What to Expect When Adopting a Cat/Kitten

What an exciting time! Adopting a new friend can be a big responsibility and we want to help ensure each animal is set up for success in their new home. We encourage you to keep the following tips in mind when you bring home your new cat or kitten.

  • Kitty-proof your home: Remove any toxic plants and hide any electrical cords that the cat might have access to.
  • Create a safe place:
    • Set up your cat’s litter box, bowls (ideally at least 3 ft. from the litter), scratching post and toys in a quiet, safe place for the first week or two and allow them to come out at their own pace.
    • Place your cat into the litter box in any new location so they know where it is.
    • Cats may feel nervous/stressed when in a new environment. Offer vertical space where they can climb/jump and places to hide that are still accessible to you.
    • Familiar scents can help with the stress of moving to a new home. Have a towel/blanket that was given to you from the animal centre close by the cat in this space. The use of pheromones can also help ease stress levels.
    • When a cat is adopted, their “cat cabin” from the animal centre transforms into a temporary carrier that the cat can travel home in. Once home, adopters are encouraged to reassemble the cabin, as it has the cat’s scent on it and helps ease their transition into their new home by offering a familiar place to perch, sleep, hide and rub
  • We recommend keeping cats indoors. If your cat is curious about the outdoors or you want to give the cats access to a safe outdoor area, consider installing a fenced-in enclosure or allowing supervised access to your yard on a harness and leash.
Disease Testing

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) is a virus that is transmitted between cats. There is a test for this virus. If you have a multi-cat household, testing prior to introducing your new cat should be discussed with your veterinarian. You should also ask your veterinarian about vaccination for FeLV. This is not something your new cat has received yet and, based on lifestyle and age, may be recommended by your veterinarian. More information on FeLV.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is also transmitted between cats. The main differences between these two viruses is that FIV is less contagious, and many cats with FIV go on to live normal lives. Like FeLV, testing should be considered prior to introducing your new cat to a multi-cat household. Currently vaccination for FIV is not recommended. More information on FIV.

Internal and External Parasites
Your new furry friend has received routine deworming and flea prevention prior to adoption, but further doses may be required. Fecal (poop sample) testing is recommended since some parasites can be zoonotic, which means humans can be infected. Talk to your veterinarian about future testing and prevention. We also recommend that other family pets be tested and treated for internal and external parasites prior to bringing your new furry friend home. For more information, please visit canadianveterinarians.net and avma.org

Veterinary Visits After Adoption

A check-in with your family veterinarian within the first week after adoption is critical to ensure continuity of care for your new friend, and to create a preventative health care plan tailored to their specific needs and to your lifestyle. The goal is to prevent future disease and illness, which will ideally also help reduce future costs of care.

Preventative care includes important measures such as a physical exam, oral health care, dietary recommendations, behavioural support and vaccinations and parasite prevention. Any known medical or behavioural concerns will be disclosed prior to adoption, but there can be no guarantees of health. Therefore, this vet check will also be important to address any ongoing needs or pre-exiting concerns to ensure that your new furry family member has the specific support required to thrive. A copy of your new furry friend’s medical history can be shared with your veterinarian.

Vaccines play a vital role in protecting your new cat or kitten from diseases, as well as keeping other furry and human family members safe.

  • Core vaccines for cats include FVRCP (feline herpes virus, calicivirus & panleukopenia) and rabies. Rabies vaccination is a legal requirement. All cats adopted from the Ontario SPCA have received their rabies vaccination, provided they are old enough to receive it at the time of adoption. If they are too young to receive their rabies vaccination while in our care, this will need to be done through your family veterinarian. Your vet may recommend additional vaccines based on your cat or kitten’s lifestyle.
  • Kittens are very susceptible and require more frequent booster vaccinations until they are approximately 18 weeks old. Vaccines must be boostered over the course of your cat’s life (not just during kittenhood) to ensure adequate protection.
  • Other furry family members should be up to date on their vaccinations prior to bringing a new furry friend home.
  • A vaccine schedule has been started for your new cat or kitten. Note that it may not be complete by the time of adoption and follow-up with your family veterinarian is required to ensure adequate protection is achieved. For more information, visit catvets.com and canadianveterinarians.net
Healing After Surgery

Your new furry friend may have had surgery prior to adoption. In addition to following any specific post-op instructions given to you, it will be important to note the following:

  • Give any post-op medication as prescribed.
  • Utilize an e-collar (cone) or a onesie to help protect their incision site, as prescribed.
  • Monitor the incision site daily for swelling, discharge and/or holes in the incision line.
  • Keep your cat or kitten calm, and restrict their exercise (i.e., no jumping on/off surfaces, climbing stairs or going outside).
  • Watch them closely to ensure they are comfortable, eating and drinking well, and using their litter box without issue.

If your cat or kitten is not eating well, is quiet or lethargic, not using their litter box, and/or if you see any concerns with their incision site, please contact your family veterinarian for support. More information can be found here.

Cat-to-Cat Introductions

If introductions are done slowly and properly, this could potentially head off any future problematic behaviours. It can sometimes take cats months to adjust to a new friend so you may need to be patient!

  • It is important to give the new cat a separate space/safe haven, set up with all the necessities to adjust on his/her own.
  • Allow the cats to smell and hear one another at first, but not see or touch.
  • Gradually increase access to one another by sight and eventually allow supervised interactions if they remain positive. A baby gate could act as a helpful tool to allow a visual interaction, but still be kept apart from one another.
  • Continue to separate the cats at night during the initial days.
  • If you are bringing a new cat into a multi-cat household, introduce them individually. Click here for more information.
Cat-to-Dog Introductions

With time, many cats and dogs can learn to coexist peacefully and may even become friends!

  • Have two people on hand; one to handle the dog and the other to monitor the cat’s behaviour.
  • Ensure your dog is on leash in the cat’s presence and that the cat has a safe place to retreat, if needed.
  • Take the dog outside for a walk or play prior to greeting to reduce energy levels.
  • Have high value treats for both the dog and cat to reward good behaviour.
  • Monitor both the cat and dog for emotional distress at all times. Watch your dog for signs of elevated prey drive (hunting-related behaviours) to ensure the safety of your new cat. Click here for more detailed information.

We are here to support you! For any pre-adoption questions or concerns, contact our adoption staff at your local SPCA here.