How to prepare your home for a new cat

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It's true that cats are pretty self-sufficient, but they do need some basic accessories to feel right at home. Dr. Katherine Miller of the ASPCA explains what you need to do to prepare your home for a new cat.

How to prepare your home for a new cat Bringing home a new cat? Here are some simple steps to prepare your home for its new feline family member.
  1. Have all your supplies ready before you bring the cat home: food, litter, litter box, etc.
  2. Introduce your cat into your home slowly. Start with a contained, isolated area that includes the litter box.
  3. After a few weeks, when your cat has become comfortable, you can allow the cat more freedom.
  4. To move the litter box to another location, take it slow, moving it a few inches each day and eventually choosing a location against a wall with some privacy.
  5. If your older cat isn’t using its box, consider trying a different litter. Cats seem to prefer finer grain litter.
  6. Give your new cat a scratching post in a prominent location. Sprinkle it with catnip to encourage use. All cats scratch as a way of leaving their scent.
  7. Protect furniture by placing foil or wire racks on top of the surfaces you do not want cats to climb on.
  8. It is a misperception that cats cannot be trained. Reward your cat’s good behavior and it will be repeated.
  9. Try to meet your cat’s exercise and entertainment needs indoors—unsupervised play outdoors can be dangerous for a cat.
Transcript RON:  I’m Ron Corning for howdini.com and we’re here to show you exactly how to roll out the welcome mat for your new cat, a new member of your family. Dr. Katherine Miller is here she is an Animal Behaviorist for the ASPCA. Good to have you here as always. So the litter box, housebreaking a cat is something you need to be very mindful of, what is the very first step.

KATHEIRNE:  Well the very first step when you bring your cat home is to keep him confined on one room. Its going to be his safe room, he’s going to feel a little overwhelmed, its not going to know where the litter box is, and you want to keep it as air free as possible. Make sure it sees the litter box at all times. One room, bed, food and water, and the litter box. That way the cat can find the box and know where to go.

RON:  Now eventually over time can you move that litter box, and can they follow?

KATHERINE:  Yes, but you want to take it as a slow transition. So as your cat becomes more comfortable in your home over the course of a week maybe two weeks, it it’s a nervous cat, your going to give it gradually more access to the rest of the house. So that again it doesn’t feel overwhelmed and doesn’t ever feel tat its lost. And as you give the cat more access to the house you can also start to gradually move that litter box into the area that you want to keep it in permanently. Just a few inches a day, it may be a little bit of an inconvenience at first, but it’s a lot less inconvenient then having a cat that doesn’t use its litter box.

RON:  In terms of when you own an older cat, is it different if you bring home a cat that’s already been litter box trained versus a kitten?

KATHERINE:  It can be a bit different if you bring in an older cat home because they might already have a preference to a certain type of cat litter. So if your cat that you just brought home isn’t using the box try a different kind of cat litter. Cats tend to prefer very fine litter.

RON:  Scratching and clawing is also an issue with any cat, what specifically do people need to keep in mind about that?

KATHERINE:  Well cats need to scratch, its part of their natural behavior, it feel’s good, it helps stretch their muscles; it also leaves an important message behind. It leaves an odor behind that only cats can smell, it’s a scent mark, it’s also a visual mark. So its very important to cats to express that behavior, but you want to encourage it on a scratching post or a pad and not on your drapes and carpet. So the thing to do is to choose the post, maybe even a couple different types of post because some cats prefer to claw up here, and some on a flat surface. So give him a couple of options, put it in a prominent spot. If it already stared scratching in one spot take that as a clue it likes that area. Leave the scratching post there. Encourage the cat to use the post by sprinkling some catnip on it. Playing with a dangly type toy around it when the cat pounces on the toy, its claws will start to get stuck on the scratching post, and it will realize I like scratching this it feels good.

RON:  When it comes for examples to making sure a cat doesn’t jump on the furniture what steps can you take, there are steps you can take correct?

KATHERINE:  Cats will repeat behaviors that are rewarded, so if they go up on the counter top and got a little snack up there, you left food out your dinner plates after dinner, they’re going to be more likely to jump up there again and try to hit the jackpot. Take that into consideration and keep a clean tabletop. And furniture that you really want to protect you can put some things on it that cats don’t like to walk on. Aluminum foil, just big strips of aluminum foil, cats don’t like that crinkly feel. Or simple wire cooling racks, the kind you use to cool cookies after you’ve baked them. Cats don’t want to walk on that wire. So you can protect that antique sofa when your not home by putting those things on the chair and the seat cushions and they won’t want to jump up there.

RON:  Well Dr. Katherine Miller thank you, and I’m Ron Corning for howdini.com
meet theexpert
  • Dr. Katherine Miller

    Dr. Katherine Miller Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Katherine Miller is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer with the ASPCA’s ® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) National Programs Office. more about this expert »

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