Congratulations, you’ve decided to adopt a cat!
To ease integration into your home, take into consideration where your cat came from. Was she staying in a cage, in a room, or in a foster home? Were there other cats living with her or was she alone? Was the environment noisy or quiet? How often did she eat and where did she sleep?
Changing all of these factors in her environment all at once can be very stressful. In order to integrate your new cat into your house and life as smoothly as possible, you must be able to recognize the signs of stress while changing her living situation slowly over time. With this method, you are initially maintaining her previous routine, while changing to your routine over time.
1. Recognizing signs of stress
Your new cat will likely be stressed initially. Signs of stress can include decreased appetite, decreased grooming, hiding, lack of interest in attention or affection, and sleeping in unusual locations. A stressed cat may be more quiet than usual, which can be difficult to notice. Very stressed cats are more likely to behave aggressively or fearfully.
Download this cheat sheet of 23 not to miss tips for new cat owners.
If you’ve adopted a cat from a shelter, this is most likely your cat’s third “home” in a fairly short time period. Even though your house is probably much more comfortable than the shelter where she came from, change is stressful. Watch for signs of stress, and if you see them, make certain that they lessen over time. If her stress is not slowly decreasing every day, you should seek the help of a behaviorist or your veterinarian.
2. Remember, cats are NOT dogs
Cats are independent by nature, and at times prefer their solitude. Try not to get too discouraged if your new kitty doesn’t greet you at the door upon arrival and remember that this is just who they are. Your new kitten/cat may take a little while to warm up to you, especially if they are from a shelter or rescue, so take it easy on them when they give you a little cattitude (yes we love cat puns).
3. Parasite Control
There are many pests that can plague cats, and prevention is key. While most people with cats are familiar with fleas, other pests such as tapeworms, mites, hookworms, roundworms, ticks and even heartworms can affect cats. Heartworm treatment options are limited — if not a death sentence for cats — and are not as treatable as with dogs. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to humans, so talk with your veterinarian about preventive care based on your location and cat’s habits (indoor versus outdoor cats, etc.).
4. Make Time for Your Cat
A lot of people think that because cats can be pretty independent, they can just get a cat and basically ignore him for the most part, but the truth is that cats crave companionship and attention.
Before bringing a kitty home, be certain that you have the time to dedicate to playing with your cat, properly cleaning his litter box daily, grooming him, and spending some quality time petting him. A little bit of playtime every day, for example, can go a long way in preventing behavioral problems that result from pent-up energy and boredom.
5. Giving milk to cats may not be the best idea
We’ve all seen the old cartoons and books with cats drinking milk from a saucer bowl but this isn’t actually veterinary recommended despite the myth. Many cats have a lactose intolerance and drinking cow’s milk can upset their tummies a great deal. Water will do just fine and if you’re looking to spoil your new companion consider some cat treats or play toys instead.
6. Set Up a Litter Box
Purchase a litter box that’s large enough for your cat to comfortably stand in and move around in. And be prepared to test out different types of litter if your kitty doesn’t like your first choice. Place the box in a quiet area that’s easy for your cat to access.
By ensuring your cat has the right type of litter box and litter, and by scooping wastes out daily and replacing the litter regularly, your cat will be less likely to avoid using the litter box.
7. Prepare for the Unexpected
It’s so important that for all the researching ahead of time you’ll do, you allow yourself to take in everything new about your pet and realize that not everyone’s experience is the same.
8. Don’t ignore the claws
A cat’s claws are sharp and can grow to painful lengths without scratching posts or regular trimming. This can be painful for the cat and even you, so it’s best to implement a grooming regimen as early as possible.
9. Don’t buy Cheap Food
Just because “Purr Paw Chow” is on sale for $1 per bag doesn’t mean it’s good for your cat. Check the ingredients and make sure the food you offer your cat is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. A lack of necessary nutrients and high-carb diets can cause myriad health issues and obesity in cats, so think twice before grabbing the cheap chow.
10. Clean the Litter Box
Check the box at least once per day for accidents and contributions, and keep it clean and fresh. Sudden changes in the type of litter you use can also throw a cat off balance, so try to introduce it gradually as your cat gets adjusted to the new texture and odor. Your cat and your house guests will thank you.
11. Save your sofa- invest in a scratching post
Sharpening their claws on your leather sofa may not be exactly what you had in mind, so look to purchase a scratching post so that your new kitty can enjoy themselves. Scratching is a part of their natural process and giving them a safe place to perform it right away will help them (and you) quite a bit.
12. Provide the Right Nutrition
Cats are obligate carnivores, so choose a high quality cat food that will provide your kitty with plenty of animal protein, the right amount of healthy fats, and loads of nutrients that are properly balanced for feline wellness.
