Four Kittens on a Blanket

Starter Kit For New Cat Owners

If you're planning on getting a cat, there are a couple of things you should look at like cats diet, collars, carriers, litter boxes... We have you covered! Lets look at the most important topics for a new cat owner.

Collars

There is a huge variety of fancy cat collars on the market. But style is not what matters. The best cat collars are designed for your cat’s safety and to hold an ID tag.

Even if your cat is an indoor cat she can get out accidentally through a door or window inadvertently left open.

Without a collar your cat could be mistaken for a stray. With an ID tag, anyone who finds her will be able to get in touch with you. Even if your cat has a microchip, a collar with a tag tells the person who finds her that somebody is missing that cat.

Cat Wearing a Collar

You should start your cat getting used to a collar when she is a kitten. There are expandable kitten collars available to fit them as they grow.

Breakaway Collar

This kind of collar has a fastener that will automatically release if your cat gets snagged on a tree branch, fence, furniture, or window blinds. In these situations a regular collar could strangle your cat.

Some breakaway collars have instead a length of elastic fabric woven in that expands when tugged. If your cat gets snagged, the weight of his body stretches his collar and lets him escape.

Harness And Leash

It’s a good idea to walk your cat outside on a leash, just like a dog. It’s good for his brain. He can smell new things and react to new things. If he isn’t interested in outdoor walks, don’t push it.

There is still value in training him on a lead anyway. Some cats are easy to transport on a lead and difficult to shove into a carrier. Any cat training book or website can teach you how to train your cat to walk on a lead.

Cat Wearing a Cat Harness

Having the best cat leash is not as important as getting a good harness that fits properly. Unlike dogs, cats’ throats can be crushed if they are walked with a leash attached to a collar.

If your cat proves to be an escape artist with a harness, there is also the option of a walking vest that also provides more coverage and pressure distribution than a harness.

Never tie your cat outside unsupervised.

Carrier

You’ll need a cat carrier to bring your new cat home and for visits to the vet. Line your carrier with an old towel or favorite blanket.

Your adoption agency may provide you with a cardboard carrier but this will only work for a kitten or a very docile cat. A determined cat can scratch or prod his way out of a cardboard carrier very easily.

Most cat carriers are hard plastic and have a top or hood that clamps on to the bottom with locking toggles. They have a front door in a grill style so the cat can see out and may have grills on the sides for the same reasons.

Cats will fight tooth and nail to avoid being put into the carrier. So the best of the plastic cat carriers also have a hatch on the top. It is much easier to drop an un-cooperative cat in through the top than through the front door.

White Kitten Exiting a Cat Carrier

The bigger the carrier is, the easier it is to get your cat into it.

These carriers have a handle or handles on the top. You must double check that all clasps and toggles holding the hood to the base are securely locked, as well as all doors, before you pick it up and go out into the world.

The best cat carriers are the soft sided ones because they are so much easier to get the cat into. They have a zippered opening on top so you can easily drop the cat into the bag and quickly close it.

Because it isn’t a hard material, the cat has no surface to push against. They usually have a zippered front door with a tent-type screen so your cat can see out, carrying handles, a shoulder strap with strong clasps, and pockets.

Ensure all zippers are locked before going outdoors.

Litter Box

One of your cat’s first needs on arrival will be a litter box, cat litter, a scoop, and a bin to scoop into. In a pinch you can use a cardboard box with an entrance cut out of it.

FelineFresh-Scoopable-Litter Bag

For a permanent litter box you can buy a basic open litter pan or a fancier one with a hood and charcoal filter pads. There are even electric self-cleaning litter pans. Or you can buy a large plastic crate with a snap-on lid and cut a door into it.

Ideally you should have one more litter pan than you have cats and preferably in different areas of the house.

Cats have a natural instinct to eliminate in soil or sand and a kitten may have already learned about the litter box from her mom before you adopted her. Then you will only need to show her where the box is.

If your kitten or cat came from a feral situation, he may need some litter box training. This is not the same as housetraining a puppy.

In this case a plain open litter pan is best. Put it in a low traffic area that is easy for him to reach. Bring him to it at a quiet time soon after you bring him home. Put him in the box and take her front paws, showing her how to scratch at the litter.

She may jump right out at first but that’s okay.

Cat in Litter Box

Do this again at times when a cat would normally use the bathroom – after playing, after eating, after napping, first thing in the morning. Very quickly she will be using it on her own and, once she is, leave her alone. Cats prefer privacy in the litter box.

If she makes mistakes do not scold or punish. Just start over. If accidents continue, if you notice diarrhea or straining, get her to the vet.

