Getting a new pet is a big event and all concerned are bound to feel a little anxious and excited. Make sure your house is ready for a cat or kitten.
A little preparation will turn your home into a safe environment for the new arrival. Plan ahead and stay calm—most cats settle in very quickly and will soon act as if they own the place.
Before making the decision to buy or adopt a cat, think carefully about how he will fit into your lifestyle. Bear in mind, too, that your responsibilities may be long-term—a cat can live for up to 20 years.
Can you give a cat daily attention? Most cats are relatively independent but some dislike being left alone all day. Never leave a cat unattended for more than 24 hours; in an emergency, make sure that someone is able to look in on him. If you regularly stay away from home, a cat may not be right for you.
Is a cat suitable for the whole family? Often, a cat that was not raised with young children will find living with them stressful; and if family members suffer from allergies or have restricted vision or mobility, a cat around the house is a potential hazard.
Do you want a kitten or an adult cat? Kittens need extra care and supervision, so be realistic about how much time you can allow for such things as litter-box training and feeding up to four times a day.
If you take on an adult cat, his previous experiences will influence how well he fits into your home. For example, a cat that is unused to children or other pets could find living with them stressful. Rescue shelters that place adult cats do their best to avoid such mismatches.
Will your cat live indoors or outdoors? Keeping a cat inside is generally safer, but few homes can provide all the stimulation that most cats require; adult cats that have always had access to the outside may not adapt well to an indoor lifestyle.
Cats are hunters, so if your cat goes outside you must accept that he might bring home prey. In the house, a cat inevitably sheds hairs everywhere and may leave claw marks on the furniture.
Would you prefer a quiet cat or a lively one? If you choose a pedigree, breed can indicate a cat’s likely temperament, but a random-bred cat is more of an unknown quantity. In both cases, individual personality can be influenced by early life experiences and the temperaments of the cats’ parent.
Do you want a male or female cat? Generally, neutered cats show little difference in behavior and temperament. Unneutered toms may roam and spray urine, while females in heat may be restless.
Establishing A Routine
In order to allow your cat to settle in and make him feel secure, it is best to set out a routine in the early days. Once the cat has found his place in your house, he will develop his behavior patterns and routine around your family’s daily schedule.
Try and plan your routine around regular activities such as grooming, feeding, and playtime. Make sure this does not interfere with your other commitments, because you will need to be consistent for many months.
Cats do not like change and get stressed if they are subjected to it frequently. This may result in behavioral problems and aggression. A regular routine will also help you observe any changes in your cat’s behavior and health. Predictability means safety to your cat.
It will help to decide the mealtimes for your cat at the outset. Always make sure to put the food and water bowls in the same place. This will help you check his appetite. You will get to know when he is hungry, which in turn will prove useful for training.
Cats do not particularly enjoy grooming, but they will tolerate it if they know it is only for a short duration. If your cat needs regular grooming, aim to do this at the same time each day. Grooming just before feeding or playtime will act as an incentive for your cat to be nearby and to cooperate with the process.
Having a fixed time for play will give your cat something to look forward to and reduce the likelihood of him going crazy and running around the house looking for attention. Ensure that the playtime activity is a worthwhile experience for your pet. Plan it in a way that you add in plenty of variety and devote sufficient time solely to your cat.
Cats are inquisitive and athletic, and you should take this into account when evaluating your home. If you regularly leave doors and windows open, assess whether your cat could escape through them or enter areas you want to keep cat-free.
Also, start looking behind you when going through a door, since a cat can easily slip through a gap at your feet. Close the doors of washing machines and dryers when not in use, and always check the whereabouts of your cat before turning on the machines.
Cats love climbing, so remove breakable or valuable objects from low tables or shelves. Be aware of possible pathways that would allow your cat to reach high shelves or work surfaces, and move furniture accordingly.
Stools, standing lamps, wall hangings, and curtains are all scalable to a cat. Consider temporarily putting double-sided tape, plastic sheeting, or aluminum foil around the edges of furniture you want to remain off limits until your cat learns to leave them alone; cats dislike the textures and will avoid them.
Climbing and scratching are entirely natural behaviors for a cat, so make sure you provide outlets for these activities, such as a scratching post and something safe for him to climb on.
Beware of leaving small objects lying around: cats can swallow or choke on things such as toys, bottle caps, pen lids, and erasers. Tuck away wiring on electrical appliances and pull up dangling cords so that your cat cannot drag a lamp or iron on to himself.
After assessing your home, conduct a “safety audit” of your yard. Remove sharp, potentially harmful objects and prevent access to sheds and greenhouses. Even if you try to secure your yard from animal intruders, you will always have some ”visitors.”
Foxes are usually wary of mature cats and their claws, but they may harm kittens. Snakes are an issue in some places, mainly because cats prey on them and sometimes get bitten in the process. There are cat-friendly snake-repellent products on the market.
Always examine your pet carefully after a fight with a neighborhood cat, in case he has injuries that need a vet’s attention. In urban areas, the greatest threat will be from traffic, so do your best to prevent your cat from being able to reach the road.
■ Providing food and clean water
■ Meeting the cat’s needs for companionship
■ Offering a choice of resources, such as beds and litter boxes
■ Providing enough stimulation to ensure the cat stays fit and happy
■ Grooming (and bathing) when necessary
■ Socializing kittens so that they are confident in any situation
■ Seeking veterinary care when needed
■ Microchipping the cat and fitting him with a quick-release safety collar and ID tag