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The Purrfect Starter Kit for a New Cat or Kitten

Whether you are bringing a fully-grown cat or a kitten into your home, the new comer is going to need time to adjust to her surroundings. By having a variety of cat centric accessories such as beds, toys and a nice tall kitty condo in place beforehand will make the transition much easier.

A Place to Nap

Cats love privacy and their own private space. So be sure to put a comfortable cat bed on your shopping list. Cats like to sleep “in the round” so selecting something circular will ensure maximum kitty comfort.

Cat experts believe that initially its good idea to confine the cat to one room in the home for at least a week and then slowly let her learn her way around. (This is also a good idea if there are incumbent pets in the home, as initial introductions have to be properly managed.)

Choose a non-draughty corner of the room to place a kitty bed.  Once your cat has free reign of the home, that bed can be moved to a family room where the cat can enjoy your company and still have its own private space.

By nature, cats like to have a variety of snooze zones in different rooms because they like to be wherever you are. So over time you can buy additional beds. Apart from beds, consider a fleecy rug placed in a favorite spot or an actual pet comforter made from a washable fabric or faux fur.

Food and Treat Choices

Whether you have a cat or kitten from a breeder or adopted from a shelter, it’s a good idea to continue feeding the food they have been given to date. (Often a shelter will give you a free bag to take home).

“I  always give food advice to new cat parents,” says Donna Isenberg a well-known breeder of Persian and Himalayan cats in Los Angeles, Calif.

“From my experience, people often want to switch foods because they are looking for an more inexpensive formula.  However, I believe that the better the food, the lower the veterinary bills in the long run.

“The best way to transition is to initially put a small mount of the new food mixed in with the original food and slowly, over a period of a week or ten days, change the ratio until they are eating the new formula exclusively,” says Isenberg.

Some cats and kittens change over with no ill effect.  However, during the changeover phase, keep a careful eye on the litter box to ensure that your new family member is not suffering from diarrhea or constipation. Any issues should be discussed with a veterinarian who may advise a different type of food altogether.

Functional treats

Pets love treats as much as people do. However it’s important to remember that treats do not add nutritional value to your pet’s diet. So don’t over treat in an effort to make your pet feel more at home. When shopping for treats, read the labels to check the calorie content and look for all natural ingredients. Also look for functional treats such as those that promote good dental hygiene or offer some hairball relief.

Food and Water Bowls

It’s a good idea to purchase bowls that are made from glass, ceramic or stainless steel as these materials do not pick up food odors and are easy to keep clean and can also be placed in a dishwasher on a regular basis. Water fountains are an excellent investment, as cats love to drink fresh running water.

The Toy Box

“Without mental and physical stimulation, cats become bored, lethargic and gain weight,” says cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger of Redwood City, California. “Toys that cats enjoy chasing and batting around help them stay active and mentally stimulated.

Most cats will engage with a catnip mouse or a feathered wand. Both make great initial first toys. Slowly you can add to the toy box adding variety as you build a collection.

When shopping, keep in mind that cat toys are divided into three main categories – interactive toys, distraction toys and comfort toys. Interactive toys include lasers, wands with crinkly or feathery fun on the end, bubbles, especially catnip scented ones and anything battery-operated that will pique feline attention.

Distraction toys offer cats feline enrichment in the form of both mental and physical stimulation when they are home alone such as easy to assemble kitty gyms and puzzle games. The latter are available in the form of board games or in balls that dispense treats as they roll around.  Puzzle toys are also becoming increasing popular as food feeders and by placing a portion of your cat’s kibble in such a puzzle toy, you are stimulating their hunting skills and making them work for their food.

Comfort toys are anything soft and cuddling. Some cats like to sleep with them and some will even carry them around in their mouths.

Kitty Condos and Cat trees

Apart from having a bed, cats will enjoy extra the privacy and personal space afforded by  a cat tree or kitty condo. The taller the better!

“Cats need vertical territory such as tall cat trees, condos or high shelves for a number of reasons,” says Krieger. “Firstly, cats show their position in their hierarchy by where they sit in relationship to each other. The hierarchy isn’t static. Cats take turns, occupying the top shelves at different times. Vertical territory can be safe refuge zone too. Potential threats can be identified from up high and being up high can keep cats safe from dogs.

Scratchers

It’s natural for all cats to scratch. So cat scratchers are essential in order to divert feline claws away from furniture and carpeting. Some cats like to scratch vertically and others prefer to do it horizontally. It’s a good idea to purchase inexpensive recycled cardboard scratcher for each of these actions and thus ascertain which your new cat prefers for future purchases.

