Friday, November 18, 2016

What I know - Things you might want to buy when adopting a new kitty



This post is for those of you who have never had a kitty and for those of you who might have a few kitties already in your home but still have questions - especially when bringing a second one home. There are a lot of cat products out there and your cat might like some and might not like others. It generally is hit or miss until you can figure out what it is your cat does like, and even then some things you thought would be great just aren't.  This is by no means an exhausted list of the things you should have, just a nice primer of what I think is important to bring home with a new kitty to get you started.

This post contains affiliate links to specific items on Target.com these are specific examples of the general items I am talking about. (and if you are going to do any shopping this season at Target, feel free to stop back by my site and click on the ad in my sidebar first 😻)

The first thing most people think of is a litter box. A lot of people think that they should get a little box for a kitten or a small box to go into the space they have. What I think you should do is get the biggest litter box you can find. In the cat's mind, you can not have too much surface area to do your business and it is a good idea to have one box per cat plus one. A nice high-sided litter box will also protect your home if you have a cat that likes to stand up to pee. A litter box with a removable guard will help you if your kitty likes to dig in the litter a lot and it tends to be flung from the box. There are also round litter boxes if you find your cat likes to pee in the corner of the box and you have a hard time with that.


Personally, I like unscented scoopable litter for litter boxes. Cats are very sensitive to scent and scented cat litters can cause problems with cats if they find the scent overwhelming. Some people prefer a covered box with a scented product because they think it will help their house stay fresher longer, not realizing this is about as appealing to their cat as an overly deodorized highly used highway rest stop bathroom is to them. I know a few people who use a Litter Genie and really like it to help minimize the odors of the litter box so they don't have to make a separate run out to the trash every time they scoop.

Play is very important to kittens and cats. It keeps them busy so they aren't investigating or snoopervising your activities and it helps keep their mind and body exercised. Finding toys for both individual play and interactive play will keep you both busy and entertained. Small prey like toys are good for hunting and stalking and, if you are very lucky, for bringing to their owners for praise. Toys that look like mice or small birds play to the cat's visual cues for hunting whereas belled balls and even ping pong balls play to their sound and tracking abilities.


Wand or fishing pole type toys help you interact with your kitty and engage them in more aggressive hunting style play. This is very good for draining off their excessive energy which if not channeled into playing will often show itself at 2 AM running across your bed or climbing your curtains. These types of toys can have feathers or toys on the end and I generally prefer the feather wand toys as they more closely mimic bird prey. Get your kitty running and climbing and jumping up and over things in its quest to capture its prey. Do not forget to let your kitty capture the prey from time to time as it helps build self-esteem.


One of the most important decisions you will have to make is what to feed your kitty. I am a huge proponent of feeding your obligate carnivore like a carnivore. This means a diet full of animal-based ingredients and low on plant-based ones. I would like you to feed raw, but I know most people are unwilling or unable to do so. Canned foods in a loaf or pate form are generally the next best option but read your ingredient lists. Do the best you can.  What you feed your kitty on isn't something a lot of people take into consideration. Most suppliers of pet products will sell you a double bowl option with deep sides so you can put a lot of food or water in it.  This is convenient for the owner but it is often hard for the kitty. Cats do not like to eat near their water source so having the food and the water so close together is unnatural. Getting two separate bowls and putting them in different locations in the house is more natural and it will help the water to stay fresher. Investing in a water fountain is even more ideal. Cats were originally desert creatures and they gravitate towards flowing sources of water.  The food bowl should be flat and without sides to prevent the bowl from touching the cat's whiskers. There is a joke going around the internet showing a bowl mostly full but with a small hole in the middle and saying that is an empty cat bowl.  This is because of whisker stress.  Cats have to hold their whiskers up to get the food at the side of the bowl with a lip and it is uncomfortable so the food goes uneaten.  Feeding your cats on a plate will keep this from happening.


The one recommendation I always make, if I am asked, is to get a cat tree or a scratching post *at least* as tall as your hip. Scratching and 'sharpening their claws' is a very important and very natural thing for a cat to do. It spreads their scent and their mark in their home and says "this is mine!" much like you put things you like around your home. Without a nice sturdy place to do that, the cat will resort to other nice sturdy things in the home like your bed, your couch, your door frames. They also like to put their scent next to yours so hiding the scratching posts away in a room you don't go into much will mean that the cat will probably not use it.Getting nice tall pieces of cat furniture will allow the cat to perch safely up off the ground to survey its surroundings and keep an eye on everything that is going on. Cat beds are nice to have, but I don't think they are an immediate priority as more often than not the cat will end up sleeping with or on you.

Lastly, you should have a good solid sturdy carrier for each cat in your home. Some cats are good enough friends to share, but traveling is stressful and if there is even an inkling of an issue being able to separate them will keep everyone safe. You want to be able to get your kitty in and out easily so look for carriers with wide openings and the ability to close them quickly. Ones that easily come apart so you don't need to drag a cat out while it is at the vet can be helpful as well. There are hard sided carriers and soft sided carriers; even carriers on wheels! They even have a carrier that folds flat to store away when you don't need it. I have seen people try to do without a carrier for their kitty and have it go horribly wrong.



Providing for your cat's basic needs will help you form a stronger bond with your kitty and will allow you to help understand your kitty's personality.  This will help you know if you should buy them places to hide in or places to perch on, it will help you understand what can distract them from the trouble they are about to get in, and how much play they need to drain out all the mischief.

What did I miss? What do you think is important for a new cat owner to have for their new kitty? Tell me in the comments.

13 comments:

  1. I would add a collar and tag. It can take time for some kitties to get used to wearing one.

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  2. These are really good suggestions. Being me, you know I would include a harness and leash!

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  3. We get fed on a big plate, so that's good. Mom didn't know about the water close to food rule, so that's new. Though on our house it's separate anyways.

    What toys would you suggest for older, less active orange kittehs?

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  4. I highly recommend the Ultimate Cat Scratcher. It is a heavy-duty nice scratcher.

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  5. GREAT advice. we get asked all the time when doing adoptions "do I need to bring a carrier?" (ummm....yes)

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  6. A comprehensive list! Cannot think of anything I'd add, other than starting with a vet visit. Lots of folks don't know about the water bowl near the food bowl thing, so that was a great note. Just about every weekend, I'm out at resale shops, checking out the bowls and plates, to find good, flat nice-to-whiskers designs!

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  7. I wish I read up before I went and adopted Emma.

    Emma and Buster

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  8. Great info! I like the carrier on wheels idea. I have both hard and soft sided. I think my next one may be one with wheels. Two of my cats do like to travel in one carrier and that can get heavy! I use the Litter Genie too and think it works fairly well. ~Rachel (Three Chatty Cats & Cat Lady Alley)

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  9. Excellent post, I wish I had something like this to read before my first kitten back in 1994.

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  10. Great tips. You suggested things that a lot of people would never think of...like separating the food from water.

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  11. Awesome advice ... things that took me years to figure out (like separate food and water).

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  12. I recommending reading "Your Cat" by Elizabeth Hodgkins, a vet, to new cat owners or to anyone who has a cat and hasn't read it! A lot of us have had cats for a long time and think we're up-to-date on the latest info about caring for them, and we're not. She covers health, nutrition, vaccines, behavior issues, and so on. If you are still buying your dry food, or cans from the supermarket, you need to read this book.

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