19 things that will help your new cat feel at home, according to cat rescuers and a veterinarian

Phoebe

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Shoshi Parks/Business Insider
  • Make your cat’s transition to their new home as seamless as possible by stocking up on the essentials before their arrival.
  • Cats need supplies like a litter box, food, toys, and scratchers to make them feel safe, encourage healthy habits, and provide them with stimulation.
  • We consulted with two cat rescue organizations and veterinarian Andrea Moore, owner and medical director at Pinnacle Animal Hospital in California, to determine the most important items to have when bringing a new cat home.

The day you bring home your new cat is full of joy. But while you may be ready for snuggles and play from the moment your kitty arrives, most felines aren’t so gung-ho about moving day. Just when they were beginning to get used to the shelter or foster home – bam – here comes another transition. And cats, they aren’t the best at dealing with change.

Preparing for the arrival of your new cat ahead of time helps to assure that their adjustment will be as seamless as possible. While it’s a no-brainer that cats require a litter box and food, new cat owners may not realize that items like scratching posts, cat trees, calming pheromones, and toys can help reduce stress and provide your new pet with an enriching environment.

With the help of four experts, we’ve come up with a list of essential things to have when you bring a new cat home. For a veterinary perspective, we consulted with veterinarian Dr. Andrea Moore, owner and medical director at Pinnacle Animal Hospital in San Jose, California. Staff at two cat rescue organizations also lent their expertise on how to transition a cat to a new home: Danielle Carr, shelter manager at Town Cats in Morgan Hill, California, and Libby Farel-Friedman and Lindsay Franušić, supervisor and assistant manager of adoption programs, respectively, at the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) in Milpitas, California.

We’ve distilled their advice down into the following 19 essential things to have on hand when you bring your new cat home.


A cozy carrier for your kitty’s freedom ride and beyond

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Chewy

Mr. Peanut’s Double Expandable Carrier, available at Amazon or Chewy, $54.99

A cat carrier is mandatory for bringing your cat home from the shelter, said Franušić. We love Mr. Peanut’s stylish and comfortable tote, which can unzip to expand to almost three times the size of a regular carrier, making it more comfortable for long travel days.


A calming pheromone diffuser to decrease stress

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Chewy

Feliway Classic Diffuser, available at Amazon, $20.66

To help decrease stress and unwanted behaviors like urine spraying that go with it, both Moore and Carr recommend using a calming pheromone like Feliway during your cat’s first weeks in their furever home. Feliway, which mimics the F3 facial pheromones cats deposit when rubbing their cheeks against surfaces in order to mark them as safe, can help a cat transition to a new house, according to Moore.


Earthquake putty to keep knickknacks, vases, and picture frames from becoming playthings

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Amazon

Quakehold! Museum Putty, available at Amazon, $3.97

“When you actually get a cat into your home, you find that they love to explore and get on top of things,” explained Franušić. Adhering your knickknacks to shelves and tables using earthquake putty assures that your favorite picture frame or vase won’t end up in pieces on the floor. “It was a lifesaver for me,” she said.


A safe place for your kitty to do their business

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Amazon

Catit Jumbo Hooded Cat Litter Pan, available at Amazon and Chewy, $26.99

When it comes to a litter box, all of our experts agree that simple is best. You want a box your cat can use “without having to do any tricks,” said Dr. Moore. And even though they are convenient, she recommended avoiding self-cleaning boxes because the noises they make can frighten cats. At HSSV, they recommend just using a simple uncovered litter box, said Farel-Friedman. If you prefer your box to be covered to reduce smells or prevent your dog from getting inside, buy one with a removable lid that can be added later on.


An unscented, natural litter to make using the litter box appealing

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Amazon

ökocat Natural Wood Clumping Litter, available at Amazon or Chewy, $15.68

Moore recommended avoiding dusty litters, which can cause respiratory issues, and perfumy litters with a strong scent. All three of our shelter experts prefer litters made of natural materials like corn or millet. Carr’s favorite litters are made from pine wood. “I think they’re really efficient at neutralizing odors and are really easy to scoop,” she said. For more ideas, check out our guide to the best natural cat litter.


A flat, wide food dish to prevent whisker fatigue

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Amazon

Dr. Catsby Cat Food Bowl, available at Amazon or Chewy, $19.95

For cats with sensitive whiskers, brushing up against the side of a food or water bowl can cause pain and make eating stressful. To prevent “whisker fatigue,” Dr. Moore suggested using a flatter dish without steep sides.


Nutritious, scientifically formulated dry and wet food your cat will love to eat

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Amazon

Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food for Indoor Cats, available at Amazon or Chewy, $37.99

While many cats prefer dry foods, they are high in carbohydrates and calories, said Moore. Feeding a diet that includes wet food can help to maintain weight and overall health. “Wet food is great for cats because it provides more moisture. It’s especially important for males because you want them producing urine so they don’t have urinary issues,” she explained.

Franušić and Farel-Friedman recommended Hill’s Science Diet, which is scientifically formulated and comes in several varieties for cats with different needs. There are plenty of other high-quality options, including NomNomNow, a human-grade monthly cat food delivery service.


