How to Help Your New Cat Feel at Home
Pet adoption is a big commitment. Learn what you can to do to make your new cat feel at home.
Congratulations on adopting a new cat or kitten. While you and your family are probably quite eager to shower your new family member with lots of love and attention, your new cat might still be a bit shy and anxious. This article covers some simple things that you and your family can do to make your newly adopted cat feel at home.
Give your new furry friend a warm and gentle welcome home.
Here are some interesting statistics on cats and kittens and the people who love them.
- 91% of pet owners surveyed regard their pets as members of the family.
- Collectively, Canadian pet owners spend $6 billion annually on pet food products and supplies. That works out to $568 spent on each pet per year.
- 17% of the pet owners surveyed adopted their cat from a shelter.
- 55% of cat guardians in Canada keep their cats indoors at all times.
- 36% of the households in Canada have at least one cat.
- 1 in 5 homeowners have modified their home to accommodate pets.
Source: BCSPCA AnimalSense Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2013
Last year, my husband and I adopted a new cat from our local animal shelter. It had been so long since we had a brand new animal in our home that we were both feeling quite anxious about how our new pet would adjust. After living with our beloved cat for so long, the idea of bringing a new pet home was quite nerve-racking. Would this new cat like our home? Was our home safe? How much trouble could she get herself into when we aren’t home?
That’s why I was so grateful to the animal shelter we adopted her from for providing us with a list of tips and suggestions on how to make our new cat feel at home. I believe that every cat in a shelter deserves to find a good home and that no matter what behavioral challenges they may bring with them, it is our job to provide them with a safe, quiet and inviting place to call home.1
When we brought our cat home, we were given a special cat carrier box that doubles as a perch and a place to hide. The box was designed to help cats deal with the stress of being in a shelter. Its unique design provides cats with their own special place to express natural behaviors such as hiding, perching and face rubbing or scent marking.
"I'll come out when I'm ready!"
Based on the suggestions from the animal shelter, here are the steps that we took to help ease our new kitten into feeling loved, safe and accepted here with us:
- When you arrive home with your new cat or kitten, go to a small room where your new pet can stay for a few days. There should be no places for her to hide in this room except for the box or carrier that she was brought home in. Make sure the room has a litter box, and food and water bowls. Cats don’t like to eat near their litter box so keep the feeding bowls away from the litter box.
- Place your cat carrier near a wall and open the top of the box or side of the carrier, slowly. Sit on the floor and quietly observe what your new friend does.
- Your new cat or kitten may come to you right away or she may want to explore the room on her own. She may even want to just hide in her carrier for awhile. Give her time to find her way around. Do not hold, restrain or force her to do anything. Excessive attempts to call her, get her attention or make her come to you will only distract her from getting used to her new environment. Let her explore.
- The tip sheet we were given suggested leaving your cat in this new room as you begin the bonding process. Although you and your family are excited about this new edition to your household, being patient for a few days is the most loving thing you can do. Remember that shelter cats have just experienced a very difficult time in their life: they have lost their home and their regular routine. They were surrounded by other cats, maybe even their own siblings. Give your new cat the time and space she needs to get used to you and her new surroundings.
- Visit this small room as often as you can. Each time you visit, bring surprises such as healthy and tasty food treats or toys each time you visit. Have each person in the household take a turn visiting and bonding with your new cat or kitten. Refresh your cat's water, feed her according to the schedule she had at the shelter and clean her litter box often.
- When you are visiting, sit on the floor and place the toys and treats near you. Wiggle the toy along the floor and encourage some gentle play tine. Wait for your cat to come to you. Do not grab or attempt to hold your new cat.
- Talk to your cat and use her name frequently. A high-pitched but quiet voice is always more reassuring for cats.
When she comes to you, pet your cat gently under her chin.Every cat is different. Some may show affection and climb into your lap right away. Others may stay in hiding and watch you from afar until they feel safe. Let your new cat decide how much interaction she is comfortable with. Getting used to you, your home and other family members may take hours, days or even weeks. Be patient and don’t take anything personally.
I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.— Jean Cocteau
If your cat begins to show signs of greeting you when you enter the room (walking towards you with her tail straight up in the air), try going to the opposite side of the room and call her. If your cat comes to you when you call her, she may be ready to start exploring the rest of your house.
Here are some tips for introducing your new cat to the rest of your home:
- Make sure all windows and doors are securely closed.
- Make sure hazardous plants, materials, wires, chemicals and sharp objects are put away and out of the cat's reach. If your new cat is still a kitten, she may be tempted to chew on things as she explores.
- Block off any small space that your cat could crawl into and be out of your reach. (ie; vents, behind or under heavy furniture or appliances).
- Talk to your cat as she explores so that she can always find her way back to you if she gets lost or confused.
- Keep the volume down on TV’s, radios and stereos. For the first little while, avoid using loud appliances (vacuums, blenders, garburators) that can start or scare your new cat.
- Watch your cat for any signs of fear (crawling, puffed up tail, wide pupils, fast breathing). Notice signs of wanting to escape: sniffing at the outside doors, pacing near vents, scratching at windows or looking at the ceiling. If you notice these behaviors, your cat may still be scared and anxious. The kind and gentle thing to do is to return her to the small room where she was first brought home for a few more days. Continue the bonding process with her through visits and play time.
When your cat seems relaxed, comes when called and doesn't try to hide or find an escape route, then she may be ready to start roaming around your house again.
1. BCSPCA CatSense Program -- We love our adopted cat and are incredibly grateful to the SPCA for the valuable support and information they provided us with. I hope this information can help others have a wonderful experience with their newly adopted cat or kitten. Please visit your local shelter for more information and resources on successfully adopting and bringing home a new pet.
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Watch out for these common household hazards that can harm your cat. Before you bring your new cat or kitten home, remove or eliminate these household items that can cause injury, illness or even death.
Small objects: Thumb tacks, pins, coins, small children's toys and other small objects may be tempting playthings for a curious cat getting to know a new environment. But these objects can cause immense pain and even death if swallowed by your new furry friend.
- Medications and vitamins: Acetaminophen is highly toxic to cats. Make sure that all pills, ointments, liquids and even herbal remedies are stored away safely and securely. Cats love to knock bottles and containers off of counters, just for fun, so make sure that your bathroom and kitchen counters are kept clear and uncluttered.
- Dangling cords, string and electrical wire: Make sure that curtain cords, pulleys and computer wires are detangled and wrapped up neatly out of kitty's reach.
- People food: As cute as it may be when your cat tries to sneak food off your dinner or snack plate, keep your human food away from them. Many common human foods can cause allergic reactions in cats. Garlic and onions are especially toxic to both cats and dogs. Chocolate is also extremely harmful for pets, so keep the sweet stuff out of reach.
- Common toxic houseplants: Many cats and kittens like to nibble on houseplants, but many of the tropical foliage and flowers that we display in our home can be toxic to cats.
© 2015 Sadie Holloway
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