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Do you have an adult cat or are about to adopt one? Even if you have had cats before, there is a lot of expert information in this guide that can make you a better cat parent. This guide will answer all of the most common questions about cat care to help you have a happier, healthier cat well into his senior years. 

Bringing Your New Adult Cat Home

What do I need to do to make my home cat-proof?

Make sure potentially dangerous items are out of the way, like electrical cords, rubber bands, hair ties, linear objects (strings, ribbons, etc), blind cords, medications, plants, cleaning supplies or household chemicals, potpourri, and anything small enough that you wouldn’t want a toddler to have access to. Make sure areas under recliners, behind fridges/ovens, your window screens, and your laundry areas are fully secure, as all of these can pose serious hazards to your cat

Where should I keep my cat when I first bring him home?

Adult cats need time to adjust to a new environment. Restrict the cat to one room of the house at first, with the food, water, litter box, treats, bedding, and toys all inside. If your cat seems very anxious, you can use special "calming" products.

Feliway
This product is a synthetic analog of feline facial pheromones available in plug- in diffusers and sprays that helps to calm the anxious cat. You can plug the diffuser in to affect a whole room or use the spray on local areas like bedding.
Pet Naturals Calming treats for cats
Treats can be offered during any potentially fearful event.
 

If I already have animals, how can they get used to each other?

Start with the door closed, gradually working up to opening it a crack. Use a towel or an article of your clothing to transfer scents from pet to pet and feed treats on opposite sides of the door or a baby gate. Use calming products all over the house to help keep everyone calm, and don’t push the introductions if they’re hissing or seem scared, although limited hissing and growling is not abnormal.

Feliway
This product is a synthetic analog of feline facial pheromones available in plug- in diffusers and sprays that helps to calm the anxious cat. You can plug the diffuser in to affect a whole room or use the spray on local areas like bedding.
 

When should my new cat meet my other pets?

Keep all other pets in the house away until the newcomer is comfortable in his/her "safe" room. Provide as much human interaction as possible!

When all cats appear to be relaxed and are no longer hissing, you can gradually allow them to explore the rest of the house, use other litter boxes and meet other pets, under your direct supervision, until all residents are content with each other.

Vetri Science Composure Feline Chews
Treats will encourage cats to be more social with each other. Have a "treat party"  when the cats encounter each other, turning a potentially negative situation into a positive one.
NaturVet Quiet Moments
Treats will encourage cats to be more social with each other. Have a "treat party"  when the cats encounter each other, turning a potentially negative situation into a positive one.
 

When can I move the litter box out of the "safe" room, if that isn't where I want it to be permanently?

Put a second box for your new cat where you want it to be long term. As soon as the cat is comfortable walking around the house and using the second box, the first one can be moved to a more desirable location.

Precious Cat Ultra Litter Attractant
An herbal scent will help him find the litter box, and want to use it
Natures Miracle Calming Spray can be sprayed around the litter box areas
Helps cats remain calm in tense situations
 

When can I move the food and water?

As soon as your cat is comfortably exploring your home, it’s safe to move the food to another location, as long as it’s free from loud noises and heavy traffic that could startle your cat. If you have multiple cats, once they’re living comfortably together, you can move your new cat’s food to the same room as the other cats. They may require more than one feeding station to discourage competition for resources.

Should I allow my cat to go outside?

Cats who go outdoors unprotected can be injured by cars, exposed to toxins, get lost, and attacked by predators or other cats. In addition, these cats are more likely to be infected with deadly viruses,  intestinal worms, heartworms, fleas, bacteria and fungus. Keep your cat safe on a securely screened-in patio or porch, where he can enjoy the outdoors in safety.

PetSafe Small 2- Way Locking Cat Door
If your cat must go outside, provide her with a small door so she can get in quickly if she feels threatened, and always lock her in at night for safety
 

Will my indoor cat require a collar?

Yes, Any cat can accidentally slip outside.

 

 

Socializing and Training

How do I safely pick up or hold my cat?

Pick up from under the chest and support under your cat’s rear end.

How should I get my cat used to petting?

Your cat may be fearful of touch at first. Focus on getting him used to being petted gently on the middle of the back, moving your hand in line with his fur growth. Some cats don’t like to be petted on the head and others don’t like near the tail or the stomach. Pay attention to your cat’s body language, including whether they’re swishing/wagging their tails, to help show you when to stop.

Can I scruff my cat?

