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    Bringing Your Cat Home

    Bringing Your Cat Home

    I am as vigilant as a cat to steal cream. ~William Shakespeare, Henry IV

    Before bringing a new cat or kitten home, it's important to make your residence a safe and secure place. In fact, catproofing is a lot like childproofing. Cats are curious and tend to investigate both horizontally and vertically. So it's time to lock away harmful cleaning products and medicines-even pack away extra rolls of toilet paper-and put treasured possessions of outreach. Consider everything from the Persian rug to a priceless china ornament a potential cat toy.

    The second step is shopping for all the items your new cat will need, from the carrier, to special feline furniture such as a cat bed and a kitty condo, to items such as collars and ID tags, to grooming equipment. You'll also need a game plan for introducing your new cat to her new home and introducing the various members of the household to her. Introductions are critical; they must be done slowly and with care. Patience is the key word.

    Catproofing Your Home

    A cat's-eye view of your home will always focus on the humanly unattainable so it's a good idea to get down on the ground in every room and view it from this feline perspective. Things look very different from the ground up.

    Bedrooms, Living Rooms, and Dens

    It's probably a good idea to take pen and paper and make a list as you go through each room of your home. Think of it as a home inspection-which it is-checking everything Biblefrom broken screens to how many accessible power outlets you may have to block off. Make a note of loose-lying appliance cords. This may even be the time to purchase new items you have been delaying buying, such as a new rug to replace the one with a hole in it that a cat or kitten may pounce on and begin to chew because it's already unraveling.

    Catproofing your home can be difficult because there is no telling what inappropriate items your new cat may find fascinating.

    Smoke in the Carpet

    Many breeders and adoption agencies will not allow their cats to go a home where there are smokers. Secondhand smoke is as dangerous to pets as it is to people. Apart from what hangs in the air, cats walk on carpeted areas, which are notorious for absorbing smoke. They then lick their feet, ingesting smoke-related toxins.

    Electrical Cords

    Electrical cords are a top priority because chewing through wiring can give your cat painful burns on her tongue and mouth area. An electrical shock can lead to pulmonary edema, which is a buildup of fluid on the lungs. It can occur very quickly and can be fatal.Block off plug sockets and buy special tubing to encase bundles of wires, especially those around computers and electronics. There are also special wire covers obtainable from both hardware stores and pet stores that are infused with citronella that acts as a deterrent for determined chewers.

    Carpeting and Rugs

    Many wall-to-wall carpets and the matting underneath them contain chemicals that can be toxic to pets (and people). Older carpeting may contain chemicals that are now banned from production, while newer ones may contain adhesives, stain protectors, mothproofing, and flame retardants known to cause nerve damage and respiratory illnesses.

    This is a difficult issue to manage unless you are planning to recarpet, which will give you the opportunity to select coverings with a Green Label Plus certification from the Carpet and Rug Institute. This certifies that the listed floor coverings are free of harmful toxins and chemicals, such as those made from natural fibers like wool, hemp, and corn husks.

    Windows and Exterior Doors

    Secure window screens are must-have items to prevent your kitty from getting out.

    Windows and exteriors doors can be dangerous places; you need to make sure they are safe and secure to prevent your cat from getting hurt or ending up on the wrong side.

    Blind cords and curtain ties:

    The cords that operate blinds make great toys because they swing when batted by feline paws. It's important to secure them so that they don't dangle because if a cat gets tangled in one, she could choke. Be extra careful with decorative curtain ties, too.


    All windows and doors with outside access should have screens as a safety measure. Make sure there are no holes in the screen material that a cat could work at with a paw to enlarge and eventually climb through. This needs to be checked regularly!

    Exterior doors:

    It's a good idea to put a note on both sides of all exterior doors to remind family members to be watchful for the cat. Include a note on the door leading to the garage, too, because if the main garage door is left open, a cat could inadvertently get out. Keep a squirt bottle filled with water (at room temperature) on either side of any exterior door and squirt in the direction of the cat (not at the cat and definitely not in the face) if she appears to be coming too close. This is an excellent training method to prevent mishaps. Cans of compressed air work, too. Such tactics are considered remote training concepts. In other words, the cat won't blame you personally, just the can or the water-so you won't be creating any feline resentment toward you in the process.

    Ornaments, Books, and Other Accessories

    Ornaments, books, and household accessories should be packed away, at least temporarily. This will safeguard your possessions and simultaneously protect your new cat from a nasty accident. You can reintroduce some items as your cat settles in and you are better able to judge what presents a hazard and what doesn't.


    Candles are a particular hazard. Never place them on a table with a tablecloth because a cat can jump at the cloth and pull it down, toppling the candles and possibly starting a fire. If you enjoy the ambience of candles, consider purchasing flameless ones.

    If you like to burn candles or incense, keep them somewhere your cat cannot reach them.

    Other household accessories and books:

    Don't only look at low surfaces like coffee tables; items placed on high shelves may also be a feline target. Be wary of unstable bookshelves. Falling books can break feline bones. Cats can also nimbly climb up things that cannot hold a person's weight to gain access to a tiny window or a dangerous shelf. So be sure to restrict access.

    Toy boxes:

    Children's toy boxes should have lids and be kept securely closed because curious felines have been known to chew on and swallow small game pieces or parts of toys. Never leave cat toys lying around unattended either, particularly those with strings attached to wands. If the toy box is large enough for kitty to become trapped inside, you may want to knock a few inconspicuous air holes in it-just in case.



    Many common houseplants are toxic to both cats and dogs. These include asparagus ferns, calla lilies, dieffenbachia, cyclamen, tiger lilies, and poinsettias (a winter holiday favorite). See the sidebar "Safe Plants and Toxic Plants" to get an idea of what plants you should get rid of before you bring your new cat home and what not to introduce, as well as which plants are OK to have in your home permanently.

