6 Things You Should Never Do When Adopting a Cat

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 23, 2015
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What Not to Do When You Adopt a Cat

Reviewed for accuracy on December 20, 2019, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

Are you planning on adding a new kitty to the family? Adopting a cat is fun, but it’s also a serious decision, and you want to start off on the right foot with your new companion.

Fortunately, with a little research and preparation, you’ll be ready to warmly welcome a new furry friend.

Here are six common mistakes to avoid, along with expert recommendations for a smooth transition when adopting a cat.


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1. Don’t Make a Quick Decision

It’s easy to fall in love with an online adoption profile, or want to bring home the first cat who greets you at the shelter. But there’s a lot more you’ll need to consider when choosing your new feline companion, so pace yourself.

“Taking your time when choosing a new cat is really important,” says Dr. Mikel Delgado, a certified cat behaviorist. “Shelter staff and volunteers can often help you find out more about a cat's personality. Do you want a more active and outgoing pet? Or do you want a couch potato you can snuggle with at the end of the day?”

Before meeting any animals, take some time to thoroughly—and honestly—evaluate your household and routine, advises Dr. Delgado.

You will want to make sure your new cat is the best fit for you and your lifestyle. Consider the type of environment and amount of quality time you can realistically provide. The presence of other pets and young children in the home is also key.

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2. Don’t Put Off Shopping for Supplies

To set your cat up for success, it’s important to have some essential supplies ready before bringing your new kitty home.

One commonly overlooked item is a carrier to safely transport your cat home.

“A proper cat carrier should be big enough for your cat to comfortably stand up and turn around in, and be easy to get the cat in and out of,” says Dr. Nicole Fulcher, assistant director of the Humane Society of Missouri's Animal Medical Center of Mid-America. “Choose a durable carrier that’s easy to clean.”

In addition to the basics—food and water bowls, litter supplies and a bed—it’s important to consider enrichment items, says Dr. Fulcher. Engaging cat toys, scratching posts and places to perch will help your cat feel right at home.

While gathering supplies, you should also be sure to grab an extra litter box. While some cats will tolerate one box, many prefer a second option.

“The golden rule is to have one more litter box than the number of cats in the household,” says Dr. Fulcher. “So one cat gets two bathrooms.”

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3. Don’t Rush Introductions

Your family will be anxious to meet the new addition. While the excitement is understandable, it’s important not to rush introductions—whether to children, dogs or other cats. 

“Cats are creatures of habit and territorial, so being in a new space can be overwhelming,” says Dr. Delgado. “It's very exciting to have a new cat in the home, and you might be eager to cuddle, but your new kitty might need to decompress first.”

This is especially true in households with other cats. For best results, Dr. Delgado recommends setting your new cat up in her own “safe room” with all of her supplies, then slowly permitting the resident pets to meet their new roommate.

Start cat introductions by allowing the cats to sniff each other through the closed door, then graduate to supervised interactions through a baby gate. Once everyone appears relaxed under these conditions, you can allow the cats to meet each other on neutral ground.

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4. Don’t Forget to Kitten-Proof

If you’re bringing home a kitten, you have some extra work to do.

“You don’t want to forget kitten-proofing,” says Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinary consultant for Dog Lab. “Kittens are very active and can be very destructive.”

While kittens tend to be the most curious, the following tips are also helpful for adult cats. Dr. Ochoa recommends considering the following when kitten-proofing your home:

  • Move fragile items off surfaces that your kitten may explore.

  • To reduce drowning risks, close all toilets, and never leave a full tub or sink unattended.

  • Keep string, yarn and thread out of reach. Cats love to play with these items, but they can be extremely dangerous if swallowed.

  • Make sure window screens and balcony doors are secure.

  • Keep washers and dryers closed at all times, and check before starting laundry.

  • Avoid candles and fires.  

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5. Don’t Skip a Wellness Check-In

Even if your new pet appears to be healthy, schedule a veterinary appointment as soon as possible, ideally before the new arrival has contact with other pets or young children.

No matter how your new cat enters your life, you can’t be sure what your cat was exposed to before coming into your home.  

“It’s important to make sure the patient is healthy, and to obtain preventative care for your new pet,” says Dr. Fulcher. “This would include things such as flea and tick prevention, fecal tests, deworming and blood tests.”

You will also want to make sure that they are receiving the proper vaccines to keep them healthy and protected.

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6. Don’t Make Behavior Assumptions

It’s a common misconception that cats are simply “little dogs.” If you decide to adopt a cat, it’s critical to learn about the unique behaviors and needs of your new pet, from training to socialization to enrichment.

“The biggest mistake we see is people treating cats like dogs,” says Dr. Fulcher. “They are cats, and learning about cat behavior helps cater to their needs.”

The more you understand about common cat behavior quirks, the better prepared you’ll be to enjoy (and occasionally troubleshoot) your new companion.

By: Monica Weymouth