Scruffing is grabbing the cat’s fur at the back of the neck, just as a mother cat would do to carry or discipline. Scruffing should only be done by trained veterinary professionals, and even then, it’s only the mother cat who should ever scruff a cat, and only as a kitten!

How can I help my cat be less nervous?

Cats can be very reactive to loud noises or fast movements. Have children practice moving slowly and quietly around your cat and always ensure that your cat has a safe place to go that is dark and quiet (a spare bedroom works well for this) that can be your cat’s safe zone to escape when scared.

How can I stop my cat from doing things I don’t like?

Cats respond best to positive reinforcement, not punishment. Don’t hit or yell, as this makes behaviors worse. You can deter your cat from countertops using startle methods (a water bottle your cat won’t see you spray or “hiss” machines that sit on your counters and hiss when your cat jumps up), but in general, it’s best to place your cat on the floor and reward her for being on the floor instead of the counter with a treat and praise.

Food and Water

What types of food and water bowls do I need?

Steel or ceramic food bowls are best, but do not use plastic. Fountains are better than bowls for water.

Should I feed my cat dry food?

Dry food is less expensive, easier to store, and less messy. Most cats prefer to nibble at their food around the clock, eating up to 30 small meals per day. You can control cats calorie intake by feeding a high or low calorie food,low in carbohydrates, while having it available at all times.

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Should I feed my cat canned food?

Canned Wet food and soft moist pouches contain a lot of water, which makes it more expensive and also subject to spoiling if the cat doesn't eat it all in one meal. However, cats seem to love it and once you start feeding it, the cat will demand it every day after that!

There are advantages to feeding canned food.  Cats in general do not drink enough water and canned food provides additional water.  Also, cats should eat a high protein, low carbohydrate diet, which is most often found only in certain canned foods. 

How do I know what cat food to buy?

There are so many products on the market it can be confusing. We recommend foods that are made in the USA with ingredients from the USA, to avoid the risk of contaminated sources overseas. The food should taste good, maintain your cat's ideal weight, and result in healthy, solid stools. Again, cats do not drink enough and do better on canned food.  Also, they are true carnivores and need a high protein, low carbohydrate diet to help prevent obesity and diabetes.  Very few dry foods provide the right ratio.  Many canned foods do.  

  • MANY Products: Orijen, Acana, Fromm, Great Life, Pure Vita,Weruva, Tikicat, Wellness, Natural Balance, Avoderm, Halo, Solid Gold, Merrick, Nutro Ultra, Purina Proplan, Newmans Own, Purina One, Kirkland Brand
  • Made in the USA

How much do I feed?

Your vet can tell you how much your cat weighs, and if she needs to gain or lose. Look at the recommendations on the food bag or can and feed for what you cat should weigh and not necessarily what she actually weighs to keep her weight ideal. However, what is printed on the bag cannot take everything about your cat into consideration.  Metabolic rates are different for each cat as is the level of exercise.  The scale, ultimately, is the best way to maintain a healthy weight for your kitty. 

Petmate Pet Cafe Feeder
This free feeder will provide food at all times for several days
Esky Electronic Portion Control Automatic Feeder
Automatic feeders can be programed to dispense just the right amount of food for cats who tend to overeat, and you don't need to be home.
Wonder Bowl Selective Feeder
This Selective Feeder keeps other pets out of your cat's food so it is perfect for cats on a special diet for medical reasons.
 

How often do I feed my cat?

If you’re feeding dry food, it should be in controlled portions at least twice daily. If you’re feeding canned food, it spoils after 15-30 minutes, so cannot be left down, but should be fed a minimum of twice daily.

How much water should my cat drink?

Fresh, clean water should be available to your cat at all times. The amount a cat drinks will depend on what type of food she is eating. Cats on wet food may drink very little to no extra water compared to a cat on dry.

Pet Safe Drinkwell Original Pet Fountain, or Aspen Pet Products Deluxe Fresh Flow pet fountain
Fountains will encourage your cat to drink more water. Use these instead of turning on the faucet for your cat, which can lead to annoying, demanding behaviors.
 

What treats are best for my cat?

Treats should be tailored to your individual cat's needs, and taste buds!

  • Feline Greenies Dental Treats will help keep her mouth fresh
  • Pet Naturals Hairball Treats are beneficial for long haired cats
  • Calming Cat plus melatonin soft chew for anxious cats
  • Catit Design Senses Grass Garden Kit for cats who like veggies

Are human foods safe for my cat?

