Cat stuff: tell me about the best cat supplies for non-cat people
December 29, 2018 7:25 PM   Subscribe

We might actually get a cat. I have never lived with a cat before. Please tell me about cat supplies that are totally the best - the kind that you discovered and can’t believe you lived without for so long.

I understand that different cats like different things, but I’m particularly interested in learning about things that make cat ownership easier and less smelly. Like: you scoop litter into a trash can. What kind of set up for that is the best? Is there a specific type of trash can that you keep next to the litter box? Or: you have to take your cat to the vet. What sort of carrier freaks them out the least? Please help this cat newbie wrap her mind around the logistics of cat ownership. My husband grew up with cats and doesn’t understand why this seems so mysterious to me, but I am not used to taking care of something that can draw blood if I do something wrong.

(This is my previous cat pondering post, and two years later my kid is SO SO SO ready to have a cat sibling.)
posted by Maarika to Pets & Animals (64 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I scoop litter into scented dog waste bags and toss them in the regular trash. I keep the scooper in a plastic bag on a hook near the litter box so it doesn’t “drip”. I have a mat under and around the box to minimize tracking, but I keep a little broom and dustpan right there too.
posted by OrangeVelour at 7:40 PM on December 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Get a metal or melamine or otherwise very sturdy litter scoop, not one of the flimsy light plastic things you see at the grocery store. Sometimes cats seem to pee glue or something onto their clumping litter and the light plastic scoops can't get it and will even break.
posted by dilettante at 7:44 PM on December 29, 2018 [10 favorites]

My husband told me for years that every cat needs a cat, and now that we have siblings, I agree. One cat gets bored all alone and two isn’t really more work (1-2 more boxes, maybe). Think about adopting litter mates or a bonded pair.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:51 PM on December 29, 2018 [17 favorites]

This scoop. After experiencing how much easier it made my world, I gave it to a friend as a Xmas gift. She was understandably dubious until she tried it and loved it.

This litter is spendy, but a vet I know swears by it... no weird things in it that are bad for kitty or for you.

An IKEA lambskin is often well regarded by the felines I know.
posted by jenquat at 8:00 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

A Catit water fountain!
posted by lydhre at 8:01 PM on December 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

When we adopted our cat from the SPCA they gave us what is basically a diaper genie, but for litter, like this one. I use it with a regular garbage bag and keep it next to the litter box. The litter box has a layer of pressed pine pellets (which I like the smell of) like this. I scoop the cat feces into the litter genie and the pellets in the box break down into wood bits as they absorb the urine. When the pellets are almost all sawdust I use them for compost in my flower beds. This set up works and smells much better for us than the clumping litter we used before, plus we throw out much less waste.

Other than that we have a food dish, a water dish and a really good hair brush for the cat. Oh, and also this cat toy.
posted by Cuke at 8:01 PM on December 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

A word of advice: the most common cause of revenge pooping is not scooping the litter box often enough.

Also, a well-maintained litter box is much less smelly than a poorly-maintained one.

I will admit that I personally just flush the poop—as in I take it to the bathroom in the scoop and then dump it in the toilet and flush it—although if you're on town sewer you might want to read up on the ecological impact of that before you go that route. I use a Clevercat top-entry litterbox (I see there are now many competing products that look basically the same) which reduces smell and tracking of litter, and I scoop it at least once a day religiously and change out the litter entirely once a week. Once in a while I take the hose to it and get some bleach up in there. When I change the litter I also go around the box's area with the shop vac to get any stray bits of litter. You get used to it.

I keep it in the basement. When I didn't have a basement, I kept it in the bathroom.

Be aware that there are such things as robotic litterboxes that automate much of the duty of dealing with cat poop; I have never tried one but have always been curious.

Be aware that your cat may vary in terms of what it is willing to poop in; most cats are pretty easygoing but some can be particular. If your cat turns out to be particular, go with what works. Not a battle worth fighting.

Get a large, sturdy metal scoop with large perforations. It is well worth the extra $8 over a succession of crappy little plastic ones, I promise.

Feed your cat a better-quality diet and it will poop less and the poop will be less smelly. It will always poop though, and occasionally it will probably poop where it shouldn't, which sometimes is a sign that it is sick but usually (generally speaking) is a sign that the cat considers the litterbox unacceptable.

I have yet to find a litter that I am totally satisfied with. Clay-based litters have dust that is bad for your cat's lungs. I am wary of anything scented—who knows whether that is OK for a cat to breathe or not, I'd rather not chance it. Right now I use a cedar-based litter but I'm honestly not very satisfied with it and will probably try something else soon—the smell control isn't great and it tracks a lot. I liked World's Best better but it's not perfect either, will be interested to see what others are using.

And that's what I have to say about cat poop.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:04 PM on December 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jenquat’s scoop is our scoop and I have given the same scoop to several friends and relatives. We’ve had cats for more than thirty-five years and I can’t believe the first thirty were lived without that scoop. Also, in re cat boxes: clean them more often than you want to. You DO NOT WANT the cats to grow disgusted with their box(es) because they will find somewhere you much less enjoy to go instead.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 8:08 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Litter Genie keeps the smell pretty well contained and comes with a good scoop for clumping litter.

