We're getting a cat - what do we need, besides the obvious?

We’ve found the perfect kitty-cat to add to our family … I’m picking him up from the SPCA tomorrow morning …

I’d like to try to have everything in place before I get him, so once he’s home we can spend our first day getting to know each other, letting him explore the house, and most importantly, introducing him to the doggie.

I know we need: a litter box, kitty litter, food & water dishes, a scratching post, toys, food (any recommendations - he’s 7 months old), maybe a bed of some kind?

What am I forgetting? All advice/product recommendations are welcome.

Thanks Dopers!


Ask the SPCA what they’ve been feeding him, you may want to change his diet later but what he’s been used to will be easiest for him at first. As you have a dog some kind of enclosed bed may be a good idea, especially if you put it up somewhere the dog can’t get to. Not that I’m anticipating trouble… but kitty will probably appreciate having a retreat. Of course after a couple of days it may well be the dog who wants to hide :slight_smile:

Something (bed, toy, etc.) with catnip. Also set aside a blanket or afghan for him. I would also get a night light or two for when he’s going to the box or the food/water bowl at night, until he gets a better lay of the land. Also a litter scooper and a filter for the box (if it needs one).

A clean towel for Kitty to sleep and lounge on. It doesn’t have to be new or fancy, but cats LOVE to sleep on towels. Sometimes they’ll sleep on cushions marketed for cats, but I’ve never known a cat to refuse to sleep on a towel.

Some cats love catnip, some don’t seem to be affected by it. So don’t buy an expensive catnip toy until you know which category your kitty falls in. Also, cats usually don’t like catnip until after they’re CATS, kittens aren’t interested in it.

All cats love to be in cardboard boxes. If you will have a cardboard box ready for Kitty when he comes home, he will probably claim it as his own. If you put the towel or afghan in the box, so much the better. He will probably spend a LOT of time in the box, especially at first.

When I brought my kitty home from the Humane Society, I was told that it was very common for cats to hide for a week or longer in their new homes. In Sapphire’s case, this wasn’t true, but just so you know, don’t expect your new cat to immediately start playing with everyone.

I’ve always heard that kittens are kittens for a year, and need KITTEN food during that time.

Get the biggest litter scooper you can find. If it’s big, you can do the whole box in just a few scoops, and it’s much easier to do it every day, 'cause it’s quick and easy rather than a big chore.

If he’s not declawed, you might also want to get a clipper. You can snip off just the sharp tips of the claws and if he elects to use objects other than the scratching post (which is always a possiblity) he will be less destructive. It’s also less painful if he decides to make a vertical ascent up your leg. :slight_smile: It’s easiest if you get him used to having his claws clipped when he’s a kitten.

We prefer Iams food. It is more expensive than many brands, though, so we mix it half and half with a mid-priced brand. Since your new guy is pretty young, you might want to feed him all Iams (or Eukanuba is a good brand, too) until he gets older. They have a kitten formula, too (I don’t remember how long you’re supposed to feed cats kitten formula … it’s been awhile).
Also, I don’t want to scare you, but I urge you to encourage good drinking habits right away. We had a cat that was prone to urinary tract infections and we never could get him to drink enough water. We read that cats drink best from a clear dish, filled as close to the top as possible, with the water changed often. We do that now, but wish we had started sooner. :frowning:
Oh, and you can buy him a bed if you want. He’s going to sleep in yours anyway. :smiley:

Thanks all …

One more q - How can I make our very full, very small house catproof?

A pack of viscious doberman pincers. That oughta do it!

Oh! And an issue that’s recently come up with our 6 mo. old kitty; a brush and hairball medication!

Hockey equipment and antibiotic ointment.

Trust me.

You don’t need a bed. Take a nice warm sweater you wear a lot and that smells like you, and leave it in a cardboard box. He’ll love it.

Catproofing the house? The only problem I ever had with my kitten was that he enjoyied chewing on electrical wires. I ended up taping any slack to furniture, the wall, or the floor, so he couldn’t get to it. Also, be careful with string and ribbon. Some cats like to chew on it and eat it like a spaghetti strand, which is dangerous because it can knot up their intestines.

