Introducing a cat into your family is an exciting time, however your cat may find entering a new home very daunting so it is important to take steps to ensure they feel safe and comfortable during these early days. Cats are territorial and are sensitive to change, you can help them feel at home in a new place by confining them to one room (at first) and by being patient as they settle in.
Prepare a Safe Space
Preparing one room with everything your cat needs is a great way to introduce them to a new space. The one room provides a safe place and prevents your cat from becoming overwhelmed, instead allowing them time to get used to the new sights and smells in manageable portions. The room should be quiet and will need the following items:
- Food and water – place fresh food and water in bowls, your cat may not have an appetite at first but this is a normal reaction to the situation and after a couple of days they should start to eat again.
- Litter tray – A clean litter tray with an inch or two of cat litter should also be placed in the room. Position the tray far from the food and water bowls and in an area of the room where your cat will be undisturbed.
- Cat bed/ bedding – Providing your cat with a cosy area to sleep will help them settle in too. They will likely want to sleep somewhere that is slightly raised so they can easily keep an eye on their room. If they have bedding that they are used to already, use this as it will provide extra comfort.
- Toys – Toys are a great way to encourage a bond with your cat. Having a couple of toys around the room may help stimulate your cat and prevent boredom.
- Hiding places – There may be some natural hiding places in the room already that your cat will use but you can also offer a cat tunnel, house or even a box to act as hiding places. If your cat was brought home in a carrier, leave the open carrier in the room too. Hiding places are important for your cat to feel safe when in new and unfamiliar surroundings.
- Scratching posts- Cats scratch things to keep their claws worn so providing a scratching post will help to save your furniture. Your cat may need a little encouragement to use the post, you can do this by simply sprinkling catnip on the post or by placing a toy on the top to attract the cat’s attention.
It’s important that you let your cat set the pace, it may be tempting to pick them up and hold them close but this is not a good idea at this stage. Only pick them up if you absolutely need to (for example in order to keep them safe or move them to a safe area) in which case make sure you know how to correctly pick up your cat to prevent injury to both you and your cat.
For now, it is important to give your cat time to get used to you. You can do this by sitting on the floor of your cat’s room and talking softly, this will allow them the freedom to choose when to approach and interact with you. It is important to only stroke them if they come to you.
You may find it helpful to have some tasty treats or a toy on hand as encouragement. Don’t push the bond though, if your cat shows no interest it may be better to leave them for a couple of hours and come back later. Soon, your cat will feel comfortable approaching you and once this is the case you can begin to interact by playing with toys or brushing them.
The amount of time it takes a cat to feel comfortable in a new home varies depending on the cat, it may take a couple of days to a week but it could take longer so don’t rush. Once your cat is eating well, approaches you when you enter the room and is not showing any signs of stress you can try leaving the door open to give your cat the opportunity to begin exploring other areas of the house. Make sure the door to their room is left open as it is important your cat can return if they become nervous. With slow introductions and patience, your cat will settle into their new home before you know it.