Congratulations on adopting your new cat! Here are some tips from CAP to help you keep your cat happy, healthy, and growing. You will need supplies, like food, dishes, and a litter box. Bringing a new pet into the home, particularly if you have other pets, requires a period of acclimitization. Cats are inquisitive and may eat hazardous objects - make sure to cat proof your home so your new friend stays safe. Consider keeping your cat indoors - indoor cats live twice as long as their outdoor counterparts. Just like other family members, your cat will need yearly health checkups so a good veternarian is a must. Believe it or not, you can train your cat! And last but not least, play with your cat. Particularly with indoor cats, play and exercise will keep them fit and happy (the cat dancer is a sure-fire hit).
Most cats benefit greatly from another cat or cat as a companion. If you have the financial resources to adopt two, they will make great play pals and keep each other company when the human family members are not at home. Welcome to the community of feline friends!
- Litter box
- Litter box scooper
- Litter box liners - only needed if you do not want to have to wash out the litter pan every week
- Litter - if your cat is not using the litter box but going elsewhere, it 'may' be the litter so try another brand
- Food - only feed high quality 'cat' food
- Food dishes - always get separate water and food bowls which are not attached to each other
- Scratching posts - at least two, placed in the rooms that the cat frequents most
- Cat brush - medium & long hair cats need to be groomed regularly
- Cat carrier
- Nail clippers - use caution when using nail clippers and never cut below the cuticle line in the nail
- Toys - no toys with objects inside that the cat could swallow
- Get an 'easy to read' first aid, emergency book such as The First Aid Companion for Cats and Dogs or Pet First Aid
Dry food: Have dry cat food available at all times, and of course, plenty of fresh water. Use high quality name brand cat food such as Newman's Own cat food or Science Diet. Whether or not to feed dry or moist cat food is debatable and there are differing opinions on this subject.
Wet food: If you decide to feed moist food, it is very important to not leave uneaten moist food for more than a few hours. Throw away moist food that is starting to dry up.
Treats: It is probably best not to give treats. If you do give treats, never exceed 10% of the diet. If you make a regular habit of giving a treat after you finish eating, the cat will learn to look forward to it and won't bother you, your family, or your guests while you eat, but will wait patiently.
Milk - Contrary to popular belief, cow's milk is not good for cats. Most can't digest it properly and consequently get diarrhea. Do NOT give cow's milk to cats or cats!
Dishes - Aluminum or glass/glazed porcelain/china dishes are best if you are feeding moist food. Plastic dishes can harbor germs in the surface which can cause a condition known as feline acne. Feline acne is small pimples on the chin, which cause swelling and discomfort and can be very difficult to clear up. If this problem arises, consult your vet for the best method of treatment. Plastic dishes should be fine if you are feeding only dry food.
Your cat has been under stress. He has been in a strange place full of other animals. Now he is in a new home, with a new family and maybe even other pets. While you are ready to make your cat a part of your family, he may need transition time. He may go under a bed or some other hiding space. A few hours or even a couple of days may pass before your feline friend decides to come out from hiding. When he emerges, try not to make any sudden movements. Talk softly to him and allow him to sniff you when he is ready. Place treats nearby to lure him out. When your cat realizes you will not hurt him, he will become comfortable and content in your presence.
Other Pets: To introduce two cats, keep them separated a couple of days, allowing them to smell each other's bedding. Then allow them to sniff each other under a door. The first encounter may be hostile, but allow the cats to work it out. Keep a spray bottle with water ready in case a fight should occur. If the first attempt is unsuccessful, wait a few days and try again.
When introducting a dog and a cat, When the dog is in a calm state and still on a leash, allow the dog and cat to view each other at a distance. You should exude calm but also express firmness and not allow the dog to chase the cat or the cat to scratch the dog. Another human family member should hold the dog leash while you calmly pet the cat, thereby letting the dog know that the cat is part of the family. Most dogs want to please their human companion. If the dog remains fairly calm, allow the dog, while still on a leash, to get close to the cat.
A dog's basic instinct is to chase a cat. Whether the dog chases or not depends on the introduction and on the cat. A cat who is not afraid of dogs and does not run is less likely to provoke a chase. The new dog and your cat should not be alone together for a few weeks the dog may still chase a running cat. Also, if your dog sees the cat outside, he may feel like the cat is fair game for a chase.
