Bringing a New Cat Home: Adapting Your House
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When adopting a new cat, there are many considerations to make. One of the most important is whether or not the cat is the first to be brought into the home. If you already have a cat, you will likely be more concerned about introducing the new housemates. If this is your first cat adoption, then bringing a new cat home will require you to be practically prepared as well as emotionally ready. You will need to ensure the house is adapted so that your cat can have their needs met, but you will also want to ensure your possessions and sanity are maintained.
In this AnimalWised article, we look at how you can adapt your house when bringing a new cat home. To do this effectively, we have to bear in mind how your cat behaves, what they like and what they need to maintain well-being.
Ensure a safe environment for your cat
Whether you bring home a new kitten, a senior cat or even have more than one cat to adopt, feline safety is paramount. To ensure our cat or cats remain safe, we need to take into account the following considerations:
- If we live in a tall building with open windows, we need to ensure our cat will not fall out. One of the best solutions is to have mosquito netting on the windows. This allows us to still have air circulating in our home, but still keeps our cats safe. Bear in mind that cats like to scratch, so keep an eye out for scratching of the netting. Many cats are affected by something called high-rise syndrome. This means they have a desire to jump from high points, but are unaware of how high they are. It can lead to fatalities, so it is very important to consider.
- Although comfortable on the ground, cats like to stay in high places. This is thought to be a leftover from their wild ancestry as staying up high can protect them from predators. We shouldn't leave objects on shelves or furniture which can easily fall. This will both protect your property and spare the cat from a potential accident.
- Cats may be tempted to nibble plants inside the home. We need to ensure the plants we have in our house or apartment are not toxic for cats. This can lead to gastrointestinal problems or worse. Also, cats may be tempted to use the soil for a litter box, so bear this in mind.
- Although cats are not well-known for ingesting objects without due cause, we need to be careful with what we leave out. It is relatively common for cats to swallow thread which can create obstructions and cause them to choke.
- Similarly, cats will be unlikely to ingest cleaning products or other caustic substances. However, these substances can find their way on to their fur through uncleaned spillages and open containers. If this happens, the cat will try to lick them off to clean themselves and ingest them this way. We need to be careful to keep such products out of reach of our cat.
- Cats enjoy finding places to hide. It is common for them to look for hiding places in cupboards, under beds, in washing machines or behind furniture. It is a good idea to keep these areas clear or inaccessible if they could provide a safety hazard. They may become trapped inside, something which is particularly dangerous in our absence. Check the washing machine before doing laundry and don't lock terraces before checking to see if the cat is there.
Essential household items for cats
While we are adapting our house for bringing a new cat home, we should consider which accessories might make our lives together easier and provide happiness for the cat. These household objects may include:
- Water bowl and drinking fountain: water bowls should be placed in various places around the home. Ideally have a fresh water fountain as cats love to drink fresh running water. These are particularly good if you are worried your cat is becoming dehydrated.
- Litter box: these should be placed in places away from noise or distraction. If your cat doesn't think that their litter box is a safe place, they will find somewhere else in your home to do their business. Also, good ventilation is important for hygiene and your nose. Have one per cat, plus one extra.
- Cat carrier: these are essential for vet visits or travelling. Some cats might enjoy sleeping in them, but usually only if the door is open. You can keep it around so that when it does comes time to use it, they will not become stressed or try to run away.
- Bed: your cat may choose a favorite place to sleep, even if you do get them a bed. However, they will need somewhere they like to rest. This usually consists of more than one place. Keep resting areas in strategic places which are quiet and free from distraction. Cat baskets or special hammocks are also very good for allowing them somewhere to rest up high.
- Blanket: to be used on the bed, but can be moved around the home to both protect surfaces and keep your cat nice and cosy.
- Scratchers: scratchers are essential for cats as they need them to keep their claws in hygienic order. If you do not provide them, cats will scratch your furniture or anything else they deem suitable to keep their claws shortened and clean dirt. Keep them at various heights and place them in places they feel comfortable.
- Enzymatic cleaning products: these can be used to keep the home clean without disturbing the cat with odors and chemicals. Also, disposable gloves, brushes, tweezers, gauze and only household items which can provide useful for caring for a cat.
- Toys: these we discuss in the next section.
Provide environmental enrichment for your cat
While practical considerations are very important when bringing a new cat into a home, this is only part of their care needs. They also require their mental health to be well maintained. If not, the cat can grow bored which can lead to behavioral problems and even physical ailments. Obesity is also a risk if your cat doesn't have enough stimulation. This is particularly the case if they are a house cat with no access to the outside. Some ideas for environmental enrichment to keep them intellectually stimulated include:
- Providing a wide variety of toys. There are intelligence games which involve a cat trying to locate pieces of food or hitting levers to cause a reaction. We can also make our own cat toys and games at home which are bespoke for our cat. Having toys and games isn't enough, we also have to make time to play with them.
- Offering them different places to hide or explore is essential. You can give them a cardboard box to play with or even make your own special hiding area.
- Since cats love heights, you can create walkways attached to the walls which allow them to clamber over things. We can also place scratchers and other items to interact with on these high up places.
- Most cats enjoy catnip, so you can give some to them directly or place it in toys for them to play with. There are also synthetic pheromones which may be used to help
- Finally, if your cat has too much trouble adapting to a new home, you should consult a feline behaviorologist. They will be able to provide you practical ways to help your specific cat adapt to their new home.
A poor or unenriched environment can cause the animal to become bored or stressed. The unwelcome behavior this may cause includes property destruction, hyperactivity, knocking over objects or other signs of frustration. Cats are very particular and need routine. When they first come into your home, they will need some time to adjust. The age of the cat is important. A cat which has already had a home and become used to it may take more time to adjust than a kitten who has no prior experience with which they can compare.
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