Adding a new cat to your family is an exciting decision! What’s better than snuggles from a grateful cat? Here are our tips for a successful adoption:
It’s easy to arrive at the shelter and be dazzled by your choices. The kittens tumble over one another and mewl their tiny mewls, while older cats of every age, size and colour lounge in their enclosures. When it comes to narrowing down your options, how can you be sure to choose the right cat for your family?
First, consider the pets you already have in your home. Are they laid back or more active? Do they like to play, or do they prefer their alone time? The most important factor for in-home harmony is usually the demeanour of the cat you choose, and how well it integrates with the personalities and preferences of your other pets.
Kittens are adorable – but they are also a lot of work. Most are extremely playful, sometimes at all hours of the night and day. They need help learning how to be polite kitties – and in the meantime, they can also wreak havoc on things like cords, furniture and your skin. Choosing an older cat can help you ensure that their personality is a great fit for your family.
Shelter staff and volunteers are there to help you make the right choice. Ask questions about the cats that catch your eye. Some cats might have special health needs, and you might be the perfect person to help them with that! Some cats have had negative experiences with dogs or kids – also important to know. Ultimately, don’t rush the decision. The right cat is out there for you!
When it comes to bringing a new cat into the house, there are a few things you can do to make homecoming a success!
You’ll want to ensure you have at least one more litter box than you will have cats in your house. Most cats prefer fine-grained, unscented litter. Put the litter boxes in separate areas that are well away from main traffic routes in your home (and preferably not beside any noisy appliances or in the darkest corner of your basement).
Pick up a few bowls for food and water. Cats have little tummies, so their food bowls should be similarly small – a tea saucer works well! Porcelain or ceramic is preferable over plastic, which can lead to breakouts on kitty chins. As for food, ask your shelter what they are currently feeding your cat, and start with that food for at least a few weeks. It’s very easy to upset a cat’s digestive system with a sudden food switch. For tips on how to transition kitty to a new food, check out this video.
All cats appreciate somewhere they can perch up off the ground. As prey animals, this helps them feel safe with their bird’s eye view. A basic cat tower can give them the perfect vantage point (and placed near a window also gives them a front-row seat to “Cat TV” aka the birds outside). A soft place for sleeping is also appreciated. A pet bed or cubby lined with a soft blanket can quickly become a favoured spot for naps. You can even use their carrier for a cozy place, cats can easily get used to their carrier, making it much less stressful for everyone when you want to travel with, or take your cat to the veterinarian. Offer a treat or two while they’re in the carrier to further support your cat’s happy associations with it.
There are also countless toys to choose from, but don’t fill your shopping cart right away! Most kitties have preferences about the toys they play with. While some love small mouse-shaped toys, others prefer a stick-and-feather style toy. And some will get far more enjoyment out of an empty cardboard box than anything you bring home. Keep your toy inventory small until you learn which type of toy they most enjoy.
Lastly, kittens need some special considerations, as they can get themselves into real danger. You can find tips on kitten proofing here.
To ensure a safe transition back to your home, ensure you have a carrier available to put your kitty in. Once in the car, the safest place you can put the carrier is on the floor of the back seat. Resist the urge to hold your new cat for the ride home, even if they’re crying in the carrier. A nervous cat can be a major distraction to the driver and can hurt themselves or the humans in the car.
Introducing Your New Family Member
First things first – the very first stop your new cat should make when you get home is their litter box. Most cats will use the box as long as they know where it is. Put them directly inside. Some of them might even make use of it immediately!
When it comes time to introducing your new family member to their new home, try a gradual approach. Ideally, provide your new cat with a small, private space to begin with, that includes their litter box and food and water dish. You can slowly allow them out to explore their new surroundings bit by bit, which should help with initial nervousness.
If you have other pets in your home, this transition should be even more gradual. Allow your existing pet into the room (when your new kitty is not inside) so they can get used to each other’s smells. Then, try feeding them on opposite sides of a closed door, which will allow them to associate those smells with a positive experience. When you do eventually let them meet face to face, consider keeping dogs on a leash so you can easily restrain them, and remember that not every lifelong friendship starts out smooth – you might need to separate them and try again another time. Provide cats with plenty of places to run and hide in tense situations, and keep everyone’s claws trimmed to prevent injury.
Your cat’s vet is your partner in their care. Book their first check-up as soon as possible, and discuss any vaccines or preventive medicines that might be needed (your shelter should provide a list of the medications already administered). You can also discuss microchipping, tattoos or other measures that will help ensure your cat comes home safely if they ever sneak outside unexpectedly, as well as spaying and neutering if necessary.
Cheers to your new feline friend! This is the beginning of a beautiful, lifelong relationship!