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First Time Pet Owner? Stock up on These Essentials

Mar 27, 2023

If you know me (or you follow me on Instagram), then you know this: I’m obsessed with my cats. Millie and Crouton, two 12-year-old Calico sisters, are my raison d’etre—I kid you not. As someone who works from home, these girls are by my side at all times. So much so, that their morning naps serve as the backdrop to any and all Zoom meetings. And though I’m not a first time pet owner, I still want the best for my ladies. That's why, before adopting my two senior girls, I embarked on a new hobby of researching all the best pet gear. For kitties and dogs alike.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

In this era of de-influencing and mindful consumption, we’re collectively coming around to the fact that where we direct our dollars matters. Not just for our bank accounts, but for the well-being of the planet and in this case, our pets. Did you hastily buy the first litter box you saw at Petco, only to resent its eyesore status a week later? Or maybe you bought a dog bed without reading a single review, discovering shortly after that the fabric didn't live up to your pup's love of burrowing into anything and everything.

Point is, I’m here to help you get major bang for your pet-loving buck. Whether you’re a first time pet owner or not, keep scrolling to find the best dog and cat gear around. No buyer's remorse here.

Note: You’ll notice that we didn't make recommendations for pet food. Speak with your veterinarian about what is best for your cat or dog based on age, activity, and any dietary needs.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

If a product brands itself as a "universal dog bed"—run. Just as there are countless different dog breeds, there are many (many) different sleepers. Some burrow, others sprawl, and some seem keen to chew in their sleep. And while our pick can't account for every sleeper out there, it is the comfiest, softest, and easiest-to-clean pick available.

Comfort: Human-grade crushed memory foam promotes restorative sleep while the preformed hollow offers orthopedic support

How to wash: Machine wash on warm and hang to dry

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Fable Pets Memory Foam Dog Bed

Memory Foam Dog Bed, $109+

We ask a lot from our leashes: we want them to be chew-proof, comfortable for both dogs and humans, and up for any adventure. The Lifetime Leash checks all the boxes. Made of climbing rope and designed with custom clamps, everything about this leash is ergonomic and designed for durability. And while it isn't necessarily "chew-proof" (is anything?), Atlas Pet Company guarantees free repairs, so you can love this leash for life.

Materials: Leash is made of 9mm dry-treated climbing rope and 316 stainless steel clip

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Atlas Pet Company Lifetime Leash

Lifetime Leash, $68

Ruffwear has been a favorite of my family for years. Both my sisters’ dogs are fully decked-out in the brand's gear—from jackets to boots to this game-changing harness. Truly, the designers behind this harness thought of everything. Not only is it versatile, with two leash attachment options, but it also features a reflective trim and light loop to increase your dog's visibility.

Comfort: Features closed-cell foam interior padding for long-term ease of wear

Care: Hand wash with mild detergent and air dry

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Ruffwear Front Range® Dog Harness

Front Range® Dog Harness, $49.95

Another Ruffwear fave. Like dog beds, it's hard to name an overall best dog jacket. (After all, a coat can only account for so many conditions.) But all-around, this is the best pick. Why? Because despite its lightweight build, this waterproof softshell jacket can stand up to all manner of inclement weather—rain, snow, wind, and cold—you name it.

Care: Wash in cold water on gentle with mild detergent. Hang to dry.

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Ruffwear Cloud Chaser™ Dog Jacket

Cloud Chaser™ Dog Jacket, $89.95

The best dog bowl should cover several bases. It should be non-slip, dishwasher-safe, and look cute in your kitchen (or wherever you keep it out). The Wild One Bowl Kit? Check, check, and check. These bowls are simply designed, come in four colors to fit any home aesthetic, and can even be personalized (custom emojis, included). It's clear that Wild One considered every detail when designing this bowl kit.

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Wild One Bowl Kit

Bowl Kit, $48 (reg. $50)

This dog crate is durable and nearly escape-proof, thanks to its thick wire construction. While it may be pricier than other picks, you’re paying for peace of mind with a bottom pan that will hold its own against claws and paws. What's more, it's easy to pack up and travel with when you need your crate on the go. It folds up, allowing you to carry it by the handles for easy transit.

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MidWest Ultima Pro Series Dog Crate

Pro Series Dog Crate, $103.99

For the uninitiated, cleaning a cat's litter box is more of a chore than it may seem. While some days involve a simple scoop, others require a complete overhaul of the box. In the latter case, this litter box makes it easy with handles that allow you to simply pick up and dump out. Beyond that, the design is discreet, allowing you to sneak it into a corner while still giving your cat adequate privacy. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I love that the higher wall construction is effective for keeping litter contained.

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Litter Genie Cat Litter Box

Cat Litter Box, $29.99

Note: If you’re tempted to splurge on a self-cleaning litter box, we agree with Wirecutter: don't. As they shared in their review of several models, it's hard to justify the oftentimes malfunctioning and paradoxically hard-to-clean litter boxes. With most models starting at several hundred dollars (the—perhaps infamous—Litter Robot retails for $699), it's simply not worth the cost.

I live in a one-bedroom, loft-style apartment. And while we have plenty of space as far as Chicago standards go, the open floor plan means we have very few options when it comes to finding a home for the litter box. Thankfully, after comparing litter box enclosures for a few weeks, I landed on this minimalist option that conveniently doubles as a furniture piece. While I was at first worried that Millie (who weighs 16 pounds) would find it uncomfortable, both girls are able to use the bathroom without issue. And we can display this in the living room without worrying if guests realized they set their drink on a litter box. Don't worry, I obsessively clean the box itself multiple times a day.

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Tucker Murphy Pet Hales Litter Box Enclosure

Hales Litter Box Enclosure, $88.99 (reg. $185)

After purchasing bed after bed after bed, I’ve learned the hard (and expensive way) that some cats just don't seem to like cat beds. But after receiving this Tuft & Paw cushion from a family member, the girls were hooked. As bonded cats, they loved snuggling together in their cheaper pet store bed, but from their incessant purring, it was clear that this luxe option satisfied their sleepy needs. The concave surface provides them with a nest-like design, upping the cozy factor tenfold. And the faux shearling cover is beyond soft. Because my girls prefer sleeping together, I selected the Wide size and both cats slept comfortably.

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Tuft u0026 Paw Kip Cat Cushion

Kip Cat Cushion, $99+

While my cats love their scratching post, they still also love scratching my CB2 couch. (Alas, this seems to be why I can't have nice things… ) Regardless of the state of my couch, they’re scratching at this post multiple times a day. This scratching post is incredibly versatile, with three different modes to ensure your cats opt for it more often than the furniture. It can be flipped horizontally or vertically for scratching or turned upside-down and used as a side table.

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MS!MAKE SURE Cat Scratching Post

Cat Scratching Post, $59.99

When it comes to your cat's mealtime, there's more that matters than the food alone. This food bowl doubles as a work of art while also being ergonomically designed to support your cat's comfort. I love each of the four colorways (though Savanna is my fave), and as someone who's obsessed with her cats, it warms my heart to give them the best—and prettiest—bowl.

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Cat Person Mesa Bowl

Mesa Bowl, $45

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