Our recommendations for cat ownership in the first 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months of your time together.
While we humans are full of excitement and joy, the newly adopted cat or kitten doesn’t know that you have just changed their life for the better. They’ll need time to decompress and adjust to the new life you’re giving them. With patience, our after adoption guide can help your new cat transition more smoothly from shelter life to a loving home environment.
A new location is terrifying for any cat. Just like humans, cats have different personalities and while it might take one cat a few days to adjust, it could take months for a more reserved or older cat to adapt to change. In general, you can expect that any cat moving into your home will need time.
For the first 3 days, we strongly recommend that you keep your new kitty’s world small.
By this, we mean keeping them confined to one room. We particularly like the bedroom, as the kitty can come out at night while you’re sleeping and get used to your smell and sounds while you are at your most non-threatening.
It’s important to recognize that keeping a cat confined to one room isn’t seen as a jail by the cat—it’s seen as a safe place. Cats are inherently afraid of big, unfamiliar places and will look for a small, often dark, safe, and secluded place in which to take refuge until they get the lay of the land.
Being confined to one room also helps the new cat parent monitor how much the new kitty is eating or drinking and if they’re using the litter box. It’s not unusual for a cat to be too stressed for a day or 2 to eat anything, but after that, they need to start eating.
Some cats are more extroverted and adapt more easily to change. We still recommend confining them for at least a few days so that they learn where the scratchers, food, water, and litter boxes are.
We recommend spending quiet time with your new kitty in their chosen room every day. We like reading, scrolling through Facebook, or other similar, quiet activities to allow the kitty to adjust to your presence and associate you with calm and love. We’ll often put fresh food or cat nip out then hang out in the room for a half hour or longer, ideally several times a day.
If there are other cats already in your home, this is a critical time for them to start learning each other’s scents and sounds, before they meet face-to-face.
Every cat is different. While some will be completely comfortable within a few days, some cats won’t start venturing out of their safe place for weeks. It’s important that they do it on their terms and that the interactions aren’t forced.
Continue spending time with your kitty and work at finding things they like. Is it petting? Brushing? Catnip? Laser pointers? Treats? Use what they like to continue to foster growth and your relationship. During the first few weeks, you should see more and more of their personality start to show through as they’re less anxious and begin to acclimate to your home.
Moving some of their favorite objects, such as cat beds, toys, or scratchers, from their safe rooms to other places in the house may encourage them to venture further into their new world. Moving beds or other scented objects from the house into their safe room and vice versa also helps cats already in the home become more accustomed to the smell of the new cat, and the new cat more accustomed to the cats that are their new neighbors.
For most cats, it takes about 3 months to be truly settled into a new home.
Some cats will take much longer while others may settle incredibly quickly, but you can expect at least 3 months for typical cats to acclimate enough for you to feel like you have a real relationship with them. It may seem like a long time, but the love and companionship is worth the wait.