If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that cats are hilarious and weird, and people love them. Of course, the internet age only confirmed what civilizations around the world have known for millennia: that cats make wonderful companions and can add a lot to your life – including likes on social media. What all those cute cat videos don’t tell you, however, is all of the things that cats need to live healthy, happy lives once you bring them home. Here are some of the most important things to know before bringing your kitty home for the first time.
Get the essentials
Before you bring your cat home, be sure you have all of the necessities in place and ready. These include food (both dry and wet – ideally the same food your cat was eating in its last home) and water, a litter box (two if you have space), a scratching post, and a selection of toys for both solo and interactive play.
Prepare a safe space
Cats are territorial creatures, which means that moving them from their old territory to a brand new one can be stressful for them. To ease your pet’s transition, most experts recommend preparing a safe room where the cat can become accustomed to all of the new sights, sounds and smells in your home in its own time. A safe room should have food, water, toys and a litter box, ideally positioned as far away from the food as possible. It should also have a door that closes securely – especially if you have other pets in the home.
Make a den
The idea behind a safe room is to give your cat his own space where he’ll feel comfortable immediately, but if you don’t have an extra room to spare, don’t worry. The most important thing is to ease your cat into its new space without overwhelming him – and any efforts you can make on that front will pay dividends. Whether you’re preparing a safe room or not, one thing that most cats will appreciate is a place to hide. This can be a cardboard box, a blanket draped over a chair, or pretty much any other cozy and dark space (your cat will probably find his own hiding places in time).
Cats are naturally curious, playful creatures, but not everything they choose to play with is safe for them. Pieces of string, plastic bags, Venetian blind cords and electrical cords can all be dangerous to cats, so make every effort to keep them out of your pet’s reach – especially when you first bring her home. Likewise, many common houseplants are toxic to cats, so make sure to find out if your houseplants are safe for pets, and put any poisonous ones well out of reach.
Cats are incredibly agile and are excellent jumpers and climbers. This is great for hunting, but not as good for your crystal wine glasses, porcelain vases, and other top-heavy breakables. Until you get a sense of your cat’s personality and level of activity, it’s best to clear all surfaces (even high-up ones) of anything breakable or delicate. Basically, if it can be knocked over, you should assume that it will be.
Easy does it
Aside from all of the specific advice above, there’s really just one thing to keep in mind when you bring home a cat for the first time: take things slowly. Cats tend to be wary of loud noises, sudden movements, and anything that smells unfamiliar, so the more time you can give your cat to get used to her new surroundings, the better. Cats are famously strong-willed, so the last thing you want to do is try to force your new cat into a situation she isn’t comfortable with.
For that reason, if your new cat wants to hide under a bed for the first few hours or days, leave her be (as long as she has easy access to food, fresh water, and her litter box of course). Likewise, try not to handle your new cat too much at first, and do your best to keep children at bay as well. Ultimately, the best way to make your cat feel at home is to follow her lead, let her take her time, and slowly ease into her new environment.
Jeremy Freed is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. His writing about fashion, travel, food and design appears in Sharp, Harry and re:Porter magazines, among many others.
Jeremy Freed is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.