Bringing Your New Pet Home
It’s a day to celebrate when you bring home a new furry family member. But on this first day, your new pet may have a different point of view. They’re locked in a carrier and taken from what they considered home to a new place where they don’t know anyone. Some cats will look around, wide-eyed and cautious, but many cats just want to hide. This is normal. You can ease the transition by setting them up in a small room of their own with litter pan, food, water, and bed. The carrier they came home in can serve as their bed. Spend some time with them and then carry on with your day. They’ll hear the sounds of the household, and their noses will work overtime as they assimilate information. In a couple of days to a week, they’ll be asking to come out and look around.
Secure your new pet
Don’t underestimate a scared cat. Keep doors and windows closed for the first few days. They can dart through amazingly small gaps as fast as greased lightening. They’ve lodged themselves in chimneys, ventilation ducts and other awkward places. Open screened windows only if the screen can’t be pushed out. Until he’s bonded with his new home, he might dash at the first crack of daylight or whiff of outdoors.
Meeting your other pets
There may be some sibling rivalry. It will be easier if you let them meet each other gradually. Set up the new one in his own room and let them sniff each other under the door at first. Once they seem nonchalant about that, you can let them see each other with the door ajar. Let them get nonchalant about that and then leave the door open so they can check out each other’s living space. Give them treats while they do this to build up a positive association. Make sure they each have their own food bowls and, for a while at least, their own litter pans. Don’t allow the new pet to displace the first pet from his favorite nests. Some pets may become best friends. Some may only develop a mutual understanding. But they will learn to coexist.
Change is stressful and stress taxes the immune system. This means they’re vulnerable to bugs they could otherwise shrug off. Your cat might come down with a cat flu in the first few days — sneezing, watery eyes, a runny nose, lethargy and a depressed appetite. It should pass in a couple of weeks. If he refuses to eat for more than two or three days and his nose runs with infected (green/yellow) mucus, then he should get attention. Give us a call if you have any concerns.
Cats are unique in that they cannot withstand long periods of fasting. If they don’t eat for more than about three days, they can succumb to Fatty Liver Disease. They become jaundiced, their organs shut down and they die. Plump cats are more vulnerable than thin ones. Fatty Liver Disease is not really common but it’s wise to be aware of it. If your cat is not eating, try tempting her with smelly food such as sardines. Heat it to bring out the aroma. Your vet can provide you with canned food formulated for cats who need extra tempting and nutrition. Call your vet if your cat is refusing to eat. The sooner it’s caught, the easier it is to treat.
A sudden change of diet can cause tummy upset or diarrhea. Be prepared for a short period of adjustment as she gets used to her new foods and feeding schedule. Keep her litter pan clean and easily available to her. A good-quality diet is worth the investment in the long run. She will be satisfied with less food rather than filling up on ‘fillers’ and feeling hungry again soon. As she ages, the good diet will pay off with better overall health. Your pet supply store can direct you to the better-quality foods.
It’s in a cat’s nature to seek out high places and to sharpen her claws. She’ll need to know right away what’s acceptable in her new home. Make sure she has a place where she can sharpen her claws. All kinds of scratching posts are available at pet supply stores. Make it attractive to her. Rub some catnip on it and show it to her while stroking her and offering her a little treat. If she experiments with sharpening her claws anywhere else, place a loose towel, tin foil or double-sided tape over the forbidden item for a while until she develops the habit of sharpening her claws on her own post. The same applies to food counters or any surface you want to keep her away from. Something that blocks her access should prevent her from developing a habit of going up there. Never yell at her or punish her. This will only make her learn to fear you.
It’s a good idea to get your new pet checked over by your own vet sometime after arriving home and yearly thereafter. The first visit will establish a baseline for your cat’s health that the vet can compare with future observations; for example, if she gains or loses significant weight. Changes in her appetite, litter pan habits, or behaviour are always a sign that something’s going on. But animals instinctively hide signs of illness or injury to avoid alerting predators which go for weak animals first. So it may not always be immediately evident if your cat needs help. The North American veterinary schools are changing their protocols for vaccinating dogs and cats to reflect the finding that a modified live virus vaccine given after six months of age produces immunity for the life of the pet. So yearly boosters wouldn’t be needed but yearly check ups can help avoid future problems and help ensure a long, happy relationship with your furry friend.
The Adjustment Period
How long will it be before your new pet is a fully integrated member of the family? That varies with the animal, the family and the home. Some waltz in and make themselves at home in no time. Other more sensitive or timid pets need as much as two or three months to begin to bond, maybe longer. You’ll be advised about the cat’s general temperament when you’re adopting. If she’s timid, you’ll need a bit more patience. But they’re worth the wait. When the day comes that she chirrups a greeting and rubs against your legs, it will mean that much more.
Call us with any questions or concerns that come up. We’re willing to help. But, as things sometimes don’t work out no matter how diligent the effort being made, the animal must come back to us if you can’t keep him. We have committed to the animals we rescue for the rest of their lives.