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Adopting a cat from a shelter can be one of the most fun and rewarding adventures. And while you’re probably feeling joyful and excited, it’s important to keep in mind that your new furry friend may have had some tough life experiences before you found each other. Though you may never know if they were living as a stray on the street, or in a chaotic, or even abusive environment, it’s very important to make the transition into your home as calm and smooth as possible.
Here we have five tips to make sure Felix feels that mi casa es su casa.
1. For the most part, car rides aren’t fun for cats, so try to make them quick and calm. When driving your cat home, keep her in a carrying case or crate. The confined space will make her feel safer and less stressed. Don’t play loud music, and ask the kids not to bother their new friend during the ride. It’s not a good idea to let the cat roam around during the trip either. You might think they would enjoy that, but what they really want is to feel safe and secure.
2. Give them time to acclimate. During the first few weeks keep the cat indoors so that she starts to think of your house as his home. You will want her to associate being there with positive feelings, as well as the place where he gets food, water and shelter. This way, if you do decide to allow your cat outside, she’ll know to always come back and not run away.
3. Don’t be surprised if your cat hides from you. If your cat hides for the first few days you bring her home, don’t be offended. It doesn’t mean she’s unhappy with you or your home. Cats can be quite nervous after a move, and they calm those nerves by finding a quiet and contained space. She may hide for several days under a bed or couch, or even in a closet. While this can be hard on owners—especially excited kids who have a new adorable pet!—if she’s safe, don’t remove your new cat from that space. Allow her time to gather her courage and come out on her own. But be sure that while she’s hiding, she has access to water, food and her litter box close by.
4. Baby Steps. It can take cats one to two weeks to get comfortable in a new home. During that time, the best way to ease the transition is by creating a calm environment, which means keeping away children and other pets. Not only will this help your cat feel safe in your house, the less stressed your cat is when she meets your kids, or her new animal siblings, the better that meeting will likely go. In fact, it’s recommended that you find a quiet, safe room in your house and keep your cat contained there until he’s acting a bit more comfortable.
5. Cats need their sleep. Kind of like a teenager, cats do best when they are given ample alone time and can get lots of sleep. Often, they’ll find several favorite spots to catch a snooze. They like dark, quiet, non-drafty spaces. By providing your new cat with a soft bed, you can sometimes guide her to a particular location, but by nature cats are independent, so don’t be surprised if she ends up sleeping on your couch, or even between some books on a bookshelf. Try not to wake your cat when she’s sleeping, and remind your kids to do the same.
Keep these few simple steps in mind when you bring home your shelter cat, and your family will enjoy their new family member in no time at all!
Lisa M. Gerry is a freelance writer. Her childhood cat, Rockamundo, was named after a Kentucky Derby horse, but his ample size earned him the nickname "The Cat and Two Thirds” at the vet.