What you need to know

How Long Does a Cat Take to Adjust to a New Home?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: January 25, 2024
How Long Does a Cat Take to Adjust to a New Home?

See files for Cats

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.

  1. How long does it take for a cat to adjust after adoption?
  2. Before the cat arrives in the new home
  3. Relationship with the family
  4. Give them their own space
  5. Tips for getting a cat used to a new home

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.

How Long Does a Cat Take to Adjust to a New Home? - Before the cat arrives in the new home

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.

How Long Does a Cat Take to Adjust to a New Home? - Give them their own space

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:

If you want to read similar articles to How Long Does a Cat Take to Adjust to a New Home?, we recommend you visit our What you need to know category.

Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
We recently brought in 5 strays the were caught using a humane trap because they were considered a nuisance. It’s been 7 months. They still hide from us. Is this normal?
We have 5 strays. Since they were reported as a nuisance, we had to use traps. It’s been seven months. They still hide from us. Is this normal?
Hi there. I just adopted a four-month-old kitten from a shelter. I set everything up in the guest bathroom and he seems to be doing OK… He is eating, playing, using the litter box and drinking but during the day he definitely does not like to be confined to the bathroom. He really wants to round the rest of the house. He’s doing a lot of vocalizing and in particular if I leave him in the bathroom he cries out a lot. He was actually totally fine overnight… No crying at all. I’ve read that you are supposed to contain them for the first three or four days but he seems so unhappy in there during the day. He definitely likes hugs and snuggles but doesn’t want to be held a lot at this point and he is purring so he seems happy. I’m just wondering if it’s bad to let him be roaming the house so soon.
Ive adopted a cat yesterday, he instantly hid himself under the sofa, as this was first place he saw as "safe", he is eating but not using his toilet. Im wondering how long will it take for him to acclimate and start trusting me? I cannot leave him alone as he is hidden in the sofa in the living room. Should I force him to change places of hiding? I don't want it. Im fine with him in the living room.
any advice would be welcomed.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Izzy,

If you are OK with him being in the living room, then we would recommend letting him stay where he is. The important thing to do is to not force interaction. Instead, you need to let him come to you and gain trust. Have everything they need ready. This means a comfortable bed, food, water and toys. Keep them within his sight from his hiding place and wait patiently. He will eventually be hungry and need to eat. Let him approach you, speak in a calm voice and only pet him if he lets you. By giving him the power to come to you, you provide reassurance and reduce insecurity.

We have a related article which might be of some more help:

We just got a new kitten so thanks for the video! :D
debbie pike
i took in a feral last may. had her spayed etc. she was inside with us 1 1/2 months after 2 months of taking care of her outside. i thought it was best for her to leave with a foster 3 months while back in mew york to avoid hotels , etc. i got her back oct 4. she seemed to know me, but then refused to eat for 4 days, and does not seem to want to sit on the couch with me etc. Is she mad i left her? will she come around? is she missing her foster family? Is there anything i can do more then i am? I play her favorite games, ly on the floor etc
I have a very nervous 6mth old female cat, how long does it take for them to adjust
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Sue,

It really will depend on the individual cat. If you have followed the advice in the article, but still not had any luck, we would suggest you contact a feline ethologist who can best advise on your individual case. Good luck!
Poppy Gloria
Hi! We have a stray female cat visiting us when we’re not at home. Usually, she goes through the trash and rummages for food then, leaves. Recently, we found her 5 kittens inside a cabinet that’s not in use. The cats are about a month old or so. (they can stand but walk wobbily) She came back to get the 4 cats but has left one behind and it’s been days. I’m now worried that she won’t come back for the last one. What should I do and prepare to take care of this kitten?
Hi, I am looking for some piece of advise as I am really torned with my cat´s situation. I moved to New Zealand 2 years ago, when I moved in this house there were two kittens that started coming in looking for food. One of my neighbors, Barry, adopted them, but only the girl stayed with him, the male cat, Horacio, kept on coming in my place. Even I didn´t feed him, he would stay here. My neighbor said that as Horacio was more comfortable with me I could keep him. Now I have to go back to my home country, but I will be travelling for four months before settling down and I don´t know what would be best for the cat, as I don´t want him to suffer. My neighbor says that the cat should stay with me until I am gone and once he realizes I am not there anymore, Horacio would go back to him. I feel like I would be abandoning him this way, so I said to my neighbor if he wanted to start from now feeding Horacio and so on so the cat can get used to being at my neighbor´s place before I leave but my neighbor is not interested in doing that. He says that the cat will be just fine when I leave. The other option is taking him to my home country to stay at my friend´s place for a couple of months and when I settle taking him with me. I am going to take him to the vet to see if he is fit to fly. But what would be your insight on what is the least traumatic option? I appreciate your help.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Belen,

First of all, it really sounds like you are trying to be as considerate as possible in looking after this cat's needs and we applaud you for it. Cats do form strong bonds with humans, but they can also adapt to new situations. The least traumatic option will likely be for them to stay with your neighbor. They may miss you, but flying in an aeroplane, adapting to a new home and even getting to grips with a new country will probably be more traumatic.

