The Goathouse Refuge is a 501(c)3 non-profit no-kill animal sanctuary dedicated to providing care and finding homes for hundreds of homeless cats. We are located in Pittsboro, NC, and are open daily from 12 - 3:30.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Your new kitty needs a calm introduction

People adopt a cat and then, excited about making it be part of the household, immediately let it loose into the house the minute they get home. The second it's out of the carrier, the poor thing is confronted by screaming, grabbing kids and snarling, hissing animals. What a welcome!

Your home is now their home too, and they need to be comfortable in it.

A Calm Introduction

The type of introduction to a new home described above is a frightening experience for a cat. It was probably taken from a familiar place of security, or possibly even a mother if it's just a kitten, and is now being bombarded with change. Both travel and change are not comfortable things for cats. Traumatized, the cat might scratch, bite, and possibly not eat or use the kitty litter. Unfortunately, a frequent outcome is that the new owner decides the cat is not a "good fit," and so returns it to the shelter. The poor kitty never had a chance.

Properly introducing a new cat to your home will pave the way for a rewarding and long-lasting relationship. It's important to remember, however, that a proper introduction to your home and family requires time and patience.

The trip home

The kitty's trip home is exciting for you, but a frightening ordeal for the cat. Things will go smoother if you...

• Use a cat carrier or closed box with holes to take your new kitty home.

• Never let the cat wander freely in the car. This is an invitation to an
accident for either you or the cat.

• Avoid loud, blaring music and fingers poking in at the new cat.

At home

It's important to NOT set the cat free into the household as soon as you get home. A new cat may need up to two weeks to transition into a new home, especially if there are other animals. Have a small room ready for a temporary isolation area. A spare bathroom works well, since the cat will feel more comfortable, at first, in a small space. Also, there's nowhere to hide in the bathroom and the cat will get frequent visits. In addition, the tile on the floor will make clean-ups easier. An office or spare bedroom can work, too.

• Have the isolated space ready with a clean litter box, a bed, water and toys before the kitty comes home.

• If possible, bring the bed and toys from its previous home for scents that are familiar.

• Don't provide food for at least an hour so kitty can become comfortable with the room.

• At home, open the cat carrier in the isolation room and let the cat venture out on its own when ready. It may take a little time. The cat will be less frightened if it hasn't been dragged out of the carrier.

• Give the cat a few minutes to explore the room and then show it the kitty litter.

• Leave the room and give the cat time alone to become familiar with the new surroundings.

• Return after about an hour with food and some friendly cuddles.

Importance of the isolation period

The isolation period makes the transition easier and more gentle when you adopt a cat. The kitty isn't overwhelmed by a new environment, noises, smells and other animals. The isolation period also gives you time to check if the new cat is healthy. It's common for a cat to be frightened and not eat or drink the first couple of days in a new home. If this persists, however, the cat is the danger of dehydration and kidney failure and will need medical attention, so keep a close watch on its physical state. Use this isolation time to...

• Take note if the cat is eating, drinking, and eliminating in the kitty litter.

• Look the cat over for signs of health problems.

• Let the cat become familiar with the scents of other animals in the house.

• Let the kids come in to meet the cat one at a time.

• Grooming and acceptance of food are signs that your new cat is settling in and may be ready to meet other pets in the household. These introductions should be slow and supervised. See other articles under "Adoption Resources" about introducing your pets to each other.

Shopping List

Things to buy before you bring your new kitty home

A microchip tag will be provided by the Goathouse Refuge when you pick up your cat. We will also give you a small bag of GHR food and litter that you can use to transition to your own brands. You will need to purchase the rest of these items if you don’t already have them.

Food. We recommend a high quality food such as Science Diet or Chicken Soup for Cats. Avoid by-products, artificial colors, and preservatives. Feeding a more expensive food is cheaper in the long run; high quality food is made with good meat and is more digestible so less will be wasted in the litter box (another advantage – less stool!). Your cat will be healthier and less prone to disease and will shed less hair. It is better to measure (see manufacturer's instructions) than to free feed. GHR kitties are fed twice a day (breakfast and dinner) and we recommend keeping your kitty on that schedule.

Litter box & Litter Scoop. The bigger the box the better! Cats like room to turn around and dig. Higher sides will help avoid spills. Covered boxes should be large enough for the cat to turn around in and stand up straight. One litter box per cat plus one extra. Clean the box(es) daily.

Litter. You will get a bag of the litter used at the GHR. We use custom cattle feed. It has no smell and no dust. We also recommend either clumping (World’s Best Cat Litter, Swheat Scoop, Dr Elesey's Precious Cat Ultra), or non-clumping (any plain non-scented litter like Johnny Cat). Avoid clay clumping litter (Scoop Away, Tidy Cat, etc.) and silica bead litters, as they may be toxic if ingested. Never use scented litter or pine litter since many cats are repelled by the smell.

Dishes. Use some from your kitchen or get special ones for your cat, just make sure they are wide and shallow enough for your cat’s face. Ceramic or stainless steel is recommended because plastic dishes harbour bacteria which can cause feline acne on the chin.

Scratching posts. It is best to provide your cat with a large cat tree or post, and make sure you have at least one or more flat cardboard scratching boxes available too. You want to start good habits from the beginning. Cats like to scratch things right away in a new home because they mark territory that way – so provide a suitable outlet for this urge. Have them in the rooms the cat will be in the most.

Cat Carrier. We recommend the sturdy solid plastic type. Even if you're adopting a kitten, get one big enough for an adult cat to stand and turn around in comfortably.

Toys. Simple cat-approved toys include ping pong balls, stuffed catnip mice, and laser pointers. Interactive toys such as magic wands or cat charmers are great but should not be left with the cat, as they will destroy the toy or possibly choke on it. No items smaller than a ping pong ball or toys with feathers should be allowed because they are a choking hazard.

Brush. Grooming your cat not only reduces shedding and makes her look great, it is a great way to bond. Start with a soft-bristled brush. Later try a slicker or rubber curry brush, but some cats are ticklish and object to certain types of brushes.

Bed. (Optional): An old pillow may be chosen by the cat, but many cats adore nest-type beds sold in pet stores. Others will ignore any bed you provide and choose the sofa or your bed.