Welcoming a new cat into your home may be an exciting time for you, but it could take some weeks for your pet to feel truly at ease in their new environment. These simple steps will help make your cat feel relaxed, at home and one of the family.
Your cat’s past environment and lifestyle may have been totally different from his or her new home, and they may have trouble adjusting. Strays may feel inclined to wander again, while a cat that has previously only been indoors might be terrified about going outside.
‘Cats must feel sure their needs will be met – easy access to food, water and a safe place to sleep – all in the same quiet, secure area,’ says Claire Hargrave, pet behaviourist.
A place to hide
Be sure your cat has somewhere it can sleep and hide away from the hubbub of the household. Their sleeping basket is best positioned on a raised surface, as they will be far happier being able to jump up and look down.
Once your cat feels comfortable in his or her own area, leave doors open so they can venture around the house. Place empty cardboard boxes in other rooms to act as a refuge or place to hide, which your cat will still need even though he or she may be feeling more adventurous.
Stress isn’t good for a cat’s health and may cause issues such as feline lower urinary tract disease (including cystitis), so it’s important to help your pet avoid anxiety.
Help your cat to feel familiar and secure by using a pheromone plug-in in the rooms they occupy most. This imitates the cat’s own pheromones – a natural chemical they use to mark their territory – and helps them feel more at ease.
Ideally, cats like to eat small amounts several times a day in keeping with their natural hunting patterns. Claire recommends a puzzle feeder, which makes cats work for their food.
‘Games – like dangling a feather on a stick – will stimulate your cat and help prevent it from becoming bored or stressed,’ she says. ‘They should always end with a small food treat to satisfy a cat’s predatory instincts.’
Cats can be sensitive to noise and too much activity, such as loud music, over-enthusiastic children or visitors keen to meet them.
Your cat may not be used to attention and fuss, and find it stressful. Let them make the first move when meeting people.
Cats need to feel they can escape if necessary – feeling trapped may trigger hostility.
‘Cats are not naturally sociable, so be prepared to work at encouraging them to respond to your friendship and affection, but don’t cramp their style,’ says Claire.
Let your cat come to you to be touched, giving little treats to reinforce their behaviour (a small prawn, for example). Gently touch them around the cheek and chin area and give them space to move away if they are not happy.
A twitching tail, dilated pupils, and ears going back or sideways are all signs they are not in the mood to be sociable.