Cats have special dietary requirements for protein and amino acids, so you should avoid feeding them human food exclusively, or diets that are 100% Fish. Small amounts of cooked meats, and occasional bites of your food are safe. Dairy products ideally should be lactose free for better digestion. Be sure you know what foods are not safe, like chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, macadamia nuts, garlic, yeast dough, coffee, salt and xylitol.

Where should I place the food and water?

Place the food and water bowls away from high traffic areas and the litter box . Food may need to go up high on a shelf, counter or dryer where only the cat can reach it if you have dogs.

Petsafe Slimcat Meal Dispensing Cat Toy  

       encourages your cat to exercise while eating, an excellent choice for an overweight cat.

Litter Box

Is one litter box enough for my cat?

One box per cat, plus one--is the rule! This means a minimum of two boxes for one cat or 11 boxes for 10 cats. You should also have at least one litter box on every story of your house. That means a 3 story house gets 3 litter boxes for one cat. Follow whichever rule of litter boxes is the greater number!

How big should the litter box be?

As big and deep as possible! Everything you read here is based on research by feline behaviorists. Cats prefer a lot of space so they can choose a new site each time, because they are very clean animals.

Pet Supermarket IRIS open top litter box
Pureness Giant Cat Litter Pan
The length of these extra large pans should be one and one-half times the length of the cat
Lowes large plastic storage containers
Place lid behind the box to protect the wall, and cut an opening for your cat to enter and exit
Walmart childs small plastic swimming pool
This may seem excessive but cats love the huge space. Perfect for multi-cat households​
 

Where should I put the litter box?

Choose a site that is private but easily accessible. Make sure that no humans or other cats will block the entrance. The box should be on a tile or wood floor. If carpet is the only option, then place a large piece of plastic under the box so no litter can spill on the carpet, which can lead to cats eliminating on the carpet. Location is everything! Cats prefer a quiet, safe, private place to potty, just like we do. It is important for the cat to never be interrupted or frightened by noise or activity near the box. At the same time, it should be close enough to be convenient. Two entrances and exits to the room where the box is located is ideal if you have multiple cats.

Purr-Fect Paws Cat Litter Mat
A commercially available mat to put under the box
Merry Pet Cat Washroom
An attractive, enclosed litter box for open living areas
 

Should the litter box have a cover on it?

This is a matter of preference for the cat. Most cats prefer open. If you would like to have a cover, provide one box with a cover and one without. If you are lucky, your cat will use the covered one just as much as the uncovered. The larger the covered box, the more likely your cat will use it.

Catit Jumbo Hooded cat litter pan
Booda Dome Cleanstep Cat Box
The advantage of a covered box is that some of them are designed to look like furniture so they are less obvious to visitors

What type of litter should I use?

Most cats prefer litter that clumps and is the consistency of sand, so you should try these first. There are also clay, granular, recycled paper, silica beads, grain based, garden soil and other types available.

Lowes playground sand or construction sand
These products can be more economical for multi-cat households, especially if you are using a small swimming pool as a litterbox.
Precious Cat Ultra Premium Clumping Cat Litter
Tidy Cats Cat Litter Clumping
Available in pet stores, online and in grocery stores, it has the ability to clump urine into easy to clean balls for scooping
Arm & Hammer Litter Deodorizer
Litter Deodorizer can help control odor for cats with particularly strong smelling urine
 

How often should I clean the litter box?

Every 2 hours up to once a day is ideal, depending on your schedule, the number of cats you have, and how fastidious your cat is.

Should I consider getting an automatic litter box?

Automatic self cleaning litter boxes clean the box after each use; however, some cats require special training to use them. Make sure the manufacturer includes instructions with the product.

Omega Paw Self-Cleaning Litter Box
PetSafe Simply Clean Litter Box
 

Exercise and Play

How should I play with my cat?

Cats love to stalk, chase, and pounce. Use hand held toys (not your own body parts as this can lead to inappropriate biting/scratching) that encourage this behavior. Drag any toy with a small rope (but don’t let the cat chew the string). You can even teach your cat to sit, jump and play fetch using positive reinforcement techniques with treats/praise.

Laser pointer--Cats love to chase the dot!
End play time with the laser toy with a toy the cat can catch or a treat
Cat Dancer 301 Cat Charmer
Go Cat Catcher Teaser Wand with
           Mouse Cat Toy
MYLAR Crinkle Balls
These toys allow you and your cat to have fun together!
 

How do I get my cat to exercise when I am not home?

Some cats keep themselves busy, but most will sleep all day! You can hide treats for your cat to search and find. Your cat may play with other pets in the house, but if not, you can encourage play with electronic toys. Bird feeders outside your windows, TV, or a radio can also keep your cat entertained.

