Bringing a new cat home
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Bringing a new cat home

Cats
General

Congratulations on making the wonderful decision of getting a cat! It may be a kitten or an adult, your first cat, your only cat, or an addition to an existing group of cats. Whatever your experience of cat owning, it is always good to think about how your cat will feel being taken from a familiar environment with familiar people, be that the breeders or a rescue organisation, to an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people. By following this advice you can help your cat adapt to his new surroundings as quickly as possible.

Be prepared

Cats are very territorial and need to have a core area where they feel secure and have free access to all of the necessary resources. Therefore, before bringing home your cat, decide what room you would like to be your cat's core area, where he will spend most of his time. In this room put all of the resources he will need while he settles into his new environment – food and water, a litter tray, a bed, a scratching post, and some toys. Make sure his food and litter tray are as far away for each other as possible and that his litter tray is in a quiet corner of the room. Your cat would also benefit from places that will help make him feel secure, such as a box to hide in and a high shelf to survey his new surroundings from.Smell is very important to cats and they rely on it for information about whether their environment is safe or potentially dangerous. Therefore, you should ask the cat's current owner for something belonging to the cat that will smell of him, such as a bed or even just a cat blanket rubbed over him and take this back to your house and place it in his room. This will help make him feel more secure as he will recognise his own smell in the room. You can also buy a plug-in synthetic pheromone diffuser which works in the same way. In order to further increase your cat’s confidence and feeling of security you could take something belonging to you, and therefore smells of you, to the cat's current owners and leave it with him for a few days before you go to pick him up to take home so that he gets used to your scent and the scent of his new home as well.

Bringing him home

Cats are all individuals and how they react to a new environment and new people will largely depend on their personality but also previous experiences. Hopefully, he will already be feeling somewhat at home as soon as he arrives due to you previously introducing his scent to his room. Put him in his room with his resources and leave him alone to explore. After a while you can go in to see him. Crouch down or sit on the floor and call him to you. Holding out a food treat may encourage him to come to you or invite him to play with a toy. So as not to frighten him don't approach him, allow him to stay where he is, even if he is hiding. Let him come out in his own time. If you are worried that your new cat is too scared to come out of his hiding place to eat then move his food bowl closer to where he is hiding and leave him for long enough to come out to eat.

Introducing him to the family

Once your cat has settled into his room and is coming to you confidently then he is ready to meet the rest of the human family. Introduce your family members to him one by one and try to keep any children calm as they are likely to be excited about meeting the new addition! Again, let the cat come to them, don't allow anyone to approach him, especially if he is hiding. Encourage your children to be gentle and calm around your cat and teach them how to handle him properly.

Exploring his new home

If you have other pets then make sure that they are outside or in another part of the house so there are no accidental introductions. Also make sure that he won't be able to escape outside by closing all external doors and windows that he has access to. Gradually open up the rest of the house, room by room, so your new cat can get used to the rest of your house gradually without becoming overwhelmed. Just leave his door open so that he can choose whether he wants to leave or not, although you can use a trail of food to encourage him! Keep his door open so that he can return to his room when he has finished exploring or if he becomes frightened. Never pick your cat up and put him into a new room, he needs to be able to follow his own scent trail left by his feet to move around unfamiliar environments.

Introducing other pets

This should be done very gradually and in a controlled manner to reduce the likelihood of fights. Before visually introducing the animals you should swap their scent by swapping their bedding and alternately stroking each animal so that you are simulating the action of the cat rubbing on the other pets. Once your pets have stopped reacting to the swapped scents you can introduce them physically. Bring two pets at a time into a large room and make sure each animal can escape if they feel unsure about the situation, however, it is a good idea to keep any dogs on a lead so they do not learn to chase the cat. Household cats may never become friends so make sure that each cat can access all of his resources without having to walk past another cat. This will mean having multiple resource areas set up around your house.

Exploring the outdoors

You should keep adult cats indoors for 4 weeks after bringing them home so that they are more likely to see their new home as their territory and will return rather than trying to find their old territory and getting lost. Make sure he is hungry when you first let him out, i.e. before his normal mealtime so that he is not likely to go far and will be more inclined to come back when you call him or rattle his food tin. Do not carry your cat outside as he will need to follow his own scent trail back into the house again if something spooks him. If he seems hesitant to go out then instead of picking him up, go into the garden yourself and encourage him out by calling his name. Inviting him to play or offering a food treat might encourage more nervous cats. The outdoors can bring with it some potential threats to your cat such as ambushes from neighbouring cats. Therefore make sure your cat can always get back indoors, for example through a cat flap and provide plenty of cover and even high shelves in your garden that your cat can escape to or hide behind without the other cat following him.

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