Did you adopt a cat before the holidays? Get a kitten for Christmas? Make a New Year’s resolution to save a senior in 2021? Whatever your situation, we are here to help with a comprehensive guide of what to do now that your new friend has joined the family!
With all cats, young and old, there will be an adjustment period. Some cats will prefer to hide from you for a few days until they acclimate to their new home, whereas some will be attached to you like Velcro. The most important thing you can do for them in the first few days, and sometimes even weeks, is give them the space and the time that they need to adjust to their new life. All new cats will need the basic essentials - a litterbox, litter supply, bowls, quality food, a comfy place to sleep, something to play with, and of course, lots of love and understanding from you. Here are some tips for bringing a new cat or kitten into your home based on their individual stage of life:
Kittens: Kittens are curious about pretty much everything. When bringing in a new kitten, it is important to think about kitten proofing your home. For a kitten that is scared, hiding in small spaces like under furniture might bring them some comfort. Look for small spaces that you can make feel like home, such as a small box tucked into a corner or space under a table. If you have other pets in the home, a quarantine period is highly recommended, and a slow introduction with time to retreat into their own space is your best bet. Like small children, kittens like to get into everything and will need an abundance of toys to satiate that need for exploration play. Toys like tunnels, stuffies, crinkle toys and cat trees to climb are excellent options for play toys. However, most kittens can make even the most mundane of objects (such as rubber bands, hair binders, paperclips and balled up paper) into playthings, but these items are not recommended as they can be ingested.
Kittens require special nutrition, so be sure you are feeding a special kitten formula food to meet all their nutritional needs. Depending on how long your kitten was with their mother and under what circumstance, they might not know how to use a litter box. The good news is that most kittens will pick up on litterbox use very quickly and with little guidance. If your new kitten inappropriately eliminates outside of their box, simply soak up the urine with a paper towel and put that paper towel into their litterbox. Placing the paper towel in the litter box helps them understand what the litter box is for. In instances of poop, just pick it up and toss it in the box. Be sure to clean the surface that they soiled well with a pet urine cleaner (we recommend Anti-Icky Poo cleaner) to help avoid them going back to that spot. If inappropriate elimination continues, it could be a sign of a medical issue and it’s important to give us a call to set up an exam.
Adult Cats: Adult cats have an already developed personality and a list of things they like and don’t like. When bringing an adult cat home, they will most likely already know their way around their litter box, what flavor of foods they like, and what toys interest them most. Older cats are generally a little more scared of a new home transfer, so they will likely want to hide out for the first few days. Consult with the rescue or shelter your cat came from to see if you can learn anything about your new cat’s likes and dislikes. Be sure to note what food they have been fed and if you want to transition to something different, be sure to do so slowly. Again, if you have other pets in the home, a quarantine period is highly recommended, and a slow introduction with time to retreat into their own space is best. Give them a safe space that is just for them where they can get away for a break.
Senior Cats: Bringing a senior cat into your home will likely be much different than a kitten or middle-aged cat. Seniors will require special nutrition, and some seniors may be missing teeth, making crunchy things difficult to eat. A senior cat will spend less time playing and more time sleeping, so opting to invest more in accessible beds and comforts will take precedence over exciting and stimulating toys. Play will still be a part of their life, so be sure there are options available to them. Senior cats might also appreciate a shallower litterbox as they are easier to get in and out of. Very tall cat trees will eventually become too hard to access, so something lower to the ground will work better. Seniors will require a bit more care, and it is recommended that they visit us twice a year for an exam. Senior cats are generally quite sure of themselves and will most likely make themselves right at home in their new space.
Anytime you bring a new animal into a home with existing pets, it is important to undergo a slow transition and quarantine to protect everyone in your home. At any stage of life, it is important to have your new cat or kitten evaluated by your local, cat only veterinary team (that’s us!). All cats should be tested for infectious diseases (feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)), prior to introducing them your existing feline companions.
Cats are very sensitive creatures, and giving them time to adjust is simply a part of cat companionship. If you are embarking on a new life with a feline friend, we look forward to helping guide and assist you through every stage of their life!