(Tips for Making Your New Cat/Kitten(s) Feel At Home)
The Big Moment Is Finally Here
Congratulations you have just adopted a new Cat/Kitten(s) from OMC! (Only
Maine Coons Rescue)! You have rampaged through the pet store to stock
up on supplies, toys and goodies. Now it's time to introduce the new cat
to your home and the rest of the family. With just a little planning and
patience, you can ensure that the new cat's adjustment period will be
as rapid and stress-free as possible.
Home Is Where the Catnip Is
Cats are, by nature, highly territorial, which means that having a place
to call their own is extremely important to their emotional well-being.
The new cat is already in a state of stress from having been shuffled
around from shelter to foster home to your home. Your goal is to help
make the new cat feel comfortable as quickly as possible. When you bring
the new cat home, confine it to a single room for at least the first few
days (with food and litter, of course!). Although this may seem cruel
by human standards, it is actually a great kindness to allow the new cat
to claim ownership of a small new territory at its own pace and without
competition. Some shy cats may hide under the bed for as long as a week;
others will be ready to come out into the house and go exploring after
just a day. The important thing is to let the new cat emerge whenever
it feels ready. You should spend as much time as possible in the room
with the new cat, but you should never try to force it out of hiding.
The new cat will let you know when it's ready to begin exploring more
of the house. Be sure to leave fresh food and water out at all times,
and check that it is being consumed. Even stressed cats like to eat, so
no food for 24 hours or more is possibly a sign of illness and warrants
a trip to the vet.
Meeting the Family
Naturally, everyone in the family, especially the kids, will be excited
about the new arrival. Children should be invited to visit the new cat
in its ROOM, one at a time. Try to keep your children quiet and seated
on these visits, so they do not frighten the new cat if it not used to
kids. If the new cat is friendly and approaches, have them offer an outstretched
hand to sniff. If the new cat accepts this, they can gently pet it. As
the new cat becomes familiar with the child, they may play with a cat
toy on a string or stick. NEVER let your children encourage a kitten to
pounce on their fingers (or yours, for that matter). It may seem cute
at first, but a full grown cat jumping on and biting a hand in play can
be very painful or cause bleeding. Teach your children how to properly
hold a cat, with one hand under the rump and one hand on the back, held
up against their bodies. You should NEVER leave small children unsupervised
with your cat.
Reassuring Jealous Cats
Cats are like children in many ways, so it's not surprising that your
cat may be jealous of a new arrival. They may be fearful of losing their
territory or worried that they are about to be replaced. Extra love, attention
and patience during this transition will help to reassure your cat that
it is still the center of your universe! Be prepared for it to take from
a week to a month before the new cat is accepted by the Resident Cat.
Before bringing home the new cat, make sure that both your cat and the
new cat are healthy and current on their vaccinations, including Feline
Leukemia. Let your cat continue to have run of the house while the new
cat is confined, so that it understands it is not being pushed out of
its territory. Allow your cat to sniff or paw under the door with the
new cat, and exchange items to familiarize each animal with the other's
When the time comes for the two cats to meet face to face, try to give
them short periods of contact, slowly increasing the time as they adapt
to one another. Be sure to supervise their visits until you're sure they
are okay alone, and be prepared for some hissing and growling, which is
quite normal for cats that are getting to know one another. Do not yell
at or discipline either cat for hissing or growling and in the unlikely
event of a fight breaking out, break it up with a spray from a water bottle
or a thrown towel, not your hands. Prevent the new cat from sleeping in
any of your cat's favorite places (for example your bed) and provide each
with separate food and water bowls and litter pans. They'll probably use
each other's, but will appreciate having their own. Try to keep your cats
routine intact, and take every opportunity you can to pet and praise them.
Above all, be patient, and one day you will find both cats grooming each
other when they think you're not looking!
Friendly like Cats and Dogs
Most of the same advice applies to introducing cats and dogs. Again, let
the dog have run of the house, and sniff at the new cat under the door
and exchange scented items during the first few days. You may wish to
put up a baby gate in the doorway of the new cat's room or bring the new
cat into the house in a carrier so the animals can see each other before
they actually meet. Make sure the first visits in the house are supervised,
with the dog on a leash if you are unsure about how friendly it will be.
Encourage your dog with gentle praise if it is friendly. If the new cat
runs from your dog, do not ALLOW the dog to chase it, and don't force
a cat that seems uncomfortable to be in the same room with the dog. Keep
the first visits brief, and then extend them as the animals become familiar
with each other. Be patient, give them time, and they'll soon learn to
Preventing Bad Habits
A little training when the new cat first comes home will help to prevent
any bad habits from becoming established. If you try to "think like
a cat" to discover why they perform a certain unwanted behavior,
you can help to establish more acceptable routines. Here are some tips
on the three most common bad habits below.
Cat Scratching is a normal behavior to leave a scent on their territory,
get exercise, and groom their nails. Most cats will leave your expensive
furniture alone if you redirect their scratching instincts to an acceptable
spot. Invest in a cat condo big enough for your cat to stretch out on,
and if you see it scratching, take it to the post. Rub a little catnip
on the cat condo to enhance its appeal. You can also put strips of aluminum
foil down the edges of your sofa during the training period as a deterrent.
Also, have a spray water bottle handy to spray your cat while firmly saying
"NO" if it scratches the couch. PLEASE DO NOT DECLAW YOUR CAT.
Declawing is equivalent to amputating your own fingers at the first knuckle.
It's painful, unhealthy, leaves your cat defenseless, and often causes
emotional problems that arise from the suppression of this very natural
Jumping on the Kitchen Counter and Table
Cats love high places! So the kitchen counter strikes them as a great
place to watch the world go by. If your cat also finds food up there,
they've just had major reinforcement for this bad habit. Best solution
is to find another spot in the kitchen where it's OK for your cat to hang
out from on high, like the top of the refrigerator. Then persistently
move your cat there every time its jumps on the counter. Repetition and
consistency is the key here, but eventually your cat will get the idea.
Not Using the Litter Box
Take your cat first to be checked by your vet to rule out a urinary tract
infection. Next, try changing the type of litter, for many cats are very
sensitive to particular litters. Try unscented litters, removing hoods
from boxes, moving the box to a more private location, or cleaning the
box more often. Provide multiple boxes in multiple cat households. Also,
if you have a kitten, be sure it actually remembers where the litter box
is! Sometimes in a big house a small kitten can get lost, in which case
it will look for the nearest unobtrusive corner to go!
Introducing a new cat or kitten to your household is exciting, challenging,
and rewarding. With time, love and patience, the new cat will settle in
to become a wonderful and unconditionally loving companion.