The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6-8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year and 3-4 million of those are euthanized. Our local animal shelter, BARCS, takes in over 11,000 animals each year, approximately 5,000 find new homes. The Maryland SPCA places 3,000 pets in new homes each year. Since June is “Adopt a Shelter Cat Month”, it’s a great time to consider giving a cat in need a wonderful home! Both BARCS, and the Maryland SPCA, waive their adoption fees for cats during the month of June.
So maybe you’ve adopted a wonderful new feline friend…now what? It’s important to make their environment comfortable, fun and to reduce stress and anxiety. Food and water should be kept in quiet places and should not be near litter boxes. Cats often prefer multiple food and water stations, bowls should be clean, and water should be fresh at all times. It’s important to feed diets formulated for the age of your feline friend, and to measure out specified quantities each meal to help prevent obesity.
Ok, let’s talk litter boxes. Inappropriate urination and defecation in cats is often a result of stress and anxiety and many of these cases can be prevented with proper “litter box etiquette”. The general rule is that there should be one more litter box than the number of cats in the household. Cats generally prefer unscented clumping litter. The litter should be scooped at least once daily, and the boxes emptied, cleaned, and refilled with new litter once every 1-3 weeks depending on the type of litter being used. Some cats do prefer covered litter boxes, but the majority of cats do not.
Cats should also have access to several scratching posts. Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. The scratching post should be sturdy and be tall enough for the cat to stretch out full length. You can use catnip to encourage your cat to use the scratching post.
Play time is a great way to provide exercise and mental stimulation for cats. Having a variety of toys available and rotating them so your cat doesn’t get bored is helpful. Laser pointers, feather toys, toy mice and toys stuffed with catnip are popular. There are food-dispensing toys available as well that cats often enjoy. Outdoor bird feeders can be very entertaining for cats. Cats also enjoy having elevated perches available. Cat trees and ledges or beds that attach to window frames are readily available at pet stores.
Most cats adopted from shelters will already have been spayed or neutered, and received some if not all needed vaccinations. It’s important to have your new feline friend examined by a veterinarian shortly after you adopt them. They can make sure your new cat is healthy and determine if any further vaccination, deworming or lab tests are required. You can consult your veterinarian for any further questions about caring for your new cat. You can also visit www.catalystcouncil.org/ for more helpful information on a variety of topics relating to cats.