In saying that, every cat is an individual and they might also be happy to make the trip and enjoy your new life together. Moving to a new country will also require new vaccinations and probably a lot of paperwork and expense. Find out if it is even possible first and see if you are ready and/or able to make the commitment. Unfortunately, cats are left in shelters every day. Many of them are able to find new homes and enjoy their lives with a new family. While they may miss you, cats are also very resilient and should be able to adapt to your leaving. As long as they are still being cared for by your neighbor, it seems like a good option.

I've adopted a friend's cat, he was from a home with three other cats who don't like him. He's been in my closet, aggressive, hissing and yowling, and hasn't eaten nor gone to his litter box. This is day 2 now. He's 4 years old and we have another cat turning 1 this Christmas, she's a Siberian and very friendly but skittish.

I'm not sure what to do at this point because my closet now seems out of bounds, but he's terrible aggressive so anyone who so much as comes within the fence (we had to set up a fence around my closet) will most likely get attacked.

Is there any advice you could give me?

PS: I know he's quite frightened but I'm afraid he might never leave the closet.
I adopted a 2 yr old 3 mths ago still very shy and running away other times friendly
What do I do
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Rona,

Ensure you give them their space. Don't force interactions and let them come to you. They will need some time to build up trust, especially as you may not be aware of their previous history. Use positive reinforcement and remove any stressors which may be in their environment. Also, they will need lots of positive mental and physical stimulation, so have the right kind of play things for them. Unfortunately, this process can take time, so the most important thing you need is patience. Good luck!
Nathan Domingue
Back in December of last year, I got a Hurricane Harvey rescue cat. His name was Pumpkin then, but, he responds to his new name of Francis. He was 1, so it was really easy for him to adjust.
He lost his left hind leg in that storm, but, fur has overgrown the spot now.
After I got him, I left the carrier door open, and he crawled out and sniffed instantly. 5 minutes later, he laid on the bed. I always believed it was instant trust.
Administrador AnimalWised
Thank you so much for sharing Nathan!
Wanda Eaton
We just got a 1 year old tortie tux, female. (Annabelle)
I can't walk much. I have a broken knee cap.
I am in a recliner most of the time. Sometimes in a wheelchair.
How do I get the cat used to me since I can't get down to her level? I wish she will go into my lap.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Wanda,

Regardless of mobility issues, you shouldn't pick up a cat which doesn't want to be handled. You are right, however, that being able to go down to their level can make interaction difficult. However, if you exercise patience, your cat should be interested enough in you and will eventually come to you. What you need to do is make this as appealing a prospect as possible:

Find some toys which make noise. Jangle the toys and your cat will hear and try to play with it. You don't have to have the cat on your lap, but you can play next to a couch or some other high are you are happy to have them play.

Keep treats and reward the cat for coming up to you.

Cats bond with their owners partly because they provide for them. If you can, be the one to feed and water them. This will engender you to the cat's affections.

Don't push it and try to force interaction. Let them come to you and use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior.

If anyone else has direct experience and would like to share with the community, please feel free to comment and share your advice.
Lexi LaGrow
Thanks for the article! I got my cat as a 1 year old, he moved into a house with 6 people and a dog (same age). My older brother moved out later, and I visited him very regularly. The cat and the dog mostly laid around but they'd occasionally play fight, and he would watch her when she went outside. Now he's 3, and I moved into my brother's apartment with him yesterday. He already knows my brother and since I visit here half the time, he probably recognizes the scent of the place. He walked out of his carrier immediately, but he was still iffy about walking into new spots for a short while. Since then, he's been venturing around and sometimes going under things. One thing I've noticed is he's doing the kneading action with his paws constantly, and he's more clingy than usual (typically when I sleep he just sits on my bed, but last night he kept jumping on, rubbing his face on me repeatedly, rolling around/clawing playfully, then jumping off). Other than that, he hasn't been much different, he really likes sitting by the glass door and watching outside. My main concern is that I hope he doesn't get lonely since he's used to having another pet at the house (I feel really bad for the dog too, maybe my dad will get her a new friend), but I hope that's not the case because I don't want to go through the hassle (and can't afford/don't have the room) for a second cat! It's only been 2 days and I only have a part-time job, but I just worry about him. :)
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Lexi,

Thanks for the comment and pic! Being considerate as you are is the best thing you can do at the minute. Use positive reinforcement to ensure this new home is seen as a happy place and ensure they have enough environmental enrichment to keep their mind active and engaged. We hope you're cat settles in well and you both enjoy your new home.
1 of 3
How Long Does a Cat Take to Adjust to a New Home?