Having a cat can mean different things to different people. Some want a cat to cuddle and sit on their laps; others are happy to live with a very independent cat which spends most of its time outside and doesn’t want too much human interaction. While there is no guaranteed way to choose the perfect cat for you and your lifestyle, understanding your expectations as well as what makes cats tick will help you to bring home a cat that should be able to cope with its new environment and be the pet that you want too. The majority of cats kept as pets are what we call mixes, called domestic short or long haired cats – that is they are a random mixture of lots of different cats, we often have little idea about their parentage (well the father anyway). This means we have no control over colour, body shape, coat length or anything else that the kittens can inherit from their parents. So, for example, if your kitten is from a mixed mum but its father is unknown, it may develop a longer coat than you desire if the father was indeed long haired. There is more to choosing a pedigree cat than just liking a certain coat colour or length – take a look at the following link ( http://icatcare.org/advice/cat-breeds ) for the A-Z of breeds with all sorts of information as there may also be health issues which you need to check with the breeder and things you need to ask. Good breeders aim to breed healthy, people-friendly cats and avoid (or seek to deal with) inherited disorders which arise.
The cat-human relationship is like a “mother-kitten” relationship. Cats show their owners love by rubbing against a person’s leg, lying down to be petted, and kneading while being held. Cats can be left home alone for longer periods than dogs. However, they still need attention from their owners and can develop anxiety if left alone for too long or too often.
In general, cats are pretty attached to their house. Cats tend to have favorite spots where they are likely to be found at different times of the day. In multi-cat households, cat social behavior can be referred to as “living apart together”. This means that although your cat may not always want to be touched, it will likely want to be in the same room as you. If there is more than one cat in the household, they will “divide” the house into individual territories.
Although cats tend to space themselves out from each other, they do form social groups. Cats can recognize the individuals in their social group and will fend off “stranger” cats. This explains why cats may act negatively (e.g., hiss, run away, swat) at first towards new pets brought into the home. If a new cat continues to live in the home, it may eventually become a “group member”. You can see why it is important to slowly introduce new cats to an existing cat household. Cats can live with other cats (and even become friends!); they just need to be introduced more slowly. However, if you get two cats at the same time they will form a bonded pair and probably do everything together.
Bringing your cat home
Cat-proofing your house and making as many arrangements as you can ahead of time will help you have more time with your new cat once it is home!
Getting your house ready:
- Cat-proofing your house is important in reducing the risk of accidents that might happen when you bring home a new cat. This includes removing potentially dangerous items that can be chewed or swallowed (e.g., electric cords, needle and thread, rubber bands, paper clips, children’s toys) from anywhere they can reach.
- Getting supplies before you bring your new cat home will help you feel more prepared for your new cat and will allow you to spend more time with your new cat once it is home. These supplies can include: food, dishes, bedding, scratching post, litter box and litter, litter scoop, toys, and so on!
In addition, if you have other pets, you might want to consider doing the following:
- If you can, set up a separate room for the time being. Allowing your new cat to have full access to your house might make it feel overwhelmed. Setting up a small space will allow your cat to get used to one area at a time and allow for a slow transition. This area should have all the essentials for your new cat. Cat-proofing this room is also important so that your new pets don’t get injured or stuck when they are exploring their new room.
- It would be a good idea to have different belongings for both pets. Sharing is sometimes difficult for pets, especially at the beginning. Giving each pet their own toys, bowls, bed, and scratching posts or litter boxes for cats, is very important in reducing anxiety for new and resident pets.
- If you don’t already have a veterinarian, it would be beneficial to begin trying to find a veterinarian that you feel comfortable with and can see yourself establishing a positive relationship with. A positive relationship between you and your veterinarian will help you feel comfortable to openly discuss your pet and any problems you may be experiencing with your pet. It might be helpful to talk to pet-owning friends and family members to see if they have recommendations. Once you find a veterinarian, it is a good idea to schedule your new pet’s first appointment.
- The veterinarians in Markham encourage you to begin thinking about your plans for socializing your new cat. “Socializing” a cat means getting the pet used to a variety of experiences (e.g., different people, animals, sounds, etc.) in a positive way. It is particularly important for these experiences to be things your cat will encounter on a regular basis in your home or with your lifestyle.
The car ride home:
- It is important to have a carrier to bring your new cat home in. Make sure to bring no other animals; this is already a big change and your new cat may be very stressed.
- Familiar smells can help to calm animals. Bringing your new cat home with a blanket or bedding that they were using before will help lower their anxiety.
Introducing new pets to current pets
Current animals get into a routine of knowing what to expect from you, their caretaker, and your other current animals and may see your home as their territory. When you bring home a new animal, your current pet’s first instinct may be to run away or to fight off the “intruder”. Adding a new pet to your household can be stressful for your resident pet, and may lead to stress-related sickness or behavioral issues due to territorial displays or anxiety. Therefore, the veterinarians in Markham recommend you slowly introduce resident pets to new pets. If introductions go poorly, early intervention and advice from a professional is recommended to reduce risk of injury from a pet fight.
Reactions you may see:
- Mutual sniffing and grooming – this is a good sign.
- Sit and stare at each other – you can provide a distraction by dangling a toy in front of them. Avoid catnip because some cats become very aroused and aggressive.
- Sniff each other, hiss, and walk away – this is normal; they just need some more time to get used to each other.
There are many ways to slowly introduce your new cat to current pets, don’t hesitate to call or come in to see the veterinarians in Markham for step by step advice on how to move through the introduction process.
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Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham
Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.
Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).
Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.