What Cats Need To Be Happy: Caring For Your New Cat

Posted: December 11, 2021 by Anita

cat care for the beginner

If this is your first time bringing home a cat from a shelter or adoption center, you might be unsure as to how to care for a cat. In this article, I discuss Cat Care 101 and the basics of owning a cat.

I wouldn’t quite call this a cat guide for dummies.  But it will be a realistic look at how to look after cats from someone whose perspective on caring for a cat has evolved.

Basic Cat Care

In this section, I will be discussing how to take care of a cat’s basic needs:

  • feeding
  • grooming
  • litter box care
  • exercising, playing and toys

Feeding your cat

Taking care of your cat means feeding your cat a proper diet. A good diet can prevent medical issues and numerous visits to the Vet.

High-quality cat food needs to contain:

  • taurine (essential amino acid for healthy heart and eyes
  • a high-quality source of protein
  • essential vitamins and minerals

Along with high-quality cat food, it is important that your cat gets plenty of water. Provide a fresh, clean dish of water daily.

For more on what to feed your cat, read my article “What Should I Feed My Cat: Best Eating Practices”.

How much and how often

The best way to feed your cat is called meal feedingMeal feeding is giving your cat a specified amount at a specified time every day.  Follow the instructions on the food label for how much your cat should be fed.  So if your cat is supposed to consume a cup of cat food a day, you would split it into two feedings of a half-cup each.

What not to feed your cat

Feeding your cat, one of these foods can make him very sick and, in some cases, lead to death.

  • Milk or any dairy products – believe or not cats are lactose intolerant.
  • Onions and garlic – contain thiosulphate, which can cause anemia in your cat.
  • Chocolate – is poisonous to cats and can kill.
  • Raw meat – can contain bacteria (e. Coli) and parasites.  Cook the meat before feeding it to your cat.
  • Tuna – occasional is okay, but too much can lead to mercury poisoning.

Here’s my list of good dry cat food for inside cats (click on each link for prices from Amazon.com):

Grooming your cat

You won’t need to bathe your cat (unless they get into something yucky).  Cats are great at keeping themselves clean.  However, you will have to brush and comb their coat at least once a week (more if your cat is hairy).

Combing your cat will cut down on shedding and ingesting tons of their hair (hairballs).

Monitor your cat’s ears once a week for wax, debris, and infections.  Clip your cat’s nails when they are long, curved, and razor-sharp.

Litter box care

You must have a litter box that is perfect for both you and your cat.  I recommend a large covered litter box; in other words, a litter box with a removable lid or top. 

Since cats love tossing cat litter everywhere, having a covered litter box will help with keeping the litter inside.

The cat litter I use for Theo’s cat litter box is Arm & Hammer Platinum Slide Easy Clean-up Cat Litter. Click here to check out the price on Amazon.

Click here to see my absolute favorite litter box sold at Amazon.com.  I’ve given these away as gifts – that’s how much I love the Catit Jumbo Hooded Cat Pan.

Here’s a video of me setting up one for my cats.  For some reason, that missing latch has been a design flaw in all of the Catit Jumbo Hooded Cat Pan that I’ve purchased.  However, it is still my favorite litter box. It is perfect for the two-cat household – it’s enormous.

Once you find the right spot for it…yeah, don’t move it…lol.

For hacks on keeping a clean litter box, click here.

Exercise and play

Exercise is vital to your cat’s overall health.  Movement (and a proper diet) will keep your cat from becoming overweight, which can lead to other health issues.

Playtime is crucial for your cat’s mental well-being, as well.  It can keep your cat from becoming depressed and bored (a bored cat is never good).

Play with your cat at least 15-30 minutes a day.  Be sure to offer plenty of praise and a few treats during playtime.  Cat toys are a great way to help facilitate play in your cat.  My cat’s favorite toy is the cat dancer – click here to check it out on Amazon.

Cat toys should be the type that will inspire your cat to use their hunting skills.  So seek out toys that have strings and feathers.  Bird-like toys that your cat can sink her teeth into are amazing.

Your cat’s environment

In this section, I will be discussing the importance of setting up a pleasant home environment for your cat.

Inside or outside cat

I might not be the best person to discuss, unbiasedly, whether you should allow your cat to go outside.  Bottom line: I don’t think any pet cat should be an outside cat.

I believe that it is our duty and responsibility as cat parents to protect our cats from the dangers of being outside.  It’s a dangerous world out there for cats.

