We’ve already discussed the benefits of creating a cat friendly space as a way to help control your cat’s stress. Moving cats to a new home is a tricky part of being a new pet owner. Let’s walk through some first time cat owner tips that will help make your home feline friendly, instead of an anxiety-inducing place for your new cat.
Always Be Prepared
Before you bring your new cat(s) or kitten(s) home, really take a few minutes to think about how you will make their environment welcoming. The first part of creating that environment is choosing the right room to introduce them to their new place. The room you chose should be relatively small and cozy. Cats like to feel in control and protected, so a room that is relatively small is going to keep your cat from feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
When I adopted my two new babies, Gus and Iggy, they had been in a 4×4 foot room at a shelter. I brought them home to a 2000 sq. foot house, which could have been quite overwhelming for 2 lb. kittens. Instead of giving them free rein of the house, I put both in our sun room and closed the glass doors to keep them confined from for the first few days.
The reason I chose this space was because it was surrounded by windows for them to look out, sunlight to bask in, chairs to hide under and a ledge to perch on. It was also the spot where we intended to keep their litter box and food areas so they really had everything they needed there.
Another important point is that you know where you intend to place your cat’s litter box, food and water. This is an important part of your room set up and a key ingredient for setting a stress-free space and a new routine. Although these items are all essentials, most cats do not like to have their litter box too close to their food area.
In my case, our litter box is enclosed on one side of the sun room and their food area is set up on the other. If the room you are choosing to acclimate your cats in isn’t large enough or conducive to this, it isn’t imperative that they be in the same room, so long as you monitor their access.
If I had to choose one or the other, I would make sure the litter box was in the room I was confining them to and bring them out of the space for meals. This will also help you establish specific meal times. For example, if you set up a food area in your kitchen and a litter box in your bathroom – I would confine the new cat in the bathroom. As long as these items remain in the same spot consistently, it will be fine once they are comfortable in the new house. In our case, it worked well since the room we chose was where we intended to keep these items anyway.
Another important part of your cat’s setup is safety. In an effort to avoid trauma, make sure your room is kitten-proofed before unleashing your new cat or kitten. Make sure electrical cords are hidden or protected and ensure vents, holes or any other spots you are unable to reach are blocked off.
It is alright for your new kittens to hide but you want to make sure that you can reach them if you need to until they are used to your home. Another good idea is to invest in a few nightlights. Cats enjoy exploring at night and although they have good night vision, their sight is best in dim or low light.
Finally, make sure any other pets have been removed from the space. Introducing a new cat to another animal you own is very important (and something we will definitely discuss in another article), but not something you want to think about until your cat has had some time to acclimate.
Once your space is safe and secure, it’s time to think about how you will keep your new cat engaged and comfortable. Soft kitten beds, perches, cat trees or even a cardboard box with a pillow inside can become comforting spots for any cat. Balls, scratching posts, feather wands and other toys can give your animals something to engage with other than your furniture.
I actually have four scratching posts throughout my home in different spots. ALL of them get used at one time or another, usually every day or two! Puzzle toys are another great way to stimulate your cats mental prowess and a great way to build a bond if they begin to associate you as someone who can give them a treat. Have at least some items ready before they arrive home. You can always add to their collection as they grow.
Release the Kitten!
Once your space is set, you are ready to release the kitten! You are likely to transport your cat from a shelter to your home in a cat carrier. When you arrive, gently open the side of the carrier in the room you have set up for their initiation. Most cats will eagerly want to explore their new space.
If your cat does not, don’t force them out of their carrier, that will create anxiety for them and for you. Instead, leave the carrier door open and offer your cat a treat just outside it. If they are still hesitant, give them a little time. You may even step out and see if they will emerge to explore once they are alone. Keep an eye, by poking your head in every few minutes. If you have properly cat-proofed, your new cat shouldn’t get into any trouble.
If they still hide when you enter the room, keep trying to entice them to you with a treat and talk to them gently and quietly until they are comfortable enough to let you interact with them. You can also try waving a feather wand or toy to see if they will engage with you.
After a day or two your cat should be comfortable enough with you and their space to venture into a new area. If they are hesitant or try to claw their way back to their safe space again, don’t force them to come out. Simply open the door and encourage them to come over the threshold. Keep a watchful eye to make sure they don’t wander too far or hide in an unreachable place and leave their space accessible in case they are uncomfortable and want to return. Initially, you may want to limit the time outside of their room into 20-30 minute explorations for a few more days depending upon your cat’s initial reactions. When they seem at ease you have succeeded in giving your cat a new home with minimal stress!
When Keepin’ It Real Goes Right
To maintain a stress-free cat space make sure you are consistent and reliable. The more trust you build with your cat the better your bond will be. Be sure to clean their litter box regularly (every day or two max) to avoid accidents and unnecessary anxiety. Also, help build their routine by ensuring meals and play at certain times. Just like children, if cats trust their parents will handle it, they can relax and thrive. Good luck with your new kittens!