Get a nice big litter box, bigger than you'd probably think is necessary for one cat.

Some hooded litter boxes have a place to insert carbon filters, which helps a lot with the smell.

Cats hate cat carriers because they associate them with unpleasant experiences, such as going to the vet. But it helps to have a large carrier where top-loading is an option.

Cats can be messy eaters. It's nice to have a placemat for their food and water dishes.

You might find that you buy some perfect-seeming things for your cat, only to find that your cat has a particular quirk that makes it incompatible with that thing and you have to hunt for another solution. That is a normal experience.
posted by bananana at 8:20 PM on December 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I am a huge fan of the obscenely expensive Litter Robot. It does the scooping for you so the litter in the box is always to the kitty's liking. There's no smell as long as you empty the bin underneath it every couple of days. I live in a studio apartment so this is more for me than for the cat, but my little buddy has taken to it quite nicely. He's also endlessly fascinated watching it goes through its cycles, which is kind of a treat in itself.

Feliway. My kitty was a stray and I think it's worked to help him feel more comfortable in his new digs.
posted by 6thsense at 8:24 PM on December 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

The reason we are all talking about poop is that it's probably the most difficult part of cat-ownership on a day-to-day basis and the main one which really requires special supplies. Overall cats are not that complicated! They are mostly snuggles and naps, occasional humorous antics.

They can eat out of any old dish that you don't care about, just make sure it gets washed regularly. Easiest is to have two dishes and just hand-wash the old one real quick as soon as you swap it out, then set it to dry. Ready to go for the next feeding.

I feed my cat twice a day. She gets a very strict and limited diet because she has absolutely horrendous allergies, probably not applicable to your cat.

It's good for them to drink water. Most cats don't drink very much. Change the water at least twice a day and use a clean water dish each time; cats are at least as picky as humans about what water they consider drinkable. On the other hand, my cat's favorite water is probably toilet water, so.

Shallow dishes are better because they don't tickle your cat's whiskers while it eats and drinks, something that many cats find annoying.

As for toys, you can make your own with literally string and bits of trash like a scrap of fabric or even paper. Most cats like to play—their main game is "kill the thingie"—and it's both fun and good for the cat. Not saying I don't also buy the occasional store-bought cat toy, but you don't need anything fancy here.

Your cat will need periodic vaccinations; your vet can advise as to what's appropriate. When you have to put the cat in its carrier, stand the carrier on end with the gate open and lower your cat in feet first, holding it under its armpits. Most cats will just slide right in if you do it like this.

Cats actually prefer a carrier that is fairly snug by human standards; they feel safer in closer quarters.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:31 PM on December 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Are you throwing money and space at this? Because this has been my best cat "carrier" ever. Just plunk cat in and wheel her around like the pampered princess she is. There's (very little) playing the game of cram-the-cat-in-the-box-and-scar-her-for-car-trips-forever going on here. I originally bought this as a means to get all three of mine out of the house quickly (as almost 8 years ago I asked ask.mefi about how to have a kitty fire drill), and it's still holding up strong. It makes trips with the cats a breeze (for one or two, 3 is a very tight fit), is easily seat-beltable and every vet I've ever seen since then comments on it.
posted by cgg at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

Everyone has a lot of the major things covered.

One of my favorite cat toys that came from a random internet search is sprinkling dry food in the cups of an empty egg carton. They can’t just stick their nose in to eat it so they need to figure out how to get it out. This keeps my cat decently occupied for at least 10 minutes, which seems pretty good for a cat toy.

He’s also mystified and intrigued by a bowl of ice cubes floating in water, he’ll poke at that for ages.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 8:37 PM on December 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I like that everyone went to the poop part of the question first. CleverCat box + Litter Genie gets my vote; and scoop whenever you're passing, at minimum twice a day. Although we too ended up spending the $$$ on a Litter Robot eventually.

What sort of carrier freaks them out the least?

Solid; big enough for the cat to turn around in; with both front and top openings. It's much easier to drop a reluctant cat into a carrier than it is to try to stuff him into it from the side. Also: take it out and leave it open with a favored blanket or bed in it for a few days before the vet visit. One of ours likes to use it as a sleeping spot which helps to lessen the oh-oh-time-for-the-vet association. (Jake in the big carrier; in the small one.)

On the less-smelly thing: baby blankets make good liners for cat beds: softer, and easier to launder a blanket than an entire bed if/when they start to smell like stale cat. (Jacqueline demonstrates.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:46 PM on December 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Our 3 cats love cat balls.

One cat loves his wheel. One will use it supervised with me and one has zero interest.

This bed we found at Target.

Ceramic fountain and bowls prevent skin problems that plastic or metal ones cause.
posted by ridogi at 8:51 PM on December 29, 2018

Oh I have a cat tree in front of a high, sunny window which my cat spends hours in every day, just basking in the sun and watching the birds and squirrels outside. She loves that thing.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:14 PM on December 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Bags for litter triage. Duffel carrier for vet visits, bigger carrier for road trips. We leave the bigger carrier out as a place to hang out when human contact is not desired.

