Are You Adopting A Pet or Taking A Prisoner?

When adding a kitten or cat to your life, what do you need to provide for them? And what do you need to do for them so they can have a great cat life with you? Do cats get lonely when left home alone a lot?

Absolutely they do.

When I was very young and relatively clueless I had a cat which I left alone too much because I was at work and school. Her behavior deteriorated over time and she was miserable.

I had thought cats were independent and wanted to be alone but I was terribly wrong and looking back as an older adult with multiple rescue cats, it’s one of my biggest regrets. She deserved better and I didn’t understand.

My cats are a family – they are all different ages and breeds but all rescues and I’ve got this little “pack” that sleeps together, eats together, “hunts” together, plays together all day long. I’m pretty sure I’m just the Big Cat around here. I simply can not imagine any one of them being happy alone – their interactions, even the play flighting and chasing each other around the house at 3 AM, are an integral part of their well being. When our senior cat Oscar died at 19, things were all out of wack for a week as each one of them was “mothered” by him when they came.

I know people who have a cat like they have a potted fern – as an house accessory – and it upsets me. But I was once ignorant about how much cats can be social too. They really do respond to how they’re nurtured.

Having observed many kittens and cats interacting with different toys, products and living environments, the following are some of our recommendations for adding enrichment and happiness to your cat's life and thus your own.

Some people get a pet and then leave it at home alone while at work without sources of mental stimulation and without activities for it to enjoy in their absence. This is a mistake. Under those circumstances, you now have a tiny prisoner, not a pet.

New owners who fail to understand and provide for the needs of the new addition to their family may get frustrated when the cat scratches their furniture, goes outside the litter box or misbehaves in other ways. With each of these cat behaviors your pet is telling you something. You just need to learn to understand what they are telling you and how to respond. 

Kittens and cats LOVE fresh litter, toys, tunnels, climbing, scratching, hunting/playing and Temptation cat treats. You can train them to do anything for the Temptation Catnip Fever treats. 🙂

Remember these important things to better understand your new kitten or cat's needs and behaviors.

  1. A cat's sense of smell is amazingly sensitive and scent drives their behavior. Scent is how they recognize other cats, their kittens, their litter box, their nesting space and more.  Scent is how they decide whether to be on the offensive  or to be calm. If you do something that significantly changes the scent of their environment or your normal personal scent, your cat may even act differently toward you.

  2. Introduce other pets by scent & gradually. –  If you have other pets, keeping them separated via a door is advisable while all the pets become familiar with each other's scents. After they become familiar with each other's scent by being in “smellable” proximity of each other for a week or so, then introductions are more likely to go smoothly.

  3. Cats are location sensitive. Once a cat becomes familiar with a place and its scents and noises, etc., they may become uncomfortable leaving it or they may run away scared if taken to a new a location and not properly acclimated before releasing them. Being suddenly introduced into a new place with new and unknown smells, noises, etc. is scary for a cat and should be undertaken slowly at the cat's pace and with caution in order to minimize stress and unexpected results. 

  4. Start with a private space or hiding spot for them that is accessible to you. Depending on the cat's temperament, you may need to provide a place that your new arrival can explore and be alone while they become familiar with the scents, sounds and activities around your home.  A closet, storage space or bath room is good for a few days and then you can leave the door cracked so they can venture outside the space if desired. Their stress can be lowered by providing cat enclosures, like boxes or cat houses and/or hiding spots like a bed or couch or behind a dresser, etc.  Block spaces except those which you can access or retrieve them from. Hiding spots are only advised initially to lower stress because cats may stay hidden and not acclimate to their new environment. We have even had cat hide and not come out to eat as it should, so it is recommended to minimize or eliminate hiding spaces a little bit each day until the cat is forced to be active in the main space of their new home.

  5. Cats LOVE height: Cats feel safer, stronger and more in control when they are elevated, so providing them with climbing opportunities is very helpful. Climbing trees, shelves for cat climbing and perches with views outside are extremely enjoyable for your cat. Perches in front of windows are excellent.  

  6. Cats REALLY need mental stimulation and an exercise/play space.  Even though a cat may sleep a majority of the day, when they awake they need activity opportunities that appeal to cats. If you are not present to interact with them when they are awake, then you need to provide them with ways to entertain themselves until you are able to spend time with them. A cat's typical sequence of behaviors follow this order:

    1. Hunting ~ Playing – After sleeping a long time they awake hungry and need to hunt to catch food or they become active hunting~playing to work up an appetite. For cats, playing is similar activity to hunting. Below we recommend adding several items to your home that will support your cat's natural inclinations and behaviors. Adding a new item periodically will rekindle your cat's curiosity and interest each time and give them something new to engage with. Some of the suggested items range from free to expensive. For example, giving them the empty cardboard boxes and the brown packing paper that often comes in your orders is almost certain to engage them for hours at no cost to you.

