Tips for the First Month of Cat Adoption

first month of cat adoption

Be prepared should be your mantra when bringing a new cat into your home. Cats are particularly sensitive to new surroundings and some may hide under a bed or in a closet for days or even weeks. You can avoid pitfalls with your new cat and help him or her adapt more easily by following these guidelines:

Before You Bring Your Cat Home:

  1. Cats are territorial, and coming into a new home leaves them feeling really uneasy. There’s all that unexplored space, and who knows what may lurk there. Do her a favor and provide a small area to call her own for the first few days or weeks. A bathroom, laundry room or spare bedroom works well. Furnish the room with cat amenities, such as food, water, toys, scratching post and a litter box. You’ll want to spend time with your cat, so make sure there’s a comfortable place for you to sit as well.
  2. Fill a litter box with one or two inches of litter and place it in her room where she can use it undisturbed. After all, everyone deserves a modicum of privacy when pottying, and giving her that will help forestall litter box aversion. See more information below on Litter habits and cleaning.
  3. Set up a feeding station with food and water bowls. Locate it away from the litter box. See below for information on their feeding routines that they would be used to in the DSPCA cattery. For more cat feeding and nutrition tips, visit the Purina website Food & Nutrition section. You can purchase Purina pet food in the DSPCA shop.
  4. Cats love to get away from it all in small places, and you can provide one for your new cat as her own little safe haven. If she came home in a cat carrier, that might be a good choice. You can also make one by cutting a doorway for her in the end of a box. If you prefer, you can buy a covered cat bed at a pet supply store. In either case, make sure the space is big enough for the cat to stand up and turn around in. Cat “feng shui” probably requires that she be able to see the door to the room from her hidey hole, so she won’t be startled.
  5. A cat’s claws need to be worn down, and they do this by scratching on things. This is normal cat behaviour and you will never be able to stop them scratching their claws. Since you prefer that it not be your chairs and sofa, provide your cat with a socially acceptable scratching place. Some types are made of corrugated cardboard and lie on the floor; others are posts which have to be tall enough so that the cat can extend himself upward to scratch. You can encourage your cat (once she has arrived) to use the post by sprinkling it with catnip or dangling a toy at the top. She’ll get the idea especially if you give her praise after she uses a scratching post, even give her a treat when she scratches the post, this will make her understand that this is place to wear down her claws.
  6. You’ll probably want a scratching post in each room, perhaps blocking access to furniture you may want to protect until she learns where to scratch. You can also install sticky tape (available at pet supply stores) to corners of upholstered furniture to dissuade scratching as cats don’t like the feel of sticky tape or plastic on their paws. When you catch them using your furniture rustle newspaper, make noise near the cat or spray her with a water pistol aiming at her body. Don’t give out to them if you see that your furniture has been scratched, only give out to them when you catch them scratching the wrong place otherwise the cat will be confused as to why you are giving out to them. Never slap or smack a cat! If you value your furniture more than having a cat, maybe reconsider your choice of pet.
  7. If possible, buy a cat tree for your new family member. Cats like to survey their territory, so a high perch is often a favored resting place. Most cat trees have scratching posts and comfy cat beds as part of tree so you are getting tree things in one. You can buy extra toys that can be easily attached to the tree, cat love playing with dangly cat toys. You may think cat trees are expensive but a good cat will be worth it’s weight in gold and will used by your cats all the time and will be used for years.
  8. Look at your house with a curious cat’s eye view for its climbing and exploring potential. When your cat is acclimated to your home, you may be surprised to find her on top of the upper kitchen cabinets, so make sure there’s nothing on display there or on other high shelves that can be damaged or knocked off. If you don’t want your cat to jump up onto counters or climb your curtains, use one of these methods: rustle newspaper, clap your hands or spray with a water pistol but be sure to only use one behaviour modification trick for one specific behaviour problem, i.e. water pistol for counter walking, clap hands for sofa scratching otherwise you will confuse your cat. You can put sticky plastic, cling film or the shiny side of tinfoil on your counter tops as cats are not a big fan of the feel of these on their paws.
  9. Look for holes that leave pipes, underfloors or inner walls that are accessible and cover them up. A kitten can easily slither into one of these. You won’t want firemen in the house, jackhammering the concrete floor to extract your cat.
  10. You will need to buy a cover for your cooker in case your kitty jumps onto the cooker top just after you have been using the cooker and burns it’s paws. Cats are very quiet and fast so you need to turn your back only for a second for your cat to get injured.
  11. If there are other human family members, go over the ground rules about your new pet. Remind them not to startle her and to keep the door to her room shut.
  12. Bone up on how to introduce your cat to other pets. Keep her door closed and don’t let your other pet race in unexpectedly.

What you need to buy for your new cat:

  • Kitten food – wet and dried Cat Food if over 1 year old – wet and dried;
  • Food and water bowls – cats do not like plastic so serve their water and food in stainless steel or ceramic bowls;
  • A bed for the cat – nice and soft is always a good bet;
  • Toys – make sure they are proper cat toys and supervise the cat with toys on strings;
  • Scratching post – have a few of these to protect your furniture, walls and carpets;
  • ID tag with your phone number on cat harness – for indoor cats or kittens if you plan to bring them for a walk;
  • Litter tray and cat litter and *litter scoop – baby nappy bags are handy for scooping the soiled litter into;
  • Books and leaflets on kitten and cat care – you can find out more about looking after your kitten and cat;
  • Pet insurance – incase of the unexpected expense of illness or injury.

Remember you should either buy these things before you bring your cat home or bring them home with you along with your new pet. Don’t wait until after the cat is home before you go out and buy them.

First Adoption Day

At least, you are ready for your cat’s homecoming. Preferably, bring her home in a cat carrier. It will feel safer to her. She has seen a lot of excitement, so take her directly to her new room. (Make sure the toilet lid is down, if she’s to acclimate in your bathroom.) Ideally, you would restrict her exposure to the whole family, but naturally, everyone is going to want to see her. Remind them of the ground rules you’ve set up.

Sit on the floor and let her come to you. Don’t force her. Just let her get acquainted on her own time. If she doesn’t approach, leave her alone and try again later. Some cats are particularly frightened, and she may retreat to her hidey hole and not come out when you’re around at all. She may only come out at night when the house is quiet. Give her time.

Your newly adopted cat may not eat much or at all at first. It’s best to give your cat the same food she had at the shelter or in her foster home, at least at first. Keeping some things familiar will make her feel more secure. Be sure to change her water frequently and make sure that she is drinking. If your cat hasn’t eaten for a few days, call your vet to ask for advice.

And Following Weeks

It may take your cat a week or two to adjust. Be patient.

  1. Within a week of being adopted, take your newly adopted cat for her first wellness visit with a veterinarian. If you have a record of immunizations from the shelter, take it with you. Don’t have a vet? Check out these tips for finding the right vet for you and your cat.
  2. As your cat adjusts, she’ll show signs that she wants to explore outside her safe haven. Make sure other pets or family members won’t startle her while she gradually expands her territory. She may be ready to play, so you can furnish some toys. Many cats like feather wands from the pet supply store, but homemade toys are often favored. A wad of a tissue paper to bat around or a paper bag to hide in can be fun. For more ideas on how to keep your cat entertained see Keeping Your Cat from Getting Bored.

Congratulations! If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to having a well-adjusted feline family member.

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