This post comes from Jenn Curran, who co-owns the new bakery, Fanny & Jane. Jen is a member of comedy groups, Harvard Sailing Team and The Baldwins. Jen lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Kevin and has two cats. You can learn more about Jen at her blog. In this post Jen shares what she has learned about cat adoption…
“When my beloved cat Floyd passed away unexpectedly at a young age, I knew that I’d be adopting another cat very soon. Floyd was stubborn, opinionated and sometimes disagreeable. And he destroyed a number of my more valuable possessions. But he was also cuddly, loving and such a grand presence in our home that I could not imagine life without him. My boyfriend and I are lucky enough to have another wonderful cat named Chawser – a gentle, playful tabby who was also very sad when his good buddy Floyd died.
We walked into the adoption center one Sunday afternoon intending to walk out with another adult male cat. Instead, we left with a female kitten – a stunning Maine Coon. She felt so slight in my arms, almost frail. I couldn’t help myself. We brought her home that same day, very glad to have little Kaia in our lives.
Despite our sunny outlook, the first few days were difficult, to say the least. Kaia was not happy about her recent transition and neither were we. The subway ride home had been a shock for her, she hated Chawser, and she refused to be touched. In fact, she spent the first evening in our home collapsed in my lap in some kind of trauma-induced coma. She spent the first week living in her carrier, only venturing out when we were asleep or not home. We wondered what terrible circumstance she’d been through to make her so untrusting and sensitive, and we worried she’d never adjust. No matter how often we tried to coax her or how gently we tried to pet her, she wanted nothing to do with us.
So we were shocked when, one night a couple weeks later, she suddenly and unceremoniously ventured out of the bathroom! And into the living room! Where there were people! And another cat! Just walked right out as though she lived here too. It was a tiny gesture, but it meant a lot to us. Plus, we finally got a good look at her and she was absolutely beautiful, with a long fluffy tail, interesting markings all over her head and paws and fierce, expressive gray eyes. Apparently she just needed to do things at her own pace.
Kaia has been a reluctant but well-fed part of our family for about two months now and I’m happy to report that she’s warmed up considerably. She’s still occasionally grouchy and particular but now she trots onto our bed in the morning for head rubs and back scratches and she’s very interested in everything happening around her. Chawser and Kaia fight and scratch and bite each other, but every once in a blue moon we catch them cuddled up together.
During those first difficult weeks, the best thing we did for Kaia was to be flexible to her moods and needs. The worst thing we did for her was to try to force her to adapt faster than she was willing.
Although I’m not an expert, I have learned a lot from adopting cats over the years, especially from this recent challenge. So here are a few things I’ve found helpful to keep in mind when adopting a new pet:
- Do your research. Research adoption centers, read reviews and get recommendations. Once you select a pet, research the kind of animal she is and any special needs she may have. If you already have another pet, research how to successfully introduce the two animals – there are right and wrongs ways.
- Listen carefully. Find out as much information as you can from the adoption center about your new pet’s history so that you can anticipate her needs. Be sure to listen very carefully to any specific details the adoption center might provide – anything from special medicines to eating habits.
- Call your vet. Once you bring your new pet home, make an appointment so your vet can meet the new pet and assess her health.
- Be flexible and compassionate. If a cat behaves one way in the adoption center, she might behave another way in a new home, so plan to be flexible to her needs and desires. In most instances, you will have no way of knowing exactly what this animal has been through before ending up in your home. Remember that any strange or bad behavior is not her fault.
- Be firm and consistent but never frightening. This animal has no choice but to entrust her life to you. You are wise to gently enforce your household rules early on so she learns, but keep in mind that she will be scared and unsure in the first few days. Use this time to be firm, build trust and help her feel safe in her new home.
- Be available. Especially if you’re introducing your new pet into a home where another animal already lives, plan to be available to help aide in your new pet’s transition. Don’t adopt her and then take a vacation. Even if she’s living in the laundry room for the first few days, spend time in her presence so that she can become accustomed to your smell and your demeanor.
- Give up a favorite sweater. Okay, it doesn’t have to be a favorite sweater, but donate a well-worn piece of your clothing to your pet – something you can put near her food bowl or where ever she’s sleeping so that your scent is something she associates with a relaxed and safe feeling.
- Expect changes every day. Animals can surprise us with their resiliency. After a few weeks or months of firm consistency and loving care in your home, your new pet’s personality will probably change for the better. Reward this and be sure to reinforce it by spending lots of quality time together.
- Enjoy your new family member! You’ve done a wonderful thing by adopting a pet into your home and she will hopefully reciprocate the gesture by being a loyal and loving companion. Enjoy it.