Never in my life did I think I would become a first time cat owner, but a year ago during quarantine, I pulled the trigger and finally purchased a Highland Lynx. Needless to say, I have never looked back. Getting a cat for the first time has been one of the greatest joys of my life.
Initially, I had no idea what I was doing as a first kitten owner. I’ve never owned any pet throughout the course of my life, so every aspect was new to me. Throughout this past year, however, I have learned several things that I look forward to sharing with you.
I have put together a complete and thorough ultimate guide for new cat owners. This guide should tell you what to know before getting a cat. The hope is this guide prepares you for your journey, but just know there is no first time cat owner guide that will tell you EXACTLY how to raise your first cat. I just hope I can give you some of the guidance I wish I had when I first started.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GETTING A CAT
Are you really ready to be a new cat owner? Answer the questions below to see where you stand.
CAN I GET A CAT WHERE I CURRENTLY LIVE?
If your stay at an apartment like me, there is typically a pet fee. For my apartment complex, this cost will be $25/month. Some apartments may not allow cats. Make sure to do your due diligence and check before you proceed.
Are there any health reasons why I shouldn’t get a cat?
I have allergies, so that was one of the main reasons I hesitated initially from getting a cat. However, my Highland Lynx is somewhat hypoallergenic, so I haven’t had any issues. Make sure you do your research on cat breeds if you do have allergies, or go spend some time with the cat your looking to buy or adopt to see how you react.
Can I afford to own a cat?
I will cover this in a later section but JUST know that owning a cat for the first time isn’t cheap. You have to consider costs for food, vet visits, cat care products, and toys. If you can’t afford proper care for your kitten, you may want to reconsider your decision.
Do I plan to adopt or buy from a breeder?
Adopting a cat for the first time can be a great idea, but if you want a specific breed, you will have to go to a breeder. Since I specifically wanted to purchase a Highland Lynx (fairly hypoallergenic and awesome looking cat), I researched and found a breeder. I ended up spending close to $900 to purchase her.
Adopting on the other hand can be a lot cheaper option, potentially only costing $100. You however will most probably get a mixed breed. Check out this resource to help you choose the breed that’s right for you.
Do you spend a lot of time away from home?
Hands down, cats are far lower maintenance than dogs. However, this doesn’t mean you can leave your cat alone at home for longer than 24-48 hours. If you’re wondering how long a cat can go without eating, check out my post. Cats, just like dogs need attention. They need to be fed, have their litter changed, and want company. If you plan to be away often, make sure you have a plan in place and someone to watch your cat. We send our cat to boarding at a local hospital. They typically charge around $17/day, but this rate may vary from state to state.
Do I have other animals in my home?
If you have any other pets such as a dog, you may want to first make sure they will be able to get along with your new kitty. The last thing you want is your pets fighting constantly.
Do I want to get a kitten or an adult cat?
Becoming a first time kitten owner can be awesome since they are so cute. However, know that raising a kitten can be a bit more challenging, as you need to put in time & effort for proper training, and can cost you more since you will need to visit the vet for vaccinations. Here is a good resource for you to help make the right decision. I personally bought my cat when she was 2 months old. Watching my cat grow during that first year was amazing to watch. It was definitely more work, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
What breed is right for me?
It all depends. I personally just finished watching Tiger King, so I wanted a cool exotic-looking cat that is low maintenance and is somewhat hypoallergenic. The Highland Lynx was the perfect fit for me. Do your research into the many breeds of cats, and figure out which one is a perfect fit. Purina does a good job laying out the different breeds and their temperaments, personalities, and other important traits. If you want to go with a popular breed, below are some of the most popular breeds in the United States for 2021.
How To Prepare For a Cat - Get Your Home Ready
You’ve gone through all the considerations and know that a cat is right for you. You are sure you can afford the costs, know whether you want to adopt or buy from a breeder, and figured out if a kitten or older cat is right for you. Now it’s time to prepare your home.
Designate An Area For Your Cat.
Moving into a new place can be quite stressful for a cat. Set up a room specifically for your cat that they can treat as their home. This can be a closet, bathroom, or bedroom. Make sure to keep the room empty and clean and only keep the essentials your cat needs (more on this below).
