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Cat Care Tips for First Time Owners

Caring for a pet often requires a level of commitment that can be eye-opening for first-time pet owners. And as any cat owner can attest, caring for a cat with no prior experience could be a confusing experience.

First-time cat owners looking to survive the experience and raise a healthy and happy cat should consider the following cat care tips.

* Relax when it comes to the litter box. Unlike puppies, which often need to be trained to relieve themselves outside, it's often a kitten's instinct to relieve itself in a litter-like substance. Cats naturally want to bury, and the litter box allows them to do just that after they have voided. New cat owners should relax if their kitten relieves itself outside of the litter box every so often. Chances are the kitten just could not find the box or it might just be an accident. If the problem starts occurring with any regularity, it's best to consult a veterinarian. But chances are the problem will correct itself.

* Learn the typical body language. While no two cats are the same, many do display similar body language to communicate certain emotions. Cat owners who can recognize this body language are far less likely to grow frustrated with their new feline friend. When a cat's ears are up, that generally means the cat is happy, while ears bent back often mean the cat is frightened. Cats' pupils commonly enlarge when they are scared, and their eyes typically squint or resemble slits when they are content or relaxed.

A cat's whiskers may also indicate its mood. When whiskers are bent back, this typically means the cat is scared, while whiskers bent forward often reflect the cat is calm. Though none of these indicators are concrete, they often do help first time cat owners determine their kitty's mood.

* Discourage biting. Similar to a first time parent telling their child no, first time cat owners might find it difficult to discourage certain behaviors their kitten exhibits. One common problem owners come across is biting. First-time owners might find it harmless if their kitten bites their hands. After all, such biting doesn't hurt. However, allowing kittens to bite often results in a cat who bites often. Should a kitten begin to bite, strongly discourage such behavior to avoid the problem becoming much more serious in the years ahead.

* Be mindful of the cat's dietary habits. Some cats can handle their bowls being left out all day without overeating. Others, however, might be a little less disciplined. First time cat owners might not know that cats can gain significant amounts of weight if they overeat, a complication of which can lead to diabetes if owners aren't careful. Pay attention to your new cat's eating habits. If it picks at its food and can handle the food being left out, owners can leave food out. However, if cats appear to be getting a little thick in the stomach, only feed them at scheduled meal times every day.

* Give the cat some personal space. Puppies often crave attention and will initiate contact with their owners. Kittens, however, are a different story. Particularly when first introduced to a new home, kittens might shy away from their owners, hiding under furniture or finding another hiding spot where it's hard to reach them. New cat owners should not be discouraged if their kittens exhibit some initial shyness. Give the cats some personal space, even sitting near their hiding place to let them know no harm is intended.

* Take time to groom the cat. Some cat owners like cats because they feel cats don't require nearly as much upkeep as their canine counterparts. While that might be true to an extent, kittens do require some grooming from their owners. Cat hair needs to be brushed to avoid matting, and cat owners should use a soft brush and brush gently when caring for the kittens.