Must-Haves For First-Time Cat Parents - Female laying on the bed with a siamese kitten

Must-Haves For First-Time Cat Parents

It’s all very exciting, getting a new pet. They add so much to a home, and are unfailing sources of entertainment and love (at meal-time at least). Before you bring the new one home, though, there are a few things that you’ll need to get. From feeding paraphernalia, to play-time accessories, I’ve come up with a basic checklist of items to start with. Some are essential from the get-go, while others may depend on your situation (if your cat is going to be an outside cat, for example). Your experience and individual cat will tell you what else you might need as you go.


Cat carrier - cat sitting in a cat carrier

Quite possibly one of the most underrated pieces of cat equipment, a good carrier is a must have from day one. For starters, you’ll need one to bring the cat home in the first place. While you often can borrow carriers from the vet, having your own is better all round. You can get one that is suitable for the size of your cat, and it won’t smell like other animals. You’ll be heading to the vet at least once a year, and more frequently when kitty is young. Getting a carrier with a detachable top is also a good idea, as you can lift off the top, rather than do battle to extract a reluctant kitty at the vet’s office. Also, you can get your cat used to your carrier, creating positive associations with it, thereby reducing the stress levels that often come with a vet visit.

Litter box and litter

Tofu or soy based cat litter & litter box

If your cat is to be an indoor cat, which is recommended throughout their life, and vital for new kittens, then you’ll need to provide them with a toileting space. You’ll need a minimum of one litter box per cat, and a clean, quiet place to put it in. With the litter box, of course, you’ll need kitty litter. It’s a good idea to have a fair bit ready to go from the outset, so you can change the litter when need be, without hesitating over whether you have enough. A good, environmentally friendly cat litter is the best option, like SoyKitty, as it has a texture that cats like, without allergy-causing dust, and is gentle on the earth. 

Feeding bowls and mat

Relatively obviously, they’ll be needing something to eat out of. Your options here are extremely broad, as you can choose from a variety of materials, shapes, and automation levels. Some cats do really well with the free-flow type feeding bowls, whereby they can choose how much they want, when they want. Other cats will eat themselves into too round a shape, given the opportunity. With a new cat, it’s often wise to provide them with their measured meals first, either by hand or by automated feeder, and then move on to a free-flow if your lifestyle or preference runs that way. In terms of bowl material, ceramic and glass are better options than rubber, as rubber can cause ‘cat acne’ in clusters under the chin. And for shape, a wider, flatter bowl wins the day, as this disturbs their whiskers less and makes meal-time a more comfortable experience all round!

Wet and dry food, and treats

To avoid any Old Mother Hubbard type bare cupboard situations, you can stockpile a certain amount of food for the newcomer pre-arrival. Make sure whatever you buy is suitable for their age, with kittens and geriatrics requiring food with different nutritional profiles than general adult cats. If you are getting a kitten, the wider variety of flavors and brands they are exposed to, the better. This will help prevent fussiness later on. For an incoming adult cat, you can try the wide exposure tactic, but you may need to use some trial and error to find a dish they deem palatable. Treats are also handy to have on hand, for training and reward purposes… and for when they are being extra adorable!


Long-haired cat being brushed

Though cats are pretty good at looking after their own grooming regime, they do need a bit of a hand to keep things in tip top condition. Based on your cat’s breed and fur type, you may need to be brushing them daily, or you may only be required once a week or so. Either way, brushing your cat regularly is a great bonding time and gives you a chance to check for changes in body condition or sore spots. For all types of fur, a brush that can penetrate to and loosen up the undercoat is a great investment. And a comb is helpful too, for more precise areas: under the chin, in the armpit, around the face, etc. 

Toothbrush, toothpaste, and preventative tests

Creamed colored cat getting teeth brushed with red toothbrush

Overlooked for far too long, we now know the importance of giving cats a helping hand with their dental hygiene. Cat dental diseases in the early stages can be very difficult to see with the naked eye. Get an oral health test for your cat to identify active signs of dental disease in your cat’s mouth. This information helps you take quick action and proactively combat these diseases. To prevent mouse-breath, and all sorts of other nasties such as gum disease, you should be brushing kitty’s teeth a few times a week. For this you’ll need a specialty toothpaste and brush. In a pinch, you can use your finger as the brush to spread on the toothpaste, but a proper item is better. If you try and try and can’t get your adult cat to submit to a toothbrushing (kittens are way easier), then there are toys you can buy that are designed to brush the teeth in the process of playing. 

