Cats often find a sudden change in their surroundings frightening. Keep in mind that regardless of how comfortable and cat-friendly you make your home, it will take several days, weeks or even months for your adopted cat to acclimate to his new home. Introducing the kitty to the Existing Resident Cat (ERC) or to other family members is all strange and new, and may take some time.
Benefits of using this method to acclimate your new cat
By following the steps below, the new cat becomes familiar with new sounds, smells and people in a confined area, which serves as a comfort zone. This area will continue to be comforting to the cat later in life if she becomes frightened. From here, you can observe what your new kitty likes in regards to toys, petting and grooming. Plus it gives you a chance to see how much she is eating, whether the cat is using the litter pan for the first week and to observe her general behavior. The new kitty can bond with you without interference from the ERC or other people. Take your time and allow the cat to progress at her own pace. It is well worth the time spent! And remember, this could take a few days, weeks or even months. Just don't get discouraged.
The First Few Days
Prepare a room for the new kitty before you bring him home. This is where he will spend three to eight days getting to know you and your family. Provide food, water, litter pan, a few toys, a scratching post and a cat bed. The bed can be an old comforter folded for a place to snuggle, an old sweatshirt, or a couple of folded, thick towels. Give the kitty some toys such as balls with bells, catnip-filled goodies and furry mice. Also provide a couple of feather toys placed out of the cat's reach -- these come in handy if the kitty becomes frightened and hides under a piece of furniture. Cats usually can't resist being lured out with a feather toy.
When you bring your new kitty home, take him to his room. Place the carrier near the litter pan -- this is a reference point he needs to recognize immediately. Open the door to the carrier and let him come out when he is comfortable. Some cats venture out immediately, tail waving up, looking around ready to explore. Others will slink out, and hide under something. That's okay. Simpy talk softly to the kitty, put food in the dish and leave him alone for a while to listen to the new noises and smell the different smells in your home. Go in several times during the first day. The new cat may not run up to you, so please don't be disappointed. He out of his familiar territory. The best way to handle it is to go into the room, sit down, watch TV or read a book, and talk to the the cat. He may or may not come out. If he does, that shows he will probably not need the full eight days in the room.
Days Two and Three:
Follow the same routine. Go in the room, give fresh food and water and scoop the litter pan. By now, the kitty should have nibbled on the food and used the litter pan. Some cats wait 24 hours; others do these things right away. Get down on the floor and entice him to play (this is where the feather toys come in handy.)
Note if any of the cat toys have been moved or if anything else in the room has been disturbed. If so, it means that she has been exploring. We cannot emphasize enough how much patience and understanding may be needed during the first two weeks with a new kitty. An older adult cat may require much more time and patience.
This time, pick up your new kitty and open the door to the room. Allow the ERC, if you have one, to enter the room while you and the new cat walk out and then close the door. Allow an hour or so for the ERC to sniff and investigate where the new cat has been. During this time, take the new kitty to the ERC's litter pan (another reference point) and allow her to explore at her own pace from there. Then, exchange the new cat and the ERC again. Repeat this for up to two more days. The new cat should become more and more comfortable, and this is the best way to prevent the ERC from taking offense that another creature has moved in.
Enter the new cat's room and spend some time playing with her. When you exit the room, leave the door open. For a few more days, leave the new kitty's litter pan and dishes in the room, and then remove them. The cat should be using pans in both locations at this point and should not mind the removal of her pan.