Cats are relatively low-stress and low-maintenance animals. They live on their own schedule, hang out when they feel social, and don’t need much attention when it comes to exercise and play. However, there are certain aspects of parenting a cat that require a bit more effort than they might with a dog. One of the most important? Introducing the cat to a space. Whether you’ve just moved or are bringing a cat home from an option center, it is essential to properly and appropriately give your cat the space and time she needs to explore a new home before she feels settled. There are, however, several actions at owners can take to aid the experience. Here are a few of our favorite tips for introducing your cat to a new home.
Set it up in advance. If you’re moving into a new home, don’t let your cat out of the carrier as soon as you step inside. Take a few minutes to unpack some essential supplies, like water and food bowls, the litter box, and maybe a couple of toys. This will allow your cat to have familiar objects, decreasing the chance of an anxiety attack. Better yet, board your cat until you’ve done most of the unpacking; it is better for a cat to be introduced into a static space than one consistently in flux. Pick spots for large pieces of furniture, designate an area for the litter box, and bring kitty in only when you feel the home is ready.
If you’re adopting a cat and introducing her to your home for the first time, gather all supplies you need before bringing her back. Place the litter box, water bowl, and food dish close to the door; as with the above situation, this will allow the animal to feel more at home.
Cat-proof the space. Cats are curious by nature, and they’ll want to explore the new space immediately. It is essential to cat-proof your home before introducing the animal—keep strings and cords out of reach, stow away cleaning supplies and medications, keep your plants out of reach, and pay attention to dangerous spots, such as small areas behind sofas or within recliners.
Introduce the home gradually. If possible, keep the cat in one room for a period of time—between fifteen and forty-five minutes will work. Then, gradually bring them through other rooms and spaces in your home. Too much space for exploration will lead to overstimulation, which could lead to erratic, destructive behavior. If your cat starts to pant, don’t freak out—they’re just trying to cope with the change of scenery.
Cats are remarkably versatile animals. Unless yours is very, very old, he should only need a few days to adjust to a new space. Keep a close eye on his behavior and habits, and pay attention to his favorite sleep and play spots. Throughout the process, introduce new toys, provide plentiful treats, and do your best to avoid catnip—this could lead to further stimulation, which is very unhelpful in this already stressful situation.