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Expert Cat Adoption Tips And Must-Have Prep Guide

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Expert Cat Adoption Tips And Must-Have Prep Guide by cat expert Layla Morgan Wilde.

Updated June, 2023. Please bookmark and share when appropriate. This comprehensive guide will prepare and educate any cat lover. Scroll down for the printable checklist.

June is Adopt a Cat Month and Adopt a Shelter Cat Month. While spontaneous cat adoptions do happen, it’s always better to be prepared. Most shelters will provide a carrier (often flimsy cardboard) but that leaves you to frantically shop for essential supplies. Imagine what an adjustment it is for a cat to transition from a shelter setting to a vehicle with strangers. Never your leave your cat alone in the car regardless of the weather when shopping. Ideally, you’ve one or two face-to-face meet and greets at the shelter before deciding he or she is “The One”. More tips on choosing the right cat

forever cat adoption catwisdom101

Adoption is all about being a responsible pet parent.

If you’ve ever fallen in love with a cat at first sight, you know how intoxicating it is. You want that furry face to grace your home right meow. But your new fur baby can wait another day or two as you get their new digs purrfect. Here’s how.

All the categories mentioned include age specific tips for kittens, adults, senior or special needs cats.

A note about color choices. Cat products are available in every color of the rainbow but cats perceive a different color spectrum than humans. If you think kitty will love the new shocking pink or red toy, think again. Feline vision is more muted within a gray, blue and yellow spectrum.

feline vision color spectrum VS human

  1. Cat Carrier. It’s always preferable to have your own cat carrier when you pick up your new family member. It offers the chance to make it cozy and you can spray the inside walls with Feliway or other “feel good pheromone” type product for a less stressful trip home. If your new cat is not microchipped, bring a collar with ID tag.


Cat carriers come in a dizzying choice of styles, colors and materials. Cheap plastic carriers are under $20 and the sky is the limit for luxury, designer carriers. Hello, Louis Vuitton. A good quality carrier will last for years. There are suitcase handled ones, round ones, ones with wheels, shoulder straps and even back packs. Read our post about easier vet visits.

It may be tempting to buy the adorable kitten-sized carrier, but kittens grown up fast. I’ve seen cats break out and escape from cheaply made carriers. Better to invest in the best quality carrier you can afford for peace of mind. I’ve tried just about every kind of carrier and there are pros and cons.

  • For large cats and two bonded cats, I suggest a large, hard-sided carrier with top entry for easier retrieval.
  • Average sized-cats, medium to large hard or soft-side carriers large enough to turn around in. Bonus shoulder strap.
  • Soft-sided carriers are easily folded and take up less storage space.
  • Hard-sided carriers can double as extra kitty house/bed with the door wide open.
  • For air travel, soft carriers are more convenient but note: every airline has specific size restrictions.
  • I like easy to clean round carriers with a zip off domed top. Darker colors are easier keep clean.
  • Add a small cushion, soft towel and/or puppy pad for accidents.
  • In multi-cat households, every cat needs their own carrier in event of emergency evacuation or moves.

Sleepypod carrier

Welcome Home!

As soon as you bring your new cat home, place the carrier in a quiet, designated room for the adjustment period. Some cats are bold and want to explore the perimeters of their new home right away, while others prefer to hide for days. Have all your cat care supplies ready. Open the door of the carrier. I like to quietly sit in the corner and observe. Allow the cat to come out when they’re ready. You can place a bowl of water nearby with a litter box

2) Cat litter Box

rules to avoid litter box issues

Litter box issues are the #1 reasons cats are surrendered back to a shelter or abandoned. Read our bonus tips to avoid litter box blues.

Think of your cat’s litter box as their bathroom. You want it to be conveniently located in a quiet area and kept spotlessly clean.

There are endless choices of litter boxes from disposable trays, plastic boxes to furniture style boxes. It’s tempting to choose of the kind of litter box style you like, but your cat may not like. Kittens will need a box with low sides for easy access, but it’s not necessary to buy a kitten-sized box they will quickly out grow.

