I must have answered this question a million times, so I decide to put everything down in writing once and for all.
A lot of first time cat parent imagine this – they adopt a cat from the shelter, they took the cat home, the cat will be overjoyed to have a new family. They will run straight into the home, jump around exploring, run back into their arms, give them a big hug, purring because they are grateful to be given a new home. And they live happily ever after…
Basically, Hollywood style happy ending.
It could potentially be the case with a dog, but I can guarantee you in 99% of the cats, it wouldn’t be the case.
It will be more like this…
Yes, – you open the cat carrier, they might smell around for a few second, dash to seek cover, and end up behind the sofa.
When Adam in Tallinn took Laima home from a shelter, he didn’t expect Laima to be hiding behind the sofa like this. He contacted me through Facebook and asked me for advice.
That’s the wonderful thing about the internet, I can get to connect with cat lovers around the world and help them with their cat problems!
I explained Adam, hiding is a normal cat behaviour when moving to a new family, we need to let them hide until they feel secure. The more we try to get them out of hiding the more they will retreat. The only thing we could do is make Laima’s hiding experience more comfortable.
So I asked Adam if it is possible to set up a quiet room for Laima for her to settle down. A lot of cats need to hide to feel secure. They will eventually come out to explore when they feel they are secured (i.e. they slowly realise no one is going to kill them!) She will come out to join the rest of the family when she is ready.
Funny enough, in a very Estonian style, the only quiet room in the house is the sauna!! The rest of the house is modern open plan design!
I explained to Adam, if he wants Laime to come out from behind the sofa, he needs to make the ‘cat sauna’ super attractive from a cat point of view. It means, cat cave, food, water, litter tray, maybe even toys though most cats don’t feel like playing at this stage since they are too nervous.
So Adam and I worked together to set up the first ever cat sauna in my career!
Of course, we wouldn’t turn the sauna on due to safety reason, but the sauna is in a quiet part of the house, the light is dim and the atmosphere is cozy. So Adam did this…
As you can see in the picture, a cat cave bed is set up, scratching post, food and water.
Ideally, a cat room like this should be set up before the cat’s arrival, so that we can open the cat carrier and let the cat straight into this.
However, Adam already missed the boat, so now the question is, how to get Laima out from behind the sofa and moved into this beautiful cat room/sauna?
There are two ways to go about this, we could either actively pick up Laima and moves her or we can let her go into this room in her own accord.
Obviously, the latter is preferred. Not only trying to pick up a nervous cat newly come out from shelter might give you a few scratches, it will also increase their anxiety level. You don’t want to start your relationship with your cat on the wrong foot!
So we decided to go for the second option – luring Laime to move into this cat room/sauna/paradise (haha).
To make it super attractive to Laima so that she will come out from behind the sofa and move into this sauna instead, I advised Adam to make a box cat cave as well. We all know cats LOVE boxes. Adam was puzzled because he got a beautiful store brought fluffy cat cave already! I said to him, Laima will probably use the fluffy cat cave in the future, but a box, for some reasons will do some magic.
I also advised Adam to put down some extra yummy food to attract Laima to move into the sauna. Extra yummy food could be things like – luxury wet food, tuna, chicken breast, etc. Not things they eat on day to day basis but food that cats very rarely can resist.
As I have predicted, very shortly, Laima came out from the sofa and moved into the cat sauna.
I was overjoyed when Adam set me this above photo shortly after our chat on Facebook!
In a few days time, Laima settled in the new family really well. The photo is below is take just 2 days after.
As you can see by her body language, she was still a bit anxious. But she was not hiding anymore. Her facial expression was still shy but curious, which is a good sign towards the right direction.
A few days after…Laima was finally HOME.
One month after…
Laima now sleeps on Adam’s bed every night and she is not spooked whenever Adam walked past her anymore.
As for the cat cave Adam carefully picked up and spent money on?
We cat lovers have all been there, welcome to the club, Adam!
And now is a happy ending.
So to recap…
How to introduce a new cat to your home:
- Set up a cat room before your cat’s arrival
- Set up food, water, litter tray, cat bed, cat hiding places. If you don’t have a store bought cat cave, use a box and put in some blanket.
- On cat’s arrival, let him/her in the cat room
- Close the door behind you to let him/her settle down if cat is very nervous
- In a few hours time, you can leave the door ajar. When cat is ready, he/she will come out to explore.
- For at least the first few days of the settle down period, make sure this cat room is accessible to them as they might retreat back to this room if they feel anxious again. If you are not lack of space, consider to leave the cat room set up for longer period of time.
- Cat room is also a valuable practice during festival period, or when you have house guests, or you have builders in to do work around the house or having a newborn baby, etc.
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Do you remember how it was when you took your cat home the first time? I would love to hear your story! Talk to me!