Complete Buying Guide for New Cat Owners
If you’ve been planning to adopt or get a new kitten or cat for the first time, you most likely already know or have the basics such as a litter box, cat litter, and some food and water dishes – however, there are more steps involved that every new cat owner should consider and put down on their checklist. After the exhausting and exciting search for your new addition, it can be easy to accidentally overlook a few things.
Our article below highlights important items and factors you should be sure to have before or after your new friends arrives. Proper cat food, water, enrichment such as toys, beds, and other things such as these can help your new addition feel more comfortable and secure quickly, so you can focus on playing with them and giving them the best life.
New owner checklist and supplies
Be sure to include these products below as you’re making your new owner checklist to ensure the least stress, no time wasted rushing to get something, and you can spend all the time with your new best friend while they get adjusted and understand what’s theirs and what’s yours around the home.
While some adoption centers or owners will hand your new furry friend in a temporary cardboard box, it is essential to get a good cat carrier that can accommodate them whenever they need to head to the vet or in an emergency they can be scooped up and safely be carried wherever you need to be.
The best carriers we suggest are either a hard-shell type or a softer carrier that collapses/can be folded down when not in use. If your pet is accustomed to their carrier and associates it with good things such as treats and a safe place to sleep, the easier it will be to get them in to be whisked off to a vet appointment or while flying.
AmazonBasics Soft Cat Carrier
AmazonBasics has an array of products that are decent quality for a low cost. Their soft-sided cat carrier is surprisingly great for a simple carrier and holds up well for quite a long time. One caveat is that the sizing may be on the smaller side, so measure your pet the best you can (and account for growth if they’re young).
- Good price.
- Great quality.
- Comfortable inner bed for cats.
- Airline approved.
- Some cats may not like how ‘open’ the mesh part is.
- Some larger cats may not fit in the Large sized carrier.
MidwestHomes Hard Cat Carrier
This hard-shelled cat carrier is good for the occasional travel by car such as to the vet and isn’t recommended for airlines. Some cats prefer these types over the soft carriers, and if introduced positively they can be used as a cat bed as well! The lid does come off entirely, as does the grate in the front, for easy cleaning and access to your cat if they’re inside and don’t want to come out – as can be the case at the vet’s office.
You do have to purchase your own fleece mat or pet bed for the inside though, as it doesn’t come with one. Just the carrier itself.
- Secure and great price.
- Easy to clean.
- Three colours available.
- Only comes in two sizes, may not fit all sizes of cats.
- Doesn’t come with any inner bed or fleece mat.
Expandable Clear Cat Backpack
While some cats may be alright with going to the vet in a clear bubble backpack, it isn’t always recommended. These are perfect for walks outside, hiking, and sitting at the park with your feline friend.
Multiple air holes ensure they can breathe, an additional chest strap allows for extra security while walking, especially hiking. It’s eco-friendly and lightweight, and the back portion can be extended outwards so they have a place to lay and hang out if you’re in a park or elsewhere.
- Two ways to wear.
- Great quality.
- Larger cats may not fit in this backpack.
Cat Litter and Litter boxes
The importance of cat litter is an obvious seeming thing, but there are an incredible number of different ones and figuring out what’s good to use, what your cat likes, and what works best for both of you can be tough. We’re here to help!
Most litter is made from clay, though there are other types around and may be worth trying if your cat is picky or has respiratory issues. One thing to be careful of is that if you’re using pine litter to be sure the brand you’re using has all the phenol removed by drying process and has no harmful additives as that is toxic to cats.
When looking for a litter box, you don’t need anything fancy – just if it’s large enough for your cat and if you have multiple cats always be sure to get one litter box for each cat, plus one. Whether it has a top, is open, or is a litter robot – get what works best for you and what your cat will use.
Boxiecat Pro Cat Litter
BoxieCat is a known name for most owners, as their clay-based litter is award winning – and not without reason. The litter is heavy (as all clay is, except for the specific lightweight litters), but clumps better, leaves less crumbles behind, has less dust, and stays clean for a long time with daily scooping.
Their Pro litter has natural probiotics included that keep the litter box clean and keep whatever your cat tracks around the house to be cleaner as well. Odours are basically eliminated with this brand and it’s more than worth the try. (I’ve personally noticed less tracking and far less odours around my home after switching to this and both cats use it without issue.)