Many experts recommend avoiding potentially allergenic ingredients, such as grains that include soy, corn, and wheat, and they also recommend opting for foods that contain whole ingredients, as opposed to mystery meat by-products.
It’s also a good idea to provide plenty of wet food so your cat gets enough moisture right from his food, as this is natural for felines. You can certainly feed a mix of wet and dry food throughout the day, while also providing a bowl of fresh water daily as well.
There should be an emphasis upon good nutrition because it can lay the foundation for good health, regardless of your cat’s age. Work with your vet if you have any questions about what to feed your new kitty.
While cats spend a majority of their time cleaning themselves (next to sleeping, of course), there are still areas that need attention from you. In addition to keeping the claws trimmed, expect to spend time at least once per week checking and cleaning the cat’s ears and teeth, and brushing the coat. Some cats may even need a bath if they get into a puddle of mud or other substance that sticks to their coat. Keeping the cat clean and groomed with these methods will reduce ear mites, dental problems, dander and the amount of fur ingested by your cat.
14. Take precaution when incorporating your new cat in a home with other animals
No cat will waltz right in and make themselves comfy, especially in the presence of other animals in the home. Allow there to be some time for the new pets to become acclimated with each another. We’d recommend a slow integration of time together in key areas of the home. Make sure to let each pet have a safe zone that they can retreat to.
15. Small kittens and small kids are not the best idea
Sure tiny kittens are adorable and cuddly, but for a toddler or small child it isn’t always the best idea to mix the two. Most animal rescues highly recommend older kittens, approximately 6 months and up, when thinking of bringing home a younger cat for the little ones to love.
While it is true vaccinations come with risks and benefits, some are required by law depending on your location. For example, rabies vaccinations are not required in England because they do not have a risk of rabies in that country. In the United States we do encounter rabies, and almost all states require rabies vaccinations. Check with your vet and local laws to determine if the vaccine is required every year or once every three years.
Other vaccinations are considered necessary and may include distemper, herpes and other viruses. Additional vaccines are available for other conditions, such as leukemia, bordetella, chylamydophila and the feline immunodeficiency virus.
17. Consider Getting Your Cat a Buddy
If you spend a lot of time at work or away from home, consider getting your cat a buddy that he can spend time with. Take time to gradually introduce a new cat (after he’s been to the vet and gotten a clean bill of health) to your current feline companion so they can get to know each other slowly and become great friends that can keep each other company when you aren’t around.
18. Endless Food
If you’re one of those people who worry about the cat always needing food readily available so you fill the bowl every time it’s empty, you might be providing too much kibble. Cats can become overweight not by choice but because, quite simply, there’s always food available. Read the labels and check with your vet to determine the right amount of food to provide for your cat. Obesity is a serious problem for all pets, and by regulating the food intake of your cat, you can ensure a healthy weight and reduce future health issues related to obesity.
19. Cats Can’t Eat Anything
Several foods, plants and other items are toxic to cats and can cause illness or death. Giving cats the wrong medications, medications designed for dogs or even human medications is a leading cause of death among our household pets. Always use medications and products specifically designed for cats and review the link above from the ASPCA on cat toxins. See Dr. Deb’s article “Got a Cat? Poison-Proof Your Home.”
20. Cat Need Regular Checkup
Many people may think their cats don’t need to see the veterinarian every year, especially if they are indoor cats. The truth is they should be checked so the vet can evaluate their coat, ears, teeth, eyes, skin, blood work, weight and many other concerns.
Something may show up in the evaluation or blood work that can be managed or eradicated with treatment, but allowing it to go unnoticed will only increase your pet’s problems and your expenses.
21. Cat Can Lost
Don’t chance your cat being lost. Always have a collar and tag on your cat for easy identification. Another option is microchipping, just as with dogs. Microchips are as inexpensive as $25 or less and will ensure your pet’s return if he is lost and scanned. You can also take advantage of one of several different pet amber alert systems, but it’s best to have a plan in place in advance in case your pet becomes lost.
22. Cats Vomiting
Cats vomit to expel hairballs from time to time, but this should not be a regular occurrence. Additional grooming attention from you can help curb the frequency of hairballs. If your cat is vomiting regularly, there could be a more serious problem with her digestive system. If you haven’t changed foods recently and can be sure the cat didn’t ingest anything, it may be time to have the veterinarian check out her stomach and intestinal track (and possibly test for illness).
23. Proper Training
Cats and dogs mostly learn best from positive reinforcement; getting rewarded for a behavior makes them want to repeat the desired behavior. Unwanted cat behavior can also be a sign of another problem; if you notice your cat changing habits or acting out, there’s likely a stressor causing it to happen. This may be as simple as a new litter box location or a more serious medical condition. If you haven’t made any changes around the house or to your cat’s litter or food, it’s time for a vet trip.