If you are thinking about bringing a rescue cat or kitten home it is important to gently settle them in. A change of environment is always stressful for a cat and it can take time for them to feel relaxed.
It is important to provide them with a quiet place with everything they need, so set aside a dedicated, secure space before you collect them.
This should include an area for food and a separate area for water. At least one litter tray placed as far away as possible from their food and water. It should also include somewhere to hide, access to a high spot and a suitable sleeping place.
When you arrive home, leave your cat alone to explore their area for an hour or so before introducing yourself. Some cats may need longer. Never attempt to rush your cat.
When you meet them, get down to their level, put out your hand and call their name softly. Let them come to you. If your cat chooses to hide, just sit quietly in the same room and occasionally talk to them gently in low tones. Do not force them to come out. Give them plenty of time to adjust and continue to visit them so they can get used to your presence. As long as they are eating and using the litter tray, there should be no cause for alarm.
If your cat is very timid, they may not want to come out to eat. In this case, try moving the food bowl closer to their hiding place and leaving the room. You may want to try offering a small treat or using an interactive toy, such as a fishing rod toy with feathers on the end to tempt your cat from their hiding place.
Once your cat is comfortable in their space and if you have no other pets in the house, you can gradually let them explore more rooms. It may help to gently wipe your cat’s cheeks with a soft cloth and rub it around points in the house at cat height.
This transfers pheromones and makes the house smell familiar. Let your cat come out of their room of their own accord and keep the door open so they can dash back to their refuge if they feel the need.
Rescue cats can take time and patience to gain their trust. However, if you have the right environment I urge you to consider rehoming a rescue. It is extremely rewarding watching them grow and gain confidence.
Claire Turner is a Veterinary Surgeon at St Vincents Veterinary Surgery, a family-owned practice providing personal care for all your pets in and around Wokingham. For more details, call 0118 979 3200 or visit www.stvincentsvets.co.uk to find out more about the practice.