So… you’ve passed your home-check and you’ve found the feline that you hope will be a perfect match. What’s next?
This guide has been designed to help you get ready for your new cat/kitten, and to help iron out any bumps in the road.
First off, it’s really important to try to think about all of this from your soon-to-be new cat’s point of view. They have probably already experienced a fair degree of hardship and/or upheaval in their life and – unbeknownst to them – they are about to experience more. Try to set them up to flourish in your home - and not to fail. Remember that they will have no idea what is happening to them when they arrive, and they can’t ask you where the loo is! You need to make it as simple for them as you possibly can.
When the adoption is agreed, speak to your cat’s foster carer about what food they are currently eating and what litter they’re using and buy that. You may well want to change both these things in future, but now is not the time. It’s also worth asking where they like to sleep and whether they have any favourite toys. If you’re really organised, you can drop a blanket off if/when you visit your cat, so there is a familiar smell for them when they arrive in their new home.
Here is a list of essential supplies…
. Cat food
. Food and water bowls
· Cat litter tray and litter
· Cat carrier (please don’t buy a fabric or cloth one – a determined cat can escape from one of these)
· Toys (again, ask the foster carer what the cat likes, but a ping pong ball or a very tightly screwed-up ball of tin foil is often a good starting point)
· If you want to you can also buy a blanket or bed, but don’t be surprised if your cat turns its nose up at it!
It is also worth asking your foster carer which vet your cat/kitten had their health check at (we use three different vets, dependant on availability) and whether they needed any treatment. Your vet may wish to get hold of any records when you register with them.
Registering at a Vet
It’s a really good idea to register with a vet before you bring your cat home. The increase in pet ownership since the start of the coronavirus pandemic means that appointments can be hard to come by. Veterinary practices will always prioritise animals that are registered with them, so get ahead of the game by registering them early. Your vet will probably want to check them over fairly soon after you bring them home – this is a good idea unless your cat is very stressed/semi-feral, in which case, tell the vet that and decide the best way forward together.
On that first visit, your vet will always ask for details of your cat’s last flea and worm treatment. This is listed on the top right of your adoption agreement, as is their chip number. It’s a good idea to take this information with you to your appointment, so you know what treatment your cat has had, and when treatments are next due.
You may be aware that there has been a shortage of annual cat vaccinations in 2021/2022, so plan ahead! Speak to your vet about this well in advance of your cat’s vaccination date, so you can try to find an alternative provider if your vet hasn’t got any. Your vet may also be prepared to delay your cat’s vaccinations a bit, but this is never the case with second kitten vaccinations, and cats must not go outside until two weeks after their second injection.
It’s also worth mentioning at this point – please don’t ever buy flea or worm treatment from a shop. They are MUCH cheaper, but we are often told that cats have reacted badly to them – itching incessantly or needing veterinary treatment. It just isn’t worth it. In addition, fleas in some areas have developed resistance to some treatments – your vet will know what works best in yours.
Bringing your cat home
If you have children, try to organise the adoption for when the children are at school, so your new arrival has a bit of time to settle before the kids arrive home super excited. Remind them to be calm and quiet before they go to meet their new pet – perhaps with a treat or a new toy – and make sure they don’t make any loud noises or sudden movements at first.
When your cat first arrives, try to keep them in a fairly contained space for at least a day or two. This space should have food, water, somewhere to hide, a few toys and at least two litter trays in it (we always recommend that you have at least one more litter tray than you do cats, so 1 cat = 2 trays, 2 cats = 3 trays etc).
Take your cat (still in their carrier) into that space, close the door to that room and open the door to their carrier. They might not move an inch and that is fine – speak to them in a calm and encouraging voice for a few minutes, then leave them to explore, eat, rest and use their litter tray on their own.
Alternatively, they might come straight out, accept lots of fuss, have a really good sniff, eat some food and use the litter. Both responses are perfectly acceptable – try to go at their pace.
We are often told by adopters that they don’t want a litter tray in such and such an area. We understand that - but we can assure you that what you want even less is your cat having an accident in that spot! It’s so much better to set your cat up to succeed (by having a litter tray very close by) and then to gradually move the litter tray to where you want it longer term.
If your litter tray will be temporarily or permanently on carpet, you may want to think about having a plastic tray underneath it (a large replacement dog crate tray is a good option).
If you have other pets, please don’t try any introductions for at least a few days and manage these carefully so they are as positive as possible. Don’t go too fast too quickly.
If your cat has had to scavenge for food, it will continue to do this in your home for at least a year, despite the plentiful food supply! Please be understanding of this and work with your cat to overcome it. If you are preparing food, you may wish to shut your cat in another room while you do so, or to feed your cat just before you start cooking. Whilst many people don’t like cats on kitchen surfaces, try to train them out of it kindly – lifting them down as soon as they jump up with a firm ‘No’, or a sharp shake of a Tupperware box with some stones in it have both been known to work.
But bear in mind that your cat may not like to be lifted up and that your cat needs time to settle first – don’t intentionally frighten him or her as soon as they arrive.
When your cat has settled (ideally allow at least a couple of months for this), you can think about changing food and litter if you want to, but please make sure you do it slowly – a maximum of 25% every few days. A change in food can really upset a cat’s stomach - and you definitely want them to recognise their litter tray!
