Cats often need time to acclimate to their new surroundings. When bringing a new cat home, it is important to remember that she is going to need time and assistance to feel comfortable in her new environment. 

Provide a small, quiet place for your cat to get acclimated, such as a spare bedroom or bathroom. Ideally the room will be equipped with windows for natural light. This will allow your cat to express natural behavior while in the room. 

Make sure your cat has access to water and a litter box at all times. 

Scatter some enticing kitty toys throughout the room, such as a catnip mouse and a ball to bat around. 

Offer your new cat a cozy place to hide. This could be a hut-type cat bed purchased from a pet store, a cardboard box with an opening cut in the side and bedding placed inside (keep the top flaps closed but don’t seal them), or a plastic shelving unit with bedding on one of the higher shelves and a towel or blanket draped over the front. Use what works for your home.

Put your cat’s hiding place somewhere that is easily accessible by you and your cat, but that is mostly out of view.

Block off potential hiding spots that are inaccessible to you. Cats often feel safer when elevated; be cautious of loft rafters or attic access doors in closets.

Monitor your new cat’s appetite by measuring out the dry food you provide for her. For the first few weeks, monitoring is important to let you know how much your cat is eating daily, or if she isn’t eating. Not eating for more than two days can be dangerous for a cat so you do need to see right away what her food consumption is. 

If your cat is very fearful, offer her canned food several times a day and remain in the room while she eats. This will help create a bond and help your cat learn to trust you. In the beginning, spoon feeding your cat in her hiding place may be the best option. If she won’t eat from the spoon, place the food as close as you can to the cat and simply sit at the farthest point in the room. Warming the food a bit could stimulate the appetite in a cat who otherwise isn’t eating in your presence. As she becomes more comfortable, you can move a little closer and hand feed her, then transition to giving the food on a plate and luring her out of hiding to eat.

Invite your cat to play. You might be surprised how many shut down, fearful cats spring to life when invited to play. Interactive toys are a great way to bond with your new cat and help her feel more comfortable. Wand toys are the obvious choice. Wiggle the toy back and forth across the floor or base of your cat’s hiding spot. 

Spend time each day visiting with your cat. There is no magical amount of time that will work with every cat. You might choose to spend one longer chunk of time in the room or divide it up into several shorter visits. Be sure that you are speaking softly and moving slowly when in the room. Slow blinking, commonly called “kitty kisses,” does help to soothe some cats, and you might even get your cat blinking back at you.

Reprimands or other forms of punishment will only stress the cat further and will cause her to be more wary of you, potentially thwarting any chance of building a lasting, loving relationship.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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