First-Time Cat Owner? Read this List of 10 Vital Tips First

Deciding to add a furry feline friend to your family is an exciting time! However, there are some important things you should know before taking the leap to become a cat owner. As a lifelong cat lover and recent adopter myself, I’ve compiled this list of my top 10 lessons learned about what I wish I knew before getting a cat or kitten. Read on for crucial advice to set you and your new kitty up for success!


1. Cats Are Not “Low Maintenance”

One of the biggest misconceptions about cats is that they are lower maintenance than dogs. While it’s true you don’t need to walk them outside multiple times per day, cats have very specific care needs. Kittens and cats require a lot of hands-on playtime, grooming, litter box cleaning, parasite prevention, vet visits, patience for training, and more.

Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn. Be prepared for energetic play sessions during their prime activity windows. Interactive toys are a must to keep them stimulated and prevent boredom or destructive behaviors. Dedicate at least 2-3 play sessions per day of 10-15 minutes each. Cat trees, scratching posts, and other enrichments are also essential for a happy, healthy kitty.

2. Kittens Get Into Everything

If you adopt a kitten, prepare for nonstop chaos, curiosity, and mischief! Kittens are little explorers who want to play with, climb on, investigate, and sometimes destroy anything they can get their paws on. Secure or remove any fragile items. Keep toilet lids closed and watch your step to not trip over a rambunctious furball.

Cabinets, drawers, boxes, fireplaces, plants, cords, you name it—kittens will find a way to get into it! Place bells on breakable objects or collar bells on kittens to hear where they roam. Designate a safe kitten room when you’re not home. Kitten-proof as much as possible and supervise playtime in other rooms. Their antics are adorable but can also be destructive if left unchecked!

3. Cats Are Nocturnal

Since cats are naturally most active at night, expect your new feline friend to get the “zoomies” and play at full speed when you’re winding down for bed. Early evenings and late nights are primetime for kitties. Engage your cat in vigorous interactive play before bed to release pent-up energy.

Establish a predictable routine with designated mealtimes and structured play. Feed your cat right before you go to bed. Consider meal-dispensing puzzle toys too. With consistency, you can shape their schedule for fewer 3 a.m. wake-up calls. But late-night kitty madness is perfectly normal, so embrace it!

4. Cats Will Chew Houseplants, Wires, Cords

Cats love chewing on greens…which can be problematic since many common houseplants are toxic to cats! Lilies, orchids, azaleas, and poinsettias, just to name a few, can cause kidney failure, oral irritation, nausea, vomiting, and other dangerous symptoms. Always research plants for pet safety.

Kittens and curious cats may also chew electrical wires, holiday lights, phone chargers, etc. Tape down or enclose cords and use deterrent sprays. Supervision is key to catching and redirecting inappropriate chewing. Provide plenty of cat grass, catnip, and safe foraging toys instead. Invest in cord protectors or wireless alternatives.

5. Cats Need Proper Resources

It’s vital to provide appropriate scratching posts, cat trees, beds, litter boxes, and other cat furniture suited to their natural behaviors. Cats have innate urges to scratch, climb, perch up high, and relax in cozy beds.

Without adequate resources, they often turn to your furniture, carpets, and drapes! Start with tall cat trees, horizontal and vertical scratching posts, plush beds in several spots, and enough litter boxes (general rule is 1 per cat, plus an extra).

6. Stock Up On Essentials Before Adopting

Being prepared with all basic cat essentials ahead of time will make the transition smoother for you and kitty. Stock up on these supplies:

  • Food and water bowls
  • Premium wet and dry kitten/cat food
  • Litter boxes + cat litter
  • Scoop for litter
  • Collar with ID tag
  • Scratching posts + cat tower
  • Interactive cat toys
  • Treats for training
  • Brush and nail clippers
  • Pet carrier
  • Kitten-proofing tools

You’ll also need a vet selected and scheduled for their first wellness exam and vaccinations within a week of adoption. Check required paperwork and medical records from the shelter or breeder too.

7. Limit Access at First for Adjustment Period

The initial adjustment period can be overwhelming for cats and kittens entering a new home. Limit access to a single room with food, water, litter box, bed, toys, and scratcher. This allows them to slowly get acclimated to new sights, sounds, and smells.

It also prevents them from hiding in hard-to-reach spots. Spend lots of time in the room playing, petting, and offering treats. As kitty seems comfortable, gradually allow supervised exploration of other rooms. Most cats will come out of their shell within 2-3 days.

