Anybody who knows me knows that I absolutely love cats. When I’m old, I’ll probably be that crazy cat lady down the street, and my poor husband will just have to deal with it. Well, last year I lost my sweet little furry companion, Leo, after twelve years. I wasn’t ready to get another cat until about a year later when I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and something caught my eye. An old friend posted that she was looking for homes for a bunch of kittens she’d rescued. I asked my fiancé for his blessing, and a few days later I came home with Belle.
I was expecting a perfect little angel who would instantly love me, but reality turned out to be quite different. Here are a few things I learned during my first couple months with Little Belle.
- A new kitten, especially a rescue kitten, will be frightened when you bring her to her new home. The first thing Belle did when I let her out of the cat carrier was look around frantically, then she bolted under the couch. It took a lot of coaxing to get her out of hiding. Whenever I’d get her to come out for a few minutes, something would end up scaring her and she’d run and hide again. Loud noises, people talking, bright lights– you name it, she was afraid of it. It’s important to be gentle and have a lot of patience. Her favorite spots during her first few days with us were under the bed or under the couch. After the second day when I got tired of looking for her under everybody’s bed, we decided to keep the bedroom doors closed. Taking away some of her favorite places to escape to forced her to get acclimated to her new home.
- Have a closed off area that can be your cat’s “safe place.” I quickly realized that part of Belle’s problem was that she was overwhelmed by how much space she had to explore in the house. So we set up a little area for her, complete with her litter box, bed, food, and a few toys. We walled off Belle’s little corner with deconstructed cardboard boxes, so that she could get out when she was feeling brave, and she could get back in when she needed to be alone.
3. Your cat will probably need some time to warm up to you. Patience is key! If you are expecting to bring home a cat who will love you and cling to you instantly, you may be disappointed. Your cat needs space, and it’s important to give it that space. Sit next your cat without disturbing it while you read a book or watch TV. Talk to your cat and let her get used to the sound of your voice so that it becomes comforting rather than frightening. Don’t force your cat to cuddle with you or to play, but wait for her to be ready. Learn what your cat likes and doesn’t like. Belle still doesn’t like loud noises, so I try to shelter her when loud people come over, or if I’m going to be vacuuming. Give your cat time and space, gently socialize her, and she’ll start to warm up to you. Like I said, patience is key, and this might be the hardest part of adopting a rescue cat.
4. Know that owning a cat is expensive, and don’t bring one home if you can’t afford it. One of the first major expenses you’ll have for your cat is it’s first vet appointment. Your cat will have to be spayed or neutered and get its vaccinations. At a regular vet, this will cost you hundreds of dollars. Luckily, I was able to take advantage of the SNIP program through the Humane Society, and I got Belle everything she needed for only $60. (Belle finally stopped marking her territory all over the house after she was fixed– totally worth it). Besides that, you also have to pay for food, toys, litter, a litter box, a cat carrier, and whatever else your cat may need. I spend about $20 a month on Belle when it’s all said and done. And don’t forget about the occasional unexpected trip to the vet. My little one has gingivitis right now, and that can be pretty pricey.
5. Celebrate the breakthroughs, both big and small! On day four, Belle stopped hiding under the couch. On day five, Belle let me step into her little corner at sit down while she was getting ready to go to sleep. She flinched a little, but she didn’t run away. I pet her and she started purring like crazy; she walked circles around me and rolled over for belly rubs. We cuddled for about twenty minutes before she finally was ready for bed. About a month after she moved in, Belle became a total cuddle bug and started climbing me from my calves until she perched on my shoulder like a bird. About three months after we got her, she was able to stay downstairs for about an hour when we had guests over. The point is that every little victory counts, and taking a second to recognize those moments will help you know that you’re doing something right.
Belle is about nine months old now, and she’s well adjusted to living with my family. Cuddling is her favorite. She sleeps right next to me on my pillow at night, she still loves to climb on my shoulders, and she’s sleeping on my lap as I’m writing this right now. She loves to play with anything that she can turn into a toy, like when she knocks a tube of lipstick off my dresser and chases is around the noisy hardwood floor at two o’clock in the morning. My kitty is my sweet little angel; saving her and making her mine is one of the best decisions I’ve made.