BIGGER is better. Cats need space to do their business. If you want to know how much space, watch a cat outdoors. Cats have unique toileting habits. Some like walking in circles, scratching the walls, digging, covering up, flinging the litter out side the box. See our post about litter box history

clyde-black-cat-big-litter box

  • For cats who like to dig like crazy or pee vertically, a litter box with high walls is a must.
  • Cat with mobility issues require low-sided or three-sided boxes.
  • Cats have a highly developed sense of smell so most don’t like a covered litter box. Cats do like their privacy which a covered box provides but they’re harder to clean and retain odors.

3) Cat Litter We’ve come a long way since Kitty Litter was invented in 1947.

cat with Catalyst cat litter outdoors

With endless choices, no one wants to choose the wrong litter. What the litter looks or smells like and advertising promises mean nothing IF YOUR CAT WON’T USE IT.

Most cats aren’t fond of artificially scented cat litter. They like softer, more natural textures for their delicate paws. They hate breathing in dust from cheap clay litter as much you hate cleaning it. Everyone likes a bargain but with cat litter, you get what you pay for.

As a pet parent, cats rely 100% on you for their care from food, water, litter, environmental enrichment and veterinary care. They don’t care about fancy labels, designer products and whether it’s holistic or environmentally sustainable. They either like something or they don’t.

catalyst cat litter sample

It’s up to you to decide whether saving the planet is important. If so, our favorite litter that we love for all the right reasons is Catalyst Cat Litter. They’re new and whether you’re a first time cat adopter or not, you can rest easy making the right choice.

The all natural, lightweight Catalyst litter attracts cats to do what comes naturally. It clumps purrfectly and Odin heartily approves. He’s been our #1 cat product tester at Cat Wisdom 101 for 9 years and tested every kind of cat litter under the sun.

Check out Catalyst Cat Litter the lovely folks who kindly sponsored this helpful guide.

Catalyst Cat Litter





4) Food Your cat deserves the best nutrition possible.

vet 101-cat food guide

Shelter cats are usually fed bulk versions of big brand names. They’re okay but you can do better. It’s best to feed according to age and individual requirements. The only caveat is to avoid dry food or kibble. It’s huge moneymaker for pet food brands and the only reason they continue to produce it. It’s the elephant in the room and biggest secret. As a responsible pet parent, it’s up to you to do your research. There are lots of resources. Start with our post Why Dry Food is NOT a Healthy Option for Cats and our Vet 101 post Guide to Choosing Cat Food


Think of treats as junk food. The occasional guilty pleasure is fine but not every day. Sure you can get organic, healthy treats but cats go crazy over the junkiest treats. But remember everything in moderation. Treats are tasty because of their salt content and artificial flavoring. If you are using daily treats consistently for training, I’d opt for something more natural like free-dried chicken. At our house, our favorite treat are fishy flakes AKA Bonito Tuna flakes. You can get a bag from an Asian food store for a fraction of the price of those sold from pet supply stores.


cat bowls

Chances are you already have suitable bowls in your kitchen but it’s fun to get ones just for Kitty. No, they don’t care if they are monogrammed or have fancy designs but they do care that they’re wide enough and not too deep. I’m a huge advocate of raised bowls which aid digestion and water fountains. Suitable cat bowls can be ceramic, copper, stainless steel or Pyrex glass but be sure ceramics are food safe and please don’t use plastic bowls. Cheap plastic bowls leech chemicals and can cause chin acne. More Bowl buying tips

Cat need fresh water daily.

cat licking white bowl

Cats in the wild prefer to eat a distance away from their water source. To recreate this natural preference, don’t buy attached sets of food and water bowls. Instead, keep food and water bowls at least a few feet apart. Plus keep additional water bowls in other rooms. We have additional water fountains on each floor. Note: Fountains require more maintenance, cleaning parts and changing filters but they’re worth it. More tips on keeping cats cool and hydrated this summer

#7 Cat Beds

kitten in cozy bed

It’s a running joke in many households that a cat can have their own cat bed and yet choose to sleep in a dozen other places. Cats are creatures of comfort. They may like to follow sun puddles and loll about on a rug, your favorite chair or curled on top of your sweater. They love the warmth of laundry hot from the dryer, a silky duvet and weird places like drawers and way too small boxes.

