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Five Ways to Help Your New Cat Adjust

Adopting a new cat can be a wonderful experience. Cats are wonderful companions⁠—a happily purring friend while you sit curled up on your couch, or a source of constant amusement as he or she explores your shared home, dastardly chasing rays of sunlight on the wall and watching the birds outside the window.

But like every relationship, there is a period of building trust, and since your new feline friend is moving into your space, it’s important to make her feel safe and comfortable while she adjusts to her new surroundings.

With that in mind, here are five easy things you can do to help your new cat adjust more quickly.

Utilize a Cat Carrier

One of the first mistakes that many new adopters make is to let their new sadly mewing friend out of the cage on the way home. It’s done with the best of intentions. You want it to feel loved and cared for after all.

However, letting the cat out of the carrier will often make it feel less secure than it did inside of the carrier. Remember, while you are feeling excited, your new cat is having his entire world turned upside down, and if you’re adopting from a shelter or rescue facility, it is likely that he has experienced this transition a few times in a very short period of time.

Instead, leave the cat in the carrier and gently place your fingers inside to give him the chance to smell you and be touched if he wants to be. You can also put a blanket in the carrier and leave it in a safe place in your home once you arrive so he can escape safely if he desires.

Expect and Make Allowances for Your Cat to Adjust

While your new cat is adjusting, you’ll need to make allowances for her to make your home her own. Signs of stress can include decreased appetite, decreased grooming, hiding, lack of interest in attention or affection, and sleeping in unusual locations. These can be hard to watch. After all, you wanted a friend, and often the beginning feels like maybe your cat isn’t a good match.

But hang in there, the initial period of nervousness and stress will likely pass in the first few weeks. If it doesn’t, you may want to reach out to a veterinarian to ensure that the cat has a clean bill of health before seeking behavioral help.

Make Your Home Cat-Friendly

The goal for both you and your new cat is for your home to feel like his home, but in the beginning you might want to confine him to one room (the living room or bedroom works well) so that it's not quite so overwhelming. It’s also important to create safe hiding places like boxes with holes cut out so that he can get in and out.

When the cat retreats to these spaces, he should be left alone and know that these are okay places to visit when he’s feeling overstimulated.

Safe spaces should be placed both on the floor and up high, since some cats feel more comfortable when they can survey the room from a place of advantage. Purchasing things like toys and scratching posts also send positive messages to your new cat that this is a space they are supposed to enjoy and relax.

Eliminate Litter Issues

The number one reason that cats are dropped at shelters is because of issues centered around litter training.

The best way to ensure that your cat uses the litter box reliably is to provide an open litter box (covered litter boxes might be nicer for the smell in your home, but it’s miserable for your cat) that is scooped out daily and completely emptied at least once every couple of weeks or as needed.

Cats are very clean and will often refuse to use a litter box that is not up to their hygienic standards.

Find Time to Spend Time with Your Cat

This might seem silly, but in the first few weeks, it’s very important to find time to play and love on your cat as she becomes more comfortable in her new home.

Give her the opportunity to play with you. Let her know that your lap is a safe place to relax and receive affection. Consider buying some healthy treats to reinforce any behavior that you want to continue. And remember, the more time you spend with your new cat, the stronger your bond will be.

There is nothing like the first time your new cat hops up on your lap or greets you at the door, rubbing against your legs because it has missed you. And their quirky personalities can entertain for hours on end.

Although cats have the stereotype of being aloof, they can actually become important members of the family if given the time and adequate care to adjust to their new home.

Following the five steps above will give you the best possible chance of ensuring that it happens as quickly as possible.

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