Everything you need (and need to know) for your first few weeks with your new cat
You've done the research. You've weighed the pros and cons. You've made the decision. You're ready to adopt a cat. But now what? For prospective cat parents, bringing home a brand new (or new-to-you) fur baby can be daunting.You want to provide the best, safest, most loving home possible. And we're here to help.
At Made by Nacho, we're all about cats. Our founder, Nacho Flay? Cat. His sister, Stella Flay? Also a cat. Nacho created his namesake line of food and treats in service to cats everywhere. It's a cat thing.
Nacho wants cats to live their very best nine lives, which is why #TeamNacho took the time to research and develop recipes that satisfy cats' unique palate while supporting their cat-specific health needs.
Nacho knows that good food is just *one* important part of a happy, healthy life. He loves his feline brothers and sisters and wants them to experience the same soul mate-level connection he shares with his dad, Chef Bobby Flay.
That's why Nacho and Bobby are helping adoptable cats across the United States find their forever homes. Made by Nacho is the proud exclusive sponsor of PetSmart's National Adoption Week, July 19 - 25, 2021.
Found your dream cat or just started your search? Bookmark this post, you'll come back to it as you prepare to bring your new cat home.
Safety and Wellness Check
Before you bring your new cat home, you want to be sure you set up their space for success. We've outlined a basic shopping list below, but it's essential to do a safety and wellness check too. Look at your home from a cat's perspective, from down low on the ground (think wires for gnawing) to up high (think precarious knick-knacks or unstable shelving). Adjust as necessary.
Many indoor and outdoor plants like pothos, azaleas and lilies are highly poisonous to cats. And many cats love to gnaw on plants. Do a sweep and rehome those plants to a non-cat space before you bring your new pet home.
Here’s the ASPCA’s comprehensive post about 17 plants that are poisonous to cats.
Set Up a Sanctuary
No matter their age or stage, new spaces can be scary and intimidating for any cat. Ease them into their new home by creating (or sectioning off) a smaller space they can call their own, like a bathroom or a low-traffic area like a guest room. Make sure it has everything they need (think food, water, cozy bed, litter box) to feel a sense of security.
New Cat Shopping List: The Basics
Litter box, kitty litter and scooper: Look for a litter box that provides your cat privacy, but prepare to move things around (and scoop lots of litter) as they become accustomed to the space. Like most other things, cats tend to be choosy when it comes to the perfect location and setup to do their business.
Food bowl and water dish: Ensure these are shallow enough so they don't interfere with your cat's whiskers. Refill their water regularly and monitor their water consumption. Cats are especially susceptible to dehydration.
Food! That's where Made by Nacho comes in. Our menu leads with cage-free chicken, grass-fed beef, and sustainably caught salmon. Combining these with healthy ingredients pumpkin, cranberries, blueberries, millet and pre and probiotics creates balanced recipes that include a dose of antioxidants and support a healthy digestive tract. All good stuff for your new cat.
We've also added bone broth, Nacho's secret ingredient, to the mix. Bone broth delivers the extra protein and hydration cats need to lead active, mischievous lives that always keep you guessing.
Scratching post: Cats need to wear down their claws regularly, and there's no better way than with a scratching post or scratching pad. Get them interested in the surface by tossing a little catnip on it or dangling a beguiling toy on top. It'll save you and your furniture in the long run.
Grooming supplies: We're talking nail clippers (scratching posts can't do it all) and a brush or comb, depending on fur type. Nacho's glorious mane requires serious brushing at least once a day.
Cleaning supplies: Accidents will happen. Be prepared with absorbent cloths, paper towels, a good scrubbing brush and sponge, non-toxic cleaners and odor-neutralizing spray.
Cat carrier: You'll need a carrier to transport your cat from the rescue center to your home. The tight quarters will give them the sense of security they crave during all this newness. At the very least, you'll need one to tote your cat to the vet for their upcoming visit.
Toys: According Dr. Katja Lang (aka Dr. Kibble) Made by Nacho’s veterinary consultant and Nacho’s lifelong vet, toys provide enrichment and keep anxiety at bay by helping cats harness their wild side (get more ideas here). Some of Nacho's favorite toys include his beloved stuffed chili pepper and the perennial classic, a laser pointer.
Whether you upcycle one from a box and a soft sweater or blanket or invest in something fancier, cats dig privacy, and a cat cave will help them feel safe and sound.
Cats instinctively seek higher ground to spot potential danger and get the lay of the land. So, to (safely) nurture your cat's instinct for self-preservation, provide them with a sturdy perch.
Collar and ID tag with your phone number:
If your cat is spending time outdoors, it’s a best practice to have a proper ID just in case.
The First Few Days:
“Cats are cautious and curious, so expect them to explore and possibly hide for the first few days,” says Steve Kaufman, PetSmart Charities Center of Excellence Manager. “Cats also love small, enclosed places, so be sure to provide safe spaces such as a carrier, cardboard box or covered cat bed. If possible, have the safe space face the door, so they are not startled by a stranger or other pets entering.”
Following Steve’s advice, for the first day or so, spend some quiet time together in the sanctuary you set up (make sure there's a spot for you to comfortably hang, too). Then, get down to their level and let them come to you. If she's feeling shy, give her some time and come back and try again. Don't feel discouraged if you're not insta-BFFs; these things take time.
It will be tough, but depending on the size and makeup (e.g. kiddos) of your household, you may want to set up some ground rules for the first week or so. Rules like:
- Only one family member in the room at a time
- Being very quiet and calm around the cat
- Not chasing or cornering the cat
We know. We know. Cats are SO CUTE. But you want to make sure the newest family member feels safe. So if she hides, do not force her to come out for a photo op.
When they first arrive, your cat might be nervous and may not be interested in food. Don't despair! Make sure you provide plenty of fresh food and water. If you adopt your cat from a shelter or rescue, it's best to stick with what they're used to for a short time, but plan on slowly incorporating food that delivers on taste and nutrition—like Made by Nacho :) —into their diet.
“The best approach when introducing a new cat into a home with cats or other pets is to keep the animals separated by a door for at least a week,” advises Dr. Lang.
After that, you can supervise an introduction. To keep things chill, Dr. Lang recommends using Feliway Multicat, a natural pheromone diffuser, to provide a calming scent during the getting-to-know-you phase.
Finally, food and water bowls and litter boxes should be kept separate. Ideally, each cat will have a “personal space” to hide or perch away from other animals in the house.
After About a Week:
Ready the carrier; it's time for your first vet visit. Be sure to bring any immunization records from the shelter or PetSmart and a list of questions (if you have them) from your first week together.
Dr. Lang suggests leaving the carrier out at all times to serve as a safe space for your cat.
When gearing up for the vet, bring a familiar blanket or favorite toy as another source of comfort.
Once he starts to get used to you and your loved ones, you can slowly let him explore his new territory. The ground rules should still be in place (for the humans), so no chasing, forced cuddles, etc.
What’s on the Menu?
If he doesn't love what's on the menu, or you want to switch from dry kibble to wet food, or just want to upgrade to high-protein, nutrient-dense food, you can change it up. The key (like most other endeavors with your new furry friend) is to take it slow. Incorporate a small amount of new food into every meal, gradually increasing over a week.
Cats are notoriously picky; that's why we're particularly proud that Made by Nacho is helmed by a cat with a discerning palate (Nacho taste tests EVERYTHING). Plus, our veterinary nutritional consultant (Hi [emoji hand waving]Dr. Kibble!) ensures we meet cats' flavor and unique dietary needs.
Treat Yo’ Cat
Like our Freeze-Dried Wild Alaskan Salmon, high-value treats are a great way to reward positive behavior, like using their litter box correctly or choosing their scratching post over the sofa. As much as we like spoiling our pets, Dr. Lang says to be mindful about treats.
“In general, treats should only make up about 10% of a cat’s diet,” she said. “It’s best to give treats in a toy (like a toy mouse) to help cats exhibit their natural prey behavior.”
Now that your cat feels more at home, it's time to bring out interactive toys. Every cat is different: some may love cat teasers (a lightweight pole with a feather or fluff attached to the end), and others may be content with a paper bag, cardboard box, or some balled-up tissue paper to bat around. If they're amenable, play with your cat for at least 10 minutes a few times a day. Playtime will help reinforce your bond, and you'll both be happier for it. Bring on the dopamine!
Happy Cat, Happy Life
While we’d love to hang out with our cats all day, some of us have work to do (plus, cats are big on napping) that’s where enrichment comes in. Dr. Lang shared some practical tips and advice about keeping our cats happy in her Made by Nacho column, Well Vetted.
Feeling ready for a new feline friend? Check out your local PetSmart for everything cat adoption. Be sure to share your stories with us @madebynacho, #NachosCatPack is standing (or napping) by.