- Amazing clumping power and odour prevention.
- Less tracking around the house.
- Can be pricier than some other litters.
- The box is heavy.
Tidy Cats Lightweight
If you’re needing a lightweight litter and don’t like or can’t carry heavier clay litter, Tidy Cats (and other brands as well) have lightweight versions that are less than half the weight of regular litter.
They work just as well and budget wise generally won’t break the bank. Most cats like them and have no issues. If your cat has any respiratory issues you may want to switch from these types of litters onto something else such as paper or pine.
- Lightweight and easy to carry large amounts.
- Good odour control.
- Can be dusty and track easily around home.
Arm & Hammer Slide
Great for anyone that has dealt with the frustration of litter getting stuck to the bottom of the box, Arm & Hammer’s Slide litter helps to stop the annoying issue of cat litter being stuck on the bottom or sides of their litter box. It’s especially helpful for anyone that owns a litter robot of some sort as nothing sticks while it cycles through cleaning.
The odour control could be better, but overall, it’s on par with other brands and works well. Cats seem to like it, though the dust can irritate some cats if they have respiratory issues.
- Works fantastically for ensuring litter doesn’t stick to litter box or in litter robots.
- Less dust.
- Good odour control.
- Good price.
- Can be pricier.
- Odour control could be better.
Yesterday’s News Paper Litter
Some cats have respiratory troubles and in those cases, dusty litter is a definite no-go. While most clay-based litters have dust to some extent, they can irritate cats far more than we realize. This recycled paper litter is a great alternative and with proper litter box cleaning, it shouldn’t have many issues for you as the owner as well.
No dust and no tracking around the house make paper litter a good choice to try and some owners swear by it after switching from clay. Reviews have stated that a few cats have tracked some wet paper around after using their litter box, but otherwise it’s a seeming non-issue.
- Great for cats with allergies/respiratory issues.
- Environmentally friendly recycled paper.
- Less dust.
- Needs daily maintenance and cleaning for odour control.
Food and Water Bowls
Food and water dishes are of course important, but they don’t have to be the most expensive things. Flatter wider bowls are great because if they’re too small or deep, cat whiskers can get in the way, and they’ll have a harder time eating.
Water fountains are a great choice for a water supply, as it’s constantly moving, and you don’t have to change their water out as often as still water in bowls. Another quick note is to keep their food and water areas separate, as cats don’t like to eat and drink in the same locations, generally.
Y YHY Raised Cat Dish
A raised cat dish that’s a perfect budget buy with great reviews that you can’t go wrong on trying. This raised bowl has a stable bottom, cute paw print design, and the wide bowl design helps cats eat without making a huge mess or throwing up from eating too fast.
- Works for kittens and cats.
- Great design.
- Some cats may not like eating from a raised dish.
Catit Water Fountain
The Catit flower fountain is a perfect water fountain for budget and to see if your cats will drink from it without breaking the bank. Water fountains are great for cats as they prefer running water usually, but some of course differ from this and will only drink from a still dish of water.
This fountain has an easy to clean design, the filters are budget-friendly, and it’s easy to tell when it needs to be refilled or changed.
- Cute design.
- Easy to clean and replace filters.
- Water stays cleaner for longer.
- Some cats may need some time to adjust to a fountain or not like them at all.
Treats of course are a staple in all pet owning households since they’re great for spoiling our furry best friends, teaching them tricks, and praising them for doing something good so they know what to expect in the future. There are many types of cat treats available on the market and depending on the personality of your cat, they might have a particular fondness for certain flavours, textures, and types.
Try out a few and see what they like – they might even like a bit of everything!
Temptations has a large array of flavours of their pocket-style treats, most of which are always liked by cats. The Mix-It-Ups pack has a blend of catnip, cheese, and chicken flavours which is a good starting point. A personal favourite of my cats are the green Dental treats – which is not a bad thing.
The large containers are the better deal compared to the little pouches, but if you’re just trying out a bunch at first to see what your feline friend may enjoy, they’re not a bad price either way.
- Readily available everywhere.
- Good price point.
- Most cats love them.
