How to Avoid 9 Common Cat Owner Mistakes

Two kittens cuddling

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Bringing home a new feline friend is a major decision. Even though cats have earned a reputation for being more independent than their canine counterparts, they still require a great deal of time, effort, and money. So before you head to that local pet store and bring home the first adorable kitten you see (no matter how tempting it is), here are some things potential cat owners should know to avoid the common mistakes often made by new cat owners.

  • 01 of 09

    Do Your Homework

    Kitten climbing up a cage.
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    It’s one thing to impulse buy a new pair of jeans, but when it comes to animals, there’s no easy return policy if it’s just not the right fit. When you’re considering bringing home a new feline friend to join your family, you have to consider all of your options and make an educated, informed decision.

    Be sure to do your homework when it comes to cat breeds, behavior, and the basics of their care. You’ll also want to visit different shelters and be sure to ask tons of questions. Because cats are such individual creatures, try to gather as much information as you can about the unique personality and history of your new cat.

  • 02 of 09

    Understand the Commitment

    Woman kissing a cat.
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    Everyone knows that having kids is not only expensive but also is a life-changing and long-term commitment, and bringing home a new four-legged family member is no different. Responsible shelters will conduct a thorough investigation of any potential adopters to ensure that their home and lifestyle is conducive to cat ownership and that they are also financially capable of providing everything that their new kitty will need to live a happy, healthy life, from necessities such as food to the financial ability to address health conditions that may arise as your pet ages. Keep in mind that there is pet insurance to help make cat ownership more affordable.

  • 03 of 09

    Be Sure to Spay or Neuter

    Kittens nursing on a mother cat
    John P. Kelly / Getty Images

    As a cat owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your pet is spayed or neutered and to do your part to help address the cat overpopulation issue. Spaying or neutering will help prevent issues such as aggressive behavior in your male cat or yowling in female cats when they’re in heat—but, most importantly, it will eliminate the risk of ending up with a surprise litter of unwanted kittens that will be costly and time-consuming to care for and adopt out. Spaying or neutering your cat also helps protect them from numerous health issues, ranging from cancerous tumors to bacterial infections.

  • 04 of 09

    Don't Declaw Unless It's Medically Necessary

    Close-up of two cat paws
    iStock Images

    When you bring in your cat to be spayed or neutered, your veterinarian may ask if you’d like to declaw your cat at the same time. While there are still veterinarians who consider this surgery a routine art of cat ownership, many consider it inhumane and unnecessary, and it is even banned in many countries and U.S. states. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation discourages declawing as an elective procedure and supports non-surgical alternatives. As a cat owner, be sure to do your research to determine where you stand and make an informed decision, as cat declawing requires the surgical amputation of the end bones in your cat’s toes and not just a trim of its nails.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Build a Relationship With Your Vet

    Veterinarian cleaning a cat's teeth.
    Henk Badenhorst / Getty Images

    There’s a common misconception that cats don’t need to go to the vet as often as dogs, or that they don’t need to be vaccinated because many cats rarely leave the confines of their house. However, cats must receive the same care as dogs; some vaccines are necessary for all cats, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor cats. And it’s just as important that they have access to annual examinations to help catch any problems that could result in more serious health issues. And it probably goes without saying, but your cat should always be seen by your vet if it becomes sick or injured. Be sure to research veterinarians in your area, ask lots of questions, and find the right vet to partner with to help ensure your kitty lives a long, healthy life.

  • 06 of 09

    Know Proper Litter Box Maintenance

    Overhead shot of cat litter in a box with a cat looking at it.
    Axel Bueckert / EyeEm / Getty Images

    As long as you keep your cat’s litter box clean and choose a litter that doesn’t irritate them (stay away from the scented litter, for example), most cats are more than happy to consistently use their litter box. Maintenance will include scooping, scrubbing, and litter replacement. Your cat’s litter box habits can also alert you to any potential health problems; cats that suddenly start urinating outside of their litter box, for example, can be a clue that they may be dealing with a urinary tract issue and need an immediate visit to the vet.

  • 07 of 09

    Choose the Right Food

    Cat eating from a food bowl.
    Vstock LLC / Getty Images

    Pet owners have no shortage of options when it comes to their cat’s food, and the prices run the gamut. However, you’ll want to be sure to feed your cat a food that meets their nutritional needs, such as foods that are a rich source of meat protein and without large amounts of grain fillers such as corn, which is often found in some lesser-quality (and cheaper) cat foods. Discuss with your vet to determine recommended foods for your cat and choose the option that best meets both your cat’s needs and your budget. Keep in mind that in the long run, providing your cat with a higher-quality food may mean fewer visits to the vet and more money in your wallet. All pet foods that carry an AAFCO-approved nutritional guarantee are considered to be nutritionally complete and balanced.

  • 08 of 09

    Know Where Your Cat Is

    Kitten lurking in the flowers outside.
    Dipak Maske / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Whether you choose an indoor or outdoor (or both) lifestyle for your cat, you mustn’t just allow your cat to roam free outdoors. While many cat owners feel their cat deserves the freedom and fresh air, the unfortunate reality is that there are numerous dangers outdoors, from attacks by wild animals (or your neighbor’s dog) to getting hit by a car, so allowing your cat to roam free is not the first choice. In addition, cats that are allowed outdoors are the number one human caused threat to birds and are responsible for killing billions of local wildlife a year which has even contributed to extinction of some bird species. Even one indoor/outdoor cat in a neighborhood can have huge ramifications for local wildlife as even well fed cats still hunt for prey.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Understand Basic Cat Behavior

    Gray-white tabby cat playing with a cat feather toy.
    Waitforlight / Getty Images

    Sometimes new cat owners will expect their new four-legged friend to greet them at the door or snuggle with them just like a dog would. They may also become frustrated by typical feline behaviors that humans don’t always fully understand, such as their penchant for seeking out high or enclosed places to observe you instead of curling in your lap on the couch. But as a new cat owner, you’ll need to understand that cats are individualistic creatures with strong instincts. It may take time for them to warm up to you and adjust to your lifestyle, as well as for you to adapt to their unique personalities and behaviors. A cat can offer years of love and companionship, but only if you’re willing to put in the time and effort into building a relationship with them on their terms and understand when your cat is just being a cat.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.

Watch Now: How Long Do Cats Live?

Article Sources
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  1. Cat Behavior and Training. VCA Hospitals.

  2. Spaying and neutering. American Veterinary Medical Foundation 

  3. Declaw... or not? American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

  4. Vaccines for Cats. VCA Hospitals.

  5. Behavioral Problems of Cats. Merck Veterinary Manual.