There are many disguises you can make or buy for litter pans. The best litter pan furniture can function as people furniture as well, as long as you keep the litter super-clean. There are gorgeous rattan covers that double as end tables.

If you have the tools to cut out an entrance hole, you can re-purpose a pirate trunk, a wooden Ikea chest, a wicker laundry hamper, a thrift store cabinet, or an entertainment unit. You are only limited by your imagination. Just don’t use anything too small.

Bowls, Food, Water

You need a bowl for dry food, a bowl for wet food, and a bowl for water.

Cat Drinking Water from a Cat Bowl

Cats prefer shallow bowls. There are plastic bowls with sturdy bases and but they can capture odors and bacteria. Metal and ceramic bowls are easy to clean and sterilize. You can re-purpose people bowls too. It’s best if the bowls are heavy enough not to slide around. Some of them come with a raised tray that has bowl holes in it.

Get a large place mat or rubber mat and create a feeding station in an area that is low-traffic, low-noise, and not close to the litter pan. As when they are using the bathroom, cats don’t like noise and chaos around them when they eat.

You can keep the dry food bowl full all the time.

If you are also using canned food, feed a kitten three times a day and then switch to once or twice. Canned food has extra moisture that cats usually need and also gives them some variety.

Kitten Eating Dry Food from a Bowl

Change the water a few times a day. Cats don’t always drink enough water and it will be more enticing to them if it is fresh and doesn’t have food crud floating in it.

Some cats prefer water that is moving. Your cat may move her paws in the water or just outside the bowl while drinking. If your cat is super fussy about that, you may need to get a water bowl with a fountain attached.

If you have a leaky faucet, chances are your cat will drink from that more often that from her own bowl.

Bed

Cats sleep a lot and they will sleep on anything. Nobody knows why they like to sleep on remote controls and cell phones, but they do. If you leave a sock or facecloth on an end table, they might make that their camp for a week.

They will sleep on your dirty t-shirt on the end of the bed, on top of the fridge, in the cupboard with the flour and sugar, in the laundry hamper (especially if the laundry just came out of the dryer), in a potted plant, or even on a pile of guitar cables and pedals.

Cat Sleeping in a Bed

But your new cat, especially in the first few weeks, needs a designated safe place to hang out and sleep – a blanket or towel in a quiet place, maybe in a cat cave under a cupboard. One of the best cat beds ever is a cardboard flat that cans of beer come in, lined with an old towel or a thin worn-out pillow.

They might even sleep in the fancy cat bed you bought.

Toys

Cats love to play. Their play mimics hunting and killing small animals. Some of the best cat toys are not the ones you buy at the store.

  • A balled up piece of paper or tinfoil
  • A piece of string with you flicking it
  • A long thin piece of plastic that holds a pile of newspapers together
  • A paper bag or cardboard box to hide in
  • A roll of paper towel
  • And watch out for your roll of toilet paper!
  • A knotted sock full of catnip
Kitten Chasing a Cat Toy

If you buy toys for your cat here are the best:

  • A laser light that they can chase
  • A wand with feathers on the end and a felt fish or bird hanging from it
  • Small soft balls the size of ping-pong balls (some cats will fetch those)
  • Small furry mice the size of real mice, made of an almond shell covered with fur (cut the felt tails off)
  • Small felt toys with beanbag stuff inside

One of the best catnip toys has an underpants pouch that you stuff a packet of catnip into and squeeze to refresh – the toy gets disgusting because cats drool all over it, but the catnip packet can be taken out of it so it can be washed.

And Then There’s Catnip

Nepeta cataria is a plant of the mint family. Your cat—and even tigers and lions—are drawn to an oil that is in the leaves and stems of the catnip plant.

Is cat nip good for your cat? Yes, it is. It’s non-addictive and harmless, and it gives them some entertainment.

Cat Rubbing on Catnip in a Bowl

About 70-80% of cats are drawn to catnip; this is hereditary. And kittens aren’t interested until they are about six months old, reaching sexual maturity.

When cats smell catnip, their behavior is similar to that of cats in heat (except for the yowling). They roll around in it, rub their heads in it, eat it, purr, vocalize, and drool.

If you are able to grow a plant to maturity (you can buy seeds) before your cat destroys it, he will chomp on it and rub against it. Most people have to buy dried catnip. The fresher the better, and organic is becoming more and more available.

You can sprinkle it on the floor or the bed, or put it on a piece of printer paper for the cat to eat.

A cat’s response to catnip lasts for about ten minutes. Then you’ll have to vacuum. Some cats will revisit the spot for a few days and roll around on it.

Don’t sprinkle catnip for your cat more frequently than every couple of weeks because they become immune to its effects and no longer enjoy it.