    You will also have to be very careful about silk and plastic plants because they could cause a cat to choke if chewed. To keep pets away from nontoxic plants, sprinkle pepper at the base, on the exposed soil. This will deter any further feline inquisitiveness. Cover the soil surface of potted plants with decorative stones to prevent them from being used as a feline toilet.

    Safe Plants and Toxic Plants

    Many cat lovers are unaware that lots of very common and popular decorative houseplants are cat-safe for cats to nibble on. These include orchids, African violets, bamboo palms, and various ferns, along with lots of common garden flowers like zinnias and alyssum and herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme, and chickweed.Nevertheless, there is also a long list of both indoor and garden plants that are highly toxic to pets. When you are catproofing your home, make a careful note of the following, which are listed as the ten most poisonous plants by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)'s Poison Control Unit and be sure to remove them if they are within reach of your cat (both inside and outside).


    All lilies are very popular indoor plants, especially around Easter time. As beautiful as they are, they are highly toxic to cats and can cause severe kidney damage.

    Sago palm:

    These plants can potentially produce vomiting, diarrhea, depression, seizures, and liver failure. All parts of the plant are poisonous, but the seeds or "nuts" contain the largest amount of toxins.


    The bulb portions of these plants contain toxins that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation, drooling, loss of appetite, central nervous system depression, convulsions, and cardiac abnormalities.

    Azalea and rhododendron:

    These plants contain substances known as grayanotoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness, and central nervous system depression in animals. Severe azalea poisoning could ultimately lead to coma and death from collapse of the cardiovascular system.


    This plant contains cyclamine; the highest concentration of this toxic component is typically located in the tuber (root) portion of the plant. If consumed, it can produce significant gastrointestinal irritation, including intense vomiting. Fatalities have also been reported in some cases.


    Ingesting this plant in any form can result in central nervous system depression, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, vocalization, drooling, increased heart rate, and even seizures or coma.


    All parts of the oleander plant are considered to be toxic because they contain cardiac glycosides that have the potential to cause serious effects, including gastrointestinal tract irritation, abnormal heart function, a significant drop in body temperature (hypothermia), and even death.

    Castor bean:

    The poisonous component in this plant is ricin, a highly toxic protein that can produce severe abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst, weakness, and loss of appetite. In severe cases, dehydration, muscle twitching, tremors, seizures, coma, and death can occur.


    This plant can cause gastrointestinal irritation and also seriously affect cardiac rhythm and heart rate.


    This plant contains taxine, which affects the central nervous system and causes trembling, lack of coordination, and breathing difficulties, as well as significant gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac failure, which can result in death.

    The toxins in poisonous plants have varied effects on cats ranging from a skin rash to vomiting and diarrhea to serious convulsions, damage to the nervous system, kidney and liver failure, and death.

    If your cat nibbles on the wrong thing, she is going to need urgent medical attention. Rush her to your veterinarian or nearest pet emergency room and take a sample of the plant with you. This will help the veterinarian with diagnosis and treatment.Lists of both safe and toxic plants can be found on the ASPCA's website (, the Cat Fanciers Association's website (, and


    It's essential to also lock away all cosmetics, shampoos, toiletries, and cleaning materials in It's essential to also lock away all cosmetics, shampoos, toiletries, and cleaning materials in a cupboard with a childproof lock. If necessary, replace cakes of soap with liquid soap dispensers and replace open garbage bins with a peddle-type or swing lid so that a cat doesn't have access to the contents.

    If you like to burn candles or incense, keep them somewhere your cat cannot reach them.

    Toilets and toilet paper:

    Always ensure that all toilet seats are kept in a down position. Write notes to remind forgetful family members and friends. A kitten can drown in a toilet. Also, solid deodorizers placed inside a toilet bowl are toxic if licked. Make sure the toilet paper is rolled up; don't leave even the tiniest piece hanging because it could be construed by a cat as a toy and even eaten. Store extra rolls in a cupboard.


    Always keep the doors to the shower cubicle closed because cats often enjoy the warmth after the shower has been used and may also lick the walls and floor. If you've just sprayed them with cleaning fluids, that's what they will be ingesting. If possible, it's a good idea to switch to using a nonchemical cleaner such as vinegar or pure lemon juice in case a door is inadvertently left ajar. There are also lots of other nonchemical cleaners to consider.

    Dental floss:

    Be particularly careful about dental floss. Never leave it lying around, and wrap it securely in a tissue before placing it in a secure bin. If ingested, dental floss can be very dangerous because it can constrict a cat's intestines and result in a life-threatening emergency. Be sure everyone in the household is mindful of this.

    Kitchens and Laundry Rooms

    As with the bathroom, it's critical to lock away all the cleaning supplies and other chemicals in the kitchen and laundry room as well. Make sure garbage cans are inaccessible to felines here, too. Other safety measures to take concern food, appliances (hot stoves and open washing machines), and small spaces that can prove dangerous.


