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Bringing Home Your First Cat

There’s so much to think about when you’re welcoming your first cat into your home. Should you adopt from a shelter or from a rescue organization? Do you want a kitten or would you prefer the laid-back nature of an older cat? Tabby or calico? Long-haired or short?  While these are all important considerations, don’t forget one of the biggest questions of all:

What is necessary to prepare for your new companion? 

man holding kitten

Here’s what you need to do when you’re bringing home a new cat.

Prepare Your Home

Make sure your house is stocked with everything your cat will need. A litter box, cat litter, a litter scoop, a cat carrier, cat food, and food and water dishes are all essentials  to have on day one. Toys, a scratching post, and a cat tree or perch are also smart purchases.

When you buy cat food, stick to the same type your cat has been eating. Sudden food changes can cause vomiting and diarrhea, so it’s better to transition gradually . Ask the rescue group what they’ve been feeding and buy the same.

At home, restrict your cat to one room and limit visits with family members, especially kids new to cat ownership. Cats are territorial creatures that can be overwhelmed by new environments; setting up one room with everything your cat needs limits their stress and lets them gain confidence on their own terms. As their comfort grows, gradually increase the square footage they can roam until they have full reign of the house.

Introduce to Other Pets

Confining your cat to one room serves a second purpose: It manages introductions between pets. Cats should be separated from dogs and other free-roaming pets for one to two weeks after adoption and spay or neuter surgery.

Take steps to introduce pets to each other’s scents while they’re separated. Start by feeding your cat and dog on opposite sides of a closed door. After a few days, swap their bedding so that the cat is sleeping in the dog’s bed and vice versa. Then, reverse the animals’ living areas.

When the face-to-face introduction finally happens, make sure you have full control of all pets that could hurt (or be hurt by) your cat. Keep dogs leashed and sitting or lying down. Reinforce the dog’s good behavior with treats while allowing the cat to explore. If either pet shows signs of aggression, end the visit and try another time. Taking the introduction process slowly increases the odds of harmony between pets.

For more tips on caring for cats in your home, check out this article.

Manage Veterinary Care

Whether you adopt a kitten or an adult cat, a vet visit should be at the top of your cat care to-do list. Bring medical records from the rescue group to your first appointment so your veterinarian can determine what’s needed.

Most cats are vaccinated while at an animal shelter or rescue. However, some vaccines require boosters that you’ll need to schedule after adoption. Of the core cat vaccines , FVRCP requires booster vaccines on a set schedule. Missing a shot could mean starting over, so it’s important to adhere to the vaccination schedule.

If your cat isn’t yet sexually sterilized, you’ll need to schedule a spay or neuter . Cats can be fixed as young as two months of age; female cats can go into heat as young as five months old, so it’s important to schedule this procedure early. On top of pet overpopulation , spaying and neutering prevents life-threatening cancers and illnesses, makes cats less likely to spray urine, and reduces the urge to escape and roam. During a spay or neuter is a great time to have your cat microchipped as well.

If you’re having trouble affording spay or neuter for your cat, look for a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in your area. Some cities and towns have low-cost pet sterilization programs, while others are operated through nonprofit animal welfare groups. Ask your local animal shelter for help finding assistance.

sleeping cat with paws out front

Bringing home your first cat is an exciting moment, but it can become stressful for all involved if you don’t prepare.

With these tips, you’ll be ready for a smooth transition when you bring a cat into the family.

This guest article was written and submitted by Jessica Brody 

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