Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Welcoming your new cat home

When you first adopt a cat or kitten, you will need to help him gently settle in to his new home. A change of environment is always stressful for a cat, so it will often take a few weeks for him to feel relaxed in his new abode. Following the advice here will help him to successfully adapt to his new surroundings.

Bringing your new cat home
The first few hours after bringing your cat home can really affect how well he accepts his new life. First and foremost, be prepared to be patient and never attempt to rush your cat into doing things he may not be ready for.
It is important to provide him with a quiet place with everything he needs, so set aside a dedicated, secure room before you collect him, This room should include:

-       Separate areas for food and water

-       At least one little tray placed in a private, accessible location which is as far away as possible from his food and water.

-       Somewhere to hide such as a box

-       Access to a high spot where he can view his surroundings

-       A suitable place to sleep, ideally, a choice of them

-       A scratching post

-       A few cat toys and space for him to play

The significance of scent
Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell and will settle quicker if their new home smells familiar. To help your cat get used to your scent, take an item of clothing or a blanket from your home and leave it with the cat for a few days before you bring him home. Make sure you bring the same item back – ideally it will fit comfortably in his carrier with him and then it can be placed in his room.

You could also use a synthetic form of feline facial pheromones such as Feliway. These come as a plug-in diffuser or a spray. The scent helps to create a reassuring environment and may help to reduce stress.

Travelling home

Being territorial and a creature of habit, a cat becomes very attached to his familiar environment and finds travelling very stressful. To help your cat stay calm during journeys, use a strong, secure and easily cleanable carrier, with a familiar smelling blanket inside and cover the carrier with another light blanket. You may wish to spray the inside of the carrier with a pheromone spray at least 15 minutes before putting your cat inside, to allow the alcohol to evaporate. The pheromone can help to create a feeling of familiarity and security.

The first steps…
When you arrive home, leave your cat alone to explore his room for an hour or so before introducing yourself, although some cats may need longer. When you go in to see him, get down to his level, put out your hand and call his name softly, let him come to you.

If your cat chooses to hide, just sit quietly in the same room and occasionally talk to him gently in low tones – do not force him to come out. Give him plenty of time to adjust and continue to visit him so he can get used to your presence. As long as he is eating and using the litter tray, there should be no cause for alarm. If your cat is very timid, he may not want to come out to eat. In this case, try moving the food bowl closer to his hiding place and leaving the room.

You may want to try offering a small treat or using an interactive toy, such as a fishing rod toy with feathers on the end to tempt your cat from his hiding place. Play is a good bonding tool because it is less intimidating than physical contact, relieves stress, and provides mental stimulation and an outlet for pent-up energy. You may find it is easier to encourage play at dawn and dusk when cats are naturally more active.   
Meeting the family
Once your cat seems confident with you, introduce other (human) family members, one by one. Children are likely to be excited about the new arrival, but it is important to keep them calm. Let the cat come to them and when he does, show the children the correct way to gently stroke and interact with him. Children, particularly young children with little experience of cats, need to learn how to treat cats appropriately. Even the friendliest cat will defend himself if he is pushed or pulled too much so make sure they understand he is not a toy. Avoid picking your cat up in the early stages – wait until he has settled in and knows that your are not a threat. 
Some cats may not have had much contact with people, or may have had bad experiences in the past, so be patient. Bear in mind that not all cats will become lap cats.
Exploring the rest of the house
Once your cat is comfortable in his space and if you have no other pets in the house, you can gradually let him explore more rooms. It may help to gently wipe your cat’s cheeks with a soft cloth – to pick up the facial pheromones – and rub it around points in the house at cat height to make the house smell more familiar. Let your cat come out of his room of him own accord and keep the door open so he can dash back to his refuge if he feels the need. Make sure all external doors and windows are shut so he can’t escape outside.  

The big outdoors
Don’t let your cat go outside until he has fully adjusted to his new home and knows where his food will be coming from – this usually takes between three and four weeks. Kittens should always be supervised when outdoors. When you let your cat out, do it when he’s hungry so that you can tempt him back inside with food, until he is used to coming back to the house freely. (Source: Cats Protection)  

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