Shallow dishes are better because they don't tickle your cat's whiskers while it eats and drinks, something that many cats find annoying.


1. If Cat is a messy eater, consider putting the dish on a tray that can be washed instead of the floor.
2. If Cat eats like a hungry hippo, elevate the dish on a dishwasher-safe plastic storage box.
posted by holgate at 9:52 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another possibility for filling the litter box is Feline Pine. I see it now comes in original and clumping. I just get no-name pine pellets at the local farm slash home and garden store; a 40-lb. bag is $5. Really controls odor.

Toys. Your cat will tell you what it wants to play with. Most of my cats have enjoyed store-bought toys. My present cat does not. She likes the little rings that are left on the milk jug after you remove the cap. There must be two or three dozen around here. Hartz used to make a toy called a Batta-Bag, which one of my dearly missed cats loved. Just get a couple of old socks and stuff them with batting and tie a knot in the end. It's good for hours of murderous fun.

As noted above, cats aren't rocket science. Discuss a good diet and care with your cat's veterinarian, and just enjoy your furry new lord and master.
posted by bryon at 10:00 PM on December 29, 2018

Watch out for your couches lest the beasts sharpen their claws on it. Get a scratching post and be vigilant about training them not to scratch the couch.
posted by salvia at 10:03 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Many cats will end up with kidney or bladder problems. This is, in part, due to the diet we feed them and the way their kidneys work. Cats kidneys and bladder really aren't designed for heavy use. They want to get most of their water from their food. Unfortunately, the food most cat owners provide is dry kibble that requires the cat to drink extra water. We even give them fountains to encourage them to drink more. This can cause problems as the cat gets older. Males often get kidney stones, and both sexes get bladder and kidney problems, including kidney failure. I fight this by giving my cats equal portions of wet and dry food twice daily.

A 5 gallon bucket with a lid (lined with a trash bag) keeps the smell down until trash day.

Feed kittens high quality kitten food for 1 full year (at least) to ensure full growth. Can't build a quality cat without quality ingredients.

Get this scratching post and no other. The main reason cats refuse to use scratching posts is that people buy them crappy ones and the post falls over when the cat tries to use it. This post will not fall over and it's tall enough for stretching and a little climbing.

We had a deal, Kyle is absolutely correct about the carrier. Solid, top and front opening, comfy blankie inside for enticing cat cave action when not needed for transport.

The best toys my cats have ever had were catnip bananas and parts of dead animals. Seriously, I went on Etsy one year and bought several quail wings and my cats went completely insane. Squirrel tails are popular, as are fox tails, sheepskin strips, and a buffalo hide kicker toy I also got on Etsy.

Have fun!
posted by irisclara at 11:07 PM on December 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

All my little fur-faces have loved the Zoom Groom. They don't just love being brushed; they enjoy gnawing on it, too. Loose fur? Can't escape the Zoom Groom.

Also, cats like having someplace high up where they can climb and hang out. I used to actually keep things on top of my bookcases until Nico decided that that was Kitty Upstairs.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:14 PM on December 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

My solution to the litter box situation is to have two, use a plant-based litter and clean them weekly. With only one cat it's really not a huge deal, smell has never been a problem. I have mine next to each other in a closet (which also has all my clothes, they don't ever smell), and I keep a cordless vacuum close by to pick up the litter he tracks around. It takes me a total of 10 minutes / week, once a week to scoop the boxes out into a grocery bag and toss it in the dumpster. I LOVE the litter I use -- Arm and Hammer Naturals. Similar to wood litter but made of corn. Better than gravel or wood and I actively love the smell, which is fresh and piney.

I've found with my kitty that he does way better without a cat carrier for car trips. I got him when he was still a kitten (4 months) so YMMV with an older cat, but I have always put a harness on him and let him roam in the car. He meows for a couple minutes and then settles in. Something to think about/try especially if you get a younger cat.
posted by switcheroo at 11:38 PM on December 29, 2018

I'm kind of surprised that no one's mentioned World's Best Cat Litter, which is a flushable corn-based litter. I used to be a hardcore pine pellet litter fan, and if you're going to dump the entire box a couple times a week, that's the way to go, in my opinion. But I live in an apartment with an inconvenient trash arrangement, and discovering World's Best was life-changing for me. Every night before bed, I scoop the litter directly into the toilet, flush, and then am done. I love love love not having to haul a heavy trashbag (with the dreaded possibility for tears) out of my house.

In my experience, World's Best isn't much more expensive than using pine pellets. Scooping and adding new litter once or twice a week seems to get me about two to three months of use from a large bag, which costs about $30. Dumping pine pellet boxes a few times a week could easily eat through a couple bags a month at $5 a bag. And this is so much easier!

