First-Time Cat Owner Essentials

Disclosure: The following product(s) may have been sent to Earn Spend Live in exchange for a review. All opinions are the author’s own.

I’ve lived with cats my entire life, but admittedly, my mom did all of the buying for them and the majority of the care-taking. Now that I’m out on my own, I decided it was time to learn some responsibility and adopt my own cat. A couple of months ago, I brought home a beautiful Russian Blue, named Lazarus (aka “Laz” — you can follow him on Instagram here) — and although I thought I knew exactly what it took to provide a loving, stable home for my sweet furbaby, it turns out I didn’t really know a whole lot.

When it came down to getting all the right supplies, choosing the right litter and food, and being responsible for a living, breathing thing, I realized I had a lot to learn. Luckily, I have a ton of other crazy cat moms around me (plus a little thing called the internet), so I learned the ropes pretty quickly.

There are a lot of non-negotiables for your new kitten, as well as a few things that are just fun for both of you.

The Essentials

Litter Box + Cat Litter + Cat Litter Filters + Scoop

Van Ness Corner Cat Pan | Purina Tidy Cats Litter Box Liners | Aspen Stay Fresh Cat Litter MatPurina Tidy Cats Clumping Cat Litter | Van Ness Litter ScoopBoots & Barkley Litter Pan Blue

The first thing you need to know about cat litter: There are two different types, clumping and non-clumping. If you’ve never heard of there being two different types (and I hadn’t either until recently), you’ve probably been using the non-clumping. It’s the “normal” kind of cat litter. Laz has used both, but I prefer the clumping — mostly because the litter clings to his pee and poop and covers it. Everything ends up just looking like big, litter-y rocks. It makes for a much easier (and less smelly) scooping process.

The litter box doesn’t matter so much — if you have a young kitten, they’re not going to have much of a preference yet, so don’t feel like you have to get one of those litter boxes with a huge lid on top. Most of the cats I’ve had don’t like them anyway — they can get a little claustrophobic. You also definitely don’t need a fancy, self-cleaning litter box (because one, they’re hella expensive and two, how do they even work anyway??). Instead, get a litter box mat to put underneath if you’re worried about cat litter getting all over the place.

The cat litter filter and the scoop are no-brainers, and you can go as cheap as you want here. (Just make sure you clean the scoop every now and then.)

Food + Food Bowls

Blue Buffalo Kitten Food | Platinum Pets Stainless Steel Bowl | Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Wet Cat Food | Pet Studio Neon LidsSHEBA Perfect Portions Premium Pate Seafood

If you have a kitten, make sure you get food made specifically for kittens. They need all the nutrition they can get to grow big and strong, and kitten food contains way more nutritious ingredients than adult cat food.

Cats also love wet food — whether it be canned tuna, chicken, turkey, or salmon — and Sheba offers them in single servings, which is a blessing because canned wet food contains several servings that last over several days. If you do choose to go the canned food route, you can either use plastic wrap to cover it and put it in the fridge or these cool plastic covers that fit several sized cans.

Obviously, your cat will need bowls for their food and water, but this is a good place to save. You can buy a quality cat food bowl for well under $10.

Grooming Supplies

Boots & Barkley Cat Nail Clipper and File Set | Boots & Barkley Pet Self-Cleaning Brush | Shedmonster De-Shedding Tool for Cats

I have a couple of friends who take their cats to the vet to get their nails clipped, but I can’t fathom how much money that ends up being over time. So I decided to just do it myself every couple of weeks. When I first brought Laz home, his foster mom told me to just use regular human nail clippers to clip his nails. So I tried it, quickly failed, then just as quickly passed the responsibility off to my boyfriend.

Turns out it wasn’t me, it was the nail clippers. So we purchased nail clippers actually designed for kitties, and they worked like magic. They’re shaped to fit around your kitty’s sharp, tough nails and make the whole process as pain-free as possible for your kitty (and for you).

