Caring for a Cat or Kitten

Thank you for giving a home to a rescued cat from Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary, we wish you many years of happiness together. Here are a few guidelines to help you settle your new cat, if you have any queries please contact the Holly Hedge office where we will be only too pleased to help.

Safety first

On entering the home, make sure all doors, windows and cat/dog flaps are securely closed before letting the cat out of the travelling basket. Pay particular attention to windows that might be slightly open as this is an easy escape route for a frightened cat. Ensure an open fireplace is blocked off, cats have been known to climb up chimneys for somewhere to hide or in a bid to escape. Never leave a washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher open – cats find them irresistible with disastrous consequences.

The first few weeks

Introduction: A cat’s sense of security is centred around their territory, so allow your cat to begin acquainting themselves with their new home a little at a time. This is crucial for a kitten because they won’t know where any of their necessities are (toilet, water etc.) For an adult cat this is a big change in their life and you must make them feel safe. A nervous cat may need to be contained in 1 or 2 rooms only for up to a week or two so they don’t feel too scared or isolated. It should be an area where they will get company.

Kitty’s room: When setting up the Cat’s room, place the litter tray well away from the food and water bowls. A box lined with an item of your clothing (with your scent on it) is a great idea and you could also provide another box, upside down with a doorway cut into it, as this makes a good hiding place, should Kitty want to retreat.

Bringing your cat home: keep the cat downstairs until they have settled. Put the carrier in the cat’s room and let your kitty come out in her own time, an adult cat may feel nervous. Leave the carrier in the room as an extra hiding place. If your cat hides away for a few days, that’s okay. The fact that she CAN hide will make her feel safer. Allow her to slowly explore her surroundings in her own good time.

How much interaction should you initially have with your Cat? Each case is different; a kitten will need plenty of time and attention as they will be anxious to bond with you. An adult cat, depending on their emotional state, may act frightened. So give them some time by themselves & introduce yourself slowly.

How will you know when it’s time to let kitty explore the rest of the house? If they are a kitten you can do it as soon as you are sure that they are eating, drinking and using the litter tray with no problems. Don’t forget to ‘kitten-proof’ the house first. An adult cat may take longer. What you want is for them to resume their normal activities, such as eating, drinking and using their litter tray. If your cat is still hiding away then they are not ready – if let them out now and you may spend hours trying to find them! If you have other pets do a gradual introduction.

Let your cat investigate the house a little at a time. Let them have all the personal space they need. Don’t rush anything. If you have children you will need to help them to understand the importance of your new pets need for a sanctuary room and the need to take things slowly and quietly.

If you have an existing cat that uses a cat flap, make sure that your new cat does not have access to it until they are ready to go outside.

How long before your cat can go outdoors? Keep your new cat in for at least three weeks. You may need to keep them in longer if they are still very nervous. Give your cat time to get to know the house, to bond with your family and your other pets (if you have any). Let your cat out for the first time when they are hungry (half an hour before her breakfast) – then call them in at the usual time. Spend time with them in the garden as this can provide reassurance. Kittens should not be allowed outside until all vaccinations have been completed, then only when accompanied until they have been neutered.

Once your cat has started going outside you should still keep a litter tray in the house for her. This will prevent any mishaps when your cat is shut in at night and will also allow you to monitor certain aspects of their health, especially when they start to draw their old age pension – and think of that bad weather, when even we don’t want to go outside!

How should you feed your new cat? You will be advised, before leaving Holly Hedge, what your cat has been used to eating. Make any changes gradually; your cat may suffer with an upset stomach if not. Good proprietary brands of tinned food provide a balanced diet for cats and kittens and are the preferred diet. Biscuits for a light meal or bedtime snack are fine but a completely dry diet is not recommended. Cats do not need milk but some enjoy it. Others have an intolerance to it and it can cause diarrhoea. If a cat enjoys milk, and it has no adverse effects, there is not a reason why a small amount should not be given 2 or 3 times a week. Fresh water should always be available, although your cat will probably prefer drinking you’re your cup of water, running taps, plant pots, puddles and watering cans!

General advice

Always keep your cat in at night. It is much safer for them and less stressful for you. Pet stealing really does go on and is more prevalent at night. Please don’t put your rescued animal at risk by allowing it to happen. Also road accidents often happen at night when no-one is around.

We strongly advice against putting a collar on your cat as this can be dangerous – we have seen some very nasty wounds caused by collars, in extreme circumstances a cat can be strangled. Should a collar be a necessity in exceptional circumstances, please ensure it is designed to snap/slip off easily should the cat become caught up in anything, flea collars are usually a waste of time and money.

Last, but by no means least if you have taken a kitten it is essential that he/she is neutered at 5 to 6 months of age. The only exception to this rule is if a vet suggests otherwise; if this occurs please telephone us to let us know. Although they may still appear to be babies a female kitten can become pregnant at 5 months old and can be responsible for 20,000 descendants in only five years. Neutering your pet is essential to help stop the cycle of unwanted and abandoned cats and kittens.

If you have any problems whatsoever do not hesitate to contact the sanctuary. There is a 24-hour emergency line if the office is closed and your enquiry cannot wait until the following day. It is quite common for any animal in new surroundings to experience diarrhoea in the first couple of days. This is usually caused by nervousness. However, if this persists for longer than a few days please ring the sanctuary for advice, or if the cat appears to be unwell please contact your vet, then let us know the outcome. On the other hand the cat may not eat or use her litter tray for a couple of days. Again if this carries on any longer do let us know.

Important numbers to keep in case your cat goes missing:

Cat health advice: Information for new cat owners

Feline Leukaemia (FelV) Virus

This condition affects your cat by attacking the immune system. It can hide inside your cat for a long time and can kill.

How is this disease spread?

Typically FelV is spread when the saliva of an infected cat comes into contact with another cat. This might happen during mutual licking and grooming or by sharing food and water bowls. The virus is also spread by sharing litter boxes through urine or faeces. A study of 28,000 cats showed that 1 in 5 carried the virus. Fortunately there is a test that can detect if a cat is infected. If free from FelV a vaccine can help protect your cat from getting the disease.

Holly Hedge cannot afford to vaccinate all our cats against FelV – speak to your vet about protecting your new friend from this infection.