Don’t let the joy of welcoming a new cat into your home be overshadowed by unexpected first-day-jitters. Understanding the feline quirks that make your cat tick can help to eliminate stressful setbacks as you get to know each other.
These basic tips will keep the uncertainty of this situation to a minimum so you can focus on all the fun discoveries that lie in store for you and your newest family member. Here’s how you can plan to give your new cat all the love, attention, and space he’ll need to feel safe during this honeymoon period in your feline-friendly home.
Give Your New Cat a Dedicated Space
Entering a strange environment is generally an uncomfortable- if not mildly traumatic- experience for a cat. Even one who turns out to be as fearless as a lion will probably start out by hiding under the furniture and scoping out the place until he or she feels safe. The trust of a cat can be hard to earn- but, in time, becomes an even sweeter reward.
The first day you bring your new pet home, it’s important to designate a room just for him or her- a safe, quiet space with a door that can be closed. Because cats are territorial by nature, they appreciate having a variety of spaces to claim as their own.
Provide Safe Spaces to Perch and Hide
A scratching post is a key piece of furniture for new cats, as it gives them a space to climb up into safety if they feel threatened, as well as a healthy outlet for scratching. A variety of high resting spots to perch on, and safe hiding spots will help to keep his or her stress levels low. A cat who doesn’t feel threatened will be likely to come out and explore your home much sooner.
Introduce Other Family Members –Carefully
Young kittens are a handful and are best avoided if you have an infant younger than six months old. If your house is home to other cats or dogs, use your knowledge of your current pets’ temperament as well as the recommendation of your new cat’s shelter to make a wise decision about how well suited everyone involved will be as roommates.
Keep your new cat separated behind a closed door but allow them to sniff under the door to get used to each other’s new scent. When all of the animals seem to be less stressed about the situation, it’s time to introduce them by sight through the safety of a baby gate or while holding them. Give praise and treats if they don’t react negatively to this first meeting, but then immediately close the door.
Repeat this gradual introduction process several times each day until everyone involved seems relaxed enough to share the same space. Engage your pets in play separately while in the same room. This sends the message that being around each other means peaceful playtime.
Make Time for Play
Cats are very independent by nature, so don’t expect to be greeted with the boundless acceptance of a dog the first few times you come home. However, it’s important to be available to spend time socializing and exercising your new friend. If you have a hectic, frequently changing schedule involving travel, kids, or work, consider strategies for making enough time for a new cat. If it’s feasible for you, adopting two cats can be helpful as they will keep each other entertained.
Cats are naturally more active at night. It will take lots of daytime exercise to encourage them to switch over to your schedule and stop those early morning wakeup calls they tend to give you. Using an arsenal of fun, interactive toys, make sure to set aside some time for multiple play sessions each day, including one just before your bedtime.
Don’t Wait to Set Up a Vet Visit
Your cat likely comes to you with a good bill of health, all of the necessary shots, and having already been spayed or neutered (the most important box to check!). It’s still a good idea to take him or her for a checkup right away. Contact a vet before you bring your new cat home to make sure you can get an appointment within the first week you spend together. A general wellness check will identify any health issues such as allergies which might arise when your new friend enters their forever-home.
Want to learn more? Be sure to check out our cat guides designed to help new cat owners.