Top 11 Tips for a First Time Cat Owner

Posted in: Cat Care - Last Updated: October 31, 2022 - Author: Nicole McCray
Posted in Cat Care 
Last Updated: September 28, 2020  
Author:  Nicole McCray
new cat owner

You’ve known you were a cat person since childhood. You’ve always admired cats for their aloof independence and their ability to nap through an entire day without shame. The day has finally come for you to bring home your first kitty and become a first time cat owner.

Of course, you’re over the moon excited, but you’re also probably a little nervous, too about getting a cat for the first time. 

This is our guide to the things to know before getting a cat - our top ten pieces of practical advice for first-time cat owners to ensure that this transition goes smoothly for both of you!

1. Set Up a Safe Place for Your New Kitty

Before you bring your new kitty home, set up a safe place for him to hang out while he gets acquainted with you and his new surroundings. This area can be a cat condo or a small room such as an extra bedroom or laundry room. Set the enclosed area up nice and cozy with his food, water, toys, bed, and litter box. He’ll appreciate having a safe, quiet place go, especially if you have children or other pets in your home.

2. Cats Shed a Lot

As a first time cat owner who's never had a cat before, you are probably going to be shocked at how much they shed. Hair will be everywhere! Be prepared with a brush and comb so you can groom your new fur baby regularly (check out our favourite pet hair remover here).

This will cut down on the hair in your home, and also help to prevent the formation of hairballs when your cat grooms himself.

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Investing in a few lint rollers to keep in your car, purse, and desk at work is probably a good idea, too!

3. Be Prepared to Clean the Litter Box Daily

One of the greatest advantages of having a cat over a dog is that they don’t have to be walked.

However, litter boxes still require daily cleaning, and sometimes even twice a day. Keeping your new cat’s litter box clean is super important because he may find a different place to go if it’s dirty, and nobody wants that! Clumping cat litter is a great choice because it’s easier to get all the waste out of the box every day, without having to completely replace the litter, but there's more to the clumping vs non clumping litter debate.

You might also want to check out our article on how to prevent your cat pooping on the floor!

guide for first time cat owner

4. Cats are Picky About Their Bathrooms

Don’t expect your cat to readily accept just any old litter box or cat litter. For the most part, cats are pretty easy going, but they are extremely fussy about their bathrooms. Be sure there’s at least one litter box per cat in the household, plus one extra. There should also be at least one litter box on each floor of the home. Place them in quiet, out of the way locations and be prepared to move them if necessary. Some cats prefer a roomy litter box while others like an enclosed space that feels safe. Some won’t use scented litter at all. Expect to do a little experimenting to figure out what your new kitty likes but in our view you can't go wrong with our pick of the best sifting litter box.

5. Know What’s in Your Cat’s Food

Choosing your new cat’s food is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a first time cat owner. Don’t base your decisions on the cute kitties in the cat food commercials. Read ingredients lists carefully and avoid foods that contain cheap fillers like meat by-products, corn, and meat meal. Also, avoid products that use preservatives such as ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT, which may be harmful to your kitty’s health. There's a lot of detailed research on cat food that you can find online. You can start with our tried and tested reviews of cat foods such as this one on the best wet cat food. Before feeding any food to your cat, talk to your vet to ensure that it meets your cat’s unique nutritional needs and make sure that you're aware of what cats can not eat. And, be sure to select a cat food that meets American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines.

6. Cats are Playful

Cats are extremely playful creatures. If you don’t provide them with toys, they’ll find things to play with… like your shoelaces, your curtains, or whatever else catches their fancy. It’s a good idea to spoil your new kitty a little bit with some balls and little mice to bat around. In fact, breaking out a few fun cat toys is also a great way to bond with your new cat. 

7. Choose a Vet and a Pet Sitter Before You Need Them

Don’t wait until your cat gets sick to start looking for a good veterinarian. As soon as you know you’ll be adopting, start asking for references from people in your circle who have cats. The same goes for pet sitters. As a first time cat owner, the last thing you want is to be called out of town unexpectedly and have to hire someone you don’t know anything about to come take care of your baby. Check out online reviews and try to meet each prospect in person before you make a final decision.

8. Cats Like to Hide

Cats like to hide. Don’t be offended if your new kitty hides under the bed or in a closet for the first couple days. Just be sure the litter box, food, and water are nearby. Try sitting somewhere close by and talking to him in a soothing voice to see if he approaches you willingly. Offering a tasty treat couldn’t hurt either! However, if he doesn’t come out to eat and use the litter box after a day or two, ask a veterinarian online for some tips. They can offer advice without you having to traumatize your new cat even further with a car ride to the vet’s office.

tips for new cat owners

9. Play with Your Cat

Many people think cats don’t need playtime or socialization, but that’s not the case at all. Be sure to spend some time with your cat every day, snuggling or playing with toys. Cats need to be active and engaged for their mental and physical health.

10. You Need a Scratching Post

Cats have a strong urge to scratch. They will scratch on whatever is available, such as your carpet and your furniture. A scratching post gives them a much better place to satisfy those urges. Make sure it’s tall enough for your cat to stretch out on, or go for one that doubles as a place foy our kitty to hang out like this PetFusion cat scratcher that consistently gets rave reviews..

11. Cats Can Be Trained

Don’t listen to the naysayers that tell you cats can’t be taught new things. You will be surprised how much a cat can learn with some positive reinforcement! Offer rewards in the form of treats and snuggles whenever he does something you want to encourage, and he’ll pick up on it really quickly. However, if he seems to be acting out, such as peeing on the bed, give your vet a call. Many times, this kind of behavior can indicate an undiagnosed health problem.

Final Tip

Hopefully, your new kitty came from the rescue or shelter in good health with up to date vaccines. He or she should also be spayed or neutered if that hasn’t been taken care of already. Once you’ve chosen a vet, make an appointment just to get everyone acquainted and ask any questions you might have. It will ease your mind as a first time cat owner to know that nothing has been overlooked, and future visits will go more smoothly if you all know what to expect.

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About the author

Nicole is a die-hard animal lover who has worked in pet care for years. She is a former vet technician, a dog mom to her two rescue pups, and she grew up living and working at her family’s pet boarding facility. She loves using her writing talents to share the insight she’s learned throughout her career in the hopes that her knowledge can help other pet parents out there!