Before you bring your new cat or kitten home, there are a number of things to collect or buy, so your cat will feel like a family member rather than a visitor. Do this a few days in advance to save stress on the "big day." In the excitement of bringing your cat home, you don't want to suddenly discover at 8 p.m. that you forgot to buy cat food. Here are the minimum essentials your cat will need:
If you can talk to the caregiver in the cat's last home, it's probably best to give your new pet whatever food she's accustomed to. If you acquire a cat from a breeder, more often than not, their contract will either strongly suggest or require you to feed a certain kind of food. For cats and kittens with unknown backgrounds, here are some tips to determine what to feed your pet:
What to Buy for Kittens
These babies need more fats and proteins than grown cats, so look for foods with "Complete and Balanced Nutrition" on the label as well as the AAFCO animal feeding tested statement "for all life stages." There are also foods specifically formulated for kittens. These can be identified by the words "highly digestible, nutrient-dense and uniquely designed to meet kittens' nutritional requirements." Kittens from eight weeks upward can handle dry food quite well, although canned food is really better for them.
What to Buy for Adult Cats
Canned foods are better for cats, but your cat may be used to dry food only. Grown cats thrive on dry food, and any of the premium brands are acceptable. You should also supplement with canned food because eventually, you should try to move your cat over to canned only.
Food and Water Bowls
Although your new cat can be fed on any ceramic (non-lead-glazed) or stainless steel bowls you have in your kitchen, you may feel better with providing her with her very own dishes. It is not recommended to use plastic dishes for cats, as some cats develop a chin rash from plastic; also, softer plastic scratches, which provides a harbor from bacteria (possibly a case of cause-and-effect here.)There are a number of non-tip stainless steel bowls available for pets. If you prefer decorated ceramic dishes, make sure the glaze is lead-free. To be safe, purchase only products made in the U.S.
Automatic food and water servers are especially nice if the humans will be gone for long periods during the day, e.g., to a job or school. Most cats love the pure, fresh taste of running water, and automatic water dispensers ensure a constant supply of clean water.
All cats love to play, and your bonding time will begin by playing with Kitty and her toys. The "fishing pole, dangling lure" kind of toy is a big favorite for interactive play. Just make sure it is sturdy enough that small kittens won't tear off feathers, etc. from the dangling part. Catnip mice are a perennial favorite. Kitty houses and climbing posts can run the gamut from simple cardboard creations to custom built "cat furniture" combinations running several hundred dollars.
Grooming time is a fine time for bonding with your cat or new kitten. Look for a fine-toothed comb and a rubber-backed pin brush. A nail clipper designed for cats is a plus. If you start clipping your kitten's nails early, it will make the task much easier when she is grown.
This is a must. Don't ever try to transport a cat without one. A simple cardboard carrier (available from your vet) is fine for bringing a new cat or kitten home, but you'll need to replace this eventually with a solid-bottomed fiberglass or tough plastic carrier with secure latch and a screened opening the cat can look through. A heavy-duty cloth airline-approved carrier is a good alternative if travel is in your future.
Your cat is going to scratch, whether you approve or not. Start your relationship off right by investing in a scratching post. It can be as simple or fancy as you like; you can even assemble one yourself if you're handy with tools. Some commercially-made scratching posts have catnip scent applied to attract your kitty. If your budget is limited, start with a cardboard scratcher, such as the Cosmic Alpine Scratcher.
Litter Box and Litter
Choosing the best litter box for your pet is an absolute must for both indoor and indoor-outdoor cats. Look for a sizable box with high sides for grown cats, as they tend to throw the litter around quite a bit. These can also be as simple or as extravagant as your pocketbook allows but start with a basic plastic litter box for now placed correctly for your feline.
Kittens will need a box that's low enough for them to enter easily. There are various kinds of litter, and the plant-based kind seems to be the safest. Clumping clay litter contains an ingredient that can harm cats if ingested, and all clay litters tend to stir up dust, which is not healthy to breathe, either for you or your cat.
Consider a mat under the box to catch the stray litter. You can buy mats for that purpose at a pet store, or buy a few inexpensive carpet or linoleum samples that can just be tossed and replaced when they get too grungy.
A Bed (Optional, but Recommended)
Since this is your first cat, he or she may likely sleep on your own bed, however, it's still a good idea to provide kitty with her own special, cozy place for napping. The bed should be comfortable, easily washable and spacious enough for an adult cat to curl up comfortably, but not so vast that she'll feel exposed and vulnerable.
Make a Vet Appointment
This is not exactly an item for a shopping list, but unless your cat comes with papers showing a recent veterinary visit, proof of vaccinations, and negative test results for various diseases and medical conditions, your first stop before even bringing her home, should be at your local veterinary clinic. So make the appointment now, while you're thinking about it.