A Checklist for First-Time Cat Owners

A Checklist for First-Time Cat Owners

A woman looks at a cat in a cage.A woman looks at a cat in a cage.
A woman looks at a cat in a cage.A woman looks at a cat in a cage.

Becoming a first-time cat owner can be a fascinating and rewarding experience. Observing unique behavior and playing a part in a cat’s maturation, recreation, and personal happiness can build a lasting bond, fostering a relationship as close as one shared between a parent and a child.

It’s not hard to develop deep feelings for your new feline friend, but parenting a cat is much more than a simple display of affection. Preparations need to be made to your home and changes need to be made to your lifestyle to accommodate these often-particular pets, and their nutrition and safety are paramount to maintaining physical health and ensuring appropriate bathroom habits.

In preparation for your furry roommate, review our household and adoption checklists, assuring that you’ve answered each question before welcoming a cat into your homestead.

Household Preparation

Important decisions need to be made when becoming a first-time cat owner. If you share your home with family or friends, it’s of the utmost importance to include them in the process and make sure that each resident has the same set of expectations.

The following questions can ensure that you’ve made your residence cat friendly:

  • Is your new pet going to be an indoor/outdoor cat or a homebody?
  • What type of food will you be feeding your cat? Will it be canned or dry? What brand offers the most nutritional value?
  • Are you going to offer your cat treats or table scraps in addition to their personal food?
  • Where in the house will you be feeding your cat?
  • Who will be responsible for feeding your cat?
  • Who is responsible for shopping for routine cat supplies such as food, litter, and treats?
  • Where are you going to place the litter boxes and will they be easily accessible to your cat?
  • What brand of litter is best suited for your cat?
  • Who will be responsible for daily cleaning of the litter boxes?
  • Will the cat be allowed to sleep on your bed?
  • Are counter tops and certain rooms off limits to your cat?
  • Have you found a trustworthy, local veterinarian?
  • When are you planning on having your cat spayed or neutered?
  • Do you have a plan for environmental enrichment, including scratching posts and window perches with visual access to the outdoors?

After answering these questions, make a shopping list of everything you need to make your home cat ready.

Questions to Ask When Adopting

It’s important to get as accurate a history of your cat as possible before bringing them home. First-time cat owners often regret not asking for more information about their new pet on adoption day, and shelters and humane societies often don’t keep adequate medical records.

Though the amount and quality of information may vary based on circumstance (especially if your cat was a stray), it can’t hurt to ask and accrue as much knowledge as possible. Even the smallest detail can be helpful for you or your veterinarian down the road.

The following questions should cover you bases when it comes to history and medical background. Try to get clear answers for as many of these as possible:

  • Was your cat a stray, raised by a breeder, or surrendered by a previous owner?
  • Has your cat had any prior medical problems? If so, what were the problems specifically and were they treated?
  • How old is your cat?
  • Has your cat lived outdoors or been indoors only?
  • Has your cat had fleas?
  • Has your cat had any fecal tests or blood tests, such as feline leukemia virus or feline immunodeficiency virus testing (commonly abbreviated as FeLV/FIV testing)?
  • What has your cat been eating up to the day of adoption? Has this been their short-term or long-term diet? Are any food samples available, so that you can maintain your cat’s diet temporarily while you acquire their brand of food?
  • Has your cat been dewormed?
  • Has your cat been spayed or neutered?
  • Does your cat have a microchip? If so, can you be provided with your cat’s microchip number?
  • Has your cat had vaccinations? If so, what kind, and are they due for more?
  • Does your cat get along with other animals?

If you’re interested in learning more, check out our article on How to Be Successful at Taking Care of a Cat For the First Time.

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