Cat dopers: What do I absolutely need when I bring the cat home?

So, within the next week, I’m going to pick out a cat or kitten from the shelter. I know there will be things that I must have on hand before I bring it here. Among those are:
Litter box
Dishes for food/water (I currently have nothing appropriate).
Is there anything that must be in the apartment when I bring the cat home? (Yes, I know I’ll need other stuff fairly quickly, like a couple of toys for it and something to scratch.)
Also, what brand of litter do you usually use? Any recommendations?

the main you thing you need is simple: Yourself!!
The cat will naturally be scared of its new surroundings.It will probably go hide under furniture for a half a day or more. Try to stay there nearby for the whole day. Keep the atmosphere at home calm and orderly. Dont go moving furniture around, or have many people running around the apartment. You can bring out the food dish & litter tray a few hours after you get home. The cat wont be using them until it gets over the initial shock of being ‘kidnapped.’
Sit with , or nearby, the cat–and let it decide, -gradually, on its own time, to come out and start sniffing around the house, exploring the unfamilar terrain.Let it roam freely, and resist the urge to run over and pet her.It will make a long trip around all the walls and furniture before deciding that it is safe enough to jump on your lap.
After a few hours of exploration, it should decide to trust you.

And have a can of tuna fish ready, to add a few chunks to the cat food.

A scratching post, catnip, a toy or two(especially a jingle ball(oh, I know the jokes are coming)), and some cat treats(tartar control recommended).


Call the shelter and find out what type litter is being used. Specifically – Scented? Clumping? Cats can be picky about the feel of litter. I like the clumping litter, but it took a month to switch my cat over. Tidy Cat is good, store brands(Jewel/Albertson’s, Dominick’s/Safeway) seem to be the same and are cheaper. Cat’s Pride was too light and got tracked all over. Get the biggest litter pan and use the hood from the first day if it has one. And buy a scoop.

Almost any small bowl is fine for the food or water. Personal warning – do not use a cute bowl, with fish or mice in the bottom, for water. The rippling water combined with little pictures made my cat think PREY. He would swat the bowl all over the kitchen. When you ask the shelter about the litter find out what the cat is currently eating. If you want to feed a particular brand/type of food progressively add more of that until the switch is made. It may take a week or two.

I put the cat’s carrier in a corner wth a towel in it for a couple weeks after he came home. This gave him a safe place to hide. I then just left the towel there.

Buy a lintbrush. Or two.

A tip on food/water bowls: Get stainless steel or ceramic/glass. One of my cats had terrible feline acne until I switched. Plastic bowls hold the bacteria that causes acne, and (for my cat, and others prone to feline acne) are no good.

Depending on where you place the litter box, a small throw rug might come in handy. The litter box here is in the kitchen, I got tired of tracked speckles of litter everywhere and put a small bathroom fluffy type mat under the box that helps clean kitty’s paws when he exits.

I just now got a cool scratchy post/activity thingymabob for my 2 yo cat, should have done that sooner.

I put my kitty in the bathroom, with her new hooded litter box and food and water dishes. I kept the door shut and opened the cat carrier door so she could come out and explore the bathroom – I stayed sitting on the floor so she could get to know me better too.

After a day or two, I left the bathroom door open so she could explore the rest of the house when she was ready. By day four, she ruled the roost entirely.

I will echo others’ suggestions to put a small bathmat at the opening of the litter box. My kitty really scatters lots of litter when she uses the box, so not only is the box resting on a bathmat, the opening is sort of pointed into a corner – that way the litter mess is contained.

Most of all, enjoy your kitty.


Also, when you and kitty are friend, you might look into training her to use the toilet. Most cats learn this easily, although not quickly. (That is, it is a long step-by-step process.)

Get the scratching post and have it on hand when you bring kitty home. That way you don’t look up and realize that she’s scratching the furniture and you have nothing to redirect her to. Being able to be consistent from the very first moment makes training her to only scratch the post much, much easier.

Toys are good to have right off the bat, too, as they can ease some of the stress of relocation.

As for litter, that varies by owner and cat. If you can and will clean the box every single day, clumping litter is great. Otherwise, go for the non-clumping stuff. Also, some cats are really fussy about their litter, so start with what she’s used to.

I’ve found that putting the cat inot one smallish room first is best, it is not too big for them to explore fairly quickly.

Make sure there is a place it might feel secure, that it cannot jump up high, or out of windows etc.

I usually leave them with some food, litter tray etc for a day before sitting in the room.