      1. Scratchers

        1. Cardboard scratchers (flat)

        2. Cardboard scratchers (curved) our cats sleep on this a lot.  Go figure. 🙂

        3. Small Cactus  (economical)

        4. Large Cactus  (worth the cost, very durable)  

      2. Cubes (economical and preferred. Tons of fun, never would have figured it) 

      3. Tunnels  (They cannot get enough of playing in a tunnel)

      4. Empty cardboard boxes

      5. Cat Track With Balls  (for some reason orange was way more popular than blue)

      6. Running Mouse Catching Plate and  (Feline Frenzy)
      7. Human operated cat teaser

      8. Climbing Tree  (scratcher and climbing tree combo – Good quality and best value I have found. Cats LOVE it. We have six and the ones near windows are very popular)

      9. Climbing Shelves  (cats love being up high)

      10. Cat Condos  (what ever design you prefer, but recommend ones that include scratcher posts and position near a window.)

        1. On Chewy

        2. On Amazon

    2. Eating & Drinking – after hunting~playing and having caught their prey, they feast. Given the finicky nature of feline taste buds, you'll have to test which foods your kitten or cat prefers. Be aware that wet foods can cause loose stool and/or diarrhea, so if those happen and a fecal text by your vet has ruled out other issues, then switching foods may be in order. Chicken based wet foods are often tolerated better by many kittens and cats while wet foods containing fish may be more likely to result in loose stool or diarrhea. Dry foods are unlikely to cause these issues, but can result in hard stool or constipation if your cat fails to drink plenty of water if you only feed dry food. Below we share some wet foods that kittens and cats have consistently eaten with minimal issue and a recommended water fountain that all of our cats love and drink from voraciously. You can evaluate how much water your cat is drinking by the quantity of urine clumps in the litter box each day and monitor bowel movements the same way for loose or hard stool.

      1. Canned or Wet Food?

        1. TIP: smaller cans = fresh food every meal without heating refrigerated leftovers from previous meals

        2. TIP: smaller cans = less waste (especially with kittens and light eaters)

      2. Kitten Food – (has additional nutrients that younger kittens need)

        1. Fancy Feast Tender Chicken Kitten

        2. Royal Canin Mother and Baby Cat (for very young – very pricey, but we use it for orphans without a mom)

        3. Royal Canin Kitten Dry (1st year – very pricey but we use it for orphans without a mom)

      3. Adult Wet and Dry food – (You'll just need to test what your cat likes and keep the things mentioned above about bowel movements in mind especially if you change up their food.)

        1. Friskies Seafood Sensations (loved by all and economical)

      4. Water Fountain – HIGHLY RECOMMEND This will encourage your cat to drink enough water. (best one of all we tried. large capacity so you need to refill less often, filtered and the cats love drinking the running water. We have 6 of these near the locations that cats play often.) 

    3. Grooming – After eating cats will groom. You will see them licking their paws.  If your cat has long hair, then you may need to frequently participate in their full body grooming with brushing to prevent matting and hair clumping.

      1. Self Cleaning Grooming Brush (our favorite for long and short hair)

      2. Dematting Rake  (GREAT for thinning hair and clearing mats in long-haired cats)
    4. Litter box – Cats will generally use the litter box within 10-15 minutes after they eat. Below we recommend some litter boxes and different litters along with the pros and cons of each. You should have at least one litter box per cat and I recommend larger size boxes to provide more litter surface area  and more room for the cat to turn.

      1. Regular depth (recommend larger size is better)

      2. High sided for cats that dig a lot and scatter litter out of a regular depth box

      3. Extra Large – We even use the deeper bins in some locations
      4. Litter mats (our favorite, we have tried dozens)

      5. Litter Scoop – (spring for the metal one. You'll be glad you did) 

      6. Tidy Cats Clumping Clay Litter Instant Action – (our favorite out of their 5 types)

      7. Pretty Litter Clumping – (pricey, but we love it. Best odor control of all and better odor control than clay. Can also help spot health issues. We also use Pretty Litter non-clumping in our Litter Robots.)

      8. Litter Robot (pricey, but the convenience and time saved per day is well worth it. Less scooping for days and your cat always has clean litter every time they enter. Zero odor. Our favorite litterbox, we have six (6).  We use Pretty Litter non-clumping in our units after testing clumping clay litter and clumping Pretty Litter. Neither worked as well for us as non-clumping Pretty Litter.)

    5. Sleep – after grooming, cats will usually sleep. Where a kitten or cat may choose to sleep is anyone's guess :).  However, it is beneficial to provide them with a place that feels safe and comfy. Below we recommend some of the cat beds and cat houses we have tried and our experience with them.

      1. Marshmallow Beds – (mixed use. Some cats love them, some do not.)

      2. Soft Covered Cat Cave (popular with all, but other cats may jump on it and cave the top in. Some cats cave it in themselves and then sleep ON it. 🙂 Go figure, but for some reason it is popular.)

      3. Rigid Cat House – will not collapse and can be used outside)

      4. All over your house 🙂

    6. Repeat – Observe your cat or kitten and you will see these behaviors occur naturally in this order.

  7. Cats like routine. Consistent routines build trust. You can build trust with them by establishing consistent routines with them. Cats can tell time and they will be ready for eating at the times you make routine. They will be ready to play at the times you make routine. 

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