Here’s what outside cats face:

  • being prey for dogs and possible targets for asshole humans (sorry but my opinion)
  • roadkill (I cry every time I see a cat that’s been run over by a vehicle)
  • fleas, ticks, and disease
  • harsh weather and hostile environments
  • starvation
  • (if not spayed or neutered) producing generations of cats that can’t possibly be cared for


Isn’t the point of us adopting cats is to give them a better home and an excellent environment to live in?  Allowing them to go outside increases the chance of them getting lost, sick, or dying – not great options.

Please keep your cat inside.


It might take a few months to get used to sharing space with a cat.  Along with purchasing a cat tree, you might want to think about getting a few items such as a scratching post (hopefully, it will keep them from scratching up your furniture and carpeting) and cat beds (which I’m obsessed with).

Click here to check out some cute scratching posts and cat beds from Etsy.com.  Supporting global artisans is a great way to give back during these crazy times – we are genuinely all in this together.

Here’s Gigi in a cat bed (laying inside her cat tree) I got for her from Etsy.

Invest in a lovely cat tree. Cats love getting up high and surveying their environment.  Challenge your cat by using a string or your cat’s favorite toy to chase up the cat tree if you can place the cat tree by a window so your cat can look out on the outside world.

Here’s one from Chewy.com that I got my cats (and was inexpensive) when I first adopted them.  

cat tree

Understanding your new cat

I’ve never met a cat I didn’t like.

No, seriously.

Every cat is extremely special and you will fall in love with its unique personality.

Cats are misunderstood in a lot of ways.   I’ve heard cats labeled as sneaky, weird, and detached.  I challenge you, as a new cat owner, to put all those preconceived thoughts and notions out of your head.

Every cat is unique

Each cat is different and should be loved for the complicated (or uncomplicated) little furball that it is.

Sneaky and weird? If you think about it, you could probably think of a few humans you could label as sneaky, mysterious, and detached. 

I mean, before coffee in the morning, I’m pretty sure I appear to be sneaky and weird (and crabby) to my cat Theo.

Over time you will come to view your cat as family and as a loving companion. 

How to love your cat by respecting your cat’s boundaries

Cats are fascinating creatures – each one unique in their personality.  One of the great things about cats is that they are so accepting of their humans. And the love they give us can be so welcoming on days that aren’t going so great.

When you adopt a cat, you are bringing in a cat with a history with humans that might not have been positive.  It might take some time before she warms up to her new environment.  Love and acceptance of your cat are going to be critical to a great long-term relationship with her.

Tips for new cat owners

  • try to be in tune with your cat’s non-verbal cues for affection.  Let your cat be the one who dictates how much and when.  Pay attention to your cat’s body language (tail wagging, kneading you with their paws) when you are petting her. Eventually, you will get to know what is acceptable and what isn’t.
  • Cats enjoy being touched around their face; under their chin, near their ears and cheeks
  • don’t touch their belly (opposite of dogs). They will show you their belly as a sign of trust, but don’t touch it.

How to keep a pet cat healthy

Along with exercise and proper nutrition, there are other things you can do to ensure that your cat lives a long and healthy life.

  • Routine yearly cat maintenance appointment with the Vet to keep current on immunizations, preventative measures, etc.
  • Spaying and neutering can prevent urinary issues such as spraying, bladder infections, catfights, and such.
  • Parasite prevention – flea and ticks can cause significant problems.  Consult your Vet to set up a parasite prevention routine.
  • Consider cat health care insurance with a good wellness plan – click here for free a quote from Pets Best Health Insurance.

Make sure your cat has ID.

Even if your cat stays inside, you should have her wear a safety collar and an identification tag.  If by the off chance that your cat slips out of the house, having identification on your cat will increase the chances of you and your cat being reunited.

A microchip is a second form of identification that you might want to consider.  The microchip is embedded under your cat’s skin (a lot of shelters now microchips as part of the adoption process).

The microchip is encoded with a number that is associated with your and your cat.  Don’t forget to register the chip once it is implanted in your cat.  Remember to keep your contact information up to date if you move or change phone numbers.


Once you get to know cats, they are the perfect pet and companion.  Once you get a cat…actually before you get a cat, you should look at it as a lifetime commitment – an essential part of your family.

In this article, I discussed Cat Care 101 and the basics of owning a cat.

When you adopt a cat, you are bringing in a cat with a history with humans that might not have been positive.  It might take some time before she warms up to her new environment.  Love and acceptance of your cat are going to be critical to a great long-term relationship with her.

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