How do I furnish a house for maximum kitten enjoyment?
March 6, 2015 9:50 AM   Subscribe

The mister and I are bringing home two 12-week-old kittens in a few weeks, and we're first-time cat owners. What toys/furniture/fixtures are most important to keep itty bitty kitties entertained and happy until we figure out what they like the most?

Obviously I don't want to spend a ton of money on big climbing structures if they'd prefer cozy caves, or vice versa. Same for fancy toys, perches, etc. They're still in the fuzzy meatball/trouble tornado stage of development, so I don't think they have distinct preferences yet. What items did you find were most loved by your kittens as they grew into (beastly large) cats?

We already have:
  • Two sizes of litterbox
  • One horizontal cardboard scratcher and one vertical sisal scratcher
  • A carpeted window perch
  • A 3' cat climber that's basically a fuzzy tube with a scoop-shaped bed on top
  • A cat dancer and the round track that they can bat a ball around
Apart from the most basics (litter, food, nail clippers, brushes, carrier, etc), what else is a necessity? Bonus if it can handle two cats that could each be 20+ pounds at full size.
posted by specialagentwebb to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You sound like you have a pretty good set-up already! And I agree that it makes more sense to wait until you figure out what your kitties are like before you go crazy buying stuff. The only additional thing I'd suggest is a few free-standing cat toys they can bat all over the house - get a couple that are some combination of glittery/noise making/rolling. They're usually pretty cheap, and cats often like the stuff you already have lying around the best (glitter pompoms, balled-up newspaper, ping-pong balls etc),
posted by fermezporte at 9:57 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cats often like confined places. This can be as simple as a cardboard box with a hole cut in the side.

One of my cats' favorite toys when they were kittens was a nylon "tunnel" that they could shoot through, or sit in while I dragged it around on the floor.
posted by adamrice at 9:58 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

A laser pointer is always useful.
posted by TORunner at 10:09 AM on March 6, 2015

Don't you mean "furrnish"? Hah!

But seriously, my cats live the 72 inch cat tree I got them. Cats love to climb!
posted by Fister Roboto at 10:13 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

One thing you might actually want for yourself and the kitty too: a glove with loooonnnnnng fingers, like these. They sell them at pet stores. The reason is that teeny kittens are very bitey, and when you pet them they'll tend to want to bite your hands. If you get the gloves, which frequently have bells or some such attached for kitty's enjoyment, you can pet them and they bite the long fuzzy fingers instead of your actual fingers. I really liked using those when my girl was little.
posted by holborne at 10:25 AM on March 6, 2015

Take a cardboard box. Cut some doors in it. You will have built the basic cat cave, and should make them quite happy.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:30 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

honestly my kitten just batted around a ball with a bell in in for hours on end. Kittens are fairly simply entertained. So don't forget the dollar store mouse/ball/feather toys, as fermezporte said.

that being said, my cats love this cat's meow toy, they really go bonkers for it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:36 AM on March 6, 2015

nthing cardboard box. They'll enjoy it more than anything you spend money on.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:41 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

My cats love shoeboxes, and bookshelves.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:43 AM on March 6, 2015

I spent more money than I should have thinking if I found just the right kind of cave-y thing he'd love it. Same for a bed. Nope. Not into caves and my his house is his bed. Boxes interest him for five minutes, tops.

My cat's must haves: very lightweight, small mice, and he loves the various laser pointers so much that if I don't hide them he will knock them around until I pick it up. He likes those cat dancer things, but doesn't care if it's a piece of string or a purchased feathery thing.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:45 AM on March 6, 2015

One of the best purchases I've made in recent years is the PetFusion scratcher. Cosgrove loves it for scratching purposes and just to hang out on. They make a larger one that I'm thinking about buying when this one finally wears out, that has more den-like spaces, but Jasper the kitten likes the one we have, too.

But yes yes yes to cat trees. All my cats like to be as high as possible and they love to look out the windows.
posted by janey47 at 11:03 AM on March 6, 2015

Oh my, what spoiled kitties! I read your question aloud, and my daughter's first reaction was "curtains". Both seriously and sarcastically, of course.

We have a 16 week old kitten in the house, and she's crazy. Hands down, the most active, playful, rambunctious ball of full I've seen in a lifetime of kittens. I'd thought her older "sister" was nuts, but this one takes the cake. Anything and everything is fair game to play with. She has plenty of toys, but that doesn't stop her from stealing everything from pens and socks to dragging off entire pads of sticky notes. (Or an 6" stuffed toy mushroom as big as she is, which she quite literally just ran in the room with, daughter chasing her...)