Interactive feeders are great for cats. I give my cats treats in this wobbler, which I like because it's quite large and has a heavily weighted base--it feels sturdy in a way that many wobblers don't. It's made of a very solid plastic, and the holes are on the sides, so the cats have to work to get them out. We've had two others, but they were small and flimsy, so I'm quite loyal to this one now. I've even bought backups. I'll also put a kibble, plus a few treats, in this ball, and to my surprise, they love it, and will seek it out even if they have bowls of kibble.

Finally, I don't know how it's possible that Cat Dancer somehow reads my cats' minds and builds the perfect toys for them, but it seems like that's what happened. I have the cat dancer and the cat charmer, and even my cat who hates toys is absolutely wild for them. I can't explain it, and at first I felt utterly ridiculous paying $6 for a metal line with a bit of cardboard on the end, but I've bought probably half a dozen of them (some for my house, so we can have one in every room, and some as gifts) and I don't regret a penny of it.
posted by mishafletch at 11:43 PM on December 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

We have recently got two kittens, after 11 years with a very chill mostly outdoors cat (RIP Milo).

The two things that have kept this bearable since they aren't allowed outside yet are the Litter Locker and The World's Best Cat Litter.

The Litter Locker (or Shite Silo, as we've named it) is basically like one of those nappy bins - you scoop waste into it, then drop it into a scented tube bag that you can tie off and remove at intervals. It keeps poop smell to a minimum and means very little waste and additional plastic compared to lots of individual bags. Can't recommend it enough. One tip is to just get generic refills for it - you can get a box of four refills for half the price of the 'official' Litter Locker ones.

The World's Best Cat Litter is basically witchcraft. It instantly clumps up on liquids and coats solids really quickly, so they can be scooped out very easily. And it properly clumps too, you don't get the soggy layer of really unpleasant 'clumped' litter at the bottom that we experienced with other litters. You just get a dry lump you can scoop out. It's expensive, but we go through a 12 litre bag with two kittens who use their litter tray a lot in about a month. We were going through 5 litre bags of off-the-shelf litter every week, so we were spending about the same amount of money anyway. It's made out of corn too, so it doesn't have some of the chemical smell of other litters, which we prefer.

Just remember to top it up regularly in the litter box, as the scooping process gradually breaks down the stuff in there into quite a fine powder. We change it out completely every 2-3 weeks to avoid this.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:14 AM on December 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Definitely World’s Best for cat litter. We flush directly into the toilet and our house is on a septic system (we checked and experimented with an expert before hand) and it takes all of two minutes to have the cleanest litter box in the land nightly.
posted by lydhre at 3:15 AM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Almost every cat feeding/cat annoying me for food at 5am related question on AskMe has people suggesting an automatic feeder for a reason.

We recently switched to a top entry litter box after our cat started a weird habit of only going halfway into her box and then peeing outside the box. Wish we got it sooner.

We got the Amazon Basics cat carrier. Perfectly comfy and well priced. Easy to pop her in from the top and it’s a soft carrier so it folds away.

We also use dog waste bags to remove her dirty litter every night.
posted by like_neon at 5:06 AM on December 30, 2018

Cats have different toy preferences. Before you stock up on toys, get a little variety pack and see if your cat likes feathers or fur or jingly balls or things on sticks or scratchy cardboard things or catnip things.

Many cats like to be up high, both to feel safe and to have ample opportunities for literally and metaphorically looking down on you. If your home doesn’t already have something high to climb onto, you might consider a nice tall cat tree. Bonus if you can position it so it looks out a window.

Whatever toys and beds you get, switch them up every once in a while. Cats are very smart and also very stupid, and a bed that they have become bored with, moved to another corner of the room, becomes new! and! exciting!

Treat preferences are real too, but in my house everyone goes nuts for Liv-a-Littles (chicken flavor, the fish ones are unbelievably smelly and I can’t tolerate them) and the Inuba tubes that are basically cat go-gurt.
posted by Stacey at 5:46 AM on December 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Digby has a nice ceramic set of dishes for water and dry food in a metal stand (like this one) - it keeps him from nudging the bowls around when they're empty. All his wet food goes on dessert size paper plates - makes clean up MUCH easier - no dried on cat food - just toss.

Litter is a funny thing and some cats require some figuring out. I used to use Tidy Cat, but after some peeing outside the box issues, I now have two littler boxes (very deep, and without covers) and use Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract and have had success with that. Scoop it as often as you can - I had a Litter Genie, but found that using animal waste bags was easier and cheaper. This mat from iPrimio does a great job catching the litter, and is super easy to clean.

On the fun side, thirding Cat Dancer. And bless those people, they could easily charge (and most would pay) upwards of $10, but they only charge $2.00 and I have yet to meet a cat that doesn't like it. Finally, Digby's new favorite food toy is Snaky Mouse - he's 'special' so it took him a bit to figure it out, but he loves it now and will bat it around when it's empty as a signal that I need to fill it. If I know I'm not going to be home for a bit, I'll fill it up for him.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:49 AM on December 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Nthing the litter genie--scoop once a day and in less than 5 minutes you'll have a less smelly house and a happier cat. Get a larger litterbox than you think you need to reduce the mess even more (for example, I have a very long cat and a problem with "dingleberries" was almost completely eliminated once I got him a "jumbo" litterbox).

