Welcoming your cat home
With your new cat or kitten due to arrive home any day, you’re bound to be very excited. In these last few days before their arrival, there are plenty of things to keep you busy until the day your new cat comes home.
Before your new cat comes home
Whether you’re bringing home an adult cat or a tiny kitten, they’ll still have very similar needs, particularly on the admin side of things. Here are a few things to get sorted before they arrive:
- If you don’t already have a vet, ask local cat owners to recommend one, and get your new cat registered straight away. It’s much less stressful to know they’re on the books already, in case they are ever unwell or if they need to be neutered.
- Chat to your vet about insurance policies that will cover any unexpected veterinary costs.
- While you’re there, arrange to have your new cat or kitten permanently identified with a microchip in case they ever get lost.
With the admin out of the way, it’s time for some fun – shopping! You’ll need:
- A secure cat carrier.
- Two bowls – one for food and one for water. Opt for easily-cleaned ceramic or glass bowls over metal ones – some cats don’t like reflections or shadows in their bowl as they feed or drink. Make sure it’s big enough for them to lean in and lap from without their whiskers touching the sides, as this can put some cats off.
- A litter tray and litter. It’s best to use the same type used by the breeder or rescue shelter, at least until they’ve settled in, so that they recognise it – and, importantly, know what to do with it!
- A cat bed – many prefer an igloo-style bed for snuggly security, or one elevated from the ground (e.g. as part of an activity centre).
- Grooming equipment, particularly if they’re longhaired.
- A scratching post made of tree bark or a sisal string-wrapped pole. Scratching helps keep your cat's claws in good condition and a dedicated post should hopefully distract them from your furniture and carpets.
- A range of toys. Their favourite games will be ones that involve you, like dangly soft toys for them to chase and pounce on. This gives them a safe outlet for their natural hunting behaviours.
- Food. Feed your new cat or kitten the same diet they’re used to from their breeder or rescue centre for at least a week, and only switch them gradually to another diet later if you prefer or if there are health reasons for doing so.
Once they’re home
Hooray, the big day has arrived – congratulations! Despite your excitement, try to stay calm throughout to allow your new cat to settle in without being startled. There are a few tips to help you through your first few days of getting a cat:
- Make sure that you can dedicate time to your cat as they acclimatise to their new surroundings, and help them settle into an established routine. This might mean arranging to work from home or booking a few days of holiday to spend quality time with your new pet.
- Prepare for the journey home. Car travel can be a bit disorientating and nerve-wracking for your cat, so treat their carrier with a calming pheromone spray, and place the carrier on a flat secure space in your car, or on the footwell floor, and cover it with a blanket. You should find that the spray, the darkness and driving carefully helps to keep them calm. Go straight home after you’ve collected them – this isn’t the time to ‘pop to the shops’!
- When you arrive home, place the carrier on the floor in a quiet room, open the door and allow them to make their own way out in their own time.
- Children and other pets will be jumping up and down to meet the newest member of your family, but their excitement might be a bit scary for your new addition. Supervise them at first until your new cat becomes used to their new home.
- It’s always fun choosing a name for a new pet. Once you’ve decided, use their name every time you interact with them so they learn it quickly.
- All this excitement can be tiring, especially for a tiny kitten, and they’ll soon want a nap. Position their bed somewhere warm, quiet and away from draughts for them to get some rest.
- Place their litter tray in a quiet, easily accessible area of the room, where they won’t be disturbed. This should be away from their bed and feeding area. Check it at least twice a day, removing solids and soiled litter straight away. Fully empty and disinfect the tray at least once a week.
- Feed them several small feeds a day, as this will help you develop a very close bond.
- Keep your new cat indoors for 2-3 weeks to allow them time to get to know you and all the different smells and sounds in their environment, as well as getting to explore every inch of their new forever home. For a kitten, wait until your vet gives you the all clear for them to explore the great outdoors.
- You’ll want your cat to be safe, so make sure there are no open doors or windows that they can sneak through. They should only go outdoors when they, and you, are feeling confident. If you’re not sure when this will be, speak to your veterinary surgeon who’ll be happy to advise you.
- Remember that everything will be new, challenging and exciting for your new family member, which can be a little overwhelming. Be prepared that they may be a bit withdrawn to begin with, but they should soon settle in their new home and family life. If they don’t seem to come out of their shell, speak to your vet.
- If you’re rehoming a rescue cat, ask the staff at the shelter what they know about any preferences that your new pet has. There might be something you can include or offer to your cat to make them feel more at home.
Your kitten’s breeder and your veterinary practice will be pleased to give you further help and advice about caring for your new cat, their health and settling them in to their new home. All you’ll have to do is enjoy getting to know them, and playing and having fun with your new furry friend.