How to Care for Your Cat’s Basic Needs

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cat eating delicious soft food

Taking on any new pet is a big commitment and one that requires plenty of research and preparation. If you’re a new cat owner, you may be feeling slightly overwhelmed! What do cats need?

Thankfully, in this article, we’ll be focusing on how to prepare for a new cat – from food and water to litter boxes and toys.  Before you hit the pet store, let’s find out what should be on your shopping list!

Quick Overview

01

Cats need good quality, balanced cat food, free access to water and a litter box and cat litter of their choice.

02

You should provide your cat with a scratching post, cat tree, or scratching mat, as well as toys for physical and mental stimulation.

03

Cats need vaccinations, parasite treatments, and routine health checks from the veterinarian, so make sure you register with a clinic as soon as you bring your cat home.

What Do Cats Need?

Cats don’t just need material things, but it’s important that your home has everything your cat requires to be healthy and happy. Here’s a list of ten of the most important things that every cat needs:

1. A Nutritionally Complete Cat Food

Feeding your cat the right cat food is crucial for their health. Wet food is best for helping your cat keep up with their hydration and preventing urinary problems, while dry food is often better for a cat’s teeth. Whether it’s dry cat food or wet cat food, the most important thing is that it’s nutritionally complete, balanced, and specifically formulated for cats.

You might assume that it’s okay to feed dog food to your cat, after all, how different could it be? However, cats have quite specific nutritional needs! For example, cat food contains taurine, which is an essential amino acid that a cat’s body can’t make itself, so it’s really important to stick to kitty food.

2. Free Access to Water

Cats need free access to fresh water, whether it’s in a water bowl or a water fountain. Chances are, though, that even if you provide plenty of feline-friendly water sources you’ll still find your cat lapping from the dripping tap in the bathroom or trying to drink from the pond in the garden!

3. A Litter box and Cat Litter

Cats are very clean animals and are easily litter box trained at a very young age. This means you’ll need a litter box at home. It’s not just indoor cats that need a litter box, either, even if your cat ventures outdoors sometimes, they’ll probably still choose to pass urine or feces inside, at least some of the time. When it comes to choosing a litter tray and type of cat litter, each cat will have their own preferences.

Some might rather do their business while enclosed in a covered litter box, while others might like the freedom of just a tray. Equally, if you have a kitten or a cat with arthritis, they might struggle to step into a litter tray with high sides, so it would be better to choose a shallower tray.

Also Read: How to Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box

4. A Scratch Post (or similar)

ginger cat with a cat pole

Cats are highly motivated to scratch, so it’s important to provide a suitable surface for them.

Cats use scratching posts, cat trees, and scratch mats to maintain their claws, stretch their muscles, and leave their scent. If you don’t provide items like these that are suitable for scratching, you might find that your cat takes a shine to your wooden furniture or expensive carpet. You can help direct your cat to their designated scratching areas by using pheromone sprays or catnip.

5. Cat toys

You might not think that cat toys are essential, but they’re really important for keeping your cat active and relieving boredom or anxiety. Choose a variety of toys that encourage problem-solving, chasing, coordination, and hunting practice. Your cat will probably play alone sometimes, but they’ll get lots more enjoyment if you join in with playtime – and interactive play is a great bonding exercise.

6. Somewhere to Sleep

Cats like to have somewhere safe and secure to rest. This might be a cat bed or cat carrier filled with blankets, placed in a quiet and cozy part of the house, or it could be that your cat prefers the linen cupboard, the spare bed, or a perch on top of the wardrobe! Cats like to be up high, so a bed placed somewhere elevated might be appreciated.

Regardless of where your cat chooses to rest, make sure they have a designated spot that they can retreat to if they’re feeling scared or need some peace and quiet.

7. Vaccinations

Your cat’s vaccinations are essential and will help to protect them from diseases like cat flu (caused by herpesvirus and calicivirus), panleukopenia, and feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Depending on where you live, your cat might also need additional vaccinations, including one against rabies. You can find out more about the combined feline vaccination by reading our article on the FVRCP vaccine for cats.

8. Parasite Treatments

It’s not just vaccinations that cats need, they also need regular treatment against parasites like roundworms, tapeworms, fleas, and ticks. Depending on where you live, they might also need protection against certain types of flies, which can even carry diseases.

Of course, if you have an indoor cat, they’re less at risk but don’t forget that fleas could still find their way into your home. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the most appropriate parasite treatments for your cat.

9. A Veterinarian

Veterinarian doctor is making a check up of a cute beautiful cat

All cats require regular check ups with a vet, and may need routine treatment such as vaccinations and parasite control.

As soon as you bring home your feline family member, it’s important to register with a veterinary clinic. After all, as much as we want our cats to be well, you never know when they could become urgently sick or injured.

When registering with the veterinary clinic, it’s a good idea to find out the opening hours, out-of-hours setup, and some of the routine costs. This is also a good time to take out insurance or plan your finances to ensure you are prepared for unexpected costs.

10. A Microchip

A microchip is a tiny device that sits under the skin between the shoulder blades. It’s about the size of a grain of rice and, when scanned with a microchip reader, it displays a unique number that correlates with their details on a database.

This means that if, heaven forbid, your cat went missing, they could be quickly identified using their microchip when found. This beats a traditional ID tag because it can’t fall off! Of course, in order to get this peace of mind you’ll need to remember to keep your contact details and address up to date on the microchip company’s database.

Summary

The list above contains some of the most important things that cats need, and before you adopt or buy a cat or kitten, it’s a good idea to browse the list and make sure you’ve got everything covered. Don’t forget, though, alongside these things, one of the most important things you are doing for your new cat is providing them with a home full of love.

Also Read: New Cat Owner Anxiety: Why It Happens & How to Overcome It

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a cat need every month?

Depending on where you live and the parasite treatments your veterinarian recommends, your cat will likely need parasite control every month. This will help to keep fleas, ticks, worms, and other nasties at bay.

How do I prepare for a cat?

Taking on a cat can be daunting and there’s lots to think about. Make sure their basic needs will be met, such as food, water, litter box, toys and beds, as well as veterinary care. As long as you have considered everything from the list above, you won't go too far wrong!

How do you pet a cat for beginners?

Not every cat enjoys being petted; however, if your cat-petting etiquette isn’t up to scratch even the most docile cats could lash out! Cats often don’t like to be touched in certain areas, including their belly, paws. or tail. Until you get to know what your cat likes, you should avoid these areas!

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About Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVETMED MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. Hannah is an expert on cat behavior and nutrition.