Cat sitting on a door mat close to a bowl of food and water.

Essential Equipment for Cats

If you are a new cat owner, you will need to buy a certain amount of equipment  for your pet’s comfort and well-being. These items include a bed, litter box, and feeding bowls. You may be tempted by the latest designer cat accessories but think first about whether your pet really needs them.

Start with good-quality basic items that are within your budget, since the initial outlay on your cat will soon mount up. You can indulge in more sophisticated products later on.

Comfort First

Cats are good at making themselves comfortable and have an unerring eye for the best places to curl up in and snooze. They are more than willing to share your favorite armchair or pillows, or the comforter on your bed, if that is permitted.

Most people delight in seeing their cat make free use of the home—and will be prepared to forgive the nest made in a pile of newly laundered towels.

However, cats do need  a safe and special bed that is indisputably their own territory. There is a wide range of cat beds on  the market, from baskets and roofed-in tent-style beds to bean bags and hammocks.

From an owner’s point of view, whether the bed looks attractive and is easy to wash may be priorities. From your cat’s point of view, soft fabrics that generate warmth—such as fleece—are desirable, as are beds with soft sides to snuggle up against. Cats usually prefer to sleep somewhere fairly compact that gives them a sense of wraparound security.

Food and Water Bowls

Your cat needs separate bowls for food and water, and if you have more than one cat each should have his own set. Bowls can be plastic, ceramic, or metal, and should be stable enough not to tip over if stepped on.

They should not be too deep and must be wider than the cat’s whiskers. Wash bowls at least once a day and remove any leftover “wet” food after the cat has finished eating. There are also automatic feeding stations available that operate on a timer.

These have a lid that prevents the food from becoming stale and flips open at your cat’s mealtime— a useful asset if you are going out and don’t want to break the cat’s routine.

Litter Boxes

A cat likes a litter box to himself, so more than one cat means more than one box. Open, covered, manual, automatic, and self-cleaning boxes are all available. Whichever type you choose should be fairly large and have sides high enough to prevent spills when the cat scrapes the litter around.

Litter materials made of clay or absorbent biodegradable pellets are the most convenient to use because when wet they form clumps that are easy to scoop up. You may have to experiment with various materials to find the type your cat prefers.

Litter deodorizers help to prevent odors, but avoid using scented products, since these may deter a cat from using the box. Cats can pick up infections from prey, so pregnant women should not handle litter to prevent passing toxoplasmosis  to her unborn child.

Collars and Microchips

It is important to get your cat tagged with a microchip, so that he can be identified if he strays. These devices, the size of a rice grain, are inserted by a vet under the loose skin at the back of the neck. Each chip has a unique number that can be detected by a scanner.

All outdoor cats should also have a collar with an ID tag giving your contact details. The collar must be loose enough to slip two fingers underneath and have a quick-release snap that tugs open if the collar becomes snagged. Collars with elastic inserts are unsafe because they may stretch enough to become stuck around the head or a leg.

Scratching Posts

Providing a place for your cat to scratch is essential if you don’t want your furniture or carpets ruined. Cats need to scratch every day to help wear away the outer sheaths of their claws and to mark their territory.

Scratching posts usually comprise a flat, rough-carpeted base and an upright post covered in coiled rope, often topped by a carpeted platform. Locate the post close to where your cat usually sleeps, since cats do most of their stretching and scratching immediately after waking up.


A cat carrier is the safest way to transport your cat. Whether it is made of plastic, wire, or traditional basketwork, it must be large enough for your cat to turn around in. A familiar-smelling blanket or pillow can be put inside to keep him comfortable.

To get your cat used to going in a carrier, leave it somewhere accessible and encourage him to use it as a refuge. If he regards the carrier as a safe place he will be happier to travel in it, even if journeys usually end at the vet.

Cat and kitten on a cat scratcher post.