Did you know that June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month? And as lots of older cats are hopefully finding their forever homes this month, we wanted to help all the new pet parents with their new cat's transition from shelter to home. If you've adopted a cat and you're wondering, "What now?" ... Well, Congratulations on adopting a new furry family member! As for the "what now," let's get into it! Here are 4 ways to help your new kitty feel at home.
1. Be prepared
A big step in adopting a new cat is making sure your house is prepped and ready to go when they get there.
Cats are predators, sure, but they're also small enough to be considered prey in the wild, and their instincts tell them this! That's why many cats regard a new environment with fear, as they are unsure if there are larger predators lurking. To help combat this new environment anxiety, set up a safe space for your new kitty that will be just for them. Ensure this space, like a guest bedroom or even a second bathroom, is set up that no other resident animals can intrude. Outfit the room with all the basics: food, water, toys, and a litter box. Be sure not to place the food and water bowls next to the litter box, though.
Ask the shelter or adoption center where you got your new kitty what brand of food they were being fed, and what type of litter they were using - at least until they've settled in and you can introduce these changes slowly instead of all at once, which can be jarring to some cats.
Make sure to include some safe, comfortable places where your new cat can hide, like a cat bed or a covered cat tree that offers shelter; there are even collapsible tunnels that allow your cat to safely hide. This will give your new cat a chance to calmly observe her new environment, through sights, sounds, and smells, from a safe spot.
2. Take it slow
Don't try to rush things. As exciting as it is for you to have a new best friend (and a new cuddle companion), all the new sights, smells, and sounds can be intimidating and often frightening for newly adopted cats. All cats are different, of course, but you should let the kitty set the pace! When you bring them home, release them into their private kitty room you've already set up.
Just sit quietly and watch the cat as they explore their new environment and don't try to cuddle or hug them if they're not feeling lovey-dovey. Watch them for signs of anxiety or fear, such as a lashing tail, wide pupils, and flat ears. If they're exhibiting any of these, try backing off for a bit and give your cat some space to chill before trying again. You can offer them a shirt or towel with your scent on it so they can adapt to your new smell in the meantime.
3. Encourage bonding through treats and toys
Once you've given your cat a day or so to explore and adapt to their new environment, it's time to bring in the treats and toys! It goes without saying that a majority of cats are food motivated, but some might be more willing to explore when there's yummy food in the mix. Try hiding treats in different areas of their "room" so they're encouraged to explore and are rewarded for it. Offering your new kitty treats by hand also will help your new cat to associate you with positive things (like yummy treats!) and emotions and fosters bonding.
Toys are another wonderful way to not only bond with your new cat but also help with stress relief. You might have to try a few toys to see what your new cat's preferences are; we all know that, like humans, cats can be notoriously picky!
If your new kitty seems to like things that "fly" or flutter, try a feather wand or teaser toy to entice them to play. A cat that seems to like to kick and bite would benefit from a kicker toy so they can grab ahold and bunny kick away!
As a note for establishing rules with your new kitty, it's important that you don't let your cat play with your hands, as this will tell them it's ok to bite and kick your hand whether you intend that or not!
4. Keep expectations realistic
Adopting a new cat is an exciting experience - but just remember that for your kitty, it can be a bit overwhelming. Don't expect everything to be perfect straight away, or for them to be ready to cuddle 24/7. Cats are as unique as people, and each has their own personality - and their own experiences. Some cats may come from abusive or neglectful situations, making them more frightened. Some cats may be more well-adapted to handling new situations than others.
It's important to remember to be patient and understanding - to both your new kitty, and yourself! Especially if you're new to the world of pet ownership. You won't get everything purrfect the first time around. But you and your new kitty will learn and grow together!
With a little patience and a lot of love and understanding, your new kitty will feel at home in no time at all.