So, You’ve Adopted a Cat, Now What?

You’ve done it. You’ve taken the plunge and brought home a fluffy new kitty (or a mature feline diva). What happens after you bring them home, though? Be prepared for what comes after bringing kitty home by reading up on these helpful tips and tricks to have a happy and healthy lifelong partner:

An Introduction to Your Vet Is First:

It doesn’t matter if your cat is elderly, healthy, a kitten, or might have a chronic condition, all new family members should see their vet on the first week home. Cats who might have signs of a health condition, like eye discharge, not eating or drinking, not peeing, or any other symptom of illness, should go soon as possible. This is a way to introduce them to their vet and get a baseline health exam, and to address any concerns you might have.

Be sure to speak to your vet about any preventative medications your new cat might need. Your vet will probably recommend a heartworm, flea and tick preventative, especially if they are an indoor as well as outdoor cat. Ask your vet about their microchipping services, which can dramatically improve the chance your cat is reunited with your family if they become lost. They should also get either caught up on or receive their first vaccinations, depending on their age, and should be scheduled for their spay or neuter operation if they are not already de-sexed.

Proper Equipment Makes for Easier Transition:

Not all pets are planned for, so not all of us gets to prepare for our furry loved one before they come home. Depending on whether you already have a cat and are adding to your family, or if this is your first feline, you may have several items you need to run to the store for.

Be sure you have a litter box (at least one per cat, plus one), clumping and unscented litter, a wide, shallow food and water bowl, and quality cat food appropriate for their age. Have at least one scratching post, either cardboard or made from sisal rope, to distract your new kitty from your couch.

Toys and play mice are also fun to enrich your cat’s life with and are available in a range of sizes and material. It is also a good idea to give your cat a place they can hide, preferably high up. Cat trees are popular choices, but if the budget doesn’t allow it, buy a covered cat bed you can place on a shelf or table until you save up.

While it can be tempting to run out to the store and buy everything in the cat aisle, your cat doesn’t need a ton of equipment. Not all cats love loud squeak toys, so wait to know your cat’s preference before coming home with loaded shopping bags.

Look Out for Behavioral Quirks:

Expect your cat to be very quiet at first. Cats are often overwhelmed by new spaces and need plenty of time to get used to an area, they will typically show plenty of stress signs until then.

Try allowing your cat time to get to know one small room of your house first before letting them expand their territory. Having their litter box, food and water bowls in one smaller room will give your new kitty plenty of time to get to know you and your other furry family members without too much stress.

If it has been a month and your cat still hasn’t come out of their shell, start to look for other reasons they are not at home. Maybe your new cat doesn’t feel safe with your dog, or your floor cleaner is making them sneeze. Expect an adjustment period when bringing a new cat home, but if too much time has passed try making small changes in their environment to make them feel more at ease.

Also, be aware of any misbehaviors that come up as your cat relaxes in their new space. Whether they reveal a love of eating houseplants, or a reluctance to use the litter box, these behaviors should be noticed and addressed as soon as possible.

Nearly all behavioral problems easily can be discouraged with the right approach, so it is important to notice them before they are too well ingrained (or wreck your bonsai collection). Your veterinarian is an excellent resource to speak to for behavioral modification techniques, and your local pet sitter also has some excellent tricks up their sleeves.

Introduce Them (And You) Slowly:

The best advice to give a new cat owner is to go slowly with your new family member. Don’t force your affection on your new cat, as this is a sure way to make your cat pair you with unpleasant experiences.

Some cats have outgoing personalities that will have them on your lap in the first day, others will take months. Nevertheless, your cat will introduce themselves to you with time, sometimes when you least expect it.

If you are impatient to speed up the introductive process, try to bring toys out to encourage interaction. Cat dancer wands (the sticks with dangly feathers and mice at the end of long strings) are excellent ways to draw out your cat without invading their space. Soon enough you’ll have a cat paw tapping you on the cheek in the morning, asking for their breakfast.

While these suggestions are valid whether you bought your cat from a local cat breeder or brought them home from the shelter, Carol’s Critter Care recommends visiting your local animal shelter or rescue to find a furry friend.

As Carol’s Critter Care supports local animal charities by donating a portion of all service fees, we recommend you adopt, don’t shop. Fortunately, Jackson County has several excellent options for pet rescue:

Jackson County Animal Shelter: With a $50 adoption fee that includes a health exam, their first vaccinations, de-worming and age-appropriate spay or neuter operations. Microchipping is also only $15. Please see a listing on their website for pictures of their residents available for adoption.

Friends of Jackson County Animal Shelter: This non-profit rescue group, which works with the county animal shelter to help care for pets in their facility and helps place pets into welcoming homes, also offers a variety of pets for adoption from their foster families. With fully vetted and evaluated pets available starting from $50, they might have the furry loved one you are missing in your home.

Feral Feline Coalition: If you are looking for cat lovers, look no further than this group of volunteers who work to increase awareness of feral felines in Ocean Springs, help spay and neuter operations, and work to place friendly kittens from their foster homes into loving families. Please contact them if you would like to offer your home to a cat looking for a second chance today.

Do you have any funny stories of your pet’s first week in-home? We’d love to hear about your adjustment period in the comments!

By Lauren Pescarus

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