I assume you’ve landed here because you’re in the process of adopting a cat and you’ve never had a cat before. That or you just want to see if I have any idea what I’m talking about as a cat owner. So let’s get down to brass tacks, what products do you need in your cat adoption kit? In other words, what does it take to take care of a cat when you first bring it home? While a few of these things will depend on the age of the cat there are a couple of basic supplies that will be required no matter what. I’ve first provided an overview in each section and a link to a comprehensive list of my favorite products after years of ownership and fostering cats from our local rescue.
- Litter Box – Litter boxes range in size & shape and also in autonomous versus ones you manually clean. The prices also range accordingly. They key recommendation I’d make up front is to get a litter box with a closed top, but one that opens up from the front where the top actually lifts up as well. There is one major reasons to get a litter box with a top, it stops your cat(s) from scattering litter all over when they are finished doing their business and decide to kick litter all over the place. Beyond this, from an aesthetic point of view it does just look a bit nicer, especially if your cat decides not to cover things up. The top lifting box isn’t a necessity, but it does make it way easier to scoop than one that has only the little front door/flap.
- Cat Litter – Cat litter varies extensively as well. There are so many kinds available that it will make your head spin. They all claim different benefits and some of those benefits are easy to recognize and others are not. I personally use standard clay clumping litter for my cats. You should always ask the organization you are adopting from if the cat has been using any special type of litter to ensure you can match it at home, at least at first. Most shelters and rescues use standard clay clumping litter because it is one of the cheapest types available. I’ll later post a comparison between different cat litters.
- Litter Genie – While this isn’t an absolute necessity, I would never want to go back to not having a Litter Genie. If you’ve ever had a baby before and had a Diaper Genie, this is the same thing for cat litter. This will enable you to not have to scoop your litter box and run out to the trash outside every day or tie off the litter in a plastic bag each day. I can use mine at home easily for 6-7 days before emptying it out and I have two cats using the same litter box daily.
- Litter Scoop – Note the Litter Genie comes with a scoop so you wouldn’t need another one if you get a Litter Genie. That being said, if you decide to pass on the Litter Genie you’ll need to select a scoop. These vary extensively, but I’d recommend a firm/stiff plastic scoop because otherwise it is likely to break easily over time.
- Cat Food – Cat food is a tough one because you can read an endless number of articles arguing about whether or not you should feed your cat wet food or dry food. Cats in general live on a diet that is primarily protein based. Wet food is generally speaking heavy in protein where as the lower cost dry foods are often carbohydrate heavy. Many other factors go into food selection, one in particular is long term health/hygiene for your cat, and their dental health in particular. Both wet and dry food will cause plaque to build up on your cats teeth, but there are certain types of dry food that are focused on helping remove some of that plaque by forcing the cat to chew on the pieces. Few if any have been proven to work really well because cats often simply swallow dry food without chewing, but I’ve had some luck with my cats chewing the larger pieces in specific brands.
- Bowls – I’ve personally found that stainless steel bowls are by far the easiest to clean and maintain over the long haul. They don’t dent easily, they don’t break if you drop them or if your cats flip them over etc. They are also dirt cheap for the most part.
- Cat Carrier – A carrier is an absolute necessity for a cat of any size. You’ll use it to transport your cat most everywhere outside your own home. If you decide to adopt a kitten you should definitely ask how big he or she can be expected to grow before you buy a carrier. You’ll want a carrier that will easily fit your cat once it grows up into its full size. Note there are both hard and soft carriers, the choice is really yours, but soft carriers are a little easier from a storage standpoint since many of them breakdown.
- Scratching Equipment & Nail Clippers – You need something for your cat to scratch their claws on. This is a natural part of cat life and they do it on a daily basis. You’ll want them to use a scratching post so they don’t use other things like your furniture or your rugs to do it. I’ve found that taller vertical scratching posts tend to be the most effective for the cats I own and the numerous cats I’ve fostered, but not every cat loves vertical posts. If you do choose a vertical scratching post I’d highly recommend you choose one that is tall enough so your cat can use it fully stretched out. If you can afford to get a few different options up front you might consider something that sits on the floor and something that stands up to see what your cat likes. You may also want to read through my post on How to Stop a Cat Scratching Furniture before you get your new feline friend home.
- Brush – A hair brush is an essential for any cat owner. While cats certainly groom themselves, a good brush will help both you and your cat. It will help you by ensuring there’s less cat hair floating around your house and also decrease the chances your cat will cough up a hairball (that you listen to and then get to clean up). It will help your cat by ensuring their coat stays beautiful and sleek and doesn’t get matted.
Additional things to consider:
- Cat Furniture – Cat furniture comes in all shapes and sizes and will range anywhere from a few dollars to over a few thousand dollars. If you keep your eyes out you can often find great deals on cat castles or cat play houses on sale cheap. If you want a specific place for your cat to relax and climb I would recommend you consider some cat furniture, but it isn’t a necessity by any means.
- Cat Beds & Caves – Cats are great at finding soft spots to lay down and sleep. While a bed is certainly a good way to try to keep your cats sleeping in a controlled zone, there is no easy way to convince them to always sleep there. More often than not I find that my cats sleep wherever they want and that is often not in their beds.
- Cat Toys – There are so many cat toys out there I could never cover the details here. You can go down the road of fully automated and remote control toys, or get something simple like stuffed mice or a classic wand toy. I’ve found the most luck with a laser pointer and a wand toy, or even a piece of string. Note with wands and string you should never leave them out while you aren’t home. Cats can and will swallow them and cat get very sick or even die from doing so.
But which specific products work well?
Above I’ve provided a general outline on the types of things you’ll need for your cat, but I didn’t provide any particular recommendations. This is because what has worked well for me and for my cats might not work especially well for you. Every cat is different and some of them may enjoy things that others don’t want anything to do with. A key example is that my cats have zero interest in empty boxes. Despite popular belief and a slew of YouTube videos showing otherwise, some cats simply aren’t going to play in boxes. If you are interested in my specific list of recommended products, I’ve provided a separate post that details all of the products that have all performed well for me as well as a couple options from a price perspective. Please feel free to check it out here: What Do I Need to Adopt A Cat – Product Breakdown.
One last thing in closing…
While it isn’t anything you can buy, the last thing you’ll need with adopting any cat, young or old, stray or owner relinquished, lap cat or not…You’ll need patience. Be prepared to have patience if your new friend hides under the bed for the first week or two. Be prepared for them to not be interested in the toys you have purchased for the first few days. Cats take time to adjust to new surroundings, be sure to provide them plenty of it!
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