Bringing Home a New Cat: A Guide for the First 24 Hours
Having a cat is one of the most fulfilling things an animal lover can experience. However, the first 24 hours in a new place can be stressful for cats, so it is on the owner to keep them at ease during these crucial first hours. Here are things to keep in mind when you bring home a cat for the first time.
Having a cat is one of the most fulfilling things an animal lover can experience. However, the first 24 hours in a new place can be stressful for cats, so it is on the owner to keep them at ease during these crucial first hours. If you find yourself asking ‘Why do cats purr?’ or wondering why they hide from some people but not others, keep reading. Here are things to keep in mind when you bring home a cat for the first time.
Preparations: What to Do in Transit
Transport cats in a snug and well-ventilated carrier. Also, keep the journey home as quiet and smooth as possible. Your cat might get stressed if you bring a dog or noisy and excited children during the trip, so it is best to leave other family members at home.
Ensure your cat’s comfort by bringing a piece of their bedding inside the carrier; familiar scents are reassuring to felines. You could also spray the carrier and their bed with cat-calming pheromone sprays. Finally, avoid feeding them treats while traveling; doing so might cause them to vomit.
What to Do in the First Few Hours
The general rule for the first few hours is to keep stimuli to a minimum. Do not flood your cat’s senses with too many new experiences as soon as they arrive. Have them stay in one quiet room for at least one day. Doing so prevents overstimulation.
Ensure that no other pets can get into this room, and make sure your cat has access to fresh water and a litter box while it is inside. Also, having a hiding space like the back of a cabinet or a sofa is ideal. If there aren’t any spots like these, you can create one using a covered box. Finally, don’t force your cat to interact; place the carrier in the middle of the room and let them come out on their own.
Once the cat has acclimated to the room, you can introduce food. It is usual for cats to refuse food at first, especially if they are stressed—this should not be a cause for concern. If the behavior persists after two days, though, you can consult a veterinarian.
What to Do After Six Hours
If you have allowed your cat at least half a day to adjust, you can gradually and calmly approach them and offer your company. Start with reading a book, reading your favorite blog for pets, or watching a show on low volume while you are in the room.
If the cat hides while you are in the room, let them—they will come out when they want to. You could reward them with treats when they approach you to start building a positive relationship. If you have children in the house, especially young ones, make sure you supervise interactions.
What to Do After 12 Hours
If the cat starts interacting with family members, you could introduce toys to see if they want to engage further. Note that they might also shy away if you do so—be patient. It might take a few days for them to adapt thoroughly. They need to adjust to each new item or person you introduce; don’t force them to warm up immediately.
For example, you need to hold off on introductions with other cats. In the initial days, you should keep your new cat in a separate space; cats are territorial, and it might take weeks or even months for them to integrate. The same is true for interactions with dogs. Keep your canine friends on leashes during initial meetings, and provide your cat with an escape route.
Finally, keep in mind that birds and rodents are natural prey for felines. If you have smaller pets like these, you might have to consider moving them to a place inaccessible to your cat. Having them share a room can be overly stimulating to the cat, not to mention stressful for the smaller pet.
What to Do After 24 Hours
Once the cat settles, you can gradually introduce it to the broader world outside your home. Do not do this after at least 24 hours, since the unfamiliarity might cause them to get lost or hurt. Waiting for at least 14 days will allow them to explore the house and get used to your routines. Before then, ensure that all doors leading outside are closed.
Caring for a cat is a worthwhile experience. However, integrating cats into a household requires a bit of planning and patience. Knowing what to expect will increase your chances of success!
Read more practical tips here at The Pets People. Our blog for pets offers insights and advice for new and seasoned pet parents alike. Browse our articles to learn more!
Discover how to create a joyful, healthy home for your pet.
Subscribe to your weekly rundown of practice, real life ideas and training tips straight to your inbox.