Cats Meow Moving undercover mouse electronic cat toy
Ideas in Life rotating mouse kitten toy
Smart Cat Peek and play toy box
CatIt Treat Ball
Bergan turbo track cat toy
Kitty City pouncing paws motorized cat toy
These toys don't require your presence to engage the cat. Electronic toys can be set to turn on several times a day for short periods of time.
One Fast Cat exercise wheel
A great way for your cat to excercise indoors, but will require some training
 

Does my cat need a scratching post?

Your cat needs a place to scratch as well as to climb and explore. Cat condos help deter your cat from climbing on the furniture. They often include places to hide, and scratch as well. A natural wood firelog or and old wicker chair can be great for scratching.

Bergan turbo scratcher cat toy
KONG naturals Incline Scratcher Toy
These are designed to attract your cat to scratch
Cat Tree Scratcher Play House Condo, SmartCat multilevel cat climer
Put these in front of an uncovered window and your cats will love them!
 

Can I take my cat for walks?

It depends on the cat! The only safe way is on a leash with a special cat harness. Introduce your cat to the outdoors one step at a time, using lots of treats until she is comfortable. Some cats will enjoy this and others will prefer to stay indoors.

Coastal Pet Black Mesh Cat Harness, Kitty Holster Cat Harness
Savvy Tabby Nylon Cat Harness
These harnesses keep your cat securely attached to the leash outdoors, never rely on just a collar!
Strollers​
 

Is it okay to give my cat catnip?

Yes, but not all cats will react to it.

More About Keeping Cats Happy

For more information on keeping your cat happy, see our guide on Feline Enrichment.

Sleeping

Where in my house is the best place for my cats to sleep?

Cats sleep or rest about 60% of their day. They will do this almost anywhere, depending on their personalities.

Does my cat need her own bed?

Cat beds are usually enclosed so that cats feel more secure and hidden. Your cat may like his own bed on the floor or prefer the height of a shelf, a cat condo or a chair. Other cats will sleep hidden underneath furniture.

Here are some available cat beds:

  • Sunny Seat Window Mounted Cat Bed
  • Midwest Homes for Pets
  • Curious Cat Cube
  • Armarkat cat bed
  • Pet Ottoman

Can my cat sleep in bed with me?

Of course! This is where most cats want to be. If you object to this, you will need to provide an alternative place from day one, or your cat may be difficult to keep off your head while you are trying to sleep!

Can I close my cat out of my bedroom?

You can, but please make sure that water and litter boxes are available to your cat no matter whether you choose to lock him in or out of your room.

Traveling with Cats

Should I take my cat with me or leave them at home?

Cats more comfortable in their own environment. Studies even show that cats would rather be at home than with their owners. Therefore, it's often considered better to hire a pet sitter than to bring  your cat with you on vacation.

How do I get my cat in a carrier?

Gently. If you can’t just place him in it while you’re holding him with one hand under his chest and one under his back end, then try tilting the carrier on its end and lower the kitten into the carrier, back legs first. You can also wrap everything but her head in a towel and put her in that way to prevent getting scratched. Leaving the carrier out with the door open all the time makes it less scary to your kitty when the time comes to use it.

How do I take my cat in the car?

Cats are not small dogs. They get very anxious when removed from their familar environment. If you want your cat to be a good traveler, you will need to train him to go into a crate and relax. A cat loose in the car is very high risk for escape.

These are safe and comfortable for pet travel

  • OxGord Pet Carrier soft sided cat, Petmate top load pet kennel
  • Sleepypod

What if my cat doesn't like the crate?

You can start with short periods of confinement and lots of yummy treats! Gradually get your cat used to being in a crate for longer periods of time, in a moving vehicle. The alternative is to get a strong sedative from your veterinarian or to endure the sound of your cat meowing for the entire trip!

  • NurtureCALM feline calming pheromone collar
  • Calm Cat Anti anxiety and stress relief coat

Can my cat stay in a hotel with me?

Always confine your cat in a "safe" room, like the bathroom, when entering hotels or strange houses. Make sure she is relaxed and using the litterbox before letting her explore. Never allow your cat to go outdoors unsecured. They have been known to travel many miles to get back home.

Many websites provide information for traveling with your pet and hotel availability

Can my cat travel by air with me?

In most cases yes, but you’ll need to check with your airline, customs, and make sure that your cat is in proper health.

These websites provide additional information about health certificates for air travel and international travel requirements. Your veterinarian can also help you with this.

