We just adopted a cat – now what?
For the first 12-24 hours, keep your new cat or kitten confined to one room so it can establish a place where it feels safe. Make sure it has plenty of water, food, an easily accessible litter pan and a comfortable bed. If you start by letting your cat have the run of the house, you may not see it for days! You have no idea the small and ingenious places a frightened cat can find to hide until you have spent hours searching under beds, inside drawers, behind bookcases — or worse — between walls where they have become trapped.
Introducing other pets
Let it happen at their own pace — their natural curiosity about each other is on your side. After a few days of separation, cats/kittens will often start playing with each other under the door. This would be a good time to slowly introduce them. Usually, it’s the resident cat who will decide the success of the first encounters. Hissing and growling is normal on both sides. You may be surprised at how territorial your lonely and usually laid-back cat can become. Just be patient. Accommodation, followed by genuine pleasure in each other’s company, will usually happen, but in their own time, not yours. Read more rock-sold ideas on successfully integrating a new cat into a home with an existing one.
We suggest feeding your pets the best food you can afford. Kittens and adolescents up to eight months need kitten (not cat) food, rich in fats and protein to support their rapid growth. (So do pregnant cats and nursing mothers.) Kittens should be allowed to “free feed” — leave out kibble for them to snack on whenever they want.
Adult cats should not eat kitten food because it is too fattening for them. If you are away much of the day but have a kitten and an adult cat with access to the same food dishes, leave out adult food for both, but separate the kittens for 2-3 good helpings of kitten food (morning, supper and bedtime). (They’ll probably gobble it so quickly you won’t have to worry about the adults getting any.)
Even if you plan to keep your cats on a dry-food diet, serving wet food in the beginning is a good way of establishing you as their friend and benefactor. Wet food also provides kittens with much-needed liquid. All canned food should be stored in the refrigerator once it has been opened. Heating it up for 8-10 seconds in the microwave brings out the flavour.
Make sure your cat(s) have lots of fresh water available at all times, especially in hot weather. When ill, they can become dehydrated very quickly. Some cats can be very fussy about drinking water and may respond better to cat fountains, which provide running water. Test this first by running water from the kitchen tap and see if your cat is interested. Do not give your cats cow’s milk or cream as they are likely to be lactose intolerant.
It is generally a good idea to begin with the kind of litter your cat became used to at its foster home. After that, you can mix in, then switch to, the brand you prefer. We do not recommend clumping litter for kittens since they have been known to eat it, causing bowel blockages.
Scoop and change the litter frequently. Cats are clean and orderly by nature. Soiling outside of a litter box is a sign of any of the following: 1) lack of training as a kitten, 2) a dirty litter box, 3) stress due to physical problems, or 4) stress due to emotional problems. Be sure to check out the first three causes before assuming your cat has a behavioural problem. You may also want to check with your cat’s former foster parent to determine the best way to re-train your pet. Your cat may be trying to communicate with you in one of the few sure-fire ways it has of gaining your attention. Many cats do not like to use covered litter boxes so consider changing to an open design if your cat is having litter issues.
Cats don’t like to be bathed and only rarely require it. If something has been spilled on them (such as oil or paint), it becomes necessary to prevent them from licking their coats, thereby ingesting a potentially toxic substance. Baths are also sometimes given to combat infestation of fleas, though products such as “Revolution” and “Advantage” do the job faster, without fuss and muss. First test the water on the inside of your wrist to see that it is not too hot. Use pet-specific shampoo and rinse well. Since bathing is not normally a cat’s favourite activity, this is best undertaken as a two-person task. Afterwards, dry the cat in a towel then use a hair dryer on a low setting — cat fur can stay damp for 24 hours, often causing colds. Kittens who have just been bathed (and dried off) should be immediately afterwards placed in a carton or a cat bed, warmed with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
Groom your cat 2-3 times a week using a soft brush. Start gently so as to acquaint your pet with this activity. Some love it, some don’t, but brushing helps prevent hairballs. For long-haired cats, use a flea comb or a special fine-toothed comb found at pet stores. Such cats may also need the long hairs under their tails trimmed to prevent nasty feces balls from forming.
Cats develop dental problems just like humans. You can prevent tartar buildup, leading to bleeding gums and tooth decay, with a variety of products available at pet stores and from your veterinarian. In addition to toothpaste and brushes, you may wish to feed your cat a dry food diet geared towards dental health such as “Hill’s T/D” (available at veterinary clinics only) or “Greenies”.
Since cats, like kids, get bored with the same old toys, try rotating them. The “Cat Dancer” is a popular cat toy which consists of paper bows on a thin wire. This toy allows you to be interactive with your pet, and the jumping it inspires provides terrific exercise for your cat. It also allows you to get more than one cat playing the same game by alternating between them, so it is a good ice-breaker for introducing one to the other. Warning: Put this toy safely away when not in use! If left lying around, a cat may injure itself — the wire may wrap around the cat’s throat or puncture the cat’s skin. Tickling and teasing your cat, or cats, with a peacock feather provides the same play-and-exercise benefits.
Cats also need a scratching post — just make sure it will be tall and strong enough to meet the needs of your growing feline. Catnip toys can turn your too-sedentary adult into a playful kitten, but kittens under the age of six months do not usually react to this herb.
Please don’t leave string, elastics, or long bits of thread lying around. When swallowed, they can tangle in your cat’s intestines causing fatal obstruction. Paper bags and cardboard boxes can provide your cat with hours of fun, but plastic bags could cause suffocation.
Collars and Tags
All of our foster cats are kept indoors and that is a requirement we pass on to our adopters. According to the Toronto Humane Society, the average life of an indoor cat in Toronto is fourteen years, while the average life of an outdoor one is four! Even an indoor cat should have a collar and tag with a phone number on it in case of accidental escape, either from the home or, perhaps, in a car on the way to the vets. A break-away collar is advised in case it catches on a gate or a fence, causing your cat to choke.
We highly recommend microchipping your cat as well. An identifying microchip — about the size of a grain of rice — is inserted under the skin. Scanning of the microchip reveals an identification number that is tracked by a microchip company. The microchip company will store the identity of the cat in its database. (If you move, it is important to inform the microchip company of your new contact info!).
All ACR cats are seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible for evaluation, deworming, defleaing, spaying/neutering, and vaccination; therefore, any kitten you have adopted from us will have had at least its first set of shots. Your cat may still need two other sets of vaccinations at three-week intervals, depending on its age.
We recommend yearly exams for cats of all ages and annual bloodwork for cats over 10 years old. Cats with chronic medical problems may require more frequent examinations and lab work.