By Angela Hickey, May 2023
May is Adopt a Cat month so hopefully many cats will find their forever home this month and their new pet parents and families will gain from having a feline friend in their lives!
If you are thinking of offering a home to a rescue cat there are guidelines to consider so that you make the right choice for you and your new pet.
1 Think about your own situation first.
How much time can you give to a new pet? Have you got children? Do you live near a busy road? Will the cat have to stay fully indoors in your apartment? Can you afford vet and food bills? Can you cope with food and water dishes and litter trays to empty and clean each day? Have you got other pets and what will they think?
2 Do your research
Research some cat charities online and see what cats they have and what their needs are. An older adult cat may sleep a lot and demand less interaction from you than an active, mischievous kitten. Playful, friendly cats with a lot of personality may suit a home with children to play with them. A cat who has been ill or had a tough time may need a quieter home with space to just relax and take their time getting to know you. Some cats will settle in with other cats you already have, or even a dog, but you will need to introduce them very gradually and carefully.
3 Speak to the Rescue Centre
If you see a cat online that you think will suit you call the Rescue Centre and talk to the staff there. They can tell you more about the cat’s history and temperament, it also gives them an opportunity to find out more about you and what type of cat might suit you. It is really important that you get the best match for you both. Then you can arrange an appointment to go and meet the cat.
4 Take your time when you first meet
Let the cat choose to approach you first and don’t expect them to allow petting or lifting straight away. Just sit with the cat and let them settle down with you. You can ask the staff members any questions about this cat and if it would suit your home situation.
If the cat is outgoing and friendly with you it may rub against you which is its way to bind by ‘marking’ you with its own scent. As you pet him you will be putting your scent on him. Ideally a few meetings like this would help to create a bond before you actually take the cat home. It’s a good idea to leave an item of yours with the cat and take something with their scent on it home with you. This ‘scent swapping’ is vital in making your new pet feel secure in a very new environment.
5 Health check
The Rescue Centre will have had the health of the cat checked out by a vet and will have wormed, vaccinated and neutered the cat prior to advertising it for homing. If it is a small kitten you are homing they may ask you to keep it fully indoors until it can be neutered, as female kittens can be mated from 4 months of age if allowed to be outdoors.
Ask about any sign of ill health like a weepy eye or sniffle - Cat Flu viruses can become chronic and need regular treatments. Also notice the cat’s coat – are their bald patches or sores, or any sign of parasites? If in doubt talk to the staff member and ask to see the medical history for the cat. You will be responsible for their health from now on and, even if you are willing to take a cat with health issues, make sure you know as much as possible about the cat before taking them home.
6 Their new home
Choose a quiet room, where your new pet can be alone and feel safe initially. You and other family members can visit them there and let them approach you when they are ready. Just open the pet carrier and leave your new cat to come out by itself. Have a cosy bed, food and water dishes, a scratching post and at least one litter tray ready in the room. Ideally a sitting area on a high shelf should be available as cats feel more secure when they can climb high and survey all below them
7 'Scent swapping'
If you have other cats or a dog at home ‘scent swapping’ is even more important and the Rescue Centre can explain how to go about it. If you have ‘marked’ the furniture with your new cat’s scent using an item from their kennel in the Rescue Centre it will help them feel secure and settle in better. Then use a cloth to wipe along your other pets’ cheeks and sides and introduce some of those scents regularly into the room in which your new cat is settling.
Gradually allow your new pet to emerge from the room and explore the rest of the house, ideally with the other pets confined at first. Keep your dog on a lead and strictly under your control at the first few meetings and reward them when they behave well.
8 Short outings
Within a couple of weeks you may be ready to make short outings to your garden to introduce your new cat to the outdoors. Always bring them outside just before a meal time , and then, within 10 minutes or so call them in for dinner with a signal you have practised with them at each meal time up to then, like banging a spoon against the cat food tin or the dish and calling their name. That will help to re-enforce that your home is now their home!
In no time at all your cat will be settled in and enjoying their safe, caring home with you for their lifetime. And you will hopefully be hearing lots of contented purrs and having cuddles and lap time as well as play time and fun with your new pet. Register them with a local vet and get all the advice you need about their health needs and enjoy a long and happy life together!
Information correct as of date of publishing. This blog will not be updated or edited so the information may become outdated.