How to best bond with your new cat

Becoming a new cat owner is an exciting experience. Your kitten can become a happy new addition to your family, as long as you start by making your new pet comfortable in her surroundings and take the time to bond with her.

Prepare Ahead of Time
Laurie Donovan, DVM, recommends a few preparations to help ease the transition prior to bringing your new cat home. “The items you really need are food and water bowls and litter boxes, and you should always buy one more litter box than the amount of cats you have,” she suggests. “It’s also advised to purchase a scratching post as well. Cats like to jump on counters and shelves, so make sure to safely put away any valuable, breakable objects and tuck away any exposed wires.” 

It’s a good idea to ask around for veterinarian recommendations early, too, so you have one ready to evaluate your new cat during the first week.

Start Small
After you bring your cat into your home, it’s smart to keep him confined to one area at first, to help get him acclimated. “Make sure to lead your new cat to where the litter box is located, and show him a few times,” says Donovan. “Try to keep loud noises and activities to a minimum as to not spook the new cat while he explores.”

Of course if you already have a cat at home, introductions can be a bit more intense. Here’s how to keep the harmony in a house full of cats.

Show Your Affection … the Right Way
Creating a level of trust between you and your cat takes patience and positive integration. “Pet him when it seems he wants to be touched -- forcing it may just make him run away and hide,” says Donovan. “You can use toys that have the human-cat interaction, such as a laser pointer, and a stick with a cat nip mouse or feather attached to the end.” Cats are very sociable, and with a little time they will learn to love your company and become a perfect addition to your home!

Five Ways To Make Your Shelter Cat Feel at Home

Adopting a cat from a shelter can be one of the most fun and rewarding adventures. And while you’re probably feeling joyful and excited, it’s important to keep in mind that your new furry friend may have had some tough life experiences before you found each other. Though you may never know if they were living as a stray on the street, or in a chaotic, or even abusive environment, it’s very important to make the transition into your home as calm and smooth as possible.

Here we have five tips to make sure Felix feels that mi casa es su casa.                      

1. For the most part, car rides aren’t fun for cats, so try to make them quick and calm. When driving your cat home, keep her in a carrying case or crate. The confined space will make her feel safer and less stressed. Don’t play loud music, and ask the kids not to bother their new friend during the ride. It’s not a good idea to let the cat roam around during the trip either. You might think they would enjoy that, but what they really want is to feel safe and secure.

2. Give them time to acclimate. During the first few weeks keep the cat indoors so that she starts to think of your house as his home. You will want her to associate being there with positive feelings, as well as the place where he gets food, water and shelter. This way, if you do decide to allow your cat outside, she’ll know to always come back and not run away.

3. Don’t be surprised if your cat hides from you. If your cat hides for the first few days you bring her home, don’t be offended. It doesn’t mean she’s unhappy with you or your home. Cats can be quite nervous after a move, and they calm those nerves by finding a quiet and contained space. She may hide for several days under a bed or couch, or even in a closet. While this can be hard on owners—especially excited kids who have a new adorable pet!—if she’s safe, don’t remove your new cat from that space. Allow her time to gather her courage and come out on her own. But be sure that while she’s hiding, she has access to water, food and her litter box close by. 

4. Baby Steps. It can take cats one to two weeks to get comfortable in a new home. During that time, the best way to ease the transition is by creating a calm environment, which means keeping away children and other pets. Not only will this help your cat feel safe in your house, the less stressed your cat is when she meets your kids, or her new animal siblings, the better that meeting will likely go. In fact, it’s recommended that you find a quiet, safe room in your house and keep your cat contained there until he’s acting a bit more comfortable.

5. Cats need their sleep. Kind of like a teenager, cats do best when they are given ample alone time and can get lots of sleep. Often, they’ll find several favorite spots to catch a snooze. They like dark, quiet, non-drafty spaces. By providing your new cat with a soft bed, you can sometimes guide her to a particular location, but by nature cats are independent, so don’t be surprised if she ends up sleeping on your couch, or even between some books on a bookshelf. Try not to wake your cat when she’s sleeping, and remind your kids to do the same.

