In honor of National Cat Health Month, FoMA wants to help to shed some light on the sometimes difficult transition cats experience when going from a shelter to a new home.
How Long Does it Take for a Cat to Get Used to a New Home?
There’s no definitive answer on how long your adopted cat will take to adjust to their new home. It depends largely on their temperament. Some rescue cats may feel comfortable very quickly and will learn where their food, water, and litter box are immediately. However, some other cats may take longer to feel safe in their new home. Don’t be discouraged if this happens to you. There are steps you can take to make your new furry companion feel more at home.
First Steps After Getting Home
Moving can be incredibly stressful for cats. Cats are territorial creatures and become accustomed to their surroundings. When they’re coming into a home from a shelter environment, this can be scary for them as they are suddenly experiencing different conditions and surroundings.
When they arrive in your home, no matter how comfortable it can be, it is still an unfamiliar place with new smells and sounds. So, when you first get your kitty home, be sure to let them set the pace. They may want to sniff around or hide underneath your couch. Just make sure that you’re not forcing them to do anything they’re uncomfortable with, as this could slow down the process.
Introducing Your Pets to Each Other
When you already have a pet at home, this can add an extra element to the process of ensuring your new kitty is comfortable. We hope these tips of familiarizing your new cat to your current pets will be helpful in the transition!
Cat to Resident Cat:
Introducing your new cat to your resident cat will take time. As cliche as it may sound, patience is key in this situation.
- To start off, do NOT introduce your cats to each other when your rescue immediately gets home. Not only will this add an unnecessary component of stress to your rescue cat, but also to your resident cat and could negatively impact the relationship they form. Introducing them upon arrival can also lead to fights, litter box problems, and long term aggression towards each other so it’s best to go slow.
- Put your rescue kitty in a safe space with a closed door and provide kitty liter box, food and water while your new kitty adjusts. This allows the rescue and resident cat the chance to smell each other’s scent before meeting. You can even exchange their bedding after a few days so they become more accustomed to the new smells. If there are no signs of aggression like hissing or raised hackles, move on to the next step.
- After a few days, your cats are ready to see each other. Place your rescue in a carrier and set them down in a room where they would cross paths. If there are any signs of aggression keep the visit short and repeat a few times a day until they seem more comfortable with each other’s presence.
- Once your cats seem comfortable with each other, it’s finally time for them to meet face to face. Don’t force them in the same room, but instead open the door to your designated safe room and allow them to go at their own pace. If there are any signs of aggression separate them immediately and go back to step 3.
- Once your cats are well acquainted, you may still hear the occasional hiss or growl which is normal. Cats are territorial and hierarchical creatures which means they’re establishing a sort of pecking order. With time and patience you’ll be helping create a bond between the two kitties and giving each of them a new furry friend!
Cat to Resident Dog:
- Most important is to make sure that your dog is cat friendly and/or NOT cat reactive!
- When introducing your rescue cat to your dog, this step is very similar to when you are starting to introduce two cats. This means that you should allow them to smell each other before meeting. Choose your designated safe room and allow them to become used to each other’s scents.
- Once you feel that your pets are comfortable with each other’s scents, switch their places. Your dog will go in the safe room giving your rescue cat the freedom to explore the rest of the household for 1-2 hours a day.
- Now it’s time for them to finally meet face to face. Allow your cat out of the safe room while still giving the kitty the chance to move to safety if necessary. Ensure your dog is on a leash and you have high value treats ready and make sure your dog is responding to your commands: If they try to stand up and move towards your cat, bring their attention back to you and give them a treat. This is teaching your dog that they should be relaxed about the presence of your cat. They’re learning that cats are not prey, nor toys.
Should your dog not respond to you or it seems that either of the animals’ stress levels are elevated, remove both from the room and repeat this process until your dog can focus on you and your kitty feels safe.
- Once your pets are comfortable together, still keep an eye on them until you are positive they built a trusting relationship. You should ensure that your cat always has a designated safe space away from the dog they can retreat to when they’ve had enough of their companion. This safe space could be a room or even a cat tree, as long as it’s a space that is only theirs.
So, how long does it take for a cat to get used to a new home? While there is no exact answer, we hope these tips were helpful in showing how to make the transition easier on your new furry friend.