Cats can bring enormous joy into our lives. If you are considering adopting a cat or have recently adopted one, this page has been developed to help answer some common questions about helping your new cat settle into your home.
If you have any questions or concerns after adoption, please contact the shelter or foster location directly or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (844) 835-4798 to speak to a member of our friendly team who will be happy to assist
Say No to Declawing
Few issues divide the opinions of cat owners more than declawing. Most people know a family member, friend or co-worker who has declawed their cat to save their living room sofa from Being damaged. Declawing Is a surgical amputation that has no therapeutic benefit to an animal justifiable on the grounds of preventing damage to inanimate material possessions? The Nova Scotia SPCA, and animal welfare organizations around the world, say NO.
Declawing is an extreme approach to dealing with a common feline behaviour. In several countries, declawing of cats is banned under animal cruelty laws.
When a cat is declawed, it is not simply their claws that are removed, but the entire first joint of their toes to which the claws are attached, including bones and soft tissue. This is similar to amputating the first joint of a human’s fingers and toes. However, the result is even worse for a cat because they rely on all ten tips of their toes for balance when walking. The pain and discomfort felt by declawed cats following surgery, and
possibly lasting for the rest of their lives, may bring about undesirable behavioural changes. A cat may stop using their litter box because it is uncomfortable or painful to dig. A once friendly cat may start biting during play or interaction because they are unable to comfortably swipe or use their claws. Declawing cats also limits their ability to defend themselves during confrontations.
There are many alternatives to declawing that will save your cat from unnecessary, life-altering, painful surgery.
Provide your cat with scratching posts or scratching boxes as a safe way for them to find relief. A good scratching post is sturdy, with a heavily weighted bottom, and tall enough that an adult cat
can reach up to scratch. Scratch boxes rest horizontally on the floor and are often made of corrugated cardboard. Encourage your cat to use a scratch post or box by playing with them around it or using catnip to attract them to it. Use positive reinforcement, such as praise and treats, when your cat uses the scratch
post or box. Do not drag your cat’s paws across the post or box to teach her how to use it as this may discourage them.
If your cat still prefers your sofa over the scratch post or box you have provided, you can deter them from scratching by placing tinfoil or doublesided tape over the spots they scratch. Most pet supply stores carry products that help deter cats from furniture, such as sprays that give off a smell cats do not like.
Another option is Soft Claws nail caps, which are made of non-toxic rubber and slide over your cat’s claws, held in place by adhesive. The nail caps create a blunt end for your cat’s claws. Soft Claws will stay in place for 4-6 weeks. They are available at pet supply stores, veterinary offices and online at www.softclaws.com.
Regular nail clipping should also become part of your routine with your cat. A cat’s claws should be trimmed every couple of weeks using special clippers that are available at pet supply stores and veterinary offices. Read the instructions and be careful not to trim past what is called the “quick,” the solid-coloured part of the claw containing blood vessels and nerve endings. It may take some time for your new kitten or adult cat to get used to you trimming their nails, so be patient and reward them for cooperation and good behaviour.
Your New Cat Supplies Checklist
Your new cat or kitten will need some basic supplies to make life in their new home more comfortable.
- Cat carrier
- Food and water dishes
- Brush or comb
- Litter box and scoop
- Scratching post
- Toys – e.g. fish pole toy, mouse, ball
- Collar and ID tag
- Bed with washable cover
It is important to introduce your cat or kitten to their new home slowly. Here’s some essential advice.
Set up one room
- Keep your cat in one room for 2-3 days.
- A tiled bathroom or laundry is ideal
- Ensure the room is secure and well ventilated
- Make the room ‘cat comfy’
- Set-up the room with water, food, toys, litter tray and scratching post
- Provide a bed or comfy blanket to snuggle in and help your cat settle
- Put the litter tray in a private area away from food and bedding
Bring your new cat into your home in a carrier and take them directly to the prepared room. Inside the room with the door closed, open the door of the carrier and let your new cat out. Don’t force them—they will come out when ready. Remember, this has been a stressful day! Spend some time with your new cat and reassure them with a soft voice and a few friendly pats or scratches. Go ahead and leave your new cat on their own for a little while to explore their new space and get comfortable.
