First things first – congratulations on your new addition! We’ve put together some easy-to-implement steps to help your new cat settle right in.
Plan in advance and have your new cat’s space ready. Cats do best when they have a quiet zone where they feel safe and can get away from a busy household. Be sure your cat does not have access to common household toxins, such as antifreeze, acetaminophen (Tylenol), various plant species such as lilies and tulips, or foreign objects that she can bite into or eat, such as string, holiday tree garland, chicken bones, and electrical cords.
Food and water dishes – Ceramic or steel bowls are preferred. They are much easier to keep clean and bacteria-free than plastic bowls.
Litter boxes – Place litter boxes away from food and water dishes. Cats, like most animals, don’t like to eliminate where they eat or drink. In general, you should have one more litter pan than the number of cats you have. The type of litter pan may need to change as your cat ages - boxes with low sides are easier for arthritic kitties to step into, boxes with higher sides help if your cat is aiming over the box, older cats may have a problem if they need to walk up and downstairs to reach the box. Many cats will not use covered litter boxes.
Scratching Posts & Climbing Posts – Scratching and climbing are natural behaviors for a cat, so provide yours with appropriate places to scratch & climb, such as a “kitty condo”.• Toys – Avoid toys with yarn, ribbons, or small pieces that can be swallowed.
And, a bed to curl up in – though they will probably prefer yours!
At the very outset, help your new cat feel as safe as possible by transporting him in a comfortable, secure carrier. Leaving the carrier out and available in your cat’s living space helps to make it a positive part of his life. Having a cozy blanket and offering treats in it helps to make it part of your cat’s normal environment, and will hopefully make it less stressful for both of you when it is used for traveling.
Initially feed your cat small amounts multiple times a day, allowing for plenty of opportunities for positive interactions – you are the person that makes good things happen! It will be important for you to feed a nutritionally complete and balanced diet for the proper life stage (i.e., kitten versus adult). Always provide access to clean water. The brand of food you choose is very important and your veterinarian is the best resource to help you select the healthiest food for your cat!
Allow your cat to approach you on her own terms. Perhaps do a bit of reading in your cat’s space, or, better yet, read out loud; it helps your cat get used to your voice. Ignoring her but being in her vicinity allows her to adjust to your presence.
Most of all, allow your new cat the time and space she needs to feel comfortable approaching you, your family, and other pets on her own terms. Once your cat is settled in, be sure to always take time daily to play with her. It is great for her psychological well-being and for your relationship with her!
If you have other pets, keep them separate at first. In their separate spaces, swap bedding back and forth between them so that they can get used to each other’s scents before they meet each other.
Feliway (diffuser or spray) helps to comfort and reassure cats by mimicking the natural feline facial pheromone that cats use to mark their territory as safe or familiar.
Have your kitty examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible after acquiring him. This is important to look for congenital diseases, screen for intestinal parasites (i.e., worms) and ectoparasites (i.e. fleas and ticks), begin appropriate preventative care, and take advantage of the veterinarian’s expertise with issues such as feeding, grooming, and behavior.
After your kitty has completed the initial series of vaccines and is spayed or neutered, he should have a wellness visit once a year until the age of 10, after which he should be taken twice yearly for checkups. Your veterinarian will provide counsel about the necessity of each vaccination. Vaccines require regular boosters at varying intervals tailored to your cat’s needs.
Monitor your cat’s appetite and elimination for any changes – inappropriate bowel movements or urination, diarrhea, bloody stools, overly dry stools, excessive or decreased elimination, or in energy levels. Even minor changes can be early indicators of disease that can most successfully be treated when caught early. Contact your veterinarian with any changes or problems.
Always consult your veterinarian with any concerns!