Bringing Home a Cat or Kitten
What do you need to do when you bring home a new cat or kitty? What supplies? What veterinary care will your new cat need? When should you see the vet? How should you feed your cat for the first few days? How do you prepare your home for a new cat?
Deciding to bring a cat into your life might sound easier than bringing home a puppy, but it requires more preparation than most people anticipate. Not only should you take the appropriate steps to cat-proof your home and start your new pet off with proper nutrition, but you are also responsible for your kitty’s health as soon as you welcome him or her into your household.
By being prepared, you can avoid a rough transition and set the path towards becoming your cat’s favorite companion.
New Cat or Kitten Supplies
Your new feline will need a number of things for their homecoming. Among these are:
- a collar and leash (yes, a leash is a smart idea for cats too)
- dishes for food and water
- scratching posts
- grooming tools
- toys (stay away from ones with strings as they are a danger if ingested)
- a carrier
- at least one litter box
If you only want to purchase one litter box, make sure it is sized to fit an adult cat and not a kitten. Most cat parents choose to litter box train their kitten. You can read tips on litter box training here.
Kitten-Proofing (or Cat-Proofing) Your Home
These little bundles of joy can quickly get into danger, even when you think you are prepared! To keep them safe, first choose which areas that will be your cat’s “home base” until you are comfortable letting them roam the entire house. I personally like to keep the first day and night with a new cat as simple as possible for everyone and choose just a couple of rooms. Try to pick rooms that will be the safest or easiest to cat-proof. Dangerous areas to avoid are staircases, rooms where your curious feline can get into cabinets filled with chemicals, drapes begging to be climbed, and so on. The easier you make it on yourself and the fewer risks to the pet-and your belongings-the smoother the first days will go.
Once you select the rooms where you will allow your new pet, I encourage you to view these rooms from the perspective of a kitten. Get down on the floor and look for trouble! You will be amazed at all the temptations luring your kitten to danger. Electrical cords that can be chewed or even pounced on to send larger items crashing down, small objects on the floor that may have been swept under couches, chemicals and toiletries, sofas that are begging to be transformed into scratching posts, and poisonous houseplants are some of the endless dangers in your home that pose a threat to your new addition.
In addition, the outdoors can become deadly in no time if you allow your kitten access to it while off-leash. If you are considering letting your kitten venture outside, read up on the dangers of indoor/outdoor cats here. You must be extra-cautious about the things to which you expose your kitten, especially while you are learning what to expect from one another. But kitten-proofing isn’t a one-time event; this is something you must consider for all of your cat’s years.
Just as important as cat-proofing their environment is supervision. It is crucial that you keep an eye on your new kitten at all times. If you can’t, you should confine them to a crate or a safe room such as a small bathroom (with a closed toilet lid). Kittens are very inquisitive animals and will explore (and find trouble) anywhere if you let them. Prevention is essential; don’t make this mistake or you may end up with a ruined sofa- or worse, a dangerously ill kitten.
The Car Ride Home with Your New Kitty
When the big day arrives and you are ready to welcome your new bundle of fluff and joy, don’t underestimate how intimidating the trip home can be to a new kitten. Not only is your kitten removed from the environment he or she is familiar with, there are foreign smells, strangers, and wait-we’re moving at crazy fast speeds! A carrier or crate will provide you both with safety by preventing a nervous kitten from crawling into your lap or underneath the car pedals and keeping any bathroom accidents contained. Never risk riding in a car with a free-roaming cat; it doesn’t make much of an impact to seriously injure an animal. Pets of all kinds should be restrained in vehicles. Some adoption agencies will provide a cardboard box with holes that is an acceptable means of transportation as well.
Your Kitty’s First Meals
Starting your kitten on a high-quality diet is a step in the right direction towards a healthy cat. However, a classic rookie mistake can make those first few days miserable for your pet and the family member on kitten clean-up duty. Many owners immediately switch to a new brand of kitten food upon arrival and mop up a lot of nasty accidents as a result.
Abruptly changing foods is never a good idea! You should find out what food the kitten is eating currently and purchase a small bag of this brand, even if it is not your preferred brand. Transitioning the foods slowly is the key to a happy calm GI system. Your kitten will already be nervous, so any change in food formulas should happen over the first week or two. Anything quicker and your furry friend may experience vomiting and diarrhea, which are particularly dangerous in kittens since they can become dehydrated and weak very quickly. As you are settling in on day 2 or 3 with your new kitten, you can slowly begin the transition to a high-quality food of your choice.
Veterinary Care for Your New Kitty
Your newest family member will need a veterinary exam ASAP including vaccines, routine tests, and evaluations (and perhaps treatment) for parasites. It is smart to find a veterinarian and book an appointment before you bring your new pet home. Scheduling the introductory visit for the ride home on the first day is a good way to ensure your kitten is healthy and free of parasites before you even bring them in your house. While I don’t recommend scheduling vaccines on that already stressful day, you will rest easier knowing your kitten has a clean bill of health. You are responsible for your pet’s health from day one so it is important to consider things like purchasing a pet insurance policy before you cat is sick and you face an intimidating veterinary bill.
While all this may seem like a lot of work, sharing your home with a feline is wonderful and well worth it. A little preparation will make this new transition for all a safe and happy one for cat and human alike. .