Making a New Cat Feel at Home: 7 Tips

Help a scared, meowing cat or kitten adjust to her new home.

Q: I got my first cat last week, a 9-month-old neutered kitten with all his shots. He was sad and meowed a lot. This cat doesn’t eat much, doesn’t use his scratching post, took a long time to learn to use the litterbox and sleeps all day on my new couch. Everything is new to him and he misses his previous owner. What can I do to help? Also, I want to give him a bath. Can you give me some tips?

A: Cats stress out, to some degree, when their environment changes. Because your new cat is in an unfamiliar living situation with a stranger, he is probably scared and fearful. Help him adjust to you and your home through activities that help build trust and by creating a safe environment for him. Try these seven tips to welcoming your new cat home.

Stay consistent. If you are lucky enough to know your cat’s history, feed him the same cat food he ate in his previous home. Also, if possible, buy the same kind of cat litter he used before he moved. Keeping a consistent feeding schedule will also help him adjust quicker.

Add cat territory. Let your cat inspect his world from safe places and keep him entertained with tall cat trees, shelves or perches next to secure windows. Provide cardboard boxes and tunnels for your cat to explore and hide in when scared. Place scratching posts and horizontal scratchers in all rooms of your house to increase your cat’s sense of security. This lets him trim his claws and mark his territory by scratching the posts and mats. Because cats have scent glands on the bottom of their paws, whenever they scratch a surface, cats define territory.

Increase litterboxes. Two large, uncovered litterboxes, located in different areas of your house will help prevent further litterbox challenges. Scoop the boxes at least once a day and dump them completely every two to three weeks. Wash the boxes with hot water and then refill them with fresh litter.

Socialize your cat. Earn your cat’s trust by interacting with him. Instead of approaching him, let him come to you when he is ready to socialize. Sit a short distance away and formally greet the cat by extending one finger toward him, at his nose level. He will choose whether to socialize with you. He will approach you, touch your finger with his nose and then turn his head, extending an invitation for you to pet him.

“Treat” your cat well. Whenever you see your cat, toss him a treat so that he will associate you with positive experiences.

Get a vet check. Let your veterinarian check your new cat’s health. Your veterinarian can identify and treat any of your cat’s medical conditions. Bring all of the cat’s medical records with you to the appointment for your veterinarian to review.

Wait to bathe. Cats naturally keep themselves clean, without human intervention. Bathing cats is stressful, for cats and the people bathing them, often resulting in traumatized cats and people. If your veterinarian feels the new cat needs a bath, then ask the vet to bathe him.

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