Adopting a Cat

Updated on September 16, 2013
A.H. asks from San Antonio, TX
13 answers

I've never had a cat before, but we've been thinking about getting one. Does it matter if it's male or female? What kinds of things do we need to buy before we bring one home? And should we take it to the vet first? I know this sounds silly, but like I said, I've never had a cat before. Is there anything else I need to know about having a cat as a pet?

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answers from St. Louis on

They need food and a litter box. I used to think females are the only way to go until my daughter brought Stinky home. Don't look at me, she named him. He is so sweet, so loving, so lazy. Tolerates everything my younger daughter dishes out.

When you take them to the vet depends on the age.

The biggest thing about cats, they are not dogs. Doesn't matter the package, the personalities vary.

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answers from San Diego on

Being male or female make no difference at all. What matters most is getting one with a personality and disposition your whole family meshes with. We have had both and never found differences because of sex. Always get them spayed or neutered if they have not been before you adopt them, which is rare these days. The only reason to leave a cat intact is if you plan to breed them which I say leave to the professionals. Having them altered helps tremendously at preventing behaviour problems and keeps them healthier.
You will need a carrier of some kind to transport them from the place you are adopting from to your home and to the vets office. A towel in the bottom makes it more comfortable for the cat. You can either use a cardboard one or invest in a nice plastic one. I prefer a plastic one, easier to clean in case of an accident while traveling.
You will need a litter box. You will need cat sand, preferable unscented, cats really don't like the scented and you can run into litter box issues. A bowl for food and water. Have some appropriate scratching posts, or those cardboard scratchers so your cat can have a safe place to satisfy it's natural need to scratch and to save your furniture. A few toys are great for kittens so they can burn off all that kitty energy. I have yet to have a cat that didn't love chasing after a good laser pointer!
Some cats like beds, some do not. We have several that ours use now and again but they much rather like everyone's beds, the couch, the coffee table or the middle of the floor. I would not consider it a necessity but it's always nice to offer then an out of the way place to curl up to get away from the chaos of kids during the day when they want to.
We've always brought them home and then made the vet appointment for a day or two after we get them. Most places will adopt cats out with their first set of shots and a basic vet exam to get you started. But I would not wait too long after you adopt to bring them to your own vet of choice to establish yourself there, to get flea meds, get any booster shots they may need and make sure the vet did not miss anything or that nothing new developed.
Make sure you have the whole family there to meet any potential new furry family members to make sure that everyone gets along. Getting a cat is not something mom and dad should go out and get to surprise the kids with! There is no way of knowing how that cat will interact with those kids and you can find yourself with some serious issues. Just because the adoption sign says "good with kids" does not mean they will be good with yours.
Remember cats can live on average 15-20 years. This will be *your* cat, not the kids' cat. You will have to make sure they are fed, get clean water, cat box changes etc. The kids can help, we tell ours to grab the food tub and feed the cats and give them fresh water when needed but we never rely on them to be solely responsible for remembering and getting it done.
Cats for Dummies is actually a good starter book as is Kittens for Dummies. We actually bought the kitten one when we rescued a mama cat and her 2 kittens when they were around 3 days old. We'd never had cats that young before. While we had the mama, she was very young herself and there were some new challenges we'd never had before.
We have 4 cats right now, we had 2 others that have since passed on from old age and I had one growing up. I love my cats to pieces! They can be trained and do understand simple commands like "No" and "Down". Mine even know "scoot scoot" which is what I used when I needed them to get out of my way when they block the hallway or something LOL Some can even be leashed trained if you want to.
Please, don't have an indoor/outdoor cat. An indoor only cat is healthier, lives longer, does not track in fleas to the entire household-even on flea meds, there are less vet bills for indoor cats as they are not getting into fights or getting into things that can get them ill.
Kittens are a lot like babies/toddlers. You need to make sure your house is baby proof. No access to electrical cords they can chew on. Keep cupboards closed. Keep cleaners and meds out of reach.
Cats make fantastic pets! Just make sure you do some research first so you know what you are doing and what to expect :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I prefer male cats. They are more affectionate. Make sure you get it neutered and it has its shots. You will need a litter box and a food and water dish. Maybe a scratching post. Cats should be kept indoors.

ETA: Cats need to be kept indoors not only for their protection, but for the protection of our songbird population. Cats are natural predators, but not natural to North America, and have taken a great toll on the bird population.

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answers from Los Angeles on

We got a cat for my daughter about 6 months ago. We took her to the vet after we got her so she could get her shots. And in a couple weeks she will get fixed.
Besides the basic stuff like a litter box we bought her a scratching post and small toys.

