Adopting a cat or kitten as an exciting time for you and your family
It can be a stressful time for a cat when their surroundings are changed so you will need time and patience to properly integrate your new family member into the household and it might take them a few weeks to feel completely relaxed in their new surroundings.
With any of this advice, be prepared to spend time allowing your new cat the opportunity to adjust to their new house. Under no circumstances force or rush your cat into doing things that they may be unsure of and work at the cat’s pace.
Prepare a room for your new cat
Before you even bring your new cat or kitten home, you’ll need to prepare a quiet room, preferably with a door, e.g. not a hallway or area that gets lots of foot traffic, for your new addition to adapt to their new surroundings and have their basic needs such as a litter tray, food and water. This room should have the following items to ensure a successful adoption:
- Food bowl with some dry food in and a full water bowl, preferably separate from each other
- Litter tray, located as far as possible from their food and water. If you are adopting kittens, you may need a litter tray that has lower sides to allow the kitten to jump in
- Hiding place, perhaps behind a piece of furniture
- A spot up high for them to survey their surroundings
- Place to sleep, like a fleece over a sofa or, not for kittens as they might chew it, a crafted cardboard box with a fleece liner
- Scratching post(s) and/or a scratch board
- Some cat toys. Ball toys probably work best, avoid leaving string or feather toys initially in-case the cat gets caught up around it.
The day before you collect your new cat, using a Feliway plug-in Diffuser can help ease the cat into their new surroundings. They are freely available from most high street pet stores. You will need to plug it in a day before to allow the scent to create a reassuring environment when your cat comes home.
Now you have your room sorted the big day has arrived where you go and collect your new cat or kitten. Travelling in a cat carrier in a car is a very stressful time for a cat due to their territorial nature.
This is not guaranteed, but some of our fosterer’s give away an item that has a reassuring scent for them to travel back with and use in the first few days. It can calm the cat during what is a highly stressful time for them.
You might find it beneficial to have a passenger when you bring your new cat home. They can sit next to the cat carrier in the car talking softly and in a low tone to your cat to help put it at ease by distracting it. Be careful about trying to touch the cat at this stage – depending on the cats previous experiences physical contact might not work out well.
Introducing your cat into the house
When you arrive home take your new friend up to the room you prepared earlier, open the cat carrier door and leave them in the room for around an hour. Avoid any physical contact at this stage and let your cat become accustomed to her new surroundings.
After an hour, go and see them. You’ll need to get down on their level so as to not appear intimidating to her. All cats vary depending on their life experiences. Some may instantly be curious as to who you are and come up to you. Let them sniff your scent and get used to your voice.
Other cats may just hide because they are timid or too nervous. If that’s the case just sit in the room with them for 10 minutes speaking to them softly. Repeat this every hour.
If you notice that your cat isn’t drinking, eating or using the litter tray, try and move the food bowl closer to her or put some treats down, then leave the room again.
Meeting the family
Introducing other family members to your new cat needs to be done one at a time and slowly. Only proceed to this stage once you are sure your cat is fully confident around you. You can usually tell when this has happened as they will come to you for affection.
Introduce any children to your new cat but make sure your children understand the correct way to interact and gently stroke your new cat. Most cats will defend themselves if provoked and if you are adopting a cat from the RSPCA we may not be aware of it’s past experiences.
Exploring the house
Once your cat has been allowed to explore the room and has met the family, try leaving her room door open to allow her freedom to explore more areas of the house but make sure any external doors and windows are kept closed for the moment. Leave her room door open so she can run back to her safe place if she gets scared.
Some cats, mainly adult, may trundle off and start sniffing and exploring your house all over while others may just venture out a little from the room, young kittens especially.