Cats are creatures of habit, and nothing is guaranteed to make your pet more nervous than a change in circumstances. Such a situation can occur when you first bring a pet home, if you are moving to a new area yourself or if you are introducing the cat to other cats or children. Cats quickly pick up the signals that change is in the air and can react adversely. There are ways, however, to minimise a stressful situation and to calm a nervous animal.
One essential item all cat owners need is a travel carrier. There are a number of types available, from wicker baskets and cardboard boxes to moulded plastic containers. Whatever you choose, it needs to be secure, roomy, well-ventilated and easy to clean. A nervous cat may soil itself on a long journey so always put lots of newspaper in the base of the carrier. If it is cold, put a blanket over the top of the carrier to keep the cat warm; if it is hot, cover it with a damp cloth to keep the carrier cool. Make sure you do not block the ventilation.
At some point in your cat’s life it will need to be transported away from its usual environment —to a new home or to the vet. Cats hate to be forced to go anywhere, and they often become highly agitated. However, there are ways to keep the adverse effects of the experience to a minimum.
It is helpful to acclimatise your pet to a travel carrier in advance of the journey. Leave it open at home, putting soft bedding and cat treats inside. On the day of the journey, confine your cat inside and then gently but firmly put it in the basket.
On the journey, sit the cat in its basket next to you. Talk to your pet in low, reassuring tones throughout. If you know from experience that your cat becomes very distressed, consider giving it cat sedatives, prescribed by a vet.
In the case of moving house, when you arrive at your new home, take the cat — still in its basket — to a chosen room where its food, water and litter tray have already been set out. Open the basket and leave your cat for a few minutes to adjust to its new environment. If its first encounter with its new home is food, it will find this reassuring.
If your cat is so frightened that it leaps to the top of the wardrobe, you will need to encourage it to come down. Try leaving its favourite food. Talk to it in a low, friendly voice. Your familiar scent may also calm it down so try extending your hand slowly under the cat’s nose and then stroke it.
TAKE IT SLOWLY
If your cat is joining an animal household, be aware that the current tenants will have marked out their territory. Keep the new arrival in a separate room for a few days and introduce them gradually. The cats will soon come to identify with each other, although they rarely become as close as kittens that were raised together.
Unhappy cats have been known to make their way back to their old home. One cat travelled 1530 km (950 miles) .
The first sign that a cat is no longer feeling nervous in its new surroundings is when it starts to groom itself.