Skip to main content

Cat Care

I have a new cat. Now what?



Welcoming a new cat into your heart and your home is a wonderful adventure that will be rewarding for you and your new family member as long as you provide them with the proper care. Whether you’ve taken in a young kitten, adult, or senior cat, life with your new feline can be a pawtastic experience with plenty of learning and fun along the way.

Thorough medical evaluation

Health check and vet registration


The first step in caring for a new cat is to register your kitty with a local veterinarian and get a full health review. If you adopted your cat from a rescue organization or acquired them from a breeder, you will need to get any medical information about the cat from that organization or individual. Any knowledge about your feline’s vaccination status, spay/neuter status, and potential medical conditions is of vital importance. If you have adopted an unregistered stray or feral cat, inform your vet of your cat’s background so that your vet can check for illnesses common to cats who have lived outside the majority of their lives. Be aware that some feral cats need special help adjusting to life with humans.


Your vet should be able to provide your cat with the appropriate vaccinations and recommend any special diet the cat may need based on their age. Some breeds require special diets and are more susceptible to certain medical conditions. If you are aware that your cat has a recorded lineage of a specific breed or if they appear to be a mix with a certain breed, consult your vet about any special needs that may be necessary and learn the symptoms of common breed-related conditions to watch out for.



According to the Panel, "core cat vaccines'' recommended by most veterinarians include FBRCP (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, respiratory infection), FeLV (Feline Leukemia), and rabies.   Some vaccines will require that your cat be within a certain age range. Vaccinating is not a one-time event, as most vaccinations require boosters at different intervals.


Spaying and neutering


If your cat is not already spayed or neutered, consult your veterinarian for an appointment. Your vet will inform you of the proper after-care. Cats between the ages of eight weeks and five months old are the prime age for undergoing the procedure, though the procedure can be usually performed at other stages in life as well. Cats are exceptionally fertile and can go into estrus (heat) as young as four months of age, so spaying at a young age can prevent unintentional pregnancy.


Spaying and neutering is extremely important for indoor cats for two reasons:

1) In the event that your cat sneaks outside, they can meet unneutered/unspayed stray or feral cats.

2) Unspayed and unneutered cats can exhibit behavioral problems upon reaching puberty, such as an increased urge to exit your home in order to find a mate, frequently spraying their urine outside of the litter box (for both males and females), and in the case of female cats, making loud vocalizations throughout the day and night.



Just as important as the medical check-up and spay or neuter procedure is getting your cat microchipped. Your veterinarian can perform this quick procedure in under a minute. A microchip is a tiny device (roughly the size of a grain of rice, according to 4 Paws Animal) that is inserted in between a cat’s shoulders. The insertion causes little or no pain for most cats. The microchip allows your vet to register your contact information in a microchip database. In the event that your cat becomes lost, any veterinarian or organization with a microchip reader can identify your cat and be able to contact you. An indoor cat still needs to be microchipped because there is the possibility of your kitty getting out the door and becoming lost. If your cat gets lost, inform all veterinarians, pet rescues, and animal shelters in your area so that they can be on the lookout for your cat in case your kitty is brought in. If you move or change your phone number, inform your vet immediately so that your cat’s microchip will be updated to show your current contact information.


Health insurance for your cat


For many cat parents, purchasing pet health insurance can save them a substantial amount in vet bills in the case of emergency or major medical diagnosis. Surgeries, as well as specialized services like chemotherapy, can easily cost thousands of dollars. Be aware that some insurance plans do not cover pre-existing conditions, which makes acquiring an insurance plan soon after you adopt a cat even more vital. Another consideration is that many plans will provide reimbursement for approved medical costs above a certain expense threshold but will not pay for the services upfront. Therefore, most plans will require a cat parent to have the ability to pay for procedures out of pocket before they receive aid from the pet health insurance company. 




When you bring your new cat home, be ready for every need they require for daily living. If you have multiple cats in your household, each cat should have their own items that are not shared with the other cats. At minimum, a new cat requires:


  1. Litter box and cleaning scoop
  2. Food bowl and water bowl
  3. Carrier
  4. Cat bed
  5. Brush for grooming
  6. At least one toy 


See our sections below for more details on the proper use of these items.


Obtaining pet furniture will enrich your cat’s mental and physical wellbeing, including scratchers, cat trees, and cat-friendly wall units.



Type of food and frequency


A cat needs to be fed twice daily on a diet with both wet food and dry food. Feeding your cat around the same time each morning and evening will benefit their natural desire for routine and align with their rhythm of activity, since cats are naturally more active at dawn and dusk. Ideally, the specific times you choose to feed your cat would correspond with times when you are available to play with the cat after feeding. Cats tend to gain a burst of energy within five to 15 minutes after eating and desire physical activity at that time.