Litter Box and Litter

It’s a good idea to purchase a big box from the start even if you are adopting a kitten. Litter box location is very important. Cats need privacy so ensure its not placed in a high traffic zone. Open boxes give cats different entry points and escape points if necessary.

As with food, initially its best to continue using the type of litter the cat has been used to. You can change out to a different type of litter by slowly mixing the new brand in with the old until you have completed the changeover.

Grooming Tools

If you have a cat or kitten that’s been raised by a breeder, the chances are they will recommend certain tools that are best suited to the cat’s coat type.

“I always make recommendations,” says Isenberg. “And new cat owners shouldn’t be afraid to ask for advice too.”

Alternatively you can seek good advice from a pet specialty store. Be sure to go to a store that stocks grooming tools that are specifically manufactured for cats.

“In a perfect world, longhaired cats should be groomed daily,” says Isenberg. “Because keeping a longhaired coat in good condition is important and relatively time consuming, if a new pet parent feels they are not up to the task, they should consider finding a good feline groomer.

“Never use scissors on a knotted and badly matted coat because the way the skin on a cat moves with the fur, its very easy to cut into the skin causing serious damage that may even require stitches,” cautions Isenberg.

“Generally speaking, cat owners often adopt without having done proper homework about general care and grooming. It’s important to read up. There are plenty of good books as well as excellent advice available on professional websites,” she adds.

In fact, most of the major grooming tool manufacturers have excellent information on their packaging making to easy to decide which tool is right for longhaired or shorthaired cats. Often they also feature “how to” videos on their websites which offer excellent information and instruction.

It’s worth investing in really good nail clippers because this is a difficult job to do at the best of times and blunt scissors make it harder to complete the job and often tear the nails.

Some pet stores offer free nail trimming to their customers. Alternatively, if you are nervous about cutting too short and into the quick, have your cat’s nails trimmed at the veterinarian’s office or by a professional groomer.

Shampoos and Wipes

If you are planning to bath your cat, make sure you are purchasing a shampoo that suitable for both cats and kittens. Never borrow from the dog or the rabbit as other pets have a different skin Ph Factor and the use of the wrong product can result in a skin allergy.

For water phobic cats, there are waterless shampoo options and also excellent non-alcoholic wipes that remove dust and dander from the fur and can also be used to wipes, paws and ears.

Flea Control

“Soon after bringing your new cat home, it’s a good idea to book a general examination with a veterinarian,” suggests feline specialist Dr. Drew Weigner of The Cat Doctor a feline specialty hospital in Atlanta, GA. “One of the many things a veterinarian checks for is external parasites such as fleas.

“If the cat is flea free and has an indoors-only lifestyle, flea control isn’t necessary,” says Weigner. “However, for cats allowed outdoors, or, if there is also a dog in the household, some type of flea control is essential.  The easiest are topical products that are applied to the back of the neck once a month. There are also oral flea products that work well, (if you can get the cat to swallow them).

“However, a persistent flea problem despite appropriate flea control on your cat (and dog) means your house is infested with fleas,” cautions Weigner. “ There are many all- natural house sprays that are very effective. However, they must be used weekly for at least four weeks to have an impact.

“A yearly application of a boric acid powder is an excellent way to control fleas in your house. Several reputable companies will do this with a guarantee,” he says.

Maintenance Tips

Properly kitting out your home for a new feline family member is only the start. Remember to change out toys as they break and replace those filled with catnip regularly as they loose their efficacy and thus feline appeal. Also launder your cat’s bed or vacuum it, whichever is appropriate on a regular basis and include other feline fun zones like cat trees and kitty condos too. Food and water bowls also need to be cleaned on a daily basis. Investing in a drinking fountain will ensure that the water remains fresh and is constant supply. While its important to keep it topped up with fresh water on a daily basis, a fountain needs only be properly cleaned every couple of weeks.  And be sure to groom on a regular basis – consider it wonderful quality time spent with your new feline family member.

The Grooming Tool Box

A basis grooming toolbox should include a slicker brush, a wide toothed comb and a flea comb, a deshedding tool, and nail clippers. Special cat centric grooming wipes are excellent for wiping the coat as well as for cleaning the ears and facial area. Some cats prefer to be brushing with a curry brush, which is a big-rubber toothed grooming tool. A toolbox can be a “work in progress” as you discover what your cat likes and purchase different tools accordingly so that she enjoys the grooming process even more.

Checklist of Kitty Basics

Cat beds

Scratching post

Kitty condo or cat tree

Food and water bowls

Drinking fountain

Variety of toys

Litter box