Cats are famous for their independent nature. If you’ve never had a cat in your life you may think it means they are self-sustained and don’t need much. It certainly does not. Just like soon-to-be parents need to prepare the nursery for their first newborn, so do you need to get a proper gear list and follow it to make sure you have everything in place.
Life sometimes springs a cat on a person unannounced, in which case this list is even more important. You’ll have to get out there and get some of these items right away, without time to think about it. We’re here to help! Just follow this new cat checklist, based on recommendations from TCS members.
1. A cat carrier
You can’t leave the hospital with a newborn unless you have a car seat, and you can’t leave a shelter or breeder with a kitten or cat unless you have a cat carrier.
Safety first should be your motto, and cats can only be transferred safely when in a secured cat carrier. There are many kinds of cat carriers out there. Feel free to choose any color you want, as long as the carrier is safe and large enough for your cat.
2. Litterbox & Scoop
Most cats are not too fussy about their litterbox, but some definitely can be, so pay attention to getting the right box.
It’s best to have two litterboxes, especially if you live in a big home and Kitty will have to “travel the distance” to get to his litterbox.
Make sure the litterbox is large. The larger the better. Choose a large litterbox even if you’re adopting a kitten. It won’t take him too long to grow and need a large litterbox.
Before buying a litterbox, make sure you read our article titled “automatic litter boxes and see if any of them is a good match for your needs.
- How Many Litterboxes Should You Have?
- Litter Box Location Secrets
- How Often Should I Clean the Litter Box?
- The 10 Most Common Litter box Mistakes Cat Owners Make
3. Cat Litter
The right litterbox isn’t enough. You need to get the right type of cat litter too.
There are many to choose from. If you’re adopting an older cat try to find out which litter the cat is already used to. It’s best to continue with the same type of litter. If you wish to change the type down the road that can be done once Kitty has adjusted to his/her new home. More about When and How to Switch to a New Type of Litter.
If you have no information regarding the cat’s preferences, a good choice is unscented clumping litter. Most cats seem to like that type of litter, as do most human caregivers.
4. Cat Food Dishes
When choosing a food dish, opt for ceramics or metal as the material of choice. Plastic dishes may be pretty but they some can harbor bacteria and cause feline acne. Other than that, go wild with your design preferences as long as it’s a designated pet dish, non-toxic and easy for your cat to eat from and for you to clean.
If you think you may be away from home often and would like to still maintain a feeding routine, consider getting an automatic feeder for your cat.
Water can be offered in a bowl (again, not plastic) or you could invest in a water fountain to encourage your cat to drink more.
- Tips to Increase Your Cat’s Water Intake
- Shopping for Cat Water Fountains
- Best automatic feeder for cats
5. Cat Food
Now that you have your food dish, how about some food?
Dry, canned, freeze-dried raw or homemade? The possibilities are nearly endless and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As with litter, try to find out what the cat is already used to and get that kind of food for the first few weeks. You can switch her over to a different kind down the road, once she’s settled in.
Take your time reading the articles recommended below and visit our Feline Nutrition forum for more advice. If Kitty is a senior or has any specific health problems, consult your vet about her diet as well.
- Choosing The Right Food for Your Cat and you
- What Makes the Best Canned Cat Food?
- How to Choose the Right Dry Cat Food
6. Scratching Posts
Your cat will scratch things. It’s a natural part of being a cat. Unless you want that “thing” to be your couch, you should offer her a good scratching post, preferably more than one.
Buy large and sturdy scratching posts which won’t wobble when Kitty leans against them to stretch and scratch. Try two types of materials to start with, such as cardboard and sisal. Some posts offer several types of textures on the same post. You want to discover your cat’s personal preferences, so offering variety with your first scratching posts is a good idea.
Please do not ever declaw your cat to protect your furniture (or for any other reason).
7. Cat Toys
Play is a crucial part of your cat’s life. It provides exercise for both body and soul, stimulating feline hunting skills and mental abilities. Without such stimulation, your cat could get bored, stressed and sick.
There are two types of cat toys you need to get. The first is used for interactive playtime, where you operate the toy for your cat to chase around. Fishing-rod toys such as Da Bird and laser pointers are common choices. The second type is anything your cat can bat around and play with. It can be anything from Mylar Crinkle Balls to a more elaborate toy such as the Tower of Tracks.
Again, consider investing in the more expensive automated cat toys if you’re going to be away for several hours a day or more.
8. Cat Furniture
Cat furniture can offer your cat a great opportunity to exercise and stretch. Tall cat trees, sometimes called “cat condos” or towers, take on the role a tree would outside.
Not only does Kitty get to practice his climbing skills, having access to a “higher plane” can also be a source of comfort. It provides a place where your cat can relax, away from kids, dogs or other disturbances, real or imaginary.
Invest in a quality cat tree that will last a long while. If floor space is limited, consider adding several shelves to provide your cat with a trail of climbing steps across the wall.
9. Cat-proofing Materials & Items
Cats are inquisitive and the old adage about curiosity killing the cat is well-founded. This is especially true if you’re bringing home a kitten. Let your cat explore safely by making sure the house is cat-proofed.
