If you adopted a cat over the holidays or are thinking about bringing home a new feline friend (or two), that’s wonderful!
Nothing makes us happier than when an animal leaves the shelter to become a member of the family. In an effort to keep cats from being returned to the shelter, we put together a list of 10 things to help create a harmonious life with your new companion.
1. Make the Commitment: A cat can live up to 20 years. Cats are more independent than dogs but they still need constant care including veterinary checkups, food and interaction. I wouldn’t say having a cat is easier than having a dog; the two are just very different.
2. The Nature of the Beast: Cats like to climb and be up high and there are few places a cat cannot reach. Their territory is very important and they are constantly exploring. They like to scratch. Cats are natural hunters; they spend up to six hours at a stretch hunting in the wild. Having a cat in your home means you have to make compromises and work to redirect their natural tendencies. We recommend getting two cats instead of one because most cats are happier with a friend to run and play games with, especially if the cat is an indoor only cat.
3. Indoor or Outdoor: This is a big decision every cat owner must make. Indoor only cats live longer. If kept indoors, they can’t be hit by a car or eaten by a coyote. A cat that goes outdoors is more susceptible to disease and can cost a lot of money in veterinary care if injured or sick. Having an indoor only cat means you need to keep them active and entertained so they do not become bored and destructive. A bored cat may vent his frustrations by meowing all night long.
To keep your cat entertained:
- Consider adopting a second cat.
- Make sure they have plenty of toys and activities to occupy their time.
- Play with them using an interactive toy, every day if possible. This will satisfy their hunting instincts.
- Designate spots they can own, like a window perch or shelf.
4. No Behavior Happens in a Vacuum: This is important. When you adopt a cat you are making a lifetime commitment. You have to be willing to work on behavioral issues that may come up over the course of your life together.
Example 1: If your cat is scratching your sofa, it’s up to you to look at the whole situation to see how you are contributing to the behavior. Are you providing scratching alternatives? A scratching post placed beside the sofa and some positive reinforcement will help redirect that behavior.
Example 2: If a cat is urinating outside the litter box.
- They may have an underlying medical issue.
- The box may not be clean enough for them.
- They may dislike the brand of litter you buy.
- They may not want to share the box with another cat.
Returning a cat to the animal shelter because he starts exhibiting unwelcome behavior is not fair to the cat; you owe it to them to try and resolve the issue. Making small changes can solve most unwelcome behavior.
5. Read: Buy a trustworthy reference book about cats. If studying animal behavior is enjoyable to you, you will have a lot of fun learning and identifying behaviors in your own mini-panther.
6. Spay and Neuter: Spaying and neutering is the only way to eliminate accidental litters. Accidental litters are overwhelming shelters and adoptable animals are being euthanized as a result. There are many low cost and free spay and neuter resources available. Spaying and neutering has health and behavioral benefits as well.
7. Microchipping and Identification: Even an indoor cat can escape and get lost. Keep a collar and tag on your cat as well as a microchip. If you adopted your cat from an animal shelter, they will most likely already be microchipped. You will need to register your information in a Microchip Registry and keep it up to date. If you don’t keep your information up-to-date, the microchip is useless.
8. Cat Proof Your Home: Make sure windows and screens are secure. Remove your sacred breakables from the bookshelf. Secure cords in case your cat is a chewer.
9. Make Your Home Cat Friendly: After cat proofing, set up a cat friendly space. Designate a peaceful area where they can eat and use their litter box. Set up a scratching post and nice place to nap. If you live in a small apartment, take advantage of vertical space and install shelves. Purchase a soft-sided carrier that can double as a cozy bed. For ideas, check out Hausepanther. If you are on a budget, visit Ikea Hackers.
10. Set Up a Support System: Make a back-up plan for your cats before you need it. This includes people that can care for your cat when you travel, as well as some worst-case scenario provisions. Suppose you get evicted from your apartment or you suddenly need to move? You may have a friendly couch to crash on but what if your cat is not welcome? Explore alternate care in case you suddenly find yourself in a tight spot. This can be a boarding facility, a reliable pet-sitter, friends, family and coworkers. I have had friends who did not plan for life’s unfortunate twists and turns and their pets pay the price. Make a backup plan to ensure you and your cat stay together for the long haul.
Enjoy your cat! They are amazing, funny little creatures who won’t give you anything tangible. However, what they do give, comfort, affection and companionship, is worth much more.
Congratulations on saving a life and welcome to the community!