Bringing Home a New Kitty  

Going to a new home is one of the most stressful and frightening experiences in a cat's or kitten's life. You must remember, your new cat has lost her home, her family and all of her friends. As far as she is concerned, she is totally alone in a completely strange environment. She thinks that you are a nice person, but doesn't really know for sure. Some cats are not bothered by all of this change, others will need days or weeks to feel okay about everything. Whether your new cat comes from a shelter or a foster home, she will find you and your home strange and frightening. If you follow a few simple rules, you can minimize the stress, help your new friend adjust and accept her new life more easily.

   1)  Give your new cat a room of her own. This can be any quiet room in your home. Put a litterbox, scratching post, bed, and food and water in this room. Bring her in, close the door, and then open the carrier. Allow her to come out when she is ready. Do not force her. Being in her own room will allow her to get use to the sounds and smells of her new home. Later, this room will give her a safe refuge.

   2)  She may cry when left alone. You can comfort her by talking quietly and petting her. If she doesn't seem too scared, you can pick her up and hold her on your lap. It is best to let her come to you. If she is timid, just sit quietly and read a book. Give her time to approach you on her own.

   3)  Small children can be especially frightening to your cat. It is very important that they leave her alone during her adjustment period. Children should be allowed to visit the cat only when supervised. You can tell them, "We are going to visit the kitty now. We must be very quiet and gentle and move slowly so we don't frighten her. We want her to learn to trust us."

   4)  How soon you let your new cat out of her room will depend on her. She is ready to come out when she is no longer afraid. It is very important to keep her in her room for several days if you have other pets. This will allow her scent to be in the room and the other pets will treat this as her territory, her safe haven. Never force your new friend from this safe haven before she is ready. If you do, she may hide under the furniture for a long while.

   5)  If you have other pets, it is important to do the "introductions" slowly. Your dog and cat may be the sweetest animals ever, but to the new cat they are a threat.

   6)  If you have decided to let your cat go outdoors (bearing in mind that indoor-only cats live longer and healthier lives), do not do so for at least a month after you bring her home. Cats have strong directional senses and a cat allowed to go outdoors too soon may attempt to return to her previous home. Supervise your cat's first visit outdoors.

The techniques described above will help to avoid many problems; failure to use the litterbox, "escaping" out the front door too soon, or hiding in places you might not want her to be. Your patience will be rewarded and the little cat who cowered under the bed for a week will become a loving family member -- the cat who greets you at the door, brings you gifts, and generally repays you tenfold with love and companionship.


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