Also nthign the Cat Dancer cardboard-on-a-wire toy. They're often on sale for like $1.99 on Chewy and my cat loves them. (Also, I've found to be really handy for taking care of my cat food orders, and they're usually a few dollars cheaper than PetCo).

Also suggesting a double-wide cardboard scratcher--in particular, the Trader Joe's brand seems to to have a magical power.

Finally: give your cat several options for toys/beds/engagement and don't be afraid to leave them out for a while. My cat tends to ignore things (beds, toys, scratchers) for a month or two and then suddenly some switch flips in his little cat brain and he LOVES all of the things. So give your kitty lots of chances before you rule out anything.
posted by TwoStride at 6:04 AM on December 30, 2018

World's Best Cat Litter. I live in a studio apartment with an uncovered litter box and never have smell issues unless I am less diligent about scooping. (I don't use a covered litterbox because I scooped less when I had one.) And the litter itself doesn't smell, which is a big issue for me.

Also a big fan of the Cat Dancer.

You can clip their claws. My cranky old cat rarely tolerates it, but short claws help with scratching damage and make it so much better if the cat wants to make biscuits on you.
posted by Mavri at 6:44 AM on December 30, 2018

The most beloved toy at our house is Da Bird. I know it doesn't look much different than other things-on-a-string-on-a-stick toys, but the feathers are arranged in such a way that when you sweep it through the air it flutters realistically, inspiring feats of athleticism.

Long peacock feathers are another favorite.

In both cases, supervision is required, and the toys should be stored somewhere secure - our current roommate will eat the feathers and string if permitted. Nobody wants an intestinal obstruction.
posted by jocelmeow at 7:14 AM on December 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh my God, Cat Dancer! It is actual human money that you have earned with your labor for a wire and four fucking pieces of rolled cardboard and may I just say that it is worth it. This reminds me to put another Cat Dancer in my next Chewy order.

Speaking of Chewy, it is the only way to go, especially for heavy stuff and an excellent selection. I no longer schlep kitty litter from the grocery store and that's awesome. (Their high-end food is also cheaper than the fancy pet store in my neighborhood, sorry fancy pet store.) You can save a bit more if you set things up to deliver at regular intervals, which I have to do again becauuuuuuse:

Unless you are adopting a cat who definitely needs to be the only cat in the household, please think about getting two. I'm getting a second cat soon (like, in the next two-three weeks) because my existing cat desperately needs a buddy. I need a buddy for him. I love him more than anything but he is lonely and is a total pill right now.

Right now I have a covered litter box with a little zeolite filter and that works great, although there's definite litter scatter. I'm going to get a top-entry box too and see how well that works. I have a little robot vacuum I can run every day or two to get the scattered litter, but I definitely recommend getting a Dirt Devil or similar to just hoover up as needed.

Have lots of levels available; my guy adores being high up and pretty much lives on the top level of his cat tree.

Be prepared to experiment with carriers. My cat gets panic attacks lately, so I just got him an extra-big one to see if that helps. It lives out with a nice blanket inside, and he'll go in there to sleep, so I'm hopeful that we can make it to the vet without him freaking out soon. Definitely leave the carrier out if you can at all help it, so it becomes just a piece of the furniture instead of Herald of The Vet.
posted by kalimac at 7:16 AM on December 30, 2018

Seconding the Litter Locker (we call it the Shithole) and Catit water fountain. You NEED a water fountain if you have a male cat; they're prone to UTIs and urinary blockages, and keeping them well-hydrated is a way to prevent this. Speaking of prevention, YOU NEED VET INSURANCE.

We've used generic wood cat litter for years. Nothing comes close in terms of odour control and scoopability. It doesn't clump, but when peed on it breaks down into a kind of scoopable mulch.

We find a top loading carrier, this one specifically, waaaaay easier for catnappings. Before we'd put a standard carrier on its end and shove our large adult feline son inside, but that seemed to amplify his distress.

Edited to add before I forget: our cat loves these ball-shaped kibble dispensers, both for the kibble and for the mental stimulation. We give him one before bed every night and fall asleep to the sound of him contentedly wapping it around the living room. YMMV depending on how food-motivated your cat is, but it's a great way to get some mental stimulation in.
posted by nerdfish at 7:19 AM on December 30, 2018

Cats like and need vertical space. Being up high makes them feel safe. Is there a (human OK’d) path to get on top of the fridge/cabinets/bookcases? Do you have room for a cat condo? has a million to choose from, some quite skinny.
posted by missmary6 at 7:34 AM on December 30, 2018

- Metal litter scoop.
- This stuff is great for removing pee odor if they pee outside the box.
- Window perch!
- When I had a cat, I used to make a toy by cutting holes in a cardboard box (holes big enough for him to stick his paws in), and throwing a few treats in the box. He loved it because he got treats and I loved it because he had to work to figure out how to get to the treats.

