Caring for your new cat

Congratulations on the new addition to your family and thank you for giving a rescue cat a second chance!

There’s a lot of information to take in when you collect your new friend and this guide gives a summary of some of the key bits of information you may find useful during the first few weeks of cat ownership.

Of course, you may have further questions.  Please contact our shelter if you have queries you'd like to discuss. 

Just like humans, some cats are outgoing and confident in new situations, whilst others find change more challenging.  With this in mind, there are some things you can do to make your new arrival feel as comfortable and safe as possible in their new home.

  • A safe haven – having the roam of a large and unfamiliar house, perhaps with unknown children and unknown other pets, can be very frightening for some cats. If at all possible we recommend setting up a safe-haven for your wee one.  This can be any area to which you can restrict the access of other household members – a spare bedroom is ideal if possible.    This is where you will set up your new pet’s food, litter tray, bed, scratch-post, toys etc initially.  For some cats, a few hours in the safe-haven is enough.  For others, a longer period (maybe up to a week) may be needed.  Your cat will let you know when they are ready to explore further afield within their home – they will be eating and toileting normally and probably making efforts to leave the room!   Once out, make sure your cat can return to their safe space should they wish.
  • On arrival back home – when you get home, take your cat, still in the carrier, to the safe-haven area.  Set the carrier down and open the door.  Let the cat decide when it is ready to come out.  A confident cat may jump straight out of the basket and want attention, whereas others may just want to sit there for a time, getting used to the smells and sounds of their new environment.  Leave the cat to explore their surroundings at their own pace.  Don’t be alarmed if your cat hides – remember this is scary stuff!  The key thing – let your cat dictate the pace.
  • Initial interactions – again, let the cat dictate the pace. Spend time in the room with the cat, playing if he wants to play, stroking and cuddling if this is what they want, or just talking to them and getting them used to the sound of your voice if they are more timid.  Always let the cat come to you.   Small children should be supervised at all times until they are comfortable with the cat, and the cat comfortable with them.
  • Introducing other cats – some cats get on with other cats immediately. Some don’t, but in most cases getting to point of mutual acceptance should be possible – even if they never become best buddies.    When you feel your new addition is happy with your home and the humans, then tackle introducing other animals:
    • Swap scents – switch over cats blankets so each gets to recognize the scent of the other
    • Introduce at feeding time – set up their bowls in the same room, but a distance apart, and feed together. Hissing and growling at this stage is to be expected – do not be alarmed! They are just trying to figure out who is the top-cat!  Keep them supervised at this stage.
    • If you’re lucky, your cats will very quickly be comfortable around each other, but until you are 100% happy that they are, do not leave them alone together unsupervised (e.g. over night) 

What and how often should I feed my cat?
At the Shelter our adult cats get fed twice daily.  In general, they receive a sachet of wet food at breakfast time, along with a handful of biscuits in a separate bowl (as much as you can pick up with one hand).  They get the same again in the evening.  Our cats are not fed any one specific brand of food, but we do tend to use food in jelly rather than gravy which can cause an upset tummy.  We suggest sticking to this routine for at least until you feel the cat is settled.  Once settled you may decide to increase slightly the amount of food given, particularly if your cat gets out and about and is active.  PLEASE NOTE YOU WILL BE ADVISED IF YOUR CAT HAS ANY SPECIFIC DIETARY REQUIREMENTS.

What should I give my cat to drink?
Make sure fresh and clean water is available at all times.  It’s preferable to avoid giving them milk- some cats are intolerant to lactose in cows milk and they can develop an upset stomach.

What about other treats?
At the Shelter our cats are used to getting treats  – specific cat treat products or small bits of ham, chicken and tuna.  It’s not necessary to carry on giving treats but if you want to, give small amounts infrequently.

My new cat seems off its food – should I worry?
Moving into a new home can be stressful for your cat and it’s not uncommon for cats to go off their food for a short period of time.  Don’t worry if your cat doesn’t demolish the food you put down for them when they first get home.   Until the cat knows you, it may feel uncomfortable eating with an audience, so if your cat seems nervous, try and set them up with their food bowls in a quiet place, where they can have some privacy.  Nervous cats in particular are much more likely to eat (and toilet) when you are not there.   Treats of ham, chicken and tuna can be helpful in getting your cat’s taste buds going.  If after two days you believe your cat still isn’t eating or drinking (or toileting) call us for advice.

You will need to keep your cat inside for a period of time – we usually recommend 2 to 3 weeks as a minimum – before you can introduce them to the great outdoors.  During this time you will need to provide a litter tray.

