Adopting A Cat For The First Time? 5 Things You Need To Know Before You Bring Your Kitty Home

There are some days when I’m not sure if I’ll ever love a human child as much as I love my two cats. I’m a big advocate for adopting a cat rather than purchasing one. June is Adopt A Cat Month, and there are plenty of cute, snuggly, lovable cats just waiting to be adopted from a shelter, pound, or humane society now, or any month.

Neither of my cats were adopted, per se — one was given to me by a friend as a gift for my 16th birthday, and the other we literally rescued after we found her at three weeks old, alone, on a freezing morning in the woods behind my childhood home. And, of course, while I love my two fur babies the most, I also just generally love cats. I’m definitely one of those people who goes to parties and hangs out with the host’s cat all night, because cats are awesome and perfect and amazing, and humans could stand to learn a thing or two from them. I don’t feel bad about my borderline crazy cat lady status, though. If Taylor Swift can pull it off, then I can consider myself in good company!

For those of you looking to get your first fur baby or add to your brood, now is a great time to hit your local shelter to adopt your new snuggly friend! But first, it's good to brush up on a few key pieces of information before you take the plunge. Here are five things to know before adopting a cat.

1. Cats need attention, and you need to be around to give it to them

There’s this notion that cats, unlike dogs, don’t need a lot of attention. And that may be true for some cats (I’ve had my share of standoffish, hyper-independent kitties), but cats still need someone to play with, cuddle, and love just like any creature. This will be incredibly important the first few weeks after adoption, since they’ll be adjusting to a whole new life with you. Can you imagine if someone took you from your home, away from your siblings and mom, and then just left you alone all day in a new place? Sounds awful, right? If you have a full-time job, travel a lot, or your household has a fluctuating schedule — especially with kids, roommates, or significant others — you might want to consider getting two cats so they can keep each other company.

You should also consider which age group of cat you’re looking to adopt. Obviously, a kitten will need much more time and attention than an adult cat — but all cats need love and play time!

2. Your cat will need time and space to adjust

If you’ve ever gotten a fish, you know that you’re supposed to leave it in the bag submerged in its new water before putting it into the aquarium. Cats kind of need that too. Most rescue shelters, pounds, or humane societies keep cats in cages or single rooms until you come to adopt them, so introducing them to a whole big house may freak them out. When you bring them home, pick a single room for them to chill in for a few days with their litter box, food and water, bed, scratching post, and some toys. Your new cat needs time to adjust to the sounds and smells of your house, and any other pets will need time to adjust to the cat’s smells and sounds too.

Every cat is different, so the alone time needed to adjust can vary. Give them at least an hour to themselves before you go in to check on them and play with them for a bit, and stagger any other visitors after that, but keep it in the family — no friends or outsiders until your cat is used to its new home and housemates. As for other pets, have them meet one at a time in the kitty room with you to make sure everyone is OK.

3. Kitties like routine

Like humans, cats can be creatures of habit, and a great way to help your cat adjust to being in their new forever home is to maintain as much routine and familiarity as possible. Ask the shelter or rescue you’re getting them from what brand of food they were feeding your cat and when their feeding time was so you can replicate it. Also ask which brand of litter they used so you can get that too. You can switch food and litter brands out after a while, once your kitty is all settled in.

4. You’ll need to take your cat to the vet immediately

Even if the cat you’re adopting has all its shots, has been neutered/spayed, and seems to be in good health, you’ll want to see a vet within a week of adoption. This is mostly just a wellness check to make sure your kitty is doing OK outside the shelter and in their new home. You never know, your cat might be allergic to your air freshener, or developed worms before leaving the shelter. Make an appointment with a vet before you bring your new friend home to ensure you’ll be seen within a week.

5. Cat proofing is something you’ll have to do

If you’re used to leaving a window open at night, have an obsession with lilies, or leave food just laying about, you’re gonna have to stop all that before you bring a cat home. Unless you live in the middle of the country and you want your cat to go outside (though I wouldn’t suggest letting them out after dark), you don’t want to give them any escape routes to the outside world where they could get lost, hurt, or eaten. And you’ll want to be mindful of where you have any houseplants, because your cat will probably try and chew on them. Lilies and poinsettias are actually highly poisonous to cats, and other houseplants and flowers might make your kitty sick too. Human food can also make a cat sick, even meat if it’s been seasoned.

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