There is plenty to consider before you think about bringing a cat or kitten home. As a cat-owner, you must ensure you have the right knowledge of a cat’s needs and behaviours in accordance with the Swedish law concerning pet owners. We have compiled two checklists to make it easier to introduce your cat to their new home, with practical tips on how to make your cat settle in and feel comfortable.
It is a huge ordeal for a cat to be introduced to a new home. The most important thing to consider as a cat owner is to create a familiar environment where the cat feels safe.
Try and minimise the changes the cat experiences during the move. To minimise the cat’s stress, you should do as much as possible to ensure that its new home is as similar as possible to its previous environment and routines. Think about what the cat is used to and what it has encountered up until now. Is the cat used to children? Has it previously had access to the outdoors or only indoors? This creates an understanding of how the cat may react.
INTRODUCING A CAT TO ITS NEW HOME – CHECKLIST
- Does the cat have everything it needs already in place?
It can be stressful for cats to settle in to an environment which is new and unfamiliar. Therefore, it is better to have everything in place and ready even before you bring the cat home. Make sure you have a litter tray, food and water bowls set out and so on. Another good tip is to use the same food and the same cat litter that the cat is used to previously.
Changing a cat’s food – what to consider
- Did you bring anything from the cat’s previous home to provide them with some familiarity?
You can create a safe and secure atmosphere for the cat by spreading its own scent around the house. For example, placing a blanket, cushion or a toy from the cat’s old home in their new living space will help them to settle, especially in areas they might mark as their own territory such as furniture, corners or around door thresholds or catflaps. If possible, use the cat’s own litter tray, food bowl, water bowl and hiding places from it’s previous home. If it is not possible to bring anything from it’s previous home, you can also rub some of the cat’s scent onto new items.It’s essential that the cat has the possibility to be up high somewhere, preferably off the floor. Initially, it could be a good idea to create some space for your cat to sit on a windowsill or bookcase. This is even more important for kittens and younger cats who often use three dimensional spaces to play and learn.
- Has your home been cat-proofed to reduce the risk of accident and injury?
Removing poisonous plants and fragile objects is a good precaution to reduce the risk of any incidents. Do this before bringing your cat home. It’s also an idea to think if there is anywhere a cat could hide and get trapped, for example behind a freezer of washing machine.
HOW TO MEET YOUR CAT FOR THE FIRST TIME?
- Plan to introduce your cat to its new home and family
For the first introduction, it’s a good idea to start this in a sectioned-off part of your home, i.e. one room to begin with. Choose a room that would be a good, safe and secure base that the cat can return to, even later on when it has access to the whole house. In this introductory room, the cat should have everything she needs – litter tray, toys, hiding place, soft bed, food and water, and the opportunity to interact with people.Let the cat get used to this for a few days until he appears to feel comfortable. Let the other family members meet the cat in this quiet, safe room. Let the cat decide if/when it wants to be stroked.Once the cat feels comfortable in its room and has met the rest of the family, then it’s time to introduce her to the rest of the house. You can then move the litter tray and food/water to their permanent locations.
- The possibility to rest, play, be active and hide
When introducing a cat to a new home, it must have the opportunity to rest, place and exercise. But a cat also needs somewhere to go and hide and rest undisturbed when it needs to.Read more about how to stimulate your catAlways play away from your body, for example throw a toy away from you for the cat to catch or fetch. Never play with the cat directly with your hands or feet as this can cause adult cats to perceive it as a threat.
- To ensure your cat listens to you and feels safe
In can be a good idea to start calling your cat home even when you bring them home for the first time. That is to say, teach your cat to listen to their name and come when you call them. This is easily achieved by calling their name and giving them a little cat treat when they come running. Repeat their name until you see a reaction, and you can see that the cat comes looking for a reward when they hear their name.Gradually increase the distance between you and your cat and remember only to give a treat when you want to reward positive behaviour. Ignore everything else!
When introducing your cat to its new home, they will probably experience some level of stress and anxiety regardless of how well prepared you and your home is. This can mean they stay hidden for most of the time. Remember that this is OK and it’s a strategy cats use to gain control over the situation.
* More information regarding your responsibilities as a pet owner in Sweden can be found on The Swedish Board of Agriculture’s homepage.