The scratching post doesn't totally keep her from kneading on the furniture so last week I bought her "soft paws" they are plastic nail covers for the front paws so when she kneads it doesn't damage anything.

Honestly she is the least maintaince of the animals we have. Super easy. Great addition to the family.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I would spend time with some cats first. Make sure you and your family members aren't allergic before you bring one home and get attached to it. They can shed a lot. Are you prepared for that? Maybe purchase a book or cat magazine to read up on them too. When we were considering a rabbit we actually did a trial run first with a loaner rabbit from a friend of mine who raises rabbits for 4H. It didn't work out for us so I'm glad we tried it first before we made a commitment. I have friends and relatives who are very devoted cat owners, but half of my family is allergic to them, which is why I make these suggestions. I don't intend to be negative or discouraging because I love animals, just suggesting preparation! Good luck.

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answers from Wausau on

A bunch of disjointed thoughts:

Gender doesn't matter, but spay or neuter either way. This should be done before puberty.

Make a vet visit immediately for a full checkup. If the cat hasn't been receiving care there may be vaccinations and parasite treatments to do. Schedule the spay/neuter if it hasn't already been done.

Your cat should see the vet on a regular basis. Depending on where you live, vaccinations will be done every 1-3 years. Cats also need dental every 5-7 years, which is a major undertaking.

Know that illnesses can be expensive, especially if you need to see the emergency vet. Cats are good at hiding injuries and illness, so when a cat actually appears sick it is dire and you need a vet right away. It can't wait until payday, so make sure you've put some money away in case of cat-emergency.

Do not declaw. Many vets won't even do it anymore. If you insist on having a declawed cat, adopt one that already had it done. They sometimes have behavior problems though, which is the common reason why declawed cats are surrendered.

If you're super fond or protective of your furniture, don't get a cat.

You'll need at least one litter box. Two is better if you have the space.

Some cats like vertical scratchers, some like horizontal. Surfaces matter too. There is no way to know until you try them. Ours loves his Cosmic Alpine scratcher, which is made of cardboard and at an angle.

Do a little research on cat foods and best feeding practices. We made the mistake of buying a cheap dry food and our cat developed a health condition. Now he is on a special medical food (both dry and canned) that costs more than a decent food would have from the start.

If you have friends that are allergic, some of them won't be able to come over anymore. One of our friends takes medication and I always do a thorough cleaning, which helps. Another friend can't even be in the door for more than 5 minutes without puffing up.

On that note, be sure that no one in your household is allergic. Go to the shelter and rub your face right on a cat. That should get a quick answer. ;-)

If you have kids, they have to be strictly monitored and have proper behavior enforced. No chasing, no cornering, no pulling tails, no picking up if they are too young to do it properly. Google for "what is my cat saying" to learn about body language. Cats give noticeable warning signs before they scratch or bite.

Check your local laws. In our area, cats have to be licensed annually. To get the licence, you have to show proof that they are up-to-date with their rabies vaccination. Cats here are also subject to leash laws, which means no free-roaming outdoors. You can train kittens to a harness and leash, or you can have an outdoor enclosure (should have a roof, they climb).

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answers from Philadelphia on

'Currently' I have 7 cats and I have been 'owned' by many cats for many years. Male or female doesn't matter. Adopt the one that 'feels' right with you (they all have different personalities). Adopt from a rescue group if you can. Decide if you want a kitten or to adopt an adult cat. Pros and cons of both: Kittens are super cute but they climb on EVERYTHING and you need to teach them. They can be alot of fun too, but again, they get into a lot and are real hyper when they play. If that is what you chose, have lots of toys and a scratch post. One of those big round ones that have the hole in the middle to climb in/sleep. Or a small cat tree (something that they can climb all over and not on your furniture). To reinforce acceptable scratching areas, I like to use catnip spray (get it in the petstore). My kitties love it)... AND always take kitty to the vet as soon as you adopt. Spay or neuter before 6 months. If you chose an adult cat, make sure you know what their personality is. Some are not good with small children or other pets, some are. Some are very lovable, some are skittish. You can always get the history of each kitty from the rescue group. Adult cats are past the crazy kitten stage and are generally more mellow and if you don't want to deal with all the kitten crazieness, then an adult may be right for you. MAny just want a forever home and will fit right in. Just know that if you bring one home, be prepared that kitty may go into hiding for a while (some do, some make themselves right at home). This is normal. New place, new smells... don't try to overwhelm kitty, just let him or her come out when they are ready. Sometimes it can be hard to find them. Whatever you chose, always buy new cat items, no used (because you don't want kitty smelling another cat on things. They have a fantastic sense of smell). Also make sure you get a cat carrier before you get a cat. Don't try to adopt a cat and think that you can put them in your car and they will sit on someones lap or even sit still. Will never happen, trust me, I know! And also, have a vet picked out before you adopt. If you never had a pet before, find your local vets and go into the office and check them out. Just look around and see what their hours are. When I moved to where I am now, I was using one vet that I liked, but he only had one evening hours and the rest were business hours and it got to the point where I unless I wanted to keep leaving work early to take one of the cats to the vet, I needed to switch. The one I use now has evening hours, lots of doctors and Saturday hours. I think that is all I can think of to get you started. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I've had several cats over the years. They've all been indoor/outdoor cats. I know vets recommend keeping them indoors only. However all but one of my cats, except one, have lived long active lives. They've only been to the vet for shots. My current cat is 20. The cat who died young was hit by a car in my driveway shared with a neighbor.

