One of the biggest challenges we find as breeders, is educating our adopters on the importance and necessity of quarantine for their new cat or kitten upon homecoming. We tell our adopters to quarantine, why to quarantine, and they even sign a contract stating that they will in fact quarantine for a period of 7 to 10 days. However, time and time again we receive messages, or see on social media, that the quarantine period was completely ignored, or only lasted a few hours or perhaps a day. The common reasons we hear for the failed quarantine period include;
- The adopter forgot.
- They felt too bad for the kitten.
- The kitten cried constantly.
- The kitten escaped.
- They didn’t have space to quarantine.
What many adopters do not realize is that this lack of preparedness and commitment to the quarantine period can have very serious, even fatal consequences for the new kitten or other pets in the household.
The need for quarantine
There are two main reasons for a quarantine period for any incoming cat or kitten into a new household:
- The health and safety of the new kitten.
- The health and safety of the existing animals in the household.
Let’s first illustrate why this is necessary for the health and safety of the incoming kitten. To truly understand the crucial need for quarantine I believe it helps to look at the entire adoption and homecoming process from the kitten/cat’s point of view.
Your new cat or kitten has lived in one home for several months, or even several years if a retiring adult cat. This kitten has been raised in a birthing area with mom and siblings for the first 6 weeks, then graduated to free range of one bedroom with mom and siblings. Only typically around 9 weeks of age are the kittens free to begin roaming around the entire home/cattery. This is because of the necessity to keep the kittens isolated to rather small areas when they are young to ensure health by maintaining body heat and to ensure they learn the proper use of the litter box.
Now, here we are it is homecoming day! This cat or kitten is taken from the only home they have ever known, the first time away from their human family, and their birth mom and siblings. They are often experiencing the stress of a long day of travel via car or by airplane to arrive to their new home. Finally, they arrive in their new home and are inundated with new sights, new sounds, new people, everything is strange and unfamiliar and can seem very scary to them.
If quarantine is followed correctly, this kitten will be taken into the new home into a quiet, private space which has previously been prepared and set for them. This space will provide time for the kitten to familiarize themselves with the new home and people in as stress free a manner as possible. This will help ensure their health during this very difficult stressful time of their lives. Their change to a new home, just as moving to humans, is thought to be one of the most stressful times in a cat’s whole life.
With a proper quarantine period of 7 to 10 days, this allows the new cat or kitten to slowly acclimate to the household, and then to be introduced to the other animals and children of the home in a much less stressful way. It is the objective of the quarantine period to reduce the stress on the new cat as to prevent illness. However, due to the unpreventable stressors of travel and new home introductions, it is very commonplace that a new kitten will develop illness typically presenting as an upper respiratory infection or sometimes GI issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and low appetite, or all three. When the new kitten remains in quarantine, it will be a lot more conducive to reduce stress and to help them recover if they do come down with an infection/illness; which does occur about 30 percent of the time when a new kitten is brought into the household.
Now, it should be obvious that this is the second main reason why the quarantine period is a necessity. If your new incoming cat or kitten were to come down with a stress related illness, it would be imperative that they were not exposed to the other pets in the household to help prevent them from also contracting the illness. Especially if other pets in the home are very young or elderly, contracting an illness from a new cat or kitten could be very serious.
Length of Quarantine
The other most important point to note is the required length of the quarantine. Your new kitten or cat must be in quarantine for a period of at least 7 days. Don’t let your emotions give in and allow them out in only a day or to because they “seem to be fine,” or “are not sick at all.” The length of the quarantine period is extremely important to ensure that your new cat or kitten has ample time to adjust to their new home and surroundings. Cats are very good at hiding their feelings, they may appear outwardly fine, however inwardly, still be feeling a great deal of stress from the new situation.
Also, it is crucial to understand that many illnesses have a latent period of up to several days while the infection is building in the body. The illness could be actively developing while there are yet to be any outward signs or symptoms. This illustrates the importance of the length of the required quarantine period because your kitten could come home on Monday, and seem completely fine and healthy, but by Thursday, be running a fever, sneezing, watery eyes, and obviously sick from the stress of the travel. Thankfully, a proper quarantine period will allow your kitten to recover more quickly, and prevent the other animals in the home from potentially catching the illness.
How to properly quarantine
The best way to quarantine is to have your new kitten set up in a spare room in your house. Make sure to provide them with toys, litter box, bed and a heat source of course. If you do not have a spare room, you may consider a laundry room or your bedroom. If you have other pets in your home that typically sleep in the bedroom with you at night, this will not be the best option. With the new incoming kitten, your other animals will feel additional stress as well, so it is best to keep the resident animals living situations and routines they same as before your new cats arrival.
If you simply do not have an available separate space in your home, you will need to get a large crate to keep your new kitten in quarantine in. The metal wire dog crates work perfectly; we recommend the largest you can find. We typically use the size recommended for Great Danes. If you don’t already own a crate, we recommend checking with your veterinary office, a local animal shelter, ask friends or family to borrow one, or check craigslist to purchase one at a discount. Once you get the crate, you will want to set it up in the least active area of the home away from your other pets. Be sure to keep the other pets in the home separated while you are not there to directly supervise, as unwanted exposures and potential altercations can take place through the wires of the cage.
After the 7 day quarantine period, you may now slowly introduce your new kitten to the other pets in the home. If you did not use the crate technique it is a good idea to get one now to use, for the introductory period. If you do not have a wire crate a travel crate can be used as well. This allows the pets to slowly get used to each other’s smells, and being in each other’s space with no one getting hurt if there is any aggression. For more detailed information and ideas on proper introductions. Please read my “Proper pet introductions” article in the next blog.
In order to assure your new cat or kitten has the best, safest homecoming possible, a proper quarantine is essential.
- Quarantine for at least 7-10 days.
- Quarantine in a safe, quiet place away from other pets in the home.
- Provide fresh food, water, toys, bed and find a source of warmth; for example a heating pad or heat lamp in the quarantine area.
- If a cat/kitten comes down with an illness, keep in quarantine until all symptoms are resolved.
- Proceed with introductions with other pets very slowly, using a crate or a travel carrier, over a period of another 7 days.
Follow these steps precisely and you will ensure your new cat or kitten will have the amazing, happy homecoming you are dreaming of!
Please note: This article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible. A raw food diet may not be appropriate for all cats in all stages of health and we always recommend having your cat examined and discussing diet changes with your veterinarian.
Keep those Hairless Kitties Healthy and Happy Everyone!!!
Text: Copyright © April Arguin RDH, Founder of LiLNudists Sphynx & Bambino Cattery. All rights reserved.