Caring for your cat really comes down to common sense, experience and being prepared to learn. Here's some of the advice we find ourselves giving out to new owners again and again - what to do, and not to do!
If you adopt a young kitten you need to be especially careful: please read our kitten health page too. And remember, you can contact us if you have any cat care worries, even if it's ages since you adopted your cat from us.
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Taking your cat home
You must take your cat home in a purpose-made plastic or wicker cat carrier. You can buy them from our sanctuary charity store if you don't have one. Cardboard boxes are not suitable - cats can easily claw through them!
Introducing your cat to its new home
We suggest you put your cat in a quiet room for the first two days after bringing it home. This room should contain a comfy cat bed, food and water bowls and a litter tray. Giving your cat a quiet area of its own helps to provide a sense of security while it gets used to its new home. Take it slowly!
PLEASE BE AWARE that moving into a new home can be very stressful for a cat or kitten. Some will be fine, but many cats can display stress symptoms, ranging from just being a bit unsociable, to sickness, sneezing and diarrhoea. With a sensibly quiet introduction, and a bit of patience, this almost always disappears in 24-48 hours. If problems persist or you're really worried, have your vet take a look, or give us a call.
Settling your cat in
Talk to your cat frequently and repeat its name every time you do. We always use a cat's name if it has one when it comes to us, but it is very easy for them to learn a new one. If you decide to rename your cat, they will know it in a week! Just chat to them, reassure them, stroke them, and they will soon learn to come to you. Don't be in a rush to pick your cat up - it is not a natural behaviour for a cat. Some many never tolerate it! Once the cat is clearly settled (normally after a few days), set up their bed and litter tray in their permanent position, and make sure they have access to the litter tray at all times. Litter trays are best placed in a quiet area, away from food bowls and cat flaps. You will notice, after a few days, they will start rubbing their cheeks against you and the furniture. This is transferring their scent and a sign they are accepting their new home.
Security - don't lose your cat!
When you bring a new cat home, DO NOT LEAVE OUTSIDE DOORS OR WINDOWS OPEN. AT ANY TIME! Cats are natural escape artists. They will exploit even the smallest opportunity to get outside. An adult cat should not be let outside for at least 5-6 weeks after adoption, however much it wants to! A kitten should not be let outside until it has been neutered at 6 months of age. If you already have a cat flap then you MUST seal it or bar it securely. A grown cat can easily force a locked flap. We've had several owners lose new cats because they ignored this advice.
Letting your cat outside
When it's time to introduce your cat to the outside world you should still take things gradually. Start by taking them into the garden, but stay with them. Let them stay outside for a few minutes, then bring them in and feed them. They'll soon realise that coming in means getting food. Extend this a little each day, until your cat can be left outside but will return when called. In the early days, giving them food or a treat when they return will reinforce this behaviour.
A cat flap is the best option for most owners, not least because it will probably mean your cat ends up not needing a litter tray in the house. Cat flaps can be fitted in house walls as well as doors - even glazed patio doors can have cat flaps fitted. We recommend the microchip cat flaps as they allow your cat free access and prevent other cats from coming in. If you don't have a cat flap you must provide a litter tray at all times.
Feeding your cat
When you adopt from us we'll advise you on your cat's favourite foods and any special dietary needs they have. All cats are different, but good general advice is to feed an adult cat a small sachet of wet food once in the morning, and once at night, and give them a bowl of dry food they can munch on throughout the day. As well as - this is very important - a bowl of clean water!
A kitten should be fed more often. We provide kittens with both a wet and dry kitten food.
A note about milk: Cow's milk is generally NOT suitable for a cat - they can't digest it properly. Many cats will get diarrhoea from drinking cow's milk. You can give them special cat milk (Whiskas or Felix) as an occasional treat, but only as a treat. Even a kitten, once it's 5 weeks old or so, should be on solid kitten food, and when all cats are thirsty then need clean water to drink only.
Wet cat food or dry cat food?
The debate between wet and dry cat food has been going on for years. It doesn't matter as long as the cat is getting a complete diet. By that we mean they are getting all of their nutritional requirements. Cats must have taurine in their diet which all complete cat foods contain. We always recommend a quality dry biscuit such as Royal Canin, James Wellbeloved or Hills Science Plan.
In 2008 our vet said: "I think a GOOD quality biscuit or sachet food is equally as good, but would avoid at all costs cheap supermarket brands". To that we would add, that you should avoid dried foods with colourants.
The benefits of complete dried food/biscuit include:
You can easily leave down a large bowl of dried food with a bowl of water if you go out for the day.