ASPCA Complete Cat Care Manual warns against serving your cat any cat food that is expired and pet food that is not intended for cats. Dog food does not provide cats the nutrients they need.


You can reward your cat with a cat treat (usually up to three times a day, depending on the specific kind of cat treat) when they are on good behavior. Giving your cat a cat treat while they are hyperactive or engaging in undesirable activities will only provide your cat with more pent-up energy and encourage the cat to continue the undesirable behavior. Human food should not be used as a substitute for treats made specifically for cats (see our section below on the dangers of feeding your cat human food).


Healthy cat weight


A healthy adult cat will typically weigh between nine and 11 pounds, although large breeds such as the Maine Coon will naturally weigh more, according to the ASPCA Complete Cat Care Manual.


Obesity in cats is most commonly due to eating more food than necessary and not getting enough exercise. If left untreated, obesity can lead to a wide range of health complications, from arthritis to heart disease. Increased play and feeding your cat low-calorie cat food can help. Providing your cat with cat trees and climbing units will encourage your cat to be more active when you are not available to play with them.


Dangers of feeding your cat human food


Foods that can be fatal for cats to consume include but are not limited to onions, garlic, raw eggs, raw meat, chocolate, grapes, raisins, caffeinated beverages, alcohol, and raw dough (according to Hills Pet Nutrition).


Processed foods intended for human consumption often contain a wide variety of ingredients that can be harmful to cats, such as certain kinds of processed sugar.


Cats can get addicted to human food, especially bread products, so be aware that a “just this once” moment of feeding your cat a bite from your plate can spark an obsession.


Drinking water


Generally, a cat’s drinking water will need to be refilled once per day, though this can vary with temperature and other factors that increase a cat’s water intake. Many cats prefer to use a flowing water bowl because drinking from a bowl with its own tap circulates the water, making it easier for cats to lap the water into their mouths.


Contrary to common belief, milk is actually harmful for many cats. Although some cats enjoy the taste of milk, most cats are lactose-intolerant and drinking milk can cause stomach problems, including diarrhea.


Litter box


Cat expert Jackson Galaxy recommends the following equation for determining how many litter boxes you need in your home: 1 litter box per cat + 1. So, if you have one cat, keeping two litter boxes is ideal. If you have two cats, your home should have three litter boxes. Each litter box should be scooped once per day and the litter changed weekly. Try different litter types if needed. To ensure a clean space for your kitty, rinse each empty litter box with warm water, without using soap, once per month.


To help your cat have peace of mind while doing their business, do not place a litter box in a busy part of your home. If your cat gets distracted while trying to use the litter box, avoid placing the box in rooms with dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers. Each litter box should stay in its own designated location–cats value consistency!






Cats are experts at grooming themselves, but they still benefit from a gentle brushing every other day. According to the ASPCA Complete Cat Care Manual, “Regular brushing helps remove dead hair and skin, stimulates blood circulation, and tones muscles. However, if you have adopted an adult cat who was not groomed frequently in their younger years, they may be adverse to the practice. Grooming from kittenhood will strengthen the bond between you and your cat, and ensure it develops into a pet that loves attention.”


Short-haired cats can be brushed with a soft bristle brush, but a wide-toothed comb is more effective for cats with longer coats. Long-hair cats require brushing more frequently to keep their coat mat-free.


Trimming kitty claws


Cats need their claws trimmed regularly in order to prevent bacteria from building up under the claws and to stop long claws from getting caught on fabric and other surfaces. Kittens need weekly trims, while adults need biweekly ones.


To begin, hold your cat’s paw in a way that’s comfortable for them. Gently press the pad under the nail to expose it. Avoid cutting the pink part of the nail, as doing so is very painful for your cat. Trim a tiny amount at a time, clipping firmly at a 45-degree angle. Cutting straight across can cause a rough cut and damage nail material. If you see a black or pink dot in the middle of the nail, it’s time to stop. Give your cat a treat after every nail if they’ll accept one.


Will my cat need a bath?



Cats rarely need to be bathed, but you can follow the steps below if your cat requires one. Some situations in which your cat may benefit from a bath include having a lot of fleas, if your cat didn’t clean well after a litter box visit, or if your kitty has a condition in which they have trouble grooming.


Most cats hate water, and for good reason—their fur and skin tend to absorb it, which means long drying time and uncomfortable wetness. That being said, it’s important to make the process as quick and stressless as possible. You can accomplish this by having the following ready for bathing:


●Cat shampoo (never use human shampoo!)


