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Adopting a new cat or kitten is such a fun time. Not only are you adding a furry family member but you are committing to a lifetime of love and companionship. Those first few days, it’s important to make sure you are doing everything right for a successful transition, especially since cats are sensitive to changes in their environment.
The smells, sights, and sounds of a new home, especially those with other pets, can cause fear, stress, and anxiety to the newcomer. The new cat may be anxious about finding food, water, and the litter box or be worried that the other pets may hurt or antagonize them.
So, what can you do to help your new cat feel at home?
When we look at how to make a cat feel more at home, we need to look at normal cat behaviors, and then determine how cats can exhibit those normal behaviors in an acceptable way. Some examples include:
-Scratching. Cats scratch to remove the outer layer of their nail, revealing a new, healthy nail. They also scratch to mark their territory, relieve stress, stretch, and communicate. So scratching is necessary for cats. Provide a scratching post (or several!). This gives cats an opportunity to scratch without tearing up furniture and carpets.
-Playtime. Cats instinctively like to run, jump, pounce, and play. They should have plenty of toys to play with to satisfy their hunting behavior and to encourage physical and mental activity. Things as simple as ping pong balls or crinkle balls can be a lot of fun for cats, especially if a person plays with them. Feeding time can be made into a game by using interactive feeding trays and toys. Many cats love drinking from a pet water fountain so they can drink water as it flows through the bowl.
-Appropriate elimination. Often times cat parents don't give enough thought to the litter box, and that can make for a very unhappy cat. You should provide cats with multiple litter boxes. The general rule is one litter box per cat, plus one. So, if you have two cats, you should have at least three litter boxes. Some cats prefer a covered litter box while others prefer it to be open. Where the litter boxes are placed is important too. You don't want to tuck them away in the farthest corner of your house or make it difficult for the cat to get to. You also don't want the litter boxes in a high-traffic area of your house either. If it's loud when the cat is in the litter box, he or she might get scared and associate the box with a bad experience, thus causing them to go outside of the litter box. Also, because cats are very tidy pets, scooping the litter box daily is recommended.
-Climbing and perching. One of the best ways you can maximize your cat’s indoor space and create an enriching environment for you cats is to supply a cat tree, perches, and cozy lounging spaces. This will help them be more comfortable and allow them to exhibit normal cat behaviors. Lounging spaces can be as simple as a cardboard box or paper grocery bag or could be a blanket placed inside of a pet tunnel toy. Perches and shelves can be installed by the window for safe bird-watching or on the wall so the cat can climb up high and keep an eye on things down below.
For more tips on feline behavior, check out the Humane Society of Missouri’s behavior page: https://www.hsmo.org/behavior/
The Animal Medical Center of Mid-America has veterinarians at two locations that can answer questions about your pet’s health. Call 314-951-1534 or click here to request an appointment online.