"Tips for Introducing a New Rescue Cat to the Household
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"Tips for Introducing a New Rescue Cat to the Household

Why a Rescue?

Taking on a rescue cat or kitten can be just as (if not more) rewarding than purchasing a cat or kitten from a private home or breeder. There are many unwanted cats in rescue centres that are in desperate need, so why not consider whether you can offer a suitable kind and loving home? It can be the case that the history is sketchy or unknown, and if you have children or other pets it is safer to find a cat or kitten who is known to have happily lived with them before. Even if your children and existing pets are known to be great with cats, it may be that your new feline is not so friendly in return. This can be very stressful for everyone concerned, so choose your new cat or kitten with care and try to find out as much as possible about them beforehand.

Some important considerations concerning rescue cats:-

  1. Is the history known?
  2. Has the cat or kitten been tested for feline leukaemia (FeLV) and feline aids (FIV)? This is especially important if the cat is not neutered and / or has been picked up as a stray.
  3. Will the centre assist with the cost of neutering (if applicable)? Sometimes this is included in the adoption fee.
  4. Has the cat or kitten been vaccinated?
  5. What routine flea and worming treatment have been administered and when? (you don’t want your new arrival passing on any unwanted guests at home!)
  6. If the cat or kitten is taken on with a medical condition, be sure you know how to safely administer any medication and how frequently veterinary examinations are going to be necessary. Will this incur additional costs for you, or will the centre meet the fees for a pre-existing problem? (Important note – if you have other pets and the condition is contagious to them, it is better for their sake to defer the adoption or select a cat or kitten in good health).

Kitten or Adult Cat?

Many prospective cat owners prefer a kitten, mainly because kittens are cute, cuddly and playful; but they quickly grow up; and by 6 months of age, many already resemble slightly smaller (and more energetic) adults. There are kittens available to rehome from rescue too, so unless you are looking for a specific pedigree breed, many rescue centres will be able to cater for you. Adult cats tend to be calmer (although not always!) and may be a better option for those who are out at work.

Providing a Suitable Home

Before you rescue a cat or kitten, you need to think long and hard as to whether you are able to provide a suitable home. You’ll need adequate space (particularly if your cat’s going to be an “indoor” pet), a safe outdoor environment (if you’re intending to let your cat outside), plenty of time and a good knowledge of how to care for your cat in terms of feeding, grooming and basic healthcare. You will also need to assess whether you are able to take on the financial commitment of a new pet; cats require microchipping, regular vaccination and parasite control, neutering (if you take on a new kitten; although some rescue centres may provide assistance with the cost of this depending on their resources), and of course cats and kittens can become ill and require veterinary treatment which may be expensive. Have you considered who will take care of your cat if you go on holiday? Is there a licensed cattery within a reasonable distance, or do you have a friend or neighbour who would be happy to help? If you already have pets, one of the most important considerations is whether your existing animals are going to accept the new arrival happily, and whether your new cat is going to accept them in return.

Home Checks

Once you’ve made the decision to rescue a cat or kitten and feel you can offer everything your new arrival is going to need to be happy and healthy, the next step is to approach your local rescue centres to discuss the type of cat you’re looking to re-home (age, sex, long or short-haired, temperament) and organise a home-check. Most rescue centres will want to assess your facilities (resources permitting) to make sure you’re able to provide a safe, feline-friendly environment. There are lots of potential hazards in the home and garden including many plants which are toxic to cats (e.g. lilies, hyacinth). It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and talk through any concerns. It’s important, because having to return your cat or kitten to rescue if things don’t work out will be upsetting for you, and very stressful for the cat or kitten.

Preparations

You’ll need to make sure you have all of the following ready before you collect your cat or kitten:

  • Secure travel basket or cage
  • Bedding – soft, absorbent and fleecy bedding is ideal
  • Sleeping box or basket
  • Litter tray and cat litter
  • Air-tight food storage container (for any dry food)
  • Food and water bowls and food (find out what the rescue centre have been feeding and use this initially; you can gradually change the diet once your cat or kitten has settled in if you wish but to start with it is better to feed what the cat has been used to)
  • Scratching post
  • Brushes and combs
  • Collar & tag (especially if you are intending to let your cat outdoors in time)

Don’t forget to register with a vet, and consider pet insurance to cover unexpected costs too.

Introductions

This can be a daunting time for your new cat or kitten, especially after a car journey. To help things to go as smoothly as possible, here are some tips:-

  1. Make sure doors and windows are closed! You’ll need to keep your new cat or kitten safely inside until you are confident she’s settled in to her new home and routine. Kittens are best kept indoors until they adults and big enough to defend themselves. It’s also best to wait until after they have been neutered, as some kittens are fertile at as young an age as 4 months! Make sure the house is quiet and calm on arrival. Other members of the family (especially children) may be excited and want to greet your new cat or kitten, but it’s important to allow the cat to come to them, and not approach her too quickly, particularly if she seems a little nervous.
  2. Offer water, but hold off food for a few hours.
  3. Ensure that other animals are kept away initially whilst your cat or kitten gets over the journey and has had an opportunity to explore. Make sure there is a safe, comfortable area to hide and sleep away from other pets, and when the time comes to introduce them, exercise caution. If you have dogs and cats who already happily live side by side, then this task is generally much easier. The new arrival (if she is not used to cohabiting with other animals) may find this very stressful though. In an ideal world, your rescue cat will be one who has lived with other cats or dogs in the past if you have a multi-pet household.
  4. Be very patient and calm, and accept that the settling in process will take time. Sometimes it can take just a matter of days, but in other cases it can take several months. Close supervision will be necessary for some length of time if there are other pets in the household. It’s not realistic to be on hand 24/7, so it would be wise to allocate a particular room to your new cat or kitten where she can be safely enclosed with her litter tray, bed, food & water so that she can go to the toilet, sleep, eat and drink in peace. Stress is one of the primary causes of urinary tract problems in cats, which is why it’s vital to minimise this as far as possible.
  5. Consider your pets’ safety at all times. If you have a dog, and your dog is used to being crated, then you may like to introduce your new cat or kitten whilst your dog is safely inside the crate. Do still be careful though, as your dog’s face and eyes in particular can be vulnerable.
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