Over a quarter of households[i] now have a cat and the number of pet cats in the UK is on the rise. This is partly fuelled by the growing interest in cats on the internet but also a rise in the number of men owning cats[ii].
Cats are second only to dogs as the most popular pets. Cats don’t need as much attention as dogs and are suitable for smaller homes, as well as for families that might not have the time to commit to walking a dog daily.
Bringing home a new cat or kitten is a really exciting time for everyone but it’s important that you help them to settle in gently as it can all be a little overwhelming at first. You must be mindful too of other pets in the household and how they might react, as well as young children if this is their first experience of having a cat.
Here are some tips for making sure everything goes smoothly:
Introduce your scent
If possible, before bringing your cat home take a small item of clothing or an old blanket to them so they can get used to your scent. Adoption centres and breeders will usually be happy to start getting them used to your scent before you pick them up as it will make the experience of taking them away much less stressful for the cat.
Take a suitable cat carrier
Make sure you pick up the cat in a cat carrier that can be closed especially if you will be taking your cat home by car as it is the law that animals must be restrained in cars. Kittens especially can wiggle a lot and just carrying them in your arms can make it easy for them to escape. This also gets kittens used to be carried around in the carrier, which makes trips to the vet a little easier. Remember to put an item of clothing or blanket with your scent in the carrier, so it’s familiar to them.
Prepare an area for your cat
Bringing your new cat into your home for the first time can be stressful for them, so make it as comfortable and as calm as possible. Figure out where you will put their cat bed and put some cosy blankets in that they can snuggle up in. Put the litter tray somewhere that is easily accessible and make sure you show your cat where it is. Also put a water bowl down so they can have a drink straightaway. Don’t overwhelm the cat either with too many visitors in the first few days.
Keep your cat confined
Before letting your cat roam the house freely, keeping them in one room or just in the downstairs of the house is useful for the first few days. Not only does this give them time to get used to a smaller area first but it also prevents you ‘losing’ the cat in the house if they run off and hide. Once they are happy and have been in your home a few days you can slowly let them explore the rest of the house.
It’s important that everyone in the household meets the new cat and handles them slowly. Introducing people one by one and allowing each person to spend a short amount of time with the cat is the best way. If children are very young be careful to teach them how to handle the cat properly and always supervise them. If you have an adult cat, be careful not to pick it up too much until it has settled in and doesn’t see you as a threat. Kittens on the other hand are usually happy to be picked up straightaway and love the comfort that comes from body heat.
Introducing to other pets
It can be harder to bring a new cat into a home where there are already other cats and dogs. It’s therefore important that introductions are done slowly, over time and always with supervision. Keeping the new cat separated from the other resident pets is vital in the first few days. Introducing the other pet’s scents and allowing visual contact are the first stages, followed by supervised physical contact. The RSPCA has a useful fact sheet for introducing cats to company.
If your cat has access to a garden then getting them used to going outside is the next challenge. This shouldn’t be attempted until they have been with you a while (around three to four weeks) and for kittens, not until they have had all their vaccinations. You will want to make sure they are familiar with your home and know where their food is coming from before letting them explore outside. Cats should also only go outside unsupervised if they have been neutered. A top tip is when you start letting them out, do so when they are hungry, as it will be easier to tempt them back with food.
Get them used to home and pet sitters
When you go away you may ask a trusted friend to pop in and feed them if it’s only for a day or two. If it’s any longer many people turn to professional home and pet sitters who will come and stay in your home and take care of your pets.
Cats are social animals and shouldn’t be left alone for too long otherwise they may start demonstrating unwanted behaviour. Homesitters are becoming more popular with cat owners as their cat gets looked after in their home environment and gets a lot of attention, plus the house is looked after too.
It can be useful to get new cats used to this early on so they are not fearful of strangers looking after them. Homesitters Ltd always arranges a preliminary meeting for new clients with their homesitter before the sit begins so your cat will already be familiar with the person looking after them. Many homesitters have regular clients and so cats often end up seeing them as a family member and have a great bond with them.
If you have a new cat or kitten and have plans to go on holiday this year then get in touch with Homesitters to find out more.
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