Grooming and Home Care

How often should I give my cat a bath?

For short-haired cats who keep themselves clean--Never! Most cats are very low maintenance in the grooming department. If you are allergic to cats, or have a cat who is unable to keep herself clean due to a medical issue, she can be bathed as needed. It is best to train them for this as well, or have the bath done by a professional.

Vet's Best dry clean waterless cat foam
Wash your cat without water!
E'Plaza Adjustable Polyester Pet Cat Washing Mesh Bags
Guardian Gear Nylon Cat Muzzle
Helps keep you and your cat safe during a bath
 

Does my long-haired cat need a hair cut?

He does if he is unable to keep his hair from getting matted. You should brush him every day to help him out, but sometimes keeping the hair short is the only solution. A professional groomer can clip most of the long hair, while leaving the head, legs and tail (a lion cut). Some cats just need to be clipped around their anal area, which is called a sanitary clip.

Four Paws Magic Coat Love Glove, Furminator long hair deshedding tool, Safari self cleaning slicker brush
Tools to help you remove the loose hair off your cat on a daily basis. Prevents hairballs and excessive shedding and matting.
 

Do I need to brush my cat?

Yes. It will help prevent hairballs. It also helps keep mats away.  It can be a wonderful bonding time for you and your cat, also.  In addition, you will find less hair around your home if you FURminate your cat daily which can be helpful to people with allergies.  

FURminator
Deshedding tool
 
Products on Amazon

Should I trim my cat's toenails or get him declawed?

You can train your cat (lots of treats, again!) to allow you to trim his nails or apply nail caps to his claws at home. Your vet or groomer can show you how. Surgical declawing of an adult cat is a last resort to be discussed with your vet.

JW Pet Company Deluxe Nail Trimmer for Cats
For trimming nails at home
Soft Nail Caps for Cat Pet Claw
     Control,
Soft Claws or Soft Paws Nail Caps
An alternative to declawing. You can put these on at home.
Scratching posts
These discourage your pet from scratching on unwanted surfaces and also help to keep nails trimmed.
 

How do I get my cat used to having her paws touched?

For nail trims, play with your cat’s paws while she’s asleep before introducing clippers. Then, work on pushing on the foot pads to extend the nails. Once your cat is comfortable with both of these, you can then introduce nail clippers.

Should I brush my cat’s teeth?

Yes! Cats get tooth decay and periodontal disease just as we do.  Start at a young age to get your kitty used to it.  Buy special paste and brushes at a pet supply store.

Veterinary Care

What does the vet need to do before I bring my cat home?

Cats should be blood tested for Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus before they are put in a house with other negative cats. A fecal test and necessary dewormings should be done for intestinal parasites. Ear mite treatment may also be needed.

How often should I take my adult cat to the Vet?

All cats should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year, regardless of whether or not they need vaccines. Exams are critical for all cats at least annually. Remember, cats instinctively hide symptoms of illness in order to avoid predators.

Does my cat need vaccinations?

Adult cats should have a Rabies virus vaccine every three years because it is required by law. An FVRCP vaccine protects against 3 other viruses that are highly contagious between cats. If your cat is around any other cats, they should have this vaccine every 3 years as well.

Does my cat need routine parasite tests?

Cats should be tested for parasites in their stools even if they live indoors and should receive routine flea preventative medication, especially if you have other pets.

Does my cat need routine bloodwork?

Getting blood values checked annually is a good idea.

How often does my cat need professional teeth cleaning?

Cats don’t brush or floss on their own. Need cleanings regularly, every year to 3 years in most cases.

Should I have my cat spayed/neutered and/or declawed?

Veterinarians often recommend neutering and declawing at the same time. All cats should be spayed/neutered to prevent accidental reproduction, roaming, aggression, marking, and even reproductive cancers. Declawing, however, can lead to many behavioral and even physical problems and should be avoided at all costs.

Should my pet be microchipped?

Yes!

Does my cat need pet insurance?

Yes!

How do I know if my cat is sick?

Watch for anything out of the ordinary--you know your cat! Cats do 5 primary things: eat/drink, urinate/defecate, sleep, play, and groom themselves. If there are any changes in the normal pattern, take your cat to the veterinarian!

Signs of Emergencies
Seizures, collapse, fainting, straining to urinate or defecate, eye injuries, swelling of the face, poisonous bites or bites from other animals, open/bleeding wounds, feeling too hot or too cold, breathing problems
Signs of Illness
Losing weight, changes in appetite, drinking more or less, urinating more or less, hair loss, behavior changes
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