by Barbara George
Tellington Ttouch Behaviourist
There are kittens at most rescue centres at present looking for homes; in the background are the adults and last seasons’ kittens waiting to be adopted too. There are also cats that have to be given up when families move or emigrate.
Adult cats make great pets. With the food and veterinary options available many cats will live to 15 years or more, so even a 5-year old cat will give you around 10 years of devotion. Adult cats are fully grown and have their full coat and colour so there are no surprises around personality, size, colour and grooming. They also know about litter trays and keeping themselves clean and tidy. Adopting an adult cat or older kitten gives you the opportunity to select a companion to fit into your lifestyle. Cats can adapt and learn the rules of your home, bringing with them their previous experiences to add to and update your routines.
Moving a cat to a new home is stressful. Cats can feel overwhelmed by the move. Most things they have previously known are no longer relevant; they have to learn new rules and adjust to new routines.
Cats who have lived in a rescue centre all their lives need to be introduced slowly to their new homes in order to feel confident and to integrate successfully. Many do not know the rules of ‘family’ and ‘home’; have never seen a kitchen counter (or so much food at one time!) so there are many lessons to be learnt. Cats that lived with people may have set routines or habits that you are not aware of. Be patient and consistent in your requirements and you will soon have the perfect companion.
Each cat will learn and adapt at their own pace. In order to have a happy cat and a happy family the cat needs to drive the process; when one space has been explored or one lesson learnt then move onto the next. There are always the exceptions, the cats that walk in the front door and a few hours later have mapped out the entire house and have the family eating out of their paws! Age, personality, previous experiences and breed characteristics all play a role in the settling-in process.
Whenever possible collect as many items that are familiar to the cat; toys, blankets, beds, bowls, scratching post and litter tray. This will help to create a sense of belonging. These items can be changed or upgraded once she has settled.
Confine her to a restricted area in the new home, preferably the bedroom of the person who will be responsible for her. This will allow her to become familiar with the person and the room, at the same time learning about the family and the new routines. Apart from food, water and litter she will need a high place to feel safe and view the world.
At first use the same food and litter as she was previously eating, if this is known. This will also be familiar and lessen the stress of the new home.
Spend as much time with her as possible. The amount of interaction will depend on her; there will be times when she does not want to be touched. Talk to her, read your emails or passages out of your current book, discuss the events of the day or ask her opinion of world affairs. This will create a relationship and understanding without invasion. Do not become frustrated or despondent; when she is ready she will be a great companion.
Once she is settled and interacting with the family it is time to explore the rest of the house and meet other pet family members. By this time she should be feeling confident and secure.
Look at an adult cat as a new friend; they are as deserving of a new home and a second chance as the cutest kitten.