Monday, December 02, 2013

Tips for Bringing Home A New Pet

Are you considering bringing a furry friend home this holiday season? You know I am a big pet lover, and that we recently adopted our dog, Maxi, from the OSPCA. Now Boo is making noises about bringing home a new kitty as well, though I'm not yet convinced that PJ Tricky would be pleased with a new feline arrival. At 14 I worry that he's too set in his ways to make for an easy adjustment. But, then again, there are lots of cats in the shelters looking for a forever home, and I know we have enough love to go around for sure!

In any case, the decision to adopt a pet is not one that should be made lightly. Be sure you are ready for a new addition to your family, one who will require food and exercise and medical care, and especially love and attention. And it's important to think about the new pet's transition to your home and introduction to any pets you may have already. Mieshelle Nagelschneider, author of The Cat Whisperer, Cat Behaviourist at and Arm & Hammer Cat Litter spokesperson has a number of tips that will help your cat adoption go as smoothly as possible. The goal here is to ensure your new cat stays with you and does not end up back in a shelter because of a poor match with your family, or a poor transition to his or her new environment.

Mieshelle's tips for bringing home an adopted cat: 

  • Set up a sanctuary room before bringing your new cat home. This can be an extra bedroom with a door that closes, keeping your new cat from the rest of the house and other animals until she becomes adjusted to her new surroundings. 
  • Cat-proof the sanctuary room. Be sure to block off small spaces where the cat could hide and get stuck. Make sure there are no electrical cords that could be chewed on or dangly curtain cords where the cat could get tangled. 
  • Consider using calming feline pheromones. These have been shown to relax cats in times of stress. 
  • In your cat’s sanctuary room include 2 litter boxes, food, water, perching and resting areas, hiding spaces, and toys. Scoop the litter boxes at least once a day. 
  • Cats can see well in low light, but not in absolute darkness. Provide a night light near the litter box area if there is no existing ambient light. 
  • Place the food on the opposite wall from the litter boxes to promote good litter box usage. Cats like to keep latrine sites separate from eating areas. 
  • Cats prefer uncovered boxes because of their survival instincts. A good escape potential is vital should a predator or competitor cat enter the room. In a cat’s mind, they could become easily trapped in a covered box. 
  • To encourage water consumption, separate the water bowl from the food bowl or your cat will think his water is contaminated with bacteria from his “dead prey” (AKA his store bought food). 
  • Spend time with your new cat in her sanctuary room (at least a few hours each day). If she isn’t ready to be held or pet, be patient and move at her pace. She’ll also need some time alone, so be sure to give her privacy too. 
  • Initiate a play time with your cat each day to help her feel relaxed and confident. Wand or fishing pole type toys work very well. 
  • When your cat feels comfortable, let him explore the rest of the home. If you have other animals, secure them in another part of the home while the new cat explores. Be sure to keep the sanctuary door open so she can return whenever she feels like it. 
  • If you have another resident cat, then a gradual introduction of the new cat must be done in a non-confrontational way. This takes time and patience. Before the cats actually see each another, let them explore the other cat’s territory. This will help them get used to other cat’s scent while also spreading their own scent. 
  • It’s fine to let the cats use each other’s litter boxes. As part of their wild cat instincts, cats will time-share latrine sites with other cats out in nature. 
  • Before physically introducing your new cat (or kitten) to the rest of the cat household, be sure to create a group scent on each cat. This is the social glue that will help cats feel affiliated and relaxed around one another instead of hostile and threatened. 
  • When physically introducing the cats to one another, go slowly. Start them out far apart and give them a reason to like each other using positive associations like food and play time (separately with their own wand toys). End each together session on a positive note. Don’t wait until one of the cats become fearful. 
  • Once the cats are fully integrated, create a land of plenty with all of their important resources to eliminate social tension. Food, water, litter boxes, perching and resting areas, and cat toys should be in multiple areas around the home. Think upstairs and downstairs, or North, East, South, West when spreading out these cat resources. This will decrease territorial thinking and help avoid tension and hostility between cats. Locating litter boxes throughout the home can help prevent litter box issues. 
I asked Mieshelle for some specific tips for adopting a cat around the holidays, or advice about issues specific to bringing home a new cat in the chaos of the holiday season. Here is her response:
"If gifting to a family member in the household, in the end it’s ultimately your responsibility to make sure the cat is cared for and not returned to the shelter. For example, if your first grader decides not to clean the litter box, are you going to take over these duties? Interestingly enough, the majority of my clients reach out to me due to litter box issues and these are often the easiest to solve with proper placement, number and quality of litter – try using Arm & Hammer Ultra Last Clumping Litter. It’s important your backup plan isn't to take the cat back to the shelter. Another way to think about this – is it the cat’s fault that your husband ended up not having time to take care of the cat that you gifted him? The answer is certainly, no."

Dean, a cat available with his best friend Sam from the
 Provincial Education & Animal Centre (PEAC) in Newmarket.

Isn't he adorable??

Disclosure: I received compensation in kind for this post. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own. 

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