- Remove dangerous wires, curtain cords, or items which can be chewed or get tangled in
- Remove breakable or scratchable items
- Keep toilet lid closed
- Ask family members to try to keep quiet to avoid scaring your cat
- Don’t worry if your cat hides for a few days. This is quite normal behaviour
- Explore the house slowly
- After 2-3 days in one room slowly introduce your cat to the rest of the house
- Do this room by room to avoid overwhelming them
Keep them inside
- Keep your cat or kitten inside so they don’t get lost or run away
- Adult cats – minimum 2-3 weeks
- Kittens – 6 weeks and 10 days after all vaccinations
- Keep all doors and windows closed
Meeting the family
- Don’t force too much attention on the cat
- Avoid introducing the whole family at once
- Let the cat explore their new room and only meet other family members gradually
- It’s ok to offer a gentle pat. Try not to overwhelm the cat with everyone offering attention and cuddling the cat
Cats & Kids
Closely supervise children
Bringing a new cat or kitten into a home with children can be the beginning of wonderful friendship. However, it is important that kids understand how to interact with cats and kittens to avoid injury or discomfort for the cat and the child, and to help build a lasting, healthy relationship. Set the following ground rules for kids before they meet your new cat:
- Do not squeeze a cat, pick them up by their neck, or pull their tail.
- Do not chase or lunge at a cat. Cats are sensitive to loud noses and sudden movements, and will feel threatened if they are chased or lunged at.
- Do not disturb a cat while they are eating
Teaching children how to introduce themselves to a cat and how to read their behaviour can help them learn respect for animals and to appreciate that cats are sensitive, complex creatures.
The following tips will help both kids and adults get to know a new cat:
- Approach a new cat slowly and quietly. Cats sometimes feel threatened or nervous when someone new approaches them.
- Talk to the cat in quiet, gentle voices.
- Sit down and wait for the cat to come to you.
- Hold out your hand slowly for the cat to smell.
- See if the cat will let you scratch them gently under the chin or on the top of the head.
- Do not pet the cat’s belly because this is considered a threatening action by many cats.
Even a friendly cat will scratch or nip when anxious. Learn how recognize when a cat is irritated—most cats give “signals” that they are irritated, such as a hiss or long, drawn out meow, flattened ears, wide open eyes, or a twitching tail. Also watch out if a cat refuses to make eye contact, tightens or flattens their body, walks away or refuses to sniff your hand. If you notice any of these signals, stop and give the cat some space.
Another Cat in the Home?
Keep all other pets away from your new cat initially.
The majority of cats can learn to get along with other cats, but the introduction period must be handled carefully to increase the chances of success. It is hard to undo a bad start, so consider this short upfront effort a long term investment in the happiness of all the cats and people living in your household. The introduction of your new cat to your existing cat(s) can be handled in phases, as described below. Depending on the cats, it can take from a week to a month or longer to successfully work through all the phases. Give them time, and don’t move on to the next phase until you believe that they are completely comfortable with their current situation.
It is very important to have a prepared room that the new cat can have all to himself, separate from any existing pets. Enter and exit the room carefully as your existing pets will quite likely be waiting outside the door to see what is going on. It’s too early for introductions yet, so make your escape calmly but quickly. Now it’s time to reassure your old cat(s) with some attention. Throughout this phase (and all phases), make sure both the new cat and your existing cat(s) get to spend plenty of time with you or a family member.
Create a positive association
This phase involves feeding each cat something that they enjoy, such as treats or soft food, next to the closed door, so that the new cat and existing cat are doing something they love (eating) while smelling and sensing each other.
This phase has two parts.
(1) Provide your old cat(s) with a blanket that the new cat has been lying on, and allow them to sniff and investigate it. Similarly, place something in the new cat’s room that would smell like your old pets. Give them all time to adjust to the smells. If their reactions are not aggressive (e.g. excessive hissing or growling), move on to step 2. Otherwise, move back a step or two and give them more time.
(2) Confine the existing cat(s) to a single room in the house. Let the new cat out of its room and allow them to investigate the house and its smells. Without the cats coming into contact with each other or seeing each other, place the old cat(s) in the new cat’s room and let them explore. After a short time (half and hour or so) put everyone back where they belong.
