How to Care for a New Cat

Three Parts:Providing for Your New CatTaking Care of Your CatConsidering Special Needs

Bringing home a new cat can be exciting and overwhelming. There is so much to buy and do to get ready. Your new cat may be frightened and confused as she enters a new living space, but you can help to ease her transition by getting everything ready, taking good care of your cat, and considering any special needs she might have before you welcome her into your home for the first time.

Part 1
Providing for Your New Cat

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    Purchase supplies for your cat. Before you bring your kitty home, you will need to make sure that you have everything she/he needs to be healthy and happy. Basic supplies that you will need for your cat include:[1]
    • food and water bowls
    • food and treats (age appropriate)
    • litter boxes (one for each cat in your house plus one extra)
    • litter (fine grain, unscented, clumping litter is best)
    • a collar and identification tag with your cat’s name plus your name and phone number or address
    • a brush
    • cat toys
    • cat bed or furniture
    • scratching post or cardboard scratching blocks
    • cat carrier
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    Set up your cat’s litter boxes. Place the litter boxes somewhere that your cat can access easily. Avoid putting them in high traffic areas or behind closed doors. For example, you could place one litter box in the corner of a room upstairs and one in the corner of a room downstairs. Use an unscented, fine grain litter to fill the litter box to a depth of about 1-2 inches. Keep in mind, cats should have some privacy. [2]
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    Provide food and water. Give your cat some food and fresh water as soon as you bring her home. Place the food an water someplace quiet, so that your new cat will not be disturbed. Avoid placing the food and water in a high traffic areas as this may prevent your cat from eating or drinking when she needs to. Make sure that the food and water are appropriate for the cat’s age (kitten, adult, or senior).[3]
    • Change your cat’s water every day and check it often to make sure that your cat always has enough fresh, clean water.
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    Give your cat some toys. Cats love to play, so make sure that you provide your cat with some stimulating toys. Get a variety of toys for your cat, such as wands, ball toys, food dispensing toys, and catnip toys. Having several different options for your cat to play with will help keep her active, happy, and stimulated.[4]
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    Designate places for your cat to sleep. Your cat may decide that she prefers to sleep on the windowsill or in the laundry hamper, but you can encourage your cat to sleep in some designated places by providing her with some special bedding. Place a cat bed or some blankets on a comfortable spot where she will not be disturbed. Good places include a shelf, a rarely used chair, a basket in a corner, or a spot on the floor where the sun shines in through a window.
    • Make sure to wash bedding often to prevent it from getting infested with fleas and/or ticks.[5]
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    Set up scratching stations. Cats need to scratch to remove the outer sheath of their claws. You can trim your cat’s nails every 2-3 weeks to make them less sharp, but your cat will still need to scratch. To help prevent your cat from scratching your furniture, set up some scratching stations for her around your house. Place scratching posts and cardboard scratchers in rooms with furniture to give your cat something else to scratch.[6]
    • Add a dash of catnip to these stations to help get your cat interested in them.

