ats make great pets – they might have a reputation for being independent, but you’ll quickly find that a well-cared for kitty becomes your furry shadow. Don’t fret if this is your first experience bringing a feline into your home – we’ve put together the ultimate guide to preparing for your new companion (and caring for them once they arrive).

We’ll go over:

  • Supplies you should stock up on when you adopt a cat
  • How to keep your kitty cat safe
  • Special considerations for cats in apartments

And more. So let’s get to the tips!

We hope you like  our tips for first time cat owners! All of the products mentioned in this article were independently selected by cat owners on our writing team because we think they're awesome. Just so you know, as an affiliate partner we earn a share of sales or other compensation from qualifying purchases if you decide to shop from some of the links on this page at no cost to you.

black cat in a toy basket purchased by a first time cat owner
First time cat owners will need to stock up on all the essentials as they prepare for their furry friend to come home.

1. Go shopping before you bring your furry friend home.

Cats are adorable – but no matter how much you want to swing by the shelter and scoop one up on your way home, it’s best to prepare for your new arrival before you pick them up.

Non-negotiable cat supplies include a litter box and litter, as well as age-appropriate cat food. Kittens, adult cats, and senior cats have different nutritional needs.

You might also want to pick up a pet bed or some cat toys – although most cats will be just as happy with a few hair bands and wire ties you dig out of your junk drawer.

cat sneaking up on a feather toy on a windowsill
What looks like blinds to you might look like an ill-advised toy to the kitty cat in your life.

2. Look at your home from a cat’s point of view.

One thing that sets cats apart from other pets is their ability to get onto or under practically anything. And if you’ve never had a pet that can climb onto your cabinets and stare down at you, it can take some getting used to.

Much like you might baby-proof a home, take some time to cat-proof your space. That means making sure easily tipped furniture is securely anchored, cords (whether for blinds or electronics) are wrapped up, and trash cans are covered.

outdoor cat in a field
Make sure any plants your cat will have unsupervised access to are ones that won’t make them sick.

3. Double check your garden.

Plants are a great finishing touch for your decor, but some common houseplants (and yard plants, for indoor-outdoor cats) can make your feline friend very sick. Some cats like to play with leaves or foliage – which is not a problem for nontoxic plants, but can have serious consequences if they take a bite out of something that isn’t pet-friendly.

Common houseplants that are toxic to cats include:

  • Snake plants
  • Aloe vera
  • Lilies
  • Ivy
  • Philodendrons

Consider swapping some of these for cat-safe alternatives, like catnip or cat grass.

fluffy brown and white cat with blue eyes eating from an automatic food bowl
An automatic food bowl makes sticking to your cat’s daily routine easy.

4. Automate cat care where you can.

Cats love their routines. Unfortunately, human life doesn’t always accommodate dinner at 7pm sharp and bedtime no later than 10.

Luckily, there are plenty of products that help automate pet care so that your cat can enjoy their routine even if you get held up at work or plan an evening out with your friends.

Cat water fountains keep your kitty supplied with plenty of fresh water so that you don’t have to refill their bowl multiple times a day. Plus, cats prefer to drink running water – so your cat is more likely to stay hydrated if the water stays moving.

Automatic feeders also help keep your pet’s bowl full no matter where you are.

You can even automate shopping for pet essentials like litter and treats. When you subscribe to Pretty Litter, the world’s smartest cat litter (and any other foot, treats, or toys you select) are delivered to your door every month. Chewy also has options for subscription delivery – including your pet’s pharmacy needs.

white kitten with black spots holding onto a toy
Big smells can come from small packages. Being smart about your litterbox choices helps cut down on odors.

5. Choose your litter box options wisely.

Not all litter boxes are created equal. If you want your cat to be happy and healthy (and for your home free of that stinky litter smell), it’s definitely worth brushing up on litter materials.

Your standard clay cat litter is pretty inexpensive and easy to find at your local grocery, pet supply, or even dollar store. It’s available in low dust and clumping/non-clumping varieties, but it is still notoriously smelly. Scented clay litter is an option, but cats are sensitive to smells – and if they don’t like the fragrance you pick, your cat may surprise you by finding another place in your home to do their business. Clay litter is also heavy and not environmentally friendly.

Organic cat litter comes in several varieties including pine litter, wheat litter, corn litter, and walnut shell litter. These are generally lighter and more environmentally friendly than traditional clay litter.

Silica gel litter is relatively new on the scene, but its popularity is skyrocketing because it lasts longer and controls odor better than other types of litter. Silica gel litter is typically more expensive, so if price is a consideration it may not be your best option. Some varieties of silica gel litter like Pretty Litter even change color to let you know if something is going on with your cat’s urinary tract health, making it easier to monitor their wellness.

In general, you want one litter box for every cat you own, plus one spare. So if you have one cat, you’ll need two boxes. If you have three cats, you’ll need four boxes. And so on.