For this phase, use two door wedges (one on either side of the door) to hold the door open between the cats just enough that they can see each other and stick their paws through to touch each other, but not enough for any heads or bodies to get through. Alternatively, if you own a baby gate that can easily be pressure-mounted in the doorway, place the baby gate between the cats, but be careful no
one feels brave enough to jump over! Give them some time to get used to the sight and touch of each other, praise their good behaviour, and then close the door again.
Get a little closer
Be patient, we’re almost there! In this phase, allow your cats to actually have contact with each other. If you live in a big house, it would be wise to close some of the bedroom/bathroom doors in order to limit their roaming space, because you need to stick with them wherever they go. Have a towel in your hand, just in case someone decides to get aggressive. A little hissing, spitting or light tapping is fine, but when a brawl breaks out, you need to take control. Scoop up your old cat if you are comfortable that they won’t turn on you, but otherwise lightly throw the towel over the aggressive cat, make your way in to break up the fight, and separate the cats once again. In this case, the cats need more time and you need to go back a step. On the other hand, if they are able to calmly exist in the same room for a while (20 minutes, perhaps), praise them all and then separate them again. Continue with these introductions throughout the next few days (or longer), for increasing lengths of time. Use positive reinforcement such as play time and treats while they are together to convince them that their co-existence is to the benefit of all.
The final integration
Eventually, you will feel comfortable enough to allow the cats to be together when you are in the house, without the need for your undivided attention. However, when you are not around for a quick rescue, such as when you leave the house or when you are sleeping, continue to separate them. In time, you will become confident in their new found relationship, whether it be new best friends, or simply indifference, and you will be able to leave them together at all times. To prevent potential litter box issues, continue to provide a litter box in the new cat’s initial room. If you want to move it elsewhere, do this inches at a time until it reaches its final destination. It is recommended that there is one litter box per cat in your home, and that they are cleaned daily.
Happily ever after
Great job, you’re done. Thank you for offering your home to a new cat, and for taking the time to start things off right. Now all you need to do is provide all of your pets with a lifetime of love and happiness!
If you are having any difficulties please contact us and we’d be happy to provide some further advice and provide some great reference material.
Cats & Dogs
Any current dogs in your family should be kept on-leash while meeting your new cat. Make sure you are there to supervise all their interactions as they get to know each other. You want to prevent a chase scenario, where the cat becomes scared, takes off and your dog chases. Set up gates, barrier systems or room doors so that your new cat can easily get to a safe spot that your dog cannot access.
Curiosity is normal and can be a good sign of things to come. However, a dog that lunges at a cat is a warning that the dog should not be allowed off-leash or left alone with the cat unsupervised. If frightened by one another, most often both cats and dogs will choose the flight option (running away) instead of the fight option. It is important that both cat and dog have room to maneuver without feeling confined, and that there is a clear escape route to your cat’s designated safe area.
Food & Water
Your cat needs constant access to clean water. Many cats may prefer running water, there are many types of water fountains you can find that encourage them to drink.
Feed your cat premium dry food
Cats need a premium food for energy, health and happiness. SPCA recommends a premium quality dry biscuit, occasionally giving soft food as a treat. Biscuits clean the cat’s teeth and have higher nutrients than soft foods.
Do not give your cat milk, most are lactose intolerant and will get diarrhea.
Foods to avoid
- Dog food is not suitable for cats
- Avoid human food – this usually has salt, spices or additives which can be harmful or fattening
- Bones and raw fish – Bones can splinter and get stuck in their throat or gut. Only ever provide cooked fish and remove all bones
- Tuna – cats cannot survive on Tuna alone
- Choose food for the age of your cat: Kittens need a special high energy kitten food for bone growth and a healthy immune system. After 12 months, change to an adult cat food. Cats over 7 years old need a senior cat diet with reduced calories, lower proteins and elements to support bone structure.
Introducing a new food
Introduce any new food gradually over one or two weeks to avoid stomach upsets, mix in new biscuits with the old, slowly changing the proportions.