You don’t have to buy a cat bed but at least make a cozy nest of a cardboard box with soft old sweaters or towels. If you do decide to purchase, consider how well it’s constructed and is it washable. And cats outgrow those cute kitten beds in no time.

This was Odin’s first bed when he arrived a kitten. Needless to say, he outgrew it fast.

Odin in a blue kitten cat bed

8) Hideaways

funny cats in cardboard boxes

All cats like cozy spots to hide. Sure they can hide under beds or furniture but why not make a little place of their own? It can be a plain cardboard box or ten. Clear a spot in a closet, shelf or cupboard. When we moved last year Clyde made a beeline for a built-in bookcase. We added cushions and became his official cat bed.

two cats in a living room with bookcase hideaway

After he passed away, we used it to display mini-Domino. Recently, Nou Nou decided to occupy it and make it hers. We love re-cycling and re-purposing existing spaces for cats.

cat hidey hole cat bed nest

9) Scratching posts

kitten with toy and scratching post

All cats need something to scratch and if you don’t want them scratching carpet or your new sofa, a scratching post is a must-have. Not all cats like to scratch vertically. Some prefer a horizontal surface or on an angle. DIY types can easily fashion a scratching post from sisal. I would suggest getting one scratching post to start and adding different one to place in multiple places. Read all my tips: Scratch This Not That

10) Vertical Spaces- Environmental Enrichment

The spiral ramp in Cohen's office is better than Disneyland

Not all cats have the need to climb but many do. We can easily increase their living space by using more vertical space. Before investing in modular cat units, kitty condos or specialized shelving, check your home for DIY solutions that cost next to nothing. For inspiration see our catification post. All cats love watching life outside their window and sunbathing. See how you can improve their view from as many windows as possible. If there is a windowsill, add a cushion. If the windowsill is too narrow, add a shelf or piece of furniture sturdy enough to climb on.

Use and re-purpose what you have. This is what we created for Odin. In our new house, we used the children’s chair to reach the top of an armoire.

catification-DIY vertical space cats

Kitty condos double as scratching posts, cat beds and perching spots. For those who don’t want their home to look like crazy cat lady central, there are stylish design available to suit any decor.

11) Grooming Supplies

Every cat needs grooming but some more than others. Long-haired cats require daily grooming and during summer all cats shed more. I find an inexpensive flea comb works better than a regular brush. Heavy shedding cats need grooming tools like a Furminator. Please be careful using any metal tool near bony areas. Cats need their claws (why you should never declaw). Some cats hate having their claws trimmed and need to have a groomer or vet to trim them. I’ve always used a human nail clipper but the scissor type designed for cats works well. Have your vet instruct you or watch a veterinary YouTube video.

12) TOYS & Catnip

Purrfectplay Collage catnip toys

The market is exploding with a cornucopia of cat toys. Before you know your new cat’s preferences don’t stock up on catnip toys. About a third of cats don’t respond to catnip. Buy a small tin of good quality organic catnip to test. Start your kitty toy collection gradually with a selection of mice, crinkle and other balls. We’ve huge fans of ping pong balls which are cheaper by the dozen. Shop for at least one interactive “wand type” toy. Battery-operated toys are not my favorite. They tend to breakdown and quickly use up batteries but some cats love them.

wand toys cats-birbug

Miscellaneous bonus items can include calming products like Rescue Remedy, cleaning products like enzymatic odor neutralizer, cat shampoo and flea and tick protection for indoor/outdoor cats.

Have a safe and happy June everyone! Please leave a comment about your favorite essential cat supply item.

xo, Layla, Odin, Nou Nou & Angels


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