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  • Dr. Liz Bales

Lockdown Love: Get off on the right paw with your new cat

We are spending more time inside our homes than ever before. It is a wonderful time to adopt a new cat or kitten. The companionship, love and fun that a new cat brings into your life is just what the doctor ordered. Wouldn't it be nice to return the favor and give your new cat what they need to feel loved? Make sure that you get off on the right paw for your life together.

1. Choose wisely. Cats are creatures of space and they will see your home as the territory that belongs to them. Sharing is not their thing. In nature cats may live in groups, but not just any group. Cats live in groups are made up of related mothers and their kittens. New cats are not welcome, and not respecting the group’s territory can get ugly. The same holds true in your home. If you already have a cat at home, a new cat may not be welcome. If you are adopting a kitten, consider adopting two cats at the same time - even better if they are litter mates!

2. Your new cat won’t be happy if he/she is not healthy. Ask for your new cat's health records including vaccine status, spay/neuter status, fecal parasite testing, and any medications that he/she may be taking.

3. Call your veterinarian to introduce your new cat. They will enter your cat’s medical records into their system, so you get reminders in the months and years to come to stay up to date and not miss important future vaccines and medical care. Your veterinarian will get you scheduled for the immediate essential care. Essential care is defined differently in different states and regions.

4. Scientists have discovered the critical needs of cats - and it’s more than a bowl and a litter box! Cats are both exquisite predators and prey. This reality dictates the way they see the world. Stock up on the things your cat needs to be happy and healthy.

  • Places to climb for each cat- Cats need places to climb in the rooms they spend time. Being up high allows them to survey the room for danger, and makes them feel safe. If they do not have this option, or if they need to compete for this resource, they can become anxious and frustrated.

  • Places to hide - Cats need the option to be hidden away to relax and rest. Cat caves, beds, and even cardboard boxes give cats the privacy they need to unwind.

  • Ways to hunt - In nature, cats hunt, catch and play with 8-12 mice a day, mostly at dawn and dusk. They spend 80% of their waking hours hunting for food. Cats actually need to hunt for many small meals a day to be happy and healthy. When a cat has no way to hunt, they become bored, and stressed, and even sick. The world’s leading veterinary organizations now recommend that you split your cat’s daily feeding into at least 5 portions and hide it around the house. That is why I invented Doc & Phoebe’s Hunting Feeder.

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  • Appropriate Litter Box - If you want your cat to use the litter box, and not your pillow or your clean laundry, give him/her the litter box that they want. Cats want a very large litter box (1.5x the size of the cat!) that has about 2-3 inches of litter. Make sure that the entrance is easy and low enough to maneuver. Cats are very, very sensitive to smell. Most cats do not like covered litter boxes that hold in smell and they don’t like scented litter. Scoop the litter box twice a day - no one wants to use a dirty bathroom!

  • Places to Scratch - Your cat wants large, sturdy scratching post that your cat can fully stretch out on and pull without it toppling over. Some cats prefer to scratch horizontally, others vertically. Cats can be choosy about what they scratch. Most cats like sisal, rope, cardboard or carpet.

5. Introduce your new cat to your home in incrementally. Start with one room, stocked with the essentials - litter box, water, feeders, scratching post, toys and your company. Give your cat a week or so to settle in. If you have a resident cat or dog, this will allow them to get used to each other's smells under the door. Over the coming weeks, gradually increase the rooms that you give them access to. Supervise short periods of introduction to the other household pets. Start with just a few minutes and gradually increase the amount of time that they are together.

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