Before the cat’s arrival


For cats who have been in a foster care or shelter environment, moving to a new home upon adoption can be an overwhelming and even traumatic experience. Even our friendliest cats have been known to hide away upon moving to a new home, at least for a few days. It is important that adopters know what to expect when adopting a cat or kitten, and to keep the new environment as stress-free as possible for their new cat. That is why we have prepared this guide.

Prepare a space for the cat

It is important to prepare a safe, quiet space for a new cat when adopting. A room or small, confined area of the house should be provided to the cat so they can ease into the new environment. Please note that some cats will refuse to be contained, so it really is a matter of seeing what suits each cat. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and the best option is to provide a small part of your home to your new cat, to let them settle in for a few days. New sights, smells and sounds can be a lot to take in for cats who have moved house, so whatever can be done to ease them into the change is what we recommend.

While it’s great if you fit out the cat’s space with a comfy cat bed and a scratching post/tower, etc., you could also opt for more affordable options that a cat will appreciate just as much – for instance, boxes they can hide in, blankets they can curl up on crawl under if they are stressed, and so on. Typical cats may forego a deluxe kitty bed in favour of a ratty old towel, as we know well. As long as they have a safe space they can reach to hide out in at first, should they feel the need, that is what matters.

The foster carer may have a towel or blanket that they are happy to give you to send to your home with the cat. This will help the cat to ease into the new home, as they will have a garment that smells familiar, providing comfort. Please ask!

Adopting Shy Cats

When on rare occasions one of our shy cats gets adoption interest, we have all of that previous foster caring knowledge in our minds when providing advice. We know from experience that sometimes potential adopters don’t take our advice seriously, and this usually results in adoptions not working out and the cats being returned to us. So when we meet with potential families of our shy cats, we try our very best to prepare them for what they might expect during the trial adoption period. We want our shy kitties to have the best chance possible of having their own adoption success story to tell.

We have had people adopt shy cats from us expecting them to become lap cats within days or even weeks. Whenever we talk to families prior to adoptions, we offer advice about how to settle the cat in (check out our Guide: Getting a new cat for tips), and what we know about the cat’s likes/dislikes from their time in foster care. It is important that potential families take our advice seriously, because at this stage we know the cats best, and want to make their transitions to a new home as easy and stress-free as possible.

Remember: when adopting a shy cat, you may never end up with a lap cat, but you will have a companion who is special and delightful in his or her own way.

Purchase food and cat litter

Some cats can be fussy about the type of litter they will use, and others are okay with pretty much any product. Occasionally a cat may do better using dirt or sand than litter (some of our foster cats have access to cat runs, which you will hear about when you go to meet the cat). Get advice from the cat’s foster carer about what litter product they have found the cat to prefer.

When adopting a cat that has been in foster care or a shelter, it’s important to keep using the litter that cat used at least to begin with. If you prefer to use a different type of litter, you can try transitioning the cat off the existing type and onto your preferred type. Please note that there are no guarantees your cat will comply with your wishes when it comes to litter (or, really, anything much!). Kitties can be fussy, and we love them anyway, right?

It’s important to heed advice or information given to you by the cat’s foster carer, as at the point of adoption they know the cat best. You can also ask for input from previous foster carers who may have cared for the cat – just request this information from us and we will get it!

All of the above also applies to a cat’s diet, of course. The cat’s foster carer can give you advice on what food the cat has been eating, and any known allergies or foods to avoid (some of our cats do not do well on particular types of food, as their sensitive tummies mean they need to stick to a certain type. If the foster carer isn’t sure about the cat’s history, we can provide you with all the information we have gathered on the cat since rescue.

It’s important that if you want to try changing your cat’s diet, that you are prepared to ease them off their existing diet rather than making a sudden change. Sudden changes to diet can result in upset tummies, which may show through vomiting or diarrhoea. For the cat’s health and wellbeing, please seek our advice on the cat’s diet.

After the cat’s arrival

Common cat behaviour after a house move

Over the years that we have been adopting cats out, or moving them to new foster care, we have seen many times that cats may show signs of stress after a house move. This is why it’s common for a cat to not eat or use their litter tray after a house move, for up to three days at a time. If you have not seen any signs of your new cat eating or toileting for around this period of time, don’t panic – it’s quite normal for a cat to be stressed. Anything you can do to ease the cat’s stress will help them to feel comfortable enough to use their litter tray and eat their food.

Helpful products to calm a cat

There are some products that can be helpful when settling a cat into a new environment. They do not work for every cat, but are worth using ‘just in case’. For one, Feliway is a well known product which is used in cat shelters and rescues around the world. You can read about this product on the Feliway website: “Why Feliway?”

Another, more affordable option which can sometimes be helpful is Rescue Remedy, which can be purchased at Petbarn. Rescue Remedy Pet Drops can be put into a cat’s water, on wet food, or even directly onto fur, and can sometimes have a calming effect on cats. We have found it to be selectively effective depending on the cat. It may not have an obvious effect, but in the past we have seen shy cats who previously hid at all hours of the day venture out into the open after Rescue Remedy drops were used. Check out this product here: Rescue Remedy Pet Drops.

Integration with existing pets

If you already have pets, and are bringing a new cat into the home, it’s important to heed advice given by the cat’s foster carer about any animals they’ve lived with, and prepare accordingly to introduce your existing pets with the new cat. If a cat has never lived with other animals, there is no guarantee that they will get on with your pets. That is what the trial adoption period is for. It is also essential that you follow all of the above advice about preparing a calm, quiet space for your new cat, while keeping existing pets out of reach at least for a few days. The move to a new house is stressful enough for cats without having to immediately deal with strange animals as well.

Please note that in some cases we have had cats in our care who were better off immediately interacting with other animals. This is usually not the case, but very occasionally we have seen it happen. For the most part, our cats have needed time to firstly settle into their new homes, and secondly to adapt to being around other animals.