What to Know Before Getting a Cat

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 5/10/20242-4 minutes
A cat with a woman

Getting a cat is exciting. Many people look forward to finding a feline companion they can bond with and integrate into their family. 

Before you choose your new pet, though, there are several factors to consider. If you’re wondering what to know before getting a cat, you’ll need to prepare your household and buy supplies like cat food, among other things.   

To ensure a smooth transition, let’s take a closer look at what you need to know before bringing a new feline home. (You can also check out our basic care and training resources to help you prepare.) 

What to Know Before Getting a Cat – 6 Tips

1) Establish Your Family’s Roles

Did your kids beg for a cat and promise to do all the cleaning? While you should take this with a grain of salt, there's something for everyone in your family to do when it comes to pitching in.  

Just make sure that all family members have a clear understanding of their caretaking roles. If appropriate, consider assigning tasks like feeding your cat and cleaning the litter box.  

2) Plan for Costs

If you’re wondering what you need to know before getting a cat, remember to make a budget for the costs of care. Plan ahead for things like veterinarian visits, buying supplies and paying for lodging while you travel.  

To get a sense of the financial resources you'll need, consult your veterinarian or local shelter. 

3) Consider Your Lifestyle & Environment

A primary reason cats are given to shelters is their owner’s living scenario.  

Whether it's roommates, moving, landlords or just not having enough space, factors related to your living situation may make having a cat more difficult than you originally thought.  

Make sure you have the permission of everyone in your living space before bringing a cat into your home.  

Also, if you travel often or are away from your home for many hours every day, don’t forget that someone will need to provide care while you’re out. While cats don’t have the same bathroom requirements as dogs, they still need to be checked on at regular intervals.  

If your home already has other pets, find out how to introduce a new cat to your current cat or how to introduce cats and dogs

If it's not the right time for you, don't worry—there will be plenty of felines looking for homes when you become ready. 

4) Address Any Safety Hazards

Here are a few ways you can cat-proof your home to reduce the risk of injury to your new pet: 

  • Remove poisonous plants
  • Keep electrical cords and items like string and ribbon out of reach
  • Block access to any nooks or hiding spots that may be dangerous
  • Use childproof latches on cabinets containing medicine, cleaning supplies or hazardous items     

5) Explore Where to Find Your New Cat

When looking for a place to get your new cat, local shelters, breeders and rescue organizations are good resources. 

Many shelter and rescue cats have had previous owners and are often evaluated by veterinarians. Shelter staff can likely give you a health and behavior assessment of the cat to help you determine if they’ll be a good fit for your home. 

If you prefer a purebred cat, a reputable breeder may be a good choice for you.  

Looking for a specific breed? Use the Purina breed selector tool. You can also get started finding a cat in your area through Petfinder or Adopt-A-Pet. 

Additionally, this article on adopting a dog can give you more details about pet adoption resources. 

6) Choose a Cat That’s Right for You & Your Family

Some people looking to adopt want to get the same type of cat they had when they were kids, without realizing that personality may be more important than breed or coloring.  

Some cats need more social time and attention, and some might be perfect for you if you have a busy lifestyle. 

Try to determine if the cat’s temperament and needs are a good fit for you and your family.  

Wondering what you need to know before getting a cat, remember to buy the right supplies.

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • A crate or carrier for traveling
  • Food and treats, especially if you want to train your cat
  • Food and water bowls
  • Litter box and litter
  • Collar and ID tag
  • ​​​Toys 

What to Know Before Getting a Kitten

For those wondering what to know before adopting a kitten, many of the same tips for getting a cat apply (establish your family’s roles, safeguard your home, etc.).  

There are a few things relevant to young cats to keep in mind, however.  

If you have very young children, you may not want to adopt a young kitten. Small kids sometimes lack the ability to understand how to behave appropriately around pets, and younger kittens may not know how to protect themselves. 

Additionally, children can be more vulnerable to diseases that can spread from cats to humans. You can always try to socialize your cat with your family, but in this case, adopting an older, calmer adult feline may be a better option.    

If you have any questions before getting a cat, a veterinarian is a great resource for guidance. 

For more cat tips, check out our Pet Expertise page for insight from our pet experts.  

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