In recent years, I have discovered that pet ownership has been taken to a whole new level. Our pets are valued members of our families, and their care entails so much more than feeding and shelter.
They even have their own “boutiques”, and custom- made products, for anything from personal care, playtime, and sleep time, to going on holiday. Numerous online shops offer products to pick and choose from, to help care for your precious pet.
This Blog is just a guideline, that will cover the basics, and then some, of helping your cat/kitten settle in, and develop into a happy, healthy, and beloved member of your family.
At Capetonians Against Animal Abuse, we are always here to offer advice, and can also assist with recommendations with regard to your necessities, and provide most items mentioned here, at a very reasonable price.
Your starter Kit
Here are a few items, vital for the care and safety of your cat:
Travel and Comfort:
CAT CARRIER - MOST IMPORTANT ITEM. Many different types, in different price ranges are available. Buy the best you can afford and always make sure it is sturdy. The cheap picnic baskets may work for very young kittens, but is not secure for cats over 1 kg.
Soft blankets – Baby blankets, soft blankets, or fleecy material, buy per meter and cut to your preference, will be suitable.
Cat bed/s (plush bed, big soft pillow. Or it could be a box, old wicker basket, plastic basket, or even the carrier) to serve as a safe space for the kitty when they get home the first time, and to be used later as well.
2x food dishes (one for wet food and one for kibble/dry food)
2x water dishes
Food dishes - Stainless steel or glass, are better than plastic and melamine. They are more hygienic.
Food – Dry food, as supplied by your Vet or Vet shop. It does not make economic sense, per kilogram, to buy the supermarket brands. Kittens must eat food, specifically formulated for them, up to one year of age.
Food – Pouches, tins or raw (a topic for another day, and not be fed without some homework) is quite in order to feed your cat/kitten.
Do not mix wet and dry food, as you will waste. Clean all dishes once a day.
Water – Always ensure a fresh supply of water is available for you cat. Two bowls on opposite ends of the house, is a good idea. More bowls are needed in a multiple cat household. Running water can be provided in the form of a water fountain. Cats love this.
Cat litter - Organic types are better, and easier to manage. Trust a foster mom who fostered many kittens on different types of cat litter. Avoid clay type litters due to harmful bentonite particles, and crystals can be hard on a kitten’s delicate paws. If they ingest any of these by accident, it will cause them harm. Click here for some information about the different types of cat litters.
Litter tray – Do you like to pee in a cup? Most commercial litter trays available for cats, are too small. A kitten soon outgrows them, resulting in spills, messes, and litter all over the house. Do yourself a favour, visit your local plastic warehouse, and get at least a 25L to 30L container, with high sides. Trust me, your kitten will be ok. You will find some interesting types of litter boxes on this site.
More expensive and bigger litter trays, are available from your local Vet Shop, but a Big Jim storage box, with a hole cut in the side, works just as well (remove lid to ensure dust particles escape)
Before spending money on a closed box, make sure your cat will use it. Some cats do not like to feel trapped.
You can place a carpet, like the ones you use by your doors, in front of the litter box, to catch messes.
Make sure the litter tray is placed in a private place, and that air can circulate.
Get a dedicated litter scoop and clean the litter box at least 3x a day, more if you are home. You don’t like a dirty toilet? Nor does your cat. Remember to clean your litter scoop. Store in a little bucket with disinfectant.
In a multi cat household, the rule is one litter tray per cat, and one extra. If your cats are happy with less, so be it, but be mindful of the general rule.
Baby wipes – For the same reason you would use them for your child.
Cotton wool pads – Again, the same reason you would use them for your child.
Disinfectant wash for your hands, as well as pet friendly disinfectant and cleaning products. F10 is a good brand, with a variety of products. Available from your Vet, Vet shop or online vet shops. This is also for the safety of your family and home.
Teaser toys, small balls and kicker toys are popular.
Oversize balls, such as those plastic balls in big bags, you buy for the children, are also a hit.
Feathers, pipe cleaners, pom- poms and items crafted from these, will keep cats entertained for ages.
Empty toilet roll holders and boxes make excellent toys. A box fort is the ultimate cat dream.
Bottle caps and hair bands are popular too, but should always be removed, if supervised play is not possible.
Always practise safety first:
Teaser toys, with a plain, snake-like design, are better than those with a ball or other heavy item on the end. They can loop around and hook to possibly choke your cat. These types of toys should be used under supervision. Remove hard bits and loose pieces. When an item is broken, throw it away. Ensure your cat does not ingest small pieces. Balls of yarn are not safe. They can also get wrapped around and choke your cat, or your cat may try to eat it and it will cause gastrointestinal distress.
Entertainment and Stimulation:
Cats are inclined to, and have the need, to scratch and claw at stuff. If you do not provide distraction, your curtains and furniture will be victims of those sharp little razors.
If you have never heard of this, prepare to be amazed! Cat Trees are all the buzz. They can be simple in design, a pole covered in rope or carpet, on a sturdy base. Cat Trees can also be Fantastic Castles of hidey holes, scratch poles and perches, covered with rope, carpeting, and plush material. All designed to entertain and stimulate your cat.
