You did it. You took the leap and decided to adopt a cat! Congratulations, your life will never be the same; in the best possible way.
Each year, 860,000 cats are euthanized in shelters due to lack of adoptions, so you are truly saving a life and gaining a new best friend in the process. Even though adopting a furry friend is such an amazing feeling, adopting an animal can be one of the biggest decisions a person can make. Not only is it a big decision, but each animal requires different care and has different needs. Cats are no exception to this rule, but being prepared and knowing everything you can about bringing a new cat home will ensure a smooth transition for both of you.
Preparing For the Arrival: bringing a new cat home
1. Cat-Proof Your Home
Bringing home your cat is like having a toddler: anything your cat can get into, they will. You want to ensure that they are set up for success by “kitty proofing” the home as much as possible. Here are some ideas of ways you can do this:
- Make sure electric cords are tucked away out of reach.
- Pick up any loose items you have lying around such as paper clips, bobby pins, anything your cat could choke on.
- Close any rooms you won’t want the cat to get into. Your cat will most likely look for different places to hide when they get home, so if there is a room that is specifically off-limits, go ahead and make that unavailable to him/her.
2. Get supplies
Shopping time! There are things that you will want to go ahead and get your hands on before bringing your cat home. Some of these items include:
- At least one water bowl
- One food bowl
- A brush: even if your cat doesn’t have long hair, they will benefit from being groomed.
- Toys: get a variety and see what type of toys your cat likes best!
- Food and water
- A cat carrier: this will be what you use to bring your cat home, to vet appointments, and great to have in case of emergency transportation.
- Litter and litter pan: make sure to keep away from where food is located and show them where it’s placed. Cat’s are pretty quick to acclimate to their new litter box!
- A comfy bed
- Scratching post: this might be a good idea to encourage your cat to scratch on a designated surface.
3. Prep the Family
If you have any children in your home, it’s also a good idea to make them aware of how the cat will behave when they first come home, how to properly care for the cat and how to handle them safely. Educating children on the proper handling of animals is so important and can prevent a future cat scratch to the child, or accidental harm to the cat. Here are some things for your kids to be aware of with your new cat:
- Your cat will be scared: this is normal. Being uprooted from a shelter to a home or apartment can be so overwhelming at first. This doesn’t mean the cat doesn’t like your child, it just means your cat needs time. They will come when they are ready.
- When handling the cat, make sure the cat is fully supported with one hand supporting the chest and the other supporting their hind legs.
- If the cat is sleeping, eating, or using the litter box: leave them be. Startling the cat could make them fearful of you or your child so try not to “surprise attack”.
If you don’t already have a vet picked out, it would be a good idea to start looking at your options for cat care before bringing your cat home. It can be overwhelming when deciding on the vet who will be managing the health of your new cat, but here are some tips to get you started:
- Consider distance: is your new vet close by? In case of an emergency, being near the vet that you end up choosing could be life-saving for your new cat.
- Reviews: Most veterinary offices have a Facebook or Google page with reviews of their services. This could be a great resource to check out and see what clients have said about this vet in the past.
- Cat specific: Depending on where you live, there are some vet offices that are specific to cats only. If this is something important to you, take that into consideration when looking for a healthcare provider for your new furbaby.
Lastly, make sure to have handy a list of emergency vet hospitals in your area. If your chosen vet is closed and your cat has an emergency at 2am, you’re going to want to have easy access to 24-hour emergency animal hospitals. Consider putting together a Pet First Aid Kit for smaller “emergencies”.
Try to remember that even though you are so excited to be bringing a new cat home - your cat will most likely be nervous and scared. This is a new environment with different smells, new people, and they will be looking at you for comfort and guidance during this transition period.
When you first bring your cat home, some sources such as the Best Friends Humane Society recommend putting him/her in one room (such as your bedroom) to get acquainted. Don’t leave them in there alone all day, though! Make sure you are going into the room and spending time with them as they get adjusted. Don’t forget to provide litter, food, and water in this room!
It is also a good idea to provide good hiding spots in this “safe room” for your cat to use for comfort. Cats love to hide, so make sure you give him/her enough hiding spaces to meet those needs.
Generally, after a few days (or once your new cat is roaming openly around the room), you can introduce them to the whole house and they can start to explore their new home!
It’s a good idea to read up on cat body behavior so you know how to look for signs of stress, happiness, anger, or anxiety. Once your cat gets adjusted, they will start being out in the house and hopefully start to play with you, bond, and become a member of your forever family.
This all might seem like a lot to remember, but the most important thing to keep in mind is to enjoy the experience. Bringing home a new cat can be scary, but it’s also exciting! This new furbaby will be with you for many years to come, and these first few weeks are the building blocks to a long-lasting relationship that will surely be worth your while.