Written by Barbara George – Cat Behaviourist and Tellington Ttouch Practitioner
Adopting an adult cat is like inviting a friend to move in with you. The relationship is an equal partnership based on trust, co-operation and understanding, and compensating for each other’s differences, strengths and weaknesses.
The most common reasons for adult cats to land up in rescue centres are surrenders due to owners unable to keep them, behavioural issues, expensive medical treatment, and kittens that were never adopted. Fortunately, behaviour issues in one home do not mean the cat will misbehave in yours..
Most adult cats have known a home so they have experience of family life. This makes it both easier and harder to integrate them – easier because they have knowledge of a home, harder because all homes and families have different rules and routines.
Safety is of utmost importance to cats, so creating an environment where she feels secure is extremely important. Start small: one room or a small suite of rooms. Include many places to hide – in, on, or under – beds, cupboards, boxes, drawers, cat tents/igloos, etc.; some cats like high spaces while others like low places. If possible, create this space in your bedroom unless other cats see the bedroom as their territory, otherwise include something of yourself in the space to allow her to know you. This space will become her safe zone when she feels threatened.
Spend time with your new cat so that she can learn about you, your routines and family; giving her the freedom to choose when and how to interact will built trust and confidence. Spend time in the room with her, read a book aloud, work on your laptop, drink tea and tell her about your day, your dreams and hopes. Play games; at first distance games, gradually drawing her closer. Only initiate touch when she allows it and asks for contact; we are bigger and stronger and can force ourselves onto cats, which makes them nervous.
This process takes time, depending on many factors, including her personality and how long she has spent in the rescue centre. Only once she is completely comfortable in her space should the slow and quiet process of introduction to the rest of the house, family and other pets be considered.
Adopting an adult cat is both an honour and a privilege. Listen to her, understand her needs and concerns, work with her, and you will have a loving friend for the rest of her life.
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