    Never leave food out on counters. This applies to food ready for preparation and ready to be served, as well as leftovers. Never leave food wrapped in plastic on counters to defrost. Certain seemingly harmless foodstuffs such as mushrooms and grapes and beverages like tea and coffee are toxic to cats. Some felines are also lactose intolerant, and milk can cause those kitties diarrhea. Specific foods that are dangerous to cats include:

  • Store-bought baby foods because many formulas contain onions, which are toxic to cats
  • Grapes, mushrooms, raisins, and chocolate
  • Table scraps that include meat, fish, and chicken bones, which can cause a cat to choke
  • Tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages
  • Human vitamin supplements in pill form
  • Milk and dairy products because many cats are lactose intolerant
  • Moldy and spoiled food that you intend to throw in the trash
  • Raw eggs and chicken that may contain salmonella
  • Raw fish-many cats are allergic to certain fishes
  • Bread dough left on a counter to rise; if ingested, it can swell in the stomach and even rupture intestines
  • Keep the toilet lid closed to prevent your cat from drinking the water or falling in

    Stovetops and ranges:

    Cats should be discouraged from being on counters near the range. It's a good idea to use plate covers when the stovetop is not in use, just in case your cat hasn't gotten the message to stay away and decides to jump up to investigate the source of all those delicious cooking smells.

    Shopping bags:

    Make sure shopping bags-no matter what materials they are constructed from-are not left lying around anywhere in the home. Cats can suffocate if they get caught up in a plastic bag. Even paper bags with rope-styled handles or "eco-friendly" bags can be dangerous if a cat tries to get inside and gets the handle caught around her neck.

    Laundry equipment:

    In the laundry area, make it a rule to close both washing machine and clothes dryer doors immediately after removing items to ensure that a cat doesn't get inside by accident. Awful accidents involving cats trapped in laundry equipment have made headlines in the past. In addition, be extra careful when tossing out used fabric softener cloths from clothes dryers. They can be toxic if chewed.

    Space around appliances:

    Block off any tiny spaces alongside major appliances such as the fridge, stove, washing machine, and dryer to prevent curious felines from exploring and possibly getting stuck.

    If you can't keep kitty out of the laundry area entirely, always check that she isn't in the washer or dryer before you turn it on.


    This area should be off-limits to cats at all times unless the garage is used only as a storage area and the exterior door is never opened. Generally speaking, a garage can be a really dangerous zone. The garage door opening at odd times during the day may give a cat sleeping in there a fright and cause her to run out. In addition, cats like to sleep under cars and stand the chance of being run over. Furthermore, it's a no-go zone because such areas are often used to store products such as antifreeze, garden fertilizers, and woodworking adhesives. Such products are all highly toxic to cats. It's more difficult to lock all of these products away in a garage, so it's better to keep the cat out of the garage.

    Fireplaces and woodstoves must have proper screening to prevent your cat from getting burned-or just covered in ashes.

    Safe Outdoor Enclosures

    There's no question that cats live safer lives if they enjoy an indoor-only lifestyle. However, if you have space to build an outdoor enclosure for them to use with direct access from your home, it is guaranteed to be a popular attraction. These days, many cat doors can be programmed shut to keep such areas off-limits when necessary.

    Having a cat is an excellent excuse to practice environmentally friendly gardening indoors as well as out by getting rid of all the toxic chemical fertilizers and sprays. If you have a feline-safe outdoor enclosure that contains plant material, be very wary of putting down poison pellets for caterpillars, slugs, and other leaf munching bugs because they often resemble treats and kibble. At the same time, remember that although coffee grinds may be eco-friendly, they are toxic to pets. (See "An Outdoor Enclosure and Nontoxic Gardening.")

    Shopping for Your Cat

    Like every member of the household, a new cat is going to need her own space in the home in the form of a comfy bed, kitty condo, or cat tree, as well as basic accessories. Shopping in advance and having everything in place will allow your new friend to settle down quickly into her new home. Here's a checklist of cat essentials:

    Kitty Carrier

    You're going to need a nice secure kitty carrier to bring the cat or kitten home. Because it's not an item that is going to be replaced regularly, choose the size carefully and ensure that it's large enough for a fully grown cat to stand up and turn around in. It must offer plenty of ventilation. If you plan to travel with your feline companion, ensure that the carrier meets the standard size requirements for airline travel so it can fit comfortably under your seat. Carriers with flaps that can be rolled down may help a cat who is nervous to feel more secure. Line the carrier with a fleecy, washable mat or a towel. If you are getting the kitten from a breeder, it's a good idea to take (or mail) the mat or whatever liner you plan to use to the breeder in advance so that the kitten can become used to it beforehand and "endorse it" with familiar smells. This will help familiarize her when she gets to her new home. Be sure that you immediately attach a luggagetype label to the carrier detailing your cat's name and your contact information, such as name, address, and a telephone number where you can always be reached.

    When the carrier's not in use, make sure it's stored in an accessible place so that you can grab it quickly, especially in an emergency situation. This basic planning should be done in advance, too. Make sure that everyone in the household knows where it's kept. Whether you are purchasing a softsided carrier or a plastic one, keep it in a clear plastic bag. This way, it will remain dust free and will be usable at a moment's notice. If you are planning to travel with your cat regularly, consider purchasing two carriers-one strictly for trips to the veterinarian. Your cat will learn to distinguish between dreaded trips to the vet's office and climbing into the carrier to go somewhere fun.

    Collars and ID Tags

    There's a myriad of designs and colors to choose from when it comes to collars and tags. Because kittens grow quite quickly, it's a good idea to purchase the next size up when you make your Bibleinitial purchase. A soft fabric collar with a quick-release clasp is ideal. If you want to purchase something stylish in leather be sure it has a release clasp to ensure that your cat will be able to escape if she climbs somewhere and gets hooked. With a collar that fits correctly, you should be able to slip two fingers inside. Never make it too loose because the cat will figure out how to slip out of it-and of course make sure it's not too tight! Collars with an actual buckle-that is, with a hook that fits into a hole-are best. Often, when cats scratch the area around their necks, collars that don't close securely in this manner can come loose and fall off.