Litter boxes should be placed in areas that are relatively private and that your cat will always have access to. Laundry rooms, mud rooms, and bathrooms are popular choices. You can also get creative and buy a piece of litter box furniture that stylishly conceals a litter box placed in a hallway or another more visible room in your home.

cat with a small plush Nintendo Kirby toy
Napping might be their favorite activity, but your cat will need toys and games to burn off some energy and stay physically (and mentally) active.

6. Give some thought to entertainment and enrichment.

This is important for cats at any age, but it’s even more important for kittens. Make sure you have some good ways for them to play and burn off energy – including scratching posts, toys, and designated playtime. It will keep your cat happy and your home peaceful.

Amazon shopper and cat owner Addie's cat wearing blue nail caps
Nail caps are “couch savers!” Image courtesy of Amazon review by Addie.

7. Be prepared for scratching.

It’s no secret that cats like to scratch. Most shelters educate adopters about the dangers of declawing your cat – but there are plenty of options to deter scratching that won’t be so painful for your feline friend.

Your cat may not love them, but nail caps are a pain-free way to protect your furniture. After trimming your cat's nails, you simply adhere them to your cat’s front paws with nail glue.

Another option is to purchase scratch deterrent spray or scratch deterrent tape to make areas of your home less appealing to your cat.

And finally, having scratching posts and other areas where scratching is allowed cuts down on your cat’s need to scratch that itch (pun intended!) elsewhere.

first time cat owner bonding with her pet by brushing the cat
Brushing your cat helps them look and feel their best, and it’s also a great bonding experience.

8. Figure out a grooming routine.

Cats are good at grooming themselves – they’re always primping and preening. However the National Cat Groomers Institute of America recommends bathing your cat every 4-6 weeks to remove other debris from their coat, cut down on dander, and help keep your cat smelling fresh.

If you are sensitive to cat dander, you can find anti-dander shampoo and coat sprays to help reduce their dander. Speaking from experience, these products have both been very helpful – and they leave your kitty super soft to boot.

Many cats also enjoy getting brushed. Long and medium haired cats benefit from daily brushing, but short haired cats can be brushed about once a week. If your cat is shedding their winter coat, brushing with a self cleaning undercoat brush can help them lose their extra fur and be warm weather-ready faster.

two children lying on a bed with a black cat
Cats have a reputation for being shy and skittish, but they’re friendly and affectionate with their family.

9. Socialize your cat so they’re more comfortable.

Dogs aren’t the only pets who need to be socialized! We’ve all visited a cat owner and not seen whisker nor tail of their kitty, but socializing your cat can help them feel less anxious and adapt faster to changing situations – like traveling or having guests in your home.

Also, cats love having a friend to play with. Consider adopting two cats, especially a bonded pair that needs to stay together if you have the ability to!

cat getting some rest and relaxation
Just like people, cats need alone time to recharge.

10. Give your cat their space.

We all need time to recharge our social batteries – and cats are no different. Sometimes cats need time on their own. If your cat is having some alone time under the bed or in the cubby of their cat tower, give them some time to themselves rather than pulling them out to play. They’ll definitely appreciate it!

You can even create a cats-only area in your home if you frequently have guests or your home has small children. Even in a home with relatively quiet adults, a comfortable hideaway will be appreciated. Consider setting up a pet sofa for your feline friend -- not only can you choose from tasteful options that will go with your home decor, you'll also elevate your pet's happiness with a private retreat where they can relax.

That way, your cat always has a safe place to go when they’re feeling stressed or overstimulated.

vet tech trimming a fluffy white cat's nails
Make sure you have a vet lined up to keep your cat healthy and happy for its whole life long.

11. Find a vet.

It seems simple, but in some areas, it can be hard to get in with a vet. Call around and make sure you have health care lined up for your new companion so that when they need a checkup or (hopefully not) in the event of an emergency, you aren’t scrambling to get them veterinary attention.

two cats playing on cat shelves installed in their home
First time cat owners in apartments should take advantage of their vertical space when finding places for cat toys.

Bonus Tips: Owning a Cat in an Apartment

All of the tips above also apply to owning a cat in an apartment – but adopting a pet in smaller quarters also brings with it some extra considerations for keeping smells to a minimum and protecting your deposit.

If you need to know how to get rid of that cat litter smell in an apartment, start by scooping daily. Making sure your box is big enough and in a well-ventilated area also helps keep unpleasant smells to a minimum.

If you’re looking for cat furniture, consider investing in some apartment friendly cat shelves. Unlike a full cat tower, they don’t take up floor space – they use that underutilized wall space to keep your cat entertained. Shelves and window beds are both great options.

If you have a balcony, don’t forget to sure up the railings and fill in any spaces your cat might slip through when you cat proof your apartment.

That’s it for our tips for first time cat owners.

This guide should get you and your new cat off on the right paw. From all of us here at Adultist, congratulations on the new addition to your family!

Aug 3, 2023