I suggest that we do not need to be so protective of our animals. Let them enjoy the outdoors if they're so inclined.

If you adopt from the Humane Society or a shelter they will have been examined by a vet and have had their shots. No need to take them to another vet unless they're ill.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

To buy first - food, l.itter box and litter, toys.

Take it to the vet immediately to be tested for internal parasites, checked over, and vaccinated if the shelter didn't already vaccinate.

Make an appointment for spaying/neutering ASAP.

Female cats should be spayed BEFORE their first heat. They do not go out of heat until they get pregnant.
Once male cats reach puberty, if they are not neutered, they will start scent-marking (spraying). The only thing that smells worse that tom cat urine is skunk, and that may be a tie.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

Males pee to mark their territory. It's so stinky and almost impossible to get rid of the smell.

Females go in heat and have to be fixed after their first heat. You just have to listen to the howls for a couple of days. Then get her fixed.


answers from Tampa on

I second the soft paws, been using them for 6 years! Also I have a tidy cats breeze litter box and love it! It uses pellets and pee pads. You change the pads once a week, and scoop. There no dust or messy cleanup after cleaning the box. You will want at least 2 litter boxes. Also a few cat toys. And if your adopting from a shelter they should be up to date on everything.



answers from Phoenix on

With very young children, I would definitely recommend going to a shelter and finding an adult cat, preferably one who is already de-clawed. Kittens are so fun, but they have those little needle claws and teeth and pounce on absolutely everything! I would get a nice "starter cat," an adult that is mellow and friendly, neutered, and more of a known quantity as far as personality. I recommend the de-clawed cat so you don't have to worry about scratches on the kids, not the furniture. I would hate to de-claw a cat, but there are lots out there who have had it done already that need homes. Unfortunately, people often see cats as disposable, so there are plenty of de-clawed cats that are great pets that get dumped for no reason other than apathy from the original owner.
Good luck, and have fun picking out a kitty!



answers from San Francisco on

We adopted a cat last Christmas through a rescue center. It was a wonderful experience!! We adopted an older cat..6yrs. She came spayed, all up to date with shots, a current visit to the vet/teeth cleaning, potty trained and a couple days worth of food. We paid $25 for her and I think that was merely a donation to the Rescue Center.

She is the most lovable, snuggly female cat who purrs even if you happen to glance her way and make eye contact :) Seriously though...she loves, loves, loves our 3 kids and checks on them at night when they are put to bed then sees them off each morning when they go to school. It is adorable!!

I vote going through a rescue center. We went on -line and looked at their bio's. Our cat even had a video posted with her so we could see her snuggling up to the host mom who was taking care of her.

With a Rescue center, we had to sign a contract that we would take care of her and if it came to a point that we couldn't then we were required to give her back to the Rescue Center. It was very reassuring to know they would take her back if it didn't work out for us.

We "prepared" for a cat by getting a litter box, food that she was already eating, found a local vet and made sure our kids knew that the house needed to be quiet when she came home. We made sure they knew to give her space and not bombard her with love and attention. They were good so good about waiting to let her come and love on us when she was ready. It took only a day and then she was acting like she was ours from birth.

Oh...we love our cat. We have turned into one of "those" crazy cat owners that share stories about their cat, miss their cat terrribly when on vacation and talk to their cat as if she understands. We are smitten :)

Good luck finding a cat of your own! Ours started out as an indoor cat...but she wanted desperately to go outside. We let her out little by she loves to explore during the daytime and we bring her in every night.

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