    Have an identification tag made in the store when purchasing a collar and attach it immediately. It's a good idea to purchase a second ID tag as back up. Proper identification is a lost pet's ticket home, and in many states, it's becoming law to microchip pets before they leave a shelter. Nevertheless, it's still a good idea to add a tag to a collar and to ensure that the information is always kept up to date. A collar and ID tag is the first thing someone finding your cat will see and, outside a shelter or other place that can read microchips, that is all that the person will see. With a tag, your cat may be returned sooner.

    Pet Theft

    Pet theft is an increasing problem across the United States. Cats or dogs who are left outdoors are often taken and sold for medical experiments or other uses. If your pet is taken, it may be hard to discover what happened and who is responsible. If you are lucky enough to not only recover your pet but also identify the catnapper, that individual can be prosecuted for the crime. However, this is a very difficult crime to punish because individuals who steal pets are often successful at evading the law by using aliases and phony business names.

    More commonly, owners lose pets not through theft but through a pet becoming lost. Although you may diligently search for your lost pet, you can lose your rights to get her back if someone else has found her and is taking care of her. In such instances, the owner cannot claim theft. Each state regulates this process differently. To protect your pet, always make sure she is secured properly. If your backyard is gated, make sure it is properly locked so that strangers do not have easy access. Additionally, if you cannot secure your cat outside, consider an indoors-only lifestyle to protect her from being stolen.

    Harnesses and Leashes

    It's possible to train a cat to wear a harness and leash to go for walks. The sooner you start this training the better. Consider purchasing a soft puppy harness, which is more secure than the standard harness designed for cats. You may have to replace this item as your kitten grows. To be stylish, purchase accessories to match the collar. If the harness gets in the way of the collar, then be sure to purchase another ID tag to remain permanently affixed to the harness.

    The best way to train your cat to walk on a leash is to start by leaving her harness and leash lying around the house; play with your cat or kitten in this vicinity. And be sure to give treats. Next, put the harness on your cat indoors and let her wear it around the house. Start with no more than five minutes and build up to thirty minutes or longer.

    Next, attach the leash and walk her around indoors. Remember, during all this training, treats are your (and your cat's) best friend! Finally, you are ready for the great outdoors. A six-foot (2 m) leash is a good starter length for initial outdoor excursions. Depending on how your cat reacts and how comfortable you feel outdoors with her, you can at a later stage consider a longer retractable-style leash. It's also a good idea to take a big towel with you for outdoor excursions in case you have to grab her quickly if a dog comes along. The towel will prevent you from being scratched.

    You will need a carrier for your kitty for trips to the vet and in case of an emergency, such as a weather-related evacuation.

    Cat Beds

    Chances are your cat will enjoy curling up and sleeping on the bed with you, or she may select a certain sofa or chair in the home as a preferred snooze zone. Nevertheless, most cats enjoy having their own beds, too.

    Because cats like to sleep curled "in the round," select a round or oval-shaped bed. Small dogs beds work very well for felines so don't over look this department when shopping. If the bed doesn't come with a detachable cover, make sure the fabric is easy to keep clean. There are also plenty of plush beds that are fully machine-washable.

    Food and Water Bowls

    There is no shortage of stylish food and water bowls that will slot in beautifully with your home décor. Stainless steel, glass, or non-lead ceramic bowls are hygienic because they are dishwasher safe and thus easy to keep clean. Avoid plastic, not only because it is more difficult to keep clean, but also because many cats are allergic to this material and break out in chin acne. When selecting food bowls, also remember that the flatter the bowl or plate, the better. Cats don’t feel comfortable when their whiskers touch the side of a bowl. It’s called whisker stress.

    Many veterinarians consider raised food bowls a good idea because sitting upright is a far better position for good digestion. Similarly, consider a special tall glass pet flute as a water bowl. This looks similar to a glass vase with a wide bowl on a stand. A lot of cats love to drink running water and will enjoy a drinking fountain. They run on very low-voltage electricity and will ensure that your pet has a constant supply of fresh water. There are different types to choose from: Some send the water cascading down, and others allow the water to bubble up. Always have at least two water sources in the home, even more if you have a multipet household.

    Cats can be trained to walk with a harness and leash, and these cats enjoy their outings.

    Leash Laws

    Leash laws for cats are regulated by local city or country ordinances and do exist in states such as Georgia, North Dakota, and Texas. In essence, a leash law means that any cat found roaming free can be picked up and euthanized. Such laws are subject to ongoing controversy because opponents feel cats should be treated differently than dogs because they do not pose the same threats to property and human beings that dogs do. Such laws are also subject to constant change. Up-to-date information is available at

    Litter Boxes

    Choose a litter tray with nice high sides, which will guard against the contents being flung out and Biblescattered over a wide area. There are numerous shapes to consider, as well as a variety of automated boxes. The rule is one litter box per cat in the household even though each cat may not use one box exclusively.

    A self-cleaning litter box is something you may want to consider at a later stage, once you have assessed your cat's personality. Many cats are scared by the noise the cleaning mechanism makes as a rake runs through the litter, pushing the solid waste into a receptacle on one end of the box, where it is covered up. The rake will comb through the litter until no more waste is encountered. The waste receptacle is disposed of every few weeks. Another toileting system deemed suitable for cats looks like a square of lawn with a special drain system built-in underneath. They can be kitted out with either real or synthetic grass and can be kept inside or on a balcony.

    Despite the many shapes and concepts for kitty toilets, behaviorists tend to favor large open boxes-the bigger the better, especially in multicat households, so that no cat ever feels trapped inside her box with no escape route.Also, never place litter boxes side by side. Choose different locations in the household. In multicat households, if cats are ambushing one another around the litter box, placing them next to one another is considered one giant litter box from a feline standpoint, and this could lead to one of the cats avoiding the boxes to go elsewhere for privacy.

