How To Make a Cat Feel Comfortable in a New Home
by Jessi Larson
Wondering how to make a cat feel comfortable in a new home?
Being a new cat owner is exciting. A cat brings years of fun and love to a home.
However, moving a cat into a new home can be stressful for a cat, just as moving into a new home can be stressful on people.
While dogs often adapt to a new home almost right away, cats are territorial animals and creatures of habit, which means it can take some time before they adjust to new surroundings.
The following guidance will make the transition easier for your new feline family member.
How To Make a Cat Feel Comfortable in a New Home
If you need to figure out how to make a cat feel comfortable in a new home, the following tips will be a huge help.
This is written with new cat owners in mind, but most of this advice still applies if you already have a cat and you move to a new home.
Use a Cat Carrier for Transport
Whether you’re moving from one home to another or bringing a cat home from a shelter, it’s important to use a cat carrier.
Although most cats hate being put into a carrier and you might face a minor battle doing so, a carrier keeps a cat safer and prevents it from escaping a vehicle.
After all, a frightened cat that runs away when reaching a new home may not find its way back.
Establish a Home Base
Your new cat needs time to get to know you and its new home, so set up a room in the house as the cat’s home base and safe place.
Any room with a door works, but bedrooms and offices are ideal. Set up a litter box, food and water, and a padded, sheltered place to sleep or hide.
Also, it’s a good idea to provide a scratching post and some toys. Set the carrier down, open it up and close the door to allow the cat time to come out on its own and explore the room.
Expand the Territory Gradually
As the cat becomes comfortable in its home base, you can allow the cat to have access to more parts of the house. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a week, so monitor the situation frequently.
At this time, you might want to move the food and water to wherever you intend to have them permanently but leave the litter box where it is for the time being.
This gives the cat additional incentives to explore but lets it retain its safe place. Remember to remove any hazards from areas the cat will have access to.
Keep the Cat Indoors
Allowing a cat to be an indoor/outdoor cat is a decision that comes with several pros and cons. No matter what you decide, however, it is important not to let a cat outside while it is still adjusting to its new home.
Just as you don’t want a cat escaping from the car when it arrives at its new home, you don’t want a cat not habituated to a home getting outside.
If something startles it and it runs off, it may not return either out of fear or not knowing its way back.
Spend Lots of Time with Your New Cat
Your cat also needs to get to know you, so it’s important to spend as much time with the cat as you can.
It’s also important to get to know each other on the cat’s terms, so if it doesn’t want to be held or played with at first, that’s fine. Just sitting in the room and reading or doing some work helps the cat start getting used to you.
Check on the Cat Regularly and Watch for Signs of Stress
Even after the home base phase, you should check in on the cat frequently to see how things are going.
Although you can’t have a conversation with words, you can look for ways that a cat communicates that it is under stress:
- Excessive meowing, howling, scratching or grooming
- Hiding most of the time and/or avoiding interactions
- Panting or drooling, runny eyes or nose, or diarrhea
- Reduced appetite and/or weight loss
- Not making litter box trips regularly or doing its business outside the litter box
- Aggressive behavior
If you’re seeing any of these signs and they persist, it’s probably a good idea to schedule a visit to the vet.
How Do You Introduce a Cat to Children, Dogs and Other Cats?
This is a big topic that deserves its own article, but we want to at least provide an overview of this important question. When you get a new cat, how do you introduce them to other members of your household?
Children, especially younger ones, can stress out a cat simply because they don’t know how to behave around cats.
Teach your children how to properly hold a cat, not to pull on tails, not to chase cats, and to recognize actions such as hissing and scratching as signs that a cat needs some space.
Cats are infamous for playing happily and then suddenly deciding they’ve had enough, so prepare children for that!
It isn’t true that cats and dogs are natural enemies, but getting them to be comfortable with each other can be a real challenge.
The best approach is to first wait until the cat is used to its new home. Then, let the cat smell the dog.
Next, in a room where the cat feels safe, you can introduce the cat and dog, keeping the dog leashed and sitting.
Also, make sure the cat always has a place where it can be alone and safe. And never leave the cat and dog unsupervised until you know they’re fine with each other. (This can take time, so have patience!)
They may not ever be snuggle buddies, but with care, you can usually get them to share space and tolerate each other. Plus, don’t hesitate to contact a professional trainer if you think you need help.
3. Other Cats
Acquainting cats with each other can be challenging, too. As we said, cats are territorial, and they don’t always welcome newcomers.
When figuring out how to make a cat feel comfortable in a new home, first let the cats get each other’s scents by sniffing under the door of the safe room. Keep one on each side.
Next, let them do this as long as necessary until there’s no more hissing, growling or other aggression.
Once they get there, try face-to-face meetings using separate carriers.
Gradually, let them spend time loose and “in person” with each other, but stay in the room to watch for either cat acting aggressively.
Final Thoughts: How To Make a Cat Feel Comfortable in a New Home
All good owners wonder how to make a cat feel comfortable in a new home.
As you try to implement the tasks above, just remember that the time it takes for a cat to get used to new homes, people and other animals can vary widely.
Stay patient and alert, and soon your new cat will be a happy member of the family!