Think safety first for your new pet. Even if you plan to keep your cat or kitten indoors, there's a chance it could escape from your home and become lost. Two things will help prevent this potentially heartbreaking situation: a collar with an ID tag attached and a microchip.
There are many materials, patterns, and colors to choose from for a cat collar, but the most important is a safety break-away feature. Cats are explorers and easily find themselves in situations from which they need to escape. Should a cat become caught on something by its collar, this type of collar allows it to break away from the object holding it rather than choke to death. Choose a collar size that fits comfortably: not so tight that it chokes or chafes your cat's neck, and not so loose that the cat easily slips out of it. A good guideline is to fit two fingers between your cat and its collar.
The attached ID tag, which can be ordered online or purchased from your veterinarian, should include your pet's name and your contact information (name, phone number, and address).
You might also want to consider a microchip to ensure your lost pet will be returned. A veterinarian injects this tiny identifying integrated circuit under the surface of your pet's skin between the shoulder blades. The process is neither harmful nor painful to your cat and can be compared to a vaccination shot. The microchip contains an unique ID code to your cat that you register with a microchip company, along with your contact information. If your lost pet is found and turned over to a shelter or veterinarian, its microchip will be scanned. This provides your pet's rescuer with the information necessary for you to be contacted and for your pet returned safely.
You'll appreciate a secure, size-appropriate carrier to transport your cat or kitten home from the shelter or breeder, on a road trip, or to the veterinarian for checkups. It's not safe for you or your cat to allow it to move about your car while driving. Your cat will also feel safer and more secure when confined to a carrier's concise space.
You'll find three different types of carriers to consider: cardboard carriers, hard-sided crates, and soft-sided carriers. See which works best to meet your needs.
Cardboard carriers are the least expensive, but they cannot be cleaned, are not well-ventilated, and become flimsy when wet. This type of carrier is best used in emergencies or on short road trips. Shelters will often send a newly adopted pet home with its new owner in this temporary type of carrier.
Hard-sided crates are better ventilated than cardboard carriers and easy to clean. Crates are sturdier and offer more protection for the pet inside should the crate be dropped. Hard-sided crates are more expensive than cardboard carriers, though, and bulkier and heavier to carry.
Soft-sided carriers, the most expensive, often include convenient features such as wheels for ease of transporting and holders for pet supplies. But these carriers are also less ventilated and more difficult to clean than hard-sided crates, and they offer less protection for the pet.
Look for a carrier that offers the following options when you get ready to buy:
Note: If you are thinking about taking your cat on an airplane, check first with the airline for its specific guidelines on carriers.
Store the empty carrier in an accessible location in case of a medical emergency or the need to remove your pet from your home quickly (such as for flood or fire).
Choosing the right litter box and litter, and maintaining it properly, ensures your cat has a comfortable, clean area to eliminate feces and urine. Choose a litter box that is large enough for your kitten or cat to climb in and out of easily and move around. Traditional litter boxes are rectangular, about 4 inches deep, and suit most cats. Covered litter boxes include a snap-on hood for privacy, but they limit a cat's ability to cover its eliminations.
You might prefer a covered litter box, as cats tend to kick litter out of the box when they are covering their feces and urine. Not all cats are comfortable inside the enclosed space, which means they might choose not to use it. If in doubt, try both versions side by side to see which one your cat prefers.
When deciding on a litter brand and type, continue with the brand your cat was using in its previous residence. If you prefer to try a different brand, do it gradually as cats are not fond of sudden changes. Changing brands a little bit at a time will encourage a cat's continued, consistent use of the litter box.
Litter comes in two types:
Clay litter, which is generally less expensive, is heavy, and does a decent job at absorbing/controlling odor. Scoop and then dispose of the feces and urine at least once daily; clean the entire box and add fresh litter weekly. Bump cleaning the box out twice weekly if odor and usage warrants. Scented varieties do not eliminate the need to clean the box out regularly. If the resulting dust is a problem, consider a low-dust variety.
Clumping litter does not need to be thrown out and replaced as clay litter does. Simply scoop the clumps that form around the urine or feces at least once a day and dispose of them. Add fresh litter regularly to help continue and maintain the litter box's freshness. This type of litter also offers a low-dust variety, as well as scented and nonscented varieties.
Choose the type you prefer, but ensure your cat concurs with your decision by monitoring its usage. Using a scoop, add 2 inches of the litter to the box to start with, then follow up as directed for each type of litter. Add more to freshen and maintain a high enough level that your cat is able to cover its droppings. As always, check with your veterinarian or another cat owner if there are concerns or questions. Often a litter box issue is fixable with some good guidance or a change in your routine.
Provide your cat with a bowl for fresh, clean water and another bowl for its food. You'll need two food bowls if you decide to offer your cat both wet (canned) and dry food.
The best material for both types of bowls is either stainless steel or ceramic with a lead-free glaze. Stainless steel is durable, easy to clean, and dishwasher-safe. Ceramic containers are also easy to clean and dishwasher-safe, but they can chip or break if dropped. Choose food bowls that can hold 1-2 cups of canned or dry food. Choose a comparable size water bowl (some cats prefer two water bowls in different locations). Make sure your cat gets unlimited access to good clean water daily.
Keep the dishes clean, both for your cat's health and to avoid attracting ants and other pests. Toss all the pet dishes into the dishwasher along with your other dishes at least every other day. Slip a mat made of washable material or waterproof plastic under the water and food dishes. The mat keeps the dishes place and catches food and water spills.