Moving house will be a big deal for them – new home, new people, new smells, new sights, new sounds. Stress!
But there are a number of things you can do to reduce their stress and help your cat settle into their new home quicker, so their new family can enjoy their company sooner.
Things you might like to give to their new family
- Tips on helping them settle in
- A one hour recording of your voice
- Items from your home with your – and their – smell on it
- Their favourite toys
- Some of their usual food
- Used litter with their pee and poo (yes, really)
- (Optional) A familiar plate or bowl
- (Optional) A familiar litter tray
- (Optional) A favourite box
Tips on helping them settle
We send this page of tips to all adopters of scaredy cats, so they know what to expect from their new family member– and don’t think they’re doing anything wrong when they hide.
From fostering, we have become increasingly aware of how much a familiar voice can help calm cats – and even lead to lost cats coming out of hiding or finding their way home.
We strongly recommend you make a one-hour recording of yourself talking to them on your phone. Forget video – this will make the file size too large to send; just your voice is fine.
Talk about whatever you want. We tell them the story of their life as we know it, and how they came to be with us; what they were like when they first arrived; the milestones they made; the funny and heartwarming things they did; our favourite memories; our hopes for them in their new life.
Talk in your normal voice, as if you’re talking to them or talking to someone on the phone.
Including the voices or purrs of cats they’re friends with, and general household noises, is a good idea.
We feel a bit silly when making the recording, and struggle to talk for an hour, but it makes a huge difference to our fosters in their new homes.
Example 1: New home jitters
One of our scaredy fosters was taking much longer than we anticipated to settle in to her new home. Her carefully-chosen family was very upset that she was feeling frightened.
We’d suggested that she start off in their bedroom, which had large, heavy, old-style stand-alone wardrobes in which she could hide. We didn’t think she needed to start off in a crate.
Instead of hiding in the wardrobes, she chose to hide behind and under them. There was such a small gap between the back of the wardrobes and the wall that she was spending hours sitting and lying with her head tilted at an angle.
It was during covid restrictions, and we couldn’t visit to comfort her. So we did the next best thing – a telehealth consultation on FaceTime!
Soon after she heard our voice, she came out of hiding. Her adopters were delighted – and we were delighted that they were delighted and that she felt safer. We continued talking and she became increasingly happy to interact with them. She even went onto their bed during the 90 minute ‘consultation’.
After seeing how much comfort this gave her, we made a one hour long voice recording – a This is Your Life – and emailed it to them.
They also ended up setting up a crate for her, so that she had a more confined and less overwhelming area of her own.
After this, she made really quick progress.
Example 2: Lost cat makes an appearance
When we were searching for lost foster cat Romy (link), the butcher who he grew up with and who had fed his community drove from one end of the city to the other, to help with the search. After hearing his voice in the front yard, Romy came out of hiding from two houses away. Unfortunately, when he saw people approaching, he ran off, with a friend. But we at least knew he was still close by.
Example 3: Lost cats come home
Several lost cats seem to have come home after hearing their person’s voice when they were walking, talking, sitting and scenting (link) – Luana, Romi (link) and Alli (link).
Scent-laden Items from your home
You’ll help your kitty feel more comfortable if they can still smell some of the things they’re used to when they move house.
The week before they move out, consider sleeping on an old sheet or towel that you don’t mind giving away. Get them to do the same, by putting an old sheet or towel on their usual sleeping places.
Alternatively, or as well, lend one or more of their favourite beds to their new family and ask them to return it once they’ve settled.
Their favourite toys
Some of their usual food
Cats have delicate digestive systems. A sudden change of food can lead to them vomiting or having diarrhea. To reduce the likelihood of their new family giving a different food from day one, consider giving a care pack of their favourite food. We feed balanced raw, so we provide a few meals of it, frozen.
The same food will be one less change they have to adjust to.
Some of their usual (clean) litter – with bonus used litter
Encourage their new family to start them off using the same litter they’re used to at your place. If it might be hard for them to find it immediately, give them some of yours. If they want to use a different type, they can gradually mix the new type with the oldl type.
Also give them some of your scaredy’s used litter, with gift pee and poo. Yes. Truly!
Why? It’ll smell of them. Their new family can add it to their new litter tray, to help them know where to toilet and, again, spread their scent.
(Optional) A familiar plate or bowl
(Optional) Familiar litter tray
Do you love your toilet at home? And find it strange at someone else’s house where it’s very different – way higher, way lower etc?
Cats are probably the same. And toilets and toileting are a big deal for cats.
If you’re willing to give or lend their new family your foster cat’s old litter tray, especially if it’s an unusual type, it’s one less change for them.
‘Hey! I had a toilet just like that at my old home. And this smells just like it, too. Maybe this place won’t be so bad after all’.
(Optional) A favourite box
Cats and boxes are natural partners. If they have a favourite box they’ve left their scent and scratch marks on, consider offering it as a parting gift. It won’t be long before they have another one.
We hope things go really well as they adjust to their new home. And that their new family quickly gets to know and love them in the same way you do.
Remember: the first day after they leave is agony. The first week is hard. Things get progressively better after that, especially if you ask for and receive updates.
Again – congratulations. And thank you for spending the time to save a scaredy’s life. <3