Bringing a new cat into your home
Bringing a new cat into your home is of course exciting, as you anticipate the new furry friend who will become part of your life.
For the cat however, unless they are an extremely confident puss, coming into a strange home with new people can be at best a little daunting, and sometimes – depending on the nature and past experiences of the cat – it can be downright terrifying! Careful planning therefore is very important, to ensure that your new cat is introduced to your home in the least stressful way possible.
The following ‘Bonding Room Technique’ is a tried and trusted method, designed to make the cat feel safe and secure as he gets used to his new home.
The ‘Bonding Room’ Technique
Before your new cat arrives: prepare one room in advance, where he will be confined to begin with. Allowing a cat the run of the whole house straight off can be overwhelming – he will be much less stressed if he only has to cope with a small environment at first. The room should be warm and quiet, such as a spare bedroom, somewhere that you don’t have to keep going in and out of. This will be your Bonding Room.
Place some food and water in the room, and a litter tray, being sure to keep the food and litter as far apart from each other as possible – cats are clean by nature, and don’t like to eat near their litter tray. A Feliway plug-in diffuser will help the cat feel more calm and relaxed (available from your vet).
Leave some bedding / a blanket / cat bed / soft chair or whatever for the cat to sleep on, and a toy or two. A catnip toy is good as 85% of cats enjoy catnip, and it can help to calm him, or a jingly ball, cotton reel or similar. Better still is to allow the cat to bring with him any bedding or toys that he/she is already used to, as that will already have his smell on, and will act as a comforter. Also, make sure there are safe places for the cat to hide within the room – you can buy items such as wigwams or cat-tunnels, but a good hiding place can be as simple as a cardboard box, or having a bed to hide under, or a chair to hide behind. Some cats may even choose to hide in the carrier for a while.
Arrival of the Cat
When the cat arrives: place the carrier, with the cat still in it, into the Bonding Room, then open the carrier door, quietly go out of the room, shut the door behind you and leave him! This may seem strange to us, but we must remember that a cat’s anxiety level is largely controlled by the confidence they have in maintaining control of their territory, so a cat will feel less anxious if he is left alone at first to assess his new environment.Letting the cat hide: initially, the cat will look for the first hiding place he can find and stay there until he feels comfortable with the situation. You can beg and plead and stand on your head, but he will not come out until he feels safe. Do not take this personally – just let him hide!
Your new puss needs to become familiar with the smells and sounds of his new house. He must get used to your voices, the telephone ringing, toilet flushing, and all the normal sounds you take for granted.
He must also get used to the smells of your carpeting, furniture, cooking, and even of you. This can take time, depending on the cat’s ability to process information and feel safe. Now would not be a good time to invite the whole family over to see your new cat. Do not plan any parties or loud goings-on for a while, either!
On average, a new cat may stay in the Bonding Room for 2 – 7 days, but the cat will let you know when he is ready to explore further. (Please see Introductions & Hierarchies if you have other cats in the household.)
A few hours after the cat’s arrival: go slowly into the room, sit or lie on the floor, talking in a friendly, soothing voice. Don’t attempt to reach for the cat unless he comes to you. If he doesn’t come to you at this first meeting, you may need to have several sessions with him, leaving him alone in between visits.
Spend time with the cat: spend as much time as possible in the room, ideally sitting on the floor or a low-down chair or beanbag. Talk to him, read a book, play board games, write a letter, take a nap – you are basically just letting him get used to you, and then leave him alone. Each adult in the house should take turns going into the Bonding Room and spending some time with the cat, never trying to touch or pet the cat until he comes to you first.