Monday, April 12, 2010

Your New Cat: Why Are the First 24 Hours So Important? Part 3

Copyright 2006 John Young

The family brought Tiger home, but hadn’t prepared their house for him. When he saw their dog, he bolted, found a dark place and hid.

His new owner searched the house but couldn’t find him. That night he came out of his hiding place and found an open window with a torn screen....

His would be owner knew there were predators in the area. She called Animal Control and posted signs around the neighborhood, but she knew there wasn't much chance.

She was right.


In Parts 1 and 2 of this series we considered the vital need to prepare your house for your cat, make sure her medical needs are met, and that you yourself are ready for the adoption of a feline -- an independent animal that doesn’t respond to teaching and training the way a dog would.

Before you bring your new kitty home, make sure you have:

• Time

A cat needs time spent with her. One of the big mistakes busy people make is to fail to realize that they have crazy schedules that don’t allow them to spend enough time with their newly adopted cat.

This could ultimately result in your cat running off. If you have no time to spend with your cat, she will not choose your house as “her den”. She will go searching for another one, and you could be soon reporting a “lost cat”.

Or, to your consternation, you will find that the cat you thought would be a loving companion has bonded with another member of your household…somebody who did have the time to spend.

• Money

A lot of people don’t count the cost of pet ownership. In their exuberance to adopt a cat, they forget that they don’t have the budget to keep her. Belatedly, they discover they don’t have the cash on hand to buy their new feline’s basic necessities or give her the medical attention she is most certainly going to need.

Many people shun pet medical insurance, not realizing that the same things that happen to people happen to cats, and can cost large sums of money to cure. This can result in losing their beloved pet because the price to save her is “just too high”.

• Knowledge of Your Cat’s Medical Needs

Some people who adopt strays or cats owned by friends don’t realize the full extent of the medical attention their new cat may need:

-- A complete physical examination

-- A complete vaccination regimen

-- Spaying or neutering

In particular, that cute kitten you brought home from a friend’s litter will need a long series of vaccinations (along with boosters) that will extend over a period of a couple of years. You can’t do it all in one day.

To fail in this will almost assuredly mean tragedy down the line. I know. I failed to give one of my kittens its vaccinations. I made it an outdoor cat, and it died of feline leukemia. That story definitely had a very sad ending…

• Knowledge of Your Cat's Physical Needs

When your cat climbs out of the carrier box for the first time, will you be equipped with the essentials?

Or, will you discover that you need these things later…and bring them in one at a time, after your cat has defecated in the corner, started clawing the furniture, or begun some other unauthorized behavior you are not prepared for? (And, be advised, a cat is a very obsessed animal…once she starts doing something, it is very hard to change it).

Making sure you have on hand what you need to receive your new cat is vital. You must be equipped with the basics before you bring her home.

• Your Home Prepared.

I can't emphasize this enough. You must be certain your home and your house occupants are prepared for the arrival of your new kitty. If she is frightened in any way, and can find egress from the house, she may do so. If this occurs, she will not know where she is, and you may never see her again.


So, when your cat first climbs out of her carrier, is she going to be set upon by every member of your household all at once? And when she does, will she flee in terror, trying to find the safest and darkest corner she can find?

Or will you introduce her gradually… to try to reduce the trauma as much as possible so she can adapt to and feel at home in her new situation?

Your technique for doing that can be a deciding factor in whether or not your cat adapts to your home immediately, by the next day or the next month, or flees the house altogether.


Do you know how to take care of your new cat in the days to come, assuming you handled your first introductions well? Do you know about allergies, special foods, bathing, grooming, hair balls, removing urine, training and teaching without frightening and alienating her, and a multitude of other situations cat owners wrestle with on a daily basis? Do you know the hazards involved in letting her become an outdoor cat?


As you’ve often heard, ‘preparation is the key to success’, and nowhere does that apply more appropriately than to cat ownership. If you are prepared, your adoption will probably go very smoothly – and your relationship with her will be a joy.

I say probably because every cat is different. Even with the best preparation by a knowledgeable owner, a cat may still want to hide for awhile. And if you discover that’s the case…

You need to know what to do.

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