We’re going to spin National Pet Preparedness Month as a way to talk about preparing to bring a cat or kitten into your home, especially since this is also National Adopt a Cat Month! Preparing to bring any animal into a new environment should be done with care and forethought. Introducing new cats or kittens to existing pets or children may take time and patience, depending upon the disposition of the cat and the age of the existing pets or children. Providing a stimulating environment and a space to call their own are both key components to fostering a well-behaved and trusting cat.
Bringing your cat or kitten into a safe environment and making it feel safe can be the most important aspect of being a new cat parent. Having supplies already at home and in their proper place is an important part of the preliminary work before bringing a new pet home. Try to find out what your new cat has already been eating, as changing a diet abruptly will most likely cause digestive problems and diarrhea. If you cannot match its existing diet, add probiotics and a little canned pumpkin (available in pet stores) to help aid in digestion.
Preparing an environment for a kitten can be tricky business. They are curious creatures and have an extremely low vantage point. Many cat trainers recommend that you get on the floor and take a look around. Is there anything that could attract a kitten? Most likely the answer is yes! Make sure all electrical cords are hidden or tucked away. Kittens and cats can easily chew through cords and get electrocuted. Are there holes or tight squeezes that they could enter but not exit? Kittens are notorious for crawling inside of reclining chairs, where the chances of injury are high.
Another danger to cats and kittens are toxic chemicals and plants. Consider baby locks for lower cabinets and removing all toxic plants from your home. (For a downloadable list of toxic plants and symptoms of ingestion, look here.) Do you have looped pull strings for your window covers? Snipping the end loops or pulling the ties off to the side where they can’t be reached could be life-saving as kittens have been known to get strangled by curtain cords. Safely store shopping bags with looped handles, sewing supplies, and string. Secure all trash cans. Some cats like to chew rubber bands or plastic, which when swallowed can block their intestines and require surgical removal. Even dental floss on the floor can be a danger to a cat. They will definitely keep you on your toes! Kittens are quick to get underfoot, so treading lightly in your home is highly recommended during those early developmental months. For more tips on kitten-proofing your home, read more here.
When preparing to introduce your cat to its new home, Pippa Elliot, MRCVS says in a wikiHow article that swapping scents is a primary part of the introduction. Try to bring a blanket from its previous familiar environment, and use it in your existing pet’s bed to help it get used to the new cat’s scent. Also using a t-shirt of yours in the new cat’s bed can help it become familiar with your scent, too. Using Feliway products to help produce happy pheromone scents can also help minimize antagonistic feelings between new and existing cats.
Providing a “safe space” for your new cat is important. It has been suggested to place a new bed and fresh toys in a designated room for the new cat to help them integrate into the family. Allowing existing pets to smell them under the door for one-to-two weeks can ease in the new relationship. A private litter box with fresh litter without an overbearing scent can help make the new cat feel safe and comfortable. Do not allow your new cat to roam in the house until a period of time has passed and you are sure that your existing pets are comfortable with your new fur baby.
If you’re thinking about bringing a cat into your home with an existing dog, American Humane suggests that you take your dog to a shelter first or have a controlled visit with a friend’s dog-friendly cat to see how it responds. When introducing your new cat to the dog, go through the same procedure as above, but keep the dog on a leash for first contact. Give your dog treats for all positive interactions with the cats from the first contact. Click here for more information on dog and cat introductions.
If you have children, it is best to give them advanced notice about the cat or kitten that will be coming home. Tell them about the safe space and the time it will take to get the new cat integrated into the household. When the cat arrives, teach the child how to properly touch and pet the cat so your child is not an antagonist and the cat does not develop an aversion to the child. Show your child how to be still and quiet around the cat, perhaps allowing the child to give treats to build trust with the new pet. It would not be recommended to allow the child to hold the cat or kitten initially, as a scratch or bite could cause a setback in the bonding process. Remember, kittens are extremely fragile and it doesn’t take much to break a bone, so supervise younger children during kitten handling time. For more tips, check out this link.
While it seems like a lot of work, the overall reward of having a cat in your home outweighs the trouble. Cats have been known to help their humans sleep better (the sound of purring is soothing to humans), and some cats have even alerted their owners to danger, just like a dog does! Cats are highly trainable, despite their bad reputation of being aloof, and are known to be very dependable companions. Being prepared for your new cat or kitten can make all the difference in starting your relationship in a positive way.
It’s National Adopt a Cat Month so go out and meet some purr babies!