It’s much easier to spend the time to make sure your home is cat-safe before you bring in your newest family member. If you haven’t lived with a cat before, you’ll be surprised at the places a cat can hide and the trouble she can get into. Look at cat-proofing as you would baby-proofing, but think of this “baby” as a super toddler who can jump almost seven times her height, squeeze into spaces that seem completely impossible, and use her teeth to chew through cords, among many other talents a new cat parent probably never thought possible.
Let the Cat Make the First Move
Go at the cat’s pace when it comes to interaction. It’s tempting to try to hold, pet, or interact with your cat right away, but depending on where she came from and her current com-fort level, she may not be ready to have you get too close. You can use a fishing pole-type toy to conduct a casual, low-intensity play session to ease her anxiety.
Slowly Introduce Other Family Members
Everyone in the family will be eager to get to know the new cat, but she may not be ready to have several unfamiliar people crowded into her sanctuary room. Do individual introductions slowly. If she’s hiding and seems not yet ready, back off and let her continue to gain confidence in her new surroundings. There will be plenty of time later to make formal introductions.
Let Her Explore
When your new cat feels comfortable walking around her space and no longer hides when you come in, you can start to let her explore beyond her sanctuary room. If you live in a large home, don’t overwhelm her by letting her wander around in every room. Let her explore slowly, a little at a time, so she always knows the route back to her sanctuary.
Introduce Other Family Pets
If there are other resident pets in the home, then the introduction of the new cat must be done with finesse and patience. Cat-to-cat introductions can be very tricky, so take the time to give the cats a reason to like each other through a gradual intro and positive associations. Keep in mind that the resident cat will feel that his territory has been invaded, and the new cat will feel that she has been dropped behind enemy lines. For information on how to do a cat-to-cat introduction, refer to Chapter 10. If the resident pet is a dog, use care to ensure safety for all concerned. Don’t leave the cat and dog alone until you’ve completed the introduction process and are sure the pets will be safe around each other.
Trust-Building and Training
It’s never too early to start training. Your new cat is always learning, and what she learns depends on the messages you send. Be consistent and humane in your training process. Provide what she needs, use positive, force-free training that sends a consistent message, and always let her know when she’s done it right. The decision to bring a cat into your life might have been a sudden and impulsive move, but providing for her health and happiness should never be. Take the time to educate yourself on what cats need for physical, emotional, and mental health.
Adjust the lighting in the sanctuary room so it’s not too bright, so your new cat doesn’t feel too exposed. A dimmer switch on the light would be a good idea, or just use night-lights, especially if you’re dealing with a kitty who is fearful.