Your new cat checklist

Your new cat checklist

There is nothing like the thrill of knowing that you are about to bring a new cat into your home. Whether you are
When you get your cat out of a shelter or a breeder, the excitement is the same. You look forward to spending lots of time with your feline friend and want to get her off to the right start. Here are a few things you will need before your four-legged bundle of joy arrives.

A litter box

Once you’ve figured out your cat’s litter box preferences, buy two simple, old-fashioned litter boxes or fancier, specialized litter boxes. Buy the largest ones that will fit in your home (at least one and a half times the size of your cat) as your cat needs space to turn around and dig.

When you get a kitten, buy one with a short entry point. As a rule of thumb, one litter box is more than the number of cats. (If you have a cat, have two litter boxes.) If the litter boxes aren’t big enough, there aren’t enough of them, or are not kept clean enough, this can lead to litter box errors.

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cat litter

Along with the litter boxes, you will need something to put them in. There are all types of cat litter out there, and the variety can be confusing. Ask your breeder or animal shelter what brand of waste they use and buy the same strain that your cat can use in their new home. You can always switch them to your preferred brand later.

new cat checklist

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Food and water dishes

Your cat needs food and water bowls of its own. This should be stainless steel, glass, or lead-free ceramic that is dishwasher safe. Get a separate food and water bowl, not a combination bowl, so that food and water do not merge. Get two sets so one can be cleaned while she is eating from the other set.

new cat checklist

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A scratching post

Maximize your cat’s territory, even in a small space, by purchasing a scratching post and placing it near a window from which your cat can have a look at the outdoor action. Buy a tree that is at least 6 feet tall. It should be sturdy and heavy enough not to be able to fly if your cat is jumping and playing on it. When shopping online, always read the reviews. You will learn a lot about the best size and the benefits or issues with the product.

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Ask your animal shelter or breeder what the cats in their care are feeding and purchase the same brand. They may even send you home with some food for your new cat, but be prepared and have food ready if they don’t. Make an appointment with your veterinarian right away to discuss your new pet’s future diet based on their specific health needs.

Scratching surfaces

If you want to stop your cat from scratching your furniture, buy things that it can scratch. Cats usually prefer horizontal or vertical scratching surfaces. So keep both types ready. A good scratching post should be at least 3 feet tall and have a heavy base so it doesn’t wobble or fall over when your cat uses it. Sisal rope is better than carpeting as a surface for your scratching post because it is more durable. Cardboard notepads are inexpensive and easy to find. So buy several of these and put them in different places around your home.


Toys are vital for every cat, no matter how young or old. They help build confidence, stimulate your cat’s mind, and prevent unwanted behaviors such as biting or scratching. Interactive toys like fishing rods with bait on the end of a line are especially important. “[Fishing pole toys] are great bonding tools for getting a new kitten to enjoy being around their human, but at a “safe” distance that isn’t scary for the shy, ”says Amy Shojai, CABC, author of many books on cat health and behavior . She says they are also a suitable option that aggressive cats (especially kittens) can target. Amy also recommends enrichment tools like tunnels or empty paper bags and boxes for very shy or older cats who may not be that interested in interactive play. Get some toys that your cat can play with on its own.


While your cat will likely sleep on your furniture most of the time, at least give her her own bed. Cats prefer beds with high sides where they can curl up for a nice, comfortable nap. If you are bringing an older cat into your home, try a heated bed. It’s a great way to relieve the pain of creaky joints. Heating pads are not recommended as they can get too hot and burn your cat.

Photo: LuckyBusiness | Getty Images


All cats should be microchipped in case they slip outside and get lost. If you’re adopting from a shelter, chances are your cat is already microchipped. However, for a microchip to be effective, it is essential to register it and keep your contact information up to date. Microchips are the best way to legally prove that a cat is your pet.

You’ll also want a collar with tags so anyone who can find your cat can bring it home safely. Make sure you have a “breakaway” collar so your cat doesn’t get caught under furniture or in the brush if it escapes.

Photo: Courtesy of Catio Spaces

Extras for even more cat happiness

When you have all of the basics, purchase these items to make sure Kitty is healthy and happy.

A drinking fountain. Many cats love running water. Instead of sending your water bill through the roof with the tap running, get your furry friend a well instead. I recommend a stainless steel or ceramic fountain as these materials are the least likely to cause bacteria to accumulate.

Puzzle toys. Puzzle games are a great way to stimulate your cat’s mind when you are not around. You can buy pre-made puzzle toys – they vary from simple to very elaborate – or you can make your own with simple cat-safe things you have in your home, like empty soda bottles or toilet rolls with paper on each end. There are lots of great guides out there online on how to make your own DIY cat toy and how to handle donors.

Related: 5 Homemade Cat Toys I Made from Empty Toilet Rolls

Window bars and cat shelves. Because cats view their territory in three dimensions, the more surface surfaces they can have, the happier they are. Window bars can be bought at pet stores or online, and there are many great books out there on how to “catify” your home with shelves and other accessories.

Catnip. Not all cats respond to catnip, but a significant majority of them respond to it, and it is a joy to see a cat rolling around in undisguised delight. Get the good stuff – don’t settle for a dry, dusty mess. A catnip foosball toy is the best choice for maximum fun – you can buy it at pet stores or online from independent artisans.

A dedicated one. “ If you want your cat to get some fresh air or to feel the grass under their paws, it is best and safest to build them a catio, an outdoor enclosure that they can access through a window or cat flap. Catios can be simple or complex multi-level play areas with above-ground walkways, perches and climbing frames. There are several companies that specialize in creating Catios, like Catio Spaces, which are where you can buy DIY plans like the Window Box ($ 39.95).

The last word

With all of these things going, prepare for your new cat’s arrival and you will look forward to many happy years together. Enjoy!

Selected photo: dentharg | Getty Images