You do not want to unleash your cat initially to your entire home as it can be overwhelming. Instead, let them first get used to a small room and then after a few days to potentially a few weeks, begin introducing them to a new room one at a time. This will help keep their stress levels low. Initially, as a new cat owner, I set up a small bedroom for my kitten with her essentials – food, water, litter, and toys. A few weeks later, I opened that door and let her slowly explore at her own pace.
Cat-Proof Your Home.
1. Remove all chemical hazards: This includes cleaning products or pesticides which are toxic to your cat. Place them away in cabinets or drawers where your cat cannot get to.
2. Remove all physical hazards: Cats love to play with just about anything, so it’s important you tuck away anything your cat could potentially damage or get strangled on. This includes paper clips, rubber bands, dangling cords, etc. You will find your cat will try to chew or eat almost anything. You can no longer leave around your chargers and wires, as they will get bitten up and ruined. Tie them up and cover them with wire covers.
3. Remove plants: Some plants can be toxic to your cat. The truth is there are hundreds of plant types that may be toxic. Do your research before you bring home your cat. Your cat may also bite & eat leaves, kick around the dirt, or treat your plant as a litter box, so make sure they are out of reach if you don’t want that to happen. Check out our quick graphic below to see if there are any plants you need to get rid of before bringing home your kitty.
First Time Cat Owner Checklist
You’re going to need food and water bowls to feed your cat and give her access to water each day. You want to focus on bowls that are non-slip so you aren’t cleaning up a mess each day, one that is easy to clean and durable. Check out our list of the top food and water bowls that won’t tip over. Our favorite is the Ureverbasic Stainless Steel Non-Skid Cat Bowls since it comes with non-slip padding and it’s easy to clean and dishwasher safe.
Cat food is probably the important item needed on your new cat checklist. This may require some trial-and-error to find the right cat food for your feline. Each cat is different, and they may only enjoy eating certain types of foods. You will also find your cat may have a sensitive stomach, and there may be some you want to avoid. Some cats may also have skin and food allergies so do your research before selecting a brand.
Additionally, make sure to get the specific type of food based on your cat’s age. If you choose to buy a kitten, you will need to get kitten food as it is specially formulated for their young growing body. There are a variety of options from dry to wet cat food. My suggestion would be to go with high quality wet canned food, as this will be best for your kitty in the long run. My favorite option and what we feed our cat is Dave’s Naturally Healthy Cat Food.
Litter Box & Litter
Choose a litter box that is 1-2 times the size of your cat. If you are planning to get a bigger cat, buy one that has high sides as they will be throwing around litter. Get litter that clumps together so it makes clean up easy.
I went through some trial-and-error to finally find the best litter box and litter combination that made it easy for me and for my cat. You will typically need to clean the litter box twice a day to ensure your cat has a clean place to use the restroom. Check out the Purina Tidy Cats Litter Box Starter Kit.
You will also find the litter box and trash will have started to have a strong odor. My suggestion and what we did was buy a litter genie. You can toss all your cat’s waste into there and it can hold kitty litter for 14 days. It also does a great job sealing the odors and keeping your place smelling fresh.
In order to transport your cat, you will need a solid cat carrier. We’ve put together two separate lists that you can take a look at to make a choice: Best Cat Carriers for Car Travel & Best Cat Carriers for Nervous Cats. This will be a pricier investment but will surely be needed if you are getting a cat for the first time.
When choosing a cat carrier, you want to look for something that will be durable, comfortable for your cat, secure but also easy to use and store. Our overall favorite option and the one we currently still use today for our first cat is the Petisfam Top Load Cat Carrier.
1. Nail Clippers: See our list of the 5 Best Cat Nail Clippers. You should cut your cat’s nails once every two weeks and should start this at a very young age so they get used to it.
2. Cat Brush: Try to find a rubber toothed comb. Just like with nail cutting, make brushing your cat’s hair a routine so they become comfortable with it.
3. Cat Shampoo: Cat’s are self-cleaning animals, meaning they do a pretty darn good job licking themselves clean. However, especially if you are getting a kitten, you will find your cat may start to smell dirty. You will need to give your cat a bath so a good feline shampoo tailored for cats will be essential. We use John Paul’s Pet Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs and Cats, since its inexpensive but formulated for your pet’s skin.