    A wide water bowl is the best choice for your kitty because cats don't like to have their whiskers touching the edges when they drink.

    First Food

    Follow the advice of your breeder or veterinarian about what food to purchase for your cat's homecoming. If she's been fed a specific diet, it's a good idea to initially purchase the same brand. If you are planning to transition to a different food, do so slowly by adding about 10 percent of the new food to the original food. Gradually increase the ratio of the new food to the old until you have changed over completely. If the changeover is done slowly, most cats will adapt without problems. The other plus for such a transition is that a sudden change to a new food can cause an upset tummy.

    Litter Type

    If you are using a conventional litter box and you got your cat from a breeder, check with the breeder to find out what type of litter the kitten has been using and initially buy the same brand. You can always transition to something else later by adding the new preferred brand to the existing brand, gradually increasing the amount until you are switched over completely. A transition can take about a week to ten days.

    The most widely used type of litter is a clay-based clumping formula. There is also a wide variety of long-lasting silica formulations, as well as a variety of eco-friendly litters made from wheat and coconut husks that can be safely flushed down a toilet.

    Litter Box Accessories

    A litter mat placed under the box will help contain litter and keep it from being tracked outside of the box. Litter box liners are designed for quick and easy removal of the entire contents of the box so it can be emptied and sanitized. Be sure to purchase thick plastic liners so that your cat doesn't claw through them. A litter scoop, of course, is essential. The latest litter scoops come on a telescope-style handle so that you don't have to bend to floor level. Add a brush and a pan to the shopping list to keep the area clean.

    New litter box accessories are constantly making an appearance in the marketplace, such as handheld vacuums designed specifically for scattered litter pick-up and that also have a nozzle to remove cat hair from fabric surfaces. If necessary, there are certain nontoxic litter deodorizers that you can add directly to the litter to keep it odor-free.

    Scratching Posts

    Scratching is an instinctive feline trait. Cats scratch for various reasons: to sharpen their claws, to mark their territory, to reduce stress-and also as a form of exercise. They tend to scratch your favorite chair because they are attracted to it by your scent. Consequently, investing in a nice scratching post will preserve your furniture and give your cat an important enrichment tool. Cats scratch both horizontally and vertically, and it's difficult to tell which they prefer. So, if your budget will allow, buy two different kinds of scratchers and you will soon learn your cat's preference. Those made from recycled cardboard are economical and eco-friendly. Sisal-covered posts are also popular with felines and very hard wearing. It's a good idea to avoid carpet-covered posts because some cats have difficulty differentiating between their scratching post and your expensive floor covering or priceless Oriental rug.

    Where you position scratchers in the home is equally important because cats usually like to stretch and scratch after a nap. It's a good idea to place one near a cat bed or a favorite snooze zone. Over time, consider placing others around the house; it will be obvious which rooms of the home your cat spends more time in, such as the family living room. Once again, be sure to place a scratcher near a popular nap spot or next to a particular piece of furniture that your cat has been eyeing. Introduce your cat to a new scratching post by scratching on the surface with your fingers. The cat will copy (cats are fast learners). A little catnip rubbed into the surface is another irresistible incentive. Keep in mind that you can never have too many scratching zones in the home. Consider taller scratching posts over shorter ones even if they are more expensive because they will allow your cat to get a really good stretch, too.

    Kitty Condos and Cat Trees

    Because cats enjoy spending time in elevated positions, a multistation kitty condo or a tall cat tree is a wonderful feline entertainment center. At the same time, such an item of feline furniture allows your cat the privacy of having her own space in the home. Look for a design that has a place where a cat can snooze or hide out, as well as an elevated observation platform. Such play stations often are accessorized with toys, such as dangling ropes, and may include a tall scratching post. If space is a concern, look for special designs that hook onto the back of a door or can be bolted to a wall.

    Investing in a nice scratching post will preserve your furniture and give your cat an important enrichment tool.

    If you have the space and the budget, your cat will surely love a kitty condo or cat tree.

    An Outdoor Enclosure and Nontoxic Gardening

    An Outdoor Enclosure and Nontoxic Gardening

    GardeningMost cats love the opportunity to sun themselves in a safe outdoor environment that offers them some plants to nibble on, a shady spot to snooze in, and even a tree to scratch on and climb. It's very easy to create an environmentally friendly organic area with some simple planning.Before you even begin to think of an organic garden, it's important to find an ideal part of your outdoor area that can be safely enclosed for your cat to enjoy. Fencing is your first priority, and there are special cat-proof fences that can be erected over existing fences to prevent cats from escaping and coming into contact with predators or other dangers, such as traffic.

    Consider turning an atrium or enclosed patio with planting areas into a cat-friendly outdoor area, too. If you are worried about birds flying in and falling prey to feline paws, roof the area with light netting or lattice work.Preparing the SoilGardening organically instead of using chemicals is not only better for the environment, but it's also better for you, your family, and your pets. Proper soil preparation is key to successful organic gardening. (It can take up to three years for an area that has previously been treated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides to become all-natural again.) Your ultimate goal is a soil rich in organic nutrients that will produce lush plants.

    Garden supply stores sell soil test kits if you want to check the exact acidity or alkalinity of your soil, so that you can improve or amend it for optimal plant growth. The best way to improve your soil is with organic compost. Organic compost can be bought from garden stores and nurseries, but its very easy to make your own simply by purchasing a compost maker and depositing in it all your natural household waste matter, such as lawn clippings, fallen leaves, vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and egg shells. As these items break down and decay, they become compost that will add nutrients and micronutrients to your soil, which, in turn, will product strong, healthy plants.

