I was just barely settled into my first apartment and I found myself already filling out an adoption application for a new cat. Nobody in my family is surprised by this. The fact that I went three months living without a pet is shocking. But how did I manage to give my cat the space to get acclimated without ruining all my brand new furnishings and decorations?
For reference, I adopted a beautiful four year old cat named Blaze. I have a soft heart for the animals at the shelter that get over looked. There were so many kittens that everyone was looking right past Blaze. But I walked in and saw this beautiful, docile (so I thought) furry little man and knew I had to have him. At four years old, he was “too old” for most of the people looking to adopt but Hello?? did anyone ever explain to these people that four is pretty young for a cat? Ok rant over, back to the tips for bringing home a cat. (Bringing home a dog works a bit differently so we are just going to focus on cats for now and cover new dogs in another post.)
You are going to want to let your cat explore your apartment right away. Don’t. You need to confine your cat to one room for at least 2 days. Usually people use their bathrooms. Personally, my bathroom is much too tiny, so I had to use my bedroom. Use whatever room makes the most sense for you and the cat. Make sure to consider the amount of space you need for a litter box, toys, a bed, and bowls, while also keeping mind that food and water must be placed a good distance away from the litter box. You’ll also want enough room for you to go in and hang out with the cat.
The reasoning behind this is that cats often get overwhelmed in new places. If you give them free range of the apartment right away, they may never find their way back to the litter box; they may get anxious and tear up your couch (follow my guidelines for getting pet-friendly furniture here). So as much as I wanted to watch Blaze explore the nooks and crannies of the apartment, I had to wait a few days. Blaze had plenty of time to get to know my bedroom, me, and his new litter box. These are all very important first steps.
For the rest of the first week you can allow your pet to explore the whole apartment while you are home, but when you leave or go to bed, you have to put them back in the room. This way, the cat is always under your supervision while it explores new territory. It also gives your cat a sense of safety if it is staying in the same room every night.
Pay as much attention to what your cat is doing as possible. If he decides to jump up on a shelf that has very valuable things on it, move those things. If you would not like your cat on that shelf ever, calmly remove him/her and still move the valuable items. Never yell at your cat, as it does not understand that it is doing something wrong. It will learn by you simply removing it from unwanted locations.
So you and your cat survived your first week together. Congrats! Now you can finally allow your cat to roam the apartment freely. However, DO NOT move the food bowls or the litter box yet. This is very important! The cat is still unsure of the new home and needs to know that the litter box is where it has been since day 1.
I know its annoying to be tripping over the litter box in your bathroom every morning, or to have something that smells not-so-nice in your bedroom with you. But for the sake of your cat, and your brand new rug, leave it where it was.
You can finally move the litter box and food bowls to where you want them permanently. Just remember to place your cat in the litter box once it is in its new location, so that he/she can find it later. You should also make sure to show them where the food bowls are now located.
Hopefully by now you trust your cat, and have “cat-proofed” all of their favorite areas. Now you can start creating normal routine with your furry friend!
- Keep in mind that every cat is different. Some cats (most) will hide under the bed for a long time when they first arrive home. Don’t pressure them to come out. They will do so when they are ready. You are trying to build a loving relationship with the animal, not to stress it out. Remember that.
- Never yell at the cat. They don’t know that what they are doing is wrong. Scratching things to file their claws is natural. They don’t realize that your couch is not the place to do so. Use spray deterrents, devices, whatever you need to in order to teach them, but do not yell or hurt the animal.
- Make your cat feel right at home, and enjoy his/her company.
- Please adopt from your local shelter!