If you've just welcomed a cat or kitten into your family, then congratulations! This is an exciting time, as you and your new family member get to know each other.
Cats are a very popular pet in Australia. In fact, 29 per cent of Australian households have a cat, and our nation has around 3.3 million domestic cats in total.
If you've joined this lucky group of people, there are a few things you can do to help your pet adapt smoothly to their new home.
Take your time and create a safe, quiet and welcoming environment
Most cats don't enjoy travel, so your new pet might be feeling a little unsettled by the time you reach home. He or she should be transported in a secure carrier, with some familiar items (such as a blanket or toys) to provide comfort and reassurance.
It's a good idea to keep your cat contained to one room to begin with; this room should be in a quiet location (away from high traffic areas and noisy appliances) and be a comfortable place for your cat to get used to their new home.
Before opening the carrier, make sure all windows and doors are closed so your cat can't escape to anywhere they shouldn't be (including blocking off fireplaces, for example). You should not let your new cat outside the house for at least two weeks, until they become accustomed to their new home.
When you arrive home with your new cat, make sure the house is as quiet and calm as possible- you're probably excited to welcome your cat home, but they'll appreciate some time and space to settle in first.
When you're both ready, sit alone quietly with your cat and allow them to explore the room, with their familiar bed and toys, food, water and litter tray nearby.
Update all your contact details
Every year, many much-loved pets are unable to be returned to their distraught owners because their microchip and identification details have not been kept up to date.
So it's very important to immediately update your pet's microchip details with the animal registry in your state. Go to petaddress.com.au to find details.
If your cat has an ID tag, now is the time to update that as well. And whether or not you already have a relationship with your local vet, now is also a good time to reach out and introduce yourself and your new pet!
Take care when introducing your new cat to other pets
The way you introduce your pets in the beginning can set up their relationship for life, so take your time. Introduce pets gradually, and always under your direct supervision.
Once your new cat is fully secure and happy in their part of the house, you can begin the process of introducing them to your other dogs, cats or rabbits. This should be done slowly, carefully, and following reputable advice. You can find more specific information about introducing your cat to other animals on the RSPCA's KnowledgeBase .
Always ensure all animals have a private area they can escape to when they need some space, as well as separate areas for eating and toileting, and of course, plenty of individual attention and affection from you!
Please consider keeping your cat secure
Cats that live indoors (with secure outdoors access) can live longer healthier lives than cats who roam, as they are protected from the dangers of cars, predators and numerous types of injury and disease. Roaming cats can also present a danger to wildlife, including native animals.
Cats do not need to roam outside to be happy. With plenty to keep them active and entertained, cats will live very happily indoors with access to a secure outdoor enclosure or safely screened windows and doors for some fresh air and sunshine.
To find out more, including some handy tips and tricks, download the RSPCA's Guide to Keeping Your Cat Safe and Happy At Home at rspca.org.au.
Bringing home a new pet cat is fun and exciting - as it should be - but it's also a pretty big deal. So it's worth putting some time and energy into doing it properly, so you can all live happily ever after.