Adding a new member to your family can seem overwhelming, even if said addition is a four-legged new friend. If you're considering adopting a cat, read on for tips from our Zeeland veterinarians on how to get started.
Besides being the subjects of countless cute internet videos, cats can bring more affection, fun, and companionship to your household. If you're thinking about heading to a shelter to add a feline friend to the family, there are some things to consider.
Choose the cat that suits you
Cats have individual personalities, just like people. That means that meeting your pet-to-be and getting to know them beforehand is incredibly important. Starting the search online is a good way to get an idea of which cats are available for adoption; many shelters list names, pictures, ages, and information about their behavior and personality.
For most cats, having a friendly companion (cat or otherwise) is beneficial to them. Cats need exercise, mental and social stimulation, and affection. Adopting two cats together, especially if they're "bonded" (meaning they are extremely attached to each other and shouldn't be separated into different households), means they can provide companionship to each other.
The age of a cat also has an impact on which cat could be best suited to you.
Kittens (less than 1 year old)
- Usually very playful, curious, and energetic
- Growth and development can be positively influenced
- Other animals in the home may more readily accept a kitten than an older cat
- Introducing grooming routines (e.g. nail clipping, teeth-cleaning, baths) earlier
Juveniles: (1 - 3 years old)
- Still playful and curious, but have calmed down somewhat since kittenhood
- May be ideal for people who want a playful cat without the potential mischief of a younger cat
Adults (3 - 11 years old)
- Personalities are "set", so you have a better idea of their temperament before bringing them home
- Many adult cats are good at adapting to new environments, given the support they require
Seniors (11+ years old)
- Often very affectionate and even playful well into old age
- An excellent choice for those who want a quiet companion
Preparing for a new cat
There are several important steps to take to ensure that your new cat's acclimation to their new home goes as smoothly as possible. Remember, this is a big change for you and for your cat! Before you adopt a cat (or any animal), it's important to make sure the members of your household are prepared to have a cat added to the home. If possible, try to visit your local animal shelter with family or friends who will be living with the cat.
- Don't forget to budget. Any pet is a responsibility, and that includes the cost of food, litter, and toys -- but for many of the basic services needed for cats and kittens, your local animal shelter will likely have already provided spaying/neutering, initial vaccines, and microchipping.
- Tell your vet beforehand. Before you go to your local shelter to adopt a cat, inform your veterinarian ahead of time and ensure you schedule a checkup visit within the first few days of the adoption. Bring along any adoption paperwork (especially any veterinary/medical records) to your cat's first appointment.
- Get your space ready. Set up a litterbox (with fresh litter) for your cat, along with a food bowl, water bowl, appropriate food, scratching posts, toys to encourage play, exercise, and mental stimulation, a comfortable bed, a grooming brush, a small soft toothbrush, and pet nail clippers.
- Cat-proof. Like a young child, a curious cat can get into mischief -- or more serious trouble. Try to break the habit of leaving food uncovered/unattended on tables and countertops, secure loose electrical cords and wires, and make sure that small items like paperclips, rubber bands, and thumbtacks are out of paw's reach.
Bringing your cat into the family
Be patient while introducing your new cat to friends and family. This is a huge adjustment period for both of you, and some cats need more time than others to get used to a new home and new people. If your household is busy or your new cat is shy, consider secluding them in a quiet room (with their bed, food, litterbox, toys, and other necessities inside). The more patient you are, the more the cat will feel at home -- on their own terms!
Taking care of your cat
Now that you've properly welcomed your new feline companion, it's imperative to make sure that you are maintaining their good health with regular wellness checks with their veterinarian, a good diet, and of course, lots of love from their humans.