Reviewed for accuracy on May 21, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM
When adopting a cat, the first 30 days are very important for setting up your new family member for success. These first weeks should be used to establish a strong bond between you and your cat and create healthy routines.
To get your relationship with your new cat started off right, here are some essential cat care tips for transitioning your cat into your home.
Let Your Cat Settle In
When you adopt a new cat, you can expect that she will need time to adjust and acclimate to her new surroundings.
Dr. Megan E. Maxwell, certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB) and owner of Pet Behavior Change, explains, “Understand that the [new] cat may be timid in his or her new surroundings and may not show all of her normal play behavior or other personality characteristics at first.”
Dr. Adam Behrens, VMD, owner of Wandering Vet and member of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, recommends that you allow the cat to approach you on her own terms when you first bring her home. This will help your cat feel a sense of control.
Keep Your New Cat Separate From Your Other Cats
If you have other cats in the household, you should keep them separate from your new cat until she has settled into her new routine.
“Cats are all about routine and territory,” Dr. Behrens continues. “If there are other cats in the house, it is critical that they avoid visual contact until the new cat is comfortable in the new home and has started to adapt to a daily routine.”
The general recommendation is to keep cats separated for 2 weeks. This can be considered a quarantine period, so that you can make sure your new kitty doesn’t have an upper respiratory infection or parasites.
After the 2 week period, it will be up to your new kitty to set the pace for acclimating to their new home. There’s no magical number of days it will take your cat to settle in.
Be patient and give them time, and you’ll set your new relationship up for success.
Have Her Space Set up Beforehand
To help your new cat settle in, Dr. Maxwell recommends having the cat’s space set up before you bring her home. She explains, “Be sure to have the litter boxes and food and water bowls set up before bringing the cat home, and start with small spaces for the cat at first.”
Dr. Behrens says, “It is critical to establish some area of your house that belongs to the cat. And it is important to allow them to widen their territory slowly over the coming days or weeks [after adoption].”
For example, a bedroom with separate areas for the cat litter box and food and water bowls is preferable to opening the entire house to the cat in the first week or so.
Provide Enrichment for Your Cat
In addition to your standard cat supplies, you should also provide your kitty with a variety of enriching cat toys until you learn which they prefer.
Dr. Maxwell says, “Investing in a few different styles early on, and encouraging play by sitting with your new cat and playing with the toys yourself will be helpful.”
Along with cat toys, you should provide your cat with cat scratcher options. Dr. Maxwell explains, “They should have more than one scratching option—perhaps a post with vertical threading and also a flat scratching board with an alternative material or direction of threading.”
Some cats prefer vertical sisal cat scratchers, like the Frisco scratching tower, while others prefer horizontal pad scratchers, like The Original Scratch Lounge.
Offering your cat options will give you a better idea what she likes, and it will certainly make for a happier cat.
Establish Structure and Routine
Providing structure and routine is a great way to help your kitty smoothly transition into her new home.
When establishing this new routine, Dr. Behrens recommends regular times for feeding, grooming and play.
Perform Regular Cat Grooming and Dental Care
Dr. Behrens recommends brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. You will want to wait until your new cat has completely settled in and is comfortable in their new surroundings before incorporating these new activities into your routine.
If you’ve never brushed your cats teeth before, Dr. Behrens advises pet parents to start slowly. “Feeding small amounts of toothpaste from the tip of a finger for a month or two may actually lead to being able to eventually brush their teeth, but cat parents should take things slowly and not rush to brush.”
Dr. Behrens recommends Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic dog and cat toothpaste for brushing teeth. Never use human toothpaste to brush your cat’s teeth.
Whether you are brushing your cat’s teeth or fur, remember to start slow and offer rewards to make the experience a positive one.
Cat Training and Play Sessions
Start small with training, and use it as a time to bond with your new friend. Dr. Maxwell recommends, “A first training goal can be to teach the cat to look at you in response to his name.”
To do this, call her name in a happy voice, and then throw a cat treat or toy across the floor. Repeat this several times a day, always delivering something your cat likes when you call her name.
As with all other routines, take training at the pace your cat is comfortable with and encourage the good behaviors through positive reinforcement.
Slowly Transition to New Cat Food
When you adopt a cat, you will need to properly transition her to the cat food you plan to feed her regularly.
When transitioning any pet to a new diet, it’s best to do it slowly—over the course of 5-7 days—to prevent gastrointestinal upset.
Cat parents should speak with their veterinarian regarding the best cat food for their individual cat and how best to transition their cat to a new diet.
When choosing a new cat food, Dr. Behrens explains, “The focus should be on feeding a high-quality food with meat as the primary ingredient. I recommend a mixture of canned and dry food—with the emphasis on canned and a small amount of dry food to help prevent the buildup of calculus on the teeth over time.”
Establish a Relationship With a Veterinarian
As with adopting any animal companions, an important step in the process is to establish a relationship with a veterinarian who you trust.
Dr. Maxwell says, “Owners should have a relationship with a veterinarian with whom they feel comfortable and who takes the time to answer their questions regarding cat care and health.”
She continues, “If they encounter behavior problems with their cat, they should seek out the services of a board-certified animal behaviorist (CAAB) or veterinary behaviorist.”
Dr. Maxwell also recommends that cat parents ask their veterinarians about grooming requirements, feeding routines and cat food types, exercise opportunities, and common signs of illness to watch out for.
She encourages cat parents to ask their vet about litter box habits (how often the cat should be using the litter box and how often it should be cleaned) and about common household toxins and dangers for cats.
By: Carly Sutherland
Featured Image: iStock.com/SilviaJansen