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First Time Cat Owners: Starting Off on the Right Paw!

After thinking long and hard, you have decided you want to bring a cat into your home and heart but are unsure of what you need to make sure your new family member is comfortable and happy. I am glad you found this article. I will let you know everything you absolutely should have for your new cat and explain why each is important to have in the home for your new fur-baby and let you know my personal favorites. I am not getting paid to advertise the products I suggest, they simply what I use and recommend. This is by no means a comprehensive list of items you need for you cat, but it is the basic essentials to start you and your cat on the path to a healthy and rewarding life together. First and foremost, please find a veterinarian to take your new cat to visit the day your pick her up and shortly after bringing her home. A thorough exam from her vet will let you know if she is healthy and help you provide the best nutrition and care for your pet. For this reason, I do not make pet food or supplement suggestions, this is entirely unique depending on your pet.

Food bowls: I suggest stainless steel food bowls because they are the most sanitary and prevent bacteria from saliva and leftover food from entering the surface as can happen with plastic and ceramic dishes. Yes, there are so many cute and pretty designs with plastic and ceramic dishes, but your primary concern should be the health of your new family member. This is one easy step you can take to protect their health!

Water bowls: Just like with food bowls, water bowls should be stainless steel to prevent bacteria from entering the surface of the bowl and should also be changed daily to keep water fresh and clean. Cats often take a drink after eating and will often deposit small particles of food into t he water from their very coarse tongues. You can take this even a step further and purchase a stainless steel water fountain for your kitty. Fountains have filter in them which will help filter out any impurities in the water. However, the bowl of the fountain should still be cleaned at least once a week and follow the manufacturer’s suggestion on filter replacement as well. This the food bowl and water fountain I have always used for my cats.

stainless steel food bowl and water fountain

Cat Carrier: A cat carrier is essential, and depending on where you are picking your new cat up from, you may need this to bring your new family member home. Many adoption centers will only provide a short-term use cardboard carrier. The cardboard carriers are not very secure, and your new kitty could easily break out of it when panicking. This is dangerous for not only the cat but also for you, if you are driving when this happens. You will also need a secure carrier for trips to the vet. I prefer hard sided carrier for my cats, they are easier to clean up in the even of an accident when a pet is ill or scared.

hard sides cat carrier

Litter Box: You should have one litter box for every cat in the home, plus one more. That’s right, if you have 3 cats, you should have 4 litter boxes. If you only have one cat, you should still have at least 2 litter boxes. Cats are very clean creatures and do not like to step on their own waste much less another cat’s waste. The litter boxes should not be placed side by side and should be in separate rooms. If you live in a multi-level home, a litter box on each level of the home is the ideal scenario. Do not put the litter box in the same area your cat is fed. Would you want to eat meals in your bathroom? As far as litter box choices go, there are many to choose from and I personally do not have a favorite. Some cats prefer covered, and some do not. The only thing that’s important when choosing a litter box is your cat’s size. The general rule is for the litter box to be at least 1.5 times the length of your cat from the nose to the tip of the tail. The box should be sturdy and wide enough for your cat to comfortably turn all the way around and to be able to dig and to cover their waste.

Lastly, if you decide to go with one of the larger more expensive automatic cleaning litter systems, you should still always keep a standard litter box set up somewhere in the home, in the event of a malfunction. As a pet sitter I have seen all manner of automated systems and they will malfunction for one reason or another. I personally just use a large standard uncovered litter box and my cats prefer it to covered boxes or other more costly systems. You should scoop the litter box a minimum of twice per day: in the morning and the evening.

A standard litter box

Cat Litter: There is all kinds of cat litter on the market. This is another that is personal preference or even what your cat prefers. The only thing I will say on this, is I do not suggest the old non clumping clay litters of years past or the crystals. Remember your cats need to dig in the litter and the crystals can be very uncomfortable for their feet (and yours if they scatter). I personally use unscented World’s Best Cat litter. It clumps very well, has superior odor control, can be scooped and just add litter as needed for longer, and I find it easier when it’s full litter changing time because it does not stick to the sides of the litter box. Some people find the natural scent of this natural corn litter off-putting but it does not bother me. I prefer unscented because the chemical use to scent the litter can irritate some kitty paws or sinuses.

World's Best Cat Litter label

Scratching Post: Some may consider this optional, however in my opinion this is essential and as mandatory as food, water, and litter boxes! Cats will scratch, it is in their nature and is 100% normal, healthy behavior. The sooner you show them what is okay to scratch on and what is not okay to scratch on, the happier you both will be. I will write another article later to help you teach your cat not to scratch on your furniture or carpet.

Do not, I repeat DO NOT get your cat declawed because behavior modifications do work; it just takes time and patience. Fewer and fewer veterinarians perform declawing today, because most all agree it is not ethical or humane. If you are concerned with a new cat scratching your furniture and feel you do not have the time or patience to teach him/her not to, then perhaps consider a different pet.

Scratching posts should be sturdy and not tip over when your cat is scratching on them. You can opt for a stand alone scratching post or a cat tower / kitty condo that has scratching posts built into the structure.

Cat tower

cat scratching post

Toys and Enrichment: Finally, just important as feeding your cat’s body, you need to feed her mind. Many behavioral issues arise due to lack of mental stimulation and enrichment. The best way to provide this is to make sure your cat has activities that stimulate, enrich, and exercise your kitty’s mind and body. Make sure to get some activities that you participate in as well to help build the bond between your and your cat. Cat wands, balls, puzzled, motion toys, catnip, and kitty snuffle mats are great to have around to engage your kitty.

assorted cat toys

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