Congratulations on your new family member! Your new addition may require patience and some extra help adjusting to their new environment, and being aware of the needs of your cat is crucial during the acclimation period. The following are some tips to help your new kitty feel welcome in your home.
- Confine your feline to ONE room.
This means finding a small room in your house that you use for quiet activities, such as a bedroom, guestroom, or computer room, and setting it up with food, water, and a litter box. Keep the door closed at all times. You should not allow your cat out of this room until s/he is completely comfortable. You may feel that it is cruel to keep your cat confined, but it is actually a natural instinct and very comforting for a cat to stay in a small area. This will help your cat to feel safe. It will also allow you to monitor your cat closely and make sure that s/he is eating, drinking, and using the litter box. If your cat is allowed full run of the house too quickly, s/he may panic and find the most inaccessible hiding place possible to hole up in, such as under the floorboards, up the chimney (yes-this has actually happened!!), behind the furnace or in the ceiling tiles. You may not be able to find your cat, which will cause you to panic right along with your cat. This kind of situation can get pretty desperate, so please keep your cat confined until s/he has settled in.
- Let your cat hide.
Again, this is a natural instinct. Your cat will hide until s/he has decided that the environment is safe, and that s/he trusts you and the other people and animals in your household. Please remember that your new kitty has a LOT to deal with-a brand new house with unfamiliar sounds and smells, people that s/he has never seen before, and maybe even other pets that are unfamiliar. This is very intimidating and even frightening, so please do not expect your cat to be friendly right away, and please do not take it personally. It may take your cat anywhere from a week to several months (or perhaps even longer, depending on the situation and the cat) to become comfortable in your house, so be prepared to be patient and wait it out. There is actually very little that you can do to help your cat adjust for the first few days, so just sit back and relax. Spend time in the room, but do not attempt to interact with your cat unless s/he comes up to you on his/her own and asks for attention. Please do not pull your cat out from under the bed or wherever they have decided to hide and force an interaction. You may feel that this will show your cat that you are a kind, caring person who loves them, but this is actually not the message you will be sending. Doing this will be forcibly removing your cat from an area that they are comfortable in and have decided is safe, and it may take even longer for them to be able to trust you. Please try to put yourself in your cat’s shoes for a moment… A better approach is to allow your cat to observe you and come out of hiding on their own. You can try to entice them to come out with special treats (Greenies cat treats are good for this) or an interactive cat toy, such as a laser pointer, mouse on a string, or feather stick. Do not attempt any of this for at least 2-3 days after arrival, however. Leaving your cat alone for the first few days is actually the best thing that you can do. If you have an existing cat that will readily welcome your new arrival, it might be a good idea to allow him/her supervised visits with your new cat in his/her own room (not out in the rest of the house) to form a friendship. This may hasten the acclimation process, and will certainly help your new kitty feel welcome!
- Monitor intake and excretion closely.
Make sure that your new cat is eating, drinking, pooping, and peeing. If you have more than one new kitty, make sure that this is true for ALL of them. Check the litter box and food and water bowls twice every day. If your cat does not start eating in the first 24 hours, it is time to step things up. Set out a selection of foods for your new kitty to encourage them to start eating. Once they start, it is easy enough to transition them back to their regular food. Try any or all of the following: canned tuna fish in water, PLAIN cooked chicken, cottage cheese, dried bonito flakes, Evo 95% meat canned food or Fancy Feast canned food (tuna, chicken or turkey). These will usually have a kitty eating normally in a few days. If you initially set out a “sampler” bowl with small portions of different foods on it, you will easily be able to see whether or not your cat is eating and what they prefer to eat. Please do not feel that you are “spoiling” your cat by doing this, as it is only a temporary situation. Once your cat is comfortable and is eating every day, you can gradually introduce the food that you would like them to be eating. Every cat is different, so you will need to be sensitive to your cat’s own personal needs and likes/dislikes. When your cat is using the litter box and eating and drinking normally, you have achieved the first goal. The next step will be completely up to your cat, and your job is simply to be PATIENT.
- Watch for signs that your cat is ready to explore the rest of the house.
Again, this will be different for every cat. When your cat is confidently and calmly walking around the room, coming to greet you, eating well, using the litter box regularly and is not running to hide, chances are that s/he is feeling quite comfortable. Most cats will actually just walk right up to the door of the room and “ask” to be let out. When this happens, feel free to leave the door open and allow the cat to go in and out of the room as s/he pleases. Do not move the litter box at this time, or you may cause some very big problems. Your cat may need to use the room as a “security blanket” for a number of days, weeks or even longer after being given full reign of the house, so please leave the room set up for your cat until s/he is comfortable with your entire house and is no longer making a beeline for the room when feeling threatened or nervous. If you have dogs, put up a baby gate to block access to this room. Your cat should easily be able to jump over a baby gate, but if not, leave just enough space for your cat to slide underneath but not enough space for your dogs. Once your cat is comfortable with the entire house, you can move the litter box out of the room to a more desirable location. Do this gradually over a period of a week or so.