- Can be easy to over feed your cats; make sure they don’t get too many in a single day.
PureBites freeze-fried treats purely contain the ingredients you want. These treats are tuna and only contain as such. Some cats may not like eating freeze-dried foods, but it is absolutely worth the try because if they do – it’s a great high reward treat to go to.
They do come in several flavours, and all are high in protein and average only 2 calories per treat.
- Only one ingredient.
- Great quality and pricing.
- Good for kittens and cats.
- Some cats can dislike freeze-fried treats/food.
Inaba Churu Squeeze Tubes
The Churu squeeze tube treats are almost like a holy grail treat to almost every cat that’s tried them. Available in multiple flavours, these pureed cat treats that resembles a yogurt tube are perfect as a high reward treat, such as when they get back from the vet so they can associate good treats with scenarios that otherwise might end with negative results.
They’re also great for easing your cats into wearing a harness, cone, or even a onesie if necessary, such as after surgery.
91% moisture content and wild-caught tuna or farm-raised chickens means good ingredients for your cats.
- Almost all cats seem to LOVE these.
- Easy to open design.
- Can be messy / cause messes depending on how you give it to your cats.
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
While most pet owners don’t brush their animals’ teeth, it is a good thing to get started if you can when they’re young. Just like humans, they do need to take care of their teeth and gum disease / other tooth issues can build up rather quickly in cats.
Brushing your cats’ teeth may sound like a herculean impossible task, but generally once they get used to you touching their teeth and having the toothpaste there, it’s a quick 30 seconds to help your furry friend live their best and healthiest life.
It is worth mentioning to NOT use human toothpaste for your cats, as it is not designed for them to swallow or digest, and they can get very sick. Please use cat formulated toothpaste and brushes.
Nylabone Dental Care Kit
It’s easiest to grab an all-in-one dental care kit upfront so that you don’t have to grab everything separately. The Nylabone dental care kit provides all you need, including a finger toothbrush that you can slip on to have better control, a longer brush with soft bristles if that works better for yourself and your cat, and a toothpaste designed specifically for cats.
Most like the flavour according to top reviews, but of course everyone is different so that may differ. It’s budget friendly and worth the cost to start taking care of their teeth as well, which can save both of you in the long run – no discomfort of tooth decay for your cat, and no large vet bills for yourself.
- All-in-one pack.
- Budget friendly.
- Cats tend to love the toothpaste flavour.
- Some may not like the flavour or brush types.
Brushes and Nail Trimmers
It seems to be a common comment online that some people think you don’t need to brush or trim your cats’ nails. If they have longer fur and are indoor cats – they will absolutely need to be brushed and have their nails trimmed, because even with scratching posts, most cats can’t wear down their claws enough and once they grow can get stuck in things and they’ll injure themselves, or yourself even.
Cats can get matted fur quickly if they have medium length hair and it does need to be addressed. Most cats will even come to love grooming time if you’re patient, go slow, and give them lots of treats and praise while it’s happening. Worst case – you can always contact your vet and they can trim their claws for a small fee – as I have done with one of my cats as she can be quite spicy when you touch her paws.
Jofuyu Cat Nail Clippers
Easy and cheap, nail clippers such as these for pets are available nearly everywhere and get the job done. Be sure that they open and close correctly and be sure that when you’re trimming your cats’ nails that you don’t go past the quick – if you’re nervous about going too far in, just trim the closest you can to the sharpest edge of their claws.
Some cats may not sit still or like clippers, in that case they may prefer a quiet nail grinder or similar instead.
- Budget friendly.
- No noise that will startle pets.
- Easy to use.
- Some cats may not like getting their nails trimmed with clippers.
Epioneer Pet Nail File Grinder
Another great option for nail trimming is nail file grinders, which are essentially like the same nail grinders they use at nail salons for humans, except they’re designed for pets.
A lot of cats can seem to prefer this to the classic nail clippers and if you’re having a difficult time easing your cat into those, it may be worth looking into getting a nail grinder such as this one. There are three different sized grinding ports and two different speeds allowing you to customize what you need.
- Easy to use.
- Long-lasting battery.
- Great price.
- Skittish cats may not like the grinder noises or feeling on their claws.
