What advice to give to someone who has never owned a cat?

newhomeseekerJuly 13, 2010

I use the word "owned" loosely as cat people know that cats own you and not the other way around. I volunteer for an animal rescue and currently have two foster cats. These were not my cats but rather ones that were dropped off at the shelter. I have had them since April. I brought Sunny home first and a week later brought a solid white cat named Snowflake home to keep Sunny company as I couldn't let her around my resident cats. They get along great (ignored eachother at first but have recently started playing) Sunny is around 3 yrs old, an orange cat and very needy. SHe has had several litters of kittens (they think, as she was dropped off heavily pregnant) and she loves people. She is a lap cat, always wants to cuddle, cries when she thinks she is alone. She purrs like crazy when you pay attention to her. She lays on my back at night when I sleep and she is such a sweetheart, that if you are sitting on the couch she wants nothing more than to sit on your lap with her head on your chest and sleep. I love her dearly but she deserves a good permanent home. I had written a little blurb about her and put it on the animal shelter's web site. Someone saw it and wanted to meet her.

This woman has two kids and has NEVER had a cat before. She previously had dogs. I liked her when I met her because she was more concerned about what the cat ate and where she liked to sleep and things like that and not asking if she'd scratch her furniture. SHe is going to adopt her tomorrow and take her home. I'm making a list of things about the cat's personality and her schedule etc. Anything I should include for someone who has NEVER had a cat as a pet before? She lives in an apartment so Sunny will be an indoor only cat which is good. Any suggestions?

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Aside from the obvious things we cat people know (like don't expect to train it unless it's the cat's idea first).......to be observant. Cats speak volumes from changes in their routines and they don't 'complain'. If you've ever been around horses a good expression for success with a cat is that you give them some rein. If they're happy, everyone's happy.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 5:29PM
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I grew up with a cat (passed away recently from kidney failure complicated by diabetes) at 16 years old, and the previous person's comment about cats NOT complaining even when something is wrong is SO TRUE. We had no idea my senior kitty had something wrong b/c we didn't pay attention to his routine, and by the time we picked up on it it was too late. Very very sad. I have a second cat now, and I am hyper vigilante about what his "routine" is and plan to keep it that way for the duration of his life!

After a cat establishes a routine in the home definitely pay attention to what it "usually" does (i.e. how many times does he/she go to the bathroom), how much does he/she usually drink/eat. What is his demeanor and activity level usually like? Make sure the kitty goes to the vet EVERY year for an exam even if he/she seems fine. Routine tests can pick up on early warning signs of disease, which can also mean less costly vet bills later. Cats do not emote pain so it can be difficult to tell if something is wrong.

As for everything else, be gentle with a cat and let them dictate how much they want to do. They will generally tell you though - cats are opinionated about that!

Hope it ends up working out!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 9:14PM
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First, make sure that you get something in writing from her landlord stating that she is allowed to keep a cat in her apartment, and if the landlord requires declawing, make sure you know and accept those terms, too (though I would hope that you would not adopt her out to someone who would declaw her).

Regardless of whether or not declawing will be a requirement of this adoption, make sure the adopter is fully aware of exactly what a declaw surgery entails and the possible long-term negative side effects of such surgery. Provide information on alternatives to declawing (nail trimming, soft paws, scratching posts/pads, etc.).

Explain that some cats are easily overstimulated either by excessive petting or by play and may bite or show other aggressive behaviors as a result. Instruct adopters to simply leave the cat alone if she exhibits any of these behaviors until she relaxes again.

Explain that cats are very sensitive and reactive creatures who are easily stressed by changes in their daily routines or environments including both their own schedules and the schedules of the humans with whom they live, changes in living quarters (including redecorating or home repairs), additions or subtractions to household residents (human and animal), excessive noise, etc. Stress-related behaviors may include hiding, aggression or avoidance, inappropriate elimination and litterbox avoidance, and/or physical illness.

Signs of possible physical illness or injury include hiding, aggression or avoidance, pain responses, excessive vocalization, inappropriate elimination and litterbox avoidance, bloody urine or stool, excessive thirst, excessive hunger, lack of appetite, fever, lethargy, and/or persistent vomiting.

Make sure the adopter understands that cats do not have the same desire to please that dogs have. They are usually not as responsive to commands and not as forgiving of discipline. Cats require tolerant caretakers who are appreciative of their independent natures and free spirited behaviors.

Most importantly, cats are NOT dogs and must not be held to a canine standard of behavior or response.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 12:24AM
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They don't like change and thrive on routine.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 1:59AM
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One of my friends said she wished someone had explained to her that when a cat "wags its tail", that does *not* mean it's happy.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 10:45AM
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Feed you cat a hi quality canned food diet (ei:Wellness, Pet Guard)! Only give them dry food as a snack! What ever more you spend on the food and the nominal time it takes to feed Puss instead of letting him free-feed will be made up in vet bills and trips to the vet!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 11:14AM
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Litter box needs to be cleaned daily or the cat might take to using a clean place outside the litter box to do his business.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 9:34PM
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Ditto on the canned food. I adopted a small Burmese cat who was very thin and had a dry, slightly scraggily coat. After two years of good canned food - Avoderm, Wellness, EVO - her weight is perfect, her coat dark, thick and glossy. If she had any more energy I would need to hire a personal trainer for her. Better to spend the money on good food and have a healthy, happy cat for many years than to spend the money later on a sick, unhappy cat.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 1:12PM
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Stress the benefits of wet food -- too many people avoid it because of the expense and smell.

An acquaintance of mine (never owned a cat before) just adopted two adorable kittens and had them declawed so they wouldn't "claw my face while I sleep."

If you are going to encourage her not to declaw you had better help her learn to trim nails and advise her to get plenty of scratching surfaces for the cat. You wouldn't want the cat coming back because it scratched the couch since it had no appropriate place to scratch.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 10:41AM
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One of my cats screams & struggles & goes rigid when I try to trim her nails, so I wait until she's asleep.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 1:14PM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

sylviatexas, my cat was like that too, a real battle. But I found a great muzzle/blind that I put on him and I get his nails done in just a minute or two. It fits loose enough for him to breathe easily, but since he can't see what's going on, he holds really still. No more battles.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 3:16PM
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sylvia, the tail wagging thing cracked me up -- that is sooooo true.

I grew up with cats since I was a baby. I only have dogs right now cuz of Ginger. Ginger, my dog, likes cats --- likely with a little salt n pepper. So I can't put a cat through that but miss them.

I totally remember that the tail wag meant an attack -- to something if not me -- was forthcoming.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 2:46AM
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Dogs are pack animals and will usually accept a submissive position in the pack (or family). Cats are not, and therefore act and react in completely different ways.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 8:24AM
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You can also tell your friend that it is much more likely that your cat will end up training you than the other way around. Supress the urge to respond immediately to your cat's vocalizations with food or treats (unless you want a constantly yeowling cat).

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 9:43AM
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