    It's become very popular for the organically minded to invest in a worm farm. This is a special set of containers that become home to earthworms purchased specially to feed off your kitchen leftovers to produce compost, as well as turning their worm poo (called castings) into a rich fertilizer.Bone meal is an excellent source of potassium and magnesium, but because it's an animal and fish by-product it is not acceptable to vegan gardeners. Compost is a vegan-friendly alternative. Chicken manure and bat guano are other sources of nitrogen and phosphorous. Bird guano is a mined product that will add nitrogen and phosphorous, depending on where it has been mined, and potassium sulfate is also a mined product that will add potassium and magnesium, depending on where it's been mined. Be sure to read the labels, and ask your local garden experts about plants that can add nutrients (such as nitrogen) to your soil, too.

    Mapping It Out

    What you plant is going to depend directly on the size of your area and the amount of sun or shade the spot receives. It's a good idea to draw a diagram and map out what you would like to include in your cat-friendly garden. Cats love a tree to scratch on and possibly even climb and watch the world go by. Depending on space, you may even want to secure a little cat lookout platform in a tree. (It's important to ensure that the branches do not reach a wall or other structure that the cat could access.) Or, consider building a wooden cat condo with hidey-holes for snoozing and attach weatherproof swing toys to it. Other great ideas for your cat-friendly outdoor space:

    • A feline "staircase" of shelves with planters on each step filled with catnip, cat grasses, and flowering edibles
    • For the enclosed patio or paved atrium, a patch of grass grown in a framed box for easy maintenance
    • An outdoor litter box-free standing or, if possible, dig a hole and recess it so that it's level with the ground but easy to take out for cleaning

    Outdoor water sources, like bowls and flowing fountains are always a popular feline attraction. Water will attract birds and other small animals, however, so you may want to provide a separate catproof area for bird baths and feeders. Any outdoor water source provided must be cleaned out regularly to prevent algae build-up; use a solution of vinegar and baking soda instead of toxic cleaning agents.

    What to Plant

    Cats love to nibble on plants and grasses in particular. There are lots of safe nontoxic herbs, flowers, shrubs, and trees to choose from. Always make sure that whatever you choose to plant will do well in your climate and with your soil conditions.

    Herbs, Fruits, and Vegetables

    • Fruits: melon, squash, strawberries
    • Herbs: basil, cat grass, catmint, catnip, cilantro, dill, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, thyme, and parsley
    • Vegetables: carrots, cucumber, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard

    Flowering Plants

    • Annuals: Alyssum, Aster, Calendula, Celosia, Iresine, marigold (Tagetes), nasturtium (Trapaeolum), pansy (Viola), snapdragon (Antirrhinum), Zinnia
    • Ferns: Boston fern (Neprolepis exaltata), button fern (Pellea rotundifolia), holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum), mother fern (Asplenium bulbiferum)
    • Perennials: aster cone flower (Echium), Coreopsis, gerbera daisy (Gerbera), coral bells (Huechera), polka dot plant (Hypoestes), African daisy (Osteospermum), bearded tongue (Penstemon), sage (Salvia), pincushion flower (Scabiosa)
    • Shade plants: Begonia, cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), Impatiens, spider plant (Chlorophytum), wandering Jew (Tradescantia zebrine)
    • Tropical: bamboo, banana (Musa), canna lily (Canna), ginger (Zingiber officinale), jungle geranium (Ixora)

    Grasses and Ground Cover

    • Ground cover: baby tears (Soleirolia soleirolii), ice plant (Lampranthus), Serbian bellflower (Campanula), spring cinquefoil (Potentilla), star jasmine (Trachylospermum jasminoides), wild strawberry (Fragaria)
    • Lawn: Bermuda (Cynodon dactylon), St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea)
    • Ornamental grasses: blue fescue (Festuca caesia), Carex ‘Frosty Curls', fountain grass (Pennisetum), sheep grass (Festuca ovina)


    • Bush cherry (Eugenia), camellia (Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua), Coleonema pulchellum, glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora), Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica), ‘Little John' dwarf bottlebrush (Callistemon), mirror shrub (Coprosma), mock orange (Pittosporum tobira), Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa), roses (Rosa), star jasmine (Tracylospermum jasminoides)


    • Fruit trees: orange and lemon trees are easy to control in size and shape and can be grown successfully in large containers; cats are not interested in eating these fruits. Put something moving and shiny in the branches of fruit trees to keep birds at bay.
    • Ornamentals: crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), pink melaleuca (Melaleuca nesophila), weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis), weeping fruitless mulberry (Morus alba ‘Chaparral')
    • Palms: bottle palm (Beaucarnia recurvata), kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), lady palm (Raphis excelsa), pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelinnii), windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)

    How to Mulch and Fertilize

    Adding mulch to your garden helps to prevent weeds, conserves moisture in the soil, and stabilizes soil temperatures. Organic mulch also helps to maintain the humus or organic content of the soil as it decomposes and keeps the top layer loose and airy. Layer mulch two to four inches deep over bare soil around your plants. You can use organic compost, grass clippings (which are high in nitrogen), bark or shredded wood chips, fallen leaves (but be sure to chop them small), pine needles, and even straw. Beware of cocoa mulch, which is a chocolate by-product and very toxic and possibly lethal to both cats and dogs. Chemical fertilizers can also be toxic to cats, so choose safe organic alternatives instead. Organic fertilizers are, in fact, superior to chemicals because you are adding nutrients to the soil, rather than just giving plants a "quick fix."

