Yay! The big day has arrived! You finally get to bring a cat into your home! Here’s your steps to making sure to start off on the right paw.
Bring your cat home in a safe, secure carrier.
Leave your cat in the carrier and put them in the welcome room you’ve already set up. (Right? You went to Lets Get Started first and have a welcome room set up? If not go there – we’ll wait.)
If you’re a quiet music kind of person, put some on. It can help relax your cat. Close the door securely. Sit near the carrier but do not block the exit. Open the door to the carrier and just let it hang open.
Recognize that your cat has just gone on a very long journey and has no idea who you are or where they are. Their appetite may be off, they may be mangy from lack of grooming, they may hide and shy away from you. Give them time. Be quiet and calm while they accustom themselves to you.
LeeLoo wasn’t much happier:
Let the cat come out on their own. Let them smell you, touch you, be with you. If the cat is willing, pets and cooes of reassurance are exactly what they need. If it doesn’t come out, that’s fine too. Talk quietly and just share the area for a time. If the cat is still terrified, leave the soft music playing and go to the store for any items you may have forgotten or just crawl around your house to see it from your new pet’s perspective. A little safety proofing goes a long way . This is definitely not the time to vacuum or start any noisy appliances up.
Every little while, check on your cat to see how they are warming up to the place. Start coaxing them out with toys and food to show your intentions are good and you have lots to offer them.
LeeLoo’s first week can be found here.
When they seem to have accepted you and are getting bored of their little home, you can start introducing them to the rest of the house a little at a time. Some cats will be out the second day, some take weeks to be healthy and confident. Make sure they are comfortable with you and healthy before they go out. The first few steps in their new world should be under your loving gaze.
LeeLoo was hurting, like a lot, so her first week was rocky, but when she was done with the welcome room it was obvious.
Watch how they interact, notice if there are any last safety issues you’d not thought of, valuable objects they have access too or places they shouldn’t be. For jumpers, see if there are any fun high spots that can be converted into cat perches.
For stalky, ground cats look for nice corners that can become dens.
If your cat seems stressed or overexcited, return them to the welcome room for a break. Don’t let them out of the room alone until you feel reasonably sure there will be no issues. Once they are safely a part of the family, standardize mealtimes and play times as much as possible so they can come to rely on you more and more.
Even if they are comfortable early on, don’t dismantle the welcome room yet. In fact, if you can, leave it as your cats safe space forever. If you can’t leave it forever, at least keep it for them until they have moved into your house, got their favorite places picked out and stable food and litter box spots. If you take away their litter box before they know where else to go, there could be drama.
It is not uncommon for the stress of changing your whole life and landing in a strange place can overtax the immune system. Coming from the shelter can only add to this stress and respiratory issues can manifest.
Shelters work very hard at a clean environment but really, with so many animals and people coming and going it is quite the task but even if your cat is from the best cattery, expect some sniffles. The first week may just be recovery time. Be patient and kind. It will pay off. If you have other pets, the welcome room doubles as a safe place for your new pet to ride out the illness without spreading it to your household.
LeeLoo needed the break. She’d spend far too long in a kennel and was so sore! Muscle wasting is no joke!
Their appetite may be off due to the stress, this is quite common. Try to stay with food they are used to, to help ease the transition. Even a few bites are enough in the beginning but their appetite should pick up as they feel comfortable with you. If it doesn’t, there is trouble. They do have to eat and drink. Cat’s really can’t go more than two days without food.
Don’t be tempted to coax your cat into eating with human food though, that may make the trouble worse. Stick with cat food to make sure they get the nutrition they need. Always. Adding water to their food and warming it up can bring out the smell for cat’s with the sniffles to help them recognize the food better. Hand feeding sometimes works too. I had to put the food in Cooper’s mouth in the beginning and then he’d eat normally and splash in his water to help him recognize water. LeeLoo wanted just the right food to be coaxed into caring. Stress can do odd things. Be watchful.
Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian staff if you have any concerns. Ever. We really appreciate owners that love their pets enough to be concerned for them. We’d much rather talk about a non-issue than miss a big one.
Good luck and enjoy!! We are here should you need us.