Congratulations! You've decided to bring home a new cat. Your home is about to get a little livelier. Whether it’s your first cat or your second (or third, or fourth…we won’t judge!), it’s important to keep several things in mind to help you and your kitty be prepared for your new life together.
There are some things you'll want to do before and after for your new feline friend. Here's our top tips for getting your home ready to welcome your new family member:
You'll want your cat's new house set up with all the essentials they need:
The first thing you’ll need is a way to bring you kitty home and to future vet visits – a cat carrier! Carriers ensure your new cat will be safe when you must travel with them. There are many styles and sizes of cat carriers to choose from, such as hard plastic carriers to soft cloth carriers. Consider the comfort level for you carrying it, the size and weight of your cat, and what your cat finds comfortable.
When it comes to food, you can usually ask the shelter or previous owner what your cat has been eating to start off with. Eventually, you may want to transition them to a new food. Speak with your vet and discuss what kind of food would be best for them and if they have any dietary restrictions or allergies.
Food and water bowls or fountains, preferably ones that are stainless steel or ceramic, are best. Plastic food and water dishes often have more porous surfaces, which can easily trap bacteria if not washed thoroughly and often. This can often lead to cat’s getting chin acne (yes – even cats get acne!)
You’ll also want a sturdy litter box with a good kitty litter. Litter pads or mats are also helpful because they can catch extra litter that your cat may bring out with them. There are several types of litter boxes out there, some require a scoop while others are self-cleaning. You’ll want to choose one that your cat feels most comfortable using. If you’re bringing home a kitten, finding a litter box that is shallower or even temporarily using a small box is best, so they don’t struggle to get in and out of it.
Lastly, pick up a few healthy cat treats for your kitty. After all, treats can be a great way to bond with your cat and get them more comfortable with you. They can also be used in different toys and games.
Once your essentials are in order, you’ll want to set up a safe space for your new kitty to come home to, this is especially important if you have other pets in the home. Dedicate a specific room or area of your house for your cat to explore and ‘claim’ as their own. Make it comfortable and inviting with soft beds or blankets and some toys. If you have something from a previous owner or shelter that they really liked, including it in this space can help make their transition to their new home even easier.
It will be easier for your cat to do their business in their new home if their litter box is someplace quiet. Try to avoid placing it next to loud appliances or rooms, such as a laundry room by a washer and dryer. If you have multiple cats, make sure to have more than one litter box to avoid territorial conflicts and stress. This will help if your new kitty is especially timid, then they won’t feel threatened to use the designated bathroom spot in the house, which will avoid any out-of-box accidents.
Cats love to explore, play, and scratch, so making sure to invest in quality items that offer these to your cat is important.
Cat towers allow cats to explore, nap, and climb. In addition, they can be high up which can help your new cat feel like they have a safe spot to hide away to if they need to. Finding a durable cat tower that’s easy to clean will be beneficial to lasting longer and keeping your cat’s space tidy and inviting.
Toys are a great way to help your cats mind stay sharp and focused. Toys can also help you and your new kitty interact. Toys fulfill your cat’s natural instinct to hunt and can help prevent boredom. In fact, interactive toys or being active in playing with your cat is one of the best ways to entertain them and keep them in engaged.
Cats love to scratch and will need items to do this, otherwise they will be more inclined to tear up your sofa or the corners of your mattress. Cat scratching is a normal behavior, it’s a way for them to keep their nails healthy, express emotions, and mark objects. Both you and your new kitty will be happier with sturdy scratching posts and other designated scratchers around the house for them to sink their claws in.
Even if you have never owned a cat up until this point, you’re probably familiar with the fact that cats groom themselves daily and frequently. Despite doing a pretty good job on their own, your new kitty will still need some help. This will be especially true if your new cat has long fur as long fur tends to get matted much more easily than short fur.
Make sure to purchase proper grooming supplies like a good cat brush and cat-specific nail clippers. Indoor cats lack the trees and other various objects they would normally scratch if they lived outdoors, so their nails tend to have to be trimmed at least once a month, even with scratchers and scratching posts available. In addition, age can lead cats to do a less-than-stellar job of keeping up with their fur and nail hygiene. Pay careful attention if your new cat is a senior that their nails are trimmed to prevent them from curling under their paw pads and becoming uncomfortable or painfully imbedded.
Chances are that if you adopt a shelter cat, they will most likely already have been spayed or neutered. If they haven’t, or if you’re getting your cat through another means, you will want to consider having them spayed and neutered when your vet feels they are ready.
Spaying and neutering not only prevents unwanted kittens but can actually be beneficial to your cat’s overall health, helping them to live longer. It can also stop unwanted behaviors such as marking, trying to escape, and yowling. Many vets will be able to microchip your cat during their spay and neuter, so it’s the perfect time to make sure they’re extra safe and can be brought back to you if they get lost.
You’ll want to bring your new cat into the vet as soon as you can just to have an overall check-up. If you suspect your new cat is ill or has any parasites, keep them isolated from other animals in the house until you can bring them into the vet. The sooner they can see your primary veterinarian to be examined, the sooner you can help them feel better and get any routine vaccines they may need to stay healthy.
Depending on your new cat’s personality, they may be inclined to explore their new surroundings or just try to find a place to hide right away. To avoid them going someplace unsafe, be sure to take appropriate measures to keep these places locked or closed before letting them explore freely. Small crawl spaces, garages, cabinets, and other areas may be appealing to your new kitty friend at first, so pay careful attention and cat-proof these locations as needed.
If you already have other pets in your home (and especially if they're not used to sharing), they will need some help getting them on board with each other in a non-stressful way. Start by keeping each pet separated and introduce their scents through clothing, blankets, beds, and other items. After some time, let each of them explore the other’s space, while still ensuring they are separated. When each cat seems more comfortable with the idea of the other cat, you can start to do slow, supervised meetings. Don’t be alarmed if there is some level of hissing between cats, especially if you’re introducing a younger cat to your older cat.
Introducing a new cat to a dog can be tricky, especially if your dog is very excitable. Going slow and keeping each pet separated at first is the way to start. Other than a few minor differences, introducing a new cat to your dog is very much like introducing it to another cat.
Most importantly: be patient. This process could take some time, but it'll be worth it once everyone learns to coexist!
What will your new cat’s lifestyle be like? Will they have access to an outdoor catio? Are they special needs? You’ll want to explore different health care options such as flea and tick prevention, specialty care, and potentially heartworm prevention depending on which cat you adopt and what they’ll have access to or be expose to in their new home with you.
Keeping in mind essentials, other pets and a calming environment will help your feline friend transition into their new home smoothly. Once you’ve read over these tips and prepared, you’ll be ready to bring home your new feline friend! Adopting a shelter cat from your local shelter is a great place to start looking.