Bringing your cat home - the first few days.
Before you go to collect your cat make sure you have the basics at home:
- a good cat carrier
- a cat basket/cat bedding
- litter tray
- two or three food bowls
- a couple of cat toys.
Allocate a room where your new cat will spend the first few days. It is a good idea to use a room which is away from a busy area of the house but a the same time somewhere where you spend quite a lot of time (for example your study or bedroom). Move all the stuff there to be ready for the new arrival. Remove any plants and things which can tumble or be dangerous to the cat.
When you collect your cat ask if you can take her bedding with you. The alternative is to bring a towel or a blanket on your earlier visits which the cat uses for a couple of days. This way she will have at least one thing which is familiar. Remember that cats really hate new and unfamiliar places so the more you can do to make her feel safe, the shorter the transition will be.
When you bring your new cat home, take her to her room and open the cat carrier. One of two things will happen: the cat will remain the the carrier (the only safe place she knows in the new environment) or will jump out and hide under the sofa, bed, table etc. If she does not want to come out from the carrier immidiately, don't force it, leave her to do things in her own time. Put some food, water and her litter tray near-by. If you have a busy household, closing the door to the room is recommended. This gives the cat time to adjust to the new surroundings before exploring the rest of the house. It is also important to keep the door shut when you bring a kitten or if you have other pets already in the house. If the house is small and quiet, or it's just you living there, this may not be that essential. Try to spend as much time as possible in the new cat's room. It is a good idea to talk in a quiet calm voice, but don't try to pick the cat up. Cats feel vulnerable when picked up and some cats, even very affectionate ones may not like to be picked up at first.
The next couple of weeks
It is very difficult to say how long it will take before your new cat will settle in. It often depends on the cat's character and previous experiences. If you take a cat from a rescue center it probably means that, from the cat's point of view, something dramatic and upsetting has taken place. The previous owner may have emigrated, died or been abusive. The cat may have been abandoned or in the worst scenario treated brutally. No wonder that most cats will feel insecure and will require a lot of patience. Some cats take a day or two to come out of hiding and start exploring, some will take weeks or in extreme circumstances over a month. So be patient. Spend a lot of time in her room, and by playing with the toys you will encourage the cat to eventually join in. Cats are naturally curious, so even if you can't see it, make no mistake, it is watching you.
Kittens adopt to new surroundings quite quickly and since they have been taken from their mother they will treat you as a surrogate. As 'mother' it's your job to spend as much time playing with the kitten as you can. Bring other members of the family in so you can share the load. When you have small children you will need to teach them how to play with the kitten. Make sure that they are very gentlewhen they pick it up. It is also important that your children do not make too much noise since that can be very disturbing to the cat.
Once your new family member is used to her close surroundings, its time to explore the rest of the house. You will have to make certain decisions - if you want a indoor cat or you will let the cat into the garden. If you do have a garden and would like your cat to spend some time outside, make sure you don't do this too early. The minimum time the new cat should spend confided to the house is three weeks. If you are bringing up a kitten it is a good idea to keep it indoors for the first year.
Bringing a new cat to a household with pets
If the new cat is not your only cat, or you have a dog, initially make sure you create a solid barrier between the newcomer and your other pets. So the door to the designated room should be shut till the new cat gets confident in her new surroundings. You can let the other pets sound the new cat out from the other site of the door . Once you feel that your new cat is ready to be introduced to other pet you can let them see each other. If possible, make sure that the new cat is in a large cage or see-through tent-like device so if feels safe. Open the door and watch the first reaction. Be ready to remove other pets as soon as the new cat gets too stressed. Kittens are very often adopted more easily by other cats and dogs because they are not envisaged as a threat. It is not uncommon that a female dog might adopt the kitten and bring it up - but don't count on it. Make sure you fuss around your other pet even more so it doesn't feel left out. If the introduction is gradual the chances are good that your pets will live in harmony. However, there are times when pets will not tolerate each other whatever you do. The only option that time is to find a new home for the new arrival.