How Long Does a Cat Take to Adjust to a New Home?
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The time it takes for a cat to adjust to a new home will depend on the individual cat. Determining factors include their genetics, their socialization, their previous experiences and the way by which they are introduced to the home. An important factor is whether you are adopting an adult that has already lived somewhere else or if they are a kitten in their first home. It is with these factors in mind that AnimalWised asks how long does it take a cat to adjust to a new home? While cats will differ in terms of how long acclimating after adoption might take, there are certain things we can do to make them adapt as smoothly as possible.
How long does it take for a cat to adjust after adoption?
How long it takes for a cat to get used to a new home depends on the individual. There are several variables which will impact how long it takes for the cat to get used to the new space. This doesn't just mean whether they are moving house with a pre-existing family or into a new one. We also need to consider:
- Age: if the cat is a kitten, they will not only be adjusting to a new home, but to the world. Generally, kittens will be able to adapt well to a new home since they are only gaining experience. Older cats will have become used to their territory, so moving to a new one can be disorientating and they may struggle to acclimatize.
- Socialization: if the cat has been poorly socialized, a big disruption such as a move can mean they take time to adjust. However, behavioral problems will need to be addressed above and beyond moving house. Our article on how to socialize kittens and adults cats will help you learn more.
- Trauma: if the cat has suffered trauma in the past, any big changes can be very disruptive. This means they may take longer to get used to the new place.
- Environment: if you move from a country house to a city apartment, it may take a lot of adjustment. If the cat has previously had access to the outdoors, but is no longer able to go outside, this can make them very unhappy. In general, we advise never to do this. Other factors about the new environment such as noise and amenities can also impact them.
- Family: if there are other pets in the new home or new family, this can take them a while to adjust. Some cats will simply not get along well with others, no longer how long you give them. Most will adapt over time.
In general, for a happy and healthy cat, it should take no longer than a week or two to get used to a new home. We will need to encourage the cat when adjusting to a new owner or home, but they should feel comfortable easily enough. Some cats, especially those with trauma, make take longer. However, if the cat still has not adjusted after a month, then you may need to call in an expert ethologist to help work out the problem.
Before the cat arrives in the new home
Cats are animals which love routine, so even a small change in daily activities can affect them. If you've just adopted a kitten, it's normal for them to be suspicious and mistrustful. In addition to not knowing who you are or what intentions you have, they will suddenly find themselves in a strange environment, full of unknown smells and without a single mark of their own scent. Scent is particularly important for cats to feel comfortable.
Arriving at home is crucial to getting used to the new environment as quickly as possible. Some cats will feel at ease from the beginning, exploring and taking over quickly, but this is not the most common.
When you adopt a cat it is important that you anticipate their arrival and prepare everything for such an event. To do this, check out our our article on how to welcome a Kitten. Regardless of whether you live in a house or apartment, it's best to use a room in the home for the first contact so that the cat can stay for a while without being disturbed by anyone.
Remember to place a clean litter box, water and food containers and their bed in this room. However, the litterbox should be as far away as possible from the feeder and bed. This is because cats are very hygienic animals. Let them stay in the room as long as they need, sniffing, scouting or even sulking. When they feel ready, they will explore their environment further. Just give them time and respect their rhythm.
Relationship with the family
A good relationship with all family members should be built from day one. The first person who brings the cat into the new home will act as the ambassador. You should ideally pick them up in a pet carrier, where they can feel secure. On the way home, use a soothing and calming tone of voice to talk with the cat. Allow them to sniff through the door of the carrier and respect their decision if they want to stay at the far end of it.
When you arrive home and leave them in the room we have described, let them decide when to leave the carrier, do not force them to do so. Keep an eye on them when they come out, letting them sniff, and back off if they feel very tense. Give them time to explore the room alone and then come back. If you notice they have become calm, sit on the floor so you don't intimidate them with your height, and remain still so that they approach you alone when they wish to.
They'll probably come over to sniff. Let them do it a couple of times before you try to pet them. Keep some delicious food nearby to offer them as a reward. This way, they will interpret that being with you brings good things. When the cat feels comfortable with you, other members of the household can apply the same method to identify their scents and not take the cat by surprise when they are exploring the rest of the spaces.
Give them their own space
Once the cat has decided to explore the entire house and feels more secure and confident, it is time to move their belongings. If you think the newcomer will be better off in the room you've set up for them, you can let them sleep there, but give them the opportunity to explore. In the end, the most important thing is to know the animal and adapt to their needs to ensure that the cat can adapt to their new home and, most importantly, live happily.
If you decided to remove their belongings from the room because it's in their best interest, remember to place the water and food containers in places that are easy for the cat to access. These are places less frequented by humans. The same goes for the litter box, keeping in mind to place it away from the food. Place the bed in a warm and protected place, where the cat can rest, but not feel isolated. You can't forget a scratching post and toys, preferably in the areas where family life occurs, so that the feline can share and have fun with everyone.
Tips for getting a cat used to a new home
As we pointed out at the beginning of the article, if what happens is that you are already living with an adult cat and you are going to move out of your current home, it is logical that you ask yourself what steps to follow and how to get a cat used to their new home. In such cases, the same steps mentioned above must be followed. You can:
- Move all the furniture to the new home before taking your cat. There you can set up a room just for them with all their belongings and leave them there with the carrier with the door open. This way they only leave when they feel ready to sniff and explore familiar objects.
- It is very important that you finish moving everything from one place to the other before taking your cat to the new home. This will avoid unnecessary stress. Cats are animals that are very easily stressed, and noises, strangers and sudden movements are some of the factors that cause anxiety in felines. We recommend avoiding this situation for your cat and take them when everything is in order. In addition, they can recognize the smell of furniture and adapt to their new home much faster.
- Exercise patience, affection and respect. This is the key to getting the cat to get used to his new home. Don't force them, leave them alone exploring every corner and move their belongings when the animal is ready.
For a general guide on how to welcome a cat into the home, check out our video below:
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