Adding a cat to your family

By Traci D. Howerton, Animal Rescue New Orleans

Cats are considered fairly independent and do not require the attention that dogs do, so if you desire the companionship of a pet, but work a full time schedule, a cat is a good choice.

With the proper amenities, cats are very happy to be left alone or with another pet, be it a cat or a dog, to keep them company. Unlike dogs, cats do not need to be let outside to do their business and can live a very happy and fulfilling life completely indoors. Basic cat care includes cleaning a litter box (scooping at least once a day), some hair to vacuum up, and regular grooming. A cat is content to sit in a nice window with a view, as he will be entertained for hours by watching the birds, squirrels and cars passing by.

Some cats are very loving and cuddly, insisting on sleeping with their human. Others are more aloof and remain rather independent but are always glad for attention. Friendliness depends on his level of socialization, so not handling your cat will result in him becoming more aloof. All cats enjoy enrichment games of waving a feather in the air, dragging a string, or using a laser light for them to chase nowhere!

Kittens get into everything, just like puppies… so if you don’t want drapes climbed on or inside plants dug up, adopt an adult or juvenile cat. Most shelters will allow you to foster-to-adopt so you can test out if this is the particular cat for you.

Before bringing a cat home, rule out allergies. Lots of people are allergic to cats, so making sure everyone is the home is allergy free will avoid a cat having to lose his new home before he gets settled in.

It’s also wise to consider investing in a a cat water fountain – we’ve found these to be excellent investments through cat ownership.

Once you bring your new family member home, you want to make the transition as smooth as possible. Take into consideration where your cat came from. Was he in a cage in a shelter, did he come off the street or is he coming from a home environment? Did the cat live with other animals? Was the place noisy or quiet? Changing the environment that the cat is used to can be stressful. Taking things slowly and easing your cat into his new routine is the best way for him to integrate into your family.

Some cats may be fearful when introduced to a new home; being moved from a kennel to a house is a big change. Your home has different smells and noises and will take some time to get used to. It is recommended to initially confine your new cat to one room and slowly introduce him to the rest of the home. Providing him with hiding places such as a cardboard box or open closets will give him a safe place to go until he feels comfortable. It is important not to force your cat to be social and cuddly until he is ready. Trying to coax him into play with a toy is a good icebreaker. Once he realizes you are his friend, he will come around. In most cases, it only takes a cat a few days to acclimate to him new home, but it can take several weeks.