How Much to Feed Your Cat
Pet food packaging usually includes a guide for feeding your cat based on their weight and age. The amount to feed a cat will vary depending on whether you are feeding dry and/or wet food. Most wet food has a lower caloric content than dry food. Wet food also has higher moisture content, which will help cats if they are having urinary problems. Dry food is good for cleaning teeth. Wet food is preferable for cats who have decaying teeth or do not drink enough water.
Take your cat’s weight into consideration when deciding whether they should be given treats. Low caloric treats can be found at your local veterinary clinic. Your veterinarian can also tell you whether or not your cat should be having treats based on their current weight. They may even suggest a low caloric diet for your cat if they are overweight.
Indoor vs Outdoor Cats
When you adopt a cat, you commit to providing a good home to the cat by keeping them healthy and safe. The only way you can truly do this is by keeping your cat indoors. Cats are domesticated animals that rely on their human caregivers to love and protect them. The benefits of keeping cats indoors are many; the disadvantages are none.
Gone are the days when letting cats roam freely outside was considered natural and normal.
The statistics speak for themselves: Indoor cats live an average of 12.5 years. Cats that roam free outside live an average of only 2-5 years, which reflects the precarious environment that outdoor cats face.
Cats that are allowed outside are at risk of:
- Getting lost and never being found, or becoming one of the tens of thousands of cats who end up in animal shelters every year.
- Being struck by a vehicle and left to suffer from injuries or die by the side of the road.
- Being attacked by unfriendly dogs, wildlife, or other cats defending their territory.
- Facing an angry property owner who does not appreciate cats in their yard or garden.
- Contracting diseases such as feline leukemia or immunodeficiency viruses, or diseases and illnesses that they can pass on to humans, such as rabies or toxoplasmosis.
- Picking up fleas, ticks or other parasites.
- Becoming sick from eating garbage, poisons left out by others, rodents, birds or toxic plants.
- Exposure to the harsh Canadian weather, with risk of frostbite in the winter and dehydration in the summer.
- Injury or death from crawling under or inside a vehicle.
Roaming cats who are not spayed or neutered also contribute to cat overpopulation.
To help ensure your indoor cat lives a happy life, not just a long one, improve their indoor environment by:
- Providing scratching posts or boxes so they can exercise their claws without damaging your furniture. Remember to also trim your cat’s claws regularly.
- Giving them a place to perch up high, such as a sofa by a window, a window ledge, a shelf, or a cat tree.
- Turning your windows into a cat movie theatre by setting up a bird feeder nearby.
- Letting your cat try out different toys until you find the type they like best. Engaging your cat in play will help them get exercise while being entertained.
- Adding a second cat to your household for companionship, especially if you are gone from the home for long hours.
- Cleaning your cat’s litter box daily and providing one litter box per cat.
- Bringing the outdoors in by growing some cat grass in a pot for your cat to eat once the grass is grown.
- If you have a screened in porch or enclosed balcony, letting your cat spend some time there to get some fresh air. Alternately, consider building or purchasing an outdoor access enclosure for your cat.
- Training your cat to use a leash and harness. This is another way to let your cat get a taste of the outdoors while keeping them safe. Leash and harness training a cat takes a great deal of patience, but can be a rewarding experience for both cat and owner.
If your cat has become used to being allowed outdoors, you can help them become an indoor cat by following the suggestions above for creating a fun indoor environment. The easiest time to begin keeping an outdoor cat indoors is in the late fall, when the outside world is a bit less exciting to a cat. Once you have made the decision to keep your cat inside, stick to it, and be prepared to endure their persistent meowed objections. Letting them out for even a short time will only make the transition more difficult. Keep in mind that it is you who knows what is best for your cat, not the cat. By deciding to keep your cat indoors, you are doing what is in their best interest and giving them a healthier, longer life, and more opportunities to spend time with you.
Discovering that you or someone else in your household may be allergic to cats after bringing your new feline friend home can be a heartbreaking experience. The American SPCA states that 15-20% of the population is allergic to animals. While many physicians will recommend giving up your cat once allergies present themselves, this drastic step is not always necessary. By understanding your options, you might be able to keep your cat and be allergy free, or at least reduce the severity of symptoms. If you suspect an allergy in the household, consider the following:
- Find an allergy specialist who can help pinpoint the cause of the allergies and recommend treatment options such as medication or immunotherapy.