Dangers in the home
It is worth doing some googling about everyday items in the home which can pose a risk to cats. The following is not an exhaustive list, but do constitute some of the more common dangers…
· All parts of all lilies are extremely toxic to cats. While they may not choose to eat them, cats will lick pollen off their fur to clean themselves if they’ve brushed against a lily. If you have plants and your cat is a plant nibbler, it’s worth doing more reading on this subject as many house plants are toxic to cats to varying degrees
· Chocolate (contains theobromine)
Another very real danger is washing machines and tumble dryers. Please always keep the doors closed and check, check check before you put either one on – particularly the tumble dryer, as cats will often seek out warmth.
Finally, beware of leaving open tins in the kitchen. Cats can badly cut or even sever their tongues on sharp edges, and it’s a very difficult injury to treat.
If your cat has an accident in your house (wee or poo), never scold them – it isn’t their fault. Once as much as possible of the waste is removed, apply surgical spirit liberally to the area (do a test spot in a less visible spot). Once the surgical spirit has dried, clean the area with an enzymic cleaner – Dr Beckmann’s Pet Stain and Odour remover is pretty good. Then, if you can, place a litter tray in that area for a while (as your cat may be tempted to use that area again having used it once).
Insuring your cat
We would urge you to insure your feline friend. The cost of treating your beloved cat for certain illnesses or injuries can wrack up incredibly quickly, and you don’t want to have to make the difficult decision to limit treatment because of the cost of it.
There are now many companies to choose from – and the offering and the cost can vary significantly. To find the best cover for you at the best price, we would recommend looking at the MoneySavingExpert website…
Cheshire Cats Rescue will register your microchip for you with www.pettrac.co.uk. It’s what is called a dual registration – your details will be the primary ones, but if you cannot be reached, we will be contacted.
You will receive an email, not a letter, confirming registration, so it’s worth keeping an eye on your junk email for a few weeks after you bring your cat home, as the email often ends up in junk folders.
Unfortunately, we do not receive confirmation from the micro-chipping organisations that the transfer is complete – it isn’t part of the service they provide. You can however enter your chip number on the PETtrac website to confirm it is registered.
If you move, please remember to update your details with PETtrac (it costs £6). Your cat is much more likely to get lost soon after a move, and updating your details ensures you can be reunited quickly.
Being your cat's advocate
You may feel very unsure about how to help your new pet initially – how best to look after them and how to know what’s best for them. But very quickly you will become the person who knows more about them than anyone else in the world! If your cat has had a difficult time – been mistreated, abandoned, injured or left to fend for themselves for example – it’s important to be prepared to advocate for them.
First off, make sure you tell the vet what you know about your cat’s situation as soon as you walk into the consultation room. Let’s say, for example, your cat has a sore eye. The vet tells you that your cat needs eye cream applied several times a day. If your cat is fearful of being touched, that’s not going to work. Ask if there is a long-lasting treatment they can have instead – it will be SO much less stressful for all of you! If you realise your cat is terrified of the vet, ask for a sedative to reduce the stress for your cat on future visits.
Letting your cat outside
Kittens must stay inside until they are at least eight months’ old, but ideally twelve – they must also have been neutered and fully vaccinated. Older cats need to be kept inside for at least eight weeks after adoption and must also be neutered/fully vaccinated. If you have reach one of those milestones, and are nervous about letting your cat out, here are some tips…
· Young cats have little sense, even less road sense and can easily hurt themselves, so please try to supervise them as much as possible.
· For their first few trips outside, let your cat out in the morning when you are not in a rush to go anywhere, it’s light and your cat is hungry. They’re unlikely to go far if they haven’t yet been fed. Either sit out in the garden with a cuppa (if the weather is nice!) or leave the back door open and keep an eye on them. Their first trip out will probably be brief and a bit scary for both of you, but you can build slowly from there!
· It’s a really good idea to get your cat to make the association between a crunchy wrapper and their favourite treat. Nothing gets a sassy, independent cat back inside quicker than the promise of a delicious morsel!
· If your cat disappears from view and doesn’t respond to your calls or efforts to tempt them back with food, put their litter tray outside. The smell of these is very distinctive to cats and will help them find their way home.
Staying in touch
We will do our very best to ensure our cats and kittens live the happiest lives possible. If you’re having a problem with your cat or have a query we could help with, please get in touch – we will always try to help and there isn’t much we haven’t dealt with by now.
If you just want to keep our community posted on your cat or kitten’s progress, please join our Facebook group Cheshire Cats Rescue and update us! We assure you that there is absolutely nothing better than seeing a cat or kitten who’s had a really tough start in life being cherished and adored by their adoptive family!
The years ahead
Hopefully your cat will quickly settle in their new home with you. But it’s worth mentioning that we often see cats make big leaps forward in terms of confidence and cuddles many months or even years after adoption. One of my two cats arrived with me in the middle of August 2020. She has always seemed to quite dislike me to be honest, but pretty much eighteen months to the day since she arrived here as a foster cat with her four tiny kittens, she’s just curled up on my lap for the first time AND has started sleeping on my bed. So either she finally likes me, or it’s because I’ve turned the heating down. I’m still taking it as a win :0)