This is an exciting time. You’re about to become a first-time cat parent. To get started on the right foot, here’s a list of seven things you should do BEFORE you even bring kitty into the house. You are about to enter into a relationship that will hopefully last for many, many years and this new feline family member needs you to be prepared for his physical, mental and emotional needs.
1. Be Sure Everyone in the Family is Ready for the Responsibility of a Cat
Everyone in the family needs to be on the same page in terms of actually even wanting a cat. If responsibilities and specific cat-related duties are going to be assigned to certain family members, make sure they are in agreement and will comply. Don’t give a young child the duty of feeding the cat, for example. Make sure assigned duties are age-appropriate.
2. Make a Good Cat Match
Don’t be impulsive when it comes to choosing the cat because you may get in over your head. If you want to adopt a fearful cat who will require lots of TLC due to his history but you have family members at home who want the perfect lap cat, it will disappoint everyone and make things harder for the cat. Sit down with your family and make sure you are all in agreement on what to expect.
3. Get the Supplies You’ll Need for the Cat
Do your homework and get the supplies needed for when you bring your cat home, such as:
- An uncovered litter box
- A litter scoop and a receptacle to place soiled litter
- Litter substrate (initially start with the litter the cat is currently used to)
- Food and water bowls (get separate bowls and not the double-dish kind)
- Food (start with the food he’s used to for now unless your veterinarian tells you otherwise)
- A few hideways (these can be open paper bags, A-frame beds, donut beds, open boxes)
- A scratching post (a sturdy sisal-covered post)
- Interactive toys (fishing pole design toys for supervised playtime that you’ll do with him)
- Solo toys (the toys you can safely leave out for his solo playtime)
- Brushes (the type will depend on the cat’s coat)
- Nail trimmers (the kind meant for cat nails. Don’t use human nail trimmers)
- A sturdy cat carrier (make sure it’s the right size for your cat – not too big and not too small)
- Identification tag (you may also decide later to have your cat microchipped as well)
4. Kitty-Proof the House
Go through your home carefully and look at it from a curious kitty’s point of view.
- Secure wires to baseboards
- Use cord containment devices for computer cords
- Don’t keep small items out such as earrings, pins or other objects that can be swallowed
- Make sure windows have secure screens
- Keep indoor trash cans in a cabinet or use cans with secure lids
- Don’t keep cleaning products or household chemicals out
- Keep medicine put away
- Keep toxic houseplants out of reach
- Get in the habit of putting leftover food away
5. Make a Visit to the Veterinarian
Choose a veterinarian before you get your cat. Ask for referrals and then make a personal visit to several clinics so you can tour the facilities and meet the doctor(s). Make an appointment to have your cat examined. Based on where the cat came from and his age, you’ll need to have him tested for specific diseases and start a vaccination schedule. Your veterinarian is also a good resource for answering first-time cat parent questions.
6. Set Up a Sanctuary Room for Your Cat
Before you bring your new cat home, have a safe room set up for him. Cats are territorial creatures of habit and it can be quite overwhelming for a kitty to suddenly find himself in unfamiliar surroundings. Set up a room that has his litter box on one side of the room and his food/water bowls on the other side. Place some hideaways in the room such as an A-frame bed, open paper bags, kitty tunnels, etc., so he won’t just hunker down under the bed or cower in a closet. Place his scratching post in there as well as some safe toys for solo play. This way, he can get his bearings and gradually familiarize himself with the scents of your home and start the process of getting to know you and your family. Have this room all set up before you bring the cat home to avoid creating lots of chaos when he arrives.
7. Learn About Cats
This is a big commitment you’re about to make. Start the relationship off right by learning about what cats need, as well as how they communicate. Many of the behavior problems I see come through our office are related to cat parents misunderstanding what their cats are communicating by particular behaviors. Take the time now to learn about how to train a cat so you can hopefully avoid future behavior problems. Cats are not dogs and they aren’t little fur-covered children. Cats need to be able to act like the beautiful, intelligent and sensitive creatures that they are. A solid training plan can make a huge difference when it comes to having your new cat happily integrate into your family.
We’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.