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Your First Cat - What You Will Need

What fun! You've just adopted your first cat or kitten. You've read the pamphlets about how to interact with and train a cat, and you're ready to start playing and loving your new best friend.

You've probably already gotten these items:

  • Litter pan plus sand
  • Food and water bowls, plus a good quality cat food and treats
  • Collar and Identification Tag
  • Toys

That should do it, right? Well, not quite. It's a good start and you probably could "get along" with nothing more. But here are seven more things that will really enhance the whole experience for you and your kitty, and could even save her life:

1. A bed. While cats are fine sleeping on your furniture or finding a warm corner in a room, it's a good idea for kitty to have her own bed. Cats are territorial animals, so having her own space will help her feel secure and comfortable.

Another benefit is that it can go a long way toward keeping the inevitable fur in one place, more or less. Of course, cats do like to vary their napping spots, so don't expect kitty to use only her bed. She may only go there when she needs to feel secure. And to make that possible, the bed should be located in a secure area!

2. Pet Taxi. Never transport a cat loose in your vehicle. Always use a good carrier for those inevitable trips to the vet, or if you have to move, etc.

3. Microchip. While a tag is most likely the best form of identification, it must be affixed to a collar, which may come off. A microchip is a good backup, but it's only helpful if someone has a reader, and uses it, should she become lost and then found. Using both is the best insurance for recovery if needed.

4. Rabies Tag. Of course, your new pet should have the benefit of a visit to the vet to receive a wellness exam and the required vaccinations. Wearing a rabies tag sometimes serves as additional identification, but possibly more importantly, it lets people know she's protected and isn't a potentially dangerous stray. Animal control personnel give these cats more consideration when captured and will usually try to locate the owner.

5. Shampoo, ear mite lotion, cotton balls, nail clippers, brush, etc. You may not use these things often, but it's helpful to keep a special shelf, drawer or box available for them so you don't have to go searching when they are needed.

6. First Aid Book. It's a good idea to keep first aid information handy, since our pets can get into trouble occasionally. Or they may develop strange symptoms you don't recognize. This sort of thing often happens on weekends and holidays, when veterinary offices are closed. If you're lucky enough to live in a big city that has an all-night emergency pet clinic, it helps to be able to describe the problem accurately, using language you've picked up from reading the book.

And if you don't have access to a vet when something goes wrong, a book may offer useful help that might get you through the night or weekend on your own.

But a word of caution: Be sure to read this book before anything happens. If your cat is choking at 3 a.m., you may not be able to figure out where the book is, let alone locate the right chapter!

7. Keep the Vet's Phone Number Handy. Again, if you're distraught with a sick kitty, it's helpful to quickly glance at your calendar, sticky note, or bulletin board to find the number. You don't want to be searching for the phone book, then trying to look up the vet's office number. Also, sometimes a vet will provide you with an emergency cell phone number, which is not always going to be listed in a phone directory.

Following these basics will help you and your kitty enjoy each other's companionship for many years.

Dr. R.J. Peters started a pet shelter in 2002 and has worked with many hundreds of cats and dogs.

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