Also, general advice for new cat owners: if the cat pees outside the box, you need to take it to the vet ASAP because that’s a sign of urinary tract infection. I have met so many people who are like “my cat wouldn’t stop peeing everywhere so I took it back to the shelter”. Please don’t be one of those people.
posted by a strong female character at 8:47 AM on December 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

My cats do not scratch my furniture. Ever.

How did I achieve this miracle? By getting a number of those cardboard cat scratching trays and frequently dosing them with fresh catnip. The cat sees the cardboard scratching tray as a treat, when she scratches there she gets drugs!

I also have a standing scratching post that I spray with catnip spray. My cat likes an upward stretch on occasion.
posted by brookeb at 8:56 AM on December 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Nthing the Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat litter, the Cat Dancer toy, and that scratching post. Our cat was unenthused about all the different healthy treats we got from the frou frou pet store but goes crazy for Temptations. Shrug. Guess that's why they're treats.
posted by quaking fajita at 9:00 AM on December 30, 2018

My recommendation is a book: The Trainable Cat.

It really helped me understand cat thinking. I got it more for that reason than because I am interested in cat training. However, now my cat will come when called (even when she is hunting in someone's yard two houses down from us!), sit and high five. In fact I have been meaning to get a video of her doing these tricks to put up with an Ask about ideas for other tricks to teach her. We are currently working on Lie Down and then we'll try Roll Over, so it could be a little while.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:06 AM on December 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


They're a review site for all things cat-awesome, with links to where you can buy them.

In particular, look into a cat tower, possibly mounting catwalks/shelves on the walls. Not only is it cool AF to have your cat walking around above you, it's good for their mental health. Allows them to be in the room, watching, but away from predators. Look for books by the author "Jackson Galaxy", keyword "catification".

Note: According to JG, cats want their own space and are actually loners. "Catification" of the home with towers and catwalks allows multiple cats to find their own space. And if it's designed correctly, there are no dead ends, there's always a path to the ground so nobody can get cornered.

Also, cats may be carnivores, but their primary experience is that of being prey to larger beasts. Hidey-holes and caves as well as shelves and catwalks. They feel safe in a small tight hole they can barely fit in, because predators usually can't follow.


Cats are obligate carnivores. They have to eat meat. Grain-based kibble is unhealthy for them, and causes all sorts of digestive and urinary issues. And the cat box smells HORRIBLE.

We feed Penny Primal freeze-dried cat food.

We crush the freeze dried blocks roughly and add water, enough to make a little soup, but not to drown it and Penny LOVES IT.

No cat breath. No stinky cat box. And HUGE blocks of urine in the clay. This is good.

Cats are descended from desert cats, and their instincts are not to expect to find clean water to drink easily. They expect to get most of their water from the meat they consume. Getting cats to drink enough is often an issue. Penny's bladder is HEALTHY.

Feeding Penny the Primal Raw Food was the best choice ever.

And seriously. Cat tower. Wall-mounted cat walks. You have no idea how cool it is having a cat walking around overhead till you live that way.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:17 AM on December 30, 2018

The tallest biggest cat tree you have space for and can afford. Another in a different room if possible. All our cats haved LOVED cat trees.

Metal litter pans, sitting on large trays, if a cat kicks up a ton of litter, they sometimes will pee on it and when its on the floor it creates a big mess, on a tray it can be wiped up easier.

We scoop into used sandwich or larger ziptop bags, its a good way to reuse them plus it cuts way down on stinkiness. If no ziptop bag is avail we use grocery bags. Have also used dog poop bags but we have enough of the other types handy so I like to use them up 1st.

Large heavy duty metal litter sifter-costs double the small plastic ones, is worth triple the price.
Get in the habit of sifting daily and your cat will usually be less likley to go outside the box.

Start w/an assortment of toys then add as you learn what your cat prefers.

Brush and good sturdy nail trimmers and start grooming gently and lovingly so its not a fight or flight situation.

Cat seat that hangs on window sill overlooking a yard w/birds in it if possible.

A cat house or even a box they can hide in and hang out in in addition to the tree, preferably in a different room.

Comfy soft cat beds.

Water fountain, there are stainless steel and ceramic available, plastic tends to get icky and some cats can get chin acne from plastic.

Steel or ceramic food bowls, see above. Its a good idea to feed at same time daily and most cats like someone around when they eat, even if you free feed, you can change food out at a certain time and just be in the room while they eat when its fresh.

Cat grass in small pots that you start a new one every couple weeks so they have new grass often.

Time every day to play even if its just a few minutes cats need structured play just like dogs and people. Congrats!
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 9:54 AM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

A cat tree with scratching posts incorporated. Our cat spends most his day perched on the top platform, away from the dog. And he's learned that these scratching posts are ok to use, unlike the furniture.
posted by summerstorm at 9:55 AM on December 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

A couple other things-
Please use unscented litter! Cats noses are very sensitive and the perfumes are strong to cover the smell. Better to smell it and scoop it daily or twice a day, than to let the litter reek of feces, urine and strong perfume. Would you want to go in there? Neither will your cat. Now that closet or laundry basket looks appealing...

