a tabby kitten is cradled in her owner's arms and she looks towards the camera

First time cat owner guide

Adding a cat to your family is one of the most exciting things you can do, so, first off, congratulations on your decision! 
We’ve got lots of advice on whether a kitten or adult cat is best for you, where to get your kitten or cat from, and even tips on how to choose a name – but this handy checklist below will help you prepare and get everything in place before you bring them home. Good luck!

Things to get for your new cat or kitten before you bring them home

  • A comfy bed
  • Food bowl and/or puzzle feeder
  • Water bowl
  • Litter tray or box. We recommend those with a removable lid as many cats like their privacy. If you have more than one cat, you’ll need one for each cat plus another one.
  • Litter
  • Cat carrier. Watch how to get your cat used to this here.
  • Toys for play
  • Scratch post. Cats have natural instincts to scratch and climb and enjoy doing this – plus, getting a scratch post can help stop your cat taking their claws to your furniture!
  • Grooming brush
  • If you’d like your cat to wear a collar, make sure it’s a snap release type that will easily come undone if you cat gets caught on something, so they don’t get stuck or hurt themselves. We strongly recommend getting your cat microchipped, even if you plan on keeping them indoors, so they can be reunited with you if they do get lost.

Choosing a vet

Researching and choosing a veterinary practice before you bring your cat home will give you peace of mind if your cat suddenly becomes ill soon after you get them.

If you’re getting a kitten or cat without a vaccination history, you will need to take them to your vet a few weeks after they arrive home. Read more about cat vaccinations here.

Read our advice about taking your kitten to the vet for the first time to help you prepare.

Make your home cat safe

Many people have no idea that certain normal household items can be deathly to cats. Bouquets containing lilies are a no-no for cat owners. The pollen is highly toxic and at our veterinary hospitals we do treat cats who have been poisoned by licking the pollen from their fur.

Make sure to keep cleaning products and medicines stored safely away. Cats love to climb and walk across worktops and kitchen cupboards and may knock bottles or tubs off the shelves, resulting in spillages which they may then eat or lick.

Antifreeze is also toxic to cats and can cause vomiting, seizures and breathing difficulties, among other health problems. Keep your cat inside when cars are being de-iced, and call your vet immediately if you think your pet has swallowed any.

Read more about common cat poisons and toxins here.

Legal rights and responsibilities

Did you know that in the UK, pets have certain rights by law? British pet owners have a legal duty to make sure their pets’ welfare needs are met.

All kittens and cats have the legal right to:
•    live in a suitable environment
•    eat a suitable diet
•    exhibit normal behaviour patterns
•    be housed with, or apart from, other animals suitable for their species
•    be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

You may also hear people referring to the five welfare needs as the ‘five freedoms’. Failing to meet a cat’s welfare needs could cause them to become sick, hurt, upset or stressed – and owners who fail to meet their cat’s welfare needs could be prosecuted.

Tips from real life cat owners

We asked real cat owners at Blue Cross for their top tips, and the things they wished they'd known when they first got their cats. This is what they told us:

“I wish someone had told me how long it will take to train them to use a cat flap! You will need perseverance and lots and lots of treats and roast chicken.”
Izzy’s owner

“My one piece of advice is if you get a long or semi-long haired cat – then get them used to being brushed when they are a kitten! Because trying to brush a fully grown moggy who needs to be brushed but doesn’t want to be, is not fun.”
Owner of Quade (a long-haired cat!)

“Know that kittens will chew and eat anything they get their paws on, just like dogs, especially when it is food related. Kittens like to eat cat and dog treats!”

Teddy and Franklin’s owner

“I wish someone had told me to get pet insurance. I rescued a darling tabbycat who had been a stray for some time. My parents said ‘don’t bother with insurance, we’ve always had moggies and they never have any health problems…’ Famous last words.

“About six months in she ended up having to have a rather serious operation which cost somewhere in the region of about £2,000. I now would never not have pet insurance and lifetime pet insurance at that. It’s emotionally distressing enough when your pet falls ill, let alone the worry of how you’re going to pay for it!”

— Page last updated 06/08/2019

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We provide free pet advice as every pet deserves to be well looked after. We treated around 35,000 sick injured and homeless pets last year. We're so glad we've been able to help these pets who are unable to help themselves, but there are thousands of sick and lonely pets still in need, so we need to ask for a small favour.

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