Since I have too many cats, it is easy to put a small aount of slightly used litter into the tray which gives them a clue what the litter tray is for, so far only had a couple of ‘clearups’ which isn’t bad for the number of cats I have rehoused.

The cats I have are all formerly semi-feral and were not too much in need of company, but yours migh be more domesticated, and might need your reassuring presence.

I have found that it takes a few days before they will eat within my presence, tuna usually does the trick.


Seriously, lots of good advice above. Putting the cat in its own room per Contrary’s post is a good idea if your kitty seems spooked by new surroundings.

For litter, I use unscented C9 litter. I get it from my local pet shop. A bit more expensive but odor absorbency is decidedly superior to any grocery-store brand. I have an ultra-sensitive sense of smell & I know what I’m talking about! Of course I have 4 cats (usually have 5 or 6, we’re a bit short right now) so this won’t be as much of an issue if you have only one.

Clumping litter - friend of mine said his NYC vet told him that they are seeing a marked increase in stomach/intestinal cancer rates among cats who’ve been using that stuff for several years. There are NO good studies on this yet, the evidence is purely anecdotal - vets talking among themselves at conventions & such. Make your own decision.

Oh yes, instead of a litter scoop, I bought a big slotted serving spoon from kitchenware for removing stool. I find it much easier to handle than those supposedly purpose-specific plastic things. And if I run short on serving utensils at holiday BBQs, I’m set! (I kid, I kid…)

Also, consider getting 2 kitties, now or in the near future. Solo cats can get neurotic. They generally fare better if they have one of their own kind around.

If you’re picking up a kitten from the shelter, don’t get clumping cat litter. It’s bad for the wee ones. Otherwise, that’s the stuff I prefer for my grownup kitties.

Lots of folks here have suggested picking up some toys for your new guy to play with… but you might not need to waste your money at the shop. Every cat I know is as different from the next when it comes to play preferences. A cardboard box is lots of fun for a cat. Obviously, you’d need to use the right size. If your cat is a grownup, just about any size will do. A shoebox is great for a kitten. My kitties like to play with corks, and the caps off bottles of water. String is fun, but only if supervised. Don’t leave it lying around the house for them to choke on.

Catnip might also be a waste right now if you get a kitten. Most kittens are unaffected by it, until about 6 months of age. If you adopt an older cat, stuff an old sock (no holes) with catnip, and tie a knot on the end. This is a great wrestling partner for your cat. A pet store will charge you 5 or 6 dollars maybe for something you can easily make on your own.

The best toy I’ve ever bought from a pet store was $3.99CDN. It’s called the CAT DANCER. Sounds stupid, but it’s loads of fun, and great exercise. It’s simply 2 and a half feet of fairly sturdy wire, with bits cardboard attached on either end. Its movement mimics flying bugs that kitties love to chase. My guys have literally done backflips over this toy. It’s great for interaction between you and the cat, but you can also wedge it in a drawer or door frame, so they can play with it when you’re not around. I’m not sure if you can buy them where you live, as they’re made in Canada, but have a look when you’re at the shop. If you can’t find one, let me know. I’d be happy to mail you one.

Have fun with your new cat!

Ghostrider is right about this, by the way. But, of course, alot of it depends on how much time you are able to spend, one on one, with your cat.

A year or two from now, you might realize that your cat could use a buddy. It’s far, far easier to get a second one now, rather than try to introduce them later on down the road. Your cat will assume his territory quickly, and once he has, introducing another cat will be nothing short of tricky.

Taking care of two cats is no more difficult than taking care of one. Now, four cats on the other hand…

Thanks y’all.

Two cats is not an option right now - not so much because of space/time (although I do live in a small apartment) but because I’m nervous enough about having one - this is basically going to be my first pet (sure, there were hamsters, hermit crabs and fish when I was little), and taking responsibility for the happiness and well being of another creature is already stressing me out! I can’t imagine what it would be like if I was getting two.

What a long sentence that was.
Thanks for the suggestions folks. Again, toys are something that I’m not going to be stressed about having before it comes home, although I’m sure that I’ll get some within a week of having the kitty. I just want to make sure that I"m not dashing out for essentials the first day it comes home.

Yep, you don’t actually need that much. Cat food, litter, a few small toys, and a scratching post. I’d plan to be home most of the time for at least a few days while the cat adjusts to its new surroundings (and to correct any inappropriate behavior). You should also go over the house and cat-proof it, especially if you’re getting a kitten. Put away anything dangerous the cat could get into, and try to tuck those electrical cords out of the way as much as possible.