Get a few types of toys, such as feathers, pop up tunnels, or balls so you can figure out what is your cat’s favorite. I would suggest you spend at least 10-15 minutes a day playing with your cat. This will strengthen your bond and they will really begin to enjoy your company.
Your cat will need someplace to sleep and at times retreat to when they are feeling nervous. Invest in a nice bed and frequently place them inside there so they get used to it. The bed should be big enough for your cat, washable in case there are any accidents, and most importantly comfortable. K&H Mod Dream Pod is a great option that will last a long time.
Invest in a good scratching post or your cat will find something else to use such as your carpet or furniture. To get your cat used to it, place a little bit of catnip on the post and frequently place them there. The PetFusion Cat Scratching Post is a good option.
You should get your cat a collar with identification, and preferably one with a bell. Cats are extremely good at hiding and I have “lost” my cat many times during the past year. The bell will help you locate your cat in the house, while the ID may help if your cat does happen to get away outside.
Litter Mat (Optional)
Consider getting a mat you can place right outside your litter box. This can help prevent your cat from tracking litter throughout your home and can keep that area clean.
Litter Genie (Optional)
Cat Tower (Optional)
A cat tower is optional on your cat checklist but can be a great accessory for your first cat. It provides them with a place to climb and play, and may even be a good substitute for a bed if you have space. The cat tower I purchased was definitely worth the investment and my cat still uses it every day.
Costs Associated with Owning a Cat
You’re probably reading this guide because you have the intention of becoming a new cat owner. One thing most people in this spot really underestimate is the costs associated with cat ownership. Based on my experiences so far, I have tried to estimate both one-time and recurring costs for you. Most of this will be self-explanatory, but I’ll go into more detail on the some that might need some explanation.
|Description||One - Time Cost ($)||Recurring Cost ($)|
|Litter & Genie Refills||$25|
Again, these are estimates based strictly on my experiences. Some of these costs may vary from owner to owner but this will give you a good idea of how much it could cost.
This cost will really depend on the type of food you choose to buy. I feed my cat high quality wet canned food because my cat’s stomach is very sensitive. If you choose to go with dry food, this cost can be greatly reduced each month. As mentioned before, we suggest feeding your cat with the highest quality food you can afford. It will extends your cat’s life and keep them healthier in the long run.
I estimated that throughout the course of a year, I plan to be away for 2 weeks where I can’t bring my cat (such as an out of country vacation). I board my cat at the local animal hospital and it costs $17/month. Depending on where you are, the cost to board can be higher or lower. You may also be traveling alone more or less than I would so calculate accordingly.
Visiting the vet may be one of the biggest difference-makers when it comes to the overall cost of cat ownership. If you end up getting a kitten, you will end up spending a lot more during the first year for vaccinations, spaying & neutering, and other miscellaneous trips. Once your cat gets older, this cost may significantly drop assuming your cat remains healthy. My local vet has a $50/month plan that I currently use, and it covers all shots and random vet visits. I’ve used that number to estimate these recurring costs but always be prepared to spend more if for example, your cat breaks her leg from a fall and surgery is needed.
General One-Time Costs
Many of the one-time costs I’ve mentioned really will be up to you. You may decide you don’t need a cat tower or your room is too small to even have one. You may also decide that you don’t need a litter genie. Make sure to add and subtract what you feel may be necessary for your situation.
Use my experiences as a guide so you can have an idea of what to expect as a first-time cat owner. Remember nothing is set in stone and many of these costs can be different depending on your situation. However, be aware that owning a cat is not cheap. There are certain one-time and recurring purchases you will need to make to ensure your cat is both happy and healthy.
How To Be A Good Cat Owner (What To Know About Cats)
The following tips for cat owners will help make the life of both the cat and owner easier. These rules should be followed to ensure your first cat is staying happy and healthy. Here are 11 things to know about owning a cat.
Give Your Cat Enough Space.
Make sure you provide your new cat with enough space, so they can roam around and play, use the litter & eat their food. Cat’s don’t want to eat where they poop, so make sure the litter is as far away from their food bowls.
Feed Your Cat at Regular Intervals.