Keep these few simple steps in mind when you bring home your shelter cat, and your family will enjoy their new family member in no time at all!

Writers Who Love Their Cats

Writers from mystery novelist P.D. James to science-fiction icon Ray Bradbury and numerous others have at least one thing in common: They all love cats. Why is it that so many literary types gravitate toward felines? Here are a few possible reasons:

1. Cats inspire us.

Recently I met SARK, aka Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, the best-selling author of A Creative Companion and other books. We were at an NPR radio show taping, and she had just finished telling a story about her now-deceased -- yet never forgotten -- cat, Jupiter.

In 1989, SARK wrote down some inspirational thoughts about “How to Be an Artist.” They included lines like, “Stay loose” and “Invite someone dangerous to tea.” She put them on a scrap of paper and placed it on a wall in her home. Every morning, Jupiter would paw at the list, until one day it fell down. SARK paid attention and created a poster using the list. It sold more than 1,000 copies in a week and led to a lucrative publishing company contract.

2. Cats and authors admire each other.

Canadian novelist and playwright Robertson Davies famously once wrote, “Authors like cats because they are such quiet, loveable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.”

Publisher Janet Mills named her Amber-Allen Publishing company after one of her beloved cats, Amber, and her good friend Marc Allen. Mills published all of don Miguel Ruiz’s best sellers, books by Deepak Chopra, and has also written popular books, such as The Power of a Woman: Timeless Thoughts on a Woman’s Inner Strengths. “Cats represent the most beautiful qualities. They exude wisdom, calm, grace and pride,” said Mills.

3. Cats give us permission to play and laugh.

Mills joked that her cat Anjali “silently lets me know that the house needs cleaning when she squeezes under furniture and comes out looking like a dust mop. She makes me laugh.”

Such pleasures appear to be timeless. During the Renaissance period, French author Michel de Montaigne used to take breaks to spend time with his cat. He later wrote, “When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her?” When poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott constructed a house in Italy, he made it an exact replica of his original home to avoid upsetting the comforting routine he and his cat shared.

4. Cats help us to confront challenges.

Routines, however, can be upset by unwanted happenings, such as illness. Nancy Carleton, editor of famous works by Dan Millman, Lynn Andrews, John Robbins, Sanaya Roman, Terry Lynn Taylor and many other well-known authors, is also a talented writer who has contributed to Taylor’s Angel books. In recent years, Carleton has been fighting a serious illness, but has gained strength from cats and other pets.

Carleton specifically talked about Luna, a cat that came into the hearts of her and healthmate Susan Hunter one dark and stormy night. She also recalled Sheba, a “beautiful black, long-haired cat” who was with her and Hunter during the last year or two of Sheba’s life. The cat was very elderly when she chose to live in Carleton’s home.

Carleton was present when Sheba had to be euthanized, something she’d experienced before with another cat named Tappy. “It was a very moving experience being with both of them and giving them love and blessings as they left their bodies,” she said. The moments helped her to “never doubt that the spirit goes on after death.”

The author/cat connection therefore runs very deep. Many of your favorite books were probably written and published by individuals who had a cat nearby for inspiration, companionship, comfort and so much more. Don’t discount the cat contribution either. As poet Dilys Laing once wrote, “I put down my book, The Meaning of Zen, and see the cat smiling into her fur as she delicately combs it with her rough pink tongue. ‘Cat, I would lend you this book to study but it appears you have already read it.’ She looks up and gives me her full gaze. ‘Don't be ridiculous,’ she purrs, ‘I wrote it.’”

How Your Cat Says "I Love You"

Amy Morgan of Brooklyn, New York, first knew that her calico cat Ruki loved her after he'd been living in her home for about two weeks. "I was in bed, and out of the corner of my half-opened eye, I saw him patiently waiting for me to wake up. The second I moved, he jumped on top of me, purring and kneading my chest wildly. Ever since, he's done that every morning. It's a great way to wake up."

