Tips for new cat owners

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Cats make wonderful companion animals (pets) – so it’s no wonder that there are nearly 4 million pet cats in Australia, with around 27% of households having at least one pet cat!

If you’re looking for a companion animal and have decided a feline is for you, read on for our tips, from choosing a cat, to setting up your home, to helping them settle in.

Finding your feline friend

We suggest visiting your local RSPCA shelter first if you’re looking for a cat or kitten. Almost always, RSPCA shelters have many different types and breeds of kittens and cats at any one time; short-haired and long-haired, different colours, and with a large variety of personalities.

You can check or pay visit to your local shelter. RSPCA cats and kittens are checked to ensure they are suitable for adoption and are vaccinated, desexed and microchipped.

If you can’t find the right cat or kitten for you at the RSPCA or other reputable animal welfare or rescue organisations and are looking to purchase from a breeder, we recommend following the tips in our Smart Kitten and Cat Buyer’s Guide.

Setting up your home

Cats should be kept contained to your property, ideally with some sort of enclosed outdoor access like a cat run. Not only is this best for your cat’s safety – by keeping them safe from dangers like cars, dogs, other cats, infections, ticks, snakes, toxic plants, or people who might want to harm them – but in some jurisdictions it’s required by law.

The key to keeping your cat safe and happy at home is to make sure all of their needs are met. This includes their physiological needs like food – not just what you feed them, but when and how (offering different types of food they enjoy, using food toys as enrichment, placing food in a separate place from water bowls and toilet areas), water (several bowls in different spots filled with clean, fresh water) and litter trays (two trays for one cat and one additional tray for each additional cat).

It's also crucial that you provide lots of private, safe, and quiet places for your cat to rest and hide in – this can be things like shelves, cupboards or beds, but you can also create some hiding spaces such as leaving out wooden, plastic or cardboard boxes or leaving a cat carrier open (the latter will also help them not associate the cat carrier with negative experiences). Cats also need things to scratch, which makes them feel at home and keeps their claws healthy. Providing lots of horizontal and vertical scratching posts in different locations will help keep them happy and reduce the chance of them scratching your furniture.

Making a safe introduction

Most cats don’t enjoy travelling, so be aware your new cat might be distressed when they reach their new home. When you get home, make sure all doors and windows are shut and your house is quiet. It’s a good idea to prepare a single room for your cat to stay in for a couple of days (with water and food bowls, a litter tray, a comfortable bed and toys).

Sit quietly with your cat and let them explore their new environment at their own pace. Over the next few days you can make a few more rooms available to them at a time, allowing the cat to explore them at will.

If you already have a dog, we recommend following our tips on introducing your new cat to the family dog. If you already have a cat, we also have advice on what to do. And if you have kids, we have resources on introducing new pets to children.

If you’re a new cat owner, congratulations on your new furry friend or friends – we hope these tips will help them settle in and have a safe and happy life.


This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers.