There’s nothing like kicking off the New Year than with a new companion — and who could possibly resist a charming cat?
If you’re thinking about opening your doors to a feline, congrats! Cats can offer companionship, love and entertainment for many years to come, but owning a cat isn't as simple as laying out a litter box and calling it a day. Adopting a cat is a great responsibility, and one that requires plenty of know-how. Chances are, most first-timers aren’t so purrfectly ready for this big step — at least not yet.
That’s when the Cat Daddy steps in.
Jackson Galaxy, the star of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell,” has a new book called “Catify to Satisfy,” which can help prospective cat owners create the perfect home for their furry friends. And exclusively for Fox News Magazine, he’s sharing six of his top tips for keep in mind before adopting a cat:
#1. Think About Your Life
Realize that the myths about cats being independent, aloof and completely self-sufficient are just that: myths. Cats are incredibly social. They thrive on companionship, and they have physical needs that depend on you. If you work 16 hours a day and still want a cat, just remember that they are family members with needs only their parents can fill.
Although this might sound counter-intuitive, if you are a very busy person, consider adopting two cats. Perhaps seek out a bonded pair, or if they’re two cats who don’t know each other, there’s no better time to introduce two cats than when they’re being introduced into a new environment.
#2. Think About Your Finances
Just a quick reality check: Before taking the plunge your heart wants you to, make sure your wallet can follow along. Cats need to go to the vet routinely, just like dogs. Whether you’re getting pet insurance or stashing $20 in your mattress a month, be proactive about the costs that are going to exist. Good quality food, toys, beds and other necessities are also recurring lifelong expenses.
#3. Think Cat With a Capital C
If you just said, “Yes, I’m aware of all the above, and I still want a cat,” fantastic! If you really want to get off to a good start as a cat guardian, you can do no better than to dig into their world. When I teach Cat Mojo 101 (whether in person or through outlets like 'My Cat From Hell,' my books, and my video blog), my emphasis is on learning who Cats are before you learn who your cat is. The answers to many of the questions you will have are found in their wild lineage. They are still wild in many ways, and happy housecats are the ones whose guardians remember that!
Very simply, if you understand Cat with a capital C, then you’re good to go — and you’re ready to start prepping the territory you will share.
#4. Create “Basecamp”
One of the most important concepts to embrace when bringing a new family member home is the creation of what I call "basecamp," which is a surefire way of establishing their sense of territorial ownership and confidence — a.k.a Cat Mojo. Simply designate one room as theirs — which is to say, fill it with their new belongings: water and food dishes, litter boxes, cat towers, beds and toys. Make sure you’re filling that space with "scent-soakers," which are literally things they can claim ownership of by getting their scent into. Don’t forget to also include things that carry your scent signature so they can feel the security of co-ownership. Take those first few days (or even weeks) slowly. Allow them to plant their flag in basecamp with confidence before you stretch their boundaries.
Remember, basecamp is the where. You have to fill where with what. You cannot get your cat too much stuff. If they can lay on or in it, walk by it, poop in it, eat or drink from it, then they can say "I own this!" Soon, they’ll feel the same way about the entire territory (your whole house). And that’s a good thing.
#5. Give Them Access and Give Them Play
Cats see territory in three dimensions — they look around floor to ceiling, and they think, "What can I own? Where can I go?" Allow them to follow that instinct by giving them access to the vertical world. You can’t go wrong by imagining a "cat superhighway" using shelves and existing furniture which, when connected, will allow them to traverse socially significant areas without touching the ground. If you have kids, especially young kids, or dogs (like I do), your cat will thank you a million times over for giving them a piece of territory that only they can own.
You also need to devote yourself to 15 minutes a day of interactive play with your cat. Engage them in their natural play/prey instinct by encouraging them to “hunt, catch and kill” something appropriate (i.e. a toy). If you have a dog, you buy a leash and a collar; if you have a cat, you get them interactive toys. It’s that crucial.
#6. Feeding and Onward
You’re going to be told a lot of things in your cat’s life. I am telling you to remember these two words: obligate carnivore. If you go from that perspective, then you will never be steered afoul of knowing exactly what to feed your cat. Also, as opposed to popular belief, cats aren’t grazers. They need to regulate their energy, just like us, by regulating their digestive process. Quite simply, don’t leave food out 24/7; feed them meals.
As cat guardians, you have one distinct advantage I didn’t have when I started exploring the feline world over 20 years ago, and it’s called the internet. If you have a question in your head, Google it. Don’t settle on one source, because your cat’s health may depend on accuracy. Practice due diligence, gleaning your answers by being both curious and thorough. Don’t take any information as gospel, including mine. Use these tips as a springboard into the world of your cat and read until it resonates with you.