Just like humans, cats will begin to get hungry based on what time of day you are regularly feeding them. Set up a schedule (I feed my cat when it’s time for me to eat) and stick to it. Make sure you are feeding your cat the correct portions. You can talk about the correct portions with your vet, as it may be dependent on your cat’s age and size.
Work Each Day to Strengthen Your Bond.
If you’re getting your first cat, just remember the first few months can make the largest impact on the relationship between cat and owner. It’s suggested that you try to spend 10-15 minutes each day playing with your cat, as this will strengthen your bond. It will also help provide them with some necessary exercise. You may notice your cat will start opening up to you as the days go by, and they start to become more comfortable around you.
Keep Your Cat's Area Clean.
Frequently check to make sure your cat’s food and water bowls are clean. I typically wash out my cat’s food bowl after each meal since I feed her wet canned food. When it comes to her litter, remove the major clumps twice a day. You should refill litter as needed, and completely clean out the litter box with soap and water at least once a month.
Keep Your Cat Clean.
They do not recommend giving your cat baths too often, but if she does get smelly, get the shampoo ready and give her a nice bath. I usually fill up a bucket with water and enclose her in my shower so she doesn’t jump out. There are also cat wipes you can purchase that can be an alternative.
Be Prepared For Fur.
Cats shed fur. Be prepared to clean often as the fur will get on your furniture, clothes, and carpets. I vacuum my apartment quite often because of this, and always keep a lint roller nearby. For this reason, I do not let my cat into my bedroom. It can difficult to sleep at night especially for people with allergies with all the cat fur flying around. Clean often and clean thoroughly.
Protect Your Valuables
So far in the past year, I’ve gone through 3 iPhone chargers, 3 laptop chargers, and a wireless router charger. Cats love to bite and chew on anything they can, so if you do not want it destroyed, protect it or keep it from reach. We’ve been using these wire protectors which have been a lifesaver. I always now remember to remove all chargers from places my cat can get to before I go to bed.
Be Prepared for A LOT of Napping.
This is something I only learned quite sometime after owning a cat, but they sleep SO MUCH! A cat on average can spend 13-16 hours a day sleeping. So if you see them dozing off frequently, don’t fret. It’s normal. If my cat isn’t playing around, eating or using her litter, she’s most probably sleeping.
Make Vet Visits Frequently.
Especially if you are getting a kitten, make sure you visit the vet soon to ensure all of their shots are up to date. There are a number of vaccinations your cat will need during its first year of life. You should also get your cat spayed or neutered, which is usually done after they get to about 6 months. My vet has a monthly plan which costs me around $50/month, but it includes unlimited vet visits and covers all the costs for the vaccines. It makes sense to sign up for a similar plan if you are getting a kitten and then cancelling after a year.
Disciplining Your Cat.
Never hit or hurt your cat. It will only make your cat not trust you and it’s just not the right way to train a cat or any animal for that matter. Instead, if your cat does something wrong, make a loud sound that scares them or put them into a room so they begin to associate negativity with that action. Also, you can reward them for good behavior by giving them a treat. Catnip or cat treats are great to train and even bribe your cat into doing the right thing.
Love Your Cat.
You will shortly find your feline friend can be a loving and affectionate creature. Shower your cat with love, and you will find he or she will never leave your side. I’m telling you from experience, I never thought I would get a cat (actually I hated cats at one point), but getting one was one of the best decisions I have made. Working from home has been difficult and mundane, but having a cat around has made it much more enjoyable. Cats can live to be as old as 20 years, so be prepared for quite a long journey with your new furry friend.
These first time cat owner tips should serve you if you choose to embark on the amazing journey of owning a cat. It will most likely be a decision you will never end up regretting.
Conclusion - Owning Your First Cat
Deciding whether or not you want to get your first cat can sure be stressful. It’s a huge decision that will surely impact your life in many aspects. We hope these tips for new cat owners can serve you on the journey and hopefully tell you everything you need to know about cats. At least now you have a better idea of whether a cat is right for you, what type of cat may be the right fit, the costs associated with owning one, and what you can expect when you first bring home your new feline friend. You’ve read through our owning a cat 101 guide, and now can be ready to make your decision. As I mentioned before, getting a cat was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I delayed for so long because I thought it would be a decision I would regret. But that has not been the case. Buy a cat and be prepared to have your life changed (for the better).