Anyone who follows me on social media knows about my beloved tabby cat, Grayson. He’s my sweet baby and the light of my life. After I lost my cat Vasya in July, who I had taken care of for ten years since she was born, I was devastated. I had loved her so dearly that without her in my life, I felt empty. Vasya had practically been like an emotional support animal to me because just being able to cuddle and kiss her helped to relieve my stress and anxiety. In December, my family and I decided to adopt Grayson, and he gradually began to fill that void in my life. With his soft fur, love for cuddles and bratty attitude, he’s become so important to me and constantly reminds me of why cats are my favorite animal.

As you can see, I have an intense adoration of cats. They can be difficult at times, but overall cats make wonderful companions because they have so much love to give, are calm and peaceful in most cases, and are usually low maintenance in comparison to dogs. There are so many fantastic cats in the animal shelters that need homes and would be “purr-fect” additions to yours. If you do decide to adopt a cat, here are some tips for first-time feline owners.

1. Do not declaw your cat.

Declawing is a form of animal cruelty and is actually illegal in England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand. This procedure is the equivalent of cutting off your fingers at the first knuckle and results in a myriad of health issues for cats.

2. Cat-proof your home.

Make sure you have plenty of scratching posts available and that the litter box is easily accessible. Moreover, cats love to climb and sit in high places, so make sure you have windowsills, shelves, and/or cat trees that can accommodate this need in a nondestructive manner. If you have a tendency to keep tons of knick-knacks all over your home, I suggest putting most of them away because knowing how cats are, those items will be knocked over.

3. Get your cat microchipped.

This is very important even if your cat is only indoors because there is always a possibility of your feline accidentally getting out. For example, last month Grayson escaped because my dad forgot to close a door and he was gone for almost two days. A microchip will help you locate your kitty even if the collar and tag come off.

4. Have your cat spayed or neutered.

If you have multiple cats and/or your cat goes outdoors, you absolutely must do this because the world is already overpopulated by stray cats and not enough of these animals are able to find homes. Even if you only have one indoor cat, this procedure is highly recommended because it eliminates the risk of certain cancers and alleviates destructive behaviors.

5. Play with your cat for about 15 minutes before its bedtime.

One of the biggest complaints people have is of rowdy feline behaviors in the night. By playing with your cat before bed, your cat will release any excess energy and become too tired to engage in restless play and naughtiness while you try to sleep.

6. Make a social media account for your cat.

It sounds stupid, I know, but as a cat owner, it is impossible to refrain from taking hundreds of photos of your furbaby. I decided to put my feline paparazzi skills to good use by making an Instagram account for Grayson (@tabbycatgrayson) so that I could share the cute pictures I had taken with the world and hopefully brighten someone’s day with them. Since the best photos are on the account, I don’t have to feel bad about deleting 315 pictures of Grayson from my phone to increase storage space.

7. Join a cat-related social media group or page.

I personally recommend the Cool Cat Group on FaceBook. This group has over 50,000 members, all of whom are cat lovers, and it has actually turned out to be a useful resource. With so many members from around the world, there is constant content being posted from cute cat videos to questions and discussions about feline health and behavior. While you should always contact your vet for important issues regarding your cat, posting your concerns over non-emergency situations in the group can get you plenty of useful advice.

8. Watch shows like My Cat From Hell.

This show on Animal Planet stars Jackson Galaxy, a musician and cat behaviorist, who visits the homes of cat owners in order to resolve conflicts and behavior issues between the owner and the cat. Galaxy teaches the owners to understand their cats’ needs and what changes to make in order for undesirable behaviors to disappear. The show is amazing and has all sorts of great advice and scenarios of cat behaviors that can come in handy.

9. Decide whether you want your cat to be indoor, outdoor, or a mix of both.

The majority of my cats before Grayson were primarily outdoors because they started as strays that my family was feeding. At night, they slept in the garage (and so does Grayson because he’s a brat at night; don’t worry all his cat stuff is there). I recommend that you keep your cat indoors for its safety and the safety of surrounding wildlife. If you want to take an indoor cat outside, train it to walk on a leash and harness. For an outdoor cat, at least bring it inside in the evening.

10. Spend time with your cat.

One of the benefits of cats is that they are generally pretty low maintenance in comparison to dogs. You can leave them alone with food, water, and a litterbox for a while and they will be fine. However, like all animals they still get lonely. Don’t forget to always take some time to just play with and cuddle your cat, to reinforce that loving bond.

11. Find a flea treatment that works for you and your cat.

Talk to your vet about what kind of flea treatment will work best for your kitty. Your cat may be allergic to some types and brands, so always be careful and monitor your feline’s health after trying a new method. Topical and oral treatments are the most effective and the safest for your cat, while flea collars are more dangerous because they contain different toxins that are bad for your cat and the environment.

12. Don’t let anyone make you choose between them and your cat.

People come and go, but your pet will always be there for you and love you unconditionally. To your furbaby, you are their entire world. If you are in a situation where, for example, a boyfriend hates the cat and/or is allergic, and gives you the ultimatum of choosing him or the cat, always choose the cat. Hatred of an animal is indicative of abusive tendencies and an overall awful personality, and there is plenty of medication for allergies. Pets are like children in many aspects, and you wouldn’t let someone make you choose between themselves and your child, right? At the end of the day, your cat will always be there for you even if people are not. Plus, your cat will never be racist, sexist, queerphobic, or flawed by society in general, because it is, after all, a cat.

Most importantly, be patient with your cat. They will sometimes have undesirable behaviors like knocking things off of shelves, waking you up early in the morning for food, and making general messes. As a responsible pet owner, you need to go in with an open mind and learn to expect these types of situations because an animal is an animal, after all. There are pros and cons, but overall owning a cat is the best experience anyone can have because no one will love you as unconditionally as your pet.