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how to help cat adjust to their new home

How to Help Your New Cat Adjust to Her New Home

Fluffy fur, fuzzy tails, and attitude to boot! The thought of bringing home a new kitty makes me swoon. In reality, introducing a new cat to the home isn’t all cuddles and purrs. It takes a lot of preparation. This is especially true if you’re a first-time cat parent. 

Contrary to popular opinion, kitties aren’t as low maintenance as they might seem. Sure they don’t require daily walks or beg to play a game of fetch. But cats need lots of time, love, regular veterinary care, healthy food, and plenty of toys and supplies.

Plus, cats can live anywhere from 12-18 years, (sometimes longer). Introducing a new cat to your home is a serious commitment. But it’s worth every extra step of preparation! The bond you form with your kitty will stay with you for a lifetime.

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One thing I learned when I brought my cat, Olivia, home, is the importance of the first few hours and days after adopting a new cat. Giving them a thoughtful start can set the stage for how well and how long it takes your cat to adjust to her new home.

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Why Your New Cat May Be Anxious

Cats are creatures of habit. Even small changes in a cat’s routine can trigger anxiety. An anxious cat is an unhappy cat. Imagine how your new cat may feel coming into an unfamiliar environment with new people and new smells. 

Understanding and recognizing symptoms of anxiety in cats can help you be proactive as you introduce your cat to her new home. Here are a few signs that may indicate your new cat is anxious:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Trembling
  • Twitching tails or ears
  • Freezing in place
  • Hair standing up
  • Hiding
  • Hypervigilance
  • Increased vocalization
  • Increased respiratory rate

You may recognize some symptoms of cat anxiety within the first few days of introducing your cat to her new home. But if the symptoms persist, it’s best to visit your veterinarian to make sure she’s okay.

How to Introduce Your New Cat to Your Home

Prepare for the Car Ride Home

Before setting the first paw into her new digs, your new cat will need extra love and attention for the car ride home. Unlike dogs, many cats aren’t fans of road trips, even short ones. Your new kitty might panic, cry, or even get motion sick on the way home. But with advanced preparation, you can make her journey a little easier. Start by getting a high-quality pet carrier. 

Photo of a Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed

A carrier, like this one from Sleepypod®, is the safest way for a cat to ride in the car. The last thing you want is an anxious cat running free in your car as you’re trying to drive home. She could hurt herself and even cause an accident.

Make the carrier nice and cozy by filling it with warm, soft blankets for her to snuggle into and feel safe. If you’re concerned she’ll get car sick, you can lightly cover the carrier with a towel.

Photo of a FELIWAY Classic Calming Spray

If you have a long trip home, and your new kitty has a history of stressful car rides, try FELIWAY Cat Calming Pheromone Spray

It’s the No.1 Vet recommended solution to help cats adjust to challenging situations, like car rides. Simply spray in your car, or even in your cat’s carrier. Feliway Calming Spray mimics natural pheromones, which helps to put cats at ease in a natural and safe way.

Buy The Best Supplies For Your New Cat

Kittens and cats may be small, but they need a lot of supplies! So start shopping before you bring a new cat into the home. Stock up on these essential supplies for your cat and she’ll feel at home in no time:

Photo of a PetSafe Smart Feed Automatic Dog and Cat Feeder

Food dishes. Choose an option that’s low enough for your tiny friend to eat comfortably. If you’ve got your heart set on a raised cat dish, you may want to start out with something a little shorter first. Automated pet feeders are another great option. This one from PetSafe, allows you to monitor and control your cat’s meals using your smartphone!

Photo of Catit Cat Drinking Water Fountain

Water dishes. A simple water dish will work just fine. But if you really want to treat your kitty, try a fountain! My cat Olivia loves hers, and I don’t have to worry nearly as much about whether she’s drinking enough water. And with a fountain, I don’t have to leave the bathroom faucet dripping for her!

A fountain appeals to your cat’s natural instinct to drink moving water. Many fountains have filters to keep your new cat’s drinking water fresh and clean. I love this one by Catit. Though it might be a little too high for a brand new kitten, it’s definitely worth bringing out once she’s big enough.

Photo of a I AND LOVE AND YOU Grain Free Dry Cat Food

Cat food. Cat’s are notorious for being picky eaters. If possible, find out what your kitty has been eating at the shelter or foster home. Even if you plan on feeding her something different eventually, transitioning her slowly is usually the best choice. I highly recommend you ask your veterinarian to recommend the best diet or formula for your kitten or cat. I give Olivia high protein, grain-free food from I and love and you. They make dry kibble and canned food too.

Photo of a pink Cat ID Tag

Collars and ID tags. Indoors is paws down the safest place for cats. But even indoor felines should wear a collar and an ID tag at all times. You never know when your cat will discover her inner escape artist.

If she gets lost, you want whoever finds her to know right where to bring her! PetHub’s ID tags include a unique QR code that links to your cat’s online profile. Plus, they’re super cute! Most importantly, PetHub gets lost pets home faster than any other organization. 96% of lost pets with PetHub ID tags are home in under 24-hours. Best of all, less than 2% ever reach an animal shelter. Thanks to PetHub’s extensive online profile for your pet, their speedy and friendly customer service, and their dedication to reuniting you with your lost pet, you can rest easy knowing your new cat is safe.

