Taking home your new cat or kitten
Going to a new home can be a stressful experience for an animal whatever its age, so avoid introducing your new pet on hectic days such as Christmas or a birthday. You will need a secure carry cage, a litter tray, and some form of litter material – untreated sawdust, fine bark or kitty litter which is obtainable from your supermarket, pet shop or veterinarian. Set aside one room, say the laundry, in which to keep your cat/kitten while you get to know each other. Allowing a cat to have free roam of your house on day one can be quite overwhelming for most cats, so one room is best at the start. Set out food, water and a litter tray, keeping the litter tray well away from the food and water. Provide a cosy bed - a cardboard carton with a blanket will be fine.
The journey home
Transport your cat or kitten in an escape-proof cage, preferably a well-ventilated cage or pet carry box available from your SPCA, pet shops or veterinary clinics. This is a good investment as you will need it throughout your cat's life - for trips to the veterinarian, to a cattery or when moving house. Never travel with your cat or kitten loose in the car, as it could cause a serious accident. When you arrive home put the carry cage in the room you have prepared. Check that doors and windows are closed, then open up the cage and allow the cat to come out in its own time and explore its surroundings in peace and quiet.
If you have children, make sure they give your new pet space and time to settle in quietly. Do not let your cat outside at this stage. While your cat is inside settling in, talk and spend time with your cat so it will get to know you and your voice. Keep a kitten indoors until 10-14 days after its final vaccination. Keep an adult cat indoors for at least 2 weeks for it to bond to you, your house and property, or it will likely run away.
Letting you cat or kitten outside for the first time
When you start letting your cat outside go out with it, keep an eye on it, then call it back inside with you after a few minutes. Give it a treat of jelly-meat when it is back inside. Do this the first few times you let your cat out. Do not let your cat out on a full stomach, or while you are out or at work until it is well and truly home trained. Please keep your cat inside at night as this is the most common time that cats fight, or are injured in road accidents.
If you lose your cat...
Sometimes a cat will disappear for a few hours when it starts going outside. Don't panic! It may be that it is just exploring its new territory. If it does not return within a few hours, go outside when it's quiet and call softly. Sometimes it is a good idea to place the cats used toilet tray outside the door. If it has lost its bearings it may pick up its own scent on the breeze and return to you. If it is still missing the next day, do the following: Telephone your local SPCA to check if it has been handed in. Also contact any other local animal welfare groups. Ask your neighbours to look under their houses, in their garage etc. Contact local veterinarians in case your pet has been picked up injured. Do a letter-box drop, describing your cat and giving your telephone number and address. Advertise in your local paper and watch for someone advertising your pet as being found. Check www.petsonthenet.co.nz, and the lost and found pet section on www.trademe.co.nz to see if it has been reported as found. Post a lost ad for your cat on both websites so that if anyone finds it they can get in touch with you. If your cat has come from another private home, not too far away, ask the previous owner to come round, preferably when it is quiet, and call the cat by name. A nervous cat in new surroundings will usually respond to a familiar voice. Click here for more helpful information.
Make sure your kitten is vaccinated. A combined Enteritis/Cat Flu injection at 6-8 weeks of age with a booster 3-4 weeks later will help to protect your pet. Talk to your vet for more information about vaccination dates, and other types of vaccinations available. After the first series of vaccinations, an annual booster is recommended for the remainder of your cat’s life. If you adopt an adult cat and are unsure of its vaccination status, consult your vet. (A vaccination with a booster after 4 weeks is usually recommended.) If your cat shows signs of injury or sickness - lameness, pain when touched, refusal to eat, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, discharge etc., please seek veterinary advice at once. Also seek veterinary advice if bald patches appear on its body.
Desexed pets live longer, are more happy to stay at home, fight less and don’t develop as many other problem behaviours as pets who are entire. Kittens can be desexed from as young as 8-10 weeks old. Talk to your vet about when they prefer to perform the desexing surgery. Keep in mind that a female kitten is capable of having her first litter when she is around 6 months old, and a male kitten may start wandering in search of females, fighting other male tom cats and siring kittens at around that same age. If you have adopted an adult cat and are uncertain whether or not it is desexed consult your veterinarian.
