June is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month! A month dedicated to spreading awareness of cat adoption from shelters and small rescues. If you've decided to adopt a cat or kitten - congratulations on your new best fur-iend! And if this is your first cat ... welcome to the cat parent family! It's a wonderful experience you'll treasure forever.
We have compiled a list of the basics that you'll need before bringing your new fur baby home, and how to help them safely and happily adapt to their new forever home!
Food and Water Dishes
It is recommended to place food and water dishes a small distance apart, as some cats will refuse to drink water if it is placed near their food. Theories abound as to why this is, with some suggesting it is an instinctual aversion to the food potentially contaminating the water. If you notice your cat isn't drinking enough water or prefers to drink from the tap, consider a circulating fountain - some cats prefer running water.
Did you know that some cats suffer from "whisker fatigue" when eating out of deep food bowls? This happens when the edges of the bowl tickle or irritate their whiskers, which are highly sensitive to touch and vibrations. If you notice your cat is reluctant to eat or drink, eats only from the middle of the bowl, or drags their food out of the dish to eat on the floor, consider a wide, shallow bowl or dish to take pressure off those whiskers and help avoid "whisker fatigue."
If you are keeping your new cat in a small bathroom or separate room at first to help them adjust to their new environment, be sure not to place your food and water dishes near the litter box!
It almost goes without saying that you need food for your new cat! But ask your shelter or adoption center what they have been feeding your new kitty, and purchase the same brand. Some shelters may send you home with the food they have been using, but be prepared in case they do not.
Continue to use the same brand of food until you can talk to your vet to discuss your cat's new diet going forward that should be based on their individual health needs.
Ahh, the dreaded litter box - but it's not something you should dread! Different cats have different needs when it comes to litter boxes. You will probably have to try different styles and locations to keep everyone happy. Some cats want a covered litter box, some uncovered, and some prefer a box with low sides.
You will also need to make sure the litter box is big enough, especially if you have a large breed cat like a Maine Coon. If you have multiple cats, the general rule is 1 litter box per cat plus 1 more.
Good locations can include: a bathroom, quiet laundry room away from the loud machines, or a quiet, low-traffic area that is easily accessible to the cat.
In order to keep the cat using the litter box, clean it after it has been used or at least twice a day. Humans don’t want to use an un-flushed toilet and cats don’t like to use a litter box that hasn’t been cleaned.
There are many different types of cat litter and most cats seem to have a preference. You can buy small bags to test which one your cat prefers. The most common types of litter are clay, biodegradable or natural, crystal and even tofu litter!
To get your cat acclimated to their new home, it may be easiest to use the same type of litter that was used in the shelter or foster home.
If you want to change litter once your cat is settled in, you can do so slowly by mixing in the new litter in small scoops, gradually changing to larger and larger scoops of the new litter until your cat is acclimated to the new litter.
Finding the Right Toys
Exercise and play are not just fun for your cat, they are important to the physical and mental health of your cat as well. It’s also a great way to forge a bond with a new pet. There are all sorts of different toys to share with your cat such as laser pointers, flyers, kickers, catnip bubbles, catnip kickers, wands and even app-controlled racer toys for high-energy cats!
You can start off with a couple of toy options, maybe one teaser wand and one catnip toy to see which your cat likes best - did you know that only about 70% of cats respond to catnip? It's worth testing to see if your kitty likes it first!
Another fun part of adopting a new cat is discovering what type of toys they love and how they like to play - it's a bonding experience you can have together! It's absolutely hilarious watching a cat roll around and "bunny kick" a kicker toy filled with catnip - it makes for some great videos!
Places to Scratch
It's not often thought of, especially by new cat parents, but cats need to scratch - it's a natural part of their life. They do it to remove the dead parts of their nails, to stretch, to express excitement or stress, and to mark objects with their scent as a way of marking territory.
A cat in a new environment may be extra inclined to scratch to establish their new boundaries, so be sure to provide them with a nice scratching post, or even a cardboard scratcher, to discourage them from scratching your furniture.
Vertical Space & Comfy Spots to Sleep
Cats are natural climbers and vertical space can be an enriching part of their life. A good tree to climb near their favorite window or near the most social part of your home can help provide many happy times for your cat, as well as provide ample exercise and playtime. Treats and other toys can also be incorporated into playtime with a tree.
Contrary to popular memes, cats do love to sleep in beds. Place one where they can get lots of sun, their favorite window or where you or other pets congregate. Use treats or catnip to get them interested in their new bed.
Offer Them Places to Hide
As ambush predators, cats love to hide! They are masters at blending in and finding that one place you forgot to check. Don't panic if you can’t find your new cat. Try using some treats coax them out of their hiding place and check those closets and small spaces again. They are probably just having a good catnap!
If you notice your cat likes to hide in spots that are inconvenient to you, try offering them a hide-a-way of their own - it may start out as simple as a cardboard box before graduating into something more permanent like a covered or hooded cat bed!