Adopting a Cat
Jun 19, 2020
June is National Adopt-A-Cat Month, and to celebrate, we are sharing some tips for picking the right cat and bringing them home.
What to consider when adopting a cat
- Age - There are pros and cons to adult cats and kittens. With adult cats, what you see is what you get. They might be a little timid in a shelter environment but, in general, you know what their energy level and temperament are, and you know any health issues they have. The added benefit is that they (usually) are already litter box trained. Kittens, on the other hand, are more of a blank slate. You can shape their personality to some extent, but you also need to train all of the other behaviors you want, too.
- Your home environment - Do you live alone in a quiet home or do you have a chaotic house full of people? Cats are really sensitive to the energy level inside a home, and you want to do your best to match energy levels. A low-key cat does best in a low-key home. A house that is full of life and energy needs a cat that can handle that.
- What kind of relationship you want? - Do you want a cuddle bug or a playful companion? With adult cats, you will be able to find a cat that you know matches that relationship when you bring them home. Kittens are easily molded into the relationship you want with time and love.
- Do you already have pets at home? - The rescue will be able to tell you what animals a cat gets along with. Most cats will adjust to a dog if they are given their own space but raising a kitten alongside dogs will all but guarantee success. You want to make sure that the cat has access to a dog-free space to escape to when they need a break. This becomes more of an issue when we are looking at health issues with cats and whether they are transmissible to the other pets in the home, such as FIV.
Selecting a cat
- Talk to the rescue staff and volunteers - They know the cats in their care better than anyone. If you have an honest conversation with them, going over what we talked about above, they will be able to steer you in the right direction. They can also coach you on whether one of their special residents might be an option for you.
- Look at ALL the cats - This is so important. If you go into a rescue with a closed mind, you can miss out on cats that would be great for you! You might be surprised at the cat that catches your eye if you give them all a chance.
- Spend one-on-one time with the cats you are interested in - This isn't always possible, depending on how the shelter is set up, but if you can manage it you should. Cats may act very differently when they aren't in the group rooms. It is a better approximation of a home environment so you can see how their personality might differ from what you saw in the more stressful group situation.
Before bringing a cat home
- Set up a room for them - Make sure there is a room you can set up just for your new feline family member. In general, cats take a while to adjust to new environments, so if you can give them a quiet space to themselves, you can make that process a much easier experience for them.
- Prepare a litter box - There are a variety of different kinds of boxes and litter, so it really depends on what works best for you and your preferences. We use Okocat litter, which comes in both a clumping and pellet formula. We use Okocat both because of how it performs and because it is environment-friendly, as it's made from reclaimed wood and paper.
- Set up feeding station - Where you feed your cat in their room is not as important as what you feed them. You want to keep them on the same food they ate at the rescue when you first bring them home and then slowly transition them (if you want to switch their food) as they get more comfortable. You want to keep an eye on how much water they are drinking so you can supplement with wet food if needed. Once they join the rest of the family, you will want to keep their food somewhere they feel safe to eat. If you have dogs in your home that will most likely be someplace up where the dogs cannot get to it.
- Hiding spot - Cats love to hide. Whether it is just a box, a quiet corner, the top of a bookshelf, or a cat tree isn't as important as just providing them with something. It will help them to adjust to their new home.
- Scratching post - Cats need to scratch to keep their nails short. If you don't give them something to scratch, they will find something to scratch, and you will not like it. It may take some experimentation to find out what your cat likes.
- Educate yourself on introductions - If you have other animals or kids, make sure you take the time to come up with a plan for introductions once you bring your cat home. This is something you want to think about before the time comes. We go over how to introduce a puppy to a cat in our Virtual Puppy Class but can always help you come up with a plan if you give us a shout. The staff at the rescue can help you fine-tune your plan as well.
- Make sure your house is cat-proof - Cats are expert hiders. If you have a hole somewhere, they will find it and good luck getting them out. Before you bring your new cat home, make sure you go through your home carefully to try to block off any areas a kitty might find a little too interesting.
Bringing them home
- Give them space - Do not force your company on them if they do not want it. Make sure that you go into their space multiple times a day but just sit quietly and do not instigate affection. Let the cat come to you. It will keep them from getting scared and makes sure that they will have a good first experience at home. This is especially important to enforce with your kids. All it takes is one negative experience and the cat may never love your kids the way you want.
- Bring them to the vet - You want to make sure that you bring your new family member to your vet for a wellness visit within the first week of having them at home. We recommend getting bloodwork done at this time so your vet can monitor slight increases in thyroid and kidney levels, this gives you the best chance of catching diseases early.
- Introduce to the rest of the family gradually - If you have kids or pets you want to make sure you are slowly introducing them to the new cat. Always do this under close supervision and use leashes with dogs until you can trust them.
- Expand their territory - After a week or two, your new cat should start showing signs that they want to explore more of the home. Feel free to give them access to more of your house gradually using a baby gate to create a safe zone for them.
This is far from an exhaustive list of what you need to be a good cat owner, but it is meant to give you an idea of what you need to start. Don't forget that if you are going away, our Sitting Visits are great to make sure your kitty has everything they need while you are gone.
Are you planning on celebrating Adopt-A-Cat month? Still have more questions? Let us know in the comments below.
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