How many litter trays should I provide and what litter should I use?
A general rule is a minimum of one litter tray per cat.  However some cats prefer to have two litter trays to themselves and you will be advised if your new cat has this preference.  At the Shelter we typically use wood-based litter, although on occasion we will also use grit litter.  Most cats are not particular about the type of litter in their tray, but you will be advised at the time of rehoming if your cat has a known preference.

Where should the tray be placed?
Initially you may have a tray set up in the safe-haven room.  Once your cat has access to his entire new home, you may want to move this tray.  If possible set the tray up in a quiet position where your cat can have some privacy in using it, and on a non-carpeted surface.  Show your cat where the new tray is.  When moving the tray, your cat may be adaptable enough to understand immediately that their tray has moved – however some cats don’t understand this immediately and will want to go back to the place where the tray was initially.  In this case, keep the new tray in it’s desired area and move the old box gradually nearer to it (a foot or so a day).

My new cat hasn’t been to the toilet yet – should I worry?
Cats are able to keep their legs crossed for several days and at times of stress they often do.   Unless your cat appears to be distressed with unsuccessfully trying to go to the toilet, try not to worry.  If you adopt a cat and it hasn’t been to the toilet after 3 days, please contact us for advice.  If your cat appears to be distressed by failed toileting attempts contact our shelter immediately.

My new cat has sickness and diarrhoea – what should I do?
It is not uncommon for a new cat to have an upset tummy when arriving into their new home, and in the first days some sickness and diarrhoea is not uncommon.  Make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water, and stick to lighter wet food (chicken and fish rather than meat).  If the sickness and diarrhoea persists for more than 2 days please contact our shelter for advice.

How often should I clean the litter tray?
At the Shelter all our litter trays are emptied and washed on a daily basis.  Cats are clean creatures and many will refuse to use a tray they consider to be dirty, so keeping the tray clean is in your best interest

LCR will never knowingly rehome a cat that is unwell and all our cats are health checked by our vet prior to being rehomed.  Details of the vet treatment provided to your cat during its stay with us are included on your adoption agreement.  However like people, cats can become unwell at any time and on occasion an underlying condition can surface shortly after rehoming. 

During the 2-3 weeks after rehoming a cat, please contact our shelter immediately if you have any concerns about the health of your cat, and we can arrange for the cat to be seen at our vet, at our cost.  Please note we cannot cover the cost of any treatment given in this period if you choose to use your own vet.

All adult cats leaving our Shelter have been microchipped and you will have completed a form at the Shelter giving us the details we need to register this microchip to you. 

We hold onto this form for two weeks before registering the cat to you with the microchip company.  Please let us know during this time if you wish us to change the cat’s name.   Once this fortnight has passed, the cat will be registered to you and a short time after this (usually within another fortnight) you should receive confirmation (by email or by post) from the microchip company of the details that have been registered.

If you have not received anything from the microchip company within 6 weeks of rehoming your cat please contact our shelter and we will investigate for you.

Vaccinations help provide protection against diseases which cannot be treated otherwise. Cats can be vaccinated against flu, enteritis, feline leukaemia virus and rabies (if travelling abroad).

Unless advised otherwise at the time of rehoming, Lothian Cat Rescue has no record of your new cats previous vaccination history. 

We have agreed substantially discounted rates for vaccinations with a number of local vets, and should you wish to vaccinate your cat, you will have been provided with a discount voucher for the vet closest to you. The vet will advise on the most appropriate vaccination for your cat.

All cats leaving our Shelter have been treated for fleas and worms. The dates on which these treatments were given are written on your adoption agreement. 

In relation to fleas, there are two types of treatment we use: a spot-on which provides one month’s worth of protection or a spray, which provides three months’ protection.

In relation to worms, we typically protect our cats with a tablet wormer and we do this every three months to ensure our cats remain worm-free.

It is important to keep your cat up to date with these treatments, and we recommend that only vet-approved treatments be used.  Please DON’T USE supermarket products  – including flea collars – since at best these are ineffective and at worst they can actually cause serious harm to your cat.

We recommend you  discuss the most appropriate ongoing flea and worm treatment with your vet.

Neutering is a surgical procedure which prevents cats having kittens. All adult cats will have been neutered before we rehome. If you rehome a kitten or young cat, we will provide a voucher to cover their neutering procedure at our preferred practices. Neutering must happen before 6 months of age and some veterinary practices will now carry this out at 4 months of age. We will follow up owners of rehomed kittens to ensure they have had their cats neutered.

Medical health insurance helps support you financially should your cat become unwell.

Veterinary fees can be a significant expense and so  small monthly or annual premiums can prevent you being faced with an unexpected bill of several hundreds or even thousands of pounds, as well as allowing your cat access to the best possible care.  

We recommend you discuss the most appropriate pet health insurance cover for your cat with your vet.