7 Tips for Introducing a New Cat Into Your Home
June is National Adopt a Shelter Cat Month! Introducing a new cat into your home can be stressful—but the benefits make it worth it. Cats can help us wind down after a long day, help us sleep better, and even protect us from heart disease and stroke. Of course, taking home a pet from a shelter is also great for the community. Every spring, thousands of new, unwanted kittens are born, filling the shelter quickly and making June the perfect time to adopt a cuddly little newborn or a full-grown cat. Plus, your adoption fees and other support make it possible for local shelters to continue to offer reduced veterinary care to unadopted animals as well as other programs for animal welfare.
In Greenville, SC, we have two animal shelters that you can choose from. Animal Care, a facility committed to building a no kill community, is featuring $35 adoptions in June. The adoption fee includes the spay/neuter surgery, initial vaccinations, and microchipping. The Greenville Humane Society has full-grown cats for $25 and kittens for $75.
Adopting a Cat Checklist
If you are considering adding a member to your fur family this month, there are a few things you should know about introducing a new cat into your home environment.
Make the Entire Family Part of the Adoption Process
This is the first and most important step to successfully adding a new cat to your family—choosing the right cat. It’s tempting to drop by your local shelter and choose the first cat that you like, based on color, fur pattern, eyes, purr, etc. But you should also be looking carefully at personality and how well the cat meshes with everyone in your household, including your other pets. Schedule a time to visit the shelter with your entire family and sit down before you go to discuss the decision. When you arrive, take your time and don’t rush your decision. Most shelters have bonding rooms where you can go to interact with the cat or kitten to see how well you get along. Many shelters will also allow you to bring your pets to meet the new addition. Just be careful and introduce the two animals gradually.
Ask the Staff Lots of Questions
Talking with the staff at the local shelter can tell you a lot about a cat’s personality and preferences—as well as his or her history. Think about your lifestyle and your household as you ask your questions. Is this cat good with children? Does this cat like to be alone or need lots of time with people? While it doesn’t ensure success, looking for a cat that has lived with other cats or dogs in the past can make it easier to introduce a second cat to your home.
Think About Taking Home Two
If you don’t already have a cat at home, you should consider adopting two! While cats are generally considered easier and more solitary than dogs, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need company. Cats are highly active and intelligent—and often need more mental stimulation and playtime than we realize. Adopting two cats that get along well will ensure that they always have a playmate and the mental engagement that they crave.
Set Up an Appointment With Your Vet in Advance
Once you know that you will be going to adopt a new cat, give your vet a call to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Even though your shelter has likely spayed or neutered your cat and provided other veterinary care, there are lots of illnesses that animals can pick up in group living situations, so it’s a good idea to schedule a general wellness check. At Ambassador, we also offer kitten packages to keep your furbaby in good health during those important early months, and we can register the microchip from the shelter when you come in as well.
Stock Up on Supplies
Cats are highly territorial and are creatures of comfort who are sensitive to their surroundings. You should have your new cat’s environment set-up before he arrives with all the necessities, including a litter box, cat bed, and a few toys to occupy him. It may be that eventually, after he’s rubbed his face all over your things, he decides he prefers your bed and your blanket and your favorite chair—but you should have a special place for him so that he feels at home right away. You should also have plenty of healthy, high-quality cat food on hand for his arrival.
Cat-Proof Your Home
If you aren’t used to living with a cat, it may surprise you at first what they can get into. Before adopting, do a walk-through of your own home, making sure that there are no valuable, breakable items on high shelves (cats love to push things off shelves—we have no idea why!) You should also make sure that you aren’t in the habit of leaving leftover food on the counters or dishes out after dinner, that you don’t have any toxic plants around, and that there aren’t any small, loose items around that your cat could choke on. At this point, you should also cat-proof your budget. On average, it costs about $1,000 to care for a kitten the first year and $500 every year after that, or for an adult cat. Make sure that you can afford your new cat before you commit and consider setting aside $25-50 a month so that you can provide unexpected veterinary care as the need arises.
Go Slowly and Have Patience
Even if you’re doing everything right, cats can be finicky creatures—particular about their environment. Don’t be surprised if it takes your new cat a couple weeks to start acting like your home is her home. You may want to confine your new cat to one or two rooms for the first couple days and allow her to get comfortable in this smaller environment before introducing her to the entire home. This can be especially helpful if you are introducing a second cat to your home, as it gives your current cat the chance to get used to the scent and pheromones of the new addition. You may also want to introduce your current cat to your new cat by letting your current cat sniff a towel or blanket that your new cat has slept on. After a few days keeping the new cat confined to one or two rooms and keeping the cats separated from each other, let them see each other gradually, perhaps through a screen or a high baby gate. Your two cats may briefly hiss or even ignore each other for a few weeks. That’s OK! If they aren’t fighting, they will gradually warm up to each other.
We hope that, if you’re considering celebrating Adopt A Shelter Cat Month with a new addition to your home, you’ll also take the time to set yourself up to be a successful pet owner. If you don’t have room in your life for a new cat but would still like to celebrate—think about making a donation to your local shelter or sponsoring a shelter cat instead!