.
Check the box at least once per day for contributions, and keep it clean and fresh. And remember to introduce new types of litter gradually so your cat gets adjusted to the new textures and odors.
7. Ignoring Grooming
While cats spend a majority of their time cleaning themselves (next to sleeping, of course), there are still areas that need attention from you.
In addition to keeping the claws trimmed, spend time at least once a week checking and cleaning the cat’s ears and teeth, and brushing the coat. Bathing is even sometimes necessary if their coats get muddy or sticky. This grooming will help reduce ear mites, dental problems, dander and the amount of fur ingested by your cat.
This obese stray is starting an exercise regimen to slim down:
8. Optional Vaccinations
While it’s true vaccinations come with risks and benefits, some are required by law depending on your location. Almost all U.S. states require rabies vaccinations, so check with your vet and local laws to determine if the vaccine is required every year or once every 3 years.
Other vaccinations are considered necessary and may include distemper, herpes and other viruses. Additional vaccines are available for other conditions such as leukemia, bordetella and the feline immunodeficiency virus.
9. Ignoring Illnesses and Injuries
When cats become sick or injured, have them examined by your veterinarian immediately. Some minor injuries or illnesses can turn serious, while others may just need to be monitored.
Don’t take a chance — be proactive to provide the best quality of care for your pet. Catching major illnesses early can also be cheaper and bring better health benefits for your cat.
10. Endless Food
Cats can become overweight if food is always made available.
Read the labels and check with your vet to determine the right amount of food to provide for your cat. Obesity is a serious problem, and regulating your cat’s food intake ensure a healthy weight and reduce future health issues.
Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 in a 2-part series. Look for the next 10 common mistakes to avoid as a first-time cat person in Part 2 of this series next week.
This pet health content was reviewed by a veterinarian.