A new cat

Whether your new cat is com­ing from a shel­ter, a home, an urban street or a coun­try barn, the first twen­ty-four hours in your home are spe­cial and crit­i­cal. Before you bring a new cat into your life, it helps to under­stand a lit­tle bit about how cats relate to their world.
Bring­ing Home a New Cat

For the cat, ter­ri­to­ry is of para­mount impor­tance. A cat views his ter­ri­to­ry the way most of us view our clothes; with­out them, we feel naked and vul­ner­a­ble. Place us naked in a room filled with strangers and most of us would try to hide! It is com­mon for cats, regard­less of whether they come from homes or streets, to hide in a new ter­ri­to­ry. Very sen­si­tive or under-social­ized cats often hide for a week or more! You know that this cat is now a mem­ber of the fam­i­ly, but the cat doesn’t.

You can help make the tran­si­tion to a new home smoother and eas­i­er by pro­vid­ing some pri­va­cy for your new cat. If pos­si­ble, start by prepar­ing your home before you bring in the cat. Choose a room for the lit­ter box; a bath­room works well. Set up the lit­ter box with one to two inch­es of lit­ter, and place it in a cor­ner, if possible.

Now cre­ate a safe haven for the cat to hide in. You can buy a cov­ered cat bed but a card­board box turned upside down with two “doors” cut in it will work nice­ly. Why two “doors?” Many cats seem to feel more secure if they have a sec­ond “escape” route. Get a box big enough for the cat to stand up, turn around, stretch out and lie down in — but keep it cozy! Place the box next to the wall or in a cor­ner where the cat can see the door to the room. You don’t want the cat to feel trapped. Place a sisal, cork or cor­ru­gat­ed card­board scratch­ing post next to it. Final­ly, clear off a shelf for the cat to perch on to view his new world.

After you have pre­pared the bath­room, cat-proof every oth­er room of your home. Are there raised sur­faces for the cat? If the answer is “no,” make some! Cats need to be able to jump up and sur­vey their territory.
Do you have valu­able memen­tos that are eas­i­ly bro­ken? Put them away until your cat is hap­pi­ly moved in. Check out all the nooks and cran­nies. Are there places that could be dan­ger­ous for the cat to explore or hide in? If so, block them off. Final­ly, put a scratch­ing post or pad in every room.

If cir­cum­stances require that you bring in the cat before your home is ready, keep him in his car­ri­er until you have his room set up! He will be fine in there for a while longer. Oppo­site the lit­ter box, place a bowl of fresh water. After the room is set up, place the car­ri­er next to the “safe haven.” Close the bath­room door before open­ing the car­ri­er. Do not pull the cat out. Allow him to come out on his own and begin to explore his new home. Now, leave the room. Yes, leave…remember you are giv­ing him time to accli­mate. Go and pre­pare a small amount of a pre­mi­um qual­i­ty cat food. Qui­et­ly place it next to the water bowl.

Do not reach for the cat! Let the cat come to you. If he doesn’t approach, come back in fif­teen min­utes. Do not be sur­prised if he doesn’t eat. It is com­mon for re-homed cats to show no inter­est in eat­ing, often for sev­er­al days. Pick up the left­overs and leave. Come back in a cou­ple of hours with a fresh meal of the same high-qual­i­ty food. If the cat is open­ly solic­it­ing affec­tion, eat­ing and not hid­ing, you can open the door and give him one more room. Do this slow­ly until you have intro­duced the cat to all the rooms in his new home.

Remem­ber to let the cat set the pace. Be patient. It may take weeks for the cat to com­pre­hend that this for­eign turf is his new territory.