Photo of Blueberry Pet Breakaway Cat Collars in pink and turquoise

Leash and harness. Some cat parents enjoy walking with their feline friend if she’ll tolerate it. But even if the only outing your kitty ever makes is her regular wellness visit to the vet, you’ll definitely find it easier to get her in and out of her carrier if she’s on a leash! I love these sweet collars and leashes from Blueberry Pet.

Photo of a blue Petmate Giant Litter Box

Litter box. Choosing a litter box may seem like a no-brainer. But trust me, choosing the right litter box will save you a lot of headaches! Just like humans, cats really care about where they do their business. Olivia and I prefer this simple, non-hooded litter box. Check out my blog post to learn the 6 litter box secrets your cat wishes you knew.

Photo of a bag of Worlds Best Cat Litter Scented Clumping Litter

Cat litter. Not all cat litters are created equal. Clay litters are not earth-friendly, and the dust from some litters isn’t healthy for your cat either. Years ago, I dumped my old litter and chose a natural one. Read my blog post here, to find out the four things you need to know when choosing a natural cat litter

Olivia and I paws-itively love World’s Best Cat Litter™. It’s made from naturally absorbent corn, has superior odor control, and clumps like a dream. What’s not to love? Plus it comes in several different formulas, scented and unscented. Olivia and I love their Multiple Cat Lavender Scented formula.

Photo of a gray FEANDREA Cat Tree Small Cat Tower

Scratching posts and cat trees. When you’re introducing a new cat to the home, make sure she has a proper place to scratch! You can lessen the chance that kitty will dig her claws into your favorite armchair by giving her a fun scratching post. I love this one that combines scratching, climbing, and hiding out into one fun structure.

Lots of toys. Toys are a great way for you to play and bond with your kitty without getting your hands scratched to death. Plus they can keep her entertained when you’re not around. After all, if your new cat is bored, she’ll have a harder time transitioning into her new environment. Bergan Turbo Scratcher Cat Toy combines playtime and scratching into one fun toy! Try buying a bunch of toys and rotating them every few days so the novelty never wears off. Read more about the ten most purr-fect kitten toys here.

Photo of a MEOWFIA Premium Felt Cat Bed

Beds and Caves. Make sure your new cat feels warm and cozy and has a soft place to land after all that playtime. I’m paws over tails in love with these cat bed caves from MEOWFIA or these adorable cardboard cat condos from The Cat in the Box.

How to Cat-Proof Your Home

Cats have a knack for getting into mischief. Although no plan is totally cat-proof, these steps will create a safe environment when bringing a new cat into your home. 

  • Keep string and cords out of reach. Kitties love to play with anything long and stringy, but they can easily become tangled and choke. It’s best to stash the string and tie your blind cords up out of reach. Beware of electrical cords too – some kitties love to chew on them. Put your cords in a cord protector or coat them with something that tastes bad.
  • Stowaway cleaning supplies and medications. Childproof containers aren’t necessarily cat-proof! Keep all harmful substances out of reach, preferably in a cabinet equipped with child-proof latches.
  • Know your plants. Cats love to nibble on greenery, but some plants are harmful to pets. Put away or throw away anything that could make your feline friend sick.
  • Pay attention to dangerous spots. Cats love to squeeze into small, tight spaces, so recliners, sleeper sofas, and dryers are all potentially dangerous. You probably can’t get rid of these things, but it’s a good idea to know where your kitty is before you fold out the recliner or start the dryer.
  • Put away breakables. Never assume that your kitty won’t find a way to that top shelf where you’ve stashed grandma’s crystal vase. Until you’ve seen your little acrobat’s capacity to climb, it’s best not to leave out anything you don’t want knocked over. 

The First Few Days Introducing Your New Cat

Once you’ve prepared and purchased all the essential supplies for your new cat, it’s finally time to bring kitty home! True, it can be a little overwhelming bringing a cat into the home. But, you can make the transition easier by restricting her to a single room (like a laundry room or a bathroom) for the first couple of days. If you decide on the bathroom, keep the toilet seat down so kitty doesn’t fall in while she’s exploring. Make sure she’s got a nice secure place to hide out while she adjusts. When she begins to feel more comfortable, then you can expand her boundaries.

Don’t force her to socialize. Even though you’ll be dying to hold and cuddle your new kitty, allow her to get to know you on her own terms. The best approach is probably to sit still and let her come to you. Don’t take it personally if she hides. She’ll come around eventually.

Once your new cat is comfortable with you and her new home the two of you will be inseparable. The first few days and weeks go by so fast, but if you spend time playing, snuggling, and bonding you’ll be rewarded with a special feline friend for life!

Download the FREE Cat Bonding Ebook

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean -- to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. When my cat arrived, I first confined her to one room, which contained the food and water dish and a litter box. I also took care to make sure there were toys and blankets which she had enjoyed at her prior home. I frequently went into the room and just sat quietly. Finally, after a week, she ventured out and discovered my bed. She finally let me touch her. Then she discovered that I know how to give a massage to a cat. She loved it, and from that moment, we had developed a bond of trust that let her feel comfortable exploring on her own

    1. Betty,

      That is such a sweet memory. Giving them enough time to adjust is key and having things that they are comfortable with in their new space. Thanks for sharing and adopting!


  2. I am adopting a new kitten soon, but I am worried about how my adult cat might respond. What is the best way to introduce them?

  3. Properly buying all of the supplies needed for a new cat first is likely what I have to do before adopting one. This way, when it starts needing things like hygiene care or toys to play with, I’m ready immediately and I can prevent problems from coming up. I’ll have that ready beforehand so I have no issues adopting a cat from a local pet store.

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