You’ll also need a brush (or two). The more you brush your cat, the less chance they have of throwing up a huge hairball on your favorite duvet cover. I would recommend getting one with super-soft bristles. Pro tip: If you have a long-haired cat, you’ll need to invest in a de-shedding brush.

Scratch Post

Cat Life Scratching Post with Leopard Accents | Boots & Barkley Arch Cat ScratchCat Life Duplex Cat Lounge

If you decide not to declaw your cats (good decision, BTW), they’ll need an outlet. You could splurge on a big, expensive scratching post — you know, one of those fancy posts they can climb on or sleep in — or you could get a couple of scratch pads to keep in a couple of different rooms. I opted for the latter, and I even sprinkled some catnip in the little holes. It keeps my cat entertained and my couch scratch-free.

An Official Vet

If you adopt your kitty from a shelter or animal rescue, your cat will (ideally) have already been checked out, vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and microchipped by a vet. You can choose to keep taking your kitty to that same vet, but if you live in a different city or state, you’ll have to find your own vet — and the sooner you get your kitty in to meet them, the better.

I know this from firsthand experience, because a week after Laz officially became mine, I got him into the vet — only to be told that he had a heart murmur and the vet had no idea how the other vet didn’t catch it. Turns out it’s something he’s going to have to live with, and he’ll have to take heart pills every day for the rest of his life — and we would have never known if we didn’t immediately find a new vet for him. No one ever expects their pet to have health issues, but it’s important to cover all of your bases just in case.

Health issues aside, you need to have somewhere to take your kitty if an emergency happens. Finding your new kitten an official vet should be one of the first steps taken as a new cat mom.

Just for Fun

The Essential Toys

Boots & Barkley Maribou Streamer Cat Wand | Boots & Barkley Rainbow Ping Pong Balls Cat ToyBoots & Barkley Cat Toy Knit Mice | SmartyKat FishFlop Cat Toy

You definitely don’t need to spend beaucoups of money buying toys for your kitten; there are a few things you probably already have around your home (like hair bands and boxes) that cats can spend hours playing with happily. Then there are inexpensive toys like toy mice, balls with jingle bells in them, and sticks with feathers attached to the end that they can bat around, that are worth the purchase.

The bottom line: Your kitten won’t be a kitten forever, so soak it all up now and play with them while you can.

Cat Subscription Box

KitNipBox

I honestly never thought I would feel the need to get my cat a subscription box — until I adopted Laz. I bought him just a couple of toys to start with — a toy mouse here, a hair band there — and I quickly learned that he needed more. (Mostly so he’d bite his toys instead of me.) So I signed up for KitNipBox, a $19.99 monthly subscription box for kitties, and MeowBox, $22.95 monthly or every other month. You get a few toys and a few yummy treats each month. I can personally attest to the fact that Laz loves it (although he mostly just loves the box itself).

Treats

SHEBA Meaty Sticks with Salmon Cat Treats | Meow Mix Irresistibles Salmon Flavor

Everyone needs to be rewarded for good behavior. Your cat was good at the vet? He deserves a treat. He took his medicine or sat through a bath without clawing your neck? Four for you, Glen Coco! Plus, Sheba meat sticks are a foolproof way to keep your cat entertained while you eat. (Anyone else’s cat paw at their food and sniff their face incessantly? No? Just me?)

Smell Goods

Glade PlugIns Scented Oil Air Freshener | Lavender Vanilla Odor Neutralizing Gel Beads | Glade Automatic Air Freshener Spray Starter Kit

Whether it’s a wall plug-in, an automatic spray freshener, or odor-neutralizing gel beads, find what works best for you and your cat and put them all over the house. Cat litter stinks, so if you want your home to smell good (or even just normal) you’re going to have to put in a little extra effort. I personally have all of the things listed — plus a Scentsy and a candle collection. Sidenote: If you do decide on an automatic spray freshener, just make sure you keep it away from your cat’s food and water and up high so it doesn’t get in their eyes.

Follow Elise on Twitter: @melisewilliams | Instagram: @melisewilliams

Follow Laz on Instagram: @lazasaurusrexx

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