Make sure toxic materials are stored away safely. Secure the trash can and get electric cords out of Kitty’s way. Stash away your craft materials and make sure your cat is never left unsupervised around yarn, string etc.
Secure windows and any other potential exist from your house or apartment. If you wish to provide your cat with access to some fresh air, create a firmly secured enclosure attached to your home.
10. Grooming Tools
Cats are known for their self-grooming and a healthy domestic shorthair cat can get along just fine without any grooming assistance from its humans. That said, regular grooming can help decrease the amount of cat hair around your home as well as provide quality bonding time between human and feline.
A good quality pet brush or comb like the Furminator is good to have around, and essential if you have a longhaired cat. The exact type of brush depends on the cat’s coat. Ask around our care and grooming forum if you’re not sure which would be best for your cat, or check out the Cat Combs and Brushes Reviews Section.
A pet nail trimmer is necessary for claw care routine. It’s important to get kittens used to having their claws trimmed from a young age. If trimming the claws isn’t enough, consider using claw covers, called Soft Paws or Soft Claws. Whatever you do, please do not ever have your cat declawed.
11. Cat Treats
Everyone loves treats, and cats are no exception to that rule. Choose healthy treats and provide them sparingly. Your cat will gladly accept more but unfortunately, even the healthiest of treats do not provide Kitty with the balanced diet she needs.
For a young healthy cat, a good rule of thumb is to make sure at least 95% of your cat’s nutritional intake comes from on a complete and balanced diet that’s specifically formulated and approved for cats. The other 5% can consist of homemade or commercial treats.
You may need to test and see which treats your cat prefers. Don’t worry, it’s the kind of testing on animals most cats volunteer to take part in!
12. Collar, ID Tag & Harness
Consider micro-chipping your cat and in addition to that, having your cat wear a collar and an ID tag. A collar will clearly mark your cat as a lost pet should he ever wander outside, and the ID tag will help the finder bring the cat back to you.
Choose a safety collar that’s made especially for cats. These collars allow cats to wriggle out of them, should they get snagged in a tree branch or a similar obstacle.
Some owners train their cat to walk on a leash and harness and take them out for walks. It certainly is a good option for some cats. Just make sure you attach the leash to a harness, and not to a collar.
13. First Aid Kit & Emergency Information Folder
A first aid kit is always good to have around the house. You can buy one especially made for pets, or rely on supplies you have in a regular first aid kit. Educate yourself about how to provide first aid for your cat so that you’ll know what to do in case of an emergency.
More importantly, choose a veterinarian and have an accessible information folder, or a note on the fridge (or both!) with the vet’s contact details. Make sure you know how to reach the clinic in case of an emergency, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
14. Dental Care Items
Brushing your cat’s teeth can be a challenge. It’s best to get a kitten used to the procedure from a young age. Old or young, getting your cat used to regular tooth brushing should be a gradual and gentle process, so be patient.
Use only toothpaste and brushes which are designed and formulated for cats. Some of our members avoid toothbrushes and opt for using a clean gauze pad, wrapped around their finger.
Don’t rely on kibble (dry cat food) to clean your cat’s teeth. Research shows this to be ineffective. Some of our members who feed a raw diet, give their cats chicken wings or necks. The constant friction of chicken bone and cartilage is said to keep teeth clean. If you consider this, please read more about safety concerns with feeding a raw diet.
15. A Cat Bed
Cats are creatures of comfort, and investing in a plush pet bed may seem like a good idea. Don’t get your hopes too high though. Some cats take to their cat bed right away while others may prefer sleeping anywhere but in their bed, usually preferring their owner’s sleeping area.
Cat beds come in many shapes, textures, sizes and colors. Choose whatever works best for your home decor but make sure the bed is large enough and has removable covers which can be easily washed. If your cat isn’t using the bed, try moving it to a different location. Try a place that’s higher than floor level, preferably in a warm sunny spot.
Some owners invest in a heating pad such as the . That’s a good way to make the cat bed more attractive and can really help older cats or those that have arthritis.
Last, but not least, catnip!
Catnip is the common name for the plant Nepeta Cataria, which contains a compound called nepetalactone. This compound makes catnip virtually irresistible to some cats.
Not all cats respond to catnip but if your cat does, you will know as soon as you sprinkle some on the floor. Your cat will likely rub herself in the catnip, roll on the ground and generally try to get into it as much as possible. Effects usually wear off after 10-15 minutes. We have a fascinating detailed article on this very topic, so make sure to read it as well –
How Does Catnip Affect Cats?
Get some natural dried catnip and see how your cat reacts. If you have a catnip fan, make sure you keep the container out of reach when not in use. You can also get catnip-laced toys and use catnip to attract your cat to the scratching post.
Over to you!
What did you think about our new cat checklist? Would you add anything? Leave us a comment to let us and other readers know. And remember, if you have a question about your own cat, please use the cat forums for those! Articles are not actively monitored for questions so if you leave yours here, we may not get to see it in time.
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