But do cats love? And do they show it by kneading? "Absolutely," says Jackson Galaxy, a Redondo Beach, California-based cat behaviorist. "A friend of mine says it best: cats are the masters of detached love. She's talking about how cats can seem aloof and unfeeling. They express love in ways that baffle us."

Galaxy decodes seven of your furry friend's signals of l'amour.

1. Grooming
Grooming is the first way that kittens experience care. Mothers groom their kittens from birth, and so licking and being licked become associated with the serenity of being with mom. "Litter mates as they grow older, if they're adopted together, will groom each other for life," says Galaxy. If your cat is licking you, it's a sign of its affection.

2. Purring
A kitten is first guided to its mother's nipples by her purr. As a result, purring is associated with milk and the feeling of satisfaction. And kittens purr back. "It's almost like a Marco Polo type of game: call and response. It's life affirming to them," says Galaxy. "There's debate as to what the purr signifies later in a cat's life, but we do know they purr to sooth themselves -- the purring lowers their heart rate." If your cat is not injured or stressed, purring in your presence is likely related to feeling cared for by you, just as it was cared for by its mother.

3. Rubbing
Cats show affection to other cats, dogs and humans by rubbing against them. (Rubbing includes paw kneading, as in the case with Morgan's calico.) Says Galaxy, "When your cat puts its scent on you, it's saying something like, 'You and I belong together because I smell you on me and you smell me on you.' It's a scent complement." Kneading is also a throwback to kittenhood, when a kitten kneads its mom's teat in order to stimulate the flow of milk. Allowing the rubbing is essential to your relationship with your cat, and you won't smell a thing.

4. Mock Spraying
Male cats spray concentrated urine when claiming territory. In claiming you, your male cat may act as if he is spraying -- backing up toward you with a quivering tail -- but will not actually produce a spray. "They have so many scent glands to rub, they don't need to spray us," says Galaxy. Unfortunately for their human caretakers, an insecure cat may also show love by urinating in its owner's bed. "My clients sometimes mistake this for aggression. It's actually a compliment."

5. Gumming
Is Fluffy rubbing its gums on you? Yep, that's one more way in which your cat may attempt to blend its scent with yours.

6. Blinking
It's been referred to as "the cat I love you." This visual signal usually consists of a stare, followed by a blink, an open eye, and then a soft second blink. "It's actually a sign of trust, like showing you its belly," says Galaxy, who mimics the blink with cats he works with when trying to gain their confidence. "It's a form of communication I know works. Do it a few times with your own cat. They'll begin returning it to you."

7. Gifting
When your cat brings you a dead mouse, it's not a present in the traditional sense. "What seems like an obvious sign of affection is something that comes from a dog or human-centric viewpoint. When a cat brings a dead mouse home, they're saying, 'I bring this thing to my safe place.' It's more a demonstration that your cat feels supremely safe in the home you share. That, too, is a compliment."

To return your cat's affection, Galaxy recommends following its lead. "Experiment. Present your hand and see where your cat forces it. You'll find out what your cat likes to feel." Your cat will discover that people, too, are capable of feeling love.

ID Your Relationship With Your Cat

Cats are thought of as family members by 89 percent of feline owners, according to a Harris Poll from December 2007. Gone are the days when kitty had to sleep in the barn and is expected to earn a daily ration by chasing mice. When you're a feline family member, such status affords you the right to sleep in the master bed (78 percent), receive gifts during the holidays (63 percent), and even for some, get a mini vacation at the owner’s place of work (10 percent).

"Cats are quietly becoming our allies and pals," says Arden Moore, author of Happy Cat, Happy You (Storey 2008) and editor of Catnip magazine. "They're no longer being regarded as furry pieces of furniture. We don't need them to be mousers anymore. Quietly and with dignity, cats have won us over. We know they can give us real affection."

The type of relationship you have with your feline can vary, however, between parenting your cat as if it was a coddled babe-in-arms to cherishing your purebred as if it were the Queen of Siam to confiding in your mixed breed as you would a best friend. How you see your relationship with your cat can be a function of several factors, including your cat's temperament, your expectations in the relationship and your understanding of cat behavior.

