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Adopting a shelter/rescue cat: Part 2

by PET TALK
| November 23, 2022 1:00 AM

After finding the perfect feline friend at a rescue or shelter to add to the family, many people cannot wait to bring their new addition home.

Because cats from a shelter or rescue will need time to adjust to a new environment, Paula Plummer, a Cat Friendly Veterinary Professional certified technician at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, offers some general guidelines to help ensure that everyone will start off on the right paw.

Importantly, owners adopting a new cat should consider preparing for the pet’s arrival.

“Typically, it can take up to a month for a new pet to adjust to the family and routine, as well as for the previous family members to adjust to the new cat,” Plummer said. “Cats that have experienced any type of trauma or are not socialized may take longer to adjust to the new surroundings.”

Like people, each cat is an individual, with its own personality, and will, therefore, have its own unique timeline for adapting.

“As new cats become more comfortable, they will interact with the family more and more,” Plummer said. “Every pet in the family should have its own quiet hiding space to rest, and each cat should have its own litter box, food and water bowls, and toys or other items that provide environmental enrichment.”

As for litter boxes, Plummer says there should be one more than the number of cats in the house; for example, a three-cat household would ideally have four litter boxes located in different areas of the home.

These necessities should be acquired before bringing the cat home. Purchasing new items that don’t smell of another animal and cleaning the cat’s environment also will help the cat transition with minimal stress.

According to Plummer, another way to ease stress is to use feline pheromone diffusers or sprays, which bring a calming effect to new cats (and any other cats already in the household) during the transitional period.

“Cats are natural hunters; their sense of smell is superior to ours,” Plummer said. “Separating the new cat in one room for a short period of time and bringing it out for supervised interactions with the rest of the family can reduce stress for the new cat.”

While you’ll likely want to be around your new cat as much as possible, work and other daily obligations typically require leaving the pet unsupervised for some portion of the day. While pets are still becoming accustomed to each other, they should be separated when not under supervision.

Finally, within a week of bringing a new cat home, an appointment should be made with the family veterinarian for a check-up and to receive any vaccinations the pet may require, if there are no other cats in the house. If there are other cats in the house, the new cat should visit the veterinarian before being introduced to the household.

“Veterinary care is important for all pets, but especially new pets,” Plummer said. “Regular physical examinations and preventative care will help ensure a long, happy life.”

To help learn the ins and outs of taking care of a new cat, Plummer also recommends making use of reliable resources like the Cat Friendly Homes website, which is affiliated with the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

By providing a gentle, warm welcome, your new furball will start to feel at home before you know it—and you’ll grow used to the mischief, love, and meows soon enough, too.

• • •

Pet Talk is a service of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at https://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

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