- Eliminate or reduce other sources of allergies that may be contributing to symptoms, such as dust and allergy-collecting carpets and fabrics.
- Use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filters in vacuum and air purifiers to prevent the spread of allergens.
- Clean your cat’s litterbox frequently and use a low-dust, perfume-free litter.
- Wash your cat’s bedding often.
- Ask your veterinarian about products that can used on cats to prevent dander build-up.
- Brush or comb your cat frequently.
- Create an “allergy-free” room, such as your bedroom, that your cat is not allowed to enter.
- Wash your hands after handling your cat and, if possible, have someone else clean the litterbox and brush the cat.
Cats cannot be physically forced or manipulated to do what you want. Cats are not pack animals and don’t respond to punishment. Never smack or swat a cat, shake it or rub its nose in its urine or faeces if it toilets inappropriately. This is cruel, and will only teach it to avoid doing this around you. It will make it stressed and scared of you, which will make the problem worse.
Teach Your Cat Good Behaviour
Regularly talking to your cat helps to establish a bond and good behaviour. Teach your cat to do the right thing and reward the cat for good behaviour. E.g. For a scratching post, drag a string up the side for the kitten to follow.Reward and praise profusely.
Hiding and Shyness
Hiding is a normal occurrence for many cats in their new homes. Some cats may spend a few days or even months under beds or in closets. If your cat is very shy you may want to keep them confined to their own room, limiting their access to the entire house, unless you can provide supervision and ensure they can access their litter box, food and water. Offer your cat extra tasty bits of food and talk to them in a gentle voice when they do start to explore. Do not force your new cat out from a hiding spot as it will only make their fears worse and their adjustment harder.
Litter Box Training
For the most part, cats are easy to litter box train. Kittens typically learn this from watching their mothers when they are between 5-8 weeks old, and rarely is the behaviour forgotten. If your cat is having accidents outside of the litter box, they should be examined by a veterinarian. Most litter box issues are due to medical problems such as urinary tract infections, a painful health risk for your cat. If your veterinarian gives your cat a clean bill of health, you should explore the following factors that may be influencing your cat’s behaviour:
- Location: Privacy is important. Avoid placing the litter box in high traffic areas. It should be out of the way, yet accessible for daily cleanings.
- Litter type: Most cats prefer basic gravel litter. There are a variety of cat litters on the market that vary in price and performance. Veterinarians typically do not recommend clumping kitty litters due to possible blockages in the intestines and breathing distress from cats inhaling or licking the litter off their paws when bathing. If your cat has recently had surgery, your veterinarian may recommend a paper based litter to prevent wounds from becoming infected.
- Litter boxes: Litter boxes can be covered or open, and cats may feel more comfortable in one or the other. Accidents that are found just outside of an open litter box are usually easily fixed by changing to a litter box with a cover, or providing a litter pan with a lower height for easier entries and exits.
- Keep it clean: Your cat’s litter box should be given a quick scoop on a daily basis to remove any waste. Cats are very tidy animals, and many will not use a dirty litter box.
- Multiple cats, multiple boxes: Some cats will share a litter box while others will not. If the number of cats in your household is greater than the number of litter boxes, multiple daily cleanings will help ensure success and reduce odours.
- Changes: Any change to location, litter type or the box itself may cause an issue for your cat. Changes should be made slowly and one at a time to easily identify any problems.
While some cats are more intense at scratching than others, all cats instinctively need to scratch. Your new cat should be provided with a designated spot and item to scratch. The most popular solutions for scratching are scratch boxes, scratch posts and scratch hangers. More elaborate “kitty trees” or “kitty condos” can be constructed or purchased as well.
It’s easy to get a cat or kitten to use a scratch post. Drag a piece of string to the scratch post and up the side. They will start playing with the string and start using the post. Or, wait until your cat is close to the post and scratch with your nails. The sound will encourage your cat.
In order to scratch, cats look for an easily visible, soft surface, deep enough for their claws to sink into, but soft enough that it shreds or seems to shred. Most cats like to scratch items that have a carpeted or rope surface, or are made with corrugated cardboard or wood.