Cardinal Laboratories Styptic powder
It is worth mentioning to get yourself some Styptic Powder as well when you’re buying nail trimmers.
If you ever accidentally trim too far in and hit the quick by accident, styptic powder is used to immediately stop the bleeding and calm down the area.
It’s highly recommended to have some on hand, even if you never end up using it.
Better to have it and not need it, than to not have it when you do.
Much like we have band-aids at home for ourselves if we accidentally get hurt, this is the same for your cats.
Toys and enrichment to mentally and physically blow off steam with your cat during the days and evenings is paramount to their health and well-being. Cats need to hunt and if they’re not played with or have toys to interact with and ‘hunt’ – then that’s where you’ll run into troubles of destroyed furniture and breaking things around the house.
All cats are different, and they don’t like the same toys, much as we don’t like the same things always either. Some prefer fishing rod style toys, others like crinkle catnip toys, electronic toys that move by themselves, or even random junk they’ve found such as a plastic take-out fork that is suddenly their new favourite. Experiment and see what your cat prefers!
Wonday Multi-Pack Floppy Fish and Plush Toys
This pack of several toys is a perfect start for a toy collection and even includes the popular ‘floppy fish’ that includes a USB charger cable, so there’s no worrying about batteries. Some cats may be afraid of it as it does pop up as movement goes near it – but once they’re used to it, they most likely will love it.
The other plush toys include cute foods and animal designs that your cat will have a blast with chasing around the house and carrying around.
- Great starter pack of toys.
- Good quality and price point.
- Toys may be smaller than some users anticipate.
Ethical Pet Cat Toy Springs
Cats go crazy over these colourful and budget friendly spring toys. They’re almost a sure bet with any cat, as they bounce and roll around the floor and your cat will chase them for quite a long time.
The only real caveat here for these springs is that they will inevitably get lost around your home and you’ll most likely find them in precarious places such as closed rooms or underneath furniture. Can’t recommend these enough to any new cat owner.
- Cats love them.
- Inexpensive and budget friendly.
- Cats love them.
- Inexpensive and budget friendly.
Cat Amazing Interactive Treat Puzzle Box
It’s always a good idea to enrich your cats mind as well as praise them when they’ve figured it out. Cats are incredibly smart animals and keeping them busy with treat boxes such as this interactive slider box is a fantastic way to give them treats, watch them figure out puzzles, and wear them out so that they expend some of that energy, especially if they’re kittens.
- Good for mental enrichment.
- Durable quality build.
- Great design.
- Some cats may not have an interest at all in these types of puzzles.
PetSavvyy Cat Laser Toy
Some cats will only play when there’s something actively always moving, such as using a laser pointer or an electronic mouse toy that runs on its own. This automatic laser pointer toy has a sturdy base to help ensure it doesn’t fall over, and several modes to keep the patterns random and fun for your cat.
It has an automatic shut off/on switch, allowing you to leave it on when you step out or go to work, keeping them busy until they get tired or bored – which is great for kittens and energetic cats when you’ve hit your play limit and they’re still raring to go.
- Can be kept on when you’re not in the house.
- Most cats love chasing the laser.
- Great quality and cute design.
- Size is smaller than some users anticipate.
Places where your cat can rest are very important, as they sleep for many hours out of the day. Cats all prefer different things and what one may like, the other might not. A plush bed might be perfect for one and a sturdy cardboard box might work best for another – it’s all trial and error, and even then, they might decide in the future they like something they previously didn’t.
Riseguo Cat Hammock Window Perch
These are perfect for any cat that loves looking out the window, especially if you live in an apartment building that may not have a balcony or if you don’t want to risk letting your cats outside.
From personal use, top Amazon reviews, and other review websites it’s almost unanimous that most cats tend to love these perches. You can also place a small blanket or towel on top as well to give them extra padding and comfort.
- Sticks to any window.
- Strong suction cups.
- Easy to build design.
- Suction cups may need to be re-stuck on after some time.
HeyPaws Shark Cave Cat Bed
Cats generally love enclosed small and dark spaces to feel safe, and covered cat beds or cat caves are the perfect choice. They come in many designs, like this shark. There are pineapples, cacti, cat shapes, etc.
There are two different sizes for this bed, a Medium and Large. Medium is 15-inches and the Large is 20.5-inches which should fit most cats and kittens with no trouble.