Be vigilant when closing drawers, closets, the dryer, the dishwasher, anywhere the little guy may hide. Cats like to explore and sneak into dark corners, and you may end up looking for him for quite a while before tiny plaintive meows lead you to your underwear drawer.

And the best toy ever is one that looks sort of like a fishing rod with a little mouse or some feathers at the end. Kittens will wear you out with this one.

Another cat. Best way to keep them entertained.

Amen. Our “kitten” is now thirteen months old, and he can still find any length of string or ribbon that’s left loose anywhere in the house. He once chewed some ribbon off of a balloon bouquet and swallowed that - I found out when he had some litterbox problems and I discovered ribbon hanging out of his rear end. Luckily, that all came out on its own, but the huge potential for tragedy still shakes me up. Be careful with twist ties, too. Cats love to play with them, but they can perforate intestines if they’re swallowed.

If you have any small trinkets, even on high shelves, box them up and put them away for now. The same goes for any table runners, because the kitten will try to climb them. If your kitten scratches on furniture, there’s a product you can get at pet supply stores to put on his favorite spots. It’s slightly sticky and it may deter him long enough for you to redirect him to the scratching post.

If you don’t feel particularly energetic, you can get a kitten to play with the light from a laser pointer and you don’t even have to leave the couch. Have fun!

Yes, a laser pointer will be the best $5 you spend.
They don’t need expensive toys.
Shoe boxes are good. Paper shopping bags with the handles cut off. And the little plastic rings from milk jugs. Old shoe laces with knots tied in them every few inches.
And the little plastic balls with bells in them from the pet store are favorites of my cats. We call them “jingle balls.” My cat Nicky plays fetch with them. They look like a little plastic cage with a bell in it, and he can grab it with his teeth.

Ear drops for ear mites.

One of the few behaviours (in my observation) that kitties will actually copy from a human is scratching, so when he arrives, take him to the scratching post and use it yourself - you might even want to put his paws onto it while you’re doing it. Do it over and over until he gets the message. Say a specific word or phrase while you’re doing this (in our house it’s “scratchy”) every time you or he uses the post. Hopefully, if the little guy starts to scratch something else, use this phrase, and if you’re lucky, he’ll stop and go to his post to do it there, and your furniture will be saved (and you’ll never feel tempted to declaw).

If that doesn’t work, and in general, create a ‘punishment signal’. When I first got my kitty, if she did something naughty, I’d catch her by the scruff and hold her on the ground for a few seconds - just until she mewed (this is a similar punishment to that given by a mother cat, who also might nip their ears). Immediately before I did this, I clapped my hands loudly three times. Mildly distressing for the cat, but entirely useful for the cat’s well being living with humans.

I only had to do this twice. Four years on, if I clap my hands, she stops whatever she’s doing and slinks away. In fact, I only have to move my hands like I’m going to clap, and she ceases and desists (usually it’s to do with roast chicken on the kitchen counter).

No - don’t do that. Cats generally don’t respond to “force” training. The best way to get them using their scratching posts is to play with them around them, like with wand toys or something, so they get their claws in them and scratching through play. Then praise them. They’ll get the idea.

Another thing, cats scratch not just for “claw maintenance”. They also scratch for exercise, and to mark territory. The marking comes in two ways: through sight (by the scratch marks), and by scent (cats have scent glands in the paws). Cats also do a large portion of their scratching after waking from a nap, so make sure there’s an appropriate scratching surface near where your kitty spends most of his time sleeping. Also, I’d suggest getting a few of those cardboard scratching boxes (Cosmic Kitty? I think is the name) - they are cheap (around $5/ea) and treated with catnip. You can toss one in every room.

For more information on cats and their scratching behaviour, check out this website:


Don’t get plastic bowls - they tend to collect the oil from the food more than other surfaces and can lead to kitty chin acne. Ceramic or metal is the best.

Definitely get clumping litter! I can’t tell you how great an invention this stuff is. And I’ve learned that you really can’t skimp on litter. You’d think one clumping litter is as good as the next - not so. I tried to save money by getting the PetsMart brand of litter and it was horrible! I like the Arm & Hammer or the, I think, Tidy Cat Multi cat (or it might be fresh step, but I think not - I just switched on the recommendation of a friend).

