Cats live quite the life in Australia, with nearly 3 million households laying claim to a feline fur-ever friend. We’ve got cat boarding hotels with all the trimming, cats of Instagram blowing up newsfeeds, and a multi-billion-dollar cat-specific gourmet food industry treats that we dip in to regularly.  

But where do these peculiar little critters come from? The RSPCA reported that in 2017, over 32,000 cats were surrendered and re-homed. In one year. That’s a lot of kind-hearted people opening their homes to the lost and unloved cats in shelters. The spike in rehomed cats over Covid-induced lockdown periods is most likely connected to their convenience in care, and the companionship they offer to people who feel isolated or are now working from home. 

So, what is the best strategy when bringing home a rescue cat or kitten? 

Unlike dogs, cats are not typically social creatures. Though there are plenty that will follow you around and nudge you for head scratches, by-and-large, the goal with cats is to create a trusting environment where you can both co-exist. You’ll want to show you new pet, who has most likely had health and behavioural testing before coming home with you, that you can provide safe and reliable shelter, food and love. While this can take some time as you cat adjusts to its new surrounds, it will ultimately be up to your cat to decide when to let their guard down and settle in to its new life as a much-loved member of the family. 

You can do this by – 

  • Allowing your cat to explore and familiarise themselves with your home at their own pace. This very well might include having them hide in your linen closet for the first few days. Be patient. Being rehomed is a big adjustment. 
  • Place food and water in safe, quiet areas away from the hustle and bustle of the household.  
  • If you have small children who like kitty cuddles a little too heartily, provide a safe retreat or room for your cat to escape from too much attention. 
  • Place several litter trays around your home for your new arrival. Cats are very particular about having clean trays to spend a penny and having a few will help to avoid any nervous accidents or spraying. 
  • Do not let your cat wander outdoors for the first few weeks, and if you eventually do, make sure you use a leash. Your new cat does not know the area and most likely has no sense of road safety – this could end in tragedy. 
  • If you already have cats in the home, allow them to meet gradually without threat or distraction. Ensure both cats have escape routes in case their greetings turn sour. 
  • If it is welcomed, try to bond with your cat by offering plenty of lap snuggles, grooming sessions and playing time. Be careful not to rush this if your cat is still unsure. 
  • Feliway and Zylkene are natural supplements that can be used to reduce stress during the settling in period
  • Most rescue cats will come home with you desexed, microchipped, registered and vaccinated, however it is always a good idea to cover these crucial steps in pet ownership off with your new vet.

Remember that cats are very particular animals, and the process of rehoming and rehabilitating rescue cats can take quite the toll on their psyche. Signs of depression or anxiety are not uncommon in the first few days or weeks of bringing your new pet home, but don’t be discouraged. Your new addition has been through the wringer, but with lots of love, patience and perhaps even a few gourmet meals, you can gradually show them that they are safe and you are in for the long haul.  

If you have recently rehabilitated a rescue cat, or are considering adding one to your family, please remember to book in for your health check, dental exam and vaccinations. We’ll also be able to help you with dietary recommendations, toys and treats – though don’t bother with buying bedding… you’ll only be disappointed when they choose to sleep on your clean washing pile instead!