In other words, they'll discover what they like, and they'll show you - and may or may not do so with the toys that are "theirs". The kitten that hides under the bed, or on the bottom shelf in the dark, well, she likes small dark spaces. The kitten that's always on the top shelf, or on top of the door - well, she likes being up high. And the kitten that's swinging from the curtains, well... she might play on a cat tree, but you hope like heck that she grows out of it eventually!
posted by stormyteal at 11:24 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

You might have to get different types of scratchers since cats seem to have weird preferences. We had one that loved cardboard-on-the-floor. And the other one won't touch it, but loves this: The Ultimate Scratching Post. (Note, I have a larger cat, so it might be bigger than you need, though it's good for them to be able to stretch all the way when they scratch.)
posted by ethidda at 11:27 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pet drinking fountain: I just bought one for my little monster and it serves as both water dispenser and cat television. She stares at even when she's not thirsty. Other than that she's always been pretty basic. Nothing we buy her interests her as much as those card board trays that come with the case of soda water or plastic pull tabs from the milk jug. Catnip can be helpful for wearing out overactive felines and those fur mice are always a hit (though they don't last long). As they get older, if you find they are big climbers (tops of doors, etc) you can invest in a cat tree. Until then, those cardboard scratching pads are cheap and do the job for keeping cat claws off the sofa arms. They may never graduate past them (ours didn't). Congratulations on your new roommates!
posted by palindromeisnotapalindrome at 11:54 AM on March 6, 2015

Cardboard boxes. Different sizes, different shapes. They will probably get more use than just about any toy you can buy for the kittens.

Aside from that, I would get some of those toy mice and maybe jingly balls especially if they have feathers attached. Also, a furminator (or similar comb) is super useful to help speed the shedding process along. At 12 weeks, they're probably too small for them, but I do think it would be useful to get them used to being brushed at a young age.

But seriously: cardboard boxes.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:58 AM on March 6, 2015

I've found a lot of cat toys are really too big. Their favorite toys are the same size as the prey they catch: bite-sized; about the size of a large marble.

We've also had good luck with paper bags, cardboard egg cartons, plastic-wrapped tampons (OB, with the string/tail pulled out!)... My brother gave me a mini nerf dart gun - it scared his dogs, but my cats thought it was great and immediately attacked the little nerf darts. Bubbles (the soap kind for kids) totally freak them out, but YMMV. I'll also mention that my two cats play different games: one likes string and jumping around on the couch or bed chasing it, my other cat likes small rolly things she can play soccer with. String cat won't play soccer, soccer cat won't leap around at string. You'll have a better idea once they're home with you! My cats rotate favorite toys and sleeping spots - they'll ignore something for months and then suddenly sleep in it all day every day for weeks and fight over it, so we have a bunch of cat beds we leave around the house even when not in active use.

Also, most of the cat towers I see are too wimpy (for my cats anyway, who are huuuuge). My grandma got them a super sturdy one and they looooove it. It's about 2'x2'and 3'high and weighs a TON.

Potted plants - one of catnip and one of grass for munching.
Nth get the used to brushing early.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:17 PM on March 6, 2015

The last time we had a kitten, after a few weeks I noticed him bunny-kicking at a balled-up sock, so I got him a Kong Kickeroo and he still looooves it.

My other cat goes crazy for pipe cleaners/chenille stems. YKMV.
posted by mogget at 2:37 PM on March 6, 2015

They will not sleep at night, at all, for the first year.

You have been warned. :)

Try to wear them out before bedtime, and give them an isolated place to play at night so you guys can get some sleep.

I wouldn't worry too much about the "right" toys. They'll tell you what they like and don't like over time. They are strange, furry little terrorists with inexplicable personalities.
posted by Thistledown at 2:41 PM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't forget Q-Tips! My at loves them, too. Just make sure you don't leave them unsupervised.

(I'm pretty sure I first saw this as a post here but I can't find it. )
posted by Room 641-A at 4:59 PM on March 6, 2015

Ooh, yes, cardboard boxes. They're so common and all-over around here due to cats in them that I forget they're there. (We've made the "if it fits, it ships" thing our own personal joke... nothing quite like a 15 lb cat trying to sit in a double-CD sized box.) If you can stand it, leave a few of them around. Ours especially like it when the boxes are stacked sideways in each other.

And if you have these - or something similar - I highly recommend. In our area, we can get 12 packs of Ramen that come in a box without a top, but wrapped around in plastic. If you open it by only removing about 1/6 to 1/4 of the plastic on the top of the box - basically just big enough for a kitten to climb in - that is a wonderful hide and seek play area, at least until someone forgets and takes it apart.

Paper bags, too. We usually have at least one somewhere, open, on its side.

Lightweight cat toys (like the tiny mice) tied to doorknobs.

Those tweeting birds and crickets are loved by the kitten. But she plays with EVERYTHING, so it's hard to tell which is "more".

We also have a small windchime hanging from the kitchen cabinet over the bar. Since it's pretty impossible to keep her off the counter, it helps to have a distraction from the bread bags. And we try not to leave any knives on the kitchen counter. They're no different than batting at a pen or scissors, to her, and I'm too worried she'll eventually cut herself.

And be careful of your power cords.
posted by stormyteal at 11:36 PM on March 7, 2015

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