Worming tablets and flea treatment

Your vet will check in on this at your first visit, but there’s nothing stopping you from getting prepared before your cat gets to your home. Another must-have for new pet parents is a stock of worming tablets and flea treatments, for general use year-round. It pays to do a little research first, to see what worming tablet dose is right for the size of your cat or kitten, and the frequency of dosage. The same goes for flea treatment. You’ll need to work out your family’s preference, be it for spot-on treatments or the diatomaceous earth option. These are an ‘always need’ product as you can be doing preventative treatments monthly, or even more frequently in kittens. 

Toys & enrichment items

Orange and white kitten playing with a feathered toy

Aw yiss, your cat’s favorite part of this list (after the treats section, perhaps). Having a good range of toys for your new cat or kitten is vital. Play is a really important part of their development, as well as being crucial for their sense of wellbeing and mental health. Indoor cats, in particular, need daily playtime, to help to expend excess energy and to allow them to live out the predator-prey hunting sequence that is hard-wired into their tiny fluffy heads. You can get mouse-shaped toys, toys that move on their own, dangly and wiggly toys, catnip filled toys, and many more. Something that doubles as a toy/feeding bowl is a puzzle-feeder. These are toys that you can put food inside that the cat needs to work out how to extract the food from. This serves a triple purpose: it slows down cats who otherwise bolt their food, it allows the predator-prey instinct to be fulfilled, and it entertains your cat in your absence during the working day. 

Scratch mat or tower

Like it or not, cats are going to scratch. They need to! It’s your job to provide them with something to scratch on that’s not going to upset anyone, or their furniture. To this end, you’ll want to get your new cat or kitten a scratching tower or scratching pad (cats vary in their horizontal/vertical preferences). The most important thing is a vertical scratcher needs to be tall enough to allow your cat to extend at full stretch - and they are darn stretchy creatures! If you’re going to fork out cash for a scratching tower, don’t get a small one just because you’re getting a kitten! You’ll want one tall enough for an adult cat. Think about the breed too. Ragdolls and the like are taller than your average cat, so will need even more room to stretch out. Grabbing a bit of catnip to help train your cat to scratch only the tower is also a worthwhile purchase. 

Cat bed

You know what’s going to happen, right? Your new cat will take one look at the plush cat bed you buy it, and head straight for pretty much anywhere else! Not always… a nice, soft cat bed can be very tempted when situated in a nice, cosy corner of the room. This isn’t an absolute essential item, but it’s a good addition. It may just save you from suffocating midnight face cuddles too. 

Harness and lead

Grey cat outside walking with its owner with a harness on

If you want your cat to see the world, safely, and get lots of exercise and socialization, then having a harness and lead ready to go is a must. It’s a lot easier to lead-train a kitten, as with all things, but it’s not impossible to get an adult cat on board, given patience and a bunch of treats. To choose the right harness, you’ll want to select an adjustable one, as their size will change over time. You’ll also need to get one that fits. For this, it might be best to wait until they arrive and you can try things one. It’s no fun for anyone (except maybe the cat) to see them slip out of an ill-fitted harness and run away up the road. 

Cat training book

This is an optional extra but is worth it for those who would like their cat to be able to do certain things (like sit, follow, etc) and behave a certain way (like walk on a lead, allow toothbrushing). Having an idea of the dos and don’ts of cat training before they arrive can help avoid potentially damaging interactions that can harm the relationship between you.


While this list may seem like a lot, these are just the essentials for creating a welcoming home for your new cat or kitten. As they are to be part of the family, your house should be furnished as such. Also, going shopping for all this great cat stuff is a lot of fun, and will be a step towards top-notch cat parenting that you’ll enjoy!

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