    Dealing with Pesky Pests

    The toxic chemical pellets used as snail bait often resemble kibble and may be eaten by cats, and chemical pesticides sprayed onto leaves instantly make them toxic to pets who like to nibble on grass and greenery.Organic pellets made from iron phosphate are a safe alternative to control slugs and snails. There are several organic pesticides on the market that are derived from spinosaid, a naturally occurring chemical produced by bacteria that kills insects. It's available in a liquid spray-on form. It takes care of worms, beetles, earwigs, sowbugs, and ants. Neem, derived from the Indian neem tree, is another natural insecticide that kills sucking insects like mealybugs, scale, and aphids. The efficacy of most organic pesticides is short, so you will have to reapply more often.

    Grassy areas can also pick up fungus and other diseases and are home to insects pests and fleas. Use organic forms of lawn control that contain nematodes, a type of microscopic worm that feeds on bacteria, fungi, grubs, and the larvae of grubs and-most important for cat owners-fleas. Another good organic flea control product is diatomaceous earth, a chalky powder made up of the exoskeletons of diatoms, which are a form of algae; it is a powerful desiccant and will dry up and kill flea larvae on contact. Products that contain both diatomaceous earth and nematodes are available from online stores and specialized organic gardening stores.

    Time to Enjoy

    If you have space, be sure to include a bench, garden chair, or even a chaise longue so that you can enjoy some outside time with your felines too.

    Grooming Tools

    If your kitten comes from a breeder, ask his or her advice on what grooming tools to buy in terms of your kitten's fur type. Here's a list to get you started, the basic at-home tools of the trade:

    • A soft wire brush to remove tangles without irritating skin
    • A comb with wide teeth for removing tangles, especially in longhaired cats
    • A curry comb with long rubber teeth that removes loose hair and simultaneously massages the skin
    • A de-shedding tool to remove thick undercoat as well as loose fur
    • A grooming glove or mitt covered with a knobby rubber finish or a special hair-grabbing material
    • A good pair of nail clippers, even if your cat has a scratching post
    • Specially formulated feline grooming wipes

    If you are unsure about how to clip your cat's nails, consider buying clippers that light up to show you where its safe to cut so that you don't cut into the quick and cause bleeding. Remember that grooming is also a wonderful quality-time activity and plays an important socializing role in establishing a human–feline bond. Consequently, when shopping for grooming tools, look for those with ergonomically designed handles that you feel comfortable holding.


    Every cat and kitten needs a well-stocked toy box, and there's no shortage of fabulous toys that cater specifically to feline needs, offering both mental and physical stimulation, as well as revving up their prey drive and honing their hunting skills. Remember that kittens teethe. So add to your shopping list special textured chew toys that can be placed in the freezer for an additional soothing effect. They are a good investment because they also promote healthy teeth and gums. No cat can resist a wand with something feathery on the end. Small balls that roll and anything that crinkles will also be well received. Be sure to add a catnip-filled mouse to your shopping list, too.

    Some young kittens appreciate sleeping with something warm and cuddly. A special slumber toy with a built-in heartbeat mechanism designed to sooth an anxious kitten who is spending her first nights away from her mother is worth considering. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Alternatively, consider purchasing a soft floppy comfort toy and place a small alarm clock underneath it. The ticking effect is also soothing.If you have young children in the household, ensure that your cat's toys have a different texture and feel to them than your children's favorite toys. In this way, a young child will be able to better understand which toys belongs to the cat and that they aren't allowed to touch and chew those toys.

    Cats need toys that provide interaction, distraction, and comfort. You can buy basics in the beginning and add to the collection from time to time because cats, just like children, always enjoy something new. Interactive toys are those, such as lasers and wand-type toys, that will involve you in the game. Distraction toys are those, such as food puzzle games, that keep the cat busy figuring out how to get to the goods and thus mentally stimulated. And comfort toys comprise anything soft and cuddly and preferably catnip-infused.

    There is also a wonderful selection of battery-operated toys that can be pre-set to start up when your cat is home alone, such as a laser toy that can be pre-set for play and a little mouse going around and around on a track to provide both mental and physical stimulation.

    Different cats like different toys. Experiment with several types to see which your cat prefers.

    Kitty tunnels are another type of cat furniture your cat may enjoy.

    Introducing Your New Cat

    New surroundings can be daunting to a new cat or kitten. The best way to get her to settle in quickly is to initially place her in one room and let her familiarize herself within these confines first. Select a bright airy room that has little foot traffic. Put the cat bed in a corner or on the side of the room away from drafty windows or doors, and position the food and water bowls close by. Be sure to place her litter tray at the opposite side of the room. Felines are fastidious about their toilet habits and don't like food and water close to their toilet area. The best litter box location is one where the cat can see anyone approaching.

    Most kittens have been trained by their mothers to use a litter box and will instinctively cover up their business with litter after they are done. However, in the beginning, it's a good idea to place your cat in the box at regular intervals, especially after meals. Natural instinct will kick in! Because cats are such clean animals, get into the habit of scooping the tray at least once a day. Otherwise, your cat may use a cleaner spot outside the box. If this happens, you will only have yourself to blame! If you start out keeping a cat in one room, once you give her access to more space, you can slowly move the box until you are able to position it in its final location in the home.

    Opinions vary as to how long a cat should initially be confined to a room. The time frame will have a lot to do with the makeup of your individual household in terms of children and other pets. If you live alone, a week may be fine. However, with young children and other pets around, you may want to extend the restriction to one room for as long as a month. Initially, only one person should be in charge of all cat duties, from putting down food and water to scooping the litter box. Once the cat has been properly integrated into the household, however, these duties can be delegated. Even when a kitten is allowed free rein of the home, if you have to go out, it's a good idea to once again confine her to the initial room where she was housed on arrival. It's safer for the kitten, and you will have more peace of mind. In the beginning, you may want to consider doing this for a new adult cat, too.

