How to Acclimate a Cat to a New Home

Cat Care >
acclimate a cat to a new home

Do you know how to acclimate a cat to a new home? Adjusting to a new home can be very difficult for a cat, especially when it is a stray who has gotten used to living outdoors. During the initial adjustment period, you will need patience and understanding to help your new cat feel more at home.

Start by thinking about your cat’s previous experiences. If you have a kitten, it may have recently been separated from its mother and litter mates. The cat may have had to deal with the transition of a shelter, or the stress of being spayed or neutered. An adult cat may have been separated from a familiar home and has been forced to break his bond with his human companions or other household pets. In every case, the cat will need to adjust again to totally new surroundings.

How do you acclimate a cat to a new home? It may take several weeks for your cat to adjust to his new living situation. Here’s what you should do during the adjustment period. Keep the cat indoors. The cat needs to get used to you as his new provider of love, food, and shelter. It is not uncommon for cats to display behavior problems during this adjustment period, but these problems should disappear in time. Your cat may hide under the furniture. If he does, just sit and talk quietly to the cat. Make sure that there are food, water, and a litter box nearby.

When you take your cat out of the carrier, immediately show him the location of the litter box. Provide a bowl of water but don’t feed him immediately. Don’t overwhelm the cat with attention. Allow him to acclimate to his new surroundings on his own terms.

It is best to introduce your cat to his new home gradually. Begin by restricting him to one room. During this time, isolate other animals from your new cat and supervise your children when they interact with the cat. Try to spend a few hours with your cat as he settles into his new home. You may want to place a cozy cat bed in a quiet corner of the room.

If you have other animals in the home you will need to introduce them gradually. Remember, the cat is being introduced to a territory already claimed by your resident pet, so you need to take both of their feelings into account. The ability of animals to get along together in the same household depends on their individual personalities. There will be one animal who dominates. It will take a week or two for a successful transition. It may be a little hectic but be patient. Things will most likely work out in time.

Here’s how you can introduce your new cat to other animals in the home according to Dr. Monique Chretien.

Cat-to-Cat Introductions

You should put your new cat in a private room during his first week in his new home. Your resident cat should not be allowed to enter this room or to stay at the door hissing.

  • After a week has passed, allow your resident cat to explore outside the door of the room where the new cat is residing.
  • Only when all signs of aggression (hissing, growling) are absent, open the door a crack. Use a doorstop or hook to secure the door. Wait for the hissing and growling, if any, to disappear.
  • If you have a large carrier or crate, place the new cat in it. Then bring it into your main living area. Try simultaneously feeding both cats treats or delicious food so that they associate each other’s presence with a pleasurable experience.
  • Once the cats are comfortable in this situation, allow them to interact under your supervision. If there are any signs of aggression, you might have to limit their exposure to 5 or 10 minutes, or perhaps go back to the separation phase.
  • Gradually increase the time the cats spend together as long as they are not aggressive to each other.
  • Remember cat play can be pretty rough.

Your cats will be more likely to get along if they are happy in their environment. Make sure there are plenty of hiding places for your cats. Place the food, water and litter boxes out in the open so the cats will not feel trapped when they eat, drink or use the litter box. Make sure that you have one litter box per cat, plus one extra litter box. (So if you have two cats in your home, you should have three litter boxes.)

Cat-to-Dog Introductions

Follow the above guidelines when introducing a cat to a resident dog. At the time of the first introduction, apply a leash to the dog and occupy it with some obedience exercises (sit – stay) with food treats as a reward for calm responding.

  • Don’t ever let the dog rush toward the cat, even if only in play.
  • Provide your cat with a variety of escape routes and high hiding places that are easily accessible at all times. Your cat must be able to get away from the dog whenever necessary.
  • Slowly allow the dog and cat to spend more time together but always supervise them until you are absolutely sure there is no threat of danger to either of them.

Cat-to Bird or Small Mammal Introductions

Cats are natural predators, so keep your small furry friends safe by housing them in an enclosure that cannot be opened by an agile paw. Keep them in a room that is off limits to your feline family member when not supervised. Follow the same protocol with your feathered friends but be careful where you choose to keep them. Birds have some restrictions on where they can be kept for health reasons (not in direct sun or draft).

To learn more, go to Introducing Your New Cat to Your Household.

To learn more about stray cats, read the article Surprise Visitors: What to Do With a Stray Cat.