Scratching products available from pet supply stores range from small carpet hangers that can be hung on a doorknob for cats who enjoy vertical scratching to flat cardboard floor boxes that most cats find hard to resist.
Biting and scratching
Cats rarely bite or get rough out of anger; it’s usually out of fear. You need to eliminate the cause of the fear. Be patient, and don’t force your cat into cuddles. Contact an animal behaviourist if the problem persists.
Kittens often bite for sheer playfulness. Never use your hands for playing. If your kitten gets rough, correct this the way its mother would. Utter a high pitched yelp, this will make the kitten freeze, you can then pull your hand away and immediately stop playing.
Don’t resume play for at least 3 minutes. Sometimes cats gives warning signs before play biting such as a twitch of the tail, look in their eye or position of the head. Always try to end contact before the play bite.
Other undesirable behaviour
Other behaviour such as chewing and digging up pot plants, or pushing objects off tables is usually caused by boredom. It is common in indoor cats that don’t get a lot of stimulation or exercise, and is easier to prevent than to correct.
You can help by playing with your cat at least twice a day, using different toys to get it running, leaping and pouncing to the point of exhaustion. Also leave some independent toys (such as table tennis balls) out for the cat to amuse itself during the day. Get two kittens instead of one, to keep each other company and provide play opportunities.
Spraying is usually done by non-neutered cats but sometimes neutered also spray to mark territory. The cat will direct a small amount of urine onto objects such as trees or walls. A cat should have no need to spray indoors as the house is the cat’s accepted den. Spraying might happen if the cat feels insecure or threatened. E.g arrival of a new pet, new human or in a multi-cat household. Sometimes an increased challenge from a cat outdoors can start the problem. Cats may spray door mats if your shoes have brought in the scent of a strange cat. If spraying occurs, clean, eliminate causes and retrain your cat. If the cat sprays due to an outside threat, such as the neighbour’s cat, board up cat flaps to reassure the cat that the house is safe.
A repeat or problematic sprayer can be confined to one room, preferably a warm room where it can sleep next to a source of heat such as a radiator. The cat will probably feel secure in this room and so will not spray. If spraying ceases, the cat can be allowed into other rooms gradually, under supervision.
The Nova Scotia SPCA highly recommends buying pet insurance to cover the costs of unexpected illnesses or pet emergencies. Vet care can be expensive so we have partnered with Pet Secure to offer quality and cost effective insurance plans to suit your needs and budget. Pet Secure supports the animals at Nova Scotia SPCA.
Vaccinations against disease are critical throughout your cat’s life. There are a variety of additional vaccines available and most vaccines require boosters each year. Consult your veternarian to discuss the frequency and type of vaccines your cat will require.
Flea and worm prevention and treatment are essential. Fleas become worse in warm weather and if left untreated can spread to your home. Prevention is better than cure, consult with your veterinarian for the safest and most effective preventative treatment options.
How do I tell if my cat has fleas?
Your cat may be itching and scratching a lot or grooming excessively
You may see fleas or flea dirt in the cat’s coat.
How do I get rid of fleas?
Contact your veternarian about the most effective and safest treatment. Many over the counter treatments available at retail outlets are not recommended as there are possible negative side effects.
There are a variety of types of worms and treatments. Your veterinarian can tell you the treatment you will require for the specific type of worms. Cats can get intestinal worms from drinking infected water, or eating something they shouldn’t, or from being in contact fleas. Worms live in the cats gut and feed off the cat’s food causing malnutrition, making the animals coat appear dull, making them tired and giving them a pot-bellied appearance. Worm infestations can be a serious health concern and should be treated immediately.
Regular vet visits
Contact your local vet if you are concerned about the health or well-being of your cat. You should take your cat for a check-up once a year. This can be done when they are getting vaccinations and allows early detection of health problems.
NEVER give a cat human medicine such as Tylenol or Aspirin as these can be harmful or even fatal.
Your cat’s microchip
All cats adopted from the SPCA are microchipped. It is ESSENTIAL to keep the micro chip details up-to-date with 24 hour Petwatch if you move, your phone number changes or the emergency contact you provided changes their contact number.
The SPCA receives many lost cats each year where we cannot reunite them with their owner because the microchip details have not been updated.