How does catnip work? One of the oils in catnip, nepetalactone, enters the cat's nasal tissue. It triggers a response in a region of the brain that regulates emotional response and another region that is involved in regulating everything from hunger to emotions.

Cat Rolling in Catnip

Those regions of the brain react together through the pituitary gland to create a sexual response. The cat is basically reacting to an artificial cat pheromone.

Humans do not react to catnip the same way. But it is used as a mild sedative in some herbal teas. In alternative medicine it is used to help with migraines, cramps, gas, indigestion, insomnia, nervousness, and anorexia.

Catnip in catnip toys gets old fast but you can get catnip spray to revitalize them. There are even catnip scented bubbles. One of the best cat toys is an old sock with catnip knotted into it.

Cat Grass

If your cat doesn’t go outside, or in winter, your cat will appreciate pots of cat grass. Some theories as to why they like it:

  • Grass contains some nutrients such as chlorophyll which aren't a part of their normal carnivorous diet
  • Eating grass can induce vomiting, which helps the cat bring up hairballs
  • Acts as a laxative and helps with the passage of hairballs through the system
  • It may provide your cat with certain vitamins and nutrients your cat is lacking

You can buy cat grass in small pots at the grocery store or you can grow your own.

Cat Brushing Head in a Pot of Cat Grass

In winter, you can pre-sprout the seeds with damp paper towel and then put them in a small flower pot to grow.

In summer you can sprinkle the seeds in a pot of plant dirt (without chemicals), cover with a bit more dirt, put outside in the sun and spritz every day until it grows, and then bring it in. Spread the seeds thickly.

You can get “cat grass seeds” at a pet store or even a cat grass growing kit with a fancy container. Or just buy oat seeds, barley seeds, or wheat seeds at a seed store.

You cat will go through this stuff really fast, so always have a new batch growing.

Scratching Post

Cats need to scratch and they love to scratch. It helps keep their claws in great shape. It satisfies their need to mark their territory

Scratching posts mimic the tree trunks your cat would scratch if you let them outside. Without something to scratch, your cat will destroy one side of your favorite arm chair, your Persian carpet, even your door and window frames.

Cats on Cat Scratching Posts

When they stretch up really high to scratch, they are leaving a message about their size along with an identifying scent that comes from between their paw pads.

So your cat’s scratching post should be taller than a stretched out cat, or about 30 inches tall. It needs a stable base so it won’t fall over when the cat is scratching. And the material should be sisal or carpet to feel good to the cat. You can make one yourself.

Experts suggest one scratching post per room.

An alternative is a scratching platform made of corrugated cardboard. They make a bit of a mess and have to be replaced from time to time, but they are inexpensive and many cats love them.

A small boot mat of rough material is also good for scratching.

Other Cat Furniture

Cats love to have perches to watch the world from and caves to hide in. The best cat furniture is covered with material that is satisfying to scratch, gives them a place to get away from it all, and gives them a perch.

One of the best bits of cat furniture you can install is a window shelf that looks out on a tree full of birds or just out on the street.

You can go further and install shelves and stairs on the walls or give them a cat condo, cat tree, or cat house.

A series of cat shelves on the walls allows your cat to get way up high, away from people and other pets, or just to watch things or sleep. You can build a literal catwalk if you want to – just also build them a way to get up to it.

Go Pet Club Cat Tree Design

A cat tree is a glorified scratching post – it’s bigger and has perches and activities. Parts of it should be covered with carpet or sisal or velour. You can even make one yourself out of a real piece of tree. Just make sure that it has a base wide enough to accommodate its height and the weight of your cat(s).

A cat condo or house can be a very basic carpet-covered hideaway. The cat can scratch it, sleep in it, or sit on top of it. A bunch of those cat condos can be attached to poles to make a cat tree.

The best cat houses or condos are chosen or built – and located – with your cat’s preferences in mind.

If he doesn’t like to climb, don’t build it into a tower. If he likes to scratch a lot, choose one with a really great scratching surface. If you have more than one cat, you may need some flat perches as well as some enclosed spaces. Maybe you should incorporate your cat house into a tower in front of your best bird-watching window.

A cat house can look like an actual house if you want. There are pre-fab cardboard cat houses, or you can make one yourself out of cardboard boxes.

Beauty Supplies

A brush – develop a routine early and it is a great stress-buster for both of you. If you have a long-haired cat you need to brush to prevent mats. A flea comb is good just to check for flea eggs.

Glamdaisy Pet Curved Scissor Set Closed

Even if your cat doesn’t go outside, you can bring in fleas on your jeans. Very sharp scissors are great for cutting through mats so you can then brush them out over time. Nail clippers are essential if your cat doesn’t scratch enough to keep them under control.

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