Possibly this is your first kitty, or your tenth, a young kitten, or an adult cat from a local shelter. No matter which, following the steps below will make the transition easier for both of you when you’re bringing the kitty home.
Before marrying my husband nearly 20 years ago, I had never had a cat as a pet, not even as a kid. So when I married my husband, I became the instant mom to a 4-year old boy and 2 older kitties. Over the years we have brought home numerous cats, varying from 12-weeks old to 3+ years old to become part of our family. One of our kitties came to us through a local pet store (that will never occur again), one from a friend’s mother, and all others through the Humane Society or private shelters.
The following advice I developed through stumbling through this process, getting advice from many sources, trial and error, and learning over time what really works.
A Medical assessment – for your new kitty as well as the felines already in your family:
This is very important, for your new kitty, any already at home, as well as for you. I strongly recommend having your new cat tested for feline leukemia, or FeLV, unless you know for certain that your specific cat was tested by who you are adopting your cat from. Testing of a litter-mate is NOT sufficient. Feline Leukemia is passed from cat-to-cat and kittens may be born with it if their mother was infected. Not all kittens from the same litter will test positive for FeLV though. This is why you must have your chosen kitten tested, if you are adopting a kitten. If you are adopting an older cat, it is still very important to test for FeLV unless you have vet records showing the cat has received the FeLV vaccination.
If you already have a cat or several at home who have not been vaccinated for FeLV, your new kitty can pass the FeLV to the other cats. By having the new kitty tested before bringing him home will protect your other cats from becoming infected.
The vet will also almost certainly check for ear mites, fleas, and worms, all of which can be treated immediately, if need be, so you do not bring any of these pests home either.
A Room for your new kitty:
You will need a room with a door which can be closed tightly to keep your kitty safely inside. This will be your new kitty’s home for about a week, if there are no other kitties at home, or possibly a month if there are other kitties at home. The room must be large enough to give your new kitty some room to roam and explore plus must have a source of natural light, preferably a window or patio door.
Most kitties are a bit skittish when first brought home and if let to roam freely will find a place to hide, which may not be the safest place or where you can easily find them. We have tried both ways, keeping the new cat in a separate room or allowing the new cat access to the whole house. It has definitely worked better when the new cat was restricted to a room initially. One of our kitties which we did not keep in a separate room, disappeared for a week. He went without food and water for the full week. We searched several times every day and finally found him on the 7th day. Luckily he was okay. It took several more days though to coax him out of his hiding spot.
Getting the room ready:
Cats are naturally curious and your new cat will have plenty of time to explore the room. You want to make sure he will be safe and cannot get hurt. Remove or put away anything the cat can get hurt with, such as scissors laying on a desk or table, yarn and string, marbles or small objects which could get stuck in the cat’s throat, plastic bags, and such.
Now look up high and down low. Close off any open rafters, unless you know for certain that your kitty cannot jump that high yet. Is there anything low that he can get trapped in or fall into? If so, securely block that off as well. Are there any cleaning supplies or chemical containers in the room – if so, move them to another room for now if you can, otherwise put them in a container with a secure lid to keep your kitty from possibly licking or chewing on these.
Next, what furniture is in the room? If there is a sleeper-sofa, your kitty will most likely find his way inside. This happened to us with a 16 week-old kitten. She spent 3 days inside, up the back of the sofa on top of the mattress. We had to wait until she was willing to come out, as she could have been seriously injured by the folding mechanism if we tried to open the mattress.
Adding the necessities:
You kitty will need a litter box with fresh litter added to a couple inches in depth. Next is food and water. A blanket or several pillows will make a comfy place for the kitty to sleep. A scratching post or pad will provide a place for the new kitty to exercise its claws, which is instinctual, instead of on furniture or carpeting. Finally, add a few toys for entertainment and possibly an empty cardboard box large enough for the cat to jump into.
Bringing kitty home:
Now you are ready to bring your new kitty home. If you do not have a pet carrier, it is best to purchase either a standard pet carrier (the size your new kitty will be when fully grown) or a cardboard pet carrier. Cardboard pet carriers are sold at most pet stores for a few dollars. These are intended for a single use or two, not for long-term use many times, but it a low-cost option when getting your first cat.
Bring the pet carrier into the prepared room and close the room door, making sure any other pets at home are not in the room. Open the carrier and let your new kitty come out on his own. Some cats will be willing and eager to come out right away, others may stay in the “safety” of the carrier for a while.