Irresistible treats for training and high-stress situations

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Chewy

Inaba Churu Lickable Puree Natural Cat Treat, available at Chewy, $17.96

“We use Churu for clicker training and it works wonders,” said Carr. Clicker training, a form of positive-reinforcement training that marks correct behaviors with a distinct clicking sound, is an excellent way to teach tricks and address behavior challenges in cats. Churu is great for stressful situations, too. “We have cats who are super stressed and we give them Churu, and it works so well to distract them from what’s going on,” said Carr. For more ideas, see our guide to the best cat treats.


Tasty dental treats to help promote a happy, healthy mouth

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Amazon

Feline Greenies Natural Dental Care Treats, available at Amazon, $2.49

Keeping your cat’s mouth clean is essential to its overall health. “Ideally, you should try to teach your cat to have its teeth brushed,” said Dr. Moore. But if that proves too challenging, dental treats are the next best thing. She also recommended using Oxyfresh Healthy Mouth water additive for stress-free dental care. For more options, check out our guide to the best dental products for cats.


A reflective breakaway collar to hold your cat’s ID tags on outdoor adventures

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Amazon

ROGZ Reflective Cat Collar, available at Amazon, $11.45

If your cat goes outdoors, they need a breakaway collar that will come undone if they get caught on a tree branch or fence, said Moore. We like this durable reflective collar by Rogz, which is the top pick in our guide to the best cat collars.


Stainless steel ID tags to make sure outdoor kitties get home safely

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Amazon

GoTags Stainless Steel Pet ID Tags, available at Amazon or Chewy, $7.95

Even if your cat is microchipped, ID tags engraved with their name and phone number can help them make it home safe and sound. If your cat is indoor-only, Dr. Moore said they don’t need to wear a collar or ID tags. Instead, microchip your cat so that they can be easily identified if they escape.


A comfy harness and leash set for taking your cat on a walk

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Amazon

Rabbitgoo Cat Harness and Leash Set, available at Amazon, from $14.98

For indoor cats, the outdoors is a fantasy world of sights, sounds, and smells that many find delightful. According to Dr. Moore, leash training “is a safe way to have [a] cat outside and a good activity for the cat and owner to do together.” But because being on a leash is not a natural behavior for cats, guardians need to take the time to acclimate their cat to the leash.


A brush for removing excess hair and decreasing nasty hairballs

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Amazon

Furminator for Cats, available at Amazon, from $26.99

Cats are fastidious, and in the process of grooming, they consume a lot of hair. For long-haired cats, especially, “brushing is really helpful to remove the loose hair that is ready to shed that may get matted if not removed,” said Moore. A good cat brush like the Furminator can help remove the excess hair and may reduce the frequency of hairballs.


A scratching post for your cat to claw

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Amazon

Max & Marlow Tall Scratch Post, available at Amazon or Chewy, $24.25

“Cats scratch as a scent marker, to help with their nails, and to relieve stress,” said Moore. Plus, your cat will be less likely to scratch your furniture if they have other options. This cat scratcher from Max & Marlow includes a 26-inch scratching post plus two attached toys. For more ideas, check out our guide to the best scratching posts.


A cat wand for chasing, pouncing, and play

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Amazon

GoCat Da Bird Pull Apart Wand, available at Amazon, $8.95

“The best toys are the ones where you can interact with your cat. Playing with them helps you to bond better,” said Farel-Friedman. Cat wands are a classic kitty favorite, and Carr recommended both Da Bird and Cat Catcher by GoCat. See our guide to the best cat toys for more options.


An interactive food puzzle toy to stimulate your cat’s hunting instincts

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Amazon

Catit Hagen Treat Ball, available at Amazon or Chewy, $4.49

“I think food puzzle toys are great,” said Carr. “They’re really good for cats who are overweight and for cats who are overstimulated. It’s more natural, too, because [it mimics the way] cats have to work for their food in the wild.” Moore suggested feeding kibble out of interactive food puzzle toys as well as – or instead of – treats.


Regular flea treatment to keep the itches away

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Amazon

Seresto Flea and Tick Prevention Collar, available at Chewy, $57.98

Flea control is important regardless of whether a cat is indoor-only or goes outside. Most flea treatments are topical, but Seresto also makes a flea collar that many cat owners like. Not all cats will be comfortable wearing a flea collar, but for those that tolerate it, Moore said it’s a good option.


A cardboard floor scratcher with tracking balls to promote independent play

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Amazon

Bergan Turboscratcher Cat Toy, available at Amazon or Chewy, $7.34

All of our experts agreed that there is no such thing as too many scratchers. Carr likes the Bergan Turboscratcher which has a ball in the frame. “Cats get their scratch on while playing with the balls inside,” she said. “They can play and entertain themselves so even if you’re not home they have stimulation.”


A cat tree tower for climbing, scratching, and play

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Amazon

Armarkat Classic Cat Tree, available at Amazon for $45.99

“We definitely recommend cat trees,” said Farel-Friedman. “They not only provide cats with the ability of choice, but they also provide them with exercise and stress relief.” Dr. Moore agreed: “You want to have vertical space, especially people who have a small living area.” The ideal tree has built-in scratching posts and plenty of spots to snuggle up. That’s why we like the classic cat tree from Armarkat, which is the budget pick in our guide to the best cat trees.