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Adopted a cat recently and bringing it home? Read our quick guide.

Getting your cat settled into their new home

Adopting a new cat or kitten is an exciting experience, although there can often be a lot to think about too. When you first take them home, you’ll need to help them gently settle into their new life. A change of environment is often stressful for a cat and it can take a few weeks for them (and you) to feel relaxed.

The first few hours after welcoming your cat home can affect how they’ll adapt to their new life. Remember not to rush them – prepare to be patient and don’t pressure your cat into doing things they may not yet be ready for.

Before you take your cat home

Did you know you can prepare your cat for their new home before you’ve even picked them up? Cats are heavily reliant on scent and will settle much quicker if their new environment smells familiar. To help your cat get used to your scent (and the scent of your new home), take an item of clothing or a blanket from your home and leave it with your pet for the final few days. When you pick them up, place the item in your cat’s carrier. It’ll reduce stress during the journey and help settle them in.

Travelling home with your cat

Most cats are very territorial and are creatures of habit. As a result, they don’t like to travel – you might notice that most cats aren’t keen on being stuck in a cat carrier! If you’re looking to choose a cat carrier, aim for one that is strong and secure and can be easily cleaned. If your cat is particularly nervous, you might want to spray a pheromone spray at least 15 minutes before putting your cat inside. This will allow enough time for the alcohol to evaporate.

Find out more about how to choose and use a cat carrier

Setting up your cat's new space

Before you even think about letting your new pet out of its cat carrier, you’ll need to set up a safe space with everything they need. A quiet room away from busy areas of the house is ideal – it’ll give them a chance to relax before exploring everywhere. The room should include:

  • an area for food and a separate one for water
  • at least one litter tray placed as far away as possible from their food and water in a private location
  • a place to hide – perhaps a cardboard box or a snuggly bed somewhere cosy
  • access to a high spot. Cat perches are great for cats that like to climb but a cardboard box on a sturdy shelf is just as good
  • a suitable place to sleep
  • a scratching post
  • a few cat toys to allow them to play
Time to go shopping? Here's a list of what to buy for your cat

Helping your cat to explore their new home

Once you have a quiet room set up in your home, it’s time to welcome your cat to their new environment. On arriving home, leave your cat to explore their new room for an hour or so before introducing yourself and your family. Some cats might need longer so be prepared to go at your pet’s pace.

If they choose to hide, sit quietly in the same room and talk to them gently. Avoid forcing them to come out. You’ll need to give them plenty of time to adjust, especially if they are particularly shy.

Worried that your cat still hasn’t come out of hiding? As long as they are eating and drinking and using their litter tray, there is no need to worry. If your cat is too shy to eat, you may want to move their food bowl closer to their hiding place and leave the room.

Introducing a kitten to their new home

Introducing a kitten to your new home is slightly different to if you were introducing a cat. Instead of leaving them on their own, provide them with a safe and secure bed at ground level – even a cardboard box will do. Once they seem settled, show them to their food bowls, water bowls, scratching post and bed.

Find out more about looking after kittens

How to say hello to your new cat

Each cat is different and with a new home to get used to, you might find that your new feline friend is a little nervous. When you approach your cat, ensure the following:

  • make sure you get down to their level
  • put out your hand
  • call their name softly
  • always ensure they come to you

Introducing your cat to your family

Once your cat seems confident with you, it’s time to introduce other family members. Remember to do this gradually, with each family member greeting the cat one by one. It can be overwhelming for your new cat to meet everyone at the same time.

If you have children, they are likely to be excited about the new arrival but it is important to keep them calm. Let the cat come to them and when they do, show the children how to gently stroke and interact with them.

While cats and children generally get along, even the friendliest cat will defend themselves if they are pushed or pulled too much. Avoid picking your cat up in the early stages too. Wait until they are settled and know that you are not a threat.

Find out more about cats and children

Introducing your cat to other pets

Do you have other pets in your home, like dogs or other cats? Taking your time to introduce your cat to other pets can improve their chances of getting on well.

Gradual introductions are the best way to help your pets to get along – especially if you already have a cat in the house. Contrary to belief, cats much prefer to be the only cat in the home. However, if there is no competition for food or sleeping places in the house, cats can learn to tolerate each other and can sometimes become good friends.

To introduce your cat to an existing cat in your home:

  • stroke each cat with a clean cloth and dab it around your home, leaving the cloth in the cat’s environment to sniff when the cat is ready to investigate
  • swap the scents until your cats no longer react to the scent
  • if possible, place a glass or mesh door between the cats when they meet – this will allow them to approach or hide as they choose

It can take anything from a day to many weeks for cats to tolerate each other so don’t give up.

Find out more about introducing cats to other cats

To introduce your cat to your dog (or other pet)

  • swap scents by stroking each pet with a separate, clean cloth
  • repeat the process until your pets show no reaction to the smell
  • keep your dog on the lead and keep them calm before meeting your new cat
  • never restrain your cat or force them to approach the dog
Find out more about introducing your cat to your dog

Preparing for the outside world

Once your cat has been introduced to your family and pets and seems settled and content in your home, only then can you allow them to explore outdoors. We usually advise between three and four weeks, as this will ensure they have spread their scent around and will be likely to know their way home. Has your cat been neutered? If they haven’t, don’t let them out until the operation has been carried out by your vet. You’ll also need to make sure they are up to date with their vaccinations and have been microchipped.

Find out more about neutering, vaccinations and microchipping

Ready to explore outdoors?

If your outdoor cat is ready to venture into the garden, you can encourage them outside for a supervised visit. Once they are confident with their environment, they’ll be free and happy to roam. The first time you let your cat out, do so before a meal – however far they venture, they’ll be more likely to return for food when you call.

Find out more about keeping cats safe outside

Helping us to help cats

If you’re considering bringing a cat home, remember that at Cats Protection, we have thousands of cats across the country who are in need of loving homes. You can support our mission to help cats by donating to us or sponsoring a cat in our care.

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