Part 2
Taking Care of Your Cat

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    Schedule an initial veterinary appointment. Once you have brought your new cat home, you will need to set up an initial veterinary visit to make sure that she is healthy and get any necessary vaccines. Your veterinarian can also prescribe any necessary medications and help with flea and tick removal and/or prevention if necessary.
    • During your cat’s initial vet visit, ask about spaying or neutering your cat if she/he is not already spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering are crucial to reducing the number of homeless cats, protecting your cat’s health, and reducing the likelihood of behavior issues.[7]
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    Develop a feeding schedule. It is better to feed your cat measured portions throughout the day rather than to allow her to free feed. Freed feeding can cause your cat to become overweight, which may result in other health problems. Develop a feeding schedule that works with your schedule.[8] For example, you might decide to feed your cat at 7:00am and then again at 6:00pm. Follow the guidelines on your cat’s food package to determine how much to feed her each day. You will need to know how much your cat weighs to determine this amount, so ask your vet if you are not sure.
    • If you have a kitten between 3-6 months, feed her 3 times per day.
    • If you have a kitten that is 6-12 weeks old, feed her 4 times per day.
    • If you have an adult cat, feed her 1 large meal or 2-3 smaller meals per day.
    • Give your cat some treats each day as well. You can give your cat a few treats as a midday snack or use a treat dispensing toy to give your cat a chance to work for her treats. Just be careful not to overdo it on the treats because they can cause your cat to gain weight.[9]
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    Keep your cat’s litter boxes clean. To help prevent litter box issues, it is important to scoop your cat’s litter boxes every day and give them a deep cleaning once per week as well. To deep clean your cat’s boxes, remove and discard all of the old litter. Put some dish soap and warm water into the boxes and scrub the inside of the boxes with a sponge. Then rinse and dry the boxes before adding new litter.[10]
    • You may need to change the litter in some boxes more than once per week depending on how much and how often it gets used.
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    Use your cat’s carrier to transport her to and from places. If you need to take your cat somewhere, such as the veterinarian, make sure that you use your cat’s carrier to do so. Cats tend to dislike travel, but keeping your cat in her carrier will help to ensure her safety. Your cat may still complain by yowling while inside the carrier, but she will be much safer than if you allow her to run loose in your car.[11]
    • Place a towel or an old blanket in your cat’s carrier to help her feel more comfortable.
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    Play with your cat. Spend some time playing with your cat each day in order to develop your relationship with her and help her to stay fit and stimulated. You should aim for 10-15 minutes of playtime with your cat a couple of times per day.[12]
    • Try using an interactive toy to play with your cat such as a laser pointer or wand toy.
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    Groom your cat as needed. Cats groom themselves for the most part, but your cat will still need to be brushed to remove excess hair and prevent matting. How often you need to brush your cat depends on the type of cat. For example, if your cat has short hair, once per week should be enough. But if your cat has long hair, you should brush her hair every day.[13]
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    Pet your cat when she is ready. As you see to all of your cat’s other needs, you will also need to make sure that you take time to pet your cat and show her some love. Just make sure that you allow your cat enough time to get used to her new environment and you before you get too affectionate. Your cat may take a while to warm up to you, but after a while she should become more comfortable with approaching you and letting you pet her fur.
    • Be patient if your cat is timid at first. It may take a week or two before your cat is feeling comfortable enough to approach you. Allow your cat to retreat if he is feeling nervous or frightened. Offer some treats and allow your cat to sniff you and your belongings to feel more comfortable.[14]
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    Keep your cat inside. Outdoor cats are at a much higher risk of getting diseases, parasites, and injuries than indoor cats. To make sure that your cat is as safe as possible, keep her indoors and do not allow her to go outside to roam, even if she wants to go outside.[15]

Part 3
Considering Special Needs

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    Make sure that your cat is healthy. When you take your cat for its initial veterinary visit, you will learn if your cat has any health issues that need to be dealt with. For example, some cats have worms that need to be treated with medicine. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions for how to get your cat healthy. Contact your vet if your cat’s health deteriorates or if you notice any new symptoms.[16]
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    Determine if your new cat has any behavioral issues. If you have taken in an adult cat or a stray, you may have to deal with some behavioral issues. For example, if you get an adult cat that is not yet neutered, he may be have the urge to spray or mark your furniture. You will need to get him neutered as soon as possible to help correct this behavior.[17]
    • Discuss any behavioral issues with your veterinarian and follow their advice for correcting these issues.
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    Consider your cat’s age. Kittens, adult cats, and senior cats all have different special needs. For example, very young kittens may need help going to the bathroom, while senior cats may need a litter box with low sides to make it easier to get in and out of it.[18][19]
    • Think about how your cat’s age may require you to do certain things differently or if you will need to provide any sort of special items or care.


  • If you are uncomfortable trimming your cat’s nails yourself, you can ask to have them trimmed at your vet’s office.
  • Consider adopting a cat from your local animal shelter. Your adoption fee usually includes spaying or neutering as well as vaccines and de-worming.


  • If you do not properly take care of your cat, it might become sick or unfriendly. Some signs of unfriendliness in cats include: Biting and scratching people, hissing, spitting, flattened ears, growling, dilated pupils, and screeching.
  • Choosing to get a pet is a long term commitment. Make sure that you are prepared to provide excellent care for the cat for its entire life before you bring a cat home with you.
  • Never leave a cat at home while you are on vacation. Try to find a family member or a close friend that can take care of your cat.

Things You'll Need

  • Litter boxes
  • Brush
  • Food and water bowls
  • Cat food (wet or dry)
  • Litter
  • Scratching posts
  • Safe cat toys
  • Cat bed
  • Cat treats
  • Cat carrier

Article Info

Categories: Feline Health | Getting a Cat