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4 Tips for First-Time Cat Owners

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Advice for welcoming a new cat.
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A Tabby sitting on a woman’s lap enjoying a cuddle.

Congratulations! Whether this is your first cat or a new addition to your furry family, bringing home a new cat involves learning about their unique personality and needs. Every journey to a forever home is special — but there are some things all new cat owners can do to help keep their pet happy, healthy and well-adjusted to life with their new family. Follow these tips to help make your cat’s transition as easy as possible — for both of you.

Tip 1: Purchase the Essential Supplies

Before your new cat comes home for the first time, make sure to gather a few vital supplies. Head to your local pet store or an online retailer to purchase, at minimum:

  • A warm box, basket or bed for sleeping
  • High-quality cat food; ask your shelter or breeder what food the cat has been eating and if you’ll be provided a starter portion. (It’s important to transition to new food gradually to avoid giving your cat an upset stomach.)
  • Food and water bowls
  • A litter box and cat litter

You might also consider purchasing these items:

  • A secure carrier for transporting your cat
  • Toys and treats to encourage mental stimulation and aid in training
  • Grooming supplies like a brush and nail clippers
  • A scratching post
  • A collar with a tag listing your contact information
  • A leash and harness if you plan on leash training your cat
  • Specially-formulated cat probiotics or supplements, particularly if your new pet is a senior cat

Tip 2: Prepare Your Home

Once you have all the supplies, it’s time to prepare your home for a new furry resident. Cats are creatures with specific needs you’ll want to consider as you set up their space.

Consider Setting up a “Cat Room”

This is especially important if you have other pets. If you’re adopting from a shelter or specialty pet store, your cat is likely used to living in a confined space, so an entire home can feel scary and overwhelming at first. Setting up your cat’s bed, food and water dishes, litter box and toys in a bedroom, bathroom or office will help them find everything they need while they get used to their new home.

Make Sure Your Cat Has Ample Hiding and Safe Places

Cats need places where they can retreat, take naps and seek refuge from too much activity: under furniture, in high places like window ledges, inside cardboard boxes or in their cat bed. You can also purchase a cat tower or simply drape a sheet or blanket over a chair to create some privacy.

Cat-proof Your Home

Cats are known to knock over cups left near the edge of tables, jump onto kitchen counters in search of food, chew on electric cords and treat small, random items like trinkets and paper clips as toys. If you’d rather your cat not get into something, it’s best to put it away — and be sure to pick up small items your cat could accidentally swallow.

Additionally, take stock of plants in the house. Cats love to chew on leafy, grass-like greenery, so consider moving those plants out of reach and make sure to remove plants that are toxic to cats.

Establish House Rules and Routines

Your new cat will need food and water, a clean litter box, alone time and playtime each day. It’s helpful to determine who will be in charge of feeding and watering, cleaning the litter box, giving treats and so on. Establishing a consistent routine can help your cat adjust more quickly, too.

Tip 3: Get to Know Your New Cat

It’s finally time to welcome your new furry family member home! Lots of love and a little patience will help your cat get settled.

Give Your Cat Plenty of Time to Adjust

Keep them in their “cat room” or just one section of the house for a few days. Don’t worry if they eat or drink less, hide, aren’t very cuddly or even act a little aggressive when you first bring them home — your pet is just stressed. It’ll take some time for your new cat to get used to you and your home. Let them adjust at their own pace but make sure they eat, drink and use the litter box within the first few days.

Visit Your Cat Frequently for Short Periods of Time

Sit on the floor and let your cat come to you. Resist the urge to pick up the cat for love and snuggles — let them approach you. Sitting on the floor at your cat’s level can help them feel less intimidated. Cats need their alone time and will communicate when they don’t want to be touched or pet with their body language. By respecting their boundaries, you’ll start to build trust.

Slowly Open up the Rest of Your Home

Never force your cat to explore; it’s important to let them move forward at their own pace. It could take up to a few weeks for your pet to relax in their new environment. As your brave kitty starts scouting out the rest of the house, leave their food, water and litter box in the same spot so they know where to find it.

Gradually Spend More Time around Your Cat

Simply hanging around your cat while you read, work, surf the Web and relax — rather than focusing all your attention on the cat every time you visit — can help them understand they’re safe around you.

Tip 4: Take Your Cat to the Vet

Within your first week together, take your cat to the veterinarian for their first wellness visit. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Bring any paperwork you have to the appointment including health records, vaccination history, microchip information, etc.
  • Expect your vet to perform a routine physical exam. This, along with the paperwork, will help your vet put together a picture of your pet’s health. Depending on vaccination history, they may also administer inoculations to get your cat up to date.
  • Discuss scheduling a follow-up appointment to spay or neuter your cat if they aren’t already.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your vet is your number-one source of information when it comes to your pet. Feel free to ask any questions you may have about diet, vaccinations, recommended products, grooming, litter box training, etc. There are no silly questions when it comes to providing the best care for your cat!
  • Ask about implementing a routine parasite prevention plan to help protect your cat from fleas, ticks, heartworms, intestinal worms, ear mites and other pests. Talk to your vet about prevention products for your pet’s needs.

Before you know it, your new cat will feel right at home, unveiling their unique personality. Whether you have an attention-seeking lap cat or a more reserved and stoic feline, they’ll find plenty of ways to show you their love.

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