It is important to give equal attention to your original pet. Do not ignore him as this may cause resentment of the new pet, and most important is that the original pet too needs to feel loved, even more so because of the new addition to your family.
Catproofing - even though your cat is not a baby, you should still check the following safety hazards.
- Poisonous plants
- Electrical and phone cords left dangling
- Keep toilet lids closed (cats will drink the water, which has chemicals and fecal matter)
- Make certain they cannot get in the fireplace
- Open stairways (cats, puppies, cats and dogs are at great danger in home with a 'half wall' or even open rails on an upstairs room. They can easily fall through or jump over a half wall, pluging down to the floor below! Take precautions!
- Accessible garbage (especially any kind of bones - bones can either splinter and perforate the stomach or intestines, or form an intestinal blockage)
- Needles and/or thread; knitting and/or crocheting materials
- Rubber bands (which can wrap around the intestines)
- Plastic wrap or bags (the cat can eat, or strangle, or suffocate on)
- Styrofoam (especially packing "peanuts") which the cat may eat
- Cigarettes (cats may eat)
- Yarn or string toys (can wrap around the intestines or block them); toys with easily removed and swallowed parts
- Cellophane (turns glassy in the stomach and can cause internal lacerations)
- Christmas tree needles, tinsel and decorations
- Large appliances - always check for cats before shutting or turning on any appliance!
- Put away feathers and toys attached to string (such as kitty teasers) after use (cats eat feathers and swallow string)
- Keep your workshop off-limits (cats will jump at moving objects such as drills and power saws - may also swallow screws, nails, wire and other small parts)
- Cleaning products and other chemicals (anything with phenyl is deadly to cats - this includse products such as Pineoclean and many other disinfectants)
- Floor and counter surfaces (best solution is to use is one part bleach to 30 parts water)
- Anti-freeze (cats love certain scents, and one of their favorites is antifreeze which will kill a cat quickly)
- Never use Lysol products around cats (over a period of time Lysol can sicken or kill a cat)
Emergency Numbers: Keep the phone numbers of your vet, an emergency 'after hours' clinic, and local poison control center, posted by your phone. The number for the National Animal Poison Control Center is (888) 426-4435 - they may charge $65 for a consultation.
Indoors / Outdoors: When making a decision to keep a cat strictly indoors or sometimes let them outdoors, consider the fact that cats face many dangers when outside such as cat fights, dog attacks, hit by cars, poisoned or killed by people that do not like cats and there are many contagious diseases they can get when outside. Facts clearly show that on the average indoor cats live twice as long as cats allowed to go outdoors. Besides the basics of food and water, give them cat toys, a carpeted kitty condo, a nice window to look out of, some attention and affection and they will be content, as well as safe, indoors. Most animals, not all, usually benefit from having an animal companion of their own species. Provide your cat with a window to look out as most cats enjoy sitting in a window. Many Petsmart or Petco Stores sell window seats. Or place a tall cat climbing carpeted house by the window. If allowing your cat out doors, make sure to give a stretch collar with an ID tag that has two current phone numbers, and a small bell attached to warn wildlife.
Find a veterinarian immediately and establish a relationship. Waiting until you have a sick animal is not the time to find a vet you like and feel comfortable with. Make sure to ask the vet about who would you contact during the hours their clinic is not open. Some vets treat their own emergencies and other vets send you to an animal emergency clinic. Keep the phone numbers of your vet and an emergency 'after hours' clinic (you may want to drive by the emergency clinic so you know how to get there) readily available. Also, keep a vaccinations/worming schedule and all other health information in a place you can easily locate.
The AMVA recommends the following vaccinations for cats: Feline Panleukopenia Virus Vaccine (distemper), Feline Calicivirus, Rhinotracheitis AKA Feline Herpes Virus, and Rabies. Other vaccines include Bordetella bronchiseptica (for kennel cough), Gardiasis, and Chlamydiosis. Your cat's lifestyle and circumstances will play a large role in what vaccinations he needs - talk with your veterinarian about the best vaccination plan. If you have adopted your cat from CAP, the cat's vaccinations will be up to date, he will be wormed, spayed/neutered, and checked for feline leukemia.
