1. Isolation…For health and safety, NEVER simply place a new cat into your home without a vet visit, to test for communicable diseases, and to provide basic shots FIRST! For example, if you’re rescuing a stray, there might be ringworm or communicable parasites which are not visible initially, and you don’t want to infect your healthy kitties. Our rule is, first stop is the vet’s; then, spay or neuter as soon as possible. That covers all the bases. If finances are an issue, most counties now offer free/reduced cost spay and neuter programs, through local rescues or animal shelters, for certain income categories.
2. Privacy…Be aware that a new home can be quite intimidating to a kitty! Providing a small private space makes the new one feel more secure, so the best-case scenario is to provide a private room initially, equipped with a cardboard box turned on the side with flaps slightly open, as a special retreat. Cats REQUIRE a feeling of total security in a new environment! (This is why some cats may spend their whole first week under a bed.)
3. Litter Arrangements…Introduce the kitty to its litter box right away. Even a small kitten will naturally want to hide its own waste, so just gently place him or her into the litter box with fresh, clean litter and the kitten will take care of the rest. For multiple cat homes, go with the “cats plus one” rule, in which you have one litter box for each pet, plus one additional litter box. A covered model is preferable to open litter boxes. I was a bit worried that my cats wouldn’t go for this, but no worries, they took right to it, and it helps with “litter containment.” After years of using regular clay litter, I switched to scoopable–WAY better! Scoop both morning and evening to maintain maximum freshness.
4. Play time…Is all the time!…Your cat needs to hone its reflexes, build muscle, and sharpen its claws, and your furniture and carpet can become prime candidates if you do not make time for play time, AND provide a legal scratching station. An old, clean sock or one of the millions of cat toys available will make for a fun bonding experience for you and your new pet–and don’t forget the catnip!! I like to throw “catnip parties” for my cats every few days. I sprinkle it on their scratching post, inside their “hidey boxes,” and on their windowsill perch, and they dive right in. To get them interested in a new scratching post, gently rub their paws on it–the scent glands will leave attractive smells!
5. CLIMB! CLIMB!…Cats are climbers! Kitties prefer high vantage points. (Unfortunately, our cats prefer to use our $2,000 tower speakers which tend to wobble precariously whenever they leap from them). Your cat will thank you for investing in a cat tower or a shelf system. Picture a series of three or more short boards marching up a wall, using simple shelf brackets–inexpensive and easy to put up. For in-spurr-ation, check out the book series, “A Cat’s House,” loaded with colorful ROOMS full of cat-friendly furnishings. These people made their whole house cat friendly, and insanely colorful as well! This isn’t for everybody, but you can always adapt a couple of ideas to delight your kitty. You can also easily add a padded window perch (from any pet store, or order online); there are even “indoor-outdoor” perches, that provide a secure outdoor access as well.
6. “Use the Brush, Luke”…”Proper hygiene is an important part of a cat’s overall health,” say most experts. Self grooming occurs in the first month of life, so don’t worry if your tiny kitten doesn’t clean itself right away; you can use a clean, damp cloth with just water to gently blot away debris. And introduce brushing right away–it’s a cat favorite! Brushing is bonding; our kitties come running when we even pick up the brush. Bathing is a different story entirely–some cats jump right into the shower with their people (not our cats!!!). If you’re starting with a kitten, you may be able to acclimate it to regular baths. Sometimes a bath is the only answer to a flea-infested newly adopted stray cat or kitten. If you’re not able to bathe the cat, your vet probably offers this service. And, a note on flea prevention: ask your vet about the most effective products to use; avoid supermarket products!
7. Oversee Pet Interactions…Slowly introduce new pets to each other by a gradual process. (This is where the private room comes in.) After a period of tine in isolation–allowing the established residents to scent the newbie through a closed door, I like to shift the new kitty to a large crate I use a dog crate for this), and place it in the center of things. This allows closer encounters, securely. After about a week of increased exposure, I’ll supervise full introduction to the household. But I NEVER leave them unsupervised until I’m absolutely certain that everybody is friendly and adjusted. Inter-species introductions are a bit more sensitive, of course.
Adopting a pet is only the first step! We’ve had multiple pets–cats and dogs–for years, and we’re always learning something new. And here’s a “PS” to the “Top 7″– selecting the best possible food for your cat. I always recommend “Whole Dog Journal”–even to cat owners!!! This publication accepts NO commercial pet food advertising, and provides an annual list of recommended foods, which applies to manufacturers of both dog AND cat foods. And, check out “thetruthaboutpetfood.com” for more food recommendations and industry updates (it’s an eye-opener).