Housetraining your new adult cat or kitten
Cats are very clean animals, and will instinctively want to use a litter tray. Kittens are just the same, and usually do not require any special training to toilet in their litter tray. To help them learn, place your kitten in their tray immediately after a meal, a sleep or a game. They will very soon seek out the tray on their own accord. Make sure the litter tray is in a quiet place where your cat will feel comfortable using it. Place it in an area away from their food and water dishes, and away from foot traffic in the house. If a cat is not using their litter tray there is usually a very sensible reason for that – from the cat’s perspective! If your cat or kitten continues to toilet in a place that is not in their litter tray, they may well have decided that that particular area is preferable for them. For example, it may be a quiet spot where they feel safe. Put the litter tray in their chosen spot so that they start using the litter tray, then over time, slowly move the litter tray to where you want them to use it. Cats prefer to toilet on a material they are used to, so if your adult cat refuses to use kitty litter, try mixing in some garden soil that they may be more familiar with, or trying a different litter product. Be sure to remove the soiled litter regularly, at least daily, as many cats will not use a dirty tray. Once your new cat starts going outside, it will probably begin toileting outside. If your cat is able to go outside when it wishes (you have a cat door) then toileting is not usually an issue. If your cat does not have a cat door, then a litter tray must be available for them inside at all times.
What to feed your cat
If possible, find out what your new pet is accustomed to eating and keep them on the same food for the first few days, as a sudden change of diet could upset their tummy. If you decide to change their food, do so over at least a week, gradually increasing the amount of new food each day.
Many cats are natural grazers. Having dry biscuits available for your cat 24 hours a day allows them to eat when they please. If you feed at set meal times, or if your cat is unable to self-regulate when it comes to food, measure out their daily allowance of food according to the manufacturer’s instructions and split the allowance over the number of feeds they have each day. Make sure they have lots of fresh water available at all times. Water is essential to help prevent the development of bladder or urinary tract problems. Some cats love variety in their diet, so a small amount of wet food can be offered as a treat. Cats should be fed a diet that is designed for their stage in life.
Many cats are lactose intolerant and therefore water is the best option. Cats do not need milk! If you do want to provide it you can purchase special pet milk from the supermarkets that is lactose free. Many cats enjoy a daily drink of milk, but there are some who react adversely to it and develop diarrhoea.
All cats and kittens need access to a little grass, which they eat to maintain their natural digestive balance.
Make sure all bones are removed from cooked fish and chicken, as these can easily get caught in the throat or pierce the intestines. The result is great suffering and sometimes death.
A fresh bowl of water must always be available, even if the cat has milk as well.
What to feed your kitten
Your kitten needs to be fed kitten food until they are 12 months old. This ensures that their nutritional needs are being met while they are growing. We highly recommend feeding your kitten Hill's Science Diet Kitten food, as this is a premium pet food that is nutritionally balanced for your growing kitten. Have dry biscuits available for your kitten to graze on 24 hours a day, with lots of fresh water available at all times. Water is essential to help prevent the development of bladder or urinary tract problems. As kittens learn to eat dry biscuits, you may find you need to soak the biscuits in warm water (not hot water), and mix in a small amount of kitten wet food. This is because young kittens are frequently weaned onto soft kitten wet food as a first food and can take time to adjust to eating completely dry biscuits.
Cats and kittens need regular worming and worming products can be bought at veterinary clinics and from pet shops. Adult cats need worming every 3 months, and kittens need worming every 2 weeks for the first 12 weeks, again at 16 weeks, and then 3 monthly after that. Be sure to follow the directions given. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian.
Cats and kittens need regular flea treatment using quality flea treatment products. Flea powder, flea collars and some flea sprays can be dangerous if used on kittens. Not all flea treatment products kill all life stages of fleas, so products from veterinary clinics and pet shops are often the best sort to use. Talk to your vet about what is right for you and your cat or kitten.
Your long-haired cat will need regular grooming. Suitable brushes and combs are available from pet shops or your veterinary clinic. Accustom a kitten to grooming while it is small.
Cats moved to a new home sometimes return to their old surroundings. To avoid this, contain the cat indoors for at least 2 weeks, feeding as usual and providing a litter tray. During this period let the cat roam the house to get its bearings, keeping doors and windows closed meanwhile. Refer to the above section ‘Letting your cat or kitten out for the first time’. If your cat is stressed with the change in surroundings, talk to your vet about calming products such as Feliway.
If you go away, whether for the week-end or a longer holiday, you will need to make arrangements for the care of your cat. You can arrange for a neighbour or a feeding service to care for it at home or put it in a boarding cattery. If you decide upon the cattery your cat will need an up-to-date vaccination certificate.