Thank you for adopting your new feline family member from FAW! Your new cat is looking to you to show them what to do and what is expected of them. Think of yourself as a tour guide showing around a foreign visitor who doesn’t speak your language. Use our handy New Cat Checklist for a quick look at what to get and expect when you adopt a cat, and download our detailed 10-page guide to adopting a cat from FAW: FAW Your new CAT.
Important: ALWAYS KEEP NEW CATS INSIDE for at least 2 weeks! Ensure that all windows are closed – cats can be very determined if they want to get out, and may wiggle through the tiniest gap. Be cautious when opening doors; we’ve had cats escape when someone tried to go out and the cat was right behind them and slipped out. Scroll down for more info.
Having a routine really helps (i.e. feeding around the same time, etc.) because they know what to expect.
If you have other pets, don’t allow the newbie to run into the house and up to other animals as they may feel they’re being ‘invaded’. And don’t let existing pets to do so to the new one. Take him/her to the cats’ and/or dogs’ bedding so they can have a sniff. Watch your new pet to see how they react – he/she should appear interested and friendly.
“I don’t know that I’m adopted”
Put yourself in your new pet’s paws: they don’t yet know that they’re ‘adopted’ or that this is their ‘forever home’. Try to understand that they may be a little bewildered or even scared; they don’t know the rules and what they may or may not do.
No matter how good or bad the place they came from was, this is still a big change and that’s stressful. They’re looking to you to show them the ropes, teach the rules, make them feel safe, and help them understand what their place in this new home is.
FETCHING YOUR NEW CAT
Please bring a cat carrier when you fetch your cat. This keeps them safe and feeling secure in the car and helps calm them for the trip. Do not stop anywhere on the way home with your new cat, be it the shops or a friend – it is stressful to them, and you run the risk of them escaping.
ALWAYS KEEP NEW CATS INSIDE FOR AT LEAST 2 WEEKS!
We cannot emphasise this enough: Never allow a newly adopted cat to roam around an open house (doors/windows open) or garden unattended as it will almost certainly run away. This does not mean the cat doesn’t like you – it just doesn’t know that this is its new home and may be afraid. If it’s new to the area and doesn’t know you, once it’s gone, you may never see it again. PLEASE don’t take the chance.
The recommendation is that a new adult cat stays in one room only for at least two weeks, especially if it’s a nervous. It becomes a safe space for them to explore at their leisure. Make sure the room is peaceful but that they can still hear and smell the household noises. Kittens can generally be part of the normal household but don’t allow them out unattended (especially before they are sterilised and fully vaccinated).
Having a safe zone allows them to get comfortable in that one room and gives them time to relax, come out of hiding with no surprises and they know where they can go if they need time out – there’s no panic.
An additional benefit is that your existing animals and the new cat can smell and hear each other through the door and get used to each other’s presence without any surprises. Improve things by putting something that smells of the other pets (like a blanket) inside the room with the new cat.
Remember that your new cat doesn’t know you so, even though they like you, they still need to ‘suss you out’ and get to know you better.
Note: this doesn’t mean you have adopted an escape artist. The cat doesn’t know that he or she is at their new home or where the home’s boundaries are.
AVOIDING SENSORY OVERLOAD
Cats view the world through many planes. They are very much aware of sight, sound, smell and space around them. By limiting some of those aspects and giving them a chance to know the smells and sounds of the household without encountering everything all in one go, it helps them to process what’s happening. This is where the ‘safe zone room’ comes in.
Some people feel it is cruel to keep a cat in one room but you are actually doing it a favour by reducing things that will overwhelm it at a time when it is already stressed from the move. They get to know the sounds, smells, routine that they’ve been hearing but shielded from, so, when bigger spaces and more sights are added when they come out of a room, it isn’t quite so overwhelming.
Also, once they’re out, they know immediately they can head for their safe space and process things. That then eliminates the panic and frantic search for a place to hide if something startles them.
CREATE A SAFE ZONE ROOM
This is the absolute BEST advice we can give you and it really makes an enormous difference.
Choose a little-used room where people won’t be coming in and out all the time and where you can close the door. If you are in an apartment and don’t have a spare room, try closing off a section with, for example, a room divider or clothes rack – just to give the cat an area they can retreat to if need be. If this isn’t possible, try a large cardboard box or pet transport carrier. A bathroom also functions as a good safe zone in small homes with only one or two people.
Provide ‘hidey holes’ such as cat igloos/tents, boxes, or cat climbing platforms. Even a cardboard box with a hole cut in it or laundry rack with a blanket draped over can work.
Take food to them regularly so they learn to associate you with tasty treats. Don’t force them if they don’t want to come out to eat.
Place the food and water away from where the cat would hide (e.g. if it hides under a bed, place the food so it has to come from under the bed to eat) to encourage them to get the idea that it has to come out sooner or later, then leave them be and try again later.
Ensure the litter box is away from the food and water and is cleaned daily. One litter box per cat.
If the cat is scared, sit peacefully and don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come to you at first. Get them used to the sound of your voice while you’re in the room by reading aloud or talking on your phone. Just keep visiting, preferably with a routine, until the cat realises that you’re not going to give up and that you are safe.
What do we do when the cat is ready to come out of the room?
It usually takes around 2 weeks for a cat to settle and start bonding with you enough to let them out of the safe zone.
When it’s time to let the cat out of their room, make sure all doors and windows to the outside world are closed. Then, open the door to their room and walk away. Don’t try to coax them out or pick them up and carry them out – they need to come out in their own time.
The cat might come out straight away, or they might not but, eventually, their curiosity will get the better of them and they’ll poke their noses out. If there are a lot of rooms in your house, close some of them initially to minimise the space.
Do not do this when people will be walking around a lot as this could startle the cat just when it starts exploring. Good times to try would be in the evening when everyone is settled in, watching TV, or going to bed. Try not to be offended if the cat hides when you walk into a room.
Do not let them out with other animals roaming around the house, especially if they have not been introduced to them yet. Put other animals away (outside/in a separate room) to let the new cat explore at its leisure.
If the cat still seems very nervous, then go back to keeping it in the room for another few days and try again.
Once they are at ease in that space, they’re ready to explore further – then you can open doors to other rooms.
It may take several weeks until the cat is ready to go outside into the garden (assuming it isn’t going to be an inside cat) and, when it’s time to do so, supervise them at first – never underestimate the speed of a determined cat. Only when you are a thousand percent sure that your cat is fully bonded with you and settled in its new home should you consider letting them outside unattended if there’s any possibility that they can leave the property.
WHAT TO FEED YOUR NEW CAT
Sudden changes can cause upset tummies.Our foster cats & kittens eat different food brands & types, so make a note of what your new feline friend was fed. It’s your decision what you feed them in future, but we suggest choosing the best quality you can afford as this keeps overall health good, reducing vet visits in future. If you’ll be changing their food, wean them off the previous food and onto the new one slowly. Have plain cooked chicken & rice handy as this is ideal for upset or runny tummies, and can be given to cats & kittens for short periods while things settle.
We always recommended getting a small tub of Protexin or other a probiotic for animals – as many animals get a bit of an upset tummy at first due to the change in food and environment.