Your new cat: Why are the first 24 hours so important?

The cage was small, but the people were nice and Tiger felt safe. He was fed, petted, and groomed regularly. Still, he was not at home. Tiger had been “home” and still had vague memories of the woman who had looked after him and the other cats that lived with her.

Then they had brought him to this place, and he had been here so long that he had almost forgotten about the “house” and the woman.

Yet there was uneasiness here, and Tiger felt it. Something was about to happen. Something bad.

Then two humans entered. They put him in a cage with them. He jumped onto the woman’s lap. They put him in a dark place that hit him and pushed him. He heard strange and terrifying noises. He howled and a male voice responded with noises he couldn’t understand.

Then there was light. AND TERROR!

A small hand reached out and tried to grab it. There were people I didn’t know; they all approached him. There was another cat that arched up and spat.

So, horror of horrors …

There was a dog!

Tiger fled. He fled down a long corridor and bolted through the first open door he found. He hid in the darkest place he could find … between soft and hard things that he did not recognize. I hear voices. He heard the dog barking and shuddered. He heard the high-pitched voice of the child and the voice of a woman … which were easier to bear.

He crouched down and remained as invisible and silent as he could get.

Rushed adoption

Staff at animal shelters greet people seeking new pets with joy and suspicion. People walk between the cages, looking at each cat, and the staff expects them to select a cat that has been there for a long time.

But they know what people are looking for; They are looking for kittens, not adult cats.

If there are no kittens, clients will sometimes reluctantly choose an adult cat as a “consolation prize,” pay adoption fees, and take it away …

Only to return the cat two or three days later.

“I’m sorry, but this cat just didn’t work out. We couldn’t fit him into the family.”


“This cat is too wild. We need something more tame, something that fits.”

“What happened?” Asks the staff member.

“The cat shot out and hid. It took us three days to find it, and when we finally did, we had to chase it around the house before we caught it. We need something more tame; something that fits better.”

So there are sad returnee stories … but wait, it can be worse for cats adopted in other ways.

“The owner won’t let me keep it, could you take it in?”

People who adopt stray dogs or a friend’s cat often don’t realize the full scope of the things to do for their new cat:

o Prepare your home to receive your cat

o Take care of your cat’s medical needs

o Make sure your other cats have protection against disease.

o Take care of your cat’s physical needs

o Properly introduce your cat to companions, children, and other pets.

And perhaps the most important:

o Prepare for a good relationship with your new cat.

People who have never had cats before don’t really realize what a cat is: a highly intelligent and independent animal that needs love and affection on a daily basis, but is not a dog.

Cats bond with people, just like dogs, but they don’t always bond with the person who has adopted them. They will choose who they like, much to the dismay of the person who “picked them up” in hopes of having acquired a new friend.

This is a very good reason why the first 24 hours are so important. It is during this period that your cat will decide who he wants to bond with.

Unless you know what you are doing, it may not be with you.


A cat needs to spend time with her. One of the big mistakes busy people make is not realizing that they have busy schedules that don’t allow them to spend enough time with their newly adopted cat.

Ultimately, this could lead to your cat running away. If you don’t have time to spend with your cat, he will not choose your house as “his den.” She will go out in search of another, and soon you could be reporting a “lost cat.”

Or, to your dismay, you will find that the cat you thought would make a loving companion has bonded with another member of your household … someone you had time to spend.


Many people don’t count the cost of having a pet. In their exuberance to adopt a cat, they forget that they don’t have the budget to support her. Belatedly, they discover that they do not have the cash to buy the basic needs of their new feline or to provide him with the medical care he will surely need.

Many people avoid pet health insurance, not realizing that the same things that happen to people happen to cats, and can cost large amounts of money to heal. This can result in the loss of your beloved pet because the price to save it is “too high.”

Medical needs

Some people who adopt stray or friend-owned cats don’t realize the full scope of medical care their new cat needs:

o A complete physical exam

o A complete vaccination regimen

o Spaying or neutering

In particular, that cute kitten you brought home from a friend’s litter will need a long series of vaccinations (along with boosters) that will span a period of a couple of years. You can’t do it all in one day.

Failure to do this will almost certainly spell tragedy in the future. I know. I couldn’t vaccinate one of my kittens. I turned him into an outdoor cat and he died of feline leukemia. The story definitely had a very sad ending …

Your cat’s physical needs

When your cat leaves the crate for the first time, will you be equipped with the essentials?

Or will you find out you need these things later … and bring them in one at a time, after your cat has defecated in the corner, started scratching furniture, or started some other unauthorized behavior that you are not prepared? (And keep in mind, a cat is a very obsessed animal … once it starts doing something, it is very difficult to change it.)

Making sure you have what you need to welcome your new cat is vital … and you should have the basics on hand before you bring him home.

First introductions

So when your cat first comes out of its cage, will it be attacked by everyone in your household at once? And when she does, will she run away in terror, trying to find the safest and darkest corner she can find?

Or will you introduce it gradually … to try to reduce the trauma as much as possible so that you can adjust and feel at home in your new situation?

Your technique for doing this can be a deciding factor in whether or not your cat adjusts to your home immediately, the next day or the next month, or if it runs away from the house altogether.

The days to follow

Do you know how to care for your new cat in the next few days, assuming you handled your first few introductions well? Are you aware of allergies, special foods, bathing, grooming, hairballs, eliminating urine, training and teaching without scaring and alienating her, and a multitude of other situations that cat owners struggle with on a daily basis? Do you know the dangers of letting it become a cat outdoors?

To be prepared

As you’ve often heard, ‘grooming is the key to success’, and nowhere is this applied more appropriately than when owning a cat. If you’re prepared, your adoption will likely go smoothly.

I say probably because every cat is different. Even with the best preparation by a knowledgeable owner, a cat may want to hide for a while. And if you find out that’s the case …

You need to know what to do.

The key

So that’s why I wrote my book, “Your New Cat’s First 24 Hours”,, to give you everything you need to know and have, not just to prepare for your new cat and introduce her to her house, but to understand her and take care of her in the following days.

I have to say it again: preparation … and knowledge … is the key. When you decide to adopt, I hope you are not in a rush.

Hope you do it with knowledge and understanding.

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