I have just adopted a pet cat from a rescue home. How do I integrate her to our home?
It is vital not to overwhelm your new pet with too much attention or sensory experiences, especially in the first few days. Take things slowly, carefully monitoring your pet’s progress.
Here are a few tips to introduce your rescue animal to your home and integrate it with family.
Building trust: Do not force physical interactions, but gently encourage them. Both cats and dogs rely heavily on their senses and, as they get more familiar with your smell and the sounds in the house, they will begin to feel more comfortable. To encourage a sense of security, extend your hand out to your pet, being careful not to get too close. This allows your pet to sniff you and familiarise itself with your unique scent. You will know when your pet is happy to be stroked, as it will not retreat but move closer to your hand. You may also build trust by offering your pet’s favourite food or treats when they come closer, so they have a positive connection to human touch – do not overfeed.
Exploring their new environment: Allow your cat or dog to fully explore their new home and not restrict their access to too many places in the house. If you have babies or toddlers, however, keep bedrooms or playroom doors closed, so your pets know that these areas are off limits. Before you bring your cat or dog home, set up its bed and feeding area so it can see familiar items. Cats will also need a litter tray. It is useful to take them to it as soon as they arrive so they know where it is.
Gentle communication: Your new pet will familiarise itself with your voice and can sense when a different or harsh tone is used. To reassure your pet that you are not a threat, use a kind, encouraging tone, get down to their level and avoid using intimidating body language. Where possible, avoid making loud or sudden noises. For dogs in particular, try not to approach them from behind or from the side. If you do enter a room and the dog’s back is to you, announce your presence by speaking to it so it knows you are there. Getting to know your pet's likes and routines will help you spot when your pet is not feeling well or is not happy in certain situations.
Giving praise: Throughout the adjustment period and beyond, it is important to celebrate the small wins and reward your pet for coming out of its shell with compliments and positive reinforcement.
If you have chosen a cat or dog that is especially nervous, seek the advice of your vet.
Dr Sara Elliott is director of veterinary services at British Veterinary Hospital. Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.