If you have a new cat joining your family

Congratulations on your new family member! There are many ways to help your cat feel safe, happy and healthy in their new home. This is the ideal time to introduce them to an at-home lifestyle and establish a safe routine. Every cat is different, so it is important to go at their pace to ensure the transition to an at-home lifestyle is successful.

*This guide was created with help from SPCA New Zealand, Zoos Victoria and RSPCA Victoria. For more information, read SPCA New Zealand's guide to Keeping your cat safe and happy at home.

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1) Create a safe space

Set your cat up in their own small, temporary, safe and secure space for 2 – 3 days. Once settled in, you can gradually allow your cat to explore the rest of the house and/or a secure, enclosed outdoor area. Always leave the door to the safe space open so your cat can retreat there for privacy (or to use the litter box). Make sure your cat has plenty of space for their food and water to be separate from their litter box.

Ensure that your cat also has lots of things to enjoy in their space such as toys, comfortable beds, hiding places, a scratching post and delicious food.

2) Health and safety

Before your cat comes home, inspect fly screens, windows, balconies, and chimneys to ensure they won’t be able to slip out unnoticed. Check for potential hazards like poisonous plants, exposed wires/cables, and sharp or loose objects that may harm your cat if it falls over or if the cat scratches it. If you have created a secure and enclosed outdoor space, make sure to inspect it so that it keeps your cat at home. Remember to check that no cats are around when opening/closing doors. Make sure all members of your family understand this is an important part of keeping your cat healthy and happy at home.

3) The basics

Always provide fresh food and water for your cat, and make sure your cat knows where it is. Cats enjoy vertical as well as horizontal space so having many high places they can perch or walk along is ideal particularly if they are able to sunbake through a window. Scratching posts, cat friendly plants, and water fountains will also allow them to express natural behaviours while safe at home. If you have a balcony or veranda that can be cat-proofed through the use of netting, or if you have the space for a cat-proof enclosure, or “catio,” in your backyard, these are great options to provide safe, outdoor spaces for your cat.

5) Litter tray

Cats can take some time to get used to using a litter tray, so it may be a case of trial and error. You may need to try a few different litters, litter trays, and locations in your home to find the one that works best for you and your cat.

Try placing the litter tray in an obvious location away from your cat’s food and water where they will have some privacy and quiet. The litter tray should be large enough for your cat to comfortably dig, turn around and squat – that means at least 1.5 times the length of your cat.

6) Playtime

Play is an important time to exercise a cat’s mind and body. Every cat is different, so offer yours a variety of toys, ample opportunities, and time to play. Join our cat community to receive free tips and tricks on how to create an indoor space where your cat feels safe, comfortable, and happy.

7) Companionship

One of the most important enrichments in a cat’s life is interaction with humans –increasing the time spent playing, grooming, sitting, sleeping with, and even training your cat will create a very special bond, and help fulfill its emotional needs (as well as your own). Having two compatible cats together is also very rewarding as it allows for play and companionship when their human is not present. Although some cats prefer not to have other cats in their home, this very much depends on the individual.

There is lots more to learn about keeping your cats safe and happy at home and more information can be found by reading SPCA New Zealand’s guide to Keeping your cat safe and happy at home.