●Adjustable shower head or pitcher for gentle rinsing


●Soft cloth for face-washing


●Rubber gloves to protect your hands from scratching


●Cotton balls


●Large absorbent towel


●Non-slip mat to provide traction


●Their favorite treat or toy


Only a small amount of water in the sink or tub is needed to bathe a small feline; a few inches should suffice. You’ll also want to ensure you’re using only warm water.


Wet everything but the face. Putting water on your cat’s face will only cause them stress.  Lather and Rinse Thoroughly. Working quickly but gently, lather cat shampoo from neck to tail. Don’t forget areas like underneath the haunches and armpits. When finished, set your shower head to the gentlest and lowest pressure and pass it slowly over their body, using your fingers to remove soap residue. Speaking in a soothing tone can help your cat to feel calmer during this stage.


Take your soft cloth and dampen it. Then, use it to gently wipe your cat’s face and outside of their ears. Take a cotton ball (never a Q-tip) and gently wipe out the inside of their ears.


Drain the water out of the tub and grab your large towel. Gently dry them off as you give them lots of love. Again, you’ll want to make sure you dry those hard-to-reach areas. You may even be rewarded with a few purrs during this stage! Always make sure you have your kitty’s favorite treat or toy (think catnip) on hand for after their bath is done.




Hands are not toys


Little kittens may be adorable when they nip at your hands, but it is very important that you do not allow them to nip at any part of your body. Kittens have less developed teeth, so their bites may feel like gentle nibbles, but encouraging your kitten to chew your skin will become a biting habit once the cat is grown up with sharper teeth. A cat raised to bite its owner often will likely bite any visitors also because your cat will assume people trying to pet it want to play, viewing biting as a form of play.


Kinds of toys and their benefits


Playing is vital to a cat’s physical and mental development. Cats of all ages benefit from exercise and the stimulation of their instincts. Having a variety of toys can keep your cat happy and healthy. However, no amount of toys can replace the bond that you form with your cat by playing with them.


Cats have a strong prey drive, so they naturally seek out opportunities to chase and pounce on moving objects or lights. One toy well suited for a fun “hunt” is a laser pointer. Waving around a laser pointer’s light can delight a cat with a glowing target. For your cat’s safety, only use laser pointers that are made specifically for cats. Laser pointers with green lights instead of red ones will also be safer for your cat’s eyes. Another “hunting” toy is the feathered rope on a stick. The up and down movements remind your cat of small birds, which they naturally view as prey. Puff balls, toy mice, and other small toys may be pretend prey as well, which your cat may kick around on their own and pick up in their mouth.


Toys that provide a mental challenge for cats are just as important as ones that give them exercise. This wide category includes toys such as rolling balls that dispense treats when tilted,  and maze boxes, in which a treat is placed inside and the cat has to figure out how to rotate the box to get the treat.


Lack of kitty playtime and other physical activities can be detrimental for both you and your cat. Be aware that a cat who bites feet and ankles often does so out of boredom. If their prey drive hasn’t been satisfied with active playtime, they will look for non-toy targets to follow their hunting instincts. When you are walking around your home, your legs are moving, which sparks their desire to view your legs as prey. In addition to spending more time playing with your cat, to ward off ankle biting, you can also provide your cat with stimulating cat furniture, such as scratching posts and cat trees that will capture their attention.


Learn how to make the most of feline playtime based on your cat’s behavior and personality. 



Providing a safe environment

Avoid keeping dangerous plants


Many common houseplants pose serious health threats to cats. Some plants fatal to cats include tulips, daisies, poinsettias, peonies, lilies, daffodils, holly, mistletoe, amaryllis/belladonna, many kinds of Christmas trees, azaleas, begonias, and carnations. Several holiday-themed plants are dangerous for cats, so be mindful when decorating. If your cat does ingest any of these dangerous plants, call the ASPCA Poison Control Center right away: 1-888-426-4435. Help is available 24 hours a day.


Common household hazards


Cats love to climb, so be mindful of storing hazardous items within a cat’s jumping or climbing distance. Fragile items, such as ceramics, can break into shards when knocked off a shelf and scrape your kitty. Many cats will be tempted to climb kitchen shelves, so be sure to read our section above for details on foods that are harmful for cats.


Contrary to popular belief, yarn and string can be very harmful for cats. If a cat ingests a string, it often wraps around their intestines, causing pain and digestive problems, and surgery is required for the string’s removal.


Holiday decorations, such as tinsel and candles, can also pose significant risks. Cats cannot digest bits of tinsel, so swallowing tinsel can cause severe digestive problems that may require urgent surgery. Additionally, candles can be knocked over, leading to an uncontrolled fire, or burn your kitty.