    Introducing the newcomers to all members of the household-human (adult and child), feline, canine, bird, rodent-takes time and patience. It's critical that you handle the introductions carefully, to ensure the best possibility for household harmony. No matter whom the cat is being introduced to, whether it's to family members or to other pets in the household, remember to reward positive behavior with treats-and that includes rewarding any human children!

    Introductions to the Family

    When it comes to introductions, take it slow and only allow one person at a time to come into the room to meet the newest member of the family. Naturally, children need to be accompanied by an adult, and the kid and feline house rules have to go into effect immediately. Save introductions to friends for a few weeks to ensure it's not all too overwhelming for the newcomer.

    Hands-on attention is a very important part of socializing both a kitten and an older cat so that the newcomer will settle down in her new environment and enjoy being with the family. In fact, the more handling a kitten receives during the early weeks of her life, the more sociable she will be as an adult. It's during this time that a kitten is most open to exploring the unfamiliar, which consists of everything and everyone in its new world. So make sure the kitten has a good time in the company of different family members. By the same token, stroking and playing with an older cat will also help the newcomer to establish bonds and enjoy the companionship that everyone in the household has to offer.

    Wands and other interactive toys are wonderful because they give you a way to play with your cat.

    Introductions to Other Family Felines

    If you already have a cat, don't count on the fact that the newcomer and the established feline resident are of the same species to translate into instant friendship. How those first introductions go will have a lot to do with the personalities of the respective felines. If the incumbent cat is shy, she could even show signs of aggression because cats are naturally territorial, and a new cat could be viewed as an intruder. An incumbent cat is more likely to be tolerant of a kitten than of a fully grown cat, and female cats are known to be more aggressive than males. Ultimately, their individual personalities Biblewill rule. As far as members of the household are concerned, everyone needs to stay calm during these initial introductions. Cats are very intuitive and pick up on human emotions. Patience is key; go slowly.

    Because the new cat will initially be confined to one room, you may find your incumbent cat coming to sniff at the door. In fact, introducing cats by smell is the best way to go. One way you can do this is with a pair of socks. Rub one sock with the smell of the newcomer and the other with the smell of your incumbent cat or cats. Then swop out the socks by placing the newcomer's sock in an area of the house where other animals are and vice versa. Do this daily for a couple of days. When you ready for formal introductions, it's a good idea to place the newcomer in another room of the home and allow your incumbent cat or cats to go inside the room that the newcomer has just vacated and sniff around. Again, do this several times before taking it up a notch and allowing them to sniff each other. If you have a baby gate, let them meet on either side of the gate. Alternatively, place the newcomer in a carrier so that she feels secure and allow your other cat(s) to sniff around.

    It's important to gauge how you think it's proceeding before actually letting them meet up face to face, with no barrier between them. Plan the initial meet-up for when you have time, such as on a weekend or when you've scheduled a few days off from work.Rubbing vanilla essence on both cats, on their shoulder blades and at the base of their tails where they will have difficulty licking at it, can be helpful with the initial meet-up because when they sniff each other, they will smell the same.

    It's important that the first occasions spent together are positive experiences for both cats. Consider having the first "meet-and-greet sessions" be held over a tasty treat by putting them down next to each other with a separate bowl of tuna or kibble for each.Expect some hissing and some deep-throated growling. It's a normal part of the "meet-and-greet" routine. Pet and play with both of them. However, if it turns physical, you may have to step in and separate them again. And, if the physical contact continues to get nasty every time you place them together, you may have to go back to square one, separate them for a week, and then start over.

    Feline introductions can take a long time-even up to six months before they tolerate one another. With care and patience, they can go from toleration to friendship. The bottom line is take charge. Never bring in a new cat and leave the cats to get on with it. This can be very stressful to all the cats involved, and sometimes the resulting animosity is permanent.

    Hands-on attention is a very important part of socializing a new feline companion so she will settle down in her new environment and enjoy being with the family.

    Introductions to the Family Dog

    Once again, the sniffing game is a good place to start. Don't ever let your dog rush at your cat or kitten, even in play. After giving the animals time to get used to the smell of each other with the room-sniffing routine, move on to the next step: a face-to-face meeting, with precautions. For this meeting, keep the cat in a carrier and your dog on a leash. In this way, you can control your dog and can pull him away if necessary. Make sure you have treats handy and reward your dog, along with lots of "Good dog!" praises.

    When you finally let your cat out of the carrier, continue to keep your dog on a leash so that you can separate them quickly if necessary. At all times, make sure that there is an easy escape route for the cat. It's a good idea to do initial introductions close to a cat condo so that the cat can easily get out of reach of the dog in a hurry. (It's a good idea to have a pet first-aid antiseptic spray on hand should they scratch or nip one another.) Slowly allow them to spend more time together under strict supervision until you are sure that neither one is a threat to the other.

    With patience and careful management, your cat and your dog can be friendly toward-or at least tolerant of-each other.

    Introductions to Birds and Small Critters

    It's important to bear in mind that cats are natural predators, and small critters such as hamsters, birds, and fish need to be kept out of harm's way at all times. Both bird cages and small animal cages should have a box inside them so that these pets can escape completely out of sight, too.

    Be careful of your cat getting on top of the fish tank or reptile cage as well. The cat may knock over lights, filters, or heating elements, causing flood or fire. The cat could also go through the fish tank cover, which would not be good for the fish. If the tank is large enough, there might even be a chance your poor cat could drown. Different animals can live harmoniously in a household. However, never leave a cat alone in a room with a small critter or a fish bowl. Natural instincts may just kick in when you are not there.

    When introducing two cats to each other, intervene whenever hissing and spitting escalates to scratching and biting.

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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