Adopting a new cat can be a wonderful experience, as you welcome in a new furry family member and have the joy of watching your pet grow and develop. You might be anxious to quickly acclimate your kitten or cat to your home, but without a plan, you could run into several problems. While all cats have different personalities and some adapt to changes more quickly than others, there are some best practices you can follow to ensure that your new cat is comfortable in their new home. We’ve outlined several tips that you need to keep in mind if you want everything, including the transition and bonding period, to go smoothly.
Create a Safe Space
Cats are territorial, so they will need time to adjust to their new surroundings. For this reason, it’s important that you provide a safe spot where you can keep an eye on them while giving them the freedom to explore at their own pace.
When you first bring your cat home, choose one room as a safe space as your cat gets used to the new environment. This should be a room with a door that can be closed off from other rooms in the house as well as any children, dogs, or other pets. This will give the new cat some privacy and also keep them from being startled by other people or animals walking — or running — around in your home.
Note that some cats will acclimate more quickly than others, and shy cats may need more time to adjust to their new home. Be patient with the process, and your cat should eventually come around!
When setting up the room for your cat, provide a litter box, food, and water. Be sure to scoop out the box at least once a day, and place the box in a safe place where your cat has an escape route. Cats prefer to do their business in a clean box with quick access to exit in case they feel threatened or afraid. It’s best to place the box away from their feeding area, water, bed, hiding spots, and the door.
Note that one size does not fit all when it comes to litter boxes, and the same goes for the type of litter you use. Here are some tips for choosing the right setup for your cat:
Cats do not like cramped quarters when using the litter box, so make sure it’s large enough to accommodate your cat’s size. They should be able to fit comfortably inside, with room to spare, and have plenty of space for digging and stepping through the box without putting a paw into deposits from any previous visits. The rule of thumb is that the box should be at least as long as your cat from their nose to the tip of their tail, and it should be at least as wide as your cat is long.
Cats prefer a material that is easy to dig through and doesn’t stick to their paws when they walk through it. Clay-based litters are popular choices because they absorb urine well into easily scoopable clumps, but some people prefer pine or paper pellets, diatomite litter, silica, or other materials. Just make sure that whatever type you choose, you stick with the same kind so your cat can get used to their new box.
While most cats get along fine with boxes whose walls are around 5 to 7 inches in height, certain cats may need special accommodations. For instance, a kitten or a cat with mobility issues will need a box with a low opening. Cats that tend to spray their litter might need a box with taller sides or a dome on top. As for motorized litter boxes that automatically rake the waste into a separate receptacle, some cats can get spooked by them, so it might not be the best bet for acclimating your new cat.
When setting up a space for your new cat, don’t forget to provide plenty of enrichment toys to keep their minds engaged and encourage them to be active. Cats are explorers who like to investigate new places and objects. That’s why it’s so important to give your cat plenty of opportunities for playtime with toys that challenge them mentally and physically. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Cats are natural hunters, so they often enjoy toys that mimic prey, such as toy mice and birds.
- Give your cat something to chase with toys such as feathers or bells attached to a wand with a string that you can pull and swing.
- Laser pointers, balls with bells inside, catnip-filled mice, crinkle balls, and puzzle boxes with treats hidden inside are great ways to keep your cat engaged.
- Cats also enjoy climbing on tall objects such as cat trees or bookshelves. Being up high makes them feel safe, as they’re away from any perceived threats on the ground and able to take in the view from up above.
- Cats scratch to express their emotions, to mark objects with their scent, to scratch off the dead part of their nails, and, oftentimes, just for a good stretch. Provide them with plenty of opportunities to tune into their natural scratching instinct with cat scratchers and posts so they learn to scratch these items and not your furniture.
When setting up a space for your new cat, don’t forget to provide plenty of hiding spots. Cats like to have places where they can feel safe and secure, especially if they’ve just been introduced to a new environment. Set up the space to allow your new cat to easily hide under furniture, behind doors, in a closet, and in other secluded spots where they can observe without being seen. Don’t forget to include at least one high perch where your cat can look out over the room without being bothered by other pets or people.
Many cats will need time to adjust to their new surroundings before venturing out from hiding spots, going into other parts of the home, or being introduced to other pets. If your new cat is hiding and won’t come out, remember that this is a natural reaction for cats in new environments. Here are some final tips to ease the transition:
- Have patience. Between living in a shelter or foster home, visiting a vet, going in the car, and arriving in a strange place, your cat may have had quite a bit of stress before arriving in your home. As long as you’ve provided a safe space with everything they need and your cat is eating, drinking water, using their litter box, and not showing signs of illness, there is no cause for concern; if your cat is not adjusting after two weeks or so, check with your vet for more advice.
- Take baby steps. Try sitting in the room and reading a book with your cat nearby. If she comes out of hiding, reward her with treats and gentle face scratches. You can also try pushing a few treats into her hiding spot or trying to lure her out with a cat toy.
- Play music. Some cat adopters find it helpful to play classical music to create a soothing environment. If nothing else, the music will make the space calm and peaceful.
The first few days in their new home may feel like an eternity for kittens or cats who were adopted from shelters or foster homes, so make sure to give them plenty of attention and affection during those first few days together. With patience and care, the transition to their new home will be smooth for both you and your new cat. If you seek more advice and guidance, get in touch with one of our qualified vets at Cooper Pet Care now.