a cat visiting a veterinary clinic for adoption

Adopting a cat: what to expect if you rehome a rescue cat

So you’ve decided to adopt a rescue cat – that’s great news! You’re taking an amazing step to help reduce the growing number of homeless pets in the UK.

Once you’ve chosen your new feline companion, you’ll want to know the best way to welcome them to your new home and get settled in quickly and easily. Here are our top tips for adopting a cat.

Cat Adoption: what you need to know

Adopting a cat from a rescue centre or shelter is very different from bringing home a young kitten. Of course, it can be satisfying and rewarding but you’ll need to be calm and patient as you welcome them to your family (especially if they have existing behavioural issues).

The upheaval of moving to a new home in a new area can be bewildering to the best of us, and most rescue cats will be disorientated simply by the experience of getting used to new surroundings, whether or not they have known behavioural issues.

The rescue centre or shelter should provide full details of your cat’s known history and an assessment of any problem behaviour so you have an idea of what to expect.  It is important to be aware that cat behaviour can however vary in different environments.  For example a cat present in a cattery surrounded by many other cats may behave very differently to when it is on its own. 

Behavioural problems can be the result of lack of care from previous owners and may be easy to overcome with the right love and attention in a safe environment.  Some behavioural issues, particularly fear responses, will be due to lack of exposure as a kitten and can be difficult to overcome.  It is therefore important to be prepared that in some situations a rescue cat may just desire a quiet life and keep itself to itself.

Common behavioural problems in rescue cats

  • Toilet training 
  • Lack of socialisation skills 
  • Lestructive behaviour 

“The rescue centre or shelter should provide full details of your cat’s known history and an assessment of any problem behaviour so you know what to expect.”

Top tips to help your rescue cat settle in to her new home

Take things slowly at first. Getting used to a whole new environment is enough of a challenge for your new cat without overwhelming them with excitement, attention, and stimulating experiences. Teach them that they can feel safe and secure in your home, with your family, to help establish their trust.

Spend the first few days bonding with your rescue cat, but provide plenty of space if they need it. Start by establishing a daily routine, including regular meal times, outdoor time and playtime, so they know what to expect.

You’ll want to focus on toilet training as soon as you bring your cat home, but start slowly, be patient, and stay positive, as progress may be slow.

Settling in and looking to the future

Most rehoming shelters provide rehabilitation guidance to help you address any behavioural issues or problems in your new cat. It’s a good idea to introduce them to your vet early on but not for a couple of weeks if they appear stressed initially.  After all, your vet is the one person you’ll need if you have concerns about your cat’s health or wellbeing.

Of course, there’s no way to know how your rescue cat is going to behave in your home, and it may take several weeks for them to show their true self. With patience, kindness, consistency and understanding you should have a long and happy life with your feline companion.

Want advice on rehoming a rescue cat?

For expert advice on adopting a rescue cat, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.

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