Covered litter box = good! :wink:

As for food, definitely follow violacrane’s advice and find out what he’s eating currently (maybe they’ll even give you a bit so you can switch) and feed him that at first. Any sudden changes in food can cause diarrhea. Start about 70/30 the first couple days, then 50/50 for a couple more, then 30/70 for a couple more and by the end of the first week he will have made the switch to what ever food you plan on feeding him for life.

At 7mos of age, he does not have to be on kitten food (unless he’s underweight). If you want my food recommendation, it’ll be a little more expensive, but it’s a higher quality food: Nutro Natural Choice (Indoor). You can get it at PetsMart and the reason I suggest that over something like Iams or Science Diet is that the Nutro doesn’t contain any By-Products, and after some of the research I did on what goes into pet food - that is a big plus. I believe that the Authority brand (PetsMart’s label) also does not contain any By-Products.

Ok… sorry about the above, I think I’ve spent way too long as an adoption counselor :wink:

Scoop Away - Multi cat clumping litter - not Tidy Cat. Scoop Away.

I am not a vet, but lots of my friends have recently gotten cats from the shelter, and I always tell people to watch out for the following:

  1. If you’re getting a cat from a shelter, keep an eye out for worms. Both my cats from the humane society had worms, even though they were de-wormed prior to me taking them home. The worms are larvae from fleas, which spread very quickly and easily among shelter cats since they’re in such close proximity. If the cat swallows even one flea while scratching, 9 times out of 10 it’ll get worms. The worms look like little wiggly grains of rice and are often found right around their butt-hole area on or under their tails. Don’t be alarmed if you see worms, just call the place you got the cat, and they will give him or her another de-worming pill, and that’ll take care of the problem.

  2. Many cats at shelters come home with upper respiratory infections, which spread very quickly. Both my cats had infections when I brought them home. If your cat is sneezing a lot, he or she probably has a cold. Again, don’t panic - just call your vet, he’ll probably ask you to bring the cat in and will likely treat it for free, giving you some antibiotics to administer to the cat via dropper.

  3. Watch out for gooey, drippy eyes. If you notice your cat’s eyes are seeping a lot and have discharge, your cat might have herpes. Again, this is something very common among shelter cats - about 80% of them carry the virus. It’s no big deal - it basically just means that their body isn’t producing a necessary enzyme that boosts their immune system. Cats with herpes tend to have gooey eyes and get sick easily. But, you’re in luck because it’s easy to treat with over-the-counter lysine (about $5-$6 at Walgreens). It won’t cause your cat to die earlier or anything, it just might make his or her eyes gross from time-to-time, but if you give him or her lysine it will help prevent the cat from getting sick and should clear up the eyes a bit. My youngest cat has herpes. It’s another one of those things that spreads very easily, but not all cats express symptoms. So the little one used to get sick more often than my older cat, until I brought her to a vet who recognized her problem right off the bat.

I gotta agree with those here who have recommended the clumping litter. I use Tidy Cat for multiple cats, and you can’t really tell I have cats unless you see their toys or the cats themselves. Also, I feed them both Purina One cat food. It came really highly recommended by their vet. I also urge you to ask the shelter or wherever you get your cat what they’ve been feeding him or her. Try to feed the cat the same thing to avoid stomach upset, and if you want to switch, do it slowly by gradually mixing a different food into the food the cat’s used to. Otherwise your cat might have some intestinal distress that might make it poop places you would rather it didn’t.

Another cat owner chiming in here.

If you are religious about scooping out the litter box every day, then scoopable kitty litter is great, but if you are like me and tend to forget about it for a couple days, what will happen is it will turn into one big clump and you will have to dump the whole thing. For me I’ve found that conventional kitty litter works great. I put it in a litter box lined with a plastic kitchen bag. Once a week on garbage day I just replace the litter by removing the garbage bag and putting a new one in with fresh litter… and a litter box cover is required if you want to keep the smell down.