- Cute design.
- Decently large size.
- Not all cats will fit in this cat bed or like enclosed spaces.
Scratching posts and cat trees are almost a necessity and are worth the costs. Even if you start with cheaper scratching pads/posts and smaller cat trees – that’s perfectly acceptable. They just need somewhere to stretch and scratch, and if there is nowhere for them to specifically do so – then it will be your furniture and other things you don’t want destroyed.
AmazonBasics Medium Scratching Post
This medium sized scratching post is a great start for any new cat owner. It’s tall enough for good stretching and scratches for your cat or kitten, and there is a little toy at the top as well for them to play with. It’s sturdy and well built, with jute rope wrapped around the tower.
Jute is less durable than Sisal and after time this well break down and fall apart faster, so just keep that in mind.
- Good quality.
- Larger cats may be able to tip it over/knock it down.
Luckkity Coconut Tree Scratching Post
If you’re looking for a fun, different shape for a scratching post that’s as exciting for you as it is for your cat this coconut tropical tree is the perfect choice.
It’s durable, well-built, and includes a little coconut ball for your cat to play with. There are three options available, starting from an 18-inch tree, 23-inches, and one that is a post and an additional hammock for your cat to rest and recharge in.
The tree is wrapped in Jute rope which is less durable but works perfect for scratching posts.
- Cute design.
- Multiple sizes available.
- Quality construct.
- Jute rope may fray sooner than Sisal rope.
ScratchMe Cardboard Scratcher
Not all cats like vertical scratchers and a horizontal scratching board are a perfect idea to try. They can either be completely flat or have curves such as this scratcher. They’re made of cardboard and do need to be replaced over time as your cat destroys through the corrugated cardboard. You can sprinkle some catnip as well on them and watch your cat have a great time.
- Nice design.
- Budget friendly.
- Needs to be replaced after a time.
If all else fails and your cat or kitten scratches your furniture and won’t stop, try a plastic deterrent such as these covers and use them where they scratch most. They don’t need to be permanent, and you can just take them off as soon as your cat gets the message.
Of course, this is just an addition option if you’re having troubles, and another option to include with this is using a bitter cat spray that will generally make them avoid the area.
- Protects furniture.
- Good quality.
- Can be distracting to look at aesthetically.
- Not all cats will be deterred by protectors.
Rabbitgoo 61″ Multi-level Cat Tower
A cat tower or cat tree is almost always a necessity and while they are very expensive sometimes, they’re great for doubling as large scratching posts, cat beds, and a perch for your cat to observe the world around them.
This tree is 61-inches tall or 5-feet tall, comes with a hammock/bed at the top for your cat to lay in, multiple platforms, scratching posts, a hanging hammock in the middle, and a little square cave to hide in as well. There are multiple options of this one, so be sure to pick which you’d like best and what you think your cat or kitten will enjoy.
- Large size.
- Great build quality.
- Multiple options.
- Sisal rope on scratching posts.
- Some users had a few broken pieces arrive, but that is most likely shipping and not the product fault.
- Weighs around 36lbs.
Protecting your Cat
If you’ve adopted your cat from a shelter or from a non-profit organization such as a rescue, they most likely have already done the microchipping, spay or neuter, deworming, and initial vaccine shots for you that went into the fee when you adopted.
If not, be sure to take your new feline friend to the vet to get them their first vaccinations, deworming, microchip, etc. – as it’s incredibly important. If they’re still a very young kitten then be sure to get them spayed or neutered as soon as you’re allowed to as it’s an important procedure to get done.
Veterinarian / Pet Insurance
It goes without saying that finding a good vet is important for your new furry friend and establishing that early on is good for both you and them. If an emergency comes up it’s also a good idea to investigate getting some form of pet insurance that can help with costs depending on the situations, as we all know that pet bills aren’t cheap – even if it’s for something small.
Vet Strategy can help look for vets around your area across Canada and can give you an idea of what to look for as well – especially if you’re new to having cats or other types of pets. They even have listings for exotics and other specialized care clinics.
