It can be incredibly rewarding to bring home a new kitten or to rehome a cat, giving it a second chance of happiness. However, there are some things to consider when getting a cat for the first time, says animal behaviourist Nick Jones.
Tips for first-time cat owners
So, you’ve decided to get a kitten or rehome a cat and have found a potential match, but how do you prepare yourself and your home for your new pet?
It’s important to ensure you know as much as possible about your new pet before bringing her home and, ideally, why she was put up for rehoming. Rescue centres will have spent time with the animals in their care, getting to know their likes, dislikes and any potential behavioural issues.
You’ll also want to ensure that your new pet is healthy so check that any cat you’re interested in adopting has had a recent vet check, and be sure to look into your insurance options before bringing her home.
What should you know as a first-time cat owner?
A new kitten or cat will need your time and attention, particularly in those early days while they’re settling in. So, make sure it’s the right time for you to be an owner or to adopt.
Also, if you have any other pets, you’ll need to consider how a cat would fit in with them and whether the home environment is suitable. The important question you need to ask yourself is – is this cat or kitten right for our home and is our home right for them?
Bringing your cat home
Rescue cats can take more time than you might expect to settle into a new home, so the key for novice owners is to be patient. You might have a confident, relaxed cat that quickly feels at home, but equally you could have a nervous cat that needs a bit longer.
As a first-time pet owner, it’s important in those first few days not to force them to be friends with you. Given space, most cats will soon settle, especially when they realise that you’re the provider of good things, such as shelter and food. To feel more prepared before bringing home your kitten, check out some of our training videos.
Letting your cat out for the first time
You should keep a kitty indoors for a minimum of two weeks before letting her out for the first time, so she has an opportunity to develop a sense of belonging and a bond with you. This is also the perfect time to gently start litter training.
In those two weeks, you might want to gently and gradually introduce a little harness and lead to your cat to use for the first few trips out. However, if you have made the home a secure place where your cat feels relaxed and happy, you should be confident that it will return. Ensure your cat has identification and been microchipped before you let her out on her own.
If you have adopted your cat from a rehoming centre these timings may vary depending on her background. You’ll want to check with the centre you got her from on how much time she’ll likely need to adapt to her new surroundings.
Top tips for first-time cat owners
- Ensure meetings with other animals in the home are calm, controlled and positive.
- Provide plenty of litter trays – cats usually like more than one.
- Cats are denning animals so provide suitable beds in quiet places away from the bustle of family life.
- If you have a nervous or anxious cat, try using a pheromone diffuser – a man-made version of the substance a cat leaves when she rubs its cheek on your leg or furniture – to help her relax.
- If your cat isn’t naturally curious about using a cat flap try taping the flap open and place treats on the other side to tempt her out.