Cats are territorial animals who can find moving house a very stressful experience more so than their owners. To help, there are a few measures cat owners can take to reduce stress and ensure a smooth transition between homes as well as promoting postive associations with a new environment.
Before even introducing your feline to its new environment, make sure the new house is cat-proof. Secure electrical cords, plug up nooks and crannies where a cat could get stuck, make sure that all windows have secure screens and remove any poisonous houseplants or pest-control poison traps that have been inadvertently left anywhere in the house. Once the environment is safe, you can begin to focus on introducing your cat.
Upon arriving home, set up a small room that will serve as the cat’s initial territory. Any small room works well, such as a bathroom, small bedroom or large walk-in closet. Where ever you choose, make sure it remains relatively quiet. Keep the cat in their carrier while you are setting up the room, allowing them to adjust to the sounds and smells of the new environment. Be sure to put everything the cat needs inside this room including the litter box, food, water, toys, scratching post, bed, and other needs. Place some cat treats around the room to encourage your cat to explore once the initial shock begins to wear off.
It is advised that you keep your cat in this initial room for the first few days of being in the new house, allowing them to gradually get used to the sights, sounds and smells of their new home without feeling overwhelmed. Once this period of adjustment is complete you are able to let the cat decide whether they want to explore or to remain inside the carrier. Many times a cat will remain inside the carrier for hours. Patience is one of the ultimate tools necessary for introducing cats to new environments.
Spend time with your cat in their room, at first doing low-key activities like reading or watching TV. When they begin to explore and leave the safety of their carrier, offer your cat attention, treats and playtime. Give the cat time to adjust to their new territory. It is advised for you to come back to the room to visit often, but let the cat set the pace of the visits. Don’t force your attention on the cat as they will seek you out when they feel their need for comfort and reassurance.
When the flurry of unpacking is over, gradually give your cat access to the rest of the house, one room at a time. Once the cat has established a sense of relaxation within the room, open the door and let them explore the rest of the house at their own pace much like before. Cats usually begin investigating at night, making short explorations interspersed with rapid retreats to their safe haven. It is rare for a cat to explore a new territory without hesitation.
Your cat can easily adapt to a new environment but only at their own speed. Some cats can take hours or days, others will take weeks or months. The length of time needed to establish new territory will depend on the cat’s temperament, past experiences and other pets already present in the new home. Be patient and supportive with their adjustment period and your cat will be roaming the new house in no time.
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