Cat-proofing your home
This is important, though depending on the personality and level of chaos your new cat has – cat-proofing can be as simple as keeping the bathroom door closed and making sure you don’t have toxic plants in your living room. For others it could include needing to use magnetic baby-proof locks on your cabinets because they know how to open them and get into trouble.
- A good start is to tie or cut any dangling loop cords such as the ones that come with blinds if you have them, as cats can easily get tangled or injured.
- Cover up any electrical cords or wires, especially if you have a kitten that’s just learning and wants to chew and play with everything.
- Candles and essential oils should be used either in separate rooms closed off from your cats or forgo them altogether. Some oils can be extremely toxic and harmful to your cats and scents can be incredibly overwhelming for them.
- Poisonous plants and flowers should be researched first or make sure that you’re keeping ones that are pet friendly. Lilies are a notoriously toxic plant for cats, and you don’t want to go through the heartbreak of accidentally losing your new friend due to something easily preventable.
- Keep medications and other such things away in drawers or cupboards where they can’t reach or eat them accidentally. You’d be surprised what cats can get into. Same goes for garbage cans and recycling bins.
- Rock salt and other ice melters can be terrible for cat paws, and there are pet friendly alternatives around if you need to use them and if your cats go outside where they would be used.
- If they’re out on the balcony, it might be a good idea to first have them on a harness and leash just in case they decide they want to jump off or chase a bird. The predator instinct to chase is always there, so just be cautious.
Keeping your new cat indoors
It’s especially important to keep your new cat indoors. A walk on a leash or a small adventure outside in a bubble backpack is a great idea, but for the most part cats should be kept inside so that they stay safe and secure from other animals, disease, and even unfortunately other people – as they can be taken and sold in shady deals, especially if your cat is an expensive breed.
Some owners have made ‘catios’ for their cats so that they can safely enjoy the outside without any fear of predators or disease from catching rodents. Hellas Custom Catios is one example of a Canadian company that will work with you to build a custom one if you’re inclined – including ones that work on balconies if you live in an apartment or condo.
If you do take your cat (or cats) out on adventures with pet backpacks or on a harness, be certain they have their collar and identification on and that they’re all caught up on their shots against worms, ticks, and fleas.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a cat to adjust to a new owner?
The time it takes for a new cat will depend entirely on their personality, past, whether they’re kittens or older cats – and how you spend time with them and let them adjust as well. It can take no time at all, or it can take years, if ever.
Give it take, patience, and a whole lot of love. Be sure that when you adopt a cat or get a kitten that their personality matches with yours to make adjusting for both of you easier and much less stressful.
What are some signs your new cat is adjusting?
Signs that your new cat is adjusting well to you and its new home are:
- Grooming itself around you / laying down nearby and relaxed postures in your presence.
- Vocal cues! Not all cats are chatty or meow often but when they are adjusting well, they do tend to be happier and meow at you without any hissing.
- A good appetite and litter box use.
- Playful behaviour
- Healthy fur and keeping themselves clean is a good sign
How to make a cat feel comfortable in a new home?
While you may want to play with your new cat right away, be sure to isolate them in a separate room at first so that they aren’t overwhelmed. A bathroom or spare bedroom is a great spot to let them decompress and adjust. Leave them alone for a bit and make sure they have food, water, a safe place to sleep/hide, and a litter box.
Not all cats (especially if they’re kittens) will need to be kept separate for long as they’re usually raring to go explore. If you already have an older pet in the house, especially another cat, be sure to keep them totally separated and introduce them SLOWLY – Cats are territory animals and don’t tend to associate a new intruder with anything good at first.
What are the most common first-time cat owner mistakes?
- Feeding your cat too much and not giving them scheduled feeding times.
- Not having enough scratching posts or places for them to hide and play in/around such as tunnels or cat trees. (This will save your furniture!)
- Not enough mentally enriching toys – not all cats like all types of toys and may get bored or even depressed if they don’t get played with – cats need to exert their energy or else they get destructive or even can lash out. Experiment with what kinds of toys your new cat likes!
It doesn’t even need to be expensive – The author of this article has two cats, one of which has a plastic fork from food take-out she carries around and plays with every single day. You never know!
- Keeping their food and water dishes close to each other – be sure to place them in different spots, such as food in the kitchen and their water in a dining area or living room. Not far away but enough that it isn’t so close by.
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