See if any of these relationship types matches the bond you have with your furry friend:

Pampering Parent 
You regard your cat as the child you never had, as a replacement for the child that flew the coop or simply as yet another babe to care for. The sure signs include talking baby talk to kitty, co-sleeping, throwing birthday parties to mark each of your pet's new years and scheduling your cat for all different types of enrichment -- from grooming to training to feline dance classes.

Benefits The relationship can be rewarding and comforting to both cat and pet owner. The unconditional love that a parent has for a human child -- and vice versa -- can be brought to this parent-cat relationship. All pets need to be nurtured. Every pet owner wants to be needed.

Pitfalls There is the potential for the “soccer mom syndrome” -- over-scheduling your little one. Sometimes, for example, a parent's exuberance can get out of hand, according to Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant in Northern California. Krieger recalls hearing about a cat owner who bathed her pet every few days and then applied perfume. "This was not healthy for the cat," Krieger says. "The cat developed over-grooming problems as a result."

Feline's Best Friend
Move over, Rover. Let Fluffy take over. You see your cat as man's (or woman's) best friend. Your cat is your true companion that you can tell all your troubles to -- and it'll still purr and rub around your legs as long as you treat it kindly. Some cat owners swear that their pet, like a true buddy, is the perfect barometers for whether a new boyfriend or girlfriend is a keeper -- or whether he or she is "hisss-tory." Your cat doesn’t care if you gained weight or if you made a mistake at work.

Benefits Feline friendship may bring health benefits. University of Minnesota researchers recently found that over a 20-year-period, people who never owned a cat were 40 percent more likely to die of heart attacks than people who owned cats or who did so in the past. "A lot of people are lonely out there," Krieger says. "Instead of coming home to an empty house, they come home to a pet. Cats are affectionate. They talk and listen and respond."

Pitfalls Unrealistic expectations may lead to friendship fallouts. You may want your cat to be like your long-lost human friend -- or maybe more like your last cat -- but the truth is that you have to accept them for what they are.

Proud Collector
You are a cat lover because the species is so regal, so mysterious, and so exotic. You may have a beautiful cat -- maybe an expensive purebred -- that you treat like a trophy pet. You put that cat on a pedestal. You make sure it’s brushed, well fed and has all the right toys. You may not ask for anything in return -- except that your meower looks good.

Benefits You make sure your cat is brushed, well fed, and owns all the right toys. Your cat just has to look good and proudly revel in the admiration.

Pitfalls "We still see people adopt a cat strictly on looks, and they don't necessarily pay attention to personality," Moore points out. Some of the exotic breeds may match your sofa, but they're cats -- and they're going to exhibit very cat-like behaviors such as scratching up that sofa if you don't provide them with a better scratching post.

Pet Savior
You are the antithesis of the pet owner who views his or her cat as a piece of property. You're looking for a companion -- or two or three or more -- to save. You can't turn down a stray. You may start by putting some cat food out on your doorstep. The next thing you know, another cat is sharing the litter box.

Benefits You try to tame even feral cats with your heart of gold because you love feline companionship. You're doing a good deed by rescuing cats from the streets or the shelter and making sure they're neutered after you adopt them. They'll shower you with affection -- each cat in its own way.

Pitfalls Picking up strays can pose some problems. If you have more than one cat in a house, you need to set up -- and continuously clean -- more than one litter box, more than one food bowl, and so on. Cats also need vertical territory to establish the hierarchy, Krieger says, so make sure you have enough places to climb. Trying to be a cat savior can cost you in terms of human relationships. You may have to choose between your feline companions and a spouse.

When developing your relationship with your cat, it's important to realize that each cat likes to socialize in different ways. Some may give you head butts and purrs. Other cats need to have all four feet on the floor and are uncomfortable sitting on anyone's lap. "You have to read the cat's cues," Moore says. "It can be like the difference between the relative that gives you the bear hug and another that will freeze if you touch them."

Photo: Corbis Images