I also got a roll of duct tape, which I found to be the Ultimate Cat Training Tool. I double-sided it and attached it in strips to anything the cat seemed inclined to scratch or jump on that I didn’t want the cat to scratch or jump on. Didn’t take long for the cat to develop habits of scratching the post, and I didn’t have to lurk around corners with a water pistol.

Don’t be nervous. The cat’ll probably hide for a really long time when you bring it home, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong- it just needs time to get used to its new home. My first kitten spent six hours under the sofa before I ever really saw him, then jumped up on my lap and stayed there purring and kneading.

Once you feel better about your new status as cat person, you might decide to look for a second cat to keep it company. It’s nice for them to have one another for entertainment and company when you’re not home. Ideally, go for one that’s younger and of the opposite sex, and be ready for some hissing and batting while they test each other’s limits and establish territory.

Ask the shelter for some of the cat’s poop to bring home in a plastic bag, and put it into the litter box so kitty knows right away where and what the toilet is.

One of the cutest cat toys we’ve found is from Target - it’s a mouse that squeaks when touched…unfortunately, when kitty throws it against a wall the mouse tends to go into a non-stop squeak mode. We’ve actually had to take the damn thing apart and rip out the battery to make it stop. I really wish the manufacturer would perfect the model, because our cats love the toy.

I agree with FisherQueen on the cat-proofing tips - window blind cords are also a potential danger. Above all, even if you don’t intend to let the cat outside, get a collar and tag with your number and street address immediately.

The cat you pick has won the lotto! Have fun,

I second the suggestion to get a metal serving spoon, not a plastic litter scoop. Works much better. There is also good stuff called Nature’s Miracle that you can sprinkle in the litter to reduce odor.

Make plans to get it spayed or neutered literally ASAP. This will go a long way toward a happy pet experience.

Most kittens I’ve known have had no problem learning the litter box routine, but if there are any accidents there is something called PetZyme that works well to clean up the odor, which is important so the accident doesn’t become a habit since they smell the scent.

A camera will also be good, because you know the little thing will be CUTE!!!

Lsura, I just got two kittens from the Rescue League two weeks ago. My parents had cats when I was a kid, but I too was nervous about being responsible for an animal all on my very own. (I live alone, so it really is all up to me.)

For awhile, I waffled about possibly getting only one, thinking it might be easier to handle.

What broke the tie for me was the fact that I’m an attorney who works long hours. I felt it just wasn’t fair to let one kitty languish all alone for so much time. Also, I knew from experience that introducing another cat later on rarely works well if you want them to be pals.

So I adopted two kittens. They weren’t litter mates, but I got them at the same time. When I first brought them home, they hid from me and didn’t get along well together, and I was sure that I was a crummy cat owner.

It took exactly two days for the kittens to decide that they LOVE each other and that they LOVE me. I think it’s actually easier on me, responsibility-wise, to have two cats, because they provide entertainment and companionship for each other. You aren’t their whole world. They’re happy together when you’re gone, and they’re happy when they get to be with you, too.

On the other hand, when I took one cat to the vet on Thursday, the other cat stood by the apartment door and cried the whole time we were gone. :frowning: I am glad that this doesn’t happen every time I leave the apartment, because they still have some company.

Of course, while two cats require less one-on-one attention from you, you will have double the vet bills, they will eat twice as much food, and you will be scooping the litter box twice as often. :wink: But if you can handle that stuff, I highly endorse the idea of getting two loveable furballs instead of just one, especially if you’re starting out with kittens.

Congratulations and good luck!

Cats can be endlessly entertained by pretty much anything that wasn’t on the floor 5 seconds ago, so expensive cat toys aren’t really necessary. Having said that, the best investment you can make as far as cat toys are concerned is something that clearly delineates the difference between “toy” and “hand”.

As tempting as it is to play with your kitty and let him/her pounce on your hands, or to tease them by rolling them around or letting them stalk your wavering fingers…avoid the temptation at all costs. You’re inadvertantly training your kitty to regard you as a plaything, or worse, as prey. It’s very difficult to untrain your kitty to attack your hands…I learned this the hard way.

The best toy I was able to find for my kitty was a fluffy feather poof on the end of a 2’ flexible plastic stick. You can wave it at her and she’ll be able to pounce on and chase it, but it’s far enough removed from you that she won’t mistake you personally for a claw toy.

Just my $0.02. :slight_smile: