Pick me, pick me! I won't poop in your shoes.
September 12, 2012 11:04 AM   Subscribe

What are we overlooking during our preparation for cat acquisition?

We (an early 30s couple) have both been individual cat owners as adults, but not for a few years and not while living together. We're planning to pick up a young adult cat from The Goathouse Refuge, in a few weeks after we get to know several cats and choose one (or let is choose us) as people tend to do.

Things we're already aware of having to prepare for include: cat food(s), litterbox usage/training, getting a local vet referral, toys and such for playtime, how to deal with behaviors such as clawing of furniture, etc.

This will be an exclusively indoor cat due to an apartment setting, there will be indoor plants in the home as well.

Is there anything we're obviously missing in our preparations to introduce our cat to it's new home?
posted by Asherah to Pets & Animals (33 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to have a ceremony bidding your plants goodbye because your new kitty will shred/eat/destroy them.

You may also want to get a pair of kitties because that way they'll have someone to play with. Adopt a pair of siblings. You'll give TWO kitties a lovely home, and they'll be adorable for years to come.

I'm a big advocate of a multi-cat household.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:08 AM on September 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

Move fragile/important things off of shelves for the time being until you learn what new kitty is going to want to jump on. No shelf was too high for my kitty... and no item was too fragile not to knock off said shelf. :(
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:11 AM on September 12, 2012

You will discover that you have cat-accessible areas of your abode that you did not dream you have, when the new member of your household gets exposed to the new environment for the first time and finds a place to hide. Best course of action is to pick a room that this will be least likely to happen in, and sequester your new arrival there at first. This won't prevent the hiding but can help narrow it down a handful of likely spots.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:12 AM on September 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Make sure none of your plants are particularly unhealthy for kitty to eat, because in cat world, poison = delicious.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:13 AM on September 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

I agree with Ruthless Bunny, getting 2 cats who are pals is one of the best things we've done as a couple. They are SO much fun, they love playing together, and when one of them decides to be weird and standoffish (happens multiple times a day), the other decides to be cuddly.

We prepared a small room in the house for the cats to live in when they first arrived, because we were worried the full house would be overwhelming to them (trying to prevent litterbox accidents too). We let them live there for the first few days until they got used to the house and us, then gave them free rein. Our cats weren't particularly nervous types but I think this was a good thing.

Do you have the carrier to bring them home? The shelter we used loaned us one, since for some reason we had forgotten about that.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:14 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cats can be clicker trained just like dogs! Give some thought to positive reinforcement techniques for dealing with problem behaviors like scratching the furniture or mauling houseplants. Also key to protecting your furniture is availability of a scratcher. My cats always preferred corrugated cardboard to carpet or sisal but that's an individual thing.

You've had cats before so you probably know that not all cats get off on catnip. It's a genetic thing. Have some catnip on hand to find out if your new kitty (kitties?) is a 'nip-head.

And just because it's fun, Cecil Adams answers the timeless question: Do Cats Have Belly Buttons?
posted by workerant at 11:17 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that having two cats is better for the cats and not necessarily that much more work than one (you might have to empty the litterbox with somewhat more frequency, buy somewhat more cat food, etc., but the marginal cost of the additional cat -- if I can borrow an economist's viewpoint -- is a whole lot less than the cost of the first cat). And you get two cats!

But if you do want just one cat, you might want to consider looking specifically at special needs or even FIV+ cats who can't coexist with others, as they are sometimes very difficult to adopt out.

Anyway, one thing you might want to consider are some cat hole-type accessways in your doors. It requires you to modify the door, but guarantees that the cat can always get into that room. I have one installed on the door to the basement, which is where the cats' litterbox is. Thus, there's no way that the cats can get stuck on one side of it (away from box) or the other (away from food/water dish).

I wouldn't go crazy on cat trees or other stuff until you find out what the cat actually likes; all my cats have totally ignored such things in favor of sitting on top of furniture. Although window perches are universally popular in my experience -- especially if you live in a house that doesn't have wide windowsills.

If you frequently keep your doors or windows open in the warmer months, you're going to need screens, at least, and you may want to consider moving the screens to the upper part of the window (if they're sash windows) so you can open the top rather than the bottom. One of my cats has tried to exit the house by going through the screen more than once (and was successful on a sliding screen door).

Take lots of pictures, especially of your first meeting, and keep your adoption documents. They can be neat things to add to a scrapbook later on.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:21 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might want to tie cables and cords to eletronics like tvs and computers together so they make less interesting strings just hanging there tantalizingly.
posted by royalsong at 11:25 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cat furniture is good. A modest cat tree could have a cubby in it for him to curl up in.

Please get the vet to give you a list of toxic plants. We almost lost our kitty because of one. You can buy cat grass for them to chew on...no, not that kind of grass, just, you know, lawn-type grass that grows in a small box.

We have a scratch pad, which the kitties love. It's about four inches by fourteen inches, big enough for them to stand on while they stretch their toes. We hiss at them if they posture at the furniture...we are pretty successful at keeping our cats from clawing the furniture, but I'm afraid we've not been 100% successful. My theory is choose between having cats or good furniture. I would never never never declaw a cat to preserve a lousy chair.

I like the idea, above, of cat doors in certain places. A ledge around the wall, just below the ceiling is also something cats like--most of them are fond of high places. If you are handy at shelving and creative, you can give the kitty a nice place to live, rather than in a two-dimensional box.
posted by mule98J at 11:34 AM on September 12, 2012

Response by poster: Some additional information: we're definitely open to getting two young adult cats if they seem to enjoy each others' company, but are slightly hesitant in a 1000SqFt apartment. Someone will be home with one or both of these cats 98% of the time, so there will be ample play time even if we just take one. Also, all of our plants are in a small office/den space with a lockable door, but we'll make sure they are kitty-safe for sure.
posted by Asherah at 11:39 AM on September 12, 2012

You know, I thought the name sounded familiar. I have friends who live in Pittsboro, so YAY, Goathouse Refuge!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:40 AM on September 12, 2012

Seconding window perches, even with wide windowsills. I have a shelf right under the windowsill, but would have gotten perches under every window had I known that my cat, in her enthusiasm to be as close as possible to whatever was directly outside, would often fall off the windowsill and catch herself by digging her claws deep into the lovely varnished wood.

Also, consider non-clay cat litter, and be prepared to fiddle around with the box a bit if you end up with a finicky cat. Hooded, non-hooded, deep, shallow, large, narrow, etc.

A comment on getting two cats: It can be wonderful, and indeed most households I've seen that have a cat have two or more cats. And yes, you'd be rescuing two cats, which is even better. However, that means twice the vet bills, twice the food, twice the litter box scooping, etc. Additionally, there are some cats who just don't get along with other cats, but are otherwise wonderful. My cat, for example, will literally run up and fight any cat she sees (but she likes dogs). This is the single reason I don't let her outside; she's barely seven pounds and would get mauled by any of the three (and probably more) much larger cats that often wander around our neighborhood. She is the best cat I've ever had, however, and I wouldn't dream of getting another. Be realistic about whether you can afford more than one cat, and if you can't, get one that is just fine being alone.
posted by Urban Winter at 11:42 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you adopt a pair, please at least have two litter boxes for them. You can make litter boxes fit into some cute furniture type things, so don't balk at the ugliness. (the catbox equation is actually catboxes=n+1 where n=number of cats)
posted by bilabial at 11:49 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think two would be fine in a 1000 square foot apartment. I had two in a place smaller than that for years. It's nice to get both of them at once, because in my experience almost everyone who gets one cat eventually wants more than one, and it can be drama central trying to introduce a new feline into the household. An added benefit of having two cats is that they entertain each other and don't require quite as much human interaction, plus you don't have to feel badly about leaving them overnight if you want to take a quick trip.
posted by something something at 11:49 AM on September 12, 2012

I have three cats in a 1000 sq ft apartment, and it's fine. I'd only get two if you have a pair who need to be adopted together, though (I have a third because cat two needed his focus taken off cat one). If you are having difficulty deciding, bear in mind that black cats are the least adoptable. (I don't think you should choose based on this, it's just something that may make a difference.)

If your cats are plant-obsessed, you can buy wheat grass for them to eat instead. Assume that your cats will get into your locked room, because they will, and remove all toxic plants. Avoid plastic dishwear for them. Buy the litter etc before your first visit, bring a carrier with you. You can shove two cats into one carrier.

Be sure to get a good camera so you can update this post appropriately.
posted by jeather at 11:52 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't forget to update your emergency preparedness kit to account for your new cat(s)!
posted by carsonb at 12:00 PM on September 12, 2012

My two cats are fine with sharing one litterbox. It is the Omega Paw Self-Cleaning Litterbox and I love it. Highly recommend it whether you get one cat or two. No scooping!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:03 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Definitely go through every inch of your apartment and seal up any spaces that the kitty could squeeze in to. Cats can get into teeny tiny spaces! My ex adopted a stray kitten, who managed to promptly wedge himself underneath the kitchen counter because there was a tiny gap in the corner baseboard.
posted by radioamy at 12:09 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Our two cats happily use the one Breeze litter box, and we keep it in a piece of furniture that looks like a credenza. The system is odor-free, and since you only need to scoop turds, really easy to keep maintained.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:13 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Incidentally, if you don't have a garbage chute in your apartment, the Litter Locker is remarkably good at keeping scents contained.
posted by jeather at 12:25 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have 2 cats in a 620 sq. ft. apartment! They are healthy and happy.

MANY houseplants (including pothos, aloe and a number of other favorites) are toxic to cats. Lilies (almost any variety) are deadly, even in TINY - literally microscopic - quantities.

Cats sometimes try to eat people food. There are varying opinions about the toxicity of raisins and aliums (onions, garlic), but you should definitely be careful.

My cats pretty much levitate to any high surface. They do not intentionally destroy my possessions (except one particular carpet that apparently feels GREAT under their claws), but they will make crazy, acrobatic leaps to high places and routinely cause disasters like knocked-over bookshelves, broken dishes, computers shoved off of tables, etc. Until you get to know your cats' personalities, assume you are dealing with a 6-foot tall toddler.

Small apartment tip: get a litter mat so that the litter the cats shoof out of the box doesn't get everywhere. We have a huge, covered litter box with a flap door and our cats still get litter everywhere. A litter mat will minimize spread.

Many cats - especially new, needy cats without an established schedule - will not let you sleep at night. They may pounce on your feet, paw at your face, meow, or crash around the house making tons of noise. If possible,: have a room you can close off so you can get some peace and quiet, have a water bottle squirter to train them in the middle of the night if they nip you, and get earplugs.

You definitely need good cat carriers. Not only to get them to a vet, but in case of emergency.
posted by Cygnet at 12:27 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our kitty was terrified and hid in the box spring for a week even though he seemed perfectly playful at the adoption center. Don't take it personally if the cat hides. We used Feliway and it seemed to calm him down a lot. Make sure you have cat nail clippers. We got a scratching pad from Trader Joe's that our cats love.
posted by amicamentis at 12:37 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is my first time living with two cats of my very own indoors, and I'M SO GLAD I GOT TWO. They do stuff together, they leave me the f alone, and they aren't becoming "little animals who think they're people." They know they're cats, and they do cat things. It's the besssst.

I'm also so thrilled I got young adult rescues, who'd been living in sad cages for months. They weren't wacky kittens, but they weren't old grumps. They were grateful, cautious, thoughtful, appreciate little monsters. (And so good! So sensitive!)

Also, I cannot recommend Ssscat enough. They have never ever clawed my couch, due to terror of Ssscat, and therefore my marriage has survived.

I think you should also think really carefully about household introduction. You start with a small safe space, you expand his (OR THEIR??) horizons, and you let them take their time. Every cat is different, but yours will be perfect.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:47 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My cats love this, which is a cat scratching pad that hangs from a doorknob. It gives them something to scratch on that isn't my furniture (although they do that too).

Sometimes shelters/rescues don't have the time or manpower to keep cat nails trimmed, so probably get a pair of nail clippers to have ready, so you can nip that problem in the bud. (Ha!)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:49 PM on September 12, 2012

A good water pistol or spray bottle will not go amiss, here.
posted by cmyk at 12:53 PM on September 12, 2012

we've left our cat carrier out, sort of out of the way. it's one of the duffel style with mesh sides. mal plays in it, sleeps in it, gladly chases toys thrown into it. this makes going to the vet an easier trip to start.
posted by radiopaste at 2:36 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cheapest cat toy I've ever seen the cats obsess over is a piece, about 2-3 inches long, of 1" plastic spiral binding material. (It looks like a plastic spring, basically.) It came from the cat rescue along with one of the cats; they obviously have a need for a large volume of cheap cat toys (since they send a few home with each cat). I thought it was brilliant.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:27 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might be obvious, but: double-check with your landlord and your rental lease to make sure that you are allowed to have pets.
posted by amaire at 4:40 PM on September 12, 2012

We have two cats (a mother and daughter) in a one-bedroom apartment that's much less than 1000 square feet, and they're just fine — happy, healthy, and affectionate. (One is resting her chin on my arm fairly inconveniently right now, in fact.) We're so, so glad we have two. They play with each other, keep each other company, and get a lot more exercise by chasing each other around and wrestling than they would otherwise.

Cats like to be up high, and giving them things like high cat trees or cat ledges may help discourage them from getting atop the bookshelves. We have the Armarkat Classic Cat Tree and are really happy with it. The cats love it — they scratch and climb the sisal-wrapped poles, they hang out on the "helipads" up top, and Bella-the-weirdo likes gnawing on the hanging rope — and after three years it's still in great shape. The sisal that wraps the ropes is slightly frayed, but the carpet covering the rest of it is undamaged. Plus Armarkat have great prices, way better than any of the pet supply stores we checked.

We leave the cat carriers out with their doors ajar stacked in a corner of the living room so the cats can explore them and hang out in them if they wish. We figure this will work in our favor if we ever need to evacuate — the carriers are just part of their daily experience, not something that means O NOES GOING TO VET NAO!

Our cats think the Cat-Aerobics cat toy is the best toy ever (we have the older, Koosh-like type, not the new leather one).
posted by Lexica at 6:07 PM on September 12, 2012

1000 feet is plenty for two cats, as long as you can fit a couple of litter boxes. Nthing that adopting a bonded pair is a fantastic way to go, and may give a home to cats that might not have a great chance. We rescued siblings that spent 2 years in shelters mainly because they had very different personalities (people would want one, but not the other).

Something I haven't seen mentioned: some cats really have a thing for tinsel, ribbon, string, or rubber bands, and will eat them. This can play havoc with their little intestines, and is potentially lethal. We've had a couple of scares with our cat, and I've had the pleasure of breaking up poop over a week in order to gauge whether everything had come out okay.
posted by moira at 7:51 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just want to emphasize the importance of moira's comment above: give your place a thorough search, and put away any rubber bands, spools of ribbon, threaded sewing needles, or anything similar that might look like a yummy mouse-tail to a curious cat. Establish a SECURE place to keep rubber bands under lock and key for the future.
posted by Corvid at 8:19 PM on September 12, 2012

Seconding amaire's comment, I'm dealing with potentially losing my apartment over my cats right now (long story, but involves a change of building management). I would recommend getting something in writing specifically stating the terms under which cats are allowed. Also consider how hard it would be to find another pet-friendly apartment if you needed to move.

Cats are totally worth it though, congratulations.
posted by cali at 10:18 PM on September 12, 2012

If I could start over with my two guys I would work hard on getting them used to tooth brushing or some kind of regular vet-approved mouth maintenance at an early age. It can seriously save on vet bills down the road and keep Cat healthy and happy. If you consistently reward them with treats for putting up with it, they should eventually get the picture.
And definitely double up! Sounds like you have plenty of room for two.
posted by FeralHat at 3:21 AM on September 13, 2012

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