11 Things Every New Cat Owner Should Know

updated Aug 10, 2020
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(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

If a kitty has just joined your family, you may have found a new constant companion in the kitchen. In between amusing you with her impressive leaping ability (how did she go from floor to fridge in the blink of an eye?) and beguiling you with her slinky, tail-wrapping ways, she’s likely to be a pretty busy addition to your kitchen routine — well, when she’s not napping, that is. And there are a few things you should know going in. We talked with a few cat-lovers to get the intel on what you need to know.

Our Panel of Cat Lovers

  • Sara is a cat-mom to two super-sized cats and one tiny cat: Tiggy (22 pounds), Sebastian (25 pounds) and, true to her name, Little Miss (7 pounds).
  • Mary from Louisville, who calls herself the quintessential septuagenarian cat lady, has been sharing her kitchen with cats for decades.
  • Crystal from New Haven, Connecticut, is a lifestyle blogger, traveler, and, of course, cat owner.

1. Your trash cans and various containers need lids.

We’ve talked about how trash cans need lids if there are dogs around (see: 10 Things All New Dog Owners Should Know) and that goes for cats, too. Additionally, don’t leave anything uncovered on the counter. “Don’t leave open meat or dairy containers unattended,” Mary says. “The cat will get into them, no question. She may just sniff. She may lick or lap. She may turn the whole thing over and down the cabinets and over the floor. Then, she will jump down and lick or lap and walk through it and track it. Tight-fitting lids are a must. Putting things back in the fridge is even better. I have learned to stick a pot of something into a cold oven or, if it fits, into a microwave if I have to step away for a few minutes.”

This goes for cleaning supplies too. “Cats love the smell of chemicals,” says Crystal. “Those should always be stored under the sink or somewhere they can’t lick them. They are adventurous and often get in trouble with cleaning products being left out. I used to work in an animal hospital and this was routine.”

(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

2. Your cat is probably going to love walking along your counter.

We’ve heard all the variations on how it’s a cat’s world and they just let us live in it. Well, the countertops are their particular domain. If you — and/or your dinner guests — don’t relish the thought of cats traipsing around fresh ingredients, try some stick tape. Although according to Mary, it’s best to just accept it. “I personally think it’s useless to try to keep cats off counters. If you can’t stand the idea of a cat — with its feet having been you-know-where — jumping onto the same places where you prepare food, then you might want to re-think the idea of having a cat.”

Crystal’s best tip is to give kitty a package of wet food while she’s busy in the kitchen. “This often leads to them taking a nap while I am making food,” she says. And a sleeping cat can’t get into any trouble.

3. Your knives should not be out in the open.

“Don’t leave knives unattended,” Mary warns. This is a generally good idea even if you don’t have cats. If your cat bumps up against a knife on a magnetic block, it can slip and fall, which is obviously dangerous. “A cat might even lick a knife if you’ve been using it to cut meat or fish. So clean up your knives, and put them away if you’re leaving the kitchen.”

4. Your cat might like your stove a bit too much.

Stoves are another hazard for kitties. “If your stove has a pilot light, your cat may find this is a warm place to sleep,” Sara says. “Most pilot lights on new stoves are not exposed, but if you have a kitchen with old appliances, check for this. Or your cat will catch on fire, like my uncle’s did.” (The cat survived, she assured us.)

And on that note, you can “build barriers to keep the cat(s) protected from flames,” Mary says. “If you have a big stock pot going on the stove, you can put other pots around the ‘active’ pot to form a barrier so the cat can’t get at the pot.”

5. And your sink’s faucet.

Most cats prefer running water to the stuff sitting still in their bowl. That means your cat may come running every time you turn on your faucet, or she may figure out how to turn it on — and not necessarily back off — all by herself.

6. Cats are meat thieves.

“Never leave a Thanksgiving turkey on the counter unattended,” Sara says. “You might find your cat inside of it, like my mother did once.”

7. They even like frozen meat.

These felonious felines aren’t picky, either. “A cat can sense meat, even frozen,” Mary says. “And cats, as obligate carnivores, are all about eating meat! I came home from shopping one afternoon — after having taken steaks out of the freezer to thaw in the sink — to discover someone had broken in and stolen the steaks! There was no sign of a break-in, other than the missing steaks. Turns out the cat was under the bed, asleep, amidst torn freezer paper and badly chewed steaks. The cat belched. I was not amused but I did learn to thaw meat in the refrigerator.”

8. You should not share your can of tuna with them.

Like dogs, cats can get sick from a number of people foods. Some common items are listed here, but some big no-nos are chocolate, grapes and raisins, onions and garlic, and tuna meant for human consumption.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

9. You have to be careful with your plants.

“A number of common houseplants are harmful to cats,” says Mary. “If they do not have access to the outdoors and don’t have any kitty greens, they may want to chew on your plants.” Some shocking no-nos include aloe vera, tulips, and daffodils. You can find a full, searchable list here. But don’t worry — there are plenty of plants you can still have around the house that won’t hurt kitty.

10. You should always be prepared.

Keep the number for your vet, the emergency vet clinic, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number, which is 888-426-4435, on your fridge for easy reference. Sure you can store them in your phone too, but what if someone is housesitting or just visiting when calamity strikes? There’s a charge for that hotline, but can you put a price on being able to take care of the creature you love?

11. You’re gonna be so happy you got a cat!

Minor inconveniences like these aside, what makes a kitchen homier than a purring cat lounging in a patch of sunlight? Crystal can’t imagine her kitchen without her cats. “My favorite kitties-in-the-kitchen moment is when I get home and all three are waiting for me at the side door when I get out of my car. We always say our hellos and goodbyes in the kitchen and I love that they made that a routine.”

What are some things you learned when you got a cat? Share your tips in the comments below.