When you're a new cat owner, you only want the best for your fur baby. How can you make your home as welcoming as possible when everything's so new to both you and your cat? What can you do to help your kitty feel safe, healthy, and happy? Every first-time cat owner checklist should include cat scratchers, extra litter boxes, and lots of playtime. Here are 10 great tips that all new cat owners should know.
1. Help Your Cat Feel Safe and Secure
Your cat will be a little shy at first, so try to make your home as welcoming as possible. It's perfectly normal if your cat feels nervous and hides from you. Cats don't generally like change, and she may need time to get used to all the new smells and sounds in your home.
You can help by giving your cat her own room or space where she can retreat to and feel safe. Put a comfy bed in there so she can snuggle down. Some cats might prefer an enclosed bed they can hide away in when they feel overwhelmed. Also, place a couple of catnip toys and a soft blanket inside.
Set up Comfort Zone Calming Diffusers around the house, ideally plugging one into an outlet in each room where your cat will spend the most time. These diffusers release a drug-free, odorless vapor that mimics the pheromones a cat releases to indicate an area is safe and secure. It's kind of like sending a signal in your cat's own language to help improve her mental well being. When your kitty feels safer, she's less likely to have stress responses like scratching and spraying. For households with more than one cat, try the Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Diffuser. You can also choose a Comfort Zone Calming Collar that has a BreakAway safety feature.
2. Visit the Vet
Find your cat a great veterinarian, schedule a checkup, and make sure his vaccines are up-to-date. Consider getting him a microchip too. Keep the microchip number and a photo of your new cat on your phone in case he ever escapes. You'll be glad you did.
3. Introduce Your Cat to Other Pets Slowly
When you bring home a new cat, slowly introduce her to your other pets, such as your dog. Keep your new cat in a separate room and feed your pets on either side of a closed door. Put each pet's blanket in the other pet's room and swap rooms sometimes so they get used to each other's smells. Eventually, graduate to feeding them on either side of a closed gate and then try supervised visits. Watch their body language each step of the way so you can separate them if needed.
4. Try Different Kinds of Litter and Boxes
It's typically a good idea to have one litter box per cat, plus an extra box.1 Cats can get a little territorial about their litter boxes, so make sure your new cat has enough space.
You might also want to try different styles of litter and boxes. Some cats prefer softer litter, while long-haired cats might prefer crystal litter that doesn't stick to their fur. Cats may like covered boxes, uncovered boxes, boxes with low edges, or other varieties. Keep the litter boxes away from heavy foot traffic or loud noises. Remember to spot clean your cat's litter every day and do a deeper clean once a week.
If your new kitty isn't burying her poop, try these steps to help encourage that behavior.
5. Use High-Quality Food and Keep Your Cat Away from Anything Dangerous
Cats thrive on high-quality food. AvoDerm's wet and dry food for cats is a great place to start. You'll find a lot of flavors to choose from.
Be sure to avoid human foods that are toxic to cats, and only keep house plants that are safe for your kitty. Cats are really good at getting into everything, so lock up anything that might harm your fur baby, like cleaning products.
6. Get Creative with Food and Water Bowls
If you have dogs, you need to know that they sometimes like to get into the cat's food. Consider using a food bowl for your cat that attaches to a window. You can keep it up high, where your dog can't reach.
Cats tend to drink less water than they actually need. Set up water bowls in different places in your home and consider using filtered bowls. You might also want to try a water fountain bowl since some cats prefer to drink running water. It's more oxygenated, so it tastes better to them, and they can hear it running which lets them know it's fresher.2
7. Create an Enticing Indoor Environment
Although cats tend to be safer when they're indoors, they can also get bored. Create an enticing indoor environment for your new cat. Set up condos and cat trees so your kitty can climb. Open the shades and set up window perches to give your cat a little "cat TV" to watch outside. Put a bird feeder outside the window for extra fun. Get lots of toys (some with catnip) for your kitty to play with, including interactive toys for when you're not around.
8. Set Up Cat Scratchers
Cats need to scratch to remove the dead outer layers of their claws, to stretch their bodies, and to help mark their territory.3 Scratching can also be a way of showing happiness or easing stress. If you don't provide scratchers, your cat will turn to your carpet or your furniture.
It's better to provide too many cat scratchers than not enough. Put up scratchers in different rooms where your cat likes to hang out. Consider trying both vertical and horizontal scratchers, since some cats will only use one type.
9. Enjoy a Little Outdoor Fun
Even if you're not comfortable letting your cat roam outside, you can still have safe outdoor adventures together. Set up an enclosed outdoor space for your kitty to play in, like a catio or a cat tent that's staked to the ground. You can also put your cat on a secure harness and take him outside for a short walk in the backyard on a leash.
Your kitty will need to get used to the harness indoors first. Some will "belly crawl" on the ground for a bit before they feel comfortable with the harness, and some might not move at all for a few minutes while they get used to the feel of it. But most will learn to love it with time, especially once they realize that putting on the harness means they're going outside.
10. Play with Your Cat
Spend lots of time playing with your new cat. This keeps her brain engaged and helps her develop good socialization skills. Get her to chase a feather wand around the house, or put a treat in your hand and encourage your cat to chase you up and down the hall. Clicker training is another great way to build your bond with your cat and keep her mind challenged.4
Welcoming a new fur baby into your life is one of the great joys of owning a pet. Just follow these 10 tips to create the perfect environment for a happy and healthy cat home.
1. Harrell, Jane. "How Many Litter Boxes Do I Need?" PetFinder, https://www.petfinder.com/cats/cat-behavior-and-training/litter-box-101-how-many-litter-boxes/.
2. Becker, Marty. "Why Does My Cat... Drink from Weird Places Like the Faucet or the Bathtub?" Vetstreet, 7 March 2016, http://www.vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker/why-does-my-cat-drink-from-weird-places-like-the-faucet-or-the-bathtub.
3. The Humane Society of the United States. "Cats: Destructive Scratching." HumaneSociety.org, https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/cats-destructive-scratching.
4. Shojai, Amy. "How to Clicker Train Your Cat." 3 March 2019, The Spruce Pets, https://www.thesprucepets.com/cat-clicker-training-554058.