Adopting a Shelter/Rescue Cat: Part Two


After finding the perfect feline friend in a rescue or shelter to add to the family, many people can’t wait to bring home their new addition.

Since cats from a shelter or rescue will need time to adjust to a new environment, Paula Plummer, a Certified Cat Friendly Veterinary Professional at Texas A&M Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, offers some general guidelines to help make sure everyone starts from right claw.

Most importantly, owners who adopt a new cat should consider preparing for the pet’s arrival.

“Normally, it can take up to a month for a new pet to adjust to the family and routine, and for previous family members to adjust to the new cat,” Plummer said. “Cats that have suffered any kind of trauma or have not been socialized may take longer to adjust to a new environment.”

Like people, each cat is an individual, with its own personality and therefore will have its own unique schedule of adjustment.

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

For litter boxes, Plummer says there should be more cats than there are cats in the house; For example, a family of three cats will ideally have four litter boxes located in different areas of the home.

These necessities should be obtained before you bring your cat home. Buying new items that don’t smell like another animal and cleaning up the cat’s environment will also help the cat transition with less stress.

According to Plummer, another way to relieve stress is to use cat pheromone diffusers or sprays, which achieve a calming effect for new cats (and any other cats already in the home) during the transition 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 her in for supervised interactions with the rest of the family can reduce stress for the new cat.”

Although you may want to be around your new cat as much as possible, work and other daily obligations usually require that the pet be left unsupervised for part of the day. While the pets are still getting used to each other, they should be separated when not being supervised.

Finally, within a week of bringing home a new cat, you should make an appointment with the family veterinarian for a check-up and any vaccinations the pet may need, if there are no other cats in the home. If there are other cats in the home, the new cat should see the vet before being introduced home.

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

To help learn the ins and outs of caring for new cats, Plummer also recommends using trusted resources like the Cat Friendly Homes website, which is associated with the American Association of Cat Practitioners.

By giving a gentle, warm welcome, your new Furball will start feeling at home before you know it – and she’ll get used to mischief, love and meow soon too.

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Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. The stories can be viewed on the web at https://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics can be directed to [email protected]

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