Tips: Adopting a Cat or Kitten
Before You Adopt…
- Before you adopt, make sure that your lifestyle can accommodate a cat or kitten. How busy you are and the amount of time you spend at home will dictate the kind of cat you should get. For example, if you are very busy, you may find it difficult to find the time for a cat that needs a lot of grooming and attention.
- Determine whether or not you can actually afford a new pet. Food and unexpected vet bills can be expensive. Talk it out with your family, consider the implications of having a pet, do your research. Don’t be pushed in getting a new kitten because (for example) your youngest child simply wants one – only to realize later that you really can’t afford the extra responsibility or having a pet doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle!
- Do you have any allergies? If you do suffer from severe allergic reactions, consider testing yourself for feline allergies before bringing a cat home. Then again, some people with allergies might adapt to their own pet but still be allergic to other cats. A safe bet is to choose a cat with low allergens. Consult your vet, books, or animal shelter employees for suggestions. Please don’t adopt and then find out you can’t keep the cat. Research first; make sure this is the right decision for you.
- Consider adopting two cats so that they have each other for company when you are away from home.
Doing It Right From Day One…
- Once the decision has been made and you’ve selected your new fluffy friend, before bringing her home take her for a checkup and immunizations. Then try to be home with her for the first few days – to facilitate bonding and help her get accustomed to her new home.
- If you have adopted a kitten be prepared for her to cry a lot at first. Even older cats might cry for a couple of nights because they are confused and unsettled about the move. Sleeping in your bedroom provides added security. Make sure the litter box is close by. Slow, calm movements are best. So are routines, like the same time for meals, etc.
- Be aware of “interesting places” where a tiny kitten might hide, get trapped and/or seriously hurt, e.g. open cupboards, open fridge, toilet with lid up, open dryer, open washing machine, a wood stove left open and unattended, or a pile of clothes about to be laundered. Teach your children to lift tiny kittens by always putting a hand under their bottoms. Lifting by the tummy can damage tiny organs!
- Cats love to play. Toy mice, string, feathers, and even empty boxes make for great amusement. Playthings needn’t be expensive (they can even be homemade), just make sure there’s enough to keep your cat happy, active, and mentally occupied. Older cats love a pinch of cat nip now and then. Also, cat nip and treats are excellent tools for cat bribery and training.
- Have your kitten spayed/neutered at 5 or 6-months-old. Keep female kittens inside until spayed. They can get pregnant at 4 months old and they can fall pregnant again while still weaning their litter of kittens! Spayed/neutered cats are happy cats; they are content to stay home and not get into fights or spray the furniture.
Ongoing Needs and Routines…
- If possible, make sure you start a grooming routine early. Bathing, brushing and trimming claws will be an event to look forward to, rather than something to dread.
- Get a good litter box and quality litter. Keep the box clean, for the comfort of your cat and your nose. Unclean litter is the most common reason for a cat to urinate outside of the box. Covered boxes can allow you and your cat more privacy, but do not use a covered box if you are filling with clay litter. The dust can cause health problems for kitty and for you! Here are some great chemical-free, biodegradable kitty litter choices made from renewable plant sources:
- Make sure you buy well-balanced, age-appropriate food for your cat. Ask your vet, or the representatives at your local pet store for some advice. If you have adopted a kitten, feed kitten food for a few months. After that, a combination of top grade soft & dry is best. Raw or cooked meats and fish are also acceptable as long as combined with a balanced diet. Use crockery or enamel food and water dishes, with a lip – and provide fresh water daily.
- Do not have your cat de-clawed. This inhumane process completely removes the first digit of the pet’s front feet, rendering her defenseless to unkind humans, dogs and other natural predators. It’s also a very painful procedure. Instead, invest in a scratching post or floor scratcher. These are made from sisal, paper, carpet or a combination of all three, and can be purchased in any pet store. Scratching is natural for cats. NEVER use physical punishment in an attempt to stop your pet from doing it. Cats CAN be trained not to ruin the furniture; it just takes patience.
- If kitty goes outdoors, make sure she can be identified if lost. Options include name tag, tattoo, and/or microchip. Get your kitten used to staying home at night, to avoid being hit by a car or being attacked by dogs, owls, or other wildlife. If using a cat collar on which to hang ID, make sure it is the stretchy kind with a reflective strip and quick-release catch.
- Take your cat to a veterinarian at least once every two years for checkups. Consider purchasing vet insurance. The monthly cost will be minimal and if kitty got sick or injured vet bills can be extremely expensive. For more information about vet insurance talk to your vet.