If you need to use bug spray inside your home, be sure to purchase one that is specifically formulated to be pet-safe. The label should indicate if it is pet-friendly. Be sure to read and follow all instructions. Using bug spray that is not specifically pet-friendly poses a great risk because it contains toxic chemicals.


Traveling and carrier training


Cats typically do not enjoy frequent traveling, as it disrupts their need for consistency and the sense of comfort they receive from being in their own territory. However, it is still crucial to your cat’s safety that you own a sturdy carrier with plenty of ventilation and room for toys. Whether you’re taking your cat to the vet or need to evacuate for an emergency, your cat needs a portable space they can trust. Your cat should always remain inside a carrier while in a vehicle. Airlines have restrictions for the size of carriers, so be sure to check their regulations before you travel. One example of an airline-compliant carrier is Armarkat’s Pet Carrier PC102R.


Getting your cat used to a carrier can be difficult, as cats don’t like to be confined to small spaces. To remedy this, cat expert Jackson Galaxy recommends that you carrier train your cat as young as possible. The secret to successful carrier ‘training’ is making the carrier as appealing as possible for your cat. Regularly leaving the carrier open in the same spot of your house, with your cat’s favorite toys around it, will condition your cat to view the carrier as a friendly and welcoming place. When your cat is comfortable with the carrier, convincing your cat to enter it is as easy as placing a treat or toy inside. 


Identifying symptoms and medical emergencies


As with managing our own health symptoms, when it comes to your cat’s wellbeing, it is ‘better safe than sorry.’ Common symptoms your cat will experience at some point include vomiting and diarrhea. Both of these symptoms can be frequent signs of eating food harmful to cats, spitting up hairballs, eating plants outside (if your cat is harness trained), or a diagnosable illness. However, only a certified veterinary professional can diagnose conditions and determine when your cat needs medical attention or not.


Like humans, cats can get colds. Symptoms are similar to those in humans, such as sneezing and having a runny nose. However, cats with colds may develop discharge around their eyes.


As with all emergencies in our lives, pet emergencies tend to happen when you least expect it. Have details of the closest pet emergency clinic ready in case your cat gets very sick when your vet’s office is closed. Learn more about how to prepare for an emergency and how to perform CPR for cats. 


Catnip and cat grass



Many toys contain catnip that wears off over time. Catnip can also be purchased in its diced up plant form. Close to 70% of adult cats react to catnip and its effects typically last around ten minutes, with a two hour reset window before the cat is susceptible to it again. When given catnip, the most common reaction is giddiness and excitement.


However, there are some real benefits to catnip. When eaten, catnip tends to make cats sleepy. This is perfect in times of anxiety, as it helps cats calm down almost immediately. Catnip is not harmful or addictive. Cats can’t overdose, but if they overindulge this can result in a bit of stomach distress.


Cat grass

Kitties go crazy for cat grass because it not only tastes delicious to them but also supports their immune system. “It takes parasites and all sorts of impurities and just sort of forces it out of their system, whether through stool or through vomit,” according to a study conducted by the University of California, Davis. Flushing out the digestive system makes a cat better able to ward off potential illness.


Cats are naturally inclined to chew on grass, but grass outdoors often contains pesticides with toxic chemicals. Growing your own cat grass inside is a much safer option. Be sure to purchase a kit or seeds that are organic. Cat grass that contains barley, oats, and rye provides the greatest benefits. Most cat grass reaches full height within one week and requires minimal upkeep.


Harness training (for cats interested in exploring outside)


Walking a cat can be a fun adventure for cats who are attracted to the sights and sounds of the great outdoors. However, not every cat will be interested in taking a stroll, and you should never force a cat to walk outside. If your cat is especially adventurous, frequently attempts to run out the door, and spends a lot of time by the window, they will likely benefit from harness training.  Before you begin to train your cat, be aware that a collar and leash is not enough. To prevent sudden escape, cats need a secure and comfortable harness that extends around their waste and shoulders.


Prepare indoors first. Familiarizing your cat with wearing the harness and leash can take weeks of short periods donning them inside. Give your cat treats when they are wearing the harness and leash. When your cat feels comfortable with wearing the harness, try standing outside the front door and see how your cat reacts. If your cat seems to enjoy the experience, repeat it, and then be ready to follow your cat as they eventually walk on the lead. Walking a cat is very different from walking a dog–let the cat decide where to go and at what pace. They may make frequent stops to sit or lie down.



Caring for a new cat may seem like a daunting task at first, but over time both you and your kitty will settle into a comfortable routine for feeding, playing, and litter box cleaning. Each cat is unique and you will adjust to your cat’s individual quirks and preferences. Browse our blog and social media for more information to keep your cat happy and healthy!