Introducing a New Cat to Your Home
Tips to make sure you're new family member is as comfortable as possible.
Getting a new family member is always extremely exciting, but it can also be quite daunting – especially if it is for the first time. This applies to new human family members, yes, but it also applies to new animal family members. In the days before picking up our first cat, Onyx, I was so nervous. What would she be like? Would she like us? Would I like her? Onyx was around 5 years old when we picked her up from her foster home. She had found life in the rescue centre very stressful and was placed with a family in a flat. We did not know much about her history; she was a clean slate for us but we knew she’s had 5 years of experiences. So for anyone else facing the same situation as we were, I wanted to give some advice on how to introduce your new cat into your home.
The second you let your cat out of the cat carrier they will look for a place to hide. Let them. Make sure the room you let them out into has plenty of safe hiding spaces such as boxes, under a bed, or under a desk. We let Onyx out into the dining room and she immediately ran underneath the table. Allow them to come out of their hiding place in their own time (even if it takes a few days).
Leave them for a bit:
Leave your cat to settle into the room on their own for a couple of hours. They will not leave their hiding place, but a bit of peace and quiet can go a long way. There is already a lot of new stimulus in this new room, adding humans to the equation could be very stressful. Go and watch TV for a while, or go and make food. Give your cat time to adjust to this strange new room.
Let the cat come to you:
This is pretty self-explanatory: do not force the cat to accept your touch straight away. Some cats take weeks or even months to let new humans touch them. Try not to take it personally, especially with rescue cats because you don’t know what their experience of humans has been like before you.
Talk to your cat:
Even though you shouldn’t touch your new cat, you can still interact with them. Sit in the same room as them and talk softly to them. Make sure to use their name every so often. Even if you run out of things to say, just sitting in the room can get your cat used to your presence and will help them to become more comfortable with you in the long term.
Most cats take about 2 to 7 days to venture of the room they were first introduced into. But when they do start to explore, allow them to do it at their own pace. If the cat comes to the room that you are in, that’s wonderful! Try to continue doing what you were doing and allow the cat to explore the room you’re in at their own pace. Try not to follow your new cat into rooms that they want to explore. This could make them think you are following them and can make them uneasy. It is prudent to make sure your house is cat proof before you bring them home with you. Your cat is most likely to begin exploring when you are asleep, or when you are out of the house.
Try not to panic if your cat does not pass urine or stools for the first couple of days. Remember, they are very scared and might try to hold off going to the toilet for as long as they can. Try and put the litter tray in an obvious place for them; somewhere they can easily see and easily access. Hopefully, when the time comes they will use the litter box, but this isn’t always the case. Be forgiving if they don’t use the litter tray at first. Try moving the litter box to a more convenient/quite place and try changing the cat litter. When you notice your cat using the litter tray, make sure to praise them with treats. If your cat was an outdoor cat or used to be feral, try filling the litter box with soil and then slowly weening them over to cat litter.
Get your cat into a routine as soon as possible, especially when it comes to meal times. Make sure you are feeding your cat at roughly the same times each day, and make sure you are giving them the same brands of foods each day. Put the food bowl in the same place each day so your cat knows where to expect their food. Always make sure your cat has access to clean, fresh water.
Armed with this information, you’re all set! Remember: always go at the cat’s pace and you should be fine.