Tips to Survive the First Days with Your Adopted Cat

Cats are territorial and follow routines, so the first days with your adopted cat can be challenging. We'll help you with these tips.
Tips to Survive the First Days with Your Adopted Cat
Georgelin Espinoza Medina

Written and verified by the biologist Georgelin Espinoza Medina.

Last update: 19 September, 2023

The arrival of a cat or kitten at home is an exciting situation for caregivers. In addition to having everything prepared with everything necessary for the animal’s well-being, you have to know how to handle the situation. Felines love routines, so an unfamiliar home with strange people can stress and even scare them. Therefore, it’s crucial that you know some key data to survive the first days with your adopted cat.

In the face of all the emotions that a kitten may have the first days after the adoption, it’s best to act calmly. All cats have different personalities. Therefore, here are some tips to help your adopted cat adapt to its new environment, your presence, and that of your family.

Respect the adaptation time: The key to surviving the first days with your adopted cat

This is one of the most important aspects when you take a cat into your home: Respecting the time the animal needs to get used to its new environment and family. As personalities differ from one cat to another, the period varies in each case. So, if you’re wondering how long it may take to adapt, you have to be clear that the answer can vary from a few days to several weeks.

It’s important to understand that an adopted cat may be intrigued, fearful, or stressed out by its surroundings. So, be patient and wait until they’re comfortable before trying to handle or pet them.

A young woman lying down and hugging a brown and white cat.

Prepare a quiet room

Cats are sedentary and routine animals. Therefore, to help your adopted cat adapt during its first days at home, you should keep it in a quiet room with all the elements it needs (water, food, litter box, scratching post, bed). This is recommended by the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.

When you consider it appropriate, you can open the door of the room and let the cat explore the rest of the house. This is to allow it to become familiar with the space little by little so that it can leave its pheromones and see the place as its territory.

Create a safe home

In addition to preparing a room for the first days of your adopted cat, you need to make sure that the whole house is safe for these pets. When a cat arrives in a strange place, it may want to escape, so it’s advisable to secure doors and windows. Also, keep a close eye on it if you let it explore in the yard, although it’s a good idea to rush this step.

Use proper handling

Another point that we can’t forget when you bring home an adopted cat is to offer it proper and subtle handling: No squeezing or sudden movements. This is especially important if it’s a small kitten that can easily be hurt. It’s essential to explain this point to all the members of the family, especially if you have small children in the home.

Caresses must be gentle and only be given when the cat is ready, calm, and approaches you. Let that cat be the one who looks for the interaction. If it lets you hold it, do it carefully. When you’re going to release it, we must set it on the floor. Likewise, you must understand its body language. For example, if it thumps the floor with its tail, it’s better to keep your distance, as it’s indicating that it feels uncomfortable.

Proper handling can make a cat a more affectionate and trusting animal.

Introduce it correctly to your other pets

Cats are territorial animals, so you must be careful when introducing your adopted cat to other pets you have in your home. In this regard, you can’t let them get to know each other all at once. The idea is to do it step by step to achieve positive acceptance.

First of all, you must have your newly adopted cat in its safe room and inside a carrier as a preventive measure. Then, let your other cat in so they can get to know each other as you observe the reaction of both of them in detail.

This introduction can last about 15 minutes, and you can offer them treats if they remain calm. If the reactions are negative (there’s hissing, growling, or attempts at aggression), the session should be terminated.

You can perform the procedure several times over the course of a few days until you observe positive interactions between them. At this point, you can try to open the door of the kennel so that a direct relationship can take place. Remember not to leave them alone and to intervene if the situation gets out of control.

If the pet is a dog, the presentation should also be done in steps, starting with the adopted cat inside the carrier, as described in the previous paragraphs. However, it’s also important to keep the dog on a leash to be able to control it more easily. You can also use treats when the animals remain calm.

Recommendations if your adopted cat is very shy

If, in your case, the adopted cat is fearful and hides, you should try to get it out of the place with a bribe. You can offer some appetizing food for the cat or a toy, but it’s best for the cay to come out on its own, without being forced.

Also, you have to show that you don’t represent a threat. This is achieved if you don’t directly face your pet (it’s better to approach it sideways or backwards) and don’t look it straight in the eyes.

Remember to be patient and give your adopted cat the time it needs to feel comfortable with you.

Once it’s more comfortable with your presence, you can start interacting more with it. There are different types of games to entertain your cat at home and thus strengthen the bond with your pet.

Other tips to survive the first days with your adopted cat

Two cats sitting in a window sill.

Apart from the tips indicated to handle the first days with your adopted cat, you can’t forget a visit to the veterinarian. When you receive a new pet, you should schedule an appointment with a specialist in order to know the health status of your feline and establish a vaccination and deworming schedule, which is very important for the welfare of the animal.

Also, you should be aware of the most suitable food for your adopted cat. Based on its current stage of life, that is, if it’s a small kitten, an adult, or a senior cat, the veterinarian can also guide you to provide your pet with the nutrients it needs for its optimal development.

Adopting a cat represents a challenge, due to its territorial, sedentary, and routine personality. It also requires a lot of responsibility, especially if there are other animals at home. For that reason, you need to be very sure when taking a cat home and never resort to abandoning or returning your pet. Besides, it is important to be clear about the cost of a new pet.

As you can see, it’s not complicated to survive the first days with your adopted cat after knowing these tips. You just have to be aware of the nature of this species, learn about their body language, and have the best disposition to help them with the adaptation process. Don’t forget that patience and respect are the keys to success.

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