Before you’re bringing home a new cat, you need to think about all the things you will need for the new furry roommate. Otherwise you might find yourself on the day of the adoption realizing you’re missing a cat carrier or even a litter box! That’s why I’ve created this list to let you know what you need to get and do when you’re bringing a cat home.
Before you buy or adopt
Before your new feline roommate moves in, you should have the following accessories ready:
- Cat litter box (1 per cat) – The most common rule I’ve heard is “1 litter box per cat + 1”. Obviously this also depends on how much space you have available in your apartment.
- Cat carrier (1 per cat) – If two kittens move in, you can also carry them home in one single cat carrier – that’s what we did. We first had a Trixie Capri cat carrier in small, much like this carrier*, and we carried Garrus and Wrex home in it. When they were a bit older, we bought a second small carrier, so we could get them out at the vet individually. When they became bigger and heavier – they’re about 12 lbs now – our vet recommended we get them each a bigger box, so we did and took the two smaller ones to our local animal shelter. Cat carriers made of hard plastic are easy to clean and protect your cat much better than a soft cat carrier would.
- Cat food bowl – Get a non-slip bowl that is dishwasher safe and won’t break.
- Water bowl
- Wet food/dry food
- Plastic cat food lids – To close opened tins of wet food.
- Cat tree/scratching post
- Blankets – To put in their cat carriers to make them more comfortable, or to put on their favorite armchair to protect it from all their cat hair.
- Lint roller
- Toys – See also: Cat toys as tested by cats.
- Nail clipper – To cut your cat’s claws.
- Cat grass – Cats like to eat grass to vomit up hair they’ve ingested. You can buy it or plant it yourself.
You should also walk through your apartment with a critical eye and consider:
- Are there plants that are toxic to my cats? – You can find a lot of lists of poisonous plants online (e. g. at PetMD). Or look for each plant individually.
- Is my balcony safe for cats? – Cats are great at climbing and balancing, but they’re also very clumsy at times. There’s a persistent rumor that cats will always land on their feet, but if a cat falls down 5+ floors, it might still die or get seriously injured. Cat nets might not be visually appealing, but if you take a dark net (not a white one!), you’ll be surprised how little you see it from the outside. And from the inside, you’ll get used to it very quickly.
- Are there other dangers present? – Bookshelves that could fall easily are best fixated on the wall with hooks so they don’t fall and crush your cats. If there are things your cats can’t eat (medicine, chocolate, strings), put them away so they can’t get at them. If you have European-style windows that can be cracked open, you might want to get a protective lattice* for them. That way you can make sure they won’t fall out and won’t get stuck while trying to get out. For American windows, you might look into a sturdy window screen* that will keep cats from falling out.
After you buy or adopt
- Vaccinations – Vaccinations are important for indoor cats as well. Also, if you want to take your cats to a cat hotel, they usually insist on vaccinations before they will take them in.
- Spaying or neutering – To prevent more cat suffering through stray cats and overpopulation. It’s recommended to do this once your cats are about 6 months old. Talk to your vet about it.
- Wall shelf – You don’t need to have this the second you get a cat, but cats do like to be high up so a wall shelf or a bed or other perch attached to the wall (something like this cat bed*) can be quickly put on a wall to let your cat enjoy the vertical space.
- Cat beds – A nice place for your cat do lie down. A basket, cat tree, wall perch or an old box with a cushion in it.
- More toys – Any toy will get boring after a while. It’s good to have several toys you can switch between.
- Caretaker for emergencies – If heaven forbid something bad happens to you (like a car accident or health emergency), it’s important you have a system in place so your animals will be taken care of. You can get a home alone alert card* for your wallet and key chain that lets you designate someone to contact about your cats in an emergency. You can also get stickers for your door or windows* to alert firefighters to animals in the building if there is a fire. If you don’t want to spend money on these things, just make your own card for your wallet and sign for your door.
Since you’re looking up a checklist for cat accessories, you’ve obviously decided that you want to get a cat. It’s important to not take this decision lightly. Before we adopted Garrus and Wrex, I’d never had a cat and I can say now: They’re a lot more work than I expected! See also my article Should you get a cat?.
Do I have space in my life for a cat?
Cats are animals with feelings and moods, so please don’t treat them like objects. Experts recommend that cats should have at least 4 hours a day in which they have the opportunity to be social with their human. This doesn’t mean you need to spend four hours a day with your cat, but you have to give your cat the chance to spend four hours a day with you. Other people recommended 6 hours instead. Either way, the important point is that cat owners and those who want to adopt cats have to be available for their cat for 4 to 6 hours a day. If this doesn’t describe your household, you might think about getting a pet that needs less attention.
Do I have space in my apartment for a cat?
This is BalconyCats.com, so we’re primarily looking at indoor cats, not at cats who can go outside whenever they like. Cats need to have a place to hide away where they can be alone if that’s what they want. Your cat should be able to decide if it wants to sit on your lap or be in a quiet place and rest. Also, each cat should have a litter box. As mentioned before, a common rule is “one litter box per cat +1”, but one litter box per cat is the bare minimum. Does your apartment have enough space for the necessary number of litter boxes?
How many square feet per cat?
Opinions differ on this point. Some experts say a 2-bedroom apartment is the minimum size for owning two cats. One German animal welfare group would like this to be a requirement: For 1-2 cats, at least 15 square meters (160 square feet) of available floor space, and for each additional cat, another 22 sqft and a room height of at least 2 meters (6.5 ft). The Swiss animal welfare organization suggest as a rule of thumb: “Each cat should have at least one room that is constantly available, so a 3-bedroom flat can house a maximum of 3 cats.” I find that’s a very good guideline.
Can I take care of a cat for 10-20 years?
Cats can live to be 20 years old. If you adopt a cat in 2019, you’ll likely still have it in 2029 – maybe even in 2039. This is a serious responsibility and you should always ask yourself ahead of time if you’re really okay with this.
Who will look after my cat when I’m on vacation?
If you don’t know what to do with your cat when you’re going on vacation, you should ask yourself how important your yearly vacation is to you or if you could just spend it at home instead. There are cat hotels that charge roughly $35 per day for looking after your cat. You might also find someone to take your cats in for less money. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have a friend or family member who will look after your cats for two weeks and all they want in return is a souvenir from your travels. All of these are valid option, but before you get a cat, be aware that any traveling you might want to do is a lot harder if you’re a cat owner.
Do I have space for two cats?
If you want to adopt a cat, be aware that cats are social animals, even though the rumor persists that they like to be alone. Cats like company and if you want to adopt an indoor cat, please be kind and get two. (There are some exceptions of cats who have behavioral problems already because they weren’t socialized at all so they won’t tolerate other cats. Talk to your local shelter about their animals.) Cat behavior experts generally recommend keeping at least two cats at a time. If you’re adopting from a shelter, you might find cats that have already made a friend there and are adopted out together. If you’re getting kittens, get two of the same litter. As Pam Johnson-Bennett mentioned in her excellent book Think Like A Cat*, this also has the positive advantage that the cats are used to each other from the start. If you later on decide to get a second cat, you’ll have to go through a sometimes long and stressful process of introducing two cats to each other.
And that’s it! I hope this gave you a clearer idea about cat ownership, what you need to get beforehand and what you should consider before taking the plunge.
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