How To Take Care Of A Rescue Cat Article Series
ITEM ONE: A Safe Place To Land
This is Hercules.
He’s 11 weeks old, approximately.
Nobody knows for sure.
He was found in a gym as a very small kitten
by an animal rescue lady.
We adopted him while we were
secretly caring for
a neighbour’s cat
who was desperately lonely
and gravely underfed.
They have become the bestest of brothers.
It is through them that I have learnt the most
about what it is to cat in a human world.
I’m inspired to share all the information I wish I had before we rescued our two boys back in 2019.
Mostly, it is about what you’ll need to have and do before they arrive as well as good things to know as a new cat parent especially how to be with them in a loving way, and how to figure out what’s going on for them when they do something you don’t understand. There’s also a list of article links on the basics, should you want to delve deeper. But let’s start at the beginning…
A Safe Place To Land
Every cat, when they reach a new destination, needs a safe place to land. Somewhere from which to survey the realm. Remembering cats are sense-centred beings, choose a space that has been cleaned of foreign smells and decorated with at least one familiar item from their last post. A scent-soaked blanket, soft toy or bed will go a long way to communicate safety to your beloved.
Cleaning in preparation just means vacuum the floor and wipe down any surfaces with a damp cloth. Using cleaning agents, especially teatree (which is toxic to cats) or deodoriser and floor cleaner is a big no, no. It will overwhelm their delicate noses and possibly harm them when absorbed through their paw pads and ultimately when they lick it. Yes, like children, they will lick just about everything in their environment so be ready.
Scent-soaked is code for stuff they have rubbed themselves all over and made their own. Soon you and your entire world will be part of that scent-soaked reality for them. It’s a compliment, really, that these beautiful beings want anything to do with us at all and go so far as making us family; I think. Let them rub, roll and even scratch your stuff to begin with. It’s how they get their ‘I belong here’ scent into their new home.
Familiar Sights & Smells
When we brought home Hercules he had nothing from his time at the rescue. Instead, we bought him the toy he was playing with at PetStock (where we adopted him) so he would have something familiar, as well as the litter and litter tray he had there. We also bought the food we were told he had been eating at the rescue so when we got him home it was easy enough to draw him out of the closet, where he ran to hide, with biscuits and gentle promises of loving-kindness.
Familiar food is essential for any adopted animal as sudden changes to their diet can make them sick. Obviously, it’s not always possible to know what they have been eating, especially with strays, dumped and surrendered animals in which case it’s best to start with raw or good quality wet food if you can. That way their system has the best chance to recover from any stress the changes will cause.
Avoid dry food as much as possible. It’s basically all carbs with spray-on flavour. Any nutrition it might have contained was destroyed in the production process. Yes, even top-quality biscuits. I know, it’s a shame. They seem so good for them and even the vet recommends dry food for their teeth as well as their health but meat, bones, organs, and fat are what their bodies require to function so just feed them that. If you need extra convincing, their poop won’t smell as bad, they won’t poop as much and they won’t eat as much either.
Setup The Essentials
Make first impressions in a room that’s not too big. A lot of space can freak the little guys out. A room with a bed, some water, a bowl of wet food, and some toys. Oh, and don’t forget the toilet. It’s best to keep the litter tray, water, and food in separate areas if you can.
Here’s what I recommend:
- LITTER. Unscented, recycled paper or natural clumping brands.
- LITTER BOX. Any large, shallow receptacle will do eg a cardboard box.
- FOOD. Raw or high protein wet food.
- FOOD BOWL. Flat plate of durable, anti-bacterial material.
- WATER. Filtered if possible, fresh every day.
- WATER BOWL. Glass or stainless steel; 2 or 3+ around the house.
- BED. Warm, soft, natural materials setup near you.
- TOYS. 1 chew 1 ball 1 wrestle 1 chase 1 puzzle 1 hide
You can see in the photo below, we set up Hercules’ food, water, and litter along one wall until we realised that wasn’t such a great combination then moved his food to the end of the other bench, and his litter to the bathroom. For some reason, he and the big fella both like to go where we go when it’s potty time.
Moving their litter and food area around can be disruptive. We did our re-arranging within the first few hours and kept things this way ongoing. Our other furniture gets moved about more often and the cats (we have multiple: some adopted, some neighbourhood and others homeless cats we look after) love to discover things have changed and to explore this new playground.
Try a variety of options for play until you know if you’ve got a vertical or horizontal cat — towers and window seats as well as tunnels and rug-diving. I’ll get to that, or you can skip to it now. The important thing is that you spend time with them, tell them what you’re up to, give them time to come to you, observe their body language and respond in kind.
It might seem like a lot at first but you’ll get the hang of it in time. Just remember everything is new for them as much as it is for you so learning one another’s cues will be an important bonding process.
Be patient with your purry-furry-drooly baby and with yourself those first few weeks. It’s going to get easier once you’ve figured out the basics.
Gentle Fingers, Gentle Toes
One of the first things I noticed when we brought Hercules home is how he would turn up right behind me, under my feet and out of nowhere. To this day we still call him the vortex cat. I don’t know how he does it but it taught me to keep my feet planted on the ground so I wouldn’t accidentally step on him, and to walk in a kind of shuffling manner, especially in the kitchen. Once he got a bit older I didn’t need to be as cautious about lifting my feet but I still, to this day, move consciously along the ground.
The unpredictable movements of a cat I like to call jazz. I figure it’s part of their hunting nature, to move in jarring rhythms. It’s where the gentle fingers come in. To prevent him from poking himself in the eyes, I learned to soften my fingers and not point them straight at his face. It’s just a good rule of thumb around crazy animals of any kind I guess, particularly those with kitten energy.
The best games we played were:
- Chase the scrumpled up piece of paper around the house.
- Catch the scrumpled up piece of paper while sitting in the tower.
- Retrieve the feather/toy/chew-stick from under the rug.
- Tunnel under the rug from one side to the other.
- Moth hunting
- Ride the sheet while I drag it along the ground.
Article Series Topics
- What To Feed Them When I Get Them Home
- Which Litter To Buy And Why
- Litter Trays And Where To Place Them
- Where And On What Cats Like To Sleep
- Food Bowls And Water Fountains
- Cat Toys For Kittens
- Best Quality Cat Towers
- Introducing Two Cats
- Introducing A Kitten To An Adult Cat
- Moving House Tips and Tricks
- Essential Vet Visits
- Collars and Bells
- Dry, Wet & Raw Food
- Cat Enclosures
- Vertical and Horizontal Cats
- Hunt, Catch, Kill, Eat
- Dinner Time Jazz
- Crazy Hour
- Inside Games
- Outside Games