8. Don’t Play with Hands/Feet

As tempting as it is to play with and tease kittens using your hands, fingers, toes, or feet, this gives them the wrong impression. Cats don’t understand restraint like humans. Kittens that learn hands are toys often grow into adult cats that bite and scratch hands.

Instead, always redirect kitty to chase wand toys, feather teasers, balls, and other engaging playthings. Reward with treats when they pounce on the appropriate cat toys instead. This teaches them a positive outlet for their prey drive. You’ll avoid painful play bites down the road!

9. Get Kittens Used to Handling Early

The key to a well-socialized, friendly adult cat is early positive experiences. Gently handle paws, ears, tail, and belly when they’re young kittens. Make grooming like nail trims or brushing into a relaxing ritual.

Get kittens gradually accustomed to car travel in a secure carrier and introducing new sights/sounds. Reward cooperation with treats and never force interactions. This sets the foundation for accepting handling and reducing fear responses as adult cats.

10. Set a Routine Immediately

Cats thrive on consistency. Set up designated mealtimes, structured play sessions, and a predictable daily routine right away. Feed wet food on a schedule rather than free-feeding dry food. You control resources.

Place your new kitty in their crate at bedtime – this trains them to sleep through the night with you. Lock up food overnight to prevent early wake-ups. Build play, meals, and naptimes into their schedule so they learn when to expect them. Make weekends match workdays too. Sticking to a routine prevents behavior issues down the road.

While bringing home a new cat or kitten is so rewarding, it also involves quite an adjustment period. But armed with the right information and supplies, you can navigate common hurdles. Keep these top 10 tips in mind, do your prep work ahead of time, and enjoy the amazing experience of cat companionship for years to come!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take cats to adjust to a new home?

It typically takes 2-3 weeks for a cat or kitten to fully acclimate to a new home environment. Limiting them to one room at first allows gradual exposure. Expect hiding, reluctance to eat, and timid behavior while they become comfortable. Be patient and keep interactions positive.

Should I adopt one kitten or two?

While one kitten bonds tightly with you, two kittens provide social companionship and exercise. Littermates or similarly aged kittens do best. Be ready for double the energetic chaos! Two kittens aren’t much more work than one, however they require twice the supplies.

What should I feed my new kitten or cat?

Quality nutrition from reputable brands is important, especially for kittens. Look for wet and dry foods with high protein content and natural ingredients. Mix wet and dry food to add moisture. Feed kittens frequently and watch portions. Provide fresh water always. Discuss diet with your vet.

How do I kitten-proof my home?

Start by keeping doors closed to rooms you don’t want accessed. Remove small objects and valuables from shelves/tables. Tuck appliance cords behind furniture and secure wires. Block access behind fridges and washers. Use cord protectors and cat deterrent sprays. Keep toilet lids down and watch houseplants.

How do I introduce an adult cat to a kitten?

Slow introductions help avoid tension. Keep kitten in a separate room first, then allow brief supervised meetings. Swap items with each one’s scent. Distract with treats and toys during sessions. Set up separate key resources. Observe body language for signs of stress. Be patient as they adjust over several weeks.

When can kittens go outside?

Kittens under 6 months old should stay strictly indoors. Once they reach 6 months, discuss with your vet when is appropriate for supervised outdoor access in a harness after spay/neuter surgery and vaccinations. Ensure kittens have strong recall training first. Outdoor cats face many dangers, so use caution.

How often should I take a kitten to the vet?

Take your kitten to the vet within 5-7 days of adoption for their first wellness exam and vaccinations. They need a series of boosters every 3-4 weeks until 16-20 weeks old. Discuss with your vet, but kittens generally need vet visits at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks and 6 months old at minimum.

What is the best cat litter for kittens?

Look for a low-dust, clumping litter made from natural materials or paper. Avoid scented litters. Scoopable litters make cleaning easier but keep particles small enough to not stick between paws. Provide shallow litter boxes kittens can easily enter. Place litter boxes in quiet, easily accessed spots.

How do I train my new kitten?

Start training and socialization early. Use rewards like treats and praise, never punishment. Target simple commands like their name, “no”, and “come.” Discourage rough play and provide appropriate scratching spots. Set a routine for feeding, play, sleep. Be patient – kittens have short attention spans. Stay positive and keep sessions brief.

Getting a new feline family member is incredibly fun and rewarding! Follow these tips and enjoy the delightful antics of cat companionship. Let me know if you have any other questions about what I wish I knew before adopting my first kitten. Here’s to many happy years with your new cat or kitten!

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