The cage was small, but the people were nice and Tiger felt safe. He was fed, petted and regularly groomed. Still, it wasn’t home. Tiger had been ‘home’, and still had vague memories of the woman who had cared for him and the other cat ‘s who lived with her.
Then he had been taken to this place, and had been here so long he had almost forgotten ‘home‘, and the woman.
There was uneasiness here, though, and Tiger felt it. Something was about to happen. Something bad.
Then two humans came in. He was put in a cage with them. He jumped up in the woman’s lap. He was put in a dark place that bumped and jostled him. He heard strange, scary noises. He howled, and a male voice answered with noises he couldn’t understand.
Then there was light. And TERROR!
A small hand reached for him and tried to grab him. There were people he didn’t know; they all approached him. There was another cat that arched and spat.
Then, horror of horrors…
There was a dog!
Tiger fled. He fled down a long corridor and bolted through the first open door he found. He hid in the darkest place he could find…among soft and hard things he didn’t recognized. He heard voices. He heard the dog bark, and he shuddered. He heard the child’s high pitched voice, and a woman’s voice…which were easier to bear.
He hunkered down and remained as invisible and silent as he could.
Adoption in Haste
The staff of animal shelters greet people looking for new pets with both joy and misgiving. People walk between the cages, looking over each cat, and the staff hope they will select a cat that has been there for a long time.
But they know what the people are looking for; they are looking for kittens, not adult cats.
If there are no kittens, the customers will sometimes reluctantly choose an adult cat as a “consolation prize”, pay the adoption fees and cart him or her off…
Only to return the cat two or three days later.
“I’m sorry, but this cat just didn’t work out. We couldn’t fit it into the family.”
“This cat is just too wild. We need something tamer, something that will fit in.”
“What happened?” The staff member asks.
“The cat bolted and hid. It took us three days to find it, and when we finally did, we had to chase it all over the house before we caught it. We need something tamer; something that will fit in better.”
So go the sad tales of the returnees… but wait, it can be worse for cats adopted in other ways.
“The landlord won’t let me keep her, could you please take her in?”
People who adopt strays off the street, or a friend’s cat, many times don’t realize the full extent of the things they need to do for their new cat:
- Prepare their house to receive their cat
- Take care of their cat’s medical needs
- Make sure their other cats have protection from disease
- Take care of their cat’s physical needs
- Properly introduce their cat to their live-in companions, children and other pets
And perhaps most importantly:
- Prepare themselves for a good relationship with their new cat
People who have never owned cats before don’t really realize what a cat is: A highly intelligent, independent animal which needs love and affection daily – but is not a dog.
Cats will bond with people, just as dogs do, but they don’t always bond with the person who has adopted them. They will choose whom they like, much to the consternation of the person who “picked them up” hoping to have acquired a new friend.
This is one very good reason why the first 24 hours is so important. It is in during that period that your cat will decide whom she wants to bond with.
Unless you know what you are doing, it might not be with you.
A cat needs time spent with her. One of the big mistakes busy people make is to fail to realize that they have busy schedules that don’t allow them to spend enough time with their newly adopted cat.
This could ultimately result in your cat running off. If you have no time to spend with your cat, she will not choose your house as “her den”. She will go out searching for another one, and you could be soon reporting a “lost cat”.
Or, to your consternation, you will find that the cat you thought would be a loving companion has bonded with another member of your household…somebody who did have the time to spend.
A lot of people don’t count the cost of pet ownership. In their exuberance to adopt a cat, they forget that they don’t have the budget to keep her. Belatedly, they discover they don’t have the cash on hand to buy their new feline’s basic necessities or give her the medical attention she is most certainly going to need.
Many people shun pet medical insurance, not realizing that the same things that happen to people happen to cats, and can cost large sums of money to cure. This can result in losing their beloved pet because the price to save her is “just too high”.
Some people who adopt strays or cats owned by friends don’t realize the full extent of the medical attention their new cat needs:
- A complete physical examination
- A complete vaccination regimen
- Spaying or neutering
In particular, that cute kitten you brought home from a friend’s litter will need a long series of vaccinations (along with boosters) that will extend over a period of a couple of years. You can’t do it all in one day.
To fail in this will almost assuredly mean tragedy down the line. I know. I failed to give one of my kittens its vaccinations. I made it an outdoor cat, and it died of feline leukemia. The story definitely had a very sad ending…
Your cat’s physical needs
When your cat climbs out of the carrier box for the first time, will you be equipped with the essentials?
Or, will you discover that you need these things later…and bring them in one at a time, after your cat has defecated in the corner, started scratching the furniture, or begun some other unauthorized behavior you are not prepared for? (And, be advised, a cat is a very obsessed animal…once she starts doing something, it is very hard to change it).
Making sure you have what you need to receive your new cat is vital…and you must have the basics on hand before you bring her home.
So, when your cat first climbs out of her carrier, is she going to be set upon by every member of your household all at once? And when she does, will she flee in terror, trying to find the safest and darkest corner she can find?
Or will you introduce her gradually… to try to reduce the trauma as much as possible so she can adapt to and feel at home in her new situation?
Your technique for doing that can be a deciding factor in whether or not your cat adapts to your home immediately, by the next day or the next month, or flees the house altogether.
The days to follow
Do you know how to take care of your new cat in the days to come, assuming you handled your first introductions well? Do you know about allergies, special foods, bathing, grooming, hair balls, removing urine, training and teaching without frightening and alienating her, and a multitude of other situations cat owners wrestle with on a daily basis? Do you know the hazards involved in letting her become an outdoor cat?
As you’ve often heard, ‘preparation is the key to success’, and nowhere does that apply more appropriately than to cat ownership. If you are prepared, your adoption will probably go very smoothly.
I say probably because every cat is different. Even with the best preparation by a knowledgeable owner, a cat may still want to hide for awhile. And if you discover that’s the case…
You need to know what to do.
So, that’s why I wrote my book, “Your New Cat’s First 24 Hours”, http://www.yourcatsecrets.com, to give you everything you need to know and have, not only to get ready for your new cat and introduce her to your household, but to understand and care for her in the days to follow.
I’ve got to say it again: preparation…and knowledge… is the key. When you decide to adopt, I hope you won’t do it in haste.
I hope you will do it knowledgeably and with understanding.