What to Expect when Bringing Home a New Cat or Kitten

Tips for bringing home a new cat. Tips on bringing home a new kitten. How to introduce a new cat into a home. How to care for a new kitten. Is it normal for cats to hide?
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When a person gets a new cat or kitten, they may not know what to expect for the first few days. They may even worry about the animals health, and behavior. Knowing what is normal for cats is sure to help ease this transition time.

Before Bringing a New Cat Home

There are a few things you need to ask the seller of the kitten, or the adoption agency, before taking a cat home. Find out what food the cat eats, and how much per feeding. Find out if it has any behavior abnormalities. Most of all find out if the cat, or kitten, has been veterinarian checked, vaccinated, and dewormed – and when – get proof. It is not enough to get a person's word that the cat was vaccinated, you should be able to get actual veterinarian papers, if the cat is mature and the person claims they lost the vet papers – have them call their vet to get new papers.

Find out what health guarantees come with the cat, or kitten.  Be sure to ask if the cat/kitten is using its litter box correctly - some farm kittens do not know how to use a litter box and may require litter box training.

You may want to note that some diseases have an incubation period of a few days. Thus the kitten you take home today, might get sick four days from now, due to an exposure while in the sellers care. This is why most animal shelters, and reputable breeders, always have a health guarantee that is good for at least two weeks.

Also note that the vaccinations are not effective immediately, and many require booster shots. It is never a good idea to pay for a cat, or kitten, that is not vet checked, vaccinated, and dewormed, or comes with a good health guarantee.

Ideally you will have set aside a room in the house for the cats first few weeks, a small room such as a bathroom, works really well. Have the food, water, and litter box in that room. Be aware that using a laundry room for the litter box and introduction room is not always a good idea as the laundry machine can be very frightening especially when it changes cycles. If the laundry room is going to be used – put the litter box as far away from the machines as possible.

It is always good to provide cat furniture in the way of a scratching post and cat tower with a sleeping place on the top.  Remove all household dangers to cats.

The cat food should be the same food the cat is currenting eating (again you can switch gradually later if you are going to switch cat foods). The litter should be the same litter the cat is use to. The water should be kept fresh – cats prefer water out of a stainless steel, or ceramic bowl – to water in plastic which can often contain smells that will turn off a finicky cat.

Bringing Home the New Cat

The cat should be transported in a cardboard box, or cat carrier. Once home it should be left in the box and taken into the prepared room. With the door to the room kept shut, the box, or cat carrier, can be opened, allowing the cat to come out on its own. The cat will typically be cautious, and people should be restrained from “smothering” it, children should be controlled not to yell, or try to pat the cat just yet, unless the cat approaches them. Some cats will run to hide, while others will explore the room fully.

If there are other cats in the home the two should not meet for a while (and not until both are vaccinated) they will sniff paws under the door to get acquainted for a week or two before being allowed to meet.

New cat owners need to understand that cats typically bond to places not people. They are often terrified when entering new surroundings. A kitten might not be so scared, but older cats are often very troubled by a move.

Chances are a cat will hide in its new home, and some cats hide for as long as two weeks, sneaking out only at night, or when the home is quiet, to get food, water, and use their litter box.

An owner can judge the cats readiness to come out of the room – most often it will be kept in the room for three days to two weeks, allowing it to relax, and know where the litter box is. If let out too soon the cat could become traumatized and hide in an unknown location.

Keeping the cat in the room also allows it to bond with the new home. The cat should definitely not be allowed out of the house for 2 months, and certainly not until vaccinated, and spayed or neutered.

tabby cat eye art

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Eating and Litter Box Habits

Cats are fussier eaters than dogs, a stressed cat might not eat for two days. For this reason it should have dry food available at all times but only be given a teaspoon of canned food per serving. Any uneaten canned food should be removed after 20 minutes. Cats tend to nibble at their dry food throughout the day, but a new cat might not eat for their first day due to nerves. A few treats may be offered.

How often a cat uses its litter box depends largely on the quality of food it is on, better cat food = less poops, but a stressed cat might not use its litter box for the first day or two due to stress related constipation or the cat being too worried to eat.

The water should be refreshed at least twice a day, cats tend to snub their noses at water that smells dusty.

Any Problems?

Diarrhea in the first day might be from stress - after that it could be worms, or other problems - which should be covered in the health guarantee.  Sneezing can be an upper respiratory tract condition (common in cats from a shelter) but should be watched in case it gets worse.  Vomiting is not commonly associated with stress and should be a sign of concern - again as per the health guarantee.

If there are any other problems with a new cat - the former owner, or adoption shelter should be called. 

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