Another very popular item with cats and kittens, is a cardboard scratcher. These are normally small and affordable, and you can keep one in each room. Please remember to show your kitty how this works and distract them from scratching furniture, by encouraging them to the scratchers.
Puzzles can be filled with treats, and you can even make your own puzzles.
Certain battery-operated toys that move on their own, lasers and wind up toys, can be very entertaining. Always make sure there is a reward/treat at the end of play. These kinds of toys must always be used under supervision.
Most cats react favourably to catnip. Some cats may get aggressive, or simply be unaffected. Kittens may not react at all initially. If you are curious for more information, click here.
Cats may like to be brushed, and this helps prevent hairballs and shedding. Invest in a safe brush recommended by your Vet. Brush your cat regularly, short-hairs require less so while long-hair breeds require more frequent brushing.
Now you are ready.
The most important day – Bringing kitty home
Most organisations include the microchipping in the adoption fee, CAAA does as well. Please check if they do. If not, find out where you can have it done ASAP. Please ensure you register your cat’s chip immediately.
A collar is your choice, as is a name tag. Sometimes cats already get them in the foster home.
Before you leave the foster home or shelter with your cat/kitten, make sure you know when their next vaccinations are due. Keep up to date with parasite control as well. All this information, should be in your cat’s own vet card.
If you have not bought your own cat carrier by now, you are off to a rocky start. The best way to secure a cat in a car, is in a carrier. The soft blanky and toy, will help put them at ease as well.
Please remember that 99% of cats must travel in a carrier. A cat, like your child, should never be loose in the car.
If you do find later, that your cat loves travelling and is quite calm in the car, and you prefer to forgo the carrier, at least invest in a good quality, cat appropriate harness, and always keep a carrier on standby. Cat and Dog harnesses differ in design due to the difference in the anatomy between the canine and feline species.
Never ever travel with your cat unrestrained. If you are in an accident, your cat may not only be injured badly, but also get out of the car, and run away!
I found this interesting article, on a couple who decided to go on a road trip with their cat.
Arriving at my new home
It is important to be calm and to ask the family to do the same. Remind children that the cat/kitten need to settle in, and to take it at the cat’s pace.
Create a safe space that will contain a box, bed, or even the open carrier for your cat to sleep in. Put the food and water close by but not too near each other. In the wild, cats do not eat where they drink water. Make sure there are toys and keep them here for a few days while they meet the human family.
Ensure the litter box is not near their food or water (you wouldn’t eat your dinner in the loo, neither will your cat). Put a little carpet in front of the litter box, to catch stray litter. (Remember the litter-box can never be too big.)
For continuance, it is best to continue with the brand of litter and food used at the foster home.
After a few days, once they start moving around confidently in their space and use all the amenities confidently, you can open the door and let them explore the house. ALWAYS SAFETY FIRST AND WINDOWS AND DOORS CLOSED.
If you leave home, put them back in the safety of their room. Do not leave them unsupervised for at least the first month.
Kittens should not be left unsupervised for lengthy periods of time. They require company and constructive play sessions will ensure a well-adjusted adult. It is better to adopt kittens in pairs. They keep each other busy and learn from each other.
After a month, you can take them outside. If you have invested in a harness it would be a good idea to use it then, but always take them back in. Always supervise these outings. A good habit to develop is to bring them in at night. Offer some soft food as a treat, then close them up inside. Cats are not nocturnal as popularly believed, but crepuscular. They are most active at dusk and dawn. This will quickly become routine. Ignore frustrated cats, you are the boss. Been there done that, no one died of staying inside. Roaming however, no guarantees. By doing this, you ensure your cats safety by not roaming at night and getting into trouble (Cats are inquisitive animals after-all).
Please read our previous Blog for information on keeping your cats safe.
INTRODUCING your other pets:
If there are other pets in the house, it is a good start to let them meet and greet through the safety of the closed door first. Sniffing each other is good. Then move to feeding everyone yummy food, on their side of the door. Always ensure you are in control of the situation. Calm the pets down, if needed. You can also swap out items from the newcomer with a blankie or toys from the current residents. Let them smell each other.
A face-to-face meet must first happen in a controlled and supervised manner. The best way to do this is with a grid or baby gate separating them. Feed yummy food and create a playful, calm atmosphere. Always keep control.
Remember, little differences and personalities may still be an issue later, but remember that you are in control.
Where can I buy all these items?
As mentioned in the introduction, Capetonians Against Animal Abuse offer carriers, toys, scratch posts (cardboard and cat tree varieties), home grown catnip, litter trays and scoops - basically all you will need to get you started. Our prices are extremely competitive. We do this to make sure your cat gets the best start with their new family, and we raise much needed funds for our future rescues.
Ask your foster mom about our offerings.
By now you can see, that we rely on our cats, not merely as an object to pet, but consider them our beloved, loyal companions - members of our family, and we get emotional support from them. Do they not deserve our very best we can give?
Whilst it seems a bit overwhelming, remember you also do not need to spend a lot of money. Stick to the basics and spend money on the important items.
Remember, “Adopt don’t Shop” and Love, Neuter, Adopt.