Dried foods do not go "off" in Summer and therefore are more economical.
The better quality brands in particular, offers a whole range for the indoor cat; elderly cat; sensitive stomach: kitten; baby; outdoor cat; Persian; breed cat; active cat, and so on. The special varieties can be ordered through us.
If you want to switch a cat from wet to only dry food, give them a mix of both for the first two weeks, removing half a teaspoon of wet food every few days and increasing the amount of dry food accordingly. After 1 month your cat should be eating only dry food. You can supplement this with the occasional treat of fresh cooked chicken or fish (although they love tuna, salmon and pilchards, it's best to avoid oily fish.)
Cats are very particular creatures! The litter tray should be somewhere quiet and away from your cat's feeding area. You'll need to scoop out the faeces at least once a day, and change the litter completely every 2-3 days.
A cat will almost always use a litter tray that's clean and in the right position. If it does not, the tray is in the wrong place or sometimes the cat dislikes a certain kind of litter. These things are easy to fix. Occasionally stress causes a cat to use other places as a toilet, in which case you need to find the reason for the stress - but overall, when cats don't use their litter tray, it's normally because of something the owner is doing wrong. Change the position, clean it out, change the litter type (soft, mineral based litters are usually best) or work out what's stressing your cat out.
Cats tend to find favourite spots for sleeping - and they also tend to change those spots every few weeks (a behaviour they exhibit in the wild). Our store has plastic washable beds which you can line with fleece or cushion, providing a long-term bed they can return to. They can also be just as happy with a cardboard box that's lined with a towel. Whatever you choose, your cat's bed should be in a quiet, warm corner. Cats often show a preference for beds with high sides, too. They're less draughty!
Keeping your cat healthy
Kittens are much more susceptible to health problems than adult cats. Find out more on our kitten health page. The majority of older cats (6 months plus) are much more robust. They have already built up their immune system and they will have had at least their first vaccinations before they leave us. In its first year of life a cat needs two vaccinations; after that, a yearly injection to vaccinate against common diseases like feline enteritis and leukemia (which you should arrange with your Vet). Otherwise, keeping your cat healthy is a case of good food, clean water, regular grooming and lots of fuss!
Flea and worm prevention and treatment
We would recommend you obtain both flea control and wormer from your vets. Some over the counter brands not only do not work but can be dangerous. Our store stocks "back of the neck" flea drops which are easy to apply.
Preventing fleas helps prevents worms, but you should still give your cat wormers at least twice a year (more frequently if you are not running a good flea preventitive programme). Worms look like segments of spaghetti in their faeces, and WILL come out after a worming treatment - so don't panic.
Some cats are allergic to fleas. This not only makes them scratch, but gives them a very poor skin condition that they tend to aggravate by licking. It can be quite common and lead to infection. Do watch out for this and see your vet if you think there's a problem. We recommend using flea control every 6-8 weeks.
Fur balls are the result of a cat grooming itself with it's rough tongue. The loose hair is collected into the stomach and then vomited up when large enough. It often looks like a hairy sausage! It is a totally natural process and nothing to be concerned about. A long haired cat will do it more often and the "sausage" will be bigger. All part of the natural process, and normally is not messy and can be swept up. Royal Canin provide a hair ball remedy dry food, which induces vomiting hairballs, and cats seem to like it. You can also obtain a paste from your vets to help ease this problem.
Moulting is also a natural process. ALL cats do it, but clearly with a long haired/lighter colour cat, it will be more noticeable. Some clients have recently mentioned they do not want cat hair on their carpets so there are 2 solutions: 1) Don't get a cat. 2) Get a vacuum cleaner!
Introducing a new cat to an existing cat
In our experience, many will accept another cat, and benefit from it from a few days to a month or so after its introduction. The incoming adopted cat will rarely be a problem, because it is entering strange territory. An existing territorial cat may not accept a new cat at all. Just ask for our advice before you try! We always suggest matching cats' characters and ages, as you would a human.
Introducing a new cat to an existing cat should be done gradually, with supervision. Firstly allow the new cat time to settle in. Prior to the introduction let the new cat spend some time in one room alone so he or she can work out escape strategies or areas. Do not introduce the cats with one in a basket as this is very stressful for the confined cat. Do it with some kind of barrier in place such as a partially open door or even a child gate! Slowly introduce the existing cat to the new cat over a period of days. Maybe try feeding them at the same time during these supervised introductions. Do not leave them alone together in the same room, unattended, for the first couple of weeks or so - for example, at night.
If you have more than one cat already individual introductions usually work best.
Please be patient! Sometimes, like with people, new friendships can take time to develop.