Adopting a cat into your home is exciting. As you get to know each other, you'll discover so many wonderful ways she can bring you joy—and vice-versa. Here's how to make things comfortable at home when welcoming her to the family:
1. Stock Up on Basics
Set up your essential supplies beforehand: litter box and litter (keep the box far away from her food station), bedding, food and water dishes, healthy cat food, and a sturdy cat carrier. Purchase a collar and identification tag as well so you can easily reunite if she wanders off.
2. Get (Some) Toys
Cats love to play, but don't feel the need to invest in a dozen just-for-cat toys. She'll be just as happy with an empty cardboard box, paper bag (remove any handles so her head doesn't get stuck), or similar empty containers that imitate a den of her own. Furthermore, and contrary to the cliché, don't allow her to play with balls of yarn or string—both of which are too easy to ingest. According the Humane Society of the United States, you should also avoid ribbon, dental floss, pins, needles, rubber bands, paper clips, and plastic bags. A flashlight or pet laser pointer is also an item that can bring fun for you both as you move the light around the room and she tries to catch it.
3. Create a Safe Environment
Your new family member can and will get into anything and everything. For that reason, remove plants that can be poisonous to her (e.g., Lilies and Amaryllis), lock up volatile cleaning supplies and medicines, keep the toilet lid closed, and tie up window cover cords. Try to reroute electrical cords if they take awkward routes or get cord covers for the most exposed lines. Secure loose window screens while you're at it, and put away any other breakables she's sure to be curious about.
4. Prepare Your Youngest
Your family may be on board, but children should know what it means to care for a cat responsibly, including how to respect her physical needs. Taking care of a cat properly is a great bonding experience, and gentle interactions will help your feline friend become comfortable more quickly.
5. Visit the Vet
Soon after adopting a cat, take her to the veterinarian for a wellness exam and any immunizations she might still need. Regular checkups keep cats healthy regardless of their age, background or lifestyle (whether they live indoors or outdoors). Just be sure to bring adoption medical papers if you have them. It's also a good idea to keep your vet's office and after-hours phone numbers in a handy spot in case of emergency.
6. Give Her Space
Once she's home your purring friend will look for a place to hide, but let her stay in the carrier during this initial process. When she finally leaves it, she'll need a room, or at least a corner or closet of her own where she feels just as safe. Break out the cardboard box from task #2, which Petcha suggests offers the same security. Just as important is not coaxing her out of her safe spaces. She'll come out when she's ready to explore her surroundings.
7. Introduce Her to Resident Pets
Introducing your new cat to other pets can be stressful, which is why it should be done in time. Gradually introduce existing animals to newcomers and expect a hiss, swat or even some back-arching—it's normal. Best case scenario? They'll accept each other and go about their business. If they become too aggressive and attack, however, you should not attempt to break up the fight by picking one of them up. Animal Planet finds it best to clap or speak up to distract them.
8. Groom Her
Brushing and combing your feline family member on a regular basis keeps her coat shiny, her skin healthy and reduces unwanted shedding. You can easily work grooming into your daily routine—it's a great way for both of you to relax and unwind after a long day. Claw clipping and good dental hygiene are musts, too. Speak with your vet about the best approach to this kind of maintenance.
9. Spend Quality Time Together
Cats have the reputation of being solitary creatures, but they can get lonely. Try to be home as often as possible those first few weeks to help your cat adjust. If you work long hours out of the house, consider adopting two cats to provide this mutual companionship.
10. Don't Rush It
After bringing home a new cat, keep in mind it will take time for her to feel comfortable in her new environment. It's best not to rush this process. Let her come to you when she's ready—and she will. Cats are great about letting you know what they do and don't like, and she'll tell you if she's ready for pets or to play or to snuggle in for a nap.
Bringing a new cat home is just the beginning of a love-filled and enriched life with each other. Take your time and you'll enjoy getting to know your new best friend.
Christine O'Brien is a writer and long-time cat mom. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @brovelliobrien.