If you plan of giving the currently available Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) vaccine to your cat, be aware that having had the FeLV series does not guarantee immunity and you should therefore still limit your cat's exposure to other cats. Cats.about.com has detailed information on vaccination issues.
Fleas: Do not use flea collars, first because their effectiveness is questionable and second, because flea collars can cause skin sores on long-haired cats due to the concentration of poison around the neck. Rather, a good rinse or monthly single dose of products such as Frontline or Advantage (available from your vet) is a better solution to the problem of fleas. Consult your vet for the best option. Flea products contain toxic substances and their use should be minimized to the extent possible.
Contrary to widespread belief, cats are trainable by proper methods: rewards and tangible but removed punishment (see ‘Spray Bottle Method' below). Declawing is not a solution to cat clawing at furniture - declawing is a mutilation, not a minor operation. Also, a declawed cat cannot escape nor can they defend themselves as well as a cat with claws. Training for cats is more about protecting cats from themselves - for instance, teach your cat not to jump on counters since she may jump on a stove and be burned.
Be firm and patient with your cat. If the cat scratches its claws where it should not, firmly (without yelling) say "NO", take it to its scratching post, and make scratching motions with its feet. Cats respond well to a firm voice and patience. They are naturally fastidious, and want to behave.
The Water Spray Bottle Method: Behavior problems that do not respond to "No!" can usually be modified by giving the cat a quick shot of water from a spray bottle. This method removes you from the punishment in the cat's mind, which is desirable for two reasons: The cat doesn't begin to fear you as a source of punishment (as she would if you spank!), and she thinks the water is ‘An Act of God,' and will refrain from the undesirable behavior even if you are not around. (A similar method works to keep your cat from running outdoors: Stand outside, hose in hand, door open, and spray the cat when it sets foot outside. After a few times, the cat will decide that there's nothing out there that she wanted anyway!
Collars and Leashes: If you use a collar on your cat only use a stretch collar and check it weekly to be sure it is not becoming too tight as the cat grows. A too-loose collar is also dangerous. An elastic collar or breakaway stretch collar is the best choice, as it will separate if it becomes caught on something. Breakaway collars have been known not to breakaway. If you cannot break the collar open using two fingers on your same hand, then it may be too difficult for your cat to break away this type collar. If using a collar, include an ID tag but use the small tag meant for cats and not the larger tag.
If you train your cat to a leash, use a harness designed for cats - never a collar because a cat will only struggle against the pull of a collar around its neck, but may be more amenable to the behind-the front-legs tug of a harness. Remember that harnesses are not totally secure, and a cat wearing a harness and leash should never be left unsupervised. The cat may slip out of the harness, or strangle himself on the leash. Do not leave a harness on an animal when indoors or unsupervised. Harnesses are not only uncomfortable for wearing in the house but the animal can get the harness snagged on something. Never walk a leashed cat near a roadway or on a busy sidewalk unless you're sure the cat is very calm - cats that can be trusted not to panic in these situations are literally one-in-a-million! The noise and motion of cars, people, other animals, etc. can cause a cat to panic, slip its harness, and dash into danger. The best place for your leashed cat is in your own quiet back yard with you there with her.
Cats like to play, but they also like to sleep. Generally, the morning or early evening (following afternoon naps) is the best time if you want an enthusiastic response, especially in an adult cat. Soft toys with no small, easily removed and swallowed pieces are good toys; a piece of sturdy cloth attached to a thick string tied to a stick is wonderful. With it you can go 'fishing for cats,' and the pouncing and jumping this toy elicits is great exercise for the cat. If you use this type of toy, do not leave the cat unattended with it as the cat may strangle itself with or on the string. Do not rough play with your cat, as this can make the cat too aggressive (if the cat kicks at your hand or bites at your fingers, say "no," blow in his face, and remove your hand).
Remember that what your cat needs most is your time and attention. Especially if the cat is left alone during the day, she will be very glad to see you in the evening and demand quite a bit of attention. Please remember that cats are sensitive, living creatures, and don't allow your friends, children, or other pets to mishandle the cat. One sure way to guarantee an unsatisfactory pet is to mistreat her, even inadvertently. On the other hand, plenty of attention, love and considerate play will result in a companion who will give years of joy.