11 Things You Should Know Before Getting A Cat

illustration of checklist for first cat
Illustration Of Checklist For First Cat

The decision to adopt your first cat is a monumental one, both for you and for your new cat. Whether you are thinking about getting a cat, or have just adopted your first one, this tutorial has been designed to make your relationship with this special cat a lasting one so the cat has found its "forever home."

  • 01 of 11

    Create a Shopping List for Your New Cat

    Couple petting orange tabby cat.
    Couple Petting Orange Tabby Cat.

    Bringing home a new cat is much like adopting a human baby. However, in the case of a cat, you'll be shopping for a litter box instead of a changing table.

    Before you bring your new cat or kitten home, there are a number of things to collect or buy, so your cat will feel like a family member rather than a visitor. Do this a few days in advance to minimize stress for you and your cat on "homecoming day." In the excitement of bringing your cat home, you don't want to suddenly discover at 8 p.m. that you forgot to buy cat food.

  • 02 of 11

    Prepare a Safe Room for Your Cat

    Gray cat lying on bed near a giant teddy bear.
    Gray Cat Lying On Bed Near A Giant Teddy Bear.

    A "Safe Room" doesn't need to be a separate room but could be an empty closet, a corner of your bedroom with a protective screen, or a seldom-used bathroom. The important thing is that your new cat has a place it can call "home," where it can retreat and rest. It may voluntarily choose to socialize with you and other family members, but for now, let it decide whether to hide or mingle. It may take several days to a week or more, depending on its history, but your patience at this point will yield exponential results in a happier relationship with your cat in later days.

  • 03 of 11

    Cat-Proof Your Home

    Rubber band securing handles on cabinet so cats can't get into them.
    Rubber Band Securing Handles On Cabinet So Cats Can't Get Into Them.

    You've decided where you're going to go to adopt your new kitty; possibly you've already narrowed your selection down to one cat you simply must bring home. You've stocked up on essentials from the shopping list, and you've prepared kitty's "safe room." There's only one step left before Homecoming Day—cat-proofing your home to save wear and tear on the household as well as the new arrival.

    Although it will take a bit of time, cat-proofing your home isn't rocket science. It only requires your willingness to get down to a cat's level to spy out hazardous temptations, along with the ability to think like a cat.

  • 04 of 11

    Bring Your New Cat Home

    Happy couple posing with a new kitten.
    Happy Couple Posing With A New Kitten.

    Oh, happy day! You've completed all your preparations and the big day has finally arrived for bringing your new kitty home. Although everyone is excited, it's probably better not to make this a big family event. Your new baby will probably be stressed enough without a bunch of people competing for its attention, especially if you have young children in the home.

  • 05 of 11

    Take Your Cat for Its First Veterinary Visit

    Veterinarian examining orange tabby cat
    Veterinarian Examining Orange Tabby Cat

    Your new cat's first veterinarian visit is of supreme importance. You'll want to assure yourself of its good health, and get its vaccinations and testing for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV), if not already done by the adopting agency. Also, unless this has already been performed, you need to set up an appointment for a spay or neuter of your new cat.

    Prepare in advance for the possible question, "Do you want a declaw with that neuter?" The correct answer, of course, is "No, thank you. My cat needs its claws."

  • 06 of 11

    Know Your Cat's Diet

    Orange cat eating food out of a dish on a floor.
    Orange Cat Eating Food Out Of A Dish On A Floor.

    The diet a cat gets early in life will set the pace for its lifelong health and well-being. Your knowledge of cat food ingredients will help ensure not only longevity but the quality of life you want for your new family member.

    Although cats descend from desert creatures, fresh water is also essential to them, especially if they eat a dry food diet.

    Make sure you read cat food labels to know what you're feeding your new family member. You should review for weeks and months ahead until you feel secure in your knowledge. Once you learn to read cat food labels it will become a habit for life.

    A source of clean, fresh water is also vital to your cat's well-being. Although cats have descended from desert animals, they still need to be well-hydrated.

  • 07 of 11

    Get a Litter Box and Take Care of Sleeping Arrangements

    Persian cat sniffing and entering litter box
    Persian Cat Sniffing And Entering Litter Box

    Next, to food and water, a litter box is critical for your new cat's comfort and health. With scrupulous maintenance of your cat's litter box, you'll never have to worry about odor or "out-of-box accidents."

    "But the cat goes outdoors," you say? You'll want to rethink that decision in one of the later steps.

    Another big consideration with your first cat is "where will it sleep?" Will you share your own bed with it, get it his own cozy bed, or a combination of both? Don't forget, you are establishing habits that will most likely last a lifetime.

  • 08 of 11

    Take Care of Your Cat's Scratching Needs

    Close-up photo of two cat's claws
    Close-up Photo Of Two Cat's Claws

    Next to litter box avoidance, undesirable scratching behavior is the top reason for shelter surrenders. Actually, scratching is as necessary to cats as eating and breathing. Cats' claws are their most essential tools for many reasons.

    When you complete this lesson, you'll have all the tools you'll need to ensure your cat the scratching, stretching exercise it needs, without sacrificing your hard-earned carpet and furniture.

  • 09 of 11

    Play With Your Cat

    White cat playing with a plastic bag
    White Cat Playing With A Plastic Bag

    Playing with your cat is a wonderful bonding experience. Cats love to play and are experts in inventing their own games. Before you invest in expensive cat toys, experiment with things found around the house. Paper bags are great fun, as are cardboard boxes.

  • 10 of 11

    Determine If Your Cat Spends Time Indoors or Outdoors

    Domestic cat outside among the plants.
    Domestic Cat Outside Among The Plants.

    If you feel that cats really need fresh air and the sunshine, there are safe alternatives for the outdoor experience. If you have an enclosed deck, that's an option. You can also try leash-training your cat so you don't have to worry about the cat encountering other animals outside.

  • 11 of 11

    Make Your Cat a Family Member for Life

    Orange cat rubbing head on a man
    Orange Cat Rubbing Head On A Man

    As time passes, your bonding with your new cat will become stronger than ever, and you and your family will consider your cat a valued family member rather than a pet.

    Congratulations for caring enough about your cat. Today is graduation day and you can officially call yourself an ailurophile, or even a crazy cat lover. You are joining a group of the most wonderful, caring people in the world: those who adore their cat children.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.