The first few days with your new cat can set the tone for
his or her entire lifetime with you.
Some cats and kittens easily adjust to their new surroundings; kittens are especially more likely to be easy-going about new stuff (but not all of them).
So you want to do the best you can
to help ease the transition and set the right tone.
Here are a few pointers (and reminders for seasoned cat people) to help make the transition for you and your new family member a lot smoother, and to lay the foundation for a happy household.
Bringing your new cat home will most likely be highly stressful for your new feline friend. Older cats may especially have a rough time in new and different surroundings.
The majority of kitties' first and natural reaction to new surroundings is to run and hide. This is perfectly natural, and it does not mean that your new family member will always be "anti-social!"
Setting up a "safe place" for your cat or kitten to hide and hang out in will help make her feel more secure and adjust to her new home a lot quicker. You can also use a little Rescue Remedy to help reduce your new kitty's stress level.
Just like when you bring home a new baby, you'll need to have a place already set up for your kitty, along with some essential supplies.
You don't want to frantically be running around setting things up with your new family member already there. This will just cause more stress all around.
If possible, set up a small room for your cat to have as his own territory for a little while.
If you don't have a spare room, a walk-in closet, or a bathroom will work fine (as long as there aren't a lot of people going in and out). The room should be quiet and separate from other pets, and preferably with a hiding place for the cat, but where you can easily access the him or her.
Be sure to have these essential supplies already set up before bringing your new cat home.
At an absolute minimum, you'll need the following:
Be sure to keep the litter box as far as possible from the food and water so the litter doesn't contaminate them.
If you have the space in your kitty's safe area, it's helpful to also have the following set up and ready:
The bed can be as simple as a folded up towel or a pillow in the corner of the room.
After your new family member is settled and ready to move in to the rest of her new home, you may want to consider additional cat supplies and cat furniture, but for now, the above list will do.
When you first bring home your new kitten or cat, leave her in the pet carrier for a short time while you're in the room finishing setting up or just hanging out with her. Talk to her in quiet tones.
After a little while, open the carrier. Don't force your new family member to come out. This will only cause more stress and slow down the process of making her feel comfortable and safe.
Let your kitty decide when she wants to come out. She may not want to until she's alone in the room.
Some cats will stay in the safety of their carrier for hours. Don't worry. This is normal.
Eventually, a bit of comfort and some hunger will set in and your new kitty will come out to explore.
Remember, at a minimum, you must have food, water, and a litter box set up in your new kitten or cat's safe place before she arrives.
As often and as much as you can, spend time visiting with your new cat or kitten in his safe space.
It's a great idea to wait to bring home your new feline friend until a time when you know you'll be home for a while. If you work during the week, bringing your new cat home on a Friday night or Saturday morning is a good idea.
Go into your kitty's safe place several times a day, but don't force your attention on your kitty. He'll let you know when he's comfortable and ready.
It could take a day, a week, or even more for your kitty to get used to his safe place and feel comfortable.
This will depend on several things, such as his temperament, past experiences, or whether there are other animals in the house.
Kittens often adjust quicker than adult felines.
Don't worry and don't force the issue. Be patient; it will pay off in the long run. Let your kitty set the pace.
Let him get comfortable in this smaller space before you open up the rest of your home to your new cat.
When I brought home my semi-feral kitty, Neko, it took a couple of weeks for her to feel comfortable enough to venture from under a bed in her safe room. When I brought home Xela, it was just a couple of days.
Once your new cat seems comfortable in her safe space, it's time to let her explore the world beyond. Open the door to your kitty's safe haven and let her come out and explore the rest of your home at her own pace.
Always keep the door to the safe haven open so your new family member can retreat to this safe place when she needs to. She'll most likely appear hesitant and a bit of a scaredy cat at first. Don't worry. This is normal.
Most kitties will start to make small excursions under the cover of night. This will include rapid retreats back to the safe haven, so be sure to keep the door open and don't let it shut by itself.
When getting used to her new home, your kitty should always be able to retreat to her safe place. Not being able to do so can result in more stress and a longer adjustment period for your new family member.
Adapting to his new environment and establishing a new territory will take some time. For some, it may be just a matter of days, for others, a matter of weeks or even months.
If there are other animals in the house, the adjustment process could take a bit longer, but don't worry. Cats have a way of working out territorial issues.
Let your kitty adjust to her new environment at her own pace and you'll have a happier cat.
With enough time, he or she will rightfully act like she owns the place!
You'll have additional considerations if you're bringing your new cat home to a household that already has one or more cats, or a resident dog.
Here are some additional articles with more information to help ease the transition in these particular circumstances.
Cats and Dogs
- Introducing new cats and dogs to each other.
Multi-Cat Household - Introducing a new cat to a resident cat; how to help them adjust to each other.
- How to choose the perfect name for your new family member.
Cat Breeds - All about different cat breeds.
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