Cat Owner's Guide

Preparing your home for your new cat

Before bringing your new cat home, you will need to prepare your home for the cat so as to ensure the safety of your cat and to reduce the chances of potential problems.

Confinement

Prepare a room or enclosed area for the new cat and make sure it is an airy place with sufficient light and safely enclosed so that your cat cannot slip out or jump out of the area. Ensure you provide food and water as well as a scratching post and a litter box in the enclosed area. You may also include a cozy pet bed although your cat may choose to sleep elsewhere. Confine your cat to this area for a couple of days immediately after you bring him home. Most cats are edgy and cautious creatures, so it will be easier for them to get themselves calmed down and explore a confined area first, while hearing the sounds and smelling the scents of the new home. You may occasionally let the cat out under your supervision around the rest of the home. Let him explore gradually. When you are sure he is feeling confident and safe exploring the home, you may let him out of the confined area for good.

Out-of-bounds areas

There may be some rooms of your home where you don't want your cat in at all. Make sure you keep the doors to these rooms closed at all times. Cats are pretty good jumpers so installing a barrier that is anything less then 1.6m tall may be ineffective in keeping cats out (or in). Be careful when you are opening doors to out-of-bounds areas and when you are walking in or out of such doorways. Cats can dash through between your legs or slip past a closing door without you noticing.

Hidden places

Some cats tend to seek out dark, hidden places to hide. It makes them feel safe especially if they are still feeling cautious about their new home. Some other cats like to climb onto high places such on top of a shelf or cupboard for the same reasons. Be sure you know where such places are in your home so that you will know where to look for your cat. Be careful of tight, inaccessible dead-end places as your cat may hide in these places and it will be a challenge for you to get him out especially if you can't reach him. It is best to occlude these dead-end hiding places to prevent such a situation from happening. Treats may not necessarily entice nervous cats out of these places. Some cats just love to hide themselves in hard to reach places as it gives them a sense of security, and not necessarily out of fear. You can choose to leave them alone, as long as you know where to find them, the location is safe and how to get them out if you need to.

Indoors is best

Let's get the record straight. Cats can live happily indoors. They do not need to roam although they may feel the urge to if they are unsterilised. In Singapore, it is even more critical that you do not let your cat outdoors due to the various dangers and diseasese that can afflict them in our urban environment and from stray cats. Therefore, keep your main door and all windows in your home cat-proof. If you do not have grills with gaps that are too small for your cat to squeeze through, make sure you install additional grills (there are affordable DIY types available). Keep your main door closed or at least make sure your main gate has grills that are too small for your cat to slip through. Balcony and window ledges are dangerous places for cats to sit on if there is no protection to prevent them from jumping off. Yes, they do slip off the edge accidentally, especially when they are excited by a passing bird. Cats are known to die by falling from high-rise buildings.

Hidden dangers

There are objects within your house that may harm the cat, either by ingestion or by playing and biting. There is a section dedicated to stuffs that you should keep away from your cat. But generally, if you do not want your cats to munch on your plant or chew your electric cables, keep them out of reach of your cat. There are some plants that will not harm your cat when ingested. But if you are unsure, then play safe by not letting your cat eat your greens. The ends of cables such as the USB cable or your mobile phone charging cables may be enticing to your cat to play with, so keep them away.

Litter box

A litter box is indispensible in a home with a cat. If you do not know by now, a litter box is meant for your cat to pee and poop in. It is usually a tray that you fill with cat litter, and some trays come with a high top covering that allows your cat to do its business under the privacy of a kennel-like shelter. Some even come with replaceable charcoal filters that is supposed to aid in reducing odours, while some others are "self-cleaning". Check with your nearest pet store for the models available. Most cats will naturally pee and poop in a litter tray if you show them where it is in the first place, especially when they are about to pee or poop. This is because felines in the wild usually do their business only on soil that they can dig and cover back their pee/poop, and cat litter give your cat the chance to satisfy their "pee & cover" instinct. Cat litter comes in various types and courseness. If you have more than one cat, each cat should have his own litter box. There is section dedicated to the litter box and cat litter with more information.

Scratching post/pad

Cats have claws that can be very sharp. You can clip their claw tips once every 3-4 weeks, but DO NOT declaw them. Even with regular nail clipping, your cat needs to scratch. It serves three purposes: to exfoliate the exterior layers of their claws so as to renew them, to mark their territory, and they feel happy doing it. But you won't be happy if they scratch on your furniture, would you? So get a scratching post from a pet store near you. Make sure the scratching post is secure and won't topple over easily. Your cat should be able to stretch his body while scratching the post. There are scratching pads available which are positioned more diagonally rather than vertically. When you get it home, put it in a visible place and try to play with your cat by dangling a toy or string over the post. When your cat tries to grab the toy, his claws would latch onto the post and that would help your cat realise that the texture of the post makes it a good place for him to scratch in future. Sprinking some catnip (which is herb with an aroma that most cats love) on and around the post helps too.

Protecting your furniture

When you are not around, placing some aluminium foil or barbecue wire mesh over your furniture will prevent your cat from walking or scratching on them. For uneven surfaces, you may also line them with a smooth plastic covering. Cats usually do not scratch on smooth surfaces. For protection of vertical surfaces from cat scratches, you can get a "pet-repellent" spray which you can spray on such surfaces and the odour is supposed to keep cats (and dogs) away. How well they work and for how long the odour will last varies considerably. DO NOT spray such products directly onto your pet or anywhere near its face!