This is an exciting time for you and your family. You’re about to bring home a new furry family member. Regardless of where the cat is coming from (shelter, rescue, breeder), here are some basic tips to help make the transition a bit easier for everyone. It’s important to not rush the process in order to give your cat time to adjust to her new surroundings and new family members. A little extra TLC during this time will help ensure a smoother transition. If you haven’t yet chosen your new cat, read the article on our website about making a good match.
1. Visit the Veterinarian
Even if your new cat is already up-to-date on vaccinations, visit the veterinarian for a medical check-up. This is important no matter where the cat from, but most especially if you don’t have any medical records. To give this newest family member the best start, have her checked by the veterinarian. This is also the time to talk to the veterinarian about any questions you may have about your new furry family member. During this visit you can also have her microchipped. Your cat may also be dewormed for internal parasites and you may be advised to start a flea control program for external parasites.
2. Cat-Proof Beforehand
It’ll be much easier to spend the time making sure your home is cat-safe before you bring in your newest family member. If you haven’t lived with a cat before you’ll be surprised at the places a kitty can hide and the trouble she can get into. Look at cat-proofing as you would baby-proofing but consider this “baby” as a super toddler who can jump almost seven times her height, squeeze into spaces that seem completely impossible, use her teeth to chew through cords, among many other talents that a new cat parent probably never thought possible.
3. Give Your New Cat a Place of Her Own
Even though you plan on providing this wonderfully loving home for your new cat, she’s not ready to see all of it yet. A cat is a territorial creature of habit and it’ll be overwhelming for her to simply be placed in the middle of the living room the first day you bring her home. If you do that, the first thing she’ll very likely do is run for cover somewhere. Instead, set up a sanctuary room (usually an extra bedroom or any room that can be closed off) so she can take time to get her bearings.
4. Provide Resources and Hiding Places for Your Cat
Her sanctuary room should be supplied with a litter box, scratching post, water, food bowl and toys. In addition to the basic resources, set up some hiding places and private navigation paths. If you just put the cat in a bedroom without any private paths she’ll just hunker down under the bed. A better option is to create tunnels so she can privately go from one hiding place to the food bowl or litter box without feeling so vulnerable. You can buy soft-sided cat tunnels at your local pet product store or you can make tunnels with paper bags. Cut the bottoms from the paper bags, open them and then tape one to another to create a tunnel. Fold a cuff around the end of each bag to create more stability. You can even cut a few peek holes in the middle of the tunnel so the cat can stop halfway and look out at her surroundings. Other options for hiding places are to turn boxes on their sides, line them with towels and create safe napping areas or set up donut or A-shaped beds.
5. Allow Time for Your Cat to get her Bearings
Depending upon where she came from and her anxiety level, it’s normal for her to not want to eat, use her litter box or drink any water right away. Provide a small amount of food and give her privacy. She may feel more comfortable to eat when no one is around initially. If she doesn’t show any interest in eating the first day, just keep providing small meals and fresh water. Don’t put out too much food so you can monitor whether any is actually getting eaten or not. By the second day she should be hungry enough to start nibbling. If not, talk to your veterinarian. You don’t want the cat to go more than a day without eating but your veterinarian will provide specific instructions on how you should handle the situation based on your cat’s specific history and circumstances.