Now that you have chosen your cat, what should you do when you are home

Now that you’ve chosen your cat—or, more likely, your new feline friend has chosen you—and you have all of the accoutrements you’ll need (at least in the beginning), it’s time to bring kitty home. Before you go to pick up your cat, set aside a room for kitty’s homecoming. Whether kitten or adult, your cat will need a period of adjustment when going from his previous home to his new one. He’ll feel more secure in a smaller space, rather than being given the run of the house right when he first arrives. The room should contain a litter box, a scratching post, a couple of toys (you can bring an interactive toy in with you each time you go into the room to play with kitty, then take it out with you), a water dish, and a food dish. Fill the water dish when you get home, so the water is nice and fresh. If the person with whom kitty has been living up to this point hasn’t given you a bottle of the water kitty drinks and a small bag of food, you’ll want to know in advance what food to buy. And tap water changes from place to place, so if kitty is coming from a different city, start him off with bottled water. You don’t want him to get sick, and local bacteria he’s not used to may upset his tummy. The change of home will be enough of an adjustment for kitty without adding to it a bout of diarrhea. You want to keep everything as positive as possible. When you first bring kitty into the house, make sure he knows exactly where to find his litter box. Show him the litter box by gently putting him down in it, so there’s no question of where the facilities are located when nature calls. You’ve already asked what type of litter and box he prefers, so I know you’ve got that all set up before you bring kitty home.

Be certain to scoop his litter box as soon as you see that he’s used it. Once he gets used to using the box, it should be scooped twice a day. No one wants to use a dirty restroom. Cats are quite fastidious, so if you don’t want litter box problems, remember to be diligent about scooping and cleaning the litter boxes from Day One. Of course, it’s not enough just to scoop. You must wash the box regularly with soap and water. Be sure to thoroughly rinse it, too. (See page 88 in chapter 5 for more on litter box hygiene.) Make your cat feel welcome but not overwhelmed. Don’t get him overexcited that first day, because going to a new home is excitement enough. Sit in the room with kitty. Let him explore on his own. Offer him something to eat. Let him investigate his new toys, his new bed, and his scratching post. Let him check out all of your stuff, too. Bring a book in with you; if he doesn’t want to interact with you, you’ll be a quiet presence in the room, and he will gradually approach you—all in his own time, of course. Family members should visit him quietly in the room. Everyone should remember that the cat will need some naptime. Let the cat come to you and see how much affection he’ll accept. He may very well surprise you by being a happy little camper who is eager for attention and affection right from the start. If he’s hiding under the bed or under a piece of furniture, just sit there calmly. He may, or may not, come out. It may take a bit of time. You may not see the cat at all for a few days, but you’ll see the telltale signs in the litter box and food and water dishes that he has been taking care of business when you’re out of the room. Just give him some time to adjust.

If the hiding goes on for more than a few days, you can tempt him out by using a toy on a stick. For this I especially like the Quickdraw McPaw, a tube with a control at one end and a toy at the other that slips in and out of the tube. Slip the toy part under the bed and use it to interest kitty. Start to slowly bring it out from under the bed, playing with it all the while. Kitty will follow. You can try any toy on a stick if that one isn’t available. You can also try putting your hand down with your forefinger pointed out and let him come and sniff it. Again, this is all in his own time. Just let him sniff at first; don’t reach for him. The key is to give kitty time, space, and as much affection and attention as he wants.

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