And do NOT use a covered litter box, people tend not to scoop them daily, cats don’t like being trapped when they do their business esp if you end up w/2 cats, sometimes one will lurk and scare or bully the one in the litter pan, if its a covered pan the cat will feel trapped and thats a huge reason why kitties go outside the box, once that starts its a lifelong tendency to go in other places.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 10:04 AM on December 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

You're getting a lot of different advice here, and that's because cats differ and owners differ as well. I suggest starting with less expensive litterboxes and toys while you figure out your cat's tastes.

Two things that I think first-time cat owners should know that they might not:

1. Most litterboxes are actually too small for cats. They're much more comfortable if they have room to turn around without stepping on their mess. If your cat is pawing at the sides of the box, or jumps out of the box suddenly after they've finished their business, that's a sign it's too small.

2. Wet food is much, much better for your cat than dry food. This has already been mentioned, but it's important enough that I think it should be mentioned again - losing a cat to kidney failure is expensive and painful. If you can afford it, you should feed your cat all wet food or at least a mix of wet and dry food. (My cats get mostly wet food, with dry food to "top up" when certain cans are too small.) has some nutritional guidelines for cats. Don't feel intimidated and like you need to get the "best" (and most expensive) wet food; there are some less expensive options that are decent enough - and still a big improvement over even expensive dry foods. Some general guidelines they give:
For healthy cats, pick canned foods that are below 10% calories from carbohydrates, at least 40% calories from protein, and approximately 50% fat calories or less.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:35 AM on December 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

One note about the Litter genie: it did make for easier litter scooping, but when it was time to change the bag -- Zeus on a pogo stick, the STENCH. It was VILE. Maybe our two beasts have mutant poo, because no matter what litter we used, changing the Litter Genie bag would literally make me gag.
posted by sarcasticah at 10:36 AM on December 30, 2018

Oh, and answering the question: we use World's Best cat Litter, and just flush it -- makes dealing with the litter far less awful.
posted by sarcasticah at 10:39 AM on December 30, 2018

You have no idea how cool it is having a cat walking around overhead till you live that way.

Maisie agrees, but maybe wait and see what your cat's interested in; some cats are climbers, some are cavers. Our kittens made it very clear, by longing looks and meowing, that they wanted to get up on top of the kitchen cabinets; their network of catwalks grew out from there.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Most litterboxes are actually too small for cats.

Plastic totes can be turned into litter boxes (covered or uncovered depending on cat prefs) with a good knife and some car door moulding.
posted by holgate at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

We have an Omega Paw litter box that you just roll over and it scoops itself. You do need to do it every day, or twice daily, as the litter surface is smaller than another box. But it's super easy and takes less than two minutes each time. I would never go back to a box that had to be scooped by hand. We also have a litter locker, it's great.

I also recommend Arm & Hammer's special pet baking soda, which can be sprinkled under and on top of your litter.

Our cat loves the catnip banana because she can bite it and bunny-kick it with her back paws while she wrassles it with the front paws.
posted by Hypatia at 2:09 PM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Came in here to mention plastic totes too! One of our male cats doesn't squat to pee, he just walks into the box and (thankfully) turns around to do his business standing. We had a box with sides that were just too low to catch this, and... It was very unpleasant to find out. Since then we've used a giant plastic bin with an opening cut out.

I really wish we could use something less bulky and space/litter consuming (not to mention needing to use the entire bathtub to clean it) but it's been the only solution that worked.

We are also unsure if this behavior started in the shelter or the hoarder's house they found our little guy in, but we've had no warning about this potential behavior at the time of adoption. He's been healthy and with us for 8 years now, so just the way he pees I guess. Be prepared for some weirdness!
posted by erratic meatsack at 2:14 PM on December 30, 2018

Cats are the best. Your life will be improved.

So the one single thing that made the biggest difference to the socialization of my current girl, adopted as a fearful and unsocialized semi-feral, is a wire slicker brush. She craves it like a drug. I probably brush her for 30 minutes a day at least. When she was new and hiding under furniture for months, the brush was the one thing the would draw her out. It’s magic. I’m probably on my fourth one, replacing them about once a year.
posted by spitbull at 2:50 PM on December 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also n’thing catnip banana! My kitty doesn’t even like catnip, barely responds to it loose or in other toys, but you can’t separate her from her damn banana.
posted by spitbull at 2:56 PM on December 30, 2018

My cats really like these incline scratchers. They're also fond of the corrugated cardboard scratching pads.

I have one of those covered Booda dome litter boxes. The cats have to go around a slight curve and down some small steps to go out, which reduces tracking, though it doesn't eliminate it. I've also used a top entry litter box, though I had to remove the lid because one of my cats liked playing whack-a-mole with the others. I use plastic grocery store bags for litter scooping, and store them inside an old plastic file box until they're full and I throw them out.
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 3:10 PM on December 30, 2018

Cats are awesome. Keep them indoors, but build an outdoor litterbox. We've done this a few times and it is amazing. We are on version 3 which uses a through-the-wall cat door which connects to a modified doghouse that holds a big litterbox (which is actually a plastic concrete mixing pan, much larger than a typical litterbox).

It's secure in that the cats can't esacpe, but also is sealed so that smells and litter never enter the house. We use the PetSmart bulk litter.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 5:23 PM on December 30, 2018

It does depend on the cat of course but here are some of our favorites.
These stainless steel cat bowls for food. unbreakable and they go in the dishwasher.

A DIY fountain like this is way nicer and easier to clean than most pet fountains.

Another vote for the bird and the cat dancer.

As far as litter I'd say as big a box as you can with scooping as frequently as you can. We have this scoop and scoop into dog poop bags. You want a scoop that does not bend. Also be aware that some cats do not like covered boxes.

If you feed canned food and don't do a whole can at a time these lids are great.

Ours love cardboard scratchers in part I think because they had them at the shelter. This one doubles as cat furniture but they'll use any cardboard based scratcher.

Ours have never been afraid of their carriers. We leave them where they can get into them and at times they would play and sleep in them. We leave a towel and a few toys in them. We have the standard plastic carrier which I like because they're easy to clean if they have an accident. Bring a carrier even if you're going to the shelter just to look because cats can easily get out of those cardboard carriers in the car.

Feliway really works on our cat and makes him more manageable.
posted by oneear at 6:20 PM on December 30, 2018

Re: catnip banana

"Charlene, you have a call."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:30 PM on December 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lots of this amply covered, I am offering only anecdotal suggestions:

* The Cat Dancer looks like something that was swept up off the floor of a garage, but made my cat go ballistic with enthusiasm.

* A free cat toy option - you know how some plastic jugs of milk or juice have a cap that you unseal by peeling off a strip of the plastic from around the bottom, and it leaves you with this loop of plastic? ....that. Seriously, next time you bring a jug of milk home and you peel off that strip, try throwing it down for your cat to chase. Someone has even tried saving them up and packaging them to sell, but who needs that when you can get your own for free.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:33 AM on December 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

I’ve always lived in small apartments, so the litter box was constantly obvious. But it was a whole new world when I finally plunked down $150 for a litterbox enclosure that looks like furniture. I arrange it so the door is facing the far wall, and put a lamp on top as if it were an end table. It is fantastic, and I wish I bought it 10 years ago!
posted by jenmakes at 10:20 AM on December 31, 2018

Stuff My Cats Love:

This heated bed is a huge hit during the winter.

We've tried all the expensive litters, but Feline Pine is the best! Bonus: it's incredibly cheap.

Da Bird goes over well, and the feather toy is replaceable once destroyed.

This sampler pack includes mice stuffed with catnip, honeysuckle, valerian, and silvervine, all of which (potentially) make kitties nuts. Mine really like the silvervine one.

A cat tree, the bigger the better, is a must.

The favorite toy in our house, however, is the drawstring from a pair of worn-out pajama pants. Other strings and string-like objects are well-received, too, but for some reason they all go insane for this particular drawstring.

Cardboard boxes are beloved by all cats! In addition to their collection of normally sized boxes, my mom got new dining room furniture and gave our cats a box that is approximately 3.5 feet x 3 feet x 5 feet. It's a (hideous and) permanent fixture in the living room, and all three cats love it.

So happy for you!
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:41 AM on December 31, 2018

As we have narrow windowsills, we installed four of these "Kitty Sill" window perches to increase the number of cat-accessible windows from three to seven. They're not beautiful, but they get used, the cover is removable for washing, and there are no suction cups to worry about coming loose.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:44 PM on December 31, 2018

We switched to the Purina Tidy Cats Breeze Cat Litter System two years ago, and it was the best cat-gear decision we ever made.

We also use the Litter Genie and order supplies from, both of which have been recommended here.
posted by merejane at 6:26 PM on December 31, 2018

Oh, and should the need for flea control arise, I cannot recommend the Seresto Collar highly enough. It's like a miracle.

It's an investment, but it lasts eight months and is worth its weight in catnip.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:00 PM on December 31, 2018

Our cat loves her Yeowww catnip banana and her Yeowww catnip Pollack fish.
posted by merejane at 9:39 PM on December 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with lots that have already been posted here: World's Best Cat Litter, Litter Genie, a water fountain, and the Yeowww catnip toys.

If you feed dry food, a bowl like this is excellent. Because it's rounded, the cat doesn't eat down to the bottom and ignore the food on the sides. Both of my cats would do this and then whine that their bowl was empty.

And, if whisker fatigue is a real thing, this bowl helps.
posted by gladly at 10:04 PM on December 31, 2018

Also a fan of Dr Elsey's litter. The ones advertised all create dust storms. Elsey's doesn't.

Are you or your husband handy? Our cat likes the scratching post / platform I made for him. He rejected the big, fancy tree I bought him at the pet store. The one I made consists of two pieces of plywood for the platform and base, screwed to two 2x6s bolted together. The plywood pieces have industrial carpet on their top surfaces, and the upright pillar has 3/8" manila rope wrapped tightly around it from top to bottom. The top platform is at window sill height, so he